Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Irene reminds me of 1944

I was five years old and we spent the summer, as usual, at the Atlantic City, New Jersey shore. This was the last year we could stay after Labor Day because I would start first grade the next year.
My father commuted. He came to the shore on Friday night, returned to Philadelphia on Monday morning, came back to the shore on Wednesday night, returned to Philadelphia on Thursday morning, and so forth. That way, my father did not see us just one day a week.
September 14, 1944 dawned with rain. The large floor model radio in the rented house did not work during the rain. The only sound was static. And, because it was raining, there was no newspaper delivered. The paper boy never left the newspaper in the rain.
In mid-morning, the phone rang. Aunt Naomi was calling from Philadelphia. Remember, this was 1944. Nobody made long distance calls unless it was an emergency. "Why are you still there?" she asked my mother. "A hurricane is coming and bearing down on Atlantic City." My mother said that she would investigate and call her back. Then, she called Aunt Rose. Aunt Rose and Uncle Sam lived in Atlantic City. "A hurricane? Don't be silly," said Aunt Rose. "They always talk
about hurricanes. It's just a Nor'easter. We get them every year at this time."
So, my mother called Aunt Naomi back, gave her the report from Aunt Rose, and then said that we would probably head back to Philadelphia and would call her when we got there.
We packed; called a taxi; went to the train station; bought tickets to Philadelphia; and waited in the beautiful, huge, mobbed train station. Finally, we boarded our homeward bound train and, after a brief wait at the station, started moving through the pouring rain. I was sitting next to the window, and the rain and wind were so strong that water was seeping into the train car. We had not gotten very far, to Pleasantville, I think, when the train stopped. And we waited, and waited, and then the train reversed, back to the station. The bridge had been washed out.
We all got off the train, and tried to find a seat in the crowded station. I remember sitting on the suitcase because there was no room on any of the benches for my mother and me. After a while, somebody (I don't remember who) got up and gave my mother a seat. Since this was 1944, the train station was filled with military. Some were there because of R and R from WWII, and some were there to keep order. I remember being very thirsty and being told not to drink from the water fountain.
Eventually, the rain and wind stopped. The streets were still flooded but we went outside to look. I don't remember ever seeing the sky so full of stars, before or since. I now know that because there was no electricity, there were no interfering lights but, as a kid, I couldn't take my eyes off the sky. My mother hailed a taxi but he said the water was over the hubcaps and he couldn't drive. The military was patrolling. I stopped one. "I'm hungry and thirsty," I said. My mother was embarrassed. The soldier directed us to a shelter where they served us cheese sandwiches and milk. Then the shelter people took us to an old wooden Y. There was still no power, so we were led to our room by a woman who took the candle away with her when she left. She told us that she was afraid of fire.
Meanwhile, we did not know that my father was frantic. Aunt Naomi told him that, the last she heard, we were on our way to Philadelphia. The phone lines to Atlantic City were down and my father could not get through to anybody. He called the Atlantic City police and they told him that no one matching our descriptions had turned up. The police also told him to stay home. That the roads were closed and he could not get to Atlantic City. He called the Three A's and received the same message. In the morning, he called the police again, frantic, and they told him to come on down and they would see that he got through - and my father believed them -
and they were true to their word. In fact, they even gave him a police escort through the "do not enter" barricades.
We went to Aunt Rose and Uncle Sam's place. I was standing outside and my father appeared around the corner, ran over to me, scooped me up and carried me in.
Later that day, we drove back to our rental. The only damage to the house was an outside light that had been twisted.
The 1944 hurricane had no name. Hurricanes were not named until 1950.

