Category Archives: A Pocket of Resistance


She would have been 100 today.

She had that Prichard grit right up to the very end, when she said, “You make the decision. I’m tired of making decisions.” With the support and counsel of my sister Martha — Joe, trying to get home from Ireland later supported and agreed — i made the decision. Mid-morning, the next day, she was gone. We all knew she was where she wanted to be. With him.

It has been a little over three years. i was going to include a bunch of photos of her from the farm on Hunter’s Point Pike to basketball player to war momma (me) to her with her family, that would be us including the two siblings who continue to make me proud, and some of her throughout her life, but quite frankly, it was getting difficult to find the ones i wanted. She would understand that. She had some problems with new technology and photos. Didn’t like it. So after a full day, i sat here considering what to do.

After all, it is her 100th birthday.

Earlier, my brother and my niece posted photos of her. Good photos. i really don’t need to do that now.

And i won’t write a lot about her. i think anyone who has read some of my stuff knows.

i will just go to bed thinking about her and what a wonderful impact she had on so many. And there were two who just always seemed to glow when they were with her.


Happy Birthday, Mother. You remain wonderful.

Three Stories of Earl’s Porsche, epilogue

As i was describing three scenes with Earl Major and his 1967 Porsche 911, i remembered one more. It would not surprise me to recall some other events with Earl and his Porsche, but not for now.

While Earl was in the Long Beach Naval Shipyard aboard the USS Fox and i was normally on the mole pier, pier 9, or the seawall at the end of the mole pier aboard the USS Hollister, we were constantly with each other when not on duty. Several times, Earl house sat for us while we went on various journeys, also taking care of the dog and cat.

Lady Snooks and me. Watertown, NY, 1971.

The first time he did that, he woke up in the middle of the night with the bed shaking. He was convinced San Pedro was having a significant earthquake. When he got of bed, the shaking stopped except for the bed. Our Old English Sheepdog, Snooks (named after my uncle Alvin “Snooks” Hall) had gotten under the bed and couldn’t get out. Her struggles were making the bed bounce up and down. When he lifted the bed and let her out, they became best friends forever.

Once, Earl even kept our two-year old daughter Blythe when we made an overnight trip. We had mutual trust.

One of my fondest memories of Earl was when he came over to San Pedro one evening for dinner. As we drank a Dos Equis amber beer while Kathie was preparing dinner, he insisted on making his guacamole. He offered me a dollop on a tortilla chip. i tried it. It was almost as hot as San Diego’s Chuey’s chile verde, which remains the hottest dish i have ever eaten except for a lamb dish i had in a Manila restaurant in 1975. i commented on his guacamole being on my list of spicy hot foods.

“Oh no,” he claimed, “This guac is perfect.”

He took a bite and then another, big scoops on tiny chips. After the third, his face began to turn red and sweat was popping out on his brow.

“See,” he pointed out, “this stuff is just right.”

i did notice he drank almost a whole beer in about three quick gulps. It was good guacamole but not for the faint of heart.

On quite a few occasions while we were both in Long Beach, i ended up driving the Porsche. Most of the times, it was because Earl needed a bigger car to carry something. On one particular afternoon, i was in the Porsche delivering it back to Earl in the shipyard. i do not remember why but i was going north on I-405. The interstate ran right by the island, but our Navy housing (across the Vincent Thomas Bridge) in San Pedro was to the north. The Naval station and shipyard are gone, and Terminal Island and surroundings are completely different today than in 1974. Now combined with Los Angeles, the area is the second largest container ship port in the world (Alan Hicks, straighten me out if i got this wrong).

The shipyard and the Naval Station occupied Terminal Island. i took the exit ramp to Terminal Island. It exited off to the right and then arched left before curving right again into the surface road leading to one of the shipyard gates. The left curve was banked.

As i exited, i geared down to third. As i began the banked turn to the left,  i began to feel i was being pushed down into the seat by an invisible force. Wondering what was wrong with me, i looked down at the speedometer and the RPM gauge. i was well over the 3000 RPM limit, which Earl had once cautioned me, even though i was entering a non-highway.

Then i looked at the speedometer. It read 95 mph and appeared to be going up. It finally dawned on me i was “pulling G’s.”  The Porsche was handling the banked curve so well, i felt totally in control, but i figured with the G’s and the speed, i probably should slow down.

