Friday Evening with David Eisenhower

Dad, Annette and I went to hear David Eisenhower speak at the St. Louis County Library Friday night. It was very nice. Many more people than I expected. I’m guessing over three hundred. I already had a copy of his new book and was able to stay afterward to get it signed.

His book is entitled Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961 – 1969. It’s an intimate insider’s look at the last years if Ike’s life at his home in Gettysburg. Reading the book made be very thankful to David for writing it and it was nice to able to shake his hand and thank him in person.

I have read many books on Eisenhower, but none where his title is Granddad. “Nixon said that…” or “Kennedy said this…” and then “Granddad said…”

Aside from the intimacy, there’s the look inside at the political games going on after Ike’s out of the White House. Most notably: Nixon, Kennedy and Johnson calling on Ike for various reasons. Turns out, as we heard from David last night, that Ike and Johnson were pretty close. Not surprising considering Johnson was Senate Minority and then Majority Leader during Eisenhower’s years in the White House. After Johnson became president, he looked to Ike frequently for advice, especially concerning Vietnam.

One great thing about hearing someone like David Eisenhower speak is that you have an opportunity to hear history direct from an original source.

One myth that was, for me, finally confirmed last night was President Truman’s asking Ike to lead the Democratic Ticket in 1948. Truman suggested that Ike run from President and he, Truman would be his Vice President. “If we don’t,” suggested Truman, “MacArthur will win and we can’t have that.” While Ike, no doubt, agreed about MacArthur, he declined to run. Ike’s political affiliations were unknown yet, but he declared himself a Republican soon after.

I’m looking forward to finishing the book.

An evening with David McCullough

David McCulloughJohn and Marjie were gracious enough to consider us when they had two extra tickets to hear David McCullough speak down at Powell Hall tonight. And, though I am woefully behind in reading most of his books, I, like you, have seen and heard many of his endeavors on PBS. And, when I saw an hour of him on the Charlie Rose Show, it really inspired me. He has a love of history coupled with some very, very good communication skills.

He spoke most passionately and emotionally on the subject of Public Education. No matter where the speech took him, he always seemed to come back again to the subject. His overall sentiment was, it’s up to the parents. Some of the biting criticisms he had were along the lines of “less soccer for the 6th grader and more family field trips” or “when you go the parent-teacher conference, ask the teacher ‘what can I do to help you.’ ”

That was also his answer when he wondered aloud what he would say to the new president. He claims he would simply say, “what can I do to help.” And, as long as one does not interpret that statement as “when can I get on the Federal payroll?” then, I most heartily agree with it.

But, what can you do to “help?” Well, help what? right? Isn’t that the question?

Anyway, listening to Mr. McCullough has inspired to write a bit, so there you go.

If Jesus could do it

I figure if Jesus could get up after three days in a tomb, I could maybe write a blog post.

I had my usual Holy Week schedule this past week: Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. For me, the usual combination of playing guitar and cooking. It’s what I do.

Saturday morning I was watching the History Detectives on PBS and one of the stories got me thinking about mythology and religion.  The story starts like this:

George Washington’s cherry tree, Betsy Ross’ flag, Paul Revere’s ride…now Muhlenberg’s Robe may be added to the list of debatable Revolutionary War legends.

The story goes that in January 1776, Lutheran Reverend Peter Muhlenberg turned his pulpit into a recruiting station for revolutionary fighters. During a fiery sermon, he tore his robe from his shoulders to reveal a uniform, and at once rallied 300 able-bodied congregants to the patriotic cause.

So, off go the history detectives to discover that a.) Though the robe is made of the right material and is of the right age to be the robe, there’s no way to prove whether it really is or not and b.) Rev. Muhlenberg most certainly did not tear it off during the sermon to reveal the uniform and likely did not rally the 300 right there on the spot. The story is probably a concoction derived seventy-plus years later when German immigrants needed to feel special about their role in the war up there in Pennsylvania.

But here’s my beef: we all too often ignore the plain obvious facts right in front of our face. 1.) Rev. Muhlenberg was a Lutheran Minister who lived and preached during the birth of our nation 2.) He gave up (took off?) his robe to wear the uniform of revolution and 3.) he convinced many of his congregants to fight against the British.

