paregienjournal.com – Issue 355 – June 29, 2017
Well, home owners in Manatee County are doing quite well, thank you. In May of 2017, the median sales price for an existing single-family home stood at $299,000. Folks, that was a 53 percent increase from the end of 2012. Of course, don’t forget there was a big-time real estate “bust” here from 2008 until early 2012.
There was a fine little story in our local paper this morning. Reporter James A. Jones, Jr., did a little feature on a former Manatee County school educator named Bill O’Brien. Bill spends a lot of his time bowling these days, just as he has for the last 76 years. Hey, if I’m lyin’ I’m dyin’. Okay, technically like everyone else, I’m dying bit by bit. But I’m not lyin’.
You see, Bill O’Brien is now 93 years old. He was first the principal of Prine Elementary, then of Pine View Elementary and then of Parrish Elementary School. A pretty darned good athlete himself in college, after World War II (he was wounded), 31 years ago he started presenting to Manatee County’s top cross country runners each year the “Bill O’Brien Trophy” and he is still doing it. Plus, he set up three endowed scholarship funds to help a few students each year. Bill is a pretty solid citizen, and I’d like to meet him one of these days.
Across the Manatee River in Palmetto, several remaining members of the Lincoln Memorial High School – Class of 1967 – met for their 50th reunion. What is really unusual about these people is they were about the last class to graduate from LMHS — an all-black school. There were 131 seniors in their class, but 42 have died.
It has been quite a spell, but at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 22nd, I met friends Romolo (aka “Rom,” “Ron,” and “Youse guy”) Colella and Don (“The Poetry Machine”) Betts for a late breakfast at Leon’s House of Omelets in the shopping center just west of I-75 and on the south side of Highway 70 (53rd Avenue). We had some coffee and came up with solutions for most of the problems in the United States. Then after breakfast, we developed plans for solving Europe’s difficulties. Next time we’ll work on the energy crisis, I guess. Just routine stuff for old geezers. So if any of you want to join us, give me a call to make sure we’ll be there next time and not at our respective doctor appointments. Ah, yes, the “Golden Years of Life.” Between the three of us, we might have an ounce of gold and everybody is after it. Even if they have to pull it from our teeth.
Many may not be aware of the fact that the home headquarters and training center for Goodwill Industries is only a mile or so east of our hacienda. Those folks certainly do a lot of good for many disabled people, with training and jobs and such. Still, because the CEO at Goodwill makes a lot more money than the CEOs of any other similar charities, we prefer to make donations to the Salvation Army. And there are a couple of other Goodwill policies which bug me. They are skilled marketers, of course, taking donated items and marking them up as far as the market will allow. And around here they have donation centers about as common as McDonald’s.
In Manatee County and next-door Sarasota County they have established four stand-alone stores specializing in music and books, and these are very well-organized. But, simultaneously, they have junked the book departments in their regular stores. Once they, too, had books well-organized by topics. No more. In our regular stores, they are heaped together and making it a headache to wade through the mess. Oh, and one other thing I’ve noticed (which other thrift stores have started doing) is that on men’s shirts, for example, they still place price tags and sizes on the individual shirts . . . but then they throw them on the shirt racks with no size organization at all. I don’t get it, don’t like it and won’t shop at the regular stores for clothes or books. Very poor customer service, but easier for them, I guess.
Our daughter, Mrs. John (Stacy) Magness, flew in from Houston on June 13th and left on June 20th. So we got to spend a lot of quality time with her. Of course, we had to work around those pesky afternoon thunderstorms and downpours virtually every day she was here. Still got to take her to both Manatee Beach (our preferred swimmin’ hole, with life guards and a cafe with mmmm, mmmm good pancakes each morning) and to Siesta Beach. Oh, and on her first afternoon, we took her to Clearwater Beach up in nearby Clearwater, Florida. So she got to see Florida’s most award-winning beaches.
We took a very nice luncheon cruise around Sarasota Bay one day. We got to see a couple of dolphin, plus many of the multi-million dollar mansions fronting the bay.
Peggy took Stacy down to the fabulous Ringling Mansion, Circus Museum and Art Museum in nearby Sarasota on June 17th. They spent the entire day there and had a great time.
Surely this is not a sign of my memory failing or my advancing years, but . . . in the “Birthdays On This Date” section of our local rag for June 23rd I saw where Clarence Thomas– you know — a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Yep, I recognized him . . . but the long list of “younger” musicians, writers, singers, and actors meant nothing to me. Hmmm.
Will Rogers (top, left) & pilot Wiley Post
And in the longer “Today in History” column I only paid much attention to this note: “In 1931, aviators Wiley Post and Harold Gatty took off from New York on a round-the-world flight that lasted eight days and 15 hours.” Now Wiley Post, who had a wild hair or two as a teenager in Oklahoma, lost an eye when injured on an oil drilling rig in Oklahoma. So he used the insurance settlement to pay for flying lessons and with the rest he bought his very first airplane.
I read a fine biography of Post a few years back,and the author pointed out all of his successes in flying and in inventing high-altitude equipment for pilots. Because of his many ’round-the-world flights and publicity, it is true that when he and his close friend–movie and stage star Will Rogers–died in Alaska in a plane crash (flown by Post) on August 15, 1935, it was Wiley Post who was far better known outside of the United States. I have been to Rogers’ beautiful grave site and museum in Claremore, Oklahoma as well as to Post’s well-marked burial place in far north central Oklahoma City. Each man was exceptional in his own field of expertise.
