Shaping Young Minds…..Again

It’s that time of year again. Untold numbers of  children and young people are returning to the hallowed halls of public education. There are those, of course, with the means and/or opportunity to pursue another path; private or religious schools or home schooling. But the majority will trudge back to endure or enjoy the public school process, as my wife and I and our children did.

It seemed like a good time to write again about education as my younger grandson entered the “system” as a kindergarten student just yesterday. He was somewhat excited at the idea ahead of time which gave me pause as to whether we were actually related.

My public education years, which numbered only 12 since there was no mandated public kindergarten in those pre-historic days, would never be described with the words excited or eagerly anticipating. I have tried to find a suitable descriptive phrase and remembered  a Paul Simon lyric from “Kodachrome.” It goes like this. “When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all.” Now, admittedly  that is not totally correct since I did have a wonderful English teacher my senior year whom I was privileged to get to know as a friend and neighbor. Alas, she was the exception.

Were I  to divide my 12 years into 2 segments; one being elementary and the other combining junior  and senior high; the former rates considerably higher than the latter but mainly by comparison. But, to close  on  a somewhat more positive note, the above referenced grandson now has three school days under his belt and still “loves” school and his teacher. That is the good news. The not so good news is that his bus riding experience has been utterly chaotic all  three days and in  a different way each day. Certainly hope that his school and who ever else is responsible for this gets their act together and soon! At this point, I  will refrain from mentioning the names of the school or school system, with my hope being that things change for the better.


September 3, 2011 Posted by | education, Family | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Falling Short

Today is, of course, Easter Sunday. I believe I could safely say that it is the greatest day in Christendom, a day of  joy and celebration for those who call themselves  followers of Jesus. Even for nominal Christians( whatever that means) and those who have no connection to church, it is often that one Sunday each year when they make their pilgrimage to church. I have often heard that practice described as people thinking they are doing God  a favor by dropping by.

Thanks to the wonders of technology I knowe that I have one of  my children and her family attended Easter services today and had quite a good experience and another made it to their first Easter Sunrise service and also had good experience, I know, without officially knowing, that almost all and probably all of my extended family ( sisters, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law,etc) attended church today, the churches they attend on a regular basis.

So,who am I leaving  out in the above description? Alas, that would be yours truly. Yep, I had  every  intention of going today. I  wasnt going to make the sunrise service since that would have required a 5:00 am wake up call. But the church we started attending recently offered several options left no good excuse. Sad to say, I still did not make it. The day that is most glorious and offers us hope beyond measure became a  day in which I did not take part. Somewhat ironically even technology failed me. I found ” our” services online streaming live. So at least I would be able to take part to some extent. But, alas, my computer chose to show its unseemly self and froze twice during the broadcast, leaving me bereft of that option as well. All of this is certain  to leave one at a loss. Next Sunday will not be Easter and the atmosphere will be different but once again I will have the opportunity to join a community of faith. It isn’t actually a ” do-over” but it is still  awonderful opportunity to have. After all, if we sing the Don Francisco song, “He’s Alive” today, it will be no less true next Sunday.

April 24, 2011 Posted by | Christianity, Family | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Spinning a Yarn-Textile Style


My Dad explaining his job as a warper tender-from 1940s or 50s

The majority of my working life was spent  in the textile industry, although not actually in the plant. However, during  a span of several years. I worked next to 2 of our plants and visited the plants from time to time.

As is the case with almost all the textile industry in the United States, my company ( Fieldcrest Mills to Fieldcrest Cannon to Pillowtex)  is no more, having bit the dust in 2003 via the bankruptcy courts. The plants were scattered all over the southeastern U. S. but primarily in North Carolina, are no more.

This is still a bit poignant for me since  several my family members were employed at the company at one time or another, including my parents who were production workers in the Fieldcrest Mills Blanket Mill for  many years.

What is quite interesting to me is  that  the company is gone but the brand names live on, having ben purchased by various entities. One in particular  that comes readily to mind is Royal Velvet. I suppose that it would be correct to say that it was the flagship brand of the Bed and Bath Division. The towels sold under the Royal Velvet name were made in  aslant located in the small Virginia town of Fieldale. To say that this was a quality product would be a bit of an understatement. We are still using Royal Velvet products that were  purchased a number of years ago. The irony to me is that to get a towel equal in quality today, one would be required to spend a significant amount of money. The same holds true for bedding products( sheets, comforters, etc) .

