2018-02-10 / Viewpoints

The Old Timer

BY HOWARD ‘MAC’ MCDONALD

It seems like every edition of the Endeavor News carries news of another identity theft. Usually the victim is an older person who falls for a ploy on the phone or in an email. That’s because when our generation grew up, the world was not so full of crooks and scammers.

There have always been con artists, but we have a lot more of them today. I believe the internet has opened up a world of opportunity for criminals who are out to fleece you out of your money. Old dummies like me have to be very careful.

Another group that is on the prowl to separate you from your money is the legal gambling industry. Out here in Arizona and back home in Salamanca, N.Y., the Indians have perfected the business. They are raking in millions every week.

I am saved from temptation because I can’t drive. Shirley is my designated driver and she hits the passing gear when she sees a casino. I can never indulge my love of the poker slot machines.

When I did play, I was always careful not to lose the farm.

When the train-load of Congress members smashed into a garbage truck last week, it reminded me of the trauma I have experienced. Back in the ‘50s, I witnessed four fighters, two choppers and a TWA airliner crash.

Two of the fighter pilots were killed. The TWA bird was a twin-engine Martin 404. The landing gear off came off on the runway at Greater Pittsburgh Airport. It skidded down the runway and stopped right next to an Air Force fire truck. As soon as the flames emerged, the crew was able to extinguish them and there were no injuries.

February is a month of birthdays. Honest Abe shares Feb. 12 with Paul Abriatis. George Washington came along on Feb. 22. That used to be a holiday, but the politicians decided to put Lincoln and Washington together so they can have a three-day weekend with this bogus Presidents Day.

On Feb. 25, I always think of my mother. She was born in 1900 and I miss her every day.

Cupid is getting ready to launch Valentine’s Day. Heart-shaped boxes of candy can be seen in many stores.

That is another tradition that is going by the wayside. Too many people are all about their own entertainment these days and they can’t be bothered with showing love to others.

It will not be too many years before there are no more World War II veterans. Hundreds are leaving us every day.

Like Archie Bunker said, WWII was The Big One. The U.S. took on two major powers and kicked their butts in just a little over three years. That was starting without a lot of munitions and only a few pros in the services.

Now we are still bogged down in a war that has been going on for more than 15 years and nobody can really explain what we are trying to accomplish. I’m sure there are a lot of things happening behind the scenes that we’re not being told about.

When I hear of all the problems around the world and the nation, my mind wanders back to POD class at good old Elizabeth High. You had to have a passing grade in Problems of Democracy to graduate. If they tried that today, the stage would be pretty much empty on commencement day.

Our teacher was a middle-aged, no-nonsense spinster with her hair pulled back. She often tested us in the morning with a “little quiz” that ended up being about 100 questions.

I don’t remember much of what she tried to teach us, but they could rewrite the book today and use the Middle East as the example.

We also studied citizenship. Those lessons seem to be lost now. Citizenship used to be a privilege to be earned and a duty. It included learning about the issues, voting responsibly, and serving your community.

Now, our borders are porous, many able-bodied adults do not have to work to pay for the basics of life, and a lot of people don’t even vote. What a slap in the face to those who fought for our country and those who came through Ellis Island and worked so hard to become Americans.

The other night there was a rebroadcast of a 1976 Lawrence Welk show on TV that traced the evolution of music in this country. I am a big band nut and one segment was on Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman. It sure brought back a lot of memories.

The program concluded with “America the Beautiful” and I sang along.

When I was growing up, every child knew the Pledge of Allegiance, the Lord’s Prayer and at least three patriotic songs. We never should have caved in to the political correctness movement and eliminated those traditions.

I was remembering the Time Magazine cover a few years ago posing this question: “Can you still move up in America?”

I think that the only way the working class can move up is by getting a house on a hilltop. For the last quarter century, the middle class and the working poor have been under attack by the big corporations and the wealthy. Things are getting worse and the old adage, “kick them while they are down,” seems to be the way of our nation now.

Chicken in a car and the car can’t go. That’s the way you spell Chicago.

So goes a spelling lesson from Beckett’s Run School at Ella Hollow in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. No wonder I did not get into Harvard.

Funny little sayings were the norm in those days. Another one we used to say was “skinny eight and two are ten.” I still don’t know what a skinny eight is.

There were no speech police in those days except for your teacher.

Starting at 5 pm, every kid listened to Cameron County’s own Tom Mix and the Old Wrangler on the radio, followed by Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy. If you ate Wheaties, you could send in a box top and get a dragon’s-eye ring that glowed in the dark.

After Lowell Thomas and the 6 o’clock news, the Inner Sanctum came on with the squeaking door that made the hair on your neck stand up. If there was no school day the next day, you could stay up until 10 o’clock.

Telling ghost stories was another pastime. The ones my brother told were so scary that he would have to walk home with the kids from next door.

If you remember any of those things, then I know how old you are.

Preserve your memories, keep an eye out for the Wolfman when there’s a full moon, and keep a silver bullet on hand in case you need it. But remember -- a clean musket with dry powder is the best protection.

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