The ride on the Goodyear Blimp and the day spent on the USS Topeka, a LA Class Nuclear Submarine, with my friend, Joyce Gosnell, were two of my most memorable travel adventures in my life. Here is her account of our Blimp trip.
The controls of the Goodyear Blimp
By air - the Goodyear Blimp by Joyce Newcomer Gosnell
On Monday, January 6th, 1992, John and Jim took Joyce out to dinner, for her birthday. We went to the Japanese restaurant at the Overland Park Marriott, and were seated with a family of four, and a single man, all of us ready for the flashy show of Japanese cooking with twirling knives. J & J handed me a BlimpBucks certificate, see attached, and so, being totally without inhibitions, I asked for everyone’s attention, stood up and sang the demanded tune. The two children in attendance, 13 and 8 years old were agog, the father was a bore, the mother was mildly amused and the single gentleman was tickled. I did have the grace to explain this seemingly peculiar behavior, and we got to chatting, while the chef tossed rice balls all around us, demanding the return of same even after they’d landed on the floor, and eventually hitting our mouths (along with our hair, clothes, etc.)
We enjoyed the outing, and my BlimpBucks were more-than-generous, covering my airfare as well as my meals.
I’m 62 years old today, and have achieved a dream I’ve been cherishing since March, 1978Calmost 14 years ago.
Tuesday afternoon, Peg Britton and I flew to Houston, bunked at the Intercontinental Airport Sheraton, where we’d secured connecting rooms, for the simple reason that Peg could enter, perhaps win, a snoring contest with Betty B. We had a nice dinner in the hotel and bedded down. So far, this is pretty boring stuff, although we brightened things somewhat with matching Groucho Marx glasses (fortunately Peg has no shame either!) And Peg’s gift of a day-glo red condom was source for much speculation by both of us. (Need I add that said object is yet to be used? But it’s nice to know that one has such a thing available at all times. Who knows, huh?)
The national weather forecast for the Houston area called for rain, fog, and more rain for the next several days, but I leaped from my bed at 5:30 AM on Wednesday the 8th to determine for myself that it was, for a certainty, pouring down rain. Why, you might well ask, did I give a damn about the weather? Well, I answer, because Peg and I were scheduled to ride the Goodyear blimp America at noon, the big catch being the two words, Aweather permitting.@ At 6 the rain had stopped, at 7 it began, at 7:30CCwell, you get the idea.
We called the Blimp Airfield at Spring (pronounced locally as Sprang), Texas, and spoke with my by-now-old-pal Eddie Ogden, the Blimp Coordinator. He seemed glum regarding the weather, mumbling something about a Pacific front that was stalled. I point out to Eddie that rain is just water, and he points out that when you spread water over an item that’s 192 feet long and fat, there’s just too much weight. Peg and I secured our Ford Escort rental car, barely averted getting strangled by those damnable automatic shoulder harnesses, and headed north for Sprang, with Peg reading the map and me driving. With a minimum of miscues, we found both Sprang and the Goodyear airfield, the latter being not too difficult since there’s precious little in Sprang of any account other than the Blimp.
Eddie was not encouraging, and said thanks for the rum bread I’d brought him, but allowed as how even a rum-bread-bribe would not affect the weather. Peg acted truly pitiful, mentioning casually the fourteen years I’d been writing Goodyear, the fact that we’d come 1,000 miles (a stretch of the truth by probably 300 miles give or take,) the cost of our journey (no stretch needed here,) and she seemed to me to imply that this jaunt was our last fling in lives soon to be snuffed by some unnamed and mysterious malady. A model of public relations skill, Eddie just suggested we first go to the hanger and study the America, asking questions of the crew there, and then find Sprang Oldtown, and browse through the scads of touristy shops, and call him every hour. Dutifully we did both, but being with the blimp just whetted our appetites to see her in the air, with us in the gondola.
Again with a minimum of miscues, mostly my fault because without the sun I’ve no sense of direction whatever, we found Sprang Oldtown. We were further depressed not only by the rain, but by comments from fogies young and old who felt certain we’d never get a blimp ride today. One snippet of a clerk in a Quik-Trip told Peg definitively that we’d never get a ride unless we Aknew someone.@ Heck, I know lots of people, so her opinion didn’t seem valid to me.
We wandered in and out of rain showers, rain puddles, and the truly-ghastly little shops in Sprang. The selection varied from T-shirts to candles, but all the shops vied to have the sweetest, nastiest odor of potpourri. I felt like I’d been swirled about in a toilet housing one of those pink thingies that reek.
We call Eddie. No go.
We ate lunch, not bad, in an about-too-cute Texas cafe. Peg and I split a bowl of seafood gumbo, and note that it has sausage in it. We later note that in Texas there’s sausage in everything but ice cream. What a peculiar eccentricity.
We call Eddie. No go.
We wander around the streets in Sprang.
We call Eddie. No go, although we are re-scheduled for the last flight of the day, which is 4:30. Why don’t we check in about 3:45.
We tire of calling Eddie, the shops in Sprang, and the rain, and elect to go sit in the nice little waiting lounge at the airfield. The waiting lounge needn’t be large since the blimp carries only six passengers.
