September 28, 2006


The sound of the lumbering freight breaks the silence of a dark night punctuated only by the occasional yap of a dog in the far distance barking at shadows. The hypnotic sound of click clack, click, clack made by the steel wheels rolling over the railroad ties resonates against the deep foliage creeping close to the railroad bed but no match for the massive steel carrier of cargo. The trains hundred connected pieces running smoothly over rails that glisten in the moonlight. Rails buffed shiny by the friction and weight of this almost extinct part of our past. The train, if it could talk to us, would be reticent to boast, but rightly proud of its contributions to mans inextinguishable need to move, to explore, and to change. Yet it would know that mans need for more speed has been won by carriers that are not landlocked, but can fly over the mountains that the train once had to conquer one mountaintop after another. Yet on dark nights such as this, men of a certain age, watching and listening as the huge behemoth of his youth rolls by can’t help it if a tear forms in the corner of his eye as the whistle fades in the distance. Train and man unwilling to let go, unwilling to take that next step that eradicates all those lovely memories.

© jim kittelberger 2006

September 27, 2006


Just be calm. I have some solvent that will melt that super glue right away with no damage to your nose. But first I want to know what you and my husband were doing at the Won't Tell Motel.

Mary Cassatt Le the (Five O'Clock Tea) 1880Oil on canvas 25 1/2 x 36 1/2 in (64.7 x 92.7 cm) Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

(any funny captions would be welcomed.)

September 26, 2006

Life in the forties, a little of this and a little of that.

A supposedly insignificant event came at the end of the thirties and ushered in the forties. On October 30, 1938, Halloween eve, Americans were scared out of their wits thinking that alien beings had landed in New Jersey. Orson Wells presented a Halloween special, War of the Worlds, and many Americans who did not have the program tuned in at the very beginning thought it was actually happening. Everything eventually got straightened out. It wasn’t men from Mars. What it did do is make Orson Wells a bigger star than he already was, and cemented radio as a powerful medium.

Radio as a medium was born on that night. It became a huge influence on everyone’s life. It influenced what we ate, what we drove, what we took for pain. But it couldn’t relieve the pain of the world war that was to begin soon after the new decade began. What it could do and what it did was become the medium that became a member of the family and kept everyone up to date on the events that enfolded.

Two movies served as bookends for the end of the thirties through the middle of the forties. GRAPES OF WRATH, a great movie directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell and the patriarch of the Carradine family, father John. I’ve watched it several times and each time it is like the first time all over again. It chronicled the great depression, (was that phrase the first oxymoron of note?) A time when the country collapsed financially. It lasted so long and was so severe that it took a new president and his government programs combined with a world war to get the United States out of it. The actual timeline of the depression was 1929 when the stock market collapsed until 1941 when the Second World War officially began.

The bookend at the other end was the movie THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, a movie that told of the fighting men returning from the war and the troubles with re-adjustment. It was an outstanding movie with Fredric March, Myrna Loy and a double amputee straight from that war, Harold Russell. The depression was over and the world was saved from Fascism and the future looked bright as far ahead as you could see.

Saturday morning, it’s time for the kiddie show if you’re of a certain age in the forties. The local movie theater for twenty cents as I remember presented movies designed for young kids. The current favorites: Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Red Ryder, Wild Bill Eliot and many more excited us. There was always a serial that I don’t ever remember ending. Maybe they never did end.

Fibber McGee, despite all the urgings of his always suffering, but loving wife Molly never did clean out his closet. It was a joke that never got old when he’d open it up with Molly in the background yelling, don’t McGee, Don’t open that closet.

The battle of Midway early on in the war was a miraculous achievement, achieved by the USA breaking the Japanese code and knowing what their plans were. It was a victory nevertheless, one we badly needed. It dealt the Japanese Navy a mortal blow from which they never fully recovered and allowed the US more time to catch up building new ships.

The radio show THE LONE RANGER was one of the most popular radio shows of the days and most of the kids wouldn’t have missed it for anything. In 1941 Earl Graser, who portrayed the ranger was killed in an automobile accident and the show slipped a new ranger, by the name of Brace Beemer into the role and no one knew.

Professional baseball was not untouched by the war, and many of the stars signed up to do what they knew were their duty. Among the stars who gave up two, three, four years of their careers and never griped about it were: Bob Feller, Hank Greenberg, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio.

I remember getting a new bicycle for Christmas during the forties, and on a day when the sun had a little warmth to it, and the snow was starting to melt away, I had to try out my new bike in the slushy streets. I didn’t know how to ride a two-wheeler. My dad held the bike up as I got on and he held the bike up from the back and I started out. I remember yelling ‘hang on’ to my dad, but when I looked back he was standing back close to where we started and I was riding it by myself. I’ll bet this scenario has a familiar ring to a lot of you. I wasn’t able to have any deep thoughts at that age, but I guess that was a big moment and certainly one of the first breaking aways of many to come.

When the men went away to war, women stepped into their jobs at the plants as they were converted to defense plants. Americas war production so out produced the axis powers that it was just a matter of time until the supply lines were filled with every conceivable war product and it was just a matter of time before the enemies were overwhelmed. In 1943, the United States manufactured 29,500 tanks, more in 1 year than Germany produced in the entire war from 1939 to 1945. In all, the United States manufactured 88,430 tanks during World War II versus 24,050 in Germany.

The United States government started a rationing program during World War II; families could buy only so much gas, sugar, meat, and other goods. By rationing food in this way, the government could make sure that adequate supplies of food would be available for the war effort. Families started planting garden plots to provide vegetables for their tables. They were popularly called Victory Gardens.

