The Civil Air Patrol

By Ed Baranosky

In September 1942 the U.S .had been at war with Germany, Japan and Italy for 10 months. Daring German submarine captains were sinking an average of seven merchant ships a day off our Atlantic coast. In theaters the Saturday movie matinee started with the Movietone news depicting men covered with black diesel fuel being lifted from lifeboats and rafts. There were reports by fishermen of a U-boat surfacing in Long Island Sound off the sub base in New London.

I was a sophomore in high school. In the cafeteria one day I overheard a girl in my class named Cory Irwin talking to her friend about flying her father’s plane on patrols over Long Island sound on the lookout for German U-boats. After class that day I had a chance to talk to Cory about flying. She told me her father taught her to fly a plane when she was 14. She earned her pilot’s license when she was 15 and had been flying ever since.

She heard about the Civil Air Patrol at the airport and volunteered. She told me if I would like to fly a patrol with her she would pick me up Saturday morning at 5 a.m. and we’d go flying.

We got to the airport in Stratford at 5:30.  While Cory did a preliminary check of the plane
I unhooked the tie-downs. We got in the plane and she started it up. After a few checks we taxied over to a fuel truck. The truck operator asked Cory for her authorization card. The operator wrote the information on his form and had Cory sign it. The government was paying for the fuel.

In the plane Cory handed me a set of earphones. Cory radioed the control tower and asked for clearance. The controller told her she was cleared to Runway 24. She taxied to the apron of 24. Cory went through a takeoff check list, revved the engine a few times to recheck the gauges. She released the brakes and we were rolling down Runway 24. I heard her calling the controller as we began to lift off the ground.

She asked for clearance to turn left after takeoff so we could fly east over Long Island Sound toward Rhode Island. The controller gave her an OK. Over the sound Cory handed me a pair of binoculars. She told me to read and record boat registration numbers in the log book as we flew over them.  We did not see any sign of U-boats on that flight.

The next few months my Saturdays were taken up by flying with Cory. She began giving me bootleg flying lessons. I took ground school classes and earned my pilot’s license.

When WWII was over in 1945 the government was selling factory fresh fighter planes for $100. My regret is not buying a North American P-51 Mustang.

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If Money Was no Object

By John-Paul Marciano

Not too long ago I bought a lottery ticket when the jackpot was north of $800 million dollars.  On the way home I thought, “What if I really won?”  What a scary thought that was.  After all, we’re talking at more than $400 million after taxes.  That’s a lot of money.

It took me a while but eventually I became comfortable with the possibility of winning such an enormous amount.  It didn’t take long to start thinking about what I would want to buy.  Of course, with that kind of money there wouldn’t be much I couldn’t afford.  And I could get exactly what I want, exactly the way I want it because I can afford it.  Since the choices would be endless, I decided on a list of my top three choices.

Number one on my list was a black Ferrari, but not just any Ferrari.  I want the one they say, “If you have to ask how much it costs you can’t afford it.”  As part of the deal I would want to buy hot laps at the Circuit of the Americas, the Formula 1 race track in Austin, Texas.  Call me crazy, but what good is a car that can go 200 M.P.H. if you can’t drive it that fast?

Next on the list would be three homes all in warmer locales than my current home.  Of course, I would keep my current home because I like where I live and can think of no good reason to sell it.  You might be asking, “Why three homes?  Doesn’t that count as three separate purchases?”

Well, why not?  I couldn’t make up my mind if I wanted a place in Argentina, Australia or the northern Mediterranean coast (preferably Italy or Spain).  So why choose just one when I can afford to buy three?  And I don’t see it as three separate purchases.  For accounting purposes I can just lump them all under the heading “Living Expenses.”

I came up with the last item on my list because I was thinking, “How would I get to my new homes?”  Flying on commercial airlines is such a hassle these days, even if you’re flying first class.  Who wants to check-in and hang around the airport until they board the flight?  And buying my own jet seems a little too extravagant, even if I can afford it.  It occurred to me that an 80 or 100-foot-yacht would do the trick just fine.