Slumped in our chairs, studying our muddy tennis shoes, we keep insisting to each other that there’s more visibility and that it’s getting brighter outside. Just as I notice that the hangar door is slightly open, Don McDuff, one of the two pilots on call that day, comes out to chat with us, and says that if the rain will hold off just a bit, we’ll get our ride in. Eddie Ogden sails out of the building, telling us to enjoy our ride, and we’re scheduled for an hour-long ride instead of the usual twenty minutes. My already wrinkled old body is awash with goosebumpsCan appalling but true fact.
The hangar doors open wide, and a big yellow tractor with a super structure appears, latches on to the nose of the blimp and starts pulling her outside. She’s so beautiful.
“We’re really going?”
Trailing under and around the blimp are fourteen men, holding ropes, guiding, attending. I’m eyeing the sky and mentally egging the crew to speed it up before it starts raining again. Don McDuff escorts us out to the launch site, and we pause while he takes pictures of us standing before the America. Our pilot is to be Larry Chambers, so Don McDuff waves goodbye and we climb up the short ladder into the gondola. After an introduction, we seat ourselves for our private blimp ride. It’s at this point that I have a terrible feeling that I’m going to embarrass myself and cry. Maybe I’m older than I think?
I’m rescued from maudlin when Larry says for one of us sit up beside him, so I graciously shove Peg aside and leap into the copilot seat.
Larry chats with the office, the men outside are doing >things= and then Larry begins explaining the procedure. We hover just above the ground, the nose tether is released, and the crew is hanging on to their ropes. We must get weighed, which event was, and still is, a bit foggy in my mind, although it involved an instrument dangling from the nose that a crew member plugged into something he was holding. We must be AOK for weight, because the crewmen release their ropes, Larry pulls back on a big wheel by his seat (much like a wheelchair wheel) and the America is aloft. Larry starts the two small engines that power the small propellers, and away we go.
Yes, it’s a tad noisy, but not bad, and we begin asking questions. I’m surely repeating the questions asked by virtually every person who ever gets a ride, and Larry is answering each query as though he’d never heard it before. We check out the weather. With the nose down, there’s just ground clutter on the radar screen. With the nose up, we find rain over downtown Houston, and rain around the Intercontinental airport.
Ideal altitude is 1,000 feet, although she can go to 10,000 feet. Usual speed is 52 miles an hour, although at one point, a head wind reduces that 52 MPH to a snail’s 5MPH. Wishing to appear intelligent, and curious besides, I ask, AAnd what is that digital readout? It’s surely important because it’s so bright and big.@ Larry dryly informs me, AWe call that a clock.@ True, it was military time, but my idiocy draws a muffled guffaw from the back seat. I retaliated in like fashion when Peg inquired if this machine had an autopilot. We were pretty much even.
Peg ceases her picture-taking and moves to the front seat. I’m happy. Larry says that it’s now time for us to fly, so he moves to the far seat, plugs his headset in on that side, and Peg takes the controls.
Big wheel forward, the nose goes down. Big wheel back and the nose goes up. Left foot pushing left rudder pedal, she turns to the left. And so forth. Peg seems to me to be entranced by the left and right part of flying, and to hell with altitude adjustment. If you leave that big wheel alone, the blimp flies level, so Peg doesn’t fool with it. We zig and zag, gee and haw. A lot. A whole lot. I’m happy.
Then it’s my turn, and since Peg had ignored the altitude part of flying, I take to working that big wheel and we duck and dive repeatedly. Oh wow, I’m happy. I note that the rudder controls seem sloppy, and Larry explains that a blimp does not have ailerons, so there’s no banking as in a plane, just flat turns. Of course. We head for the airfield, and Peg and I are both checking our watches, because it can’t possible have been 45 minutes since we left the ground hanging below that big bag of helium. We crab into the wind, and I head us, more or less, back to the airfield.
We’ve learned that there are two compartments, front and back, in each blimp, that air is taken in through a pair of scoops to keep the envelope inflated, air is released through a simple release plug, that this particular blimp requires about one tank of helium a day, that if you took a knife and stabbed a hole in the fabric, it might not be noticed for a month because the outside and inside pressures are so nearly the same, that the fabric for this blimp was manufactured in 1980, that all passenger seats are removed for the light shows or televising a sporting event, that Goodyear supplies its own cameramen, that the gyroscopic camera hangs ten feet below the gondola, that the light show is computer generated and can be programmed to read or show most anything, that Larry just smiles when I inquire whether he’s ever had a desire to spell out something really tacky for all the world to see, that Larry’s been a blimp pilot for 23 years (but doesn’t look it,) that the Houston base is closing, and the America is moving to Akron, that the new blimp being manufactured will be called the Spirit of Akron, which is a poopy name in my opinion since all blimps until now have been named after winners of the Americas Cup races, which means that the Spirit of Akron should be the Stars and Stripes, that all the fabric for this blimp can be stored in a crate roughly the size of a Volkswagen beetle, oh well, I’ll stop.
Larry takes over the control, moving back into the wheeled and ruddered seat, the crewmen appear from the hanger, and Larry adjusts to the wind, and brings that large craft straight to the tether, where a man on top of the tractor scaffolding hooks her up. Engines shut down, the crew hustles forward with little canvas bags of sand to attach to the ropes dangling from the blimp.