The war continued until 1945. The end was accomplished by the dropping of the atomic bomb, thus beginning a moral dilemma, of the rights and wrongs of the event, that continues to today. Other wars have been fought since and indeed we are involved in another today. But the bravery of those involved in that war, of any war, is hard to comprehend. The final scorecard is of course in, and that war WWII produced more deaths than any other war to date. Dead in that war was 62 million people, broken down it was 25 million military and 37 million civilians. That figure when I saw it stunned me, 37 million civilians.

The soldiers came home and the baby boom was created. They were able to take advantage of the new GI Bill to go to school or to use as a down payment on a new house. New housing was scarce so was born new housing developments all around the country. New cars were available, and rationing was of course over. Women could buy nylon stockings.

In 1946 the first computer ENIAC, was unveiled, built by John Mauckly and Presper Eckert.

In 1947 William Shockley invented the transistor at Bell Labs.

In 1949 Mao seized power in China.

It was an historic decade that many people thought brought an end to wars. But we were all to see that another war was just around the corner in a little country called Korea. We never learn do we?

© jim kittelberger 2006

September 25, 2006


When did the elusive verb saw, the past tense of see, go missing? I think it has been several years since I last saw it. In its place, the verb seen has taken over. Now seen is a perfectly good word, I like it, but it should know its place.

It's been more than a few years since I was in school, but I was taught to conjugate verbs. It was standard instruction in grade schools in the forties and fifties. It went like this. I see. I saw. I have seen. Seen needed a helper, it is not one of those words that stand-alone. But today, now you listen, how many times do you hear, I seen it. That is not right.

Now the English language may not be as melodious as French, but it is the language used by the majority of the world, and as such, a little care should be taken to speak it properly. I have talked to some teachers about this corruption of the language and they are aware of it. Why then I ask, is it not being corrected?

I think, perhaps, some of the younger teachers use the same bad English. If that is not so, why then do I read books that are supposed to be edited by educated people, being printed with incorrect English? I think maybe some editors don't know incorrect English when they see it.

Perhaps you are saying, so what. Who cares? I, for one. I cannot stand the corrupting of our language and it's substitution of mongrelized words. Slang is fun when we know it's slang, but I think more people, than I care to guess, don't know the slang from the correct word. I suppose it is more of the, in your face, if you don't like it, so what, attitudes of today.

It is egalitarianism gone too far, when the young people aim down instead of up, in their use of the English language. The French love their language, we perhaps, should learn to love ours maybe just a little bit more.

Copyright Jim Kittelberger 2001. All Rights Reserved.

September 22, 2006

By Jim Kittelberger


Our work was located in Tainan, Taiwan in the headquarters building. The building was large and well appointed. The work was easy and everything was right with the world. Except when I had to relieve myself and I had to locate the latrine, the loo, the head, the bathroom, the john. Well that’s enough of that. I had to go. It was a strange meeting of west meets east in the bowels of the building. Sorry that was a bad pun. But this whole subject is. So I will get to it. The only reason I even mention it is because it was another cultural shock, of which I seemed to be running into daily. I entered the bathroom and was impressed by its tile and dimensions. But I was there on business, and I had to get to it. The bathroom was completely free of fixtures. There were nicely appointed holes in the floor where I was expected to squat. I was an Ohio boy and not exactly new to roughing it once in a while, but there I was. What to do? Luckily in our military compound relief could be found.

The American compound was a settlement of bamboo huts. Other than that it was just like any other military reservation. Our cots were in a bamboo hut, with a coal-burning stove. We had an American style latrine, thank God. Of course no military man, especially overseas military men want to miss out on happy hour, so another bamboo hut was built for just that purpose and christened Club Jake.

Billy Tumbler inadvertently or overtly discovered the one hut where it seemed higher authorities turned an unseeing eye. Billy had run into the never-ending poker game. AA and Ray tried to dissuade him from joining in, but like a bull in heat he had the scent and that was that. When the first player to go broke stepped away, Billy stepped in. All went well for a while and it seemed that maybe Billy had learned a lesson from his previous setback. But this was not a game among friends and roommates, this was a game with serious undertones, and friendship was left at the door. The outcome was preordained and soon he went bust. Billy pleaded to be allowed to play on the margin using IOU’s, but this brought only laughter and a few dirty looks. He was politely, but firmly informed that this was cash only, but he was welcome anytime as long as they could see the green. The same night Billy’s family in Selma received a telephone call requesting they send him money.

Japan was to me, a very young man away from my home in Ohio in the 1950’s, like having the pages of the National Geographic come alive. I had spent the war years in the forties growing up and playing make believe war, along with baseball, riding bikes, and listening to the radio comedians. The war had been over for a decade when I arrived. The actual occupation was over, and we, the Americans, were here under a joint cooperation and security agreement signed in 1952. To borrow from Hollywood, this was not the Japan depicted in the movie, Tora, Tora, Tora, but more like the Japan from the movie Teahouse of the August Moon. The first problem with exploring a country as a GI, a young GI, is that you learn only about the places most convenient to your assigned base. The second problem is you have as a tour guide, another GI, probably as young as you are, ergo these are not the sights the guidebooks recommend you visit, or rate too highly.

For example:
Saturday morning arrived bright and sunny as I emerged from the showers to run into Billy who I could tell was bursting with some news he wanted to share.
"Come on Johnny, we’ve got a field trip to go on today."
"Really, I said, is this just you and I, or can Ray come along too?"
"You bet, Billy said, come on, come on", his excitement rising.
While I was dressing, Ray asked about our destination.
"Komaki, he said, and we can ride the train, it’ll only cost a couple yen.*
*I don’t really remember at all what it did cost, but not much and we did go on the train. Great way to travel. England still uses the trains a lot. Our AMTRAC experiment seems to have jumped the rails, which is really too bad.