She was a lovely, lovely high performance vehicle.

Three Stories of Earl’s Porsche, Scene 3

The third incident with Earl Major’s Porsche 911 occurred on Saturday, January 5, 1974. i know that because Reagan’ 55 mph nationwide speed limit went into effect on the previous Wednesday and may have contributed to the confusion.

Earl’s ship, the USS Fox, had completed its overhaul in  the Long Beach Naval Shipyard, and the ship would be leaving for its homeport of San Diego on Monday. Earl was taking his personal possessions from his apartment on Manhattan Beach to San Diego, then driving back to be on the ship’s transit to homeport. He came by our Navy housing in San Pedro to say good-by, i think more to my wife; Snooks, the old English Sheepdog; BK, our great cat; and most of all Blythe who had a mutual admiration society with him.

He left for San Diego around 10:00 am. i felt sorry for him having to drive that wonderful road machine without exceeding the magic new limit of 55…and keeping the RPM above 3000. About an hour later, he called from a pay phone. The Porsche had died as Earl reached the I-405 and I-5 merge in Irvine, roughly fifty miles from our quarters. He had pulled into the safety island between the two interstates (new overpasses and ramps have eliminated that island). He asked if i could come help him. Obviously, i immediately agreed with Kathie’s concurrence and headed south in the small Corona station wagon. i reached him and the Porsche in, yep, about an hour.

The traffic was not as crazy on those two major freeways as they are now, but even on a Saturday, there were plenty of cars. Earl and i stood in the middle and strategized on the best plan to get him off the freeway. He had found a Porsche maintenance location just off off the next exit, which was less than a half-mile from our island. After checking the position of our bumpers, we decided the best solution was for me to push him to and up the exit ramp, then on to the shop which fortunately was about a half-mile from the exit.

We got in our cars and with hand signals while finding a spot with no traffic crossed the I-405 side of the merge onto the shoulder to proceed to the exit ramp. A highway patrol came up behind us. i thought how nice and considerate of the CHP to give us protection while we got off the freeway.

Then he turned on his flashing lights and motioned us to stop. We were less than 100 yards from the exit ramp.

He asked what we thought we were doing. We told him. He said that was against the law. We asked, “What law?”

He pondered and looked through some book he pulled out of his patrol car. “It’s unsafe and against the law,” he repeated.

We repeated, “What law?” then added, “We weren’t speeding. Is there a law for going too slow?”

“I’ll have to check,” he said and then made a call on his radio. Another trooper showed up. They discussed it some more and made another radio call. This was repeated until there were six patrol cars around us and finally the supervisor joined them. What traffic there was had slowed drastically due to everyone looky-looing to see what great crime against man and the laws of the Golden Bear state was being pursued by such a large contingent of CHIPS (remember that show?).

After over an hour, the troopers agreed, and the original trooper wrote me a ticket, but none for Earl. The trooper said, “It’s illegal to push a car on the interstates.”

i looked at the ticket and read i had been charged with speeding at five miles an hour. i decided not to argue and asked, “Is it illegal to tow one?”

“No,” he said. Most of the six cars had taken off. He quickly joined them.

Earl and i drove up to the nearest hardware store, purchased some two-inch line (rope for you landlubbers) and returned. We did a sailor’s jury rig on the tow line, and i pulled the Porsche to the repair shop. We went back to Long Beach and i took Earl to his ship.

i scheduled my court appearance at the Long Beach courthouse. Earl insisted he go with me and testify as a material witness. Kathie decided she would go with us in case she might add to the testimony. On the scheduled day, we dressed up as we thought appropriate. Earl and i wore conservative suits and ties, thinking our uniforms might look like we were trying to influence the court. Kathie also dressed conservatively.

We arrived at the courthouse and stood in a long line of ticketed citizens, most of whom probably had never owned a tie. Most in our line looked like they were either gang members, homeless, both, or worse. After about a half hour, we got to the window to check-in.

The clerk looked at my ticket and started to laugh. She said, “I don’t think you have much to worry about.” We filed into the courtroom, sitting near the back.  The first several tickets were dispatched quickly with some pretty harsh fines. i was nervous even though the three of us had gone over our strategy a number of times. i was going to explain what happened to the judge and then call Earl to verify my testimony, and then Kathie, if needed, to vouch for our truthfulness.