Now, about all the former textile giants have in common is bankruptcy and imploded plants. But, as do many others, I remember some of those days when cotton went from the Card Room  to the Spinning Room to Yarn Preparation ( where my parents worked)  and finally to the Weave Room where a recognizable product surfaced.

It is in truth an industry that is gone but that will always be with us.

March 7, 2011 Posted by | Business, Family, History | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Going Back Home

Thomas Wolfe 1937 4

Image via Wikipedia

Asheville native Thomas Wolfe once wrote that you can’t go home again. I have wondered about that phrase. After all, one can almost always go home again unless there are extraordinary circumstances that prevent that from happening. But, after this past weekend I think I have a better grasp on what he meant.

My wife and I have different hometowns and at this time in our lives we live in hers, having lived in my hometown of Eden,NC  on two separate occasions.

For many reasons, some valid and some  not , we have not been to Eden  in over 20 years. As is often the case we returned under difficult circumstances; the  sudden death of a relative. One of my sisters lost her husband quite suddenly last Wednesday and were drawn home again, at least it was home in my case.

I  have tried to put the trip into some type of perspective, knowing all the while that the trip was not about me, but rather being there for my sister. My wife and I talked   a bit about going back as we traveled, particularly as we  drew closer. The main artery for us is NC Hwy 14 into town and  I was predictably astounded at what I observed. There were businesses galore that we did not know,and could scarcely believe that were there. They had a Cookout, for goodness sake. Old businesses were gone, others inexplicably remained. The hospital ( Morehead Memorial) seemed to be stretching its tentacles everywhere as if it were the only game in town and maybe it is.

Going down main street, Washington,was, as in most small towns sorta sad.  Alas,vacancies seemed to outnumber stores. But, even more surreal was arriving at my home church, Bethel Baptist. The church sanctuary was the venue for the receiving line prior to the funeral. This was a place where I had not set foot since probably 1970. Really, really strange.

Predictably, I  did   not know most of those paying their respects, but every now and then, a familiar face emerged and once again the past became the present and quite nicely I might add.

The service itself was not really a funeral but more of a celebration of what had transpired in my brother in laws life and really my sister’s as well. She was that crucial figure, largely unseen that made a lot of what he did possible. There was as much laughter as tears, largely due to the common bond of Christian faith shared by the members of my family.

The church’s pastor, Darrell Boles, was one whom I knew by word due to my sisters and their spouses, two of whom faithfully attend. I was so very pleased to met him and get to know him for myself. From this point of view he is the right man in   the right place at the right time. I would be remiss if I did not mention  the caring  but professional job done by Fair Funeral Home under the direction of Neil Fair.

So, we went “home” again and I think I learned once again that it’s not so much the  place but those people who are there and were once there that really provide that  unique aura that is no where else.

To all who were there,


February 21, 2011 Posted by | Family, Life and Death | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Up. Up and Whoa!

First Flight, 12/17,1903 (wikipedia commons)

First Flight, 12/17,1903 (wikipedia commons)

My wife left me today- no, not what you might think. It’s only for a week. She flew to Atlanta today to spend a week with my son and his wife, as she will be having surgery tomorrow. For that we are very desirous of  your prayers, for her surgery and a smooth recuperation. The story really lies in  the air. As I mentioned, my wife flew, on a plane. So what, one might say.

Here goes. Airline travel and I have always had an interesting relationship. I am sort of like John Madden and Tony Kornheiser as far as flying is concerned. I’m not quite at that  level, but in the neighborhood. I flew for the first time at age 28 and was terrified. In contrast, my wife first flew before age 20, my daughter, 11 months of age and my son at 22 months of age. Odd man out as you see.

Contrast my first memory with his. I distinctly remember looking at the plane as I boarded, along with veteran flyers ready to tease me, and wondering how the pilots could possibly  see through that tiny windshield. He, on the other hand, made his initial flight at night and kept repeating, ” lights, lights.”