Davis family - no secrets

Edgar remembers one of the times he visited Aunt Lillian and Uncle Rob. Aunt Lillian's niece, Georgianne was waiting for her boyfriend to meet her there for a visit. Finally, David Garst arrived. It was pouring that day, and he jumped out of a taxi and ran to the house, carrying his boots. David was tall, good looking,
and athletic - the captain of the wrestling team at Southern Cal.
Uncle Rob engaged David in conversation and David said that his father was a farmer and was buying corn and selling wheat. At the time, they were both priced the same on the commodity market. A couple of weeks later, corn skyrocketed and wheat plummeted.
Edgar joined them for breakfast and couldn't believe his eyes. David drank two quarts of milk, ate a half a loaf of bread, and scooped up a four egg omelet. Uncle Rob had never seen anybody eat like that. Neither had Edgar.
Remember when Nikita Krushchev visited the US? He requested a visit to the Garst hybrid corn farm. Uncle Rob said that he thought the Garsts were just "farmers." He never dreamed that Garst was an internationally known producer of hybrid corn. Krushchev and his entourage stopped in Coon Rapids, Iowa after his visit to Hollywood and his attendance on the set of the movie Can-Can. Perhaps you remember his quote, "I think that humanity's face is prettier than its behind."
Krushchev requested that the Garsts visit the Soviet Union to talk about hybrid corn production. Georgianne and David served as the instructors. Georgianne spoke about how their every need was satisfied, even though the workers and helpers where they were staying knew no English. One morning, Georgianne said to David that the food is delicious and plentiful, but there is just not enough butter. From that point on, lots and lots of butter was served with every meal.
Georgianne's brother Mort was accepted at the University of Colorado. He left the Big Island of Hawaii, where his father, Archie Ornstein established his medical practice in the 1920's. Mort graduated from Punahou High School in 1951 and his father called in favors to get Mort a seat on the first flight out of Hawaii after the United Airlines settlement of the 2-week pilots' strike. The flight was doomed and Mort was on the plane that crashed into Crystal Mountain on June 30. There were no survivors.
As near as Edgar can determine, the family name, originally, was Davidovitch which was the name of Leon Trotsky. Since the Davis's came from the same general area as Trotsky, Stalin sent men to question the family. Stalin had been murdering all the Trotsky's. Edgar's grandfather, Moses, opened the door to his house in Philadelphia one day, and found two emissaries from Stalin, questioning the relationship to Trotsky. Moses who csme to the US in 1892 convinced the men that there was no relationship between him and his family and Trotsky.
Trotsky was murdered in Mexico; his son was murdered in France; fortunately, no Davis's were murdered.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pearl Harbor - 12/7/1941

Edgar remembers the day clearly. He was at an engagement party on a bright and sunny day in Philadelphia. This was LONG before the days of texting, twitter, cell phones, and instant communications. The floor model radio interrupted its background music program to announce the unthinkable - America had been attacked by Japan.
The guests left in a hurry. Nobody knew what would happen next.
About two hours later, newsboys ran up and down the streets, shouting WAR, and selling the Philadelphia Record with its gigantic headline. In those days, Philadelphia had four fibrant daily newspapers.
During one of our many trips to Hawaii, we sought out people who lived in Hawaii during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Russell Cades, a graduate of Philadelphia's Central High School, and the University of Pennsylvania undergrad and law schools, lived in Honolulu since the 1920's and headed the largest law firm in Honolulu, remembered that day clearly. "I stood outside my house on the hill and saw the bombs' falling and the return anti-aircraft fire."
Dr. Rodney West, who was born and raised in Hawaii helped shape the civilian emergency response team. He said that on December 7, early in the morning, he received a phone call from his father who lived on the Big Island. "This is not a test," his father said. Dr. West turned on his radio and heard the announcer say "this is the real McCoy." So, Dr. West phoned the others on his emergency response team and drove at top speed to the hospital on Ford Island. There was no connector bridge from the highway to the island so they all crouched low in a Boston Whaler while the attacking Japanese planes strafed the area. "I was hoping that they were all good shots and not aiming for us."
He and his fellow doctors treated the burn victims to the best of their abilities and were thankful that the bomb in the atrium was a dud and did not explode.
Dr. West and his fellow Hawaiians anticipated this attack and had organized all the groups they could - the Boy Scouts, the Red Cross, the Postal Employees, and other civilian groups. Each organization had a specific job to perform as soon as the attack began.
Russ, at the Ramsey Gallery, was taking a shower in his home on Maui. After the attack, word was sent out that all lights had to be extinguished during the night. He said that he waas just a kid and forgot about the "no lights" edict. He was still in the shower when a pounding at the frong door startled his mother. "You have a spy in your house," said the FBI agent, "who is signalling the enemy."
"My poor mother. It took her a second or two before she realized that I had turned on the light in the shower room."
"It's just my young son," she said, "taking a shower."
By that time, Russ had finished his shower, stepped out into the room with his angry mother and a stern faced FBI man. "I received quite a lecture," he said. "I've never felt quite the need for cleanliness since then. The FBI man told me that I was lucky I wasn't carted off to prison."
Another day, we spoke to a docent at the Iolani Palace. She remembered the zig-zag trenches that the soldiers dug outside her school. Every so often, "we had to practice running out of the school and hiding in the trenches."
But, that was nothing compared to the gas mask drills. "Each of us was issued a gas mask and we received minimal instruction on its use. Then, to be sure that we had mastered the complexities of gas mask use, the army put us in a room, told us to afix our gas masks, and turned on the tear gas. If we coughed, or choked, or cried we were pulled out and lectured that we had done it wrong and that if it was truly noxious gas, we would be dead." Then the military showed the students how to adjust the gas masks properly and "we passed the second test."
One day, while strolling along Kalakaua Avenue, we saw a throng of people with a couple of steam rollers. The street was covered with gold colored, jewel encrusted watches - all fakes - taken from the International Marketplace and all crushed under the watchful eyes of the police, fire department, ATF, FBI, INS, military, and us.
Helping to maintain order was a fire fighter. While talking, and asking questions, he told us that his Japanese father was an orderly at the hospital on Ford Island during the attack on Pearl Harbor. His father helped rescue many of the burn victinms from the water. When the sailors looked at him, some of them showed fear and questioned why a Japanese man was saving them when the Japanese planes atacked them. He also told us of a much older friend of his who had been hunting wild boar on the morning of Decmeber 7th. His friend saw the Japanese planes, heard the bombs, and aimed his rifle to the sky in a futile attempt to bring down the attack planes.
At the Makapu'u lighthouse, we met a couple from Indiana. His father had been stationed in Pearl Harbor, on board the Oklahoma. His father had been assigned a bunk on a low deck, but, just two days before, he was moved to the highest deck and thus survived the attack.
One more story. New planes arrived at Pearl Harbor and the navy pilots wanted to practice with them. So they flew all day Saturday and were then ordered to take the twin hulled P-38's back to base and stop practice. But, in good military tradition, the pilots ignored their orders and secreted the planes at a distant airfield. After the attack, the pilots took their planes to the air and startled the Japanese. The Japanese intentions, to destroy the oil reserves were thwarted by the sight of these three unexpected planes and - not knowing how many more, if any, were patrolling the skies, the Japanese decided to be satisfied with the destruction of the battleships and left.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Pro Bowl in Hawaii?