“Paregien’s Bed & Breakfast & More” will be back in operation soon. We are expecting two of our Rwandan friends to visit us in early to mid-August. Then our son and his wife (Stan Jr. & Becky) and their son and his wife (Daniel and Leah) will be with us, from the St. Louis area, from about August 24th to Sept. 4th. We’re polishing up the horseshoe equipment and the shuffleboard stuff to keep them from getting bored here in Paradise.
Peggy and I watched another old movie the other night (the only kind our grandkids swear we watch, but there are a few things they don’t know). Anyway this U.S. Cavalry vs. Indians movie was titled “The Oregon Passage.” It was actually filmed in a forest over not far from Bend, Oregon. It was in color and starred a good-lookin’ dude named John Erickson, whom I had never seen before so I guess he went back to being a lifeguard or selling used cars. I noticed as they rolled the credits that the film script was actually based on a Western novel by someone we knew: Gordon D. Shirreffs.
I first met Gordon D. Shirreffs in about 1984, as I recall, at the annual convention of the members of the Western Writers of America. It was held that summer in Branson, Missouri and hosted by Jory Sherman and his wife, Charlotte. The first person I met as I entered the hotel lobby was one of my writing heroes, from the really old crowd, Thomas (“Tommy”) Thompson. He and I really hit it off, especially after we found out we had each known Harry Leichler (?), the grocer and honorary mayor of the little town of Piru, Calif., where I lived with my family my last three years of high school.
Anyway, over the next few years, we would get to visit with Gordon Shirreffs and his wife Alice, who were residents of Granada Hills, Calif. at the time. At least one day of each convention was taken up with a bus trip excursion somewhere not far away. Those were always great times to visit with big-league writing pros Like Tommy, Gordon and Jory, as well as other would-be-Louis-L’Amour like myself.
Well, the host of Turner Classic Movies that night wrapped up the showing of the rather forgettable film with a funny story about Gordon Shirreffs. In 1957 he had written a Western novel titled “Rio Bravo.” John Wayne didn’t care much for the actual book, but he loved the title and wanted it for his next movie. So he and/or his Batjack production company paid Gordon some darned good money for the book, with the agreement that Gordon could sell the actual story to anybody else but not the title. So John Wayne got the title he wanted and Gordon got the money he wanted, . . . not once but twice, as the second buyer turned it into “The Oregon Passage.” And he would laugh as he told that true story and add, “That was by far the most money I ever earned for just selling two words (“Rio Bravo”).
Gordon Shirreffs had been born in Chicago, Ill., on Jan. 15, 1914. His mother was a recent immigrant from Scotland, and he himself sometimes played in bagpipe bands in southern California. During his lifetime he wrote some 79 novels, much in the solid historical style of Louis L’Amour, and hundreds of short stores and a bunch of stories for comic book companies. He was still living in Granada Hills when he died on Feb. 9, 1996 at the age of 82.
Above is the business card for a really nice, fairly small “mom and pop” restaurant just north of the McDonald’s near 53rd Avenue East (Highway 70) and 33rd St. East. Give ’em a try.
We ran out of TV trays for everyone at our house the other night, but luckily we had a spare out in the shed. I think this guy is saying, “Very nice!” or something like that.
A Crumbled Dream
by Gene Shelburne
Does the name Alexander Campbell mean anything to you? If you grew up in any kind of Church of Christ or Christian Church, you need to know about him. He was the founder of our American denomination.
Let me confess that, although I did grow up in such a church, I knew little about the man until I was invited to join a host of church leaders at his home in Bethany, West Virginia—way back in 1966— to mark the one hundredth anniversary of Mr. Campbell’s death.
During that memorable week I learned that Alexander Campbell did more than found churches. In the college he built, he educated the sons of U.S. presidents. Few people noticed when Campbell boosted American wool trade by importing new breeds of sheep. Nor were many folks impressed when he was elected to West Virginia’s legislature. But his star was slowly rising.
Even founding hundreds of congregations across our young, growing country didn’t catapult Campbell to fame. He became a household name after debating—while befriending—the famous atheist Robert Owen. At his prime, this school-founding, sheep-raising, church-planting country parson was invited to address the combined houses of the U.S. Congress. In many ways he had become the Billy Graham of his day.
During that 1966 gathering in Bethany, however, we also focused on the Civil War years right before Campbell’s death. The halls of Bethany College were quiet—almost deserted—while that brutal war was raging not far away. Most of the students were on the battle lines. Campbell’s heart was broken. His own family was split, with favorite nephews wearing uniforms both blue and gray. Still worse, from his view, Christian brothers from churches he had planted and nurtured now were slaughtering each other.
The young nation that Campbell had mistaken for the eve of Christ’s thousand-year reign had morphed into a hell on earth. Campbell’s dream had become a nightmare.
As Will Durant would later write: “From barbarism to civilization requires a century; from civilization to barbarism needs but a day.” Campbell saw barbarism in his final days, and it made him mourn.
With July 4th just ahead, I rehearse this sad but true story to remind us that the peace and freedom and prosperity we cherish can dissolve over night into blood and hate and tears. It did once. It can again.
Do your children and/or grandchildren understand this day?
Best wishes until next time,