Fortunately, I guess, I have not flown all that much and I absolutely will not sit in a window seat. In fact, if memory serves correct, I once went over 10 years without flying. Now, don’t get me wrong, flying is great and I have never had a real problem while flying. Thank goodness! It is  rather hard to beat  the view from up there. I appreciate the Wright brothers coming down to Kitty Hawk, 105+ years ago and all the advances since  then. But……

One further story might help explain my ambivalence. When we were in college, my as yet to be wife flew to England with a  choral group. Prior to her departure, I was  terrified about all that my happen. As was her wont, she was quite calm. I said, but how can you enjoy flying over the ocean, what if something happens? Responding ever so sweetly, she said, why not enjoy it, there isn’t anything I could do if there were a problem. And so, for not the first time and definitely not the last, my wife silenced me with unassailable logic.

So, enjoy the friendly skies when you feel so inclined. I will still think about it twice or thrice.

July 19, 2009 Posted by | Family | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Lessons from The UK

Seems that maybe   our British cousins are  not be as stodgy as we are led to believe. There is a new pamphlet published by the British National Health Service( this is all true, mind you and remember truth is stranger than fact) entitled “Pleasure.” Of course, no teen will ever see it say government officials because the booklet is designed for use by teachers. OK.

Steve Slack is the Director of the Center for HIV and Sexual Health in Sheffield, England and one of the those who produced the booklet. ( Sheffield is an industrial city of some 500K + people about 4 hours from London. There is no truth to the rumor that all British teenagers are trying to move there) He says that a main goal of the book is to help teens delay the onset of sexual activity until they are emotionally ready.

A couple of comments from those that both agree and disagree with the pamphlet’s approach. Ruby Smith is  the news editor of  Children and Young People Now Magazine. She  adds that another goal  is to  give young people skills to deal with the pressures they are  are facing in this area.  Further it is saying if you do, do it, wait until you are ready  and then enjoy it. So she says, adding that it is not a  license to have sex. News flash, license not necessary.

Now, a perspective from the other side of the coin. Anthony Seldon is headmaster of Wellington College, a school for teens. He does admit that some of the publication makes good sense. However, he added,  he thinks it is wrong to tell 16 year olds  that they should wantonly enter the area  of intimacy just for pleasure’s sake. ” I think it is medically and  emotionally wrong  and will increase teenage pregnancy and impact negatively on  the formation of a  long term loving  relationship.” He wants greater emphasis placed  on the value of long term relationships. I applaud that thought  on his part but think that he is probably in a minority. Not a lot of prominent examples of  his perspective  these days.

This publication is produced in a country that already has a high rate of teenage pregnancy and  sexually transmitted diseases. Is it designed to help in those areas, doesn’t seem so. But time will no doubt tell us.

July 14, 2009 Posted by | Family, Health | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Happy Anniversary to Us !

Today is  a national holiday or at least it should be. A grand total of  36 (yes I know, forever) years ago, at 4:00 pm in the afternoon, I became a happily married man. And I still am. The place was Blackwell Memorial Baptist Church, located on North Road St here in good ole Elizabeth City. There was a varied cast of characters, some alas who are no longer with us. But on  that sultry June day, I only had eyes for  one I considered the most beautiful girl in the world.

I don’t remember everything about that day but I do remember a certain picture of us proceeding up the aisle after the ceremony. As I recall, I was accurately described as looking like a deer in the glare of headlights. I suppose that’s why I stepped on the train of my new wife’s dress during the reception. only a  minor calamity as it were.

So, in the words of the Carpenters song( that I really,really wanted sung at the wedding but was not) it could be rightly said”We’ve Only Just Begun” . A journey that began with a nervous college student in the Cone dorm lobby at Appalachian State University some 32 months earlier reached fruition on June 10, 1973.

By the grace of God, it  continues today and I still maintain that I got the better deal. I love  you, honey and Happy Anniversary again.

June 10, 2009 Posted by | Family | , , , , | Leave a comment

My Second Firstborn

Technically, one cannot have two firstborns. But, one can have a firstborn daughter and a firstborn son. Today is the celebration of the the birth of that firstborn son. Yes, indeed, a quarter century ago  plus one in the “metropolis” of Columbus,Ga, we became the proud and thankful parents of a son.