Larry fills out cards for Peg and me stating the date, log time, dual instruction, .5 hours of instruction L.T.A. (that’s Lighter Than Air,) the blimp number, his license number and name. We cherish those little cards. Larry was scheduled to fly a light show tonight, and so planned to stay in the craft, but Don McDuff informs him that it’s starting to rain, so all flights are over for the day. Peg and I have lucked into the single one-hour window of the day. Don McDuff escorts us back to the lounge, and Peg mentions how difficult it is to push those rudder pedals (she should know, she did it enough!) Don allows that on his first ten hour cross country flight, he flew five of the hours, and couldn’t get out of bed the next day. He now keeps those thighs and knees in shape by riding a bicycle thirty minutes a day.
We gush thank-you=s over everybody and glow back to our car. Peg’s in favor of trying to locate that snippy Quik Trip woman, but I veto that idea.
With only a single misstep and backtrack, we reach our hotel, make a few calls, and dine in the hotel bar, but, thanks be, there’s no sausage in my cheeseburger.
Peg’s busy chatting with a pal of hers, a nun who was kicked out of the convent for driving a tractor down the streets of Houston. I guess all would have been well except that she didn’t know how to stop the big thing, and some police had to jump aboard and bring that tractor to a halt. Can’t imagine why the nunnery would frown on an exploit of that nature, but apparently they did. I retire while Peg chats on.
Now, I’ve told you that this blimp ride experience was an upper, but little did I guess how much so for Peg, who rises wide awake at 2:30AM. By five in the morning she’s bored, and effects my wakening by turning on her television full blast. Give the devil his (or her) dues, Peg did not once blow a whistle in the night, so no complaints. We stir about, and head out for NASA, making our way on the beltways through downtown Houston, straight south to NASA, arriving at the gate to be told that they don’t open until 9:00 for visitors. We bide our time at the local Denny’s, eschewing the sausage. No doubt touring NASA, seeing the exhibits, and enjoying the well-presented tour of Mission Control should be a highlight, but I must tell you it was a pall compared to riding the America.
We scour about, with our usual number of stops to ask directions, and find the Flying Dutchman, right on the water, for lunch, pigging out on shrimp salad, fried oysters, and gumbo, glory be, without sausage. We even manage to find the recommended Roses seafood shop, where Peg buys a cooler, ten pounds of shrimp, two quarts of oysters, and suitable amounts of ice. The trouble with this purchase, of course, is that it takes two of us to lift it.
Back to the hotel, avoiding the Houston rush hour, a single falter in direction, check in the seat-belt-strangling Ford, and then wait to catch our 8:45 flight back to a pumpkin.
Friends of my granddaughter, Mackenzie, are looking to add another member to their family through adoption. They do not have a gender preference but would like a newborn or a baby under 1 year old. If you know of anybody looking to place their baby for adoption, please let me or Mackenzie (email@example.com) know.
I had a blog almost completed the other day then hit the wrong key and sent it to neverland. It’s exasperating to have that happen as I can’t duplicate what I said. It’s never the same the second time around. So…to start again…with new topics.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed is well worth the time it takes to read, which isn’t long, as I had trouble putting it down even though I knew while reading it that she made it through the solo trek along the Pacific Crest Trail alive or I wouldn’t be reading a book she wrote about it. I don’t know how she endured the pain of her tortured feet or the intense heat and lack of food and water, which would have been major obstacles for me back in the days when I was in good shape. Add to that the rattlesnakes and bears and other imponderables, and it was a superhuman accomplishment on her part. I had to relate the various episodes to my lunch mates…Hazel, Margie and Ivy… to keep them abreast of the author’s progress. They just shuddered in disbelief.
The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT) is a treasured pathway through some of the most outstanding scenic terrain in the United States. Beginning in southern California at the Mexican border, the PCT travels a total distance of 2,650 miles through California, Oregon, and Washington until reaching the Canadian border. I think it encompasses the John Muir Trail which is a challenging task of its own. The scenery is some of the most beautiful in the world. It’s a far more difficult and longer challenge than the Appalachian Trail which is also more heavily populated with adventurous souls.
Another interesting book I just read was Gone Girl. Gillian Flynn, the author, has an amazing head on her shoulders and comes up with material I’m sure never enters the minds of most of us. I’ve also read Sharp Objects that she wrote. Read at your own peril. Gone Girl is a fantastic read.
Now, I’m reading Sonia Sotomayor’s My Beloved World. In nominating Judge Sotomayor to the highest court in the land, President Obama pointed out that her life story was the embodiment of the American dream. She grew up poor in a Bronx housing project at a time when gangs were carving up the neighborhood, learned she had juvenile diabetes when she was seven and lost her father a couple of years later. She would go on to Princeton (where she won the prestigious Pyne Prize), Yale Law School, the Manhattan district attorney’s office and ultimately the Supreme Court, where she became the nation’s first Hispanic justice. If I had the opportunity to have dinner with anyone alive (other than family), she’d be one of my first picks. She’s an amazing woman.
