Gasparilla: Is It Just Like Mardi Gras?

Beryl. B. Byles

When I retired to Tampa, I was introduced to several local experiences. One of the most notable was Gasparilla, a series of several events throughout the year, but mostly the annual invasion and parade on the last Saturday of January.

Since many locals consider Gasparilla to be “just like Mardi Gras,” I realized that most people just did not know the difference.  So, I volunteered to teach an audience of fellow seniors who were curious. I was eager to share my lifelong experience and new research on the similarities and differences.   (More…)

The Children of Green Knowe

Lucinda Knox

A Review of The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M. Boston

When I was growing up, there was nothing more magical than the season before Christmas. I loved everything about it, and I believed in Santa Claus far longer than any of my friends. After my two sons were born, I happily read Christmas books to them, sharing the joy and sense of magic I’ve always felt during this time of year. (However, I should add that, as for anyone, joy is mixed with sadness as loved ones die or life’s circumstances change. Magic, mystery, and the feeling that there is something greater than myself and that almost anything can happen, especially on Christmas Eve, is a belief that I hold.)

During this holiday season, I re-read stories and books that I’ve collected over the years, each having something to do with Christmas or the spirit thereof. One of these books is Lucy M. Boston’s The Children of Green Knowe, one of six books that she wrote after the age of 60.  All of them were inspired by (More…)

Creating a “Familyiography”

Neil Cosentino

Over 50 years have passed since I flew combat missions over North Vietnam.  I wrote a book of short stories about flying that includes a few of these missions.  It was my oldest sister who slowly drew out the stories and then encouraged me to include them in a book that is now in our local public library system.

The book’s title is Letters from the Cockpit. I encourage friends not to buy the book, but instead to request it from the library so the demand keeps the book in the system. I enjoyed writing the book and found that if the stories you write are true, you will enjoy reading them again. A repeat of what was exciting once is still an enjoyment, and there is a simple good in that.  (More…)

Manhattan Memories

Robert Strozier

I first visited Manhattan in 1953, when I was 13, the guest of Vandy, my godmother. An avid reader of movie magazines, I asked if we could dine at the Stork Club, then one of the most celebrated nightspots in the world where glittering movie stars and celebrities always were being seen. And so, rather than instructing me in the Nicene Creed, Vandy took me to the Stork Club for lunch.

Everything was as I had pictured it, down to the Stork statuette on the table, and—would you believe—sitting at the next table was raven-haired starlet Piper Laurie with a slick-looking power player of some sort. This was the kind of crowd I’d always dreamed of running with, and I resolved then to move to Manhattan one day. Fourteen years later I made it—staying for another 45 years.

When I first arrived, the only people I knew were an uncle and aunt, and sometimes I’d go over in the mornings and watch TV game shows with her, a ritual that included drinking three or four martinis.   (More...)

The Texas Turkey

Neil Harvey

The Christmas season was fast approaching.  The year was 1944, the war in Europe and the Pacific had swung in favor of the Allies, and the holiday mood was upbeat and festive in Dallas, Texas.

In those days, I was the foreman, laborer, and chief chicken plucker and poop scooper for the Harvey family Poultry Enterprises.  My family was going to move into a more fashionable part of Dallas, and our wartime chicken-raising project would not be tolerated in the new neighborhood.  I had butchered and dressed out all the fryers for our customers.  Dad sold off the turkeys, laying hens, and George, the rooster, to a neighbor.

My grandmother, Nanna, who had lost her sight and lived with us, sat in the shade of our willow tree and plucked the feathers from the chickens I had butchered.  Nanna had been raised in the 1880s on the Kansas plains and never shirked the drudgery of any menial job.  She was an expert on all of the household skills like gardening, bread-making, and canning – skills needed to survive on the American Western frontier.  She was an authentic pioneer woman.  (More…)

The Last Liberty Boat

David Campbell

David Campbell and Joe Callahan

Joe Callahan was my best friend in the Navy. We weren’t together very long, but while we were, we were virtually inseparable. When I returned to the Wilson after my leave to get married, Joe was on board fresh out of Internal Communications Electrician school.

The gun fire control gang, my unit, and the IC electricians both worked out of the IC room, home to the main fire control computer and the ship’s main gyro compass, the heart of the internal communications network, because all navigation and fire control systems were connected to it. IC electricians maintained the compass and the circuitry connecting it to other systems, as well as the sound-powered telephone system. The fire control guys and the IC gang were joined at the hip.  (More…)

England During the War Years

Jack D. Plimmer

At the age of 12, I was not prepared for the war. It was a dark cloud that cast its shadow over what promised to be an enjoyable part of my life. I had just passed the 11-plus exam and had a scholarship to the local grammar school. My future looked rosy, but there were clouds on the horizon.

In England, we knew for some time that war was on its way. As I grew older, I read the national newspapers. They convinced us that Hitler’s aggression soon would be directed against England. The papers were full of news about Mussolini’s conquest of Ethiopia and the Spanish Civil War. The Spanish Civil War was a harbinger of what was to come. It polarized European thought and opinion. The newspapers gave detailed reports of the aerial bombing, sieges, battles, massacres, the flight of civilians and all the terrors associated with the war. The nightmare grew closer.  (More…)

Arrival

Raymond Paltoo

The sky was an unbelievable blue with only a lonely, white, drifting cloud to disrupt its absolute rule in the heavens. The sea was a reflection of the blue sky, except near the shore, where the water became a translucent emerald-green.

From the rough planking of the dock Sham watched the ship, which had brought him and more than a few hundred others over the depths of the dark ocean, gently rocking as the small waves washed her hull on their way to the shore. His senses told him that he had never seen anything so lovely and yet so alien as the waters of the Caribbean. Simultaneously, he was conscious only of misery and loss.  (More…)

Yes, Diane! There is a Santa Claus!

Diane Russell

The happiest season of the year was Christmas for the Chicago-based Henrikson family.   I was the only kid among my friends who could say that I actually saw Santa Claus deliver presents.

Santa made regular appearances decades earlier to another generation of Henrikson and Dixon kids.  My dad, Art Henrikson, wrote about these Christmas Eve visits to his Scandinavian grandparents’ home in the 1920’s as follows:  “Each year someone would have to go to the store and leave through the front door…minutes later, conversation would lower.  I’d hear a tinkle of bells and then a knock on the back door…there was Santa!” In the 1930’s, his younger cousin, Vince Bates, saw Santa at Big Grandma and Big Grandpa’s house a couple of days after Christmas and was amazed: “Of course, he had gifts for all of us, and of course he knew all of us by name, including me!”   (More…)

Civil War Battlefields

Kevin Chittim

Unbearable Florida heat and humidity, wives off on their own adventures, more than a slight danger of boredom—how are a couple of golden agers to spend their summer vacation?

Tim McMurrich and I have been friends for 45 years (although we lost contact with each other for 30 of those) ever since we were part of a stellar softball outfield in the ‘70s.  We hatched our plan to tour Civil War Battlefields over cocktails during the Christmas holidays (not surprisingly our spouses began planning alternate summer plans the same evening).  So, began an 8-day Odyssey    (More…)