Unlike our daughter’s birth(see March 8 post) there were no weather related issues.  There was however a near midnight trek to the local hospital with at least one of us expecting to be sent home. You see, we made this trip some three weeks earlier than we had been led  to expect. But, in a manner eerily prophetic of  one who has always gone his  own  way  and continues to do so, our son was ready for his grand entrance. And about 100 hours of labor later- give or take, there he was!

I really wanted to find a suitably embarrassing photo from years  gone by but alas, my completely well intentioned efforts were vetoed by his mom. And  not once, but twice.

So, from those who knew you first, happy birthday and mazel tov!

Ninja Turtles Never Forget Birthday

Ninja Turtles Never Forget Birthday

June 3, 2009 Posted by | Family | , , | Leave a comment

Listerine, Ginger Ale And Neosporin

It’s interesting to note the attachments  we have to things and examine how  we came to have them. Most of have either a favorite brand of car, of toothpaste, a university( hint, the colors are light blue and white) or any number of other products or services. Sometimes we can trace those attachments, sometimes not. And the reverse can also be true. Our major dislikes of things can often be readily traced as well.

My father was a big fan of Listerine mouthwash. He was more than willing to extol its virtues for any number of ills; sore throat or cold as well as its original use. My mother, on the other hand, was a big believer in ginger ale. Feel bad, drink this, we always have some. If I remember correctly, it had to be Canada Dry or it did not count. Similar to them, I am always willing to extol the virtues of Neosporin for cuts , scrapes, etc. We even used it to help our dog’s hurts when he was with us.

It is interesting that we still employ ginger ale today in our three collective families to  aid in curing various and sundry maladies.  My daughter has even passed the virtues down to the grandchildren. But we  are not quite  as good at always keeping it on hand. Listerine is interesting in another way. I grew in time to despise the taste while admitting the benefits. So, we kinda drifted away to first one brand, then another.When the guys at Johnson and Johnson got their act together and came up with more palatable flavors , we returned to the fold.

Without  belaboring the point, several major likes  and dislikes can be traced back to my parents. Chevrolet-yes; Ford-no . pinto beans – yes; a food which my  eastern NC born wife cannot abide yet. My sisters tell on occasion that resemble our dad, not physically, but in mannerisms( ways, the old folks called it) more and more as I age. I truly consider that  to be a compliment . They are probably not including the stubbornness and my  greater degree of  holding my opinions very, very strongly.

This is a rich vein in which to dig and perhaps it will be good to revisit at a later date and give my wife equal time. Still, I cannot help but wonder how many of our quirky ways and favs that my son and daughter’s families will adopt or have already. Truly, the  preacher wrote , “There is no new thing under the sun”.

Shalom, yall.

March 21, 2009 Posted by | Culture, Family | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

Thank you, Snoopy, for that wonderful lead-in. Yes indeed, on that Tuesday evening a number of years ago, it was dark, stormy and cold with a threat of weather of the snowy or icy variety. So, of course, that was the day before our first child was due. But, children never come on the day the doctors say, do they? Well, yes and no, in this case yes. So, in our case, my wife was convinced that our child was going to arrive on schedule and proceeded to scurry around, doing all the myriad of things she needed  to do to prepare for an imminent trip to the hospital, which just happened to be almost 30 minutes away.

The way our house was configured, she had to go  back and forth through the den , oh, i don’t know, maybe a hundred times. Our brilliant cats, Morris and Tilley, watched these proceedings from the comfort of the sofa, only on occasion slightly turning their heads to watch a blurry figure race frantically in front of them. As for me, I went  back to sleep, assuming that nothing was going to happen. You know what is said about assumptions, I am certain. In this case, it was true. After getting ready, my darling wife awoke me again and informed me it was time to head for the hospital. I probably said,”Yes, honey, whatever  you say”, all the while thinking,we are going to look so dumb when we arrive at the hospital and find out that it is a false alarm. We did and it was not.

Approximately,ten  thousand hours or so later, our beautiful first born daughter arrived, in the middle of an ice storm,no less, starting us  on that crazy, wonderful journey of parenthood.


(No I will not tell what year it was)

By the way, the real lesson I learned in all this was to listen to my  wife before I  listened to the cats.

Morris and Tilley In Repose

Morris and Tilley In Repose

March 7, 2009 Posted by | Family | , , , | 1 Comment