But then I started thinking the Ferrari is going to break down, the houses will need to be maintained, and, with my luck, the yacht will probably sink.  And, truth be told, all this stuff will just complicate my life.  Who needs the hassle?  How depressing to have all this money and nothing to buy.

So I decided to sleep on it, hoping I would find something worthwhile.  When I woke up the next morning it dawned on me that what I really wanted to do was find an inner city kid with a lot of promise and a dream without the means to fulfill that promise or achieve the dream.  Why not change the direction of that kid’s life and buy him or her the best education money can buy?  It would be money well spent and a worthwhile endeavor.

The next day I checked my tickets and naturally I didn’t hit the jackpot.  Heck, I couldn’t even manage a $2 winner. Twenty-five years ago the New York Lottery advertised, “All you need is a dollar and a dream.”  In today’s inflated dollars that dream now costs two dollars.  Was it worth it?  For the same two dollars I can place a bet on a horse in the Kentucky Derby which takes about three minutes.  My fantasy lasted two days.  So, yeah, I’d say it was worth every penny.

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A Motto to Live By

By Ed Baranosky

 

In my working career I had worked with a man who every morning would go through his schedule and agonize on each job. I watched him torture himself even before he went on his first call. I knew I had to do something. I told him he was a capable technician and he should not worry about each job beforehand. He should wait to see what the problem was when he got there.

 

I knew there was always more to the job than just electronics. The attitude of the customer was a part of it. The customers were always anxious to get their units up and running. There were always some individuals who gave the technicians a hard time.

 

When I first started on this job I did the same thing to myself. I was beating myself up about  electronic problems and customer attitudes. I found I was putting off the difficult problems and customers. At the end of several weeks I had a stack of jobs that I had made all sorts of excuses to delay tackling.

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It was then I decided that this could not go on.

 

My solution came to me at 3 a.m. in bed when I was replaying the problems over in my mind.

 

First, I decided I was going to do one difficult job a day. No matter what it was I was going to carry it
through. At the end of the first week I had five less problems in the stack.

 

The answer to the difficult customers who used their authority to abuse people they believe below their station also became apparent to me. I determined that I would greet them with a smile and a cheerful “good morning.” That diffused most of their aggression.

The motto I chose to live by was something by Gen. Patton said during the darkest hours of the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. He simply suggested: “Do not take counsel of your fears.”

 

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Letter to a Teacher

By Ethel Abraham

 

I love you dearly teacher

Who daily sets me right.

With calm resolve to love me

But never judge or fight.

 

You’re not afraid of asking

The questions that I dread

Because you know the answers

Are sleeping in my head.

 

You listen and inspire

And sometimes read aloud

Some words I’ve never heard of

Unless my head is bowed.

 

Like old friends sent to greet me

With lessons from afar

You aim a light into my heart

Just like a shooting star.

 

You part the clouds and wipe a tear

And loan me courage to turn from fear

I love you teacher, dear.

 

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The Indignity of It All

By John-Paul Marciano

I’ve been sitting in chairs for 60-plus years and never once have they failed me–until now.

Most standard chairs offer a weight capacity of 800 pounds but that’s a static rating for weight that doesn’t move. Static weight doesn’t take into account someone who adjusts to get comfortable or just can’t sit still.  It also doesn’t take into consideration someone leaning on the back two legs.  Now we have what is called dynamic weight.  That drops to 350 pounds or less.  Commercial chairs used in restaurants offer a weight capacity of 1000 pounds.  But again that’s static weight.

As far back as we can remember there have been chairs–wooden, upholstered, arm, beach, wrought iron, plastic, lounges, beanbags, rocking, swivel, folding and reclining chairs–more types  than I care to remember.  You sit in one and the chair does what it’s supposed to do.  You relax, watch TV, read the paper or a book or talk to your spouse or a friend. Ninety-nine per cent of the time chairs do what they were made to do.