Well we did go, and we grabbed AA and took him with us. What it was that had Billy all excited was an annual fertility festival. It was all in fun, with everyone in laughing moods, but when I read about it later it is taken quite seriously by the Japanese and has been for centuries. I will not go into it, but I will offer up a hyperlink if you want to check it out. My point is that this is the kind of stuff that is on the GI list of places not to miss. You wouldn’t get to see this kind of stuff if you were traveling with an AAA travel guide.

I did visit a castle near Nagoya and stayed the night in a Japanese hotel and what I remember most is sleeping on the floor on a futon and the shockingly hard pillow stuffed with rice. I awoke with a headache, you wouldn’t believe. We were all too young to appreciate the opportunity afforded us to use some of our free time to visit the postcard Japan. To illustrate how young I was, I actually thought I might return someday with my wife and enjoy it together. Life and the reality of cost gets in the way of that happening in most cases I am sure. So what do I remember of my time there? I remember the politeness of the Japanese. They were polite to each other and they were to me, a young foreigner in their land. One of the reasons for their politeness I have read, and I have no reason not to believe it, is the dense population. There are just so many of them living so closely together, it is imperative that they get along.

Finally I feel quite fortunate to have served in the military for four years that were free of any weapons being fired in anger. I wasn’t much of a soldier, or airman more accurately, so the country was lucky I didn’t have to do more than what I did. I enjoyed it, but enjoyed getting out more.

September 21, 2006

Lum and Abner, Amos and Andy, and Laurel and Hardy
Chet Lauck, Norris Goff, Freeman Gosden, Charles Correll, Stan Laurel, and Oliver Hardy]

Laurel and Hardy sing before leaving for the foreign legion

September 20, 2006

Well baseball season is about over again. My personal interests in the baseball standings are long over, as my team has again tanked long before September arrived. But that’s the professional game. Isn’t baseball after all a game for kids? I know grown-ups play the game, but primarily I think it is a game for kids to play in vacant lots, unattended by well meaning, but interfering adults. A game played for fun before suppertime on a Saturday afternoon. This runs through my mind as I post this little story I wrote several years ago about just that sort of scenario. I hope you like it.

The neighborhood eight and A. jones
By Jim Kittelberger

The Neighborhood Nine were down to eight, and the big game was coming up. The rules were tight and had to be followed. Only kids who lived within their area could play. The team had done well all season, but now the biggest game of the season was coming up against the Mean Machine. The Mean Machine from the industrial area of town were big and tough and good. They looked the rulebook over and over, but there were no loopholes. Nine must play and they had to be from the team's area. The eight didn't know what to do. They moaned and groaned and scratched and spit. They whined, and grumbled and pounded the mitt. In the background, stood a skinny freckle faced girl with sandy hair in pigtails, tucked under a baseball cap. She wore rolled up jeans and droopy socks and a shirt half in her pants and half out. Her name was Agnes and girl stuff was not enough for her. Her dream was not to be Miss America, or prom queen, or a cheerleader. No, Agnes' greatest dream was to be a shortstop, not a girl shortstop, but the greatest shortstop ever there was. She wanted to be better than Omar, Nomar and Jeter. But the boys would not let her play. They just laughed and said she was just a girl and a skinny one at that. But now, maybe now, when they had to have one more player...maybe now was Agnes' turn. What were the eight to do? How could they show up for the big game with eight and Agnes? But no other options were to be found, so on the day of the big game there they were, Bobby and Tommy, Joe and Sam, Maxie, Georgie, Jimmy, Timmy and the new guy A. jones. The game was tight and the teams were full of fight. Machine was up by one in the second, the Neighborhood Eight and A. jones tied it in the fourth and went ahead in the sixth. The day was hot and tempers were too, and the Machine forged ahead to show they were not through. The bottom of the ninth was here and the Neighborhood Eight and A. jones were behind by one. Maxie led off with a hit and hope was born. Georgie and Jimmy did their best, but the Machines pitcher put them to rest. Next up was Timmy, but he had not gotten on base all day and it looked bad for the eight and A. jones. The count was full, three and two, when Timmy knew what he had to do. The pitcher wound up his long arm and let it fly and Timmy let it hit him in the eye. Take a base. So here it was bottom of the ninth, two out, two on, one run behind, and coming to bat was the skinny new kid, A. jones. Agnes had made Omar, Normar and Jeter proud, but now it was A. jones against the biggest, strongest boy of all, six foot tall and born from steelworkers, tough and mean, but backing down would destroy her dream. A. jones dug in at the plate, and stared at the mound. Pitcher stared at batter, and neither blinked. The battle lines were drawn and no quarter was to be given or expected. A. jones scratched the dirt with her cleats, and the pitcher tossed the rosin bag down at his feet. The pitcher rubbed the ball and squeezed it hard, showing his muscles to all in the yard. The batter stared back and dared him to throw it past her if he could. He wound up and plateward it flew, spinning and twisting like a magical round orb and into the catchers glove, strike one. Ohh, gasped the boys in the dugout. A. jones looked their way and gave a reassuring smile, as if she knew what was coming next. Pitcher stared at the catcher, gave a long look and shook off one sign. He looked in again and shook off another sign. The third sign got a nod and he rocked his big body and the ball came out of his hand as if shot from a cannon. A. jones' body became a coordinated batting unit, arms flexed, and the bat starting forward as the ball streaked towards the plate. A. jones felt the air move as the ball smacked into the catchers mitt and she nearly screwed herself into the ground as her bat met nothing but air. No balls, two strikes, no room for error now. A. jones stepped back, stared at the pitcher, then stepped back in and waited for another hard fast one. The pitcher glared and launched another equally fast cannon shot right at the batters belt. A. jones squared her body in front of the plate and put down a beautiful drag bunt, leaving the pitcher shocked and the catcher struggling to get to the ball. The man on third streaked toward the plate as A. jones dashed toward first. They started their slides at the same time and as dust rose from home plate and first base, the two umpires bellowed in unison, "Safe." As it is in life and in the movies, when the dust had finally settled, years had passed, and another youngster was standing on first base trading high fives with his first base coach. He was smiling as he stood there, thinking once again how thankful he was that his mom, A. jones, had taught him all of her baseball skills.