The NFL wants money to bring the Pro Bowl to Honolulu. Are you surprised? Governor Abercrombie is reluctant to spend tax dollars. Who can blame him when the needs for the money are great in so many other fields.

The hotel and related businesses are clamoring for the Pro Bowl, and its anticipated revenue of 30 million dollars or more. The hotel managers salivate at the thought of the happy, freely spending tourists who stay for Pro Bowl week.

And yet, Governor Abercrombie hesitates to invest the valuable, hard earned tax revenues. If those who want the Pro Bowl are as confident as they seem that lots and lots of money, in the form of visitor spending will arrive in Hawaii, then let them lend the money to the State so that Hawaii can pay the NFL and when the anticipated revenues flow into the state treasury, the lenders can be repaid. This requires trust that the State will repay the loans.

Hawaii Five-0 on the Beach

Our little grandchildren wanted to walk to the Hilton Hawaiian Villages to see the tropical penguins - again. So they walked along the beach from Embassy Suites, in front of Fort DeRussey, to the Hilton with their mother, saw the penguins, returned and announced, with great glee, "there's a person in a shark suit and a whole lot of camera equipment on the beach."

I investigated. "Is this Five-0?" I saked. "Yes." "Are the stars here?" "No." "Is the PR person here?" "I haven't seen her." "Who's the director?" I heard a name that I did not recognized. I knew for sure that he was not the director that we knew from our experience on Baywatch Hawaii.

And then, along came a tall, sun-bronzed, athletic man, who was holding a tray of cold fruit. "Have some fruit," he said. I took a slice of cold, juicy, and sweet pineapple. "Have some more." I took another slice.

Apparently, I didn't take enough to please him and he stuck a big black plum in my hand. The fruit was delicious. All I needed was a pie to feel like Little Jack Horner.

Then, not to be outdone, a different tall bronzed athletic looking man approached. He thrust a tray of cheese slices, sliced salami, and crackers under my face. I guess I looked pathetic, but I turned him down.

I pulled out my pocket Nikon 3100 camera and a third man stuck his head and equally shirtless body into the frame. So I have this photo with no names and no idea who they are. But, it sure was fun.

They finished shooting the scene with the shark and when that episode of Hawaii Five-0 appears - don't know its name - at least we'll be able to say that we were there.

