Sunday, November 22, 2020

"What Would You Like To Be When You Grow Up?"



September 1958 ".... I Pledge Allegiance.... "

I remember feeling very small and insignificant as I entered my new classroom on that chilly fall morning. Second grade would be much harder than first, at least that's what my older brother assured me.
As I sat at my new desk at the very front of the classroom, I was immediately aware that it was too small for me -- or was my chair too tall? All I knew for sure was that my feet did not touch the floor, and I wasn't about to tell anyone.

I looked above the blackboard to the familiar printed alphabet, A through Z. Beneath it was the script we would be expected to learn this year. My eyes followed the letters that extended the full length of the room, so perfectly formed.... how would I ever learn to write like that? My brother was right, second grade would be very hard.

My teacher took a Bible from off her desk and stood before us.
"Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all ye lands..." Psalm 100 --
I remember it as if it was yesterday. We would fold our hands, bow our heads and pray for our class and for the day ahead.
"Please stand and push your chairs under your desks."
That was the only part I didn't look forward to. The boy seated behind me seemed to have such difficulty pushing his chair in without making the most ear-piercing, screeching sound, sending a chill from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. The teacher would give him one of "those looks" and continue.
"Place your right hand over your heart, and now in unison.... 'I pledge allegiance to the flag.... of the