Right off the bat she wrote about something I really could relate to: She had been writing about achieving our dreams though challenges and why does adversity spur us on rather than knocking us down? She said: ” A student recently posed another question that gave me pause: Given that there are only nine Supreme Court Justices, each with life tenure, can anyone realistically aspire to such a goal? How do we hold on to dreams that, statistically, are almost impossible?” …she goes on to say that becoming a SCJ would invariably elude the vast majority of aspirants…and although she wanted to be a judge, being a SCJ never occurred to her except as the remotest of fantasies.
And here is the good part I thought… “But experience has taught me that you cannot value dreams according to the odds of their coming true. Their real value is in stirring within us the will to aspire. That will, wherever it finally leads, does at least move you forward. And after a time you may recognize that the proper measure of success is not how much you’ve closed the distance to some far-off goal but the quality of what you’ve done today.”
Next up: Girl on the Train
So much for my love of books.
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Hazel’s 95th birthday party pictures…
Tyler and and his Aunt Ally…
Tyler and his proud mom, Karen…
Moi, Ally and Hazel…
Hazel Beggs and I, just hangin’ out…
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Last evening, our family members were gathering in my apartment in the Palace to celebrate Hazel Beggs 95th birthday. Hazel lives in the apartment next to mine and has become a very good friend since I moved to 2 west. I was expecting Todd, Karen and Ally…and, much to my surprise, in walks my grandson, Tyler, who, as it turns out, had driven here from Cincinnati yesterday for the birthday gathering and was heading toward the Grand Canyon this morning. It’s a long haul by yourself from Cincinnati to the Canyon but he has never seen it and was taking advantage an opportunity that presented itself. That’s how you see the world and Tyler has that all figured out.
That’s Todd on the left and we’re enjoying the evening at Longhorn’s. Ally took the photo.
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ELLSWORTH CORRECTIONAL FACILITY RIGHT TRACK FOUNDATION AT THE SPIRITUAL LIFE CENTER PRESENTS: REGRETS ONLY
2015 DINNER THEATER
Ellsworth Correctional Facility Right Track Foundation at the Spiritual Life Center Presents: “Regrets Only”
Published By: Big Dog Publishing Directed By: Larry Temple & Dawn Abrahams Written By: L. Don Swartz
The laughs never end when Lottie and Bernice, two cantankerous grannies, crash the wedding reception of an unsuspecting bride and groom so they can eat free food and steal rolls of toilet paper out of the restrooms. Audiences will love the zany, unforgettable characters in this side splitting comedy.
Fire hall custodians in charge of the wedding reception find they are no match for these grumpy grannies who heckle wedding guests, criticize everything from the wedding cupcakes to the bridesmaids’ dresses, and complain about their numerous health maladies.
Friday, April 24, 2015 - 6-9 pm
Saturday, April 25, 2015 - 6-9 pm
Saturday, May 2, 2015 - 6-9 pm
Sunday, (Matinee`) May 3, 2015- 1-4 pm
Tickets for front row tables are $25.00 per person.
All other tickets are $20.00 per person. (All seats have great views)
This year’s meal, served before each show, will be a Chicken Alfredo dinner.
Children must be at least 10 years old and accompanied by a parent.
Make your reservation by calling ECF Chaplaincy at 785-472-6212
Or mail check/money order payable to: Right Track Foundation
ECF SLC, P.O. Box 107, Ellsworth, Kansas 67439
Published By: Big Dog Publishing
Directed By: Larry Temple & Dawn Abrahams
Written By: L. Don Swartz
Grandchildren are special…so it is with a lot of love that I send Mackenzie special birthday wishes today. Have a wonderful day celebrating with your St. Louis friends. I miss our family birthday gatherings of yore and I know you do too.
Yesterday from the comfort of my apartment in the Palace, I viewed and heard a magnificent concert celebrating the glorious grand opening of a spectacular music venue in Paris. It was magical. I love my gigantic computer monitor.
The day before the concert I became aware of its imminence and wished to be in Paris. Lo and Behold! The next day I revisited the same site and found the entire concert at my fingertips. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I had a front row seat in a fabulous new venue to hear one of the greatest musical performances in recent history. How fortunate is that?
In addition, the program featured one of my favorite Requiems and my favorite pianist, Helen Grimaud, playing Ravel. In addition, it featured another favorite of mine, Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloé.
If you are on Facebook, you’ll find a link on my page. Or, you can connect here.