They called me and i walked to the front, the bailiff was to the judge’s right. The judge read the ticket. “What is this?” he marveled. Then he turned to the bailiff and asked him, “Have you ever heard of someone getting a ticket for speeding at five miles per hour?”

The bailiff did not do too well suppressing his guffaw. The judge frowned at him and asked me to explain. I did.”

He looked at the ticket for a long time and then said, “Well, if it’s not against the law, it should be.” So he poured over a book of state statutes on driving laws.

“Well, i can’t find any law against pushing a car at five miles an hour. Don’t do it again. Case dismissed.”

Earl, Kathie, and i went to dinner at a nice place to celebrate. I now think it was sort of sad the Porsche was just a two-seater. We should have gone in it rather than the Corona station wagon. We laughed a lot about the whole thing.

Beach Day, a Special One

This post began last night, so read “yesterday” when you read “today.”

Maureen went to a movie today.

Therefore, i agreed to go to the beach with Sarah.

Now you can’t just go to any beach if you bring a dog with you. There are at least three, if not more, “dog beaches” in San Diego. The one in Del Mar just made it a requirement to have the dogs leashed all of the time. They haven’t had very many dogs or humans there since then. My favorite is Coronado Beach. It’s close, convenient, and familiar. i used to run it every workday from the Naval Amphibious School across to the beach to the back security fence for the Naval Air Station, North Island, a run just over six miles. But most of all because that is where i would take Cass to retrieve his toy over the breakers and body surf back in for me to throw again, ad infinitum, until i made him stop fearing he has worn himself out and knowing that would not stop him from continuing.

It is an amazing place, this Coronado dog beach. The view is wonderful, even if it is overcast as it was this afternoon. The people are a cross-section of everyone. There were at least 200 dogs, all but one or two unleashed and all enjoying each other and the people. i think i saw just about every breed except a mastiff. i thought i wouldn’t see an Old English Sheepdog, but one romped onto the scene with fur, lots of fur flying right at the end.

What fun.

Sarah with a pug to the right. Billie Holliday (Sarah’s German shepherd mix) checking out new friends in the center.


Checking out a new friend.


Coming back for a rest.
My new friend Shadow who likes my lap with or without sand.

Several views of the action:

The last photo shows a labrador who aspired to emulate Cass. His master, the older gentleman,  had one of those throw-assist  wands for a tennis ball he would cast into the surf. The lab would bound in, swim to the ball, and bring it back. Then he would drop the toy at his master’s feet, circle around and lie down in between his master’s legs, waiting anxiously for another round. The difference? Cass would require me to wade waist deep and hurl his ball over the last wave crest. Cass would then crash into the wave, fetch the ball, and body surf back in. But never, ever would Cass be as obedient at this one. He would shove the ball into my hand and then jump up and down at me until i threw it again.

Still it was a lovely day at dog beach with my daughter. Some guy even complimented me on my “Trevor Time” Padre long-sleeve tee shirt.

Three Stories of Earl’s Porsche, Scene 2

After a very successful ball where my wife at the time was admired greatly by the Destroyer School’s commanding officer, Earl dropped off both hatch covers and our mini-station wagon, which now would be labeled a hatchback. He got his Porsche 911 back unharmed.

To be honest, i was relieved.

i got both hatchbacks because both Earl and i had orders to Long Beach, CA, and it was easier to include them in our household goods rather than Earl putting one in his minimal personal goods shipment. Earl was reporting as Weapons Officer to the USS Fox (DLG 33), homeported in San Diego but undergoing a major overhaul in the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. i had orders to relieve the chief engineer aboard the USS Hollister (DD 788), homeported at the Long Beach Naval Station adjacent to the shipyard. We were going to be co-located and our friendship would remain close for the rest of Earl’s life.

Somewhere i have a number of photos of Earl but have managed to hide them in the files i’m organizing. This one is particularly good of him, but it is from an old newspaper clipping and could be better.

The last four weeks of destroyer school was a four-week stay in Norfolk where we would train on ships of the same class as the ones to which we had orders. Consequently, my parents flew to Providence, loaded up my wife, Blythe, the cat BK, and the Old English Sheepdog Snooks in that Corona station wagon and drove to Tennessee. My family then went to Paris, Texas and my in-laws home. Earl and i, after completing the school back in Newport, then drove to Lebanon in his Porsche.