Now visualize my wife and I celebrating our anniversary. We go to a nice restaurant.  The setting is terrific, overlooking a lake surrounded by mountains. It’s quiet except for the muted conversations and the chirping birds.

The hostess takes us to our table, leaves the wine and dinner menus, and says, “Enjoy your meal.”  Ever the gentleman, I slide the chair out for my wife and as she takes her seat I think to myself, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”

Without giving it a thought I walk around to my chair.  I’ve got 99- per-cent-reliability on my side.  I start to say something to my wife.  I never complete the sentence.  As soon as my buttocks hit the chair it collapses out from under me.

If I were alone with my wife I’d probably have a good laugh and a few choice words for the chair.  But I have 50 sets of eyes focused on me, me without a rock to crawl under.  Oh yeah . . . I weigh a dynamic 320 pounds.

Apple Memories

By Ed Baranosky

        In Australia and Argentina the cold of winter is just beginning to leave. In October, Connecticut is just starting to get a little frosty. It’s apple-picking time. Macs and tart Granny Smiths are being plucked from trees. In kitchens the sounds of rolling pins are heard as mothers and grandmothers roll dough for piecrusts. Their aprons are covered with white flour and some have a little white dust on their noses while they hum a happy tune.

This time of year the aroma of cinnamon and baking apple pie is in the air. The anticipation of a slice of homemade pie with a scoop of ice cream after supper cannot be described. There is nothing this side of heaven like the look Heaven on a grandmothers face as she watches her grandchildren fork a delightful bit of pie into their mouths.

In 1938 I was 10 years old. Walking home from a friend’s house who lived about a mile away, I saw an apple tree growing along the side of the road. I stopped and picked a few and put them in my pocket. I was eating one when I got home. In our kitchen my mother saw me and asked where I had gotten the apple. I told her about the tree. She got an old flannel shirt, tied the sleeves, buttoned it up and sent me to get some apples.

The apples were green and a little buggy. That didn’t matter. My mother simply peeled the apples, trimmed out the buggy part and baked one of the most delicious apple pies I had ever eaten.

How Not to be a Tree Stump

By Karen Cheney

It recently occurred to me that I am a tree stump.  I wasn’t born this way; it’s something that happened to me gradually over time.  As an empath I absorb the emotions and feelings of others and intuitively know things about them just by observing tiny details in their behavior.

These qualities served me well when I was working as a nurse.  On the hospital day shifts I was able to multi-task well while still picking up on changes that needed critical interventions. On the evening shifts, when the pace slowed down, the halls fell silent and the lights were low, patients and family would open up to me and I became both their counselor and confidant.

There was something so peacefully powerful in those intimate moments that I keep them always as warm embers in my heart.

As a child I had a knack for finding lost and injured things.  It didn’t matter if they were animal, insect or human.  If it was hurting or lost I would give it comfort and care.  I always kept a cardboard box hidden under our porch which served as both a shelter and sick bay for whatever critter-in-need I found.

As an adult, I still have a critter box under my porch and a place in my heart for all who are lost and broken.

You’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with me being a tree stump.  So I will tell you now.  There are people in this world whose hearts are dark and they prey on people like me. They use and abuse for selfish gain and leave scars and pain and dirty stains in the wake of their manipulative madness.  I was born into a family of people like this and also had the madness of mind to marry one.

It wasn’t until I reread the book “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein that a light in my attic went on.  It was then that I realized that I was the stump in his book on which that boy selfishly sat.

As a child I had the heart and mind of a child and, much like the tree, I was taken advantage of until there was nothing left but a mere stump of myself. Still I let them sit on me.

It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized two truths: First, I am not responsible for other people’s happiness–they are.  And second, I need to put my oxygen mask on first before I can help others with theirs.  It’s not selfish, it’s a necessity.

I want to spend the rest of my life re-growing into the beautiful tree they cut down with new roots so well-grounded I can weather any storm.  I want my canopy to be broad to shelter others from storms, my fruit to be plentiful to share with the hungry, my example to teach others to be strong and to learn to let go so my heart can finally find the peace it so desperately seeks.

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