Meantime, I’m going to listen to the concert again…and again and again…
Here’s the program:
On 2015-01-14 at 20:30
Philharmonie - Paris
Gala d’ouverture de la Philharmonie de Paris
Orchestre de Paris
Choeur de l’Orchestre de Paris
Paavo Järvi, direction
Renaud Capuçon, violin
Sabine Devieilhe, soprano
Matthias Goerne, baritone
Hélène Grimaud, piano
Lionel Sow, chef de choeur
Nocturne for Violin and Orchestra
Requiem, Op 48, Agnus Dei
Concerto for piano, Helene Grimaud
Concerto for orchestre
Daphnis and Chloé Suite #2
Stan Hayward, Film/TV/Book writer
I am really old, and I know death is imminent
Most of my friends have passed away, and of those remaining, they suffer from health problems in some way
I am myself totally deaf and partially blind. I live by myself
I am writing this at 6am in the morning
Today, if the weather is fine
I will go for a walk
I will chat with friends
I will do my shopping
I will do my laundry
I will feed the cat
I will tidy up what needs to be done
I will put out the garbage
I will do what most people do who are not really old and know that death is imminent
Because there is no feeling of being old
There is a feeling that you can’t do what you used to do
There is a feeling that you might lose your independence, or if you already have, a feeling that you should try and do as much as you can by yourself
There is a feeling that you should spend as much time as possible with those you like to be with
There is a feeling that time is precious. Of course it always was, but one becomes more aware of it
There is a feeling that many things one does will be done for the last time
There are passing thoughts about those who respect you because you are old, and about those that dismiss you because you are old
There is the aspect that life is changing fast with all the new advances that inundate us daily
There is the aspect of life that nothing changes
Mothers still smile at their babies
Children are still enthralled with their first pet
Learning to ride a bike is still as much fun as starting a company
Blowing out your birthday candles is still as satisfying at eighty as it was at eight
It is not that death is imminent that is important, but that when the curtain comes down, the audience leaves with a sense of satisfaction
As someone once said
The World is a stage
You played your part for what it was worth
You take your bow
Another good year is drawing to a close and as I reflect on it, I’m more grateful than ever that I’m living here at the Palace. Although my kids and grandchildren are very attentive to my needs and wants, and share an endless amount of their love, I don’t want them to be unnecessarily inconvenienced or think they are responsible to supply me with attention. Living here takes almost all that stress off them and since they know I love it here, I don’t get lonely (it’s not my nature) and I have everything I need to be comfortable. That includes my computer, stacks of books, good music, The Wall Street Journal, and most of all…I’m surrounded by good, helpful, kind, pleasant people. The family comes to visit as often as they can and I love every minute they spend with me. That goes for friends too. When I’m with my kids and grand kids, that is life at its best.
I really, really, really miss my Ellsworth friends and friends elsewhere, but that’s what happens when you get old and life situations change. I can’t “get” to them and most people aren’t inclined to visit people in retirement centers. I know about that. I was in that position too for a long time. I miss them but can’t do much about that. I’ve learned that I’m physically uncomfortable when I leave the Palace, except when I visit Todd and Karen. Their house is user friendly for me and I’m comfortable there. I can’t do steps and it’s generally hard for me to “get around”. It’s best if I just stay “home”.
Since I moved to the Palace, Ally and Karen have changed my sheets. For months now Karen has been changing my bed and washing my sheets. I want to make it easier for Karen. Previously I have been doing all my own laundry as the facilities here are nice and convenient; however, the process just wears me out. Sometimes it thoroughly exhausts me so yesterday I sent all my clothes to the laundry here and am ecstatic with the results. They picked it up at 8 and by 10 it was returned neatly folded or on hangers.
They washed all my clothes in one 55 gallon load, containing only my clothes, and, I’m told they rarely lose anything as they label the washer as containing my clothes. When they move them to the dryer, they move my name tag to the dryer. That load can include my queen size sheets and pillow cases, large bath towels and wash cloths and almost the entire contents of my closets. They charge $10 for doing that, folding/hanging and returning them to my room…and putting them where they belong. It just took me this long to figure all this out. There are many kinds of service the Palace offers like this to make living here carefree. It’s perfect.
Sharon helps me for an hour every two weeks with my housekeeping. She’s marvelous and most helpful. That’s about all I have needed as my apartment is all new and not that large. She’s going to change that to include more time for me so that she can make my bed and tidy my closets, kitchen and refrigerator. She agreed I could scream and yell at her until she makes my bed perfectly as Karen does. No one can make a bed as perfectly as Karen.
I use a lot of distilled water in my humidifier and C-Pap machine. It’s about $1.00 a gallon at Dollar General just down the street. Todd and others would stop and get me as much as they could carry until I called Key Rexall and asked what they charged. I can’t recall exactly, but think $1.13 a gallon…and they deliver anything, or a truck load of stuff, for $1.48. So, once I figured that out, I order a case of six gallons quite often. Sean delivers it to my apartment, takes it out of the case and distributes it for me where I need it. And I give him a nice tip for doing all that for me and we both are happy. Todd is happy too.
Salina Public Librarian, Lori, comes to the Palace once a month and brings a random selection of books and ones I special order from her. I send her an email with what I’d like. She brings them here to the Palace, I keep them a month and she retrieves them. There is also a very nice well-stocked library here at the Palace. You just take a book and return it when you’re finished.
There is something new every day to learn about living here. It just takes time to make all those adjustments.
Shannon called me yesterday and we visited about his new driveway. What a wonderful improvement it is. I just love it that Shannon, Lindsay and their boys live there. They use the house just like Brit and I did for our family and friends. The house is still filled with company all the time. They love it just as much as we did. That makes me feel really good about living here and leaving it behind for his enjoyment.
We’re having a Noon Year’s Eve party shortly….baked potato bar and special things. I have to join my friends now and see what alligators are circulating the moat.