In was in November 1974. We planned to stop in New York City and stay at the home of one of Earl’s friends, but late that night at a gas stopped and called his friend. The friend was out of town so we decided to drive straight through. By then, it was almost midnight and Earl had driven up until then. i took my turn at the wheel. i had barely pulled back on the road before Earl was sound asleep.

i’m no longer sure of the route we took, but i was driving through mountains on what i believe was I-81. It was in Pennsylvania. It was 1:00 am in the morning. Earl was sound asleep. There was nothing on the road except us and semis. It began to rain in the mountains. i found myself unwittingly racing semi after semi. 95 miles an hour in the mountains on curves in the rain. The Porsche was performing better than i. It was hair raising but i didn’t want to wake Earl and scare the hell out of him. It was one hell of a ride for about an hour. My knuckles were white. But i think i took a step up in my driving. As first light came about, we stopped for gas and Earl took over the driving duties and i slept.

i never told him, but it was certainly one of the most thrilling night rides of my life.

Thank you, Porsche. And thank you, Earl.

Three Stories of Earl’s Porsche, Scene 1

My recent travels and an article in the newspaper about a court trial generated some memories about a special friend and his pride and joy. i have told at least one, if not all of these stories before, but they have been lost with the great website provider crash a couple of years ago. Regardless, i love them and will tell them again and again. Earl Major was a special person in my life.

John Sweatt, Earl Major, and i are the only career Naval officers i know who were in our generation from Lebanon, Tennessee.

John was my mentor/protector/coach at Castle Heights and later gave me perspective in my grind of Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island. He remains a hero to me.

Earl was six months and one school year ahead of me at McClain Elementary and Castle Heights. We played ball together, baseball and football. We shared counselor roles at Tennessee Boy’s State. He and i were best friends until he went to Auburn on an NROTC scholarship and i went to Vanderbilt on the same scholarship. Earl carried it through to graduation. i found a different route, therefore welcoming John’s time and support at OCS.

But after Earl left for Auburn in 1961, he and i didn’t even communicate until 1973. When i reported to Destroyer School for department head training in Newport, Rhode Island. Earl was also there for the same course. We reconnected big time. He and my wife at the time and i became a trio of fast friends. This led to the first Porsche story.

Earl was a single lieutenant commander. Now having experience of that position, i know it is one of the best in the world. Bachelor Earl arrived in Newport in a 1967 Porsche 911. It was a dull orange and one incredible car:

Near the end of the six months of Destroyer School, the command put on a graduation ball. It was a big thing. The event was held in the “Marble House,” the other Vanderbilt mansion besides the famous Breakers. My wife purchased an evening gown and i checked out my dinner dress whites. Then Earl and i talked.

“I don’t have a date for the ball,” he said.

i marveled. Newport was famous for meeting women. i had met one of the most wonderful women in my life when i met Kathy McMahon, now Klosterman. The Tavern, Hurley’s, and a couple of other places were great meeting places. But i sensed Earl wasn’t too keen on the ball, so i just mumbled something about being sorry.

“Oh, no,” he said, “I’m fine with that. In fact, the reason I was calling is I am going to New London. They have a scrap yard there with old liberty ship hatch covers. I’m going to get one and refinish it for a coffee table.”

“Wow,” i responded, “What a great idea.”

Then Earl admitted “I’m calling because a hatch cover won’t fit in my Porsche. I was wondering if we could swap cars for the weekend. You could have the Porsche to go to the ball and I could take your wagon to New London. I’ll get you a hatch cover for $25 and we’ll call it even.”

Hmm, let’s see. i loan Earl my 1970 Toyota Corona station wagon and get a liberty ship hatch cover, and get to take my wife to a formal dance in Porsche 911.

“Okay,” i agreed.

Being very fond of his Porsche, Earl offers to drive to our Navy housing at Fort Adams on Saturday morning and proposes we trade cars there and drive across town to the Navy base to be sure we are okay with my driving the Porsche and Earl driving the station wagon. Good idea, especially if you are the owner of the Porsche.