So, you see how the “myth” compacts and teaches us the story? The real story. The myth is good. Leave it alone.

On another note, I felt obliged to defend the Methodists a bit during this story. As the story goes, the “American Anglicans” (aka Methodists) would not fight the king. This is true enough. One must look inside John Wesley’s head a bit for the answer though.

I won’t bore with all the details, but we could safely say the Wesley simply did not like our founding fathers. He thought them buffoonish hypocrites. His main moral contention was, of course, their ownership of slaves. They demanded “freedom?” …right. The Wesleyan movement had already played a role in abolishing slavery in England years before.
Anyway, sometimes it’s healthy to read about people that our history books tell us are heroes, saints practically; to read Wesley just cut them down and insult them…well, it’s good for you sometimes.

Two Couples

Richard & AnnetteIke & Mamie

Two couples; both married on July 1st. The couple on the left in 1983, the couple on the right in 1916. Both married in the bride’s mother’s living room. The couple on the right, in Denver CO. The couple on the left honeymooned in…that’s right, Denver CO. Supernatural baloney? Supernatural, perhaps. Baloney? Perhaps not.

Girls love a man in uniform

Lois Robert and Alice Emily Sailor and Maria

I was scanning a bunch of pictures for a dvd that I’m making for Mother’s Day and when I came across the one on the left there it reminded of the one on the right.

On the left that’s my Aunt Lois, Uncle Russ and Mom (Alice) about 1942 I’m guessing.

On the right is Emily, bronze sailor and Maria. This is from one of our trips to the Pensacola Naval Air Museum. I just realized that this picture was four years ago when Maria was heading to college and Emily was heading into her senior year of high-school. Now, we just received an invitation to Maria’s college graduation and Em is heading into her last year of college. Yikes!

This Week in South Side History

Bloody 1953 bank heist hit silver screen

Movie gave boost to then-unknown Steve McQueen

by Jim Merkel

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At 94, Melburn Stein has been retired longer than he served in the St. Louis Police Department.Yet he still has dreams about April 24, 1953, when he was nearly killed more than once in what was to become known as the Great St. Louis Bank Robbery.

The sensational robbery at the Southwest Bank at South Kingshighway Boulevard and Southwest Avenue attracted a crowd of police officers and onlookers.

It ended with a police officer injured, two bank robbers dead and one robber injured. The getaway car’s driver eluded police but was quickly caught.

One robber took his own life, saying “They’ll never take me.” Stein killed the other one as the robber rushed to the front door using a woman as a shield.

The bank’s directors, who were holding a board meeting in a room in the bank, threw their wallets in a wastebasket and hid under a table until police used tear gas.

In the end, police recovered the entire heist – $141,000.

It was the stuff you’d see in a 1950s crime movie, and people in Hollywood agreed. In 1959, United Artists released a movie about it, “The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery,” starring a new actor named Steve McQueen.

The man who played Stein had a special knowledge of the part. It was Stein himself, ordered by the city police board to play the role.

“Frankly, I didn’t think McQueen was all that great,” Stein said, adding that McQueen was distant and self-contained.

Living in Creve Coeur and still spry enough to cut his own grass, Stein credits his Marine Corps training to saving him amidst the gunfire. It told him to bend down and become a smaller target.

Stein shot the robber holding the hostage after she passed out of his line of fire.

“It was a calculated shot,” Stein said. “I had plenty of time to think about it.”

The dying robber went for a .38-caliber revolver in his belt and almost shot Stein. Fortunately, Stein noticed what the robber was doing.

“I reached down and got the gun,” Stein said. “Just to think about it gives me the creeps.”

Stein stayed on with the city department and retired in 1973 after 31 years.

The officer who was injured, Cpl. Robert Heinz, didn’t do as well.

A bullet that struck him in the head lodged in the skull around the ear and was not removed. He lost his equilibrium and had to retire.

Last week, retired Southwest Bank President Ed Berra showed off the old vault that had held money stolen in the robbery. Now an advisory board member and a consultant to Southwest, Berra started with the bank in 1959.