And, the “girlz in the hood” are gathering any time after 3:30 at Joy’s to put a dent in the New Year. They include Amy Hoffman, Hazel Beggs, Maybelle Mase, Dorothy Carmichael, Carolyn Eland, Margie Wilson, Joy Mansfield… and moi. Yay!
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Here’s my neighborhood baseball captain, Jack Gillam. I was always on Jack’s baseball team when we were in grade school. We’ve been friends since that time. Jack, his wife Betty and their boys, Jack, Jeff and Jay have been our family friends for….ever. Our kids grew up together.
Jack graduated from K-State with a degree in architecture and I graduated with a degree in architecture from KU. He learned a lot more than I did and he was instrumental in getting our house put together in Ellsworth that I sold only after moving here. He and his son Jeff, also an architect, are responsible for hundreds of school buildings, hospitals, nursing home, houses and other outstanding buildings across Kansas and elsewhere. They have done outstanding work and made significant contributions in their field. Jack and Betty’s oldest son, Jack, is my dentist and keeps me smiling.
Jack lives here at the Palace and his wife, Betty, is here too in health care. I went to the Ginormous Instrument Concert today and Jack was there too…so we sat together. His son, Jack, was there as well. The room was packed with what I think is the largest audience since I’ve lived here. Many people came especially to watch Nathan Zimmerman, young son of Carolyn Hofer and Mark Zimmerman, who was one of nine stand-up bass players. Mark and Carolyn and family join John Zimmerman here for Sunday dinner so the residents have gotten to know their children and enjoy following their activities.
I didn’t know John Zimmerman when I was young, but his wife, Patsy Davis, and I were playmates…then friends for years. Now, John takes the Wall Street Journal and delivers it to me when he’s finished with it. That paper gets a good workout from the two of us.
It’s especially nice living here at the Palace since so many of my friends from the days of my youth living in Salina are here too. They include: Jack and Betty, Margie and Loren Walter, Marsha Stewart, John and Katie Weckel, Margie Eberhardt Wilson, Ivy Marsh, Shirley Drawbaugh, Mary Beth Engleman, Ginny Frederick, Pete Peterson, Amy Hoffman, Leo Lake and Louie Reynolds. I imagine I’ve failed to mention someone.
After my granddaughter, Mackenzie Britton, was born at Asbury Hospital on January 27th, 1983, a huge blizzard occurred on the day she was to leave. Traffic was at a stand-still and Dane, Julie and Mackenzie were stranded at the hospital…with no place to go and no hope of getting home to Ellsworth. Jack Gillam found a friend with heavy equipment….the only thing moving in Salina… came to the hospital and took the three of them to Jack’s house where they spent the next several days. Here’s what Julie had to say about it:
“What a great friend Jack was on Mackenzie’s first night out of the hospital. We were trapped in a huge snowfall and Jack rescued us and took us into his home and kept the fires burning. His sweet wife made a crib from a study Mead paper box and lined it with Betty approved flannel sheets and mattress.”
Jack and Betty really were life savers. We’ve talked about that Mead paper box and how happy Mackenzie was in for the first few days of her life. They have been good friends in many ways for many years. It’s nice to still be close after all these years even if it’s not in a way any of us envisioned back in our youth.
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Goddess activities: I was recently anointed Honorary Prairie Goddess by real Goddess Carolyn Carter who gave me the accoutrements to prove it. Note the official miter, magic wand and name tag. Carolyn and her husband Steve spent the afternoon visiting with me and I enjoyed every minute of it. They hail from Bel Aire.
There are five real Goddesses…Carolyn, Bev, Carole, Donna and Kim… who have been Goddesses for years and years and years. They worked together as Hospice administrators for a long time and since I moved in the Palace, I’ve had the opportunity to know them. They get together for mini-reunions about three times a year….and sometimes they meet in Salina. That’s how I met all of them.
They have very finely tuned senses of humor. They crack me up.
Steve Carter and I…photo by Carolyn Carter.
What wonderful fun they are.
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Job losses were cut by more than 50% within his first 4 months in office.
He saved the American auto industry.
Has cut our deficits by more than half.
Killed Osama bin Ladin.
Got Syria to give up their chemical weapons without firing a single shot.
Presided over record breaking stock levels (with the Dow closing over 17,000 for the first time in its 118-year history).
Reduced unemployment from 10% to 5.8%.
We just saw the best year of job growth in the United States since 1999.
The quickest drop in unemployment in 30 years.
57 straight months of private sector job growth.
Over 10 million private sector jobs created.
Over 8 million people signed up for health care thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
Millions of Americans have gained, or kept, health care coverage thanks to Medicaid expansions and being able to stay on their parents’ insurance longer.
He hasn’t started a single war.
He hasn’t tried to confiscate a single gun.
30 Safest Cities in Kansas
Rebecca Edwards+ | Dec 15, 2014
30 Safest Cities in Kansas
Finding the right place to call home can be overwhelming. Sorting out economic factors, job prospects, educational opportunities, and overall safety is a lot to consider. That’s why, when it comes to finding a safe community, SafeWise did the hard work for you. We compiled the 30 safest places in Kansas for you to to raise a family, purchase a home, run a business, or whatever else your heart desires.