Saturday morning, Earl arrived at our housing unit as promised. We swapped keys and agreed to meet at the base exchange. As we walked to each other’s cars, Earl advised, “Remember, you should always keep the RPM over 3000.” He forgot to clarify that requirement as for being on the highway.

Earl jumped into the Corona and took off. i got into the Porsche feeling like a Le Mans racer, opened up the roof panel, and started after Earl.

Now the route from Fort Adams to the Naval Base takes you through the heart of Newport, the centuries old town with narrow streets. i dutifully tried to keep the RPM over 3000, shifting continuously and scaring the hell out of at least two dozen New England drivers. i nearly wrecked the Porsche and killed myself on at least a half dozen occasions through the narrow streets for about five miles, vroom, vroom all the way. i finally gave up figuring the Porsche was not worth my life.

When i reached the exchange, Earl asked me if the car drove all right. i told him of my experience. He apologized, telling me about the 3000 RPM limit being for highway driving.

All else was a success. The liberty ship hatch cover has undergone a bunch of transitions and is now Maureen’s work table in our front room, holding a sewing machine and serving as a platform for Maureen’s textile art projects. i think about Earl every time i pass that room.

The Porsche 911 was  beautiful car.  And Earl was a beautiful human being.

A Trip (Short and Long) to Remember

It all began when our younger, Sarah, decided to come out to San Diego in her car with her dog Billie.

Sarah’s car is Maureen’s 2001 Acura with over 250,000 miles. The trip is 1300 miles through some of the least friendly summer country in this country.

After considering the trek she faced, i decided Daddy would not be sane if she traveled that route by herself. So Monday, Maureen took me to the airport at dark thirty. i caught a ride to Austin, arriving before noon. That evening, we had burgers with Blythe, Jason, and my hero Sam, which was a highpoint of the very short trip.

Sarah and i took the car in for repairs and a final check to see if it was fit for such a trip. Good thing it was scheduled. The air conditioner went out about an hour or so before i arrived. Now about the only thing i can think of less attractive than the already scheduled trek across West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California is to try it without air conditioning. So we got it fixed also.

The repairs were a little bit more than expected and the whole thing delayed our getaway until 2:30pm Austin time. i took the wheel for the day.

So there are no photos in this post from Austin through to Deming, New Mexico. It is pleasant although Hill Country hot and humid through Fredericksburg and the ranch territory to the west is…well, it’s Texas summer ranch land to Junction where it’s remote enough and hot enough for Bear Bryant to use Junction as the site for early football practice when he was coach of the Aggies. After that, not much. Just West Texas. The entire trip was much greener than i had seen in my gazillion traverses, surprising. But West Texas is still a pretty desolate territory until you get to El Paso.

El Paso is worse. It is my least favorite place of the entire journey between East Texas and the Southwest Corner. It decided to reinforce my dislike on this journey. When we were about 100 miles out, i thought i saw a lightning streak in the dark high clouds over the western horizon. Soon there was another. The frequency increased turning into a verifiable and no BS thunder and lightning show lasting until we reached Deming, New Mexico, almost perfectly halfway in the trek. But El Paso added some fun with a couple of detours, a couple of miles of one-lane traffic, and more than a couple of severe rain squalls, several of which came close to me pulling over and stopping.

But we made it and i pulled into a Deming motel around 12:30 mountain time morning.

The next day, Sarah did nearly all of the driving except for my midday substitution for a several hours. We arrived home almost exactly at five.

Since there are probably a bunch of folks who have not made this trek, i thought i would show a couple of landscape shots to give them an idea of what such a journey is like. If you would like to get some idea of the route between Austin and Deming, you’ll have to check out Sarah’s post about the trip.

A rock mountain about an hour west of Deming.
Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona from I-8 New Mexico
Mount Graham, Arizona
Riley Peak, Arizona
Mount Mica, Arizona
Saguaro Mountains, Arizona
Rocks, Arizona


Rocks again.


Rocks, yep again.


Rocks ad nauseum.
Tucson Mountain, Arizona
Sonoran Mountains, 1


Sonoran Mountains, headed to Yuma.
The sands of California, west of Yuma. People actually drive RV’s out here for weekends or longer to ride their dune buggies in 110 degrees.
More sand.
More sand again.
The wind turbines on the rise through the Cuyumaca Mountains, guardians for the Southwest Corner.
Cuyumaca Mountain rocks.
Viejas Tribal lands coming down the mountain to home. 1300+ miles in two days. It was worth it.

