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Monthly Archives: November 2015

Notes from an old reporter

IMG_3790IMG_3788IMG_3801Christmas has already arrived at 3159 W. 11th St. in Cleveland, Ohio. That’s the address for the house used in some of the filming of the 1983 movie “A Christmas Story.” The Bob Clark-directed, low-budget motion picture was released in only 600 theaters, and it flopped. But it became a holiday classic thanks to Turner Broadcasting, which began showing it on TNT or TBS during the holiday season. The house, located in a working-class neighborhood near downtown Cleveland, is now a tourist attraction, complete with a Christmas tree in the living room and a leg lamp in the living room window. Across the street is a museum with original props, costumes and memorabilia from the film, plus some rare behind-the-scenes photos. There is also a large souvenir/gift shop. Visiting the house was on my bucket list, so my bride and I stopped there last April on our way to Connecticut to visit a son and grandson who live there. A Christmas Story House is open for tours seven days a week year round, except on major holidays. You can get more information at (216) 298-4919 or info@achristmasstoryhouse.com.
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The late Wayne Littell of Eldridge, who died in July, accomplished a lot in his lifetime. But I suspect most people didn’t realize he had been a disc jockey at one point. As I recall, Wayne had spun records in Maquoketa, not far from his Baldwin, Iowa, birthplace. I met him later, in the 1970s, when we were both part-time disc jockeys at the former KWNT, the Quad-Cities original country music station. A mechanical engineer, Wayne’s full-time job then was at Long Manufacturing.
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When I am behind the wheel of my large SUV, my short arms are unable to reach the buttons on the ATM machine at Walcott Trust and Savings Bank. So I’ve been known to park on the street, walk to the ATM, do my transaction, then return to the car. That was my plan a few weeks ago, but I apparently put my card into the machine incorrectly, and it didn’t work. As I was standing there, probably looking perplexed, I heard a male voice on an outdoor speaker. It said something like this: “Hey, Phil. You can’t use that ATM. You are in a drive-through lane, and you don’t have a car!” Then there was laughter. It was my longtime friend, Daron Oberbroeckling, who works at the bank. Small towns are much like the “Cheers” TV show, where everybody knows your name.
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It seems like all bad deeds are caught on video these days. Most everyone — with the exception of me — has a smart phone and shoots video when something is happening. In recent weeks a sheriff’s deputy lost his job for the tactics he used in removing a student from a classroom. She had been asked to leave by her teacher but would not comply. A school bus driver was put on suspension for roughing up a student who had been asked to sit down but also did not comply. While the deputy and bus driver may have used excessive force, the students were also in the wrong. My parents taught me at an early age to obey them, my grandparents, my teachers, police officers and other authority figures. I’m afraid that’s a lesson that isn’t being taught much anymore. I knew if I got into trouble outside the home, I’d be in more trouble when I returned home.
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It is no wonder that awards programs on TV run so doggone long; they waste a lot of time on stupid stuff. That was true for the recent “CMA Awards” on ABC. The show opened with what FOXNews.com said was “a weak opening video skit where the show attempted to marry country music with ‘Star Wars.’” Calling it weak is putting it nicely. Then co-hosts Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley spent at least another 15 minutes unsuccessfully trying to be funny. They may have gone beyond that 15 minutes. I don’t know because we turned off the television at 7:20 as Paisley was dropping his bluejeans to reveal plaid boxer shorts. Who knows why. As my wife turned off the TV set, I was shouting at it, “Just present the awards!” I often talk to the radio or TV. When a news anchor gives his or her opinion on a particular story — in other words editorializes — I shout, “Just read the news.” When a disc jockey drones on and on, I shout, “Just play the music.” We watch a lot of PBS TV programs, and that saves a lot of shouting on my part.

Copyright 2015 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. Submitted a a column to The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

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Posted by on November 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Happy Veterans Day, Captain

