Best Warning Sign Ever

Stupid signs are everywhere as I have written about in the past. Here’s one from Walmart that leaves me confused:Should I enter or stand here or find another door? Is this to confuse the people of Walmart who show up at 3 o’clock in the morning in their pajamas and push each other up and down the aisles in the grocery carts? And if that is the case, what does that say about me? Let’s move on.

This next sign is more of a curiosity. Look at the bottom of the top sign:

Who voted on this? Certainly, not the folks who are in the best position to judge. More importantly, why was this a category that anyone voted on? Best pizza joint in town, I understand. What makes one cemetery better than another? If the sign read, Voted best cemetery: No zombie risings since 1936! then I would understand.

On my recent trip to Florida, however, I finally found a sign that is clear, concise, and direct:

Now, that’s a sign that makes sense!

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Carrabelle’s WW II Museum Houses Memories

Even as the generation that fought World War II passes into memory, museums that commemorate their heroics are blossoming. An excellent example, that I recently had the pleasure of visiting, is the Camp Gordon Johnston WW II Museum in Carrabelle, Florida.

Located about 80 miles east of Panama City and some 45 minutes southwest of Tallahassee along Florida’s “Big Bend,” the museum houses a wonderful collection of photographs, newspapers, uniforms, and equipment, largely donated by Franklin County residents. The museum also tells the story of the camp that was established in 1942 as an amphibious training ground for the Unite States military. The camp covered over 160,000 acres across 26 miles of Gulf Coast Beach.

The museum is not merely a collection of artifacts—because most were donated, most have a personal story behind them. There is the large banner of military badges donated by a woman who, as a girl, collected them from soldiers at the train station. There’s the personal, “rising sun” flag taken from a Japanese soldier by the American who bayoneted him. The G. I., however gave it away after the war as it brought back too many bad memories. A visitor does not simply look at items here; rather he or she can feel the moment in which the items were endowed with meaning.

The camp was closed in 1946 and while long-time Carrabelle residents can spot vestiges of the place, it now exists primarily in the mementos and memories that are displayed so well in the museum.

Carrabelle is a large fishing community, but a very small town—not much more than a crossroads, really, but it is the perfect place to reflect on the thousands of young people who passed through here 75 years ago.

Even then, Florida was looking to attract residents. This promotional book was distributed to military personnel in an attempt to lure them back to the Sunshine State as residents “after victory.”

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Florida–And a Little World War II History–Here I Come!

I’ll be winging my way to Florida today to spend a week with Al. I’m sure there will be many adventures and lots of barbecue. In fact, in keeping with tradition, our first stop, which is just outside the Orlando-Sanford Airport, will be Sonny’s.

The only adventure that we have planned (so far) arose in an interesting way. Right at the time that I was first considering flying to Florida, that is to say a few weeks ago, I was researching what the 4th Infantry Division was doing in September of 1943. One of the characters in the sequel to The Secret of Their Midnight Tears has been assigned to the 4th and I wondered if it was in England yet. As it turns out, the 4th had just been assigned to Camp Gordon Johnston in Carrabelle, Florida, about 45 minutes southwest of Tallahassee in the panhandle. The men assigned there endured primitive conditions in the hastily constructed camp. Indeed, General Omar Bradley remarked that, “The man who selected that site should have been court-martialed for stupidity.”

The 4th was assigned to this mosquito and flea infested place along the Gulf Coast because it was a good location in which to practice amphibious landings, essential to the training of the Division that would be assigned the task of securing Utah Beach on D-Day.

In any case, when my research led me to discover that there was a newly formed museum to commemorate the Camp, traveling to Carrabelle became a must-do adventure. I’ll report back upon my return!

[The photo below appears scrunched on some devices, but not on others, so I just left it in for those of you with a non-scrunching device!]

Rehearsing an amphibious landing, Camp Gordon Johnston, Florida.

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The Importance of Saturday Night

While recently rummaging through some old files, I came across the ad for various posters that you see below from 1978, that is 39 years ago.

These images are just how I remember these stars, though they are certainly not how they are today. John Travolta has gained weight and Peter Frampton has lost hair—what remains is close cropped and snowy white. Suzanne Somers turns 71, today, October 16th. Linda Ronstadt can no longer sing as a result of her Parkinson’s disease. Only one of the Gibb Brothers, Barry, is still alive. Indeed, Andy, never an official member of the Bee Gees would die ten years after this ad appeared. Farrah Fawcett succumbed to cancer in 2009. Elvis had already died the summer before.

As for the Bay City Rollers, whose hit, “Saturday Night,” was the first #1 song on Billboard’s Pop chart in the Bicentennial year of 1976, they were already beginning to fade from the scene. (Oh, you remember “Saturday Night.” You know, S-A T-U-R D-A-Y Night!)

It occurs to me that I probably picture myself more as I was in 1978, then as how I actually am now. Oh, I don’t mind getting older (an attitude born of the fact that I have no choice), but the idea that my past stretches back so far is just difficult to comprehend. This is why the past can be so jolting. Events can’t have been that long ago, because people and places and movies and songs and loves forever sparkle in that moment when they were crystallized in our memory banks. Like all crystal, however, memories are delicate. To handle them every day is to risk breaking them and therefore, breaking a part of ourselves. They must admired only occasionally, but the collection itself must be constantly increased.