And that my friends is what’s like to travel between the Southwest corner and Austin. There are many interesting places to stop along the way. i don’t think i ever have seen them. i would recommend the trip to anyone…as long as they can figure out how to bypass El Paso, and going through Lubbock is not a good alternative.

Blythe: Birthday Memories of a dad


Yesterday, i posted a photo of her when she was young, probably three.

As usual with my daughters, i felt as if i hadn’t done enough to celebrate her birthday.

So i decided i would post some of my favorite photos of her. It’s not complete. There are a bunch hidden somewhere in the piles amassed over forty-five years. So i’ll just go with these.

This began this morning when i was listing all of the things i planned to get done today. Except for agreeing to go to Costco with Maureen, nada. Nada was done. You see, this was a very lengthy, somewhat maudlin piece, so it has now been edited. The photos are more than half gone. The text is considerably less than what it was originally.

Blythe Jewell.

She was born in Watertown, New York. In fact, she was the reason i asked for and was awarded a return to active Naval service. i wanted to be sure we had enough to provide for her growing up well with security.

This was a wonderful relationship. Granny and Blythe. When Blythe was seven or eight and Granny was near the end, she had become somewhat hostile, but never with Blythe. Blythe was the only one who Granny treated with love all of the time. Sometimes i see Granny’s grit in Blythe.



Brother Joe would come down from Boston and grad school while we were in the Navy’s Fort Adams housing on Newport Bay. It was always fun to watch these two together.






This one is an early favorite, 1974. It was in one of the last cabins for officers at Fort DeRussey on Waikiki. We walked across a parade field and a street to get to the beach. i was going to my ship, the USS Hollister (DD 788) when her mother took this. the cabins have given way to the homogenization of Honolulu’s tourist district. Now the Navy has a huge high rise resort on the beach. We stayed there also when she was nine. 

She was their first grandchild. The relationship was close, closer even than most. She would stay with them for extended times every summer after she began school. It warms my heart to see them with her.






We were in San Pedro, my first West Coast tour. We were big Texas A&M fans, and her grandfather, Col. James Lynch, Aggie alumnus, and Bettie gave her this outfit. i have had the photo on every one of my desks since then. Good luck, i think, but it also allowed to look at her every morning and smile.



Lady Snooks of Joy and Blythe. 1975. Pacific Beach.







1978. Texas A&M. There are several of her with Reveille, the Aggie mascot, a beautiful collie, but i like this one better.







There was once this heaven on earth for all of us. No one enjoyed it more than Blythe,and no one enjoyed Blythe being there on Barton’s Creek more than Grandma and Grandpa.





1982. Evan Fraser and Sarah at a lake on Orcas Island, Washington. It was a magic trip.




This is the essence of Blythe to her father. Seattle, 1982. We spent a day there and traveled to Victoria where we stayed in the Empress Hotel and Blythe watched Monte Python’s “Search for the Holy Grail” for the first time.





Then Maureen joined us. This is 1982, San Diego Bay on JD’s sailboat. i’ve always been thrilled Maureen truly considers Blythe her daughter.




The Jewell’s have always had a place for family. Lebanon, 1984, Thanksgiving. Tommy Duff of Signal Mountain, and Kate Jewell from Vermont. Spread out, but still close.






Then there was a sister. Blythe and Sarah at the petting zoo at the San Diego Zoo, 1991.





Then there was Jason. i am so glad they met each other. Austin, 1996.






Then along came Sam. Thanksgiving. 2007.






Christmas. 2014. i’m a lucky man to have these three in my life.





What more can i say.

Except offer another birthday wish to a beautiful daughter and thank her (and Jason) for an incredible grandson.

Memories of a Man

Even in war, there was bureaucracy and paperwork, in “triplicate” no less. Perhaps that was a good sign. It was even complicated. He had gone to boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina. It remains a Marine Recruit Depot, much like the one here in San Diego. i’m guessing the Seabees went there rather than Navy recruit training  because they would be ashore, not on ships. From there, he went to Davisville, Rhode Island specifically for Seabee training. Through his enlistment agreement, he completed the training as a second class petty officer in his specialty.