We used stringent reporting standards along with strict population criteria and the most recent FBI crime data from 2012 to identify our 30 featured cities. In order to be considered, we looked for cities that completely reported every element of crime data in 2012, giving us 134 cities that warranted a closer look. By adding a population requirement of more than 2,500, we narrowed it down even more to 91 cities that were ultimately considered for our list.
30 Safest Cities in Kansas! Did your hometown make the list?
From there, we examined the number of reported violent and property crimes in each city. Property crimes reviewed were larceny-theft, burglary, motor vehicle theft, and arson. When it came to violent crimes robbery, forcible rape, aggravated assault, and murder were considered. Next we leveled the playing field by determining the chance out of 1,000 that you’d have of falling victim to either property or violent crime in each city.
But identifying the right community isn’t where your diligence and commitment to safety should end. In order to make sure you can keep your home, family, or business protected once you find the perfect Kansas city, check out the comprehensive resources at our Kansas Safety Directory.
It’s not uncommon to see a cattle drive going straight through the town of Ellsworth. This former frontier town takes the struggle and sacrifices of its pioneering founders to heart, honoring their rich traditions with the annual Cowtown Days celebration.
But this proud city does more than put on a great party to acknowledge its history. Ellsworth is currently in the process of establishing the National Drovers Hall of Fame. This will be an interactive museum housed in the restored Signature Insurance Building that honors “America’s real cowboys,” the drovers. For a taste of the old west and the “cowboy way of life,” there’s no better place to visit than Ellsworth.
Violent Crimes per 1,000: 0.95
Property Crimes per 1,000: 17.89
This was written by a friend of mine, Dawnae Urbanek Bunch, who has been a teacher/educator in Ellsworth for 26 years. She was exceptionally instrumental in the education and personal development of one of my grandsons during his high school years and continues to be involved in his life long after his graduation. So it has been for many others as well. I really don’t know how she does it, but she is a rare individual and exceptional human being. In the following, she explains how “unintellectual” teaching is:
“If I had to name the one thing that surprised me most about teaching, it would be how utterly unintellectual it is, or becomes, when you have so many students with so many needs all coming at you at once, and you don’t have the time each of them deserves.”
I read this quote in an article this week about a woman who, for many reasons, got out of teaching. This is SO true. On a regular basis, in just my classroom, I encounter students who not only want to publish a newspaper or yearbook or take photos (those are sometimes the least of their concerns), but ones who need a safety pin to remedy a wardrobe malfunction; ones who need something to eat; ones who need school supplies; ones who need some attention - any attention - because they don’t get it anywhere else; ones who need a shoulder to cry on (literally); ones who need someone to talk to because they’re having drama with friends or family; ones who don’t know who turn to you to talk about life issues they’re experiencing such as sex, drugs, abuse, coming out, and a whole host of other things that are important to them, because they trust you. After 26 years, I feel like I should have an honorary counseling degree. It’s also part of the reason I will be ready to early retire in five years, if possible.
My good friend for a life time, Ivy Marsh, leads the way into the dining room accompanied by a SHS basketball player/waiter. I’m following with that look about me like I don’t know exactly where I am or why I’m there.
It was actually a nice evening, better than most special functions, with decent but not exceptional food and entertainment. Ivy and I sat with Hazel and a town guest of hers so the conversation was lively. Brad Radatz, in the green shirt on the right, is our new executive director and, like his predecessor, is good about attending events. Kim Fair took the picture. The dining room was packed and everyone seemed to enjoy the evening.
It doesn’t seem possible that Christmas is just around the corner…like we’re down to the last 12 days. It’s a good thing I have nothing to do to prepare for it as it wouldn’t get done. Thanksgiving leftovers are still on my mind. I am looking forward to spending Christmas in Ellsworth with Todd, Karen, Ally, Drew, Christy, Mackenzie and Tyler. It will be a long winter after that, but since I rarely have to fight the elements, it’s not a concern.
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Life is crazy good at the Palace. The flag hanging outside my front door says so.
Today some of our inmates decided to go to a local church located a few miles from here for one of their annual Christmas festivals involving children, music, food and fun. What better way to spend the day.
There were five ladies who participated in the all-morning affair. One of the ladies was there with her daughter who had driven everyone to the event but was not feeling well and the mother-daughter team departed. I’m not sure what they left in, but the car belonging to one of the two was left for the others to come home in, since that’s the way they got there in the first place.
So, much later, the three stranded participants gathered together around the set of car keys that had been left to them and pondered their next move. Since they had the keys, they decided to use the car and come back to the Palace; however, they weren’t sure where the car was parked as none of them had driven…and you know how little attention you pay to such details if you aren’t going to be held responsible for misplacing a car.
After some searching and pondering, they found what appeared to be the right car…at least a couple of them thought so. One was decidedly uncertain and she got in and out of the car several times expressing her doubt over it being the right car. She had the keys that seemed to carry with them a lot of responsibility. She got in the driver’s side and sat there awhile, pondering what to do.
Filled with uncertainty about the car’s ownership, she expressed more hesitation about trying the keys in the ignition. She finally said she didn’t think she ought to drive, that her husband always did the driving.