After the robbery, the bank increased the numbers of armed guards or introduced them at branches that didn’t have them, said Berra, 78.

Pictures on the wall of the Southwest Bank office include a newspaper photo of the robbery.

“I can’t believe that’s over a half-century ago,” Berra said.

Note: I hope Jim Merkel will forgive me using his article as my blog entry. Jim, if you ever read this, just remember who made you famous as the Grinch.

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month

It used to be called Armistice Day because, at that hour on that day, the war to end all wars finally ended. It was 1918; 87 years ago. I spend much time reading and thinking about World War II; I told Emily not long ago that one cannot understand the world around us without an understanding of that that war. But, truth be told, it is the Great War that defines our modern world.

Notice my use of the present tense. The people we today call Islamic terrorists fight for a day when they can return to the glory that ended “more than 80 years ago…” It was then that the world we know was formed.

[from Wikipedia] World War I proved to be the decisive break with the old world order, marking the final demise of absolutist monarchy in Europe. Four empires were shattered: The German, the Austro-Hungarian, the Ottoman, and the Russian. Their four dynasties, the Hohenzollerns, the Habsburgs, the Ottomans, and the Romanovs, who had roots of power back to the days of the Crusades, all fell during or after the war.

Jefferson Barracks on Memorial Day 2005

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A group of us went out for breakfast at Ginghams before we headed over to the cemetery. In attendance were: Myself and Emily, my Dad and step-mom Judy, sister Becky and Steve, Dad’s boyhood friend Bill with his girlfriend Sandy (childhood girlfriend of both Jim & Bill), Bill’s mother (you call her either Mrs. Wooten or Mom), and two of Bill’s kids with a couple of their kids. Oh yeah, and Aunt Mickey and Uncle Gene, too. Steve (Becky’s fiancé) is an active Boy Scout Leader and he’s spent the entire day yesterday out at the cemetery planting some of the 150,000 small American Flags at the headstones of all the servicemen. He was nice to go along with us again; I’m sure he could have enjoyed relaxing at home.

Then we all met back at Jim & Judy’s place for a very nice outdoor lunch on the patio next to the pond. Later, after the crowd thinned out, some of us stayed for a second helping of dessert and a game of “marbles.” That’s a game that mimics the game that I played as a kid called Aggravation; except you play with cards instead of dice and act like it’s a grown-up game. So you call it Marbles instead of Aggravation.

Just thought you might enjoy a slice of life down here in God’s country.

Memorial Day 2005

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One of the things I’ve been struggling with lately, concerning this blog, is, as I really got into my second year of writing, it hit me hard just how repetitive my life is. I’m going to the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery tomorrow just as I did last year. (Here’s some pictures from that day.) I don’t want to simply repeat everything I’ve already written about…so…what? What shall I say?

Well, upon looking back at my posts from last year, it appears I didn’t write about it at all. I took and posted some pictures from the day, but I didn’t write about Memorial Day at all.

I suppose because we’re in the middle of a controversial war, the usual pat phrases don’t quite do their job. I happen to believe that our military is in Iraq guarding our freedom. But, I’m trying to imagine how I would feel if I didn’t believe that. During peace-time, there are accidents of all sorts in the military when people are hurt or killed. We say they are hurt in “the line of duty” or maybe, “it’s a dangerous line of work.” They certainly deserve our thoughts on Memorial Day. They too, sacrificed for their country.

But how about the sailors on the USS Cole that were killed by the explosive-laden speed boat? They were doing their job, the nation was not at war, yet they were attacked because they were American servicemen. I know, I know…American servicemen propping up puppet-regimes in Saudi Arabia and Israel, and Iran and Iraq before that, and Panama before that. Hell, let’s throw in Great Britain while we’re at it. Come to think of it, we’ve propped up a fair cross-section of this whole globe throughout our history. I wonder why? The point is, these servicemen were killed in the line of duty.

These days our military is all voluntary. So, everyone that loses their life does so in the line of duty. Whether they’re on the front line in Iraq or in a kitchen in Georgia, they’re serving our country by putting its needs ahead of theirs. This sacrifice to something bigger than themselves is what makes all of us look up to them. We honor each and every one of them.