After roughly four months in the combat zone in the southwest Pacific, the Navy gave him a new rating designation. It was a “casual draft.” i wondered what that meant. The new designation allowed him to do more mechanical work legally. i suspect he had been doing a much wider field of work than his original designation allowed ever since his liberty ship arrived at Espiritu Santo, the largest island in the nation of Vanuatu in July.

It is a photo smaller than usual 1¾ x 2¾ inches. Without the border, it’s even smaller. You cannot really make out who he is other than a sailor in a dixie cup and dungarees on a beach. He sent it home to her. He is even standing at attention. A man is walking or running in the surf behind him. It’s the Philippines, probably soon after they arrived on D+4. It depicts more than a Seabee. It depicts he’s still okay. It doesn’t say he will be home soon, but he would be back in Tennessee in several months. But no, the photo doesn’t say that. It says he is in a land far away in a war. i wonder if she could really comprehend that part of the message the photo conveyed.

There are two special moments in my Navy career when he was with me. The first was a day of multiple exercises aboard the USS Stephen B. Luce (DLG 7) out of Newport, Rhode Island on beautiful spring day. Commander Dick Butts suggested he ride as a guest. It was a day long of Navy crazy. i was the sea detail and GQ OOD. He got to watch me on the bridge doing my thing. i was the ASW Officer. He got to go down into the bowels in Underwater Battery Plot, and in the dark, listen to the sonar ping, watch the plotting monitor track the submarine, hear my order to simulate firing an Anti-Submarine Rocket. When we crossed the brow at the end, he said to me, “Son, now i understand why you wanted to return to the Navy.”

The second time is contained in this card they gave him. “Tiger Cruise” they call it. He met the USS Anchorage (LSD 36) in Pearl. He rode back with a bunch of other “Tigers.” He stood watches next to me. He wandered the ship talking mostly to my deck hands. Art Wright, the commanding officer, gave him a plaque. It hung by his work bench until he was gone. It was a special time: two Navy men, father and son, understanding each other.

i miss him.

Thoughts About Folks Gone

This was to be a quiet day. Our annual trip for the Fourth of July Parade around Sonoma Plaza did not happen this year. Traveling to be with family or friends just proved too difficult. We decided we would go to the beach but then considered the crowds and the parking (old age wussiness) and opted for a quiet day.

As i write, Maureen is at yoga. i may do a walk/run (mostly walk) and exercise. We will sit outside in the shade. i will take a nap, Maureen maybe. i will grill burgers tonight, and we will watch the Padres play the Indians unless it becomes unbearable. And some time today, i will walk to the top of the hill and reflect on freedom, what it means and what it costs. And i will be thankful. That’s it.

After Maureen left and i had read my emails and checked Facebook, i decided to continue my organization and clean out efforts in my office. Writing this book spurred the efforts.

Then i ran across the box i had placed on the book shelf to get it out of the way until i could address it properly. There are probably a hundred of these boxes of various sizes somewhere in this office or the garage. This one came from Mama Jewell through my Aunt Naomi Jewell Martin through her son and my cousin Maxwell Martin through my daddy to me. It is 8 1/2 by 10 1/2 inches and 3/4 inch deep.

It was in a bigger box with other “memorabilia.” Like many boxes of old stuff passed along through the family, the stuff in it seemed to have been begun for a specific purpose but other things ended up being included. It appears this box was originally used by my maternal grandmother, Carrie Myrtle Jewell, for holding letters and cards after she filled in a cloth covered “post card” album.

i started going through it but confess i would occasionally lose it and have to stop with a deep breath.

There was only one she wrote. i’m not sure how it got in there. It was a four-page letter to her sister-in-law, Vera, or from the envelope address Mrs. W. A. Orrand in Murfreesboro. It was dated two months to the day before she died at age 70. Her handwriting is shaky as old folks age and become more infirmed. She writes about surprise another relative died and how she had to learn from The Lebanon Democrat, chastising Vera for not letting her know sooner, but admitting she was too ill to go the funeral in Nashville. She tells of it being a “real pretty day” with the sun shining, and how that makes her think of “Argless” staying busy hauling wood.

