Dubious Military Distinctions

Neil Cosentino

In the category of Dubious Military Distinctions, I like to think I hold the world’s record for the shortest flight in a KC-135A/B between two different airports. (The KC-135 is an aircraft that refuels other planes in midair.) My “world record” flight took place in 1968 between St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport (KPIE) and MacDill Air Force Base (KMCF) in Tampa, Florida.

The day started at Plattsburgh Air Force Base in New York where I was told to deliver a KC-135A/B to PEMCO, an Inspection and Repair As Necessary (IRAN) facility located at St. Petersburg – Clearwater International airport.

Like most pilots, I like landing at different airports, especially if I can land a military aircraft at a civilian airport, so it was a good mission. (More…)

Baseball and the Atomic Bomb

Bharat Pathakjee

While researching for my class on the Atomic Age, I came across a little-known human interest story about a man named Moe Berg. The son of a Jewish pharmacist, he was born in New Jersey in 1902.  He loved baseball and was quite good at it, much to his father’s displeasure. He excelled at his high school, won a scholarship to Princeton, and played ball in the Ivy League. He majored in Romance languages and became fluent in no fewer than six.

After Princeton he was recruited by the pros—the Brooklyn Robins–for $5,000 a year ($71,000 in today’s money). More success was soon to follow, and in 1926 he earned $50,000 ($700,000 in today’s money) playing for the Chicago White Sox.  (More…)

Dad’s Dog Tags

Diane Henrikson Russell

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…)

Once Upon a Time in Tampa

Neil Cosentino

Rescuing the historic Deutscher-Americaner Club

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…)

Struggle for Freedom

Junia Ancaya

Chapter One: Lodz, 1942, Ghetto at Baluty

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…)

Cold War Warrior

Don Menzel

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…)

Pandemic Potato Salad

Diane White

The Saga of the Pandemic Potato Salad – Comfort Food Through the Generations

Potato saladWhat 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…)

Building a House in Japan

Neil Cosentino

Seven samuraiI 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…)

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…)