You see, the most important crystal is not one from our youth or even the last one we placed upon the shelf of our memory. The most important crystal is the one we are about to add to the collection.

Always, look forward to the next shiny moment. Or, as the Bay City Rollers once proclaimed,

Keep on dancin’ to the rock ‘n’ roll

On Saturday night, Saturday night.

Dancing to the rhythm in our heart and soul

On Saturday night, Saturday night.

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Princess Aloha, the Refugee from Waikiki

It’s always fun to read the ads in old newspapers, but one in particular that I came across recently really caught my attention. My friend Pat Wishart invited me to her home this past summer to look at some old newspapers from December, 1941–January, 1942. These papers, of course, were saved because of the news regarding Pearl Harbor. As proof, I suppose that Life goes on or that young ladies still had to make a living, there appeared an ad, pictured below, for “Princess Aloha, the Hawaiian Hotcha” who was making her appearance at the Grand in Youngstown, Ohio. According to the ad, the poor princess was a “refugee from Waikiki.” Several other performance artists (my term) were also on the bill which was “I.B.A. Roadshow No. 15, the Show of the Year.” A cursory search of the Internet reveals nothing about the “I.B.A.”—at least I’m assuming that it has nothing to do with the Irish Brokers Association or the International Bar Association. My guess is that those initials stood for “International Burlesque Association,” about which I would love to know more.It’s a fascinating ad, and rather racy it seems to me for a local newspaper, even if it does urge readers to “bring the ladies.” Perhaps the most fascinating thing is the timing. I’m assuming that Princess Aloha was not really a refugee from Waikiki, but even if she was, this must have been her act for months if not years, and it was not intended to take advantage of the tragic news from Hawaii. Indeed, I wonder how her act did play in the days following Pearl Harbor? And I wonder what became of Princess Aloha. Did she trade the stage for the factory floor and become one of the many Rosie the Riveters? Did she join the WACS or the WAVES or become a nurse? Or did she go on boosting morale in the best way she knew how?

Ah, Princess Aloha. You have aroused my curiousity, and not concerning what may have been underneath your palm leaves, but rather what became of you after “I.B.A. Roadshow No. 15, The Show of the Year,” played in Youngstown, Ohio.

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Wherever You Want To

Today, I am offering at no charge, the greatest name for a restaurant in the history of restaurantery.

If you opened a restaurant called, Wherever You Want To, you would have the most popular eatery on earth, because nine times out of ten, before anyone actually ends up in a restaurant, that person has the following conversation with the person who will accompany him:

“Where do you want to eat?”

“I don’t care. Wherever you want to.”

See?! Your restaurant would be the first place everyone would name. In fact, you could corner the restaurant business completely if you also opened

What Are You in the Mood For?

You Pick

Doesn’t Matter to Me

The name of your restaurant would be on the lips of every woman in America. I say woman because regardless of who brings up the idea of going out to eat, it’s usually the man who says, “Where do you want to go?” and it is usually the woman who says “I don’t care. Wherever you want to,” which is a lie because she does care. She does NOT want to go to Hooters or Tilted Kilt, for example, or that really loud place on the edge of town that you like because you don’t care that the bathrooms haven’t been cleaned since 1984—the barbecue is fantastic. What she really means when she says, “I don’t care. Wherever you want to,” is “Don’t screw this up; pick a place you know I’ll like.”

With my idea, as soon as the woman says, “Wherever you want to,” the man can say, “Great! Let’s go!” He has avoided any argument and may immediately grab his car keys and walk out the front door. And then walk back in because she won’t be ready that fast because she’s not dressed for Wherever You Want To, and. . . . I seem to have digressed. . . . Oh, yes.

So, there’s my idea, free of charge. Well, I’m offering it for free, but it would be nice if you sold my books there or even better, made every patron buy one. Or maybe just cut me in for 10%. Net, not gross now. Just sayin’.

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Mom and Me at Old Oriole Park (Indirectly)

I want everyone to know that I have been memorialized in what was once the ballpark in which my mom spent a great deal of time when she was a girl. Well, mentioned is perhaps a better word than memorialized, but let’s not quibble. I didn’t even know about it until a friend of mine, Allyn Gibson, brought it to my attention in an e-mail:

I ran into you yesterday—well, your name, anyway—in an unexpected, but in retrospect not surprising, place.

 I was at Peabody Heights Brewing in Baltimore, the brewery built on the site of the Oriole Park used by the Baltimore Terrapins of the Federal League and the Baltimore Orioles of the International League from 1914 to 1944.  Besides the small baseball museum they have about the ballpark, they also had some baseball artwork — a Field of Dreams poster, as well as a poster of the cover to David Stinson’s Deadball.  Next to the Deadball poster was the sign that I attached, and down there, at the very bottom, is your name.  So there you are, memorialized in what was the left field corner of old Oriole Park. 🙂

Look carefully; on the next to last line at the very bottom.

The world is full of connections if we but look for them.

I have to thank my buddy David Stinson for including my name in his bio, as well as the sharp-sighted Allyn for sharing this.

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