Philip Ingraham

Philip Ingraham

philip-ingraham

Here is a pre-Veterans Day salute to the Army officer for whom I was named, Capt. Philip Ingraham from Massachusetts, who went into the Army in 1942. He was killed in action in France in 1944. My dad, Harry Raymond (Ray) Roberts, served under Ingraham and had a great deal of respect for him. Following are some excerpts from my dad’s World War II memoirs regarding Ingraham, who is pictured here.
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“At the end of Tennessee maneuvers, Capt. Philip Ingraham must have thought that we had been in the field so long that we needed something different. So we dressed up in our Class A uniforms and went to the city of Nashville. He had contacted the YWCA or some other girls’ organization and scheduled a dance for Company C members. All the girls lined up at the top of the stairs while the guys got in line at the foot of the stairs. As the girls came down the steps, each guy stepped forward and that was your dancing partner for the night. I don’t remember my partner’s name, but it was a fun evening. I have pictures in my Army album showing us at the dance. Every member of C Company was there, including all the officers.”
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“Capt. Ingraham always went out of his way to show he cared for his men. Another incident that I remember in Tennessee was when Capt. Ingraham probably saved my neck. One day, our entire company was walking down an old dusty road in Tennessee and it was one of those terribly hot days. Along came a Jeep that was traveling too fast and, as our two columns pulled to side of the road, the Jeep was speeding between our columns. Just before the Jeep appeared, I had picked up a paper sack full of flour. It had probably been dropped by an airplane and had not broken. You see, during maneuvers airplanes would ‘bomb’ us with sacks of flour. Anyway, as I said, it was hot and dusty and this Jeep was showering us with dust. Here we were walking and two guys were riding and showing no concern for us. This I resented, so without hardly thinking, I threw that sack of flour at the Jeep and I hit the passenger. The Jeep stopped immediately as I had hit an officer in the leg. I figured I was in trouble, but thank goodness the officer was only a second lieutenant. First Lt. Ingraham came over and took care of the situation for me. In no uncertain terms, he ordered that second lieutenant to get out of there and now. It was just another time when Capt. (then First Lt.) Ingraham took care of his guys. It was such things as this that endeared him to his boys of Company C.”
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“On July 4, 1944, one of our mortars was placed in the middle of the road. I was about 10 yards in front and to the right of it. Capt. Ingraham was a few feet in front of me. All of a sudden there was a terrific explosion in back of me. The captain asked, ‘What happened?’ I looked back and, where the mortar had been located, there was a big hole. I told him that a shell had hit the mortar. But later on we discovered that two guys with the mortar had placed it on a mine and, after firing it a couple times, the mortar’s base plate had sunk deeper and set off the mine. We lost two guys….On July 4, we formed a line and advanced across a wheat field for maybe 200 yards to get to the hedge rows on the other side. We had no problem until we got to the hedge rows. There they were. The Germans were waiting for us. Capt. Ingraham told me to take a couple runners and go to our left behind the hedge row, as we were out in the open. I didn’t know how far he wanted us to go, so I stopped and waved to him to see if we had gone far enough. He raised his hand, and I saw him go down. I believe that was when he was shot. As shells and hand grenades were coming along the hedge row and getting closer and closer, I decided that was not the place for me. So I started crawling toward the wheat field as I thought the field would be a safer place to be.”

Copyright 2015 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

LaSalle Canal Boat is inexpensive, relaxing

IMG_4756 IMG_4762 IMG_4772 IMG_4776 IMG_4784 IMG_4786When my wife rode on the mule-pulled LaSalle Canal Boat (http://www.lasallecanalboat.org) with the Plus 60 Travel Club earlier this year, I was under the weather and opted out of the trip. I was feeling better in late October wanted to ride the boat before it closed for the season at the end of October, so I reserved two seats online and we headed to LaSalle, Ill.

The LaSalle Canal Boat is a full-size replica of the 1800s canal boats that once carried passengers and cargo on the I&M Canal. The hand-dug, 96-mile Illinois and Michigan Canal, just 3 to 4 feet deep, extends from the Illinois River at LaSalle-Peru to Bridgeport, near Chicago. It connects the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.

Our 76-by-15-foot boat — built in 2008, and named Volunteer — is docked in downtown LaSalle, near Starved Rock State Park and the LaSalle Canal Boat and Lock 16 Visitor Center Café & Gift Shop, which offers dining, shopping, information, exhibits, lectures, afternoon teas and cultural programs.

The Visitor Center is also where tickets, even if reserved online, are picked up. They are a reasonable $14 each or just $12 for senior citizens. Kids ride free. A $2 service charge is added to each ticket for reserving seats online. All proceeds generated from the café, gift shop and ticket sales support the operations, mission and preservation of the I&M National Heritage Corridor.

The boat operates three times a day. It has an enclosed first deck and an open-air second deck. The mule, walking on a path on shore, pulls the boat with little effort by a rope one half-hour in one direction, then one half-hour in the other direction back to the dock. We were on the 11:30 a.m. ride with about a dozen other passengers. A tour guide provided lots of information both before and during the cruise.

Moe, a 1,600-pound, 28-year-old mule, pulled our ride. Moe was available for petting and photographs before and after the ride. Our tour guide also gave us marshmallows to feed him as a treat.

We found the LaSalle Canal Boat ride an inexpensive and relaxing way to spend some time.

Copyright 2015 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2015 in Uncategorized