That’s one stop for breath. i tried to remember her more completely. i was seven when she died, but i remember her smallness, her white hair, her glasses, her smile, and how much she cared for me.

i remembered her calling my other grandmother across the street in autumn of the previous year. Mother had gone to do some part-time work and Granny was keeping the three children at our house. i was walking home from school with a group of schoolmates. Another boy from my first grade class, Ronnie Collinsworth, picked a fight with me when we got to our front yard. i won the fight and Ronnie ran home up the street crying. Mama Jewell called Granny to tell her she had watched it all and Ronnie had started the fight and i won fairly and squarely and shouldn’t be punished.

i remember how warm she was when she held me.

I tried to remember more. i tried to remember what she thought, what she was really like. i mean she got married in Statesville, a village southeast of Lebanon, at seventeen, bore seven children (the last passing away just a month after her birth) over twenty-four years, and cooking on a wood-fired stove for a great portion of her life.

i couldn’t remember more. There’s no one who can tell me more about her. It’s all in those cards, letters, and photographs. i took a deep breath.

The second stop for breath was for something even less tangible. It had been thrown into the box at some time during some move, obviously not part of the intended purpose of the box. It was my grandfather’s last wallet and a few more personal things.

My grandfather’s wallet did not contain a driver’s license in the pocket provided. Hiram Culley Jewell contracted tuberculosis around 1933-1934 requiring my father to bypass his senior high school year to help support the family. My grandfather passed away in 1939. His last public appearance was at my parents’ wedding in July 1938. Tennessee did not have a law requiring a driver’s license until 1937  — since my father was an well-known automobile mechanic and had been driving since he was 10 (1924), the DMV or whatever agency it was back then, didn’t require him to take the test — and didn’t have an exam until 1938. Hiram Culley never drove after they required the license.

There were newspaper clippings folded inside. i searched for a name on the news articles that might give me a clue why he kept the clippings. Then i turned them over to find ads. One was a Greyhound bus ad touting how cheap and fast travel by bus was compared to driving ($3.55 round trip between Nashville and Chattanooga, among 19 destinations listed). The other was an ad from Don Corrado Romano appealing people to send old coins into his coin shop in Nantucket, MA for the possibility of being given up to $5000 for “old money.”

There was a slip of paper noting his being a registered voter in the 10th District of Wilson County. There was also his social security card issued “4/23/37.” That was the first year registration and payment into social security was required (Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law in 1935). Written on the attached slip was: “Gulf Red Cedar Co. of Va., W. Spring Street, Lebanon, Tenn.” The family home was on West Spring Street, but in 1937 i’m pretty sure there were no businesses. Why would that be attached to Culley’s social security card?

There was a card the size of a business card faded brown. “Adult Season Ticket, L.H.S. Football 1934, Name Culley Jewell.” Below was “I.C.P.” Along the side was “5 games.” What did “I.C.P.” stand for, i wondered. Was that the only season my father played football for one play or was that the previous year?  Or was Culley just a football fan like my father and went to all of the games? There was no one i could ask.

This was a deeper breath. i didn’t know either of my grandfathers. They both died before i was born. i think often of what they were like, how they thought about things, how time and place might have shaped their thoughts compared to mine. The papers only made me thirst more to know them, something that will never happen.

Folded next to the wallet were two papers the size of a check. They were notification of payment. The papers were not related to my grandfather’s wallet. Both papers were dated April 28, 1951, ten days after Carrie Myrtle Jewell passed away. Life and Casualty Insurance Company had sent a check for $203 to Ligon and Bobo Funeral Home. i assume the paperwork was to inform my family this was part of the payment for the funeral. Again, there no one to ask.

It is an empty feeling, not knowing. i wonder how 66 years after i am gone what pieces of paper will remain, who might wonder what i was like.

i thought of throwing all of the box away. No one except me would have known. If it were mine, sixty-six plus years from now, i would be fine with someone tossing my stuff. But i can’t do it. i will rebundle it and pass it along, perhaps dividing it up. There are a lot of family coming from Hiram Culley and Carrie Myrtle Orrand Jewell: six children, a number i can’t count of grandchildren, great grandchildren, and even great great grandchildren who might be interested.

i close it all up, put it all back in the box and put it in the plastic bin marked “Memorabilia, Various.”

Yes, it still seems sad to me.