(C) 2001 Jim Kittelberger. All Rights Reserved.

September 19, 2006

Last week I posted the painting of Edward Hopper’s NIGHTHAWKS and a not so funny couple lines. It’s not so funny, but I’m not a comedian, but it was an effort. On the serious side though, NIGHTHAWKS has always created much talk about what is going on in that diner, is it a diner? Maybe it’s a drugstore. Are the couple married, dating, or just strangers? There is no door painted on the establishment, is that significant? There are no people outside. Is it late at night or early in the morning? Is the lone guy on the other stool an acquaintance? Is he up to no good? It can go on and on with scenarios and meanings. Edward Hopper either didn’t know himself or wasn’t telling.

Which brings me to the point of all this. I discovered in my own library a small book I bought years ago titled: THE POETRY OF SOLITUDE A TRIBUTE TO EDWARD HOPPER. It’s really a very neat little tome. Evidently the publisher asked poets to write a poem about several of Hoppers’ paintings, and maybe picked the best. I don’t really know, but the result is pretty nice.

I picked one by Samuel Yellen, a late poet who wrote a poem about the painting, NIGHTHAWKS. There are more poems about the same painting and others.

What meanings do you read into the painting?

Samuel Yellen

The place is the corner of Empty and Bleak,
The time is night’s most desolate hour,
The scene is Al’s Coffee Cup or the Hamburger Tower,
The persons in this drama do not speak.

We who peer through that curve of plate glass
Count three nighthawks seated there – patrons of life.
The counterman will be with you in a jiff.
The thick white mugs were never meant for demitasse.

The single man whose hunched back we see
Once put a gun to his head in Russian Bank,
Whirled the chamber, pulled the trigger, drew a blank,
And now lives out his x years guarantee.

And facing us, the two central characters
Have finished their coffee, and have lit
A contemplative cigarette,
His hand lies close but not touching hers.

Not long ago together in a darkened room,
Mouth burned mouth, flesh beat and ground
On ravaged flesh, and yet they found
No local habitation and no name.

Oh, are we not lucky to be none of these!
We can look on with complacent eye:
Our satisfactions satisfy,
Our pleasures, our pleasures please.

September 18, 2006

The P-38 Lightning was one of the more successful planes of WWII. The P-38 was designed by Lockheed. The P-38 was a fast and manouvrable plane that could be used in a wide range of roles.
The pilot and the P38's armaments were in the central nacelle. The plane had two booms with the engines mounted on them. Powered by two Allison V-1710 engines, the P-38 had a maximum speed of 414 mph and a combat range of 1,100 miles. It could fly at a maximum of 44,000 feet. The first P-38's delivered to the USSAF in 1941 were armed with four Browning .50 machine guns in the nose of the plane which were spaced around a Oldsmobile 37mm cannon.
The original requirement put out by the United States Army Air Corps in 1937 was for a high altitude interceptor capable of 360 mph and flying at 20,000 feet. The P-38 Lightning exceeded these requirements. The P-38 got off to an auspicious start when the prototype set a record cross-continent flight time of 7 hours 2 minutes in January 1939 flying between California and New York. Unfortunately the prototype, known as XP-38, crashed just short of the runway and this put production back about two years. Thirty P-38 were handed over to the USAAF in mid 1941.
These planes never saw combat as they were used to iron out design problems. The most serious were the tendency for the controls to lock up in a high-speed dive and for the tail structure to fall apart, also during a high-speed dive. It was later found out that the lock up could be overcome once the plane hit denser air using elevator trim. Another problem was that the plane needed both engines to work for a take-off. If one failed, the power of the live engine caused the plane to turn towards that engine and tip over. This was overcome by pilots learning to reduce the power of the live engine rather than increasing it.
The first combat P-38's were produced in October 1941 and first flew in combat in April 1942. They were armed with four .50 machine guns and a 20mm Hispano cannon which was considered to be more reliable than the Oldsmobile.
The P-38 had numerous variants and saw service in the Far East, North Africa, and Europe. It was a manoeuvrable plane that could fly well at both low and high altitude and had an excellent rate of climb. Another virtue was the long range that the plane had which made it ideal for the Pacific War. In Western Europe, the P-38 was used to escort bombers on their raids into occupied Europe.
In April 1943, America's intelligence decoded a Japanese message that informed them that Admiral Yamamota was going to visit the northern Solomon Islands on April 18th. Yamamoto was still considered to be a major figure in the Pacific war and the decision was taken to kill him. Sixteen P-38 Lightning fighters from 339th Fighter Squadron were ordered to intercept and shoot down Yamamoto's plane. They intercepted two G4M 'Betty' bombers escorted by six Zero fighter planes. Both 'Betty' bombers were shot down and Yamamoto was killed.
By the end of the war, over 10,000 P-38 Lightning's had been built in a variety of versions, ranging from fighter, to bomber escort, to photo reconnaissance to night fighter.