We Climbed Diamondhead

Diamondhead, the iconic image, visible from all of Waikiki, rises straight up from the Pacific Ocean and provides a backdrop to swimming, surfing, and canoeing. Diamondhead presents a modest challenge to the couch potato tourist.

Oahu Nature Tours picked all 7 of us up and drove to the Diamondhead crater to start our trek. Claire passed out water bottles (2 to each of us), walking sticks to those who needed them. (I had my own cane, Edgar announced that he does not have any mountain goat gene and sat at the beginning of the trail and talked to everyone who sat down next to him until we returned), and a back pack if needed.

The day dawned warm and glorious but the 10 to 20 mile cooling trade winds kept both the temperature and humidity down. By the time we finished the climb, almost everyone had consumed both bottles of water.

The trail zig-zagged up the mountain with a hand rail always present on one side or the other. Between my cane and my wrist brace, I made the climb both up and down. I hope I served as an inspiration to the younger climbers. That would be everybody else. And various people stopped me to complain about their own troubles. A man has been doctoring for MS for 26 years and swears by his multi-vitamins. A woman with an inflamed rotator cuff couldn't lift her arm and asked me how she could prevent a frozen shoulder. I guess my silver hair led them to believe that I was knowledgeable in medical problems.

Parents with young children in their arms, ran up and down the trail. That seems like unnecessary bravado to me.

The climb through the lighted tunnel was the easy part of the hike, followed by the hard part of more than a hundred steps going straight up, a circular staircase, and the decapitation stone that required a knees first position on the way up ("watch your head" warning seemed unnecessary but present) and a sit on your rear for the way down.

The descent provided problems for me and I picked my way slowly and carefully -I inadvertently held up the parade of climbers who were in a hurry. A tall, strong looking man, took over and told me that he was walking in front and he would catch me if I slipped. He placed his foot at an angle and encouraged me to use his shoe as a safety block. I did and thanked the airline pilot from Delta for his help.

All of this writing about the hike doesn't come close to describing the spectacular views from the top. Practically the entire island of Oahu was visible - downtown Honolulu, built up Waikiki, and the multi-colored blue Pacific Ocean.

What a day!!!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Is it Peggy or a scam?

Discover Card hit a wonderful ad campaign with Peggy. It seems that companies who have to depend on patrons for customrs hire minimum wage people who cannot read.

I sent an email to Nissan, complaining about my service engine soon light and the advice I received from my dealer to "ignore" it. The Altima is a little over 2 years old, had a 3 year bumper to bumper warranty, and has less than 5,000 miles on it.

No one at Nissan USA replied to my email and after 3 days, I called. I got Tiffaney (note the spelling) on the phone. She was pleasant enough, asked for the VIN, found my email, gave me a case file number, and then added, "When was the diagnostic done?"

Since the point of my email was that the service manager recommended doing nothing and told me the Diagnostic would cost $94.00. To her question, I answered "never."

"Last week?" she asked. "No, Tiffaney, never." I almost called her Peggy.

And then, as if she couldn't read even one word, we slowly went through my email word for word and when frustration on my part reared its ugly head, I said I wanted to talk to a supervisor. "They will just say what I'm telling you," she said. After a couple of minutes, on hold, a supervisor listened patiently and told me what I wanted to hear - almost. A diagnostic that reveals a problem with a warranted part is free. Otherwise, fax them the info and they'll send me a check.

Then I emailed Ardmore Nissan with the service complaint and I received a reply email from another Peggy that he was delighted I'm interested in buying a new Nissan and he will contact me shortly.

I sent a reply email - all CAPS - shouting NO, NO, NO. Here's another person who cannot read. Finally I took my courage by the hand and brought my car to the agency.

"The light is still on?" I nodded. I asked Dave if he would tighten the gas cap. He inspected it, nodded that it had been put on OK and tight enough. He then suggested that I drive over 50 mph for a while. Did it. Light is still on. So, two days later (first available appointment) I took the car back to the agency, and waited for the results of the diagnostic.

And after 2 hours, the scam revealed itself with confirmation that there was never anything wrong with the gas tank cap and that it passed the pressure test correctly. But somehow, someway, the computer read there was a "vapor lock" or something like that. And, those things "usually" correct themselves, except when the customer can be scammed, like I was.

We paid the bill; faxed the required material to Nissan customer service; and I am not holding my breath while I wait for the promised reimbursement check.