So she got out of the car and traded places with another passenger who, after pondering her position as driver of the vehicle responsible for two other passengers, said she hadn’t driven a car in “YEARS” and didn’t think she should be the one to drive.
They shuffled positions again so my neighbor who shared the story with me volunteered to drive everyone back to the Palace. She’s very active and drives all over Kansas and Colorado just on a whim so everyone was in safe hands. I’m not sure how they would have resolved their dilemma without her, but being a resourceful group, they would have found a way. I’m sure they had interesting tales of their dilemma to relate to their spouses. Or maybe not.
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My neighbors on 2 west…(from left) Margie Eberhart Wilson, Joy Mansfield, Amy Hoffman, me and Hazel Beggs. Missing a good party are Mabelle Mase, Carolyn Eland and Dorothy Carmichael. The picture was taken in Joy’s apartment because she has the largest, nicest kitchen that is never used for meal preparation. I think she uses it for storing clothes.
Those of you who really know me are aware that I didn’t give up and move here to die. It is unfortunate, I believe, but some people do that when they go to a nursing home. They wait around until their spouse is really sick or dies and they move into a senior place or they wait around until their kids drag them to a care facility feet first.
For me it was quite the opposite: I moved here to get more out of life than was available to me two years ago when I lived alone in a large house in Ellsworth. And, that’s exactly what has happened. More is a good thing when you are older and I found it by moving here. The Palace is different from most places and you have to visit it, or talk with my kids, to get the idea of how great it is. It is my happy place.
It has been two years since I moved here November 28, 2012. That does not seem possible. I guess the adage that time flies when you’re having fun applies to me. Now. At age 86. At least I believe it to be a general truth and has gained credit over the years to be worthy of repeating. Some of my friends have been here a very long time, since this place first opened, and I’ve not heard anyone say they made a bad choice. In fact, it’s a choice they made without any regrets. I count my lucky stars every day that I had the foresight to realize a good thing when I saw it. That hasn’t always been the case with me.
Since I’m old and wiser now, I will pass on a bit of advice for anyone who might be interested in the subject. And those of you who still have parents to look after might take note. My observation during the past two years of living among old people, is that they, for the most part, don’t plan ahead. Almost never. Even though they know they are going to get older, be less able to do things they’ve done throughout their lives, show early signs of falling victim to Alzheimer’s or dementia or Parkinson’s or a myriad of other problems that plague older people, they still don’t plan for those eventualities. It’s the biggest mistake I see that some here have made. They waited too long to come investigate the possibilities, opportunities and get on the waiting list for a spot of their own.
For some reason they want to stay in their own homes. That works on occasion, but for most people that turns out to be a very lonely existence with very little stimulation from outside. Their circle of friends gets smaller and smaller and they have to rely more and more on children or friends to help them out. They become more prone to accidents, less able to summon help and more dependent on others outside the home.
The Palace is a different kind of home that fills in all the gaps that living alone doesn’t have. The Palace is different from other retirement centers/nursing facilities in this part of the country. Once you move in here, they will take care of you until you die. For instance, if you go to another independent living facility here in Salina and you need nursing care, you have to move to a nursing care facility. If one spouse develops memory issues, you can be separated. Here, one person may live in independent living while the spouse may live down the hall in secure Memory Center or Health Care. They can visit back and forth, participate in meals and activities with one another so it’s very much the same as living together. They are under the same roof. You get help here so one person doesn’t have total responsibility for caring for their spouse. The idea is to move and get settled in a new place while you have plenty of time to meet new people, become familiar with the opportunities available to you and adjust to new surroundings. People tend to wait too long to sell their houses, dispose of possessions to prepare themselves for a new direction they’ll be taking.
And, one of the best features of the Palace is that the “outhouses”, as I call them, are gorgeous townhouses, very spacious with two car garages, and equipped with all new “everything” before you move in. They are nearby on the Palace grounds. They are the best kept secret around here.
I have a very active friend who is 71 who just moved in a townhouse and another couple the same age who will move when one is available. They are all very active in the Salina art community. Their move is just plain smart on their part. If they want to eat meals here they can, but most don’t except on occasion, and they have available all the services of the Palace…maintenance takes care of their yards, snow removal, mail delivery and any upkeep they might need. Nursing care is available within minutes.
So, if a resident wants to leave for the winter they can head to Cap d’Agde that is set on a small spur of land west of Beziers and south of Montpellier. It’s the best known naturist resort in France, possibly in Europe. It’s large, with a whole village where you can shop naked, bank without any clothes on, and take to the naked lifestyle big time. All they have to do here is close the door and leave. Everything here is secure and well-tended to. (I got your attention with Cap d’Agde, didn’t I?) The point being, you can leave any time, on the spur of the moment and be away as long as you like and everything here will be taken care of so you can have a worry-free vacation.
I’m a self-appointed cheer leader for this place because I’m so happy here, but the person you need to talk with about particulars is Kim Fair at 785.825.1366, marketing director of the Palace. She’ll show you around, let you see every nook and cranny, have a free lunch with her and decide for yourself. If you tell her I sent you, I think they might even do something nice for me…if you move in…and I pass it forward.
If I can answer any of your questions, please call me 785 then 826 followed by 3668.
And, thanks for tuning in…