September 16, 2006


“Now don’t hit me with that umbrella again please. I only thought it made sense to sit our drinks on your derriere.”

“You try that again, you die and your black dog will be second.”

If you can think of funny lines to go with the masterpiece, please send them along and I'll put up the funniest.

September 15, 2006

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
By Jim Kittelberger


The blue bus reached the end of it’s run when we arrived at Komaki AFB in the southern part of Honshu, the main island of Japan. But the journey for some of us wasn’t over just yet. Several of us, including Ray I was glad to discover, were transferred to a six-by, a colloquialism for a large truck designed to carry troops and of course supplies, the six-by denoting the size.

Our travel in relative comfort, at least by military standards, was over. We loaded our duffel bags into the truck before seating ourselves on the wooden benches that ran from front to back on either side. The trick now would be to hang on and not be thrown out, not unlike a rodeo rider trying to stay on a bucking horse. Off we went, down what we would certainly call unimproved roads bouncing and inhaling the smell of spent diesel fuel. A smell, that strangely enough, after fifty years I still associate to my days in Japan and the unloved six-bys.
After a relatively short ride we arrived at what was to be our home for the foreseeable future, Gifu AFB.

Gifu was described to me by a career airman, who had been many places in his time, as the best place he’d been, or as the place he remembers most fondly. He had come to Gifu, with a group of guys directly from Korea when that cleared up over there, so perhaps by comparison it would seem a place of calm and peace. He was only a budding career airman at that time but he was older than the incoming group that I was a member of. Thus we always thought of him as the more serious one and someone we could ask questions of, and we did. Introducing A.A. Tilley from the great state of Oklahoma. AA was a tall slender bespectacled, even-tempered man who spoke with a cowboy twang and if we weren’t all hanging out in the same uniform would have looked at home wearing blue jeans with a piece of straw, or a Marlboro cigarette hanging loosely from his mouth.

As in college or any other fraternal organization we were all assigned rooms. Ray and I were assigned to a room already occupied by AA, along with the new fourth member of America’s protectors, Billy Tumbler from Selma, Alabama. Billy had hair the color and texture of tassels of corn silk springing from field corn in mid August. He was blond, skinny and tall, cocky and friendly at the same time. He stood with one hip sticking out, smart-ass without words. He was also a world-class poker player, in his own mind.

In any army, in any country, at any time of the day, there is a card game going on. Camp Gifu was no exception. It is a time-killer for sure, but it’s also a game that breaks through all social and ethnic barriers quickly and gets to what is important to everyone, and that’s winning. Army camps, or any other kind of camp, i.e. marine, air force, navy, and coast guard, even lumber, you get the idea are alike. Men with time on their hands and over confident in their belief that they are the best card shuffler of the bunch and everyone else will have to learn to beware of the fate that is soon to befall them.

Footlockers, a standard in all barracks, covered with the handy blanket are ready in an army minute for the action to come. Billy, his mouth salivating in expectation of the fleecing of these sheep before him, stood in his cocky pose and said he was sure the others would take his money soon, but he was willing to go ahead and try to do as well as he could, the standard misdirection statement that is only good one time.

Oh poor Billy. Before he had the chance to beguile the sheep with his stories of his heroic days in good ole Selma in the early fifties he was fleeced. How could this be? A lesson learned early by poor Billy that appearances are sometimes deceiving and there is always someone better or slicker than you.

Camp Gifu’s mission was, as we were to find out, a mobile communications outfit. Teletype and radio operators, and the needed maintenance units to keep everything working manned the outfit. We were in business to go where needed in case another Air Force base in the immediate Pacific went off the air because of weather or whatever. In my time there we went to Taiwan to help out and also to Okinawa after a Typhoon played havoc with them. Which brings me to one of only a couple war stories I retain much memory of.

On a mission to Taiwan, which in those days was known as Formosa (a statement of absolutely no importance to anyone except map makers) we were flying over the China Sea when my war story began:

As we lumbered through the sky most of the passengers were asleep from boredom. I was dozing fitfully as I was and am not now a great fan of aeronautics and it’s ability to keep an aluminum and steel cylinder with wings in the air. When a flight sergeant appeared in the aisle demanding our attention.

"We’re having engine problems. He stated. "We’ve feathered one engine and another is running erratically."

We were flying in a four-engine plane, so one engine feathering is not extremely serious, but two is trouble big-time.

"We may have to ditch", the sergeant said.

Complete quiet among the passengers, something whenever I think back upon it rather surprised me. Not that I was thinking of it at the time. When he made his next pronouncement I must tell you I became completely calm. A very strange reaction I thought then, but after years of contemplation, maybe not so strange after all.

"If we get the signal we will have to exit the airplane". He started to tell us how to put on the parachutes.
"When you get to within", and I really don’t remember exactly what number he said, two feet, ten feet, twenty feet, I don’t remember, you will have to pull the release mechanism located here. He then showed us how that was going to work. "The reason this is important is because if you don’t hit the release, the parachute may drag you under the water."

"Oh shit", I thought. But still no panic, just the feeling that he and I were the only people in the plane and he’ll be O.K. but I won’t."

My only thoughts were that if I do by dumb luck bail out successfully, release the mechanism at the proper time, and drop into the water, I would certainly drown, because a swimmer I am not. In the time we had after preparing ourselves for the eventuality I thought I should take my glasses off and I did and put them into my breast pocket along with my wedding ring which I figured would slide off in the water, and buttoned them up.

