A week into 2021, I received a short message from Alan Carlson, the OLLI Connects Editor. Somebody had written a comment on my 2018 OLLI Connects story about Santa Claus. Who would comment on it two years later? Alan sent the comment for me to read before posting it.
The comment read: “Dear Diane, I try to contact you on your Facebook message about your dad. Hope you can see and read it! Kind regards, Sam.”
I checked Messenger and, sure enough, there was a message from Sam with two blurred images. In this age of mistrust and online scamming, I did not open the images and chose not to reply through Messenger.
Instead, I emailed Sam with the following message: (More…)
I have some German heritage on my mother’s side, so I decided to rescue the Deutscher-Americaner Club. It was then a derelict building located in Ybor City on Nebraska Avenue, a block north of Palm Avenue and El Centro Asturiano, the Spanish social club.
The campaign started many years ago on the day I drove past the boarded-up building. My concern was that it could be set on fire someday by the homeless people who, from time to time, broke in and lived inside the building. I enjoy telling this story about Tampa, because of the interesting how-to takeaways. (More…)
Like the shattering of my family and Poland due to Hitler’s and Stalin’s ruthless power ambitions, my first impressions of life in Lodz in the midst of WW II, my awakening, emerged not as a continuum but as fragmented images and episodes. . . .
I was six. I held her hand and through her fingers felt my mother tremble at the approach of an SS man, but he passed us by on the street. A menacing sky hung close above Lodz’s numerous factory chimneys. Bulky ashen clouds and snowflakes crowded the air as my mother, brother and I stood waiting at a street corner for the trolley. Around us more and more people were caught in the whistling wind. It blew one way and the other and swept in mad pirouettes.
The trolley barreled toward us growing to enormous proportions before it squealed to an abrupt stop. A door opened in front of me, so I freed myself from my mother’s hand and hopped onto the stairs. But the next second she yanked me backwards by my collar. I slid on the snow, and before I had time to think she picked me up and rushed to the last trolley car. My brother raced beside us. We boarded. Mother sat on the one available seat. (More…)
The 1960s was a decade of hope embedded in the prospect of a nuclear holocaust. I was there; I was a Cold War warrior in every way imaginable. When I signed up for navigator training in the U.S. Air Force, I wanted to be on the front line, and that meant getting assigned to a B-52 Stratofortress crew. This awesome 8-engine plane was the Air Force’s answer to the need for a strategic bomber force that would win the war against Communism and take down the Soviet Union. This bomber fleet was also an essential component in the planning to assure that the U.S. could survive a first strike and deliver devastating destruction to the enemy—this is the language of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction).
In this essay, I want to describe the training and experience that I had in order to become wedded to a weapon of mass destruction. I also want to share with you the spine-chilling atmosphere that I and many other Americans shared about a nuclear future. (More…)
The Saga of the Pandemic Potato Salad – Comfort Food Through the Generations
What does potato salad remind you of? To me potato salad is summer days, picnics, family, tailgating at the beach. Happiness.
I am calling this story the pandemic potato salad saga which reached out and brought comfort from the past.
At the beginning of the Covid-19 stay-at-home order, the call went out across the family network. S.O.S! My middle sister wanted to make potato salad. Not just any potato salad – the potato salad from our childhood. The way our Polish immigrant grandmother made it. So, I looked through my recipe files – something else I’ve been meaning to organize. And yes, I found it! Not only do I have it, it is handwritten, in my grandmother’s hand with notes lovingly explaining how to make it, addressed to her daughter-in-law, my mother.
Who was she, my grandmother, to remind us of comfort at this time? Katarzyna (Catherine) Walczak White was born in 1909. She emigrated from Andrychow, a small town in southern Poland, in 1913. She was four years old. (More…)
I have always admired Japanese culture. For example, I have always admired award-winning Japanese movies like Rashomon or Seven Samurai. My enjoyment of these movies goes way back before my pilot training, and I joke that when you go to one of these movies, bring an umbrella. Why? Because in addition to the interesting costumes and the realism, only in Japanese movies does rainfall seem so real that you feel like you need an umbrella.
It was a welcome surprise then that my first assignment as a fighter pilot out of my Replacement Training Unit was to Misawa Air Base. Flying the F-4 Phantom in Japan and deploying and flying in Korea was a super assignment, with great flying missions and many interesting episodes. There are many other stories I am compiling into a book, like my temporary assignment to Fuchu where I watched the first moon landing sitting on tatami mats in our off-base Japanese apartment. (More…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
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...)