The sergeant with one attempt at calming us told us that life rafts would be shoved overboard, and would be waiting for us.

I figured if I didn’t kill myself jumping out, I would forget, or not do the release mechanism properly, and end up under the China Sea, or I would not be able to swim to a raft. I was a goner and I knew it.

The second engine did not stop and we landed in Taiwan safely. The funny thing, if there is such a thing, is there was very little talk about any of it, like it never happened. I’m sure the shrinks have a medical term for such a reaction. But I wasn’t interested then and I’m not interested now.

September 13, 2006

Foul Ball

Foul Ball
Originally uploaded by ohad*.
I read a piece at Arts and Letters Daily this morning regarding David Remnick, the editor at the New Yorker magazine in which he says of his leadership that he does not believe in swagger, he thinks it infantile.

That brought to my mind something I have been pondering for a while now, the swagger of the athletes on their particular field of play and more peculiar to me, the fans in the stands.

The actions of the athletes I can more readily understand as athletics is just one more offshoot of the entertainment field and swagger and display of the look at me type is typical and promotional. What I can’t understand is the overflow of the same kind of behavior into the stands among the spectators of the events.

I am a fairly regular viewer of a major league team in my geographical area of the country and I am struck by the antics of the people in the stands when a foul ball happens their way. First of all the disregard of your neighboring spectators well being in the pursuit of the seven-dollar baseball astounds me. The leaping over of seats, and the throwing of ones body over any body in its way, in a complete abandonment of any regard of health or territorial rights in the quest of the baseball seems somehow excessive, but normal for a sporting event.

I perhaps can be persuaded that the above behavior is normal if I factor in the innate competitive spirit or gene built into most of the male population that he must win whatever physical contest he happens to be thrust into. What I cannot understand is the transference of the athletes swagger on the field to the spectators in the stands. After the foul ball is finally in the hands of the prevailing fan there starts the ritual of hand slapping and displaying the ball high above his head to the adoring hoards for some kind of approval like displaying the head of John the Baptist to the court of King Herod.

Don’t get me wrong, I love baseball, I love the spectacle of it, I have even participated in the lunging after the seven-dollar baseball, but the imitating of the excessive behavior of the athletes on the field is along the lines of becoming a wannabe. Let’s leave the clownish, over excited, boorish behavior to the athletes on the field and please be content with observing their expertise, but please don’t emulate it after we have reached the age of puberty; like David Remnick said, it’s infantile.

September 12, 2006

There was nothing subtle about the propaganda used by the warring countries during World War Two. I was looking at some of the posters from that time, and they were racist, crude, downright scary, and I think darn effective. They hit you right in the stomach and brought out the fear for your family members.

You can read an article on just this subject at:

The article was written by Anthony V. Navarro and goes into greater depth on the subject.

September 11, 2006

"I have the gift of neither the spoken nor the written word, especially if I have to say something about myself or my work. Whoever wants to know something about me -as an artist, the only notable thing- ought to look carefully at my pictures and try and see in them what I am and what I want to do." Gustav Klimt

Mr. Klimt may not have had the gift of gab, but he found the pot of gold (posthumously of course) when this painting was sold this year for 136 million dollars. I wish I knew what I did with my paint box.

Gustav Klimt was born July 14, 1862 in Baumgarten located near Vienna, Austria. Abject poverty described Gustav Klimt’s family in his youth. At age 14 Gustav Klimt quit school, but managed to get into an art college. Transferring to another arts and crafts college in Vienna, Gustav Klimt, his brother, and another friend began to earn commissions while Gustav was still in school.

Gustav Klimt’s early art career was primarily involved in decorating architecture including theaters, museums and churches. Paintings produced on commission from the University of Vienna resulted in much criticism and notoriety. This lead eventually to Gustav Klimt resigning the commission, reclaiming three paintings submitted to that point, and returning the advance money.

Gustav Klimt never again worked on a state commission project. Believing that his free expression as an artist was endangered, Gustav Klimt collaborated in founding the Secession movement. The three main thrusts of the Secession movement were: bringing to light young alternative artists; to bring quality foreign art to Vienna; and to publish a magazine. Gustav Klimt left this movement in 1905.

He also was a main proponent of the movement that came to be know as Art Nouveau. Creativity was the passion in his life. He progressed through stages in technique, subject matter and themes. Gustav Klimt died in February of 1918.

September 8, 2006

Posted by Picasa
By Jim Kittelberger


The wheels touch down on the Tachikawa runway, the reverse thrusters sounding like an enraged animal roar into action as the ninety ton airplane shivers and begins it’s accelerated braking, slowing the huge metal bird before coming to a stop at the proper place, at the proper time. Once more baffling logic about how an object heavier than a Marriott hotel can lift into the air and land safely.

Emerging from the steel cocoon, the second of which he had flown on in quick succession, he arrived tired and in a state of jet lag with approaching culture shock still in store for him. The journey had started in California with a stop in Hawaii, then on to Wake Island, continuing on to Japan, a trip of too many miles and too many hours.

John Gregg, a son of the Midwest, used to green hills, green corn, and yellow fields of hay descended into a world of black and white. Men and women in black or white kimonos all with the same black hair and wooden getas on their feet were crowding the streets. Women carrying cloth bags with red-cheeked babies strapped to their backs hustled to complete their marketing. Younger boys wearing black were hurrying to school. In the middle of all this, the sight of a man relieving himself in the gutter was something it would take John a little while to understand and assimilate, as it seemed an affront to his midwestern modesty. This would certainly be included in some of his letters to his buddies back home.

The blue Air Force bus that had picked up John and other newly arriving airmen continued down packed streets packed with humanity, the horn blasting at every intersection. The air coming in the open windows was moist and strangely fragrant. As they left the city and continued down unimproved roads the fragrance grew stronger.

"Excuse me pal", came a New England saturated voice breaking the silence of the tired and grimy bunch of fellow airmen.
"Oh", he said jumping, unawares that he was concentrating so hard on the new sights, sounds, and smells.
"I’m sorry pal, didn’t mean to interrupt your thoughts".
"That’s okay, said John, "what can I do for you?"
"Do you mind if I share your seat with you? My seatmate has fallen asleep, which I don’t mind, but he seems to snore, a lot, and plenty loud."
"Don’t mind at all", John said, "plop yourself down. I wouldn’t mind the company.
My names John Gregg, from Ohio."

The man who sat down next to John was named Ray Roberts, like John on his first overseas assignment. He hailed from Gloucester Mass, a son and grandson of fishermen. A husky guy, a little shy of six feet, with big calloused hands, the result of summers on his fathers boat helping to fill the lockers with lobsters and cod. If Ray were a talkative type, which he wasn’t, he would say it was hard work, and if the lobsters and cod co-operated it could fetch pretty good money. His family had been fishermen for three generations and it was expected that Ray would become the fourth generation to go down to the sea after his tour of duty in the service. He had become expert in the mechanics of the trade, and it was assumed that in time he would become captain of his own boat and crew.

They swapped stories about the schools they’d attended. Their favorite teams, what they liked to eat, or not, who they left behind and why oh why did they do it? And John eventually asked as delicately as soldiers, or airmen in their case, can, "What the hell is that smell that we can’t seem to leave behind?
"Well", Ray said, "since I come from a delicate background of tossing fish around all day, I’ve learned a bit about smells. Now this particular smell, aroma, scent, you are inhaling through your olfactory canals is unique to this part of the world."

Taking on a professorial air Ray pointed to a Japanese man carrying a long pole with two wooden buckets hanging off each end. "If you would please notice papa-san chugging down the road beside our official blue bus?"
Ray looked at John as if he was waiting for some answer. "Yeah, yeah, I see him, so what?" said John eager for him to get on with whatever he was leading to.
"Well, my new friend John from the Midwest, the buckets that papa-san is carrying are called honey buckets."
"Yeah, go on." John encouraged.
"Those buckets are filled with the fertilizer that is spread in the fields that is actually quite miraculous in the results it brings in. They get huge vegetables, bigger than ours back in the states. That is the aroma that wafts over all the rural areas of Japan, it is the smell of human waste my friend, the miracle additive of the orient."

"Naw, you mean? No you’re not serious, it’s, Oh for crying out loud. So what I’ve been smelling is human shhh pooh?"

Something about the incredible nature of Ray’s little seminar spoken with his New England accent and trying to be so serious struck John as somehow hilarious. He started to laugh, and then Ray caught the humor of it and joined in. They laughed for five minutes and that sealed their friendship. Finding a friend five thousand miles from home was like striking gold in your backyard.

September 7, 2006

Posted by Picasa Some jobs are so dangerous and some men are so impervious to fear that somehow they make a perfect match and accomplish the impossible. I can think of miners, going down into the ground. Firefighters, who daily go into burning buildings. Steelworkers, those guys who walk on steel girders high above the streets. I wouldn’t, no check that, I couldn’t do any of those jobs. There are a few other jobs I am thinking of to add to that list, which would be bridge builders, dam builders and tunnel builders.

This brings to mind Mike Rowe, who hosts the interesting show on Discovery network called Dirty Jobs. He also does jobs that make you very dirty, but none of which endangers his life each episode. Mike is a man that has moxie, he seems eager to try anything, but I digress.

I got to thinking about all this when I discovered the above picture taken by Margaret Bourke-White called Diversion Tunnels. Being the curious type I wondered what that was. Bourke-Whites picture was taken at the Fort Peck Montana project, but the following I found about the construction of the Hoover Dam is much more descriptive of the danger involved.

Diverting The Colorado River Around Hoover Dam Construction

Before actual Hoover Dam construction could begin, the Colorado River had to be temporarily diverted around the dam construction site. It was a daunting, difficult project. At that time there were no roads into Black Canyon, so initially, dam workers and equipment had to be brought by boat. Over time, roads were built and catwalks were stretched across the river. Summer temperatures often reached 140 degrees in the canyon and the winter months brought freezing.
Carving the diversion tunnels was a slow, tedious process that exposed dam workers to immense danger from blasting, falling rocks and diesel gas fumes spewed by the trucks that carried out blasting debris. Compressed air was circulated into the tunnels through large pipes. However, despite the difficulties, through intramural competition of the crew shifts, the tunnels would be completed almost a year early.
But in the beginning, it took countless men to make even an inch penetration into the canyon walls. To quicken the process, a drilling “Jumbo Truck” was retrofitted with layers of platforms that were backed into the face of canyon walls. This enabled 20-30 men to simultaneously drill holes for blasting powder. Eight of these jumbo trucks were implemented and lights were installed permitting around the clock progression.
The blasting holes were filled with dynamite with a ton of dynamite used for about every 14 feet of tunnel. After explosion, dump trucks hauled the rock debris downriver and placed in spoil dumps along the canyon for later use.
The diversion tunnels were lined with intricate forms for concrete lining. Initially a base of concrete was poured. The sidewalls were then poured into moveable sections of steel form and rail directed cranes were used to place the concrete. Pneumatic concrete guns were used to fill the overhead forms resulting in a total concrete lining that was 3 feet thick.
Previously, a barrier across the inlets to the Arizona side tunnels was installed. When the Arizona tunnels were ready to accept water flow, the barrier was breached with explosives and the flow began through those tunnels. Earthen and rock debris were trucked in and dumped from a trestle to block the Colorado River channel which forced the flow of water into the diversion tunnels. Eventually, cofferdams were built at the entrance to the other tunnels so they all worked as a team to divert water around the Hoover Dam construction site.
The core heart of Hoover Dam construction was now ready to begin.

I take my hat off to all these brave men.

September 6, 2006

By Jim Kittelberger

I was not then, nor am I now an avid fan of winter. Except, ahh, except for the exhilaration of joy I often felt upon awakening after a crisp coldness had descended upon us overnight. The morning sun breaking through the gray snow sky revealing an unscarred layer of whiteness covering earth’s imperfections was almost my first awareness of what beauty is. The crisp coldness caused the newly fallen snow to sparkle like diamonds, free for the picking. A stirring from deep inside made me spring out of my warm cozy bed onto the cold morning floor immune to the discomfort, and fully aware of what could lie ahead as a result of Mother Nature’s overnight gift to a boy of ten years. Young yes; a scholar, no; a snow day? Yes! Yes! Maybe.

The furnace’s morning stoking and poking and fueling with an ample supply of coal was returning the favor by filling my moms kitchen with its unforgettable and pleasant aroma and heat. The smell of perking coffee, and the sight of the newly buttered toast enhanced those aromatic pleasures. On mornings like these, my mother, a true believer in the medicinal values of food would also prepare oatmeal for me. A properly nourished body, she would always say, is the proper way to begin a day. God, I loved my mom in those days. She was young, I was younger, the world was young; and it just came over the radio, “SCHOOL WAS CANCELLED BECAUSE OF THE BEAUTIFUL SNOW”.

On mornings such as these, when the fates had smiled on us and piled drifts of snow in our driveways and against our backdoors, I could not wait to get out into it. Of course, my moms job would not be done until she made sure I was covered with seventeen layers of protective clothing, or at least it seemed that many. Then I was sprung loose into a world of boys and sleds and imagination. Boys, little boys, young boys, evidently don’t have a built in device running from their bodies to their brains telling them they were getting mighty cold now. They just continued on and on and on, like the energizer bunny until, in the method of the day, their mothers would open the door and yell for them to come home for lunch. How I wonder, no matter how far away we were, we always seemed to hear them. I would arrive at the back door which led into the kitchen, and after working to remove my frozen boots from my frozen feet with my frozen hands, I would stand on the floor register, and let the glorious coal heat cover my body with its thawing, life restoring warmth. How I and my boyhood chums did not lose fingers or toes from frostbite, I’ll never know, because after a short time standing on the register, my feet would begin to hurt and sting. But soon a bowl of soup and maybe a sandwich would appear, the radio would be broadcasting a soap opera, and everything would be right. In my mind today, almost sixty years later, I can still feel the discomfort of the snow, but the comfort I feel from remembering those days and that kitchen and that time diminishes mere physical pain.

I will always have that kitchen, and those glorious snow days, and that caring mom with me as comfort and remembrance to call upon when age begins to lay heavily on me.

September 3, 2006


I’m standing in the wings behind this dusty curtain knowing if I touch it the dust will cause me to start sneezing, I can’t do that. Oh God I think I’m getting sick, I’m either going to faint or throw up. I know I shouldn’t have worn this green satin dress, it’ll reflect the color to my face and I’ll look like I feel. I’ve only got about a minute to get myself together. The sweat is running down my ribcage and I know my face is shining like a polished cue ball. What if I get out there and no sound will come out of my mouth? Or I start to stutter? Oh sweet mother of God I think I’m getting panicky, should I turn and run? If I do I’m finished. Oh for crying out loud, now I have to go to the bathroom. If I don’t go right now I’m sure I might embarrass myself. No time, think of something else. Oh my God and now my stomach is starting to growl. It’s the loudest I’ve ever heard it. Can they hear it on stage? These new microphones can pick up anything, Oh Lord what to do?

“and now here is Americas favorite singer, winner of six gold records, star of stage, screen, and television, the one, the only…….”


a fictional job related anecdote.

Copyright Jim Kittelberger 2006

September 2, 2006

By Jim Kittelberger

Stooping over, pulling weeds, discussing the merits and dimensions of rocks, moving plants from front to back, left to right, removing or planting, speaking in monosyllables and smiling halfway through a comment knowing the end before it arrives, sweating and wiping our faces with dirty hands causing dirty mud smears across our eyes and then laughing hysterically as if bob hope had told his greatest joke at our impersonations of raccoons, alone together in a world we have created, a world of solitude and togetherness, our world of choice.

Sitting together in our beloved Buick, dirty and happy at a local drive-in pondering the immense nothing healthy menus hanging from the side of the building discussing the five years the cholesterol is going to take away from us but ordering it anyway, discussing the choices and joys of supper that evening, a supper that might be served at five, six, seven or eight, whenever it seemed right in our empty nested world of choice.

The joyful solitude of our world is not the solitude of the hermit hiding in a cave, but the solitude of a world created of elements of our characters that we are familiar with as we are with each other, the familiarity that has endured and causes us peace and happiness, a world created of familiar humanity towards each other, of a serenity of souls comfortable alone together with our thoughts and each other in our secret garden of peace.

September 1, 2006


“All I said was I think a red dress with your red hair might be a little too much, what do you think son?”

“You say one thing coffee boy and I’ll stuff you in your coffee urn.”

“I’m not saying a word, I’m busy taking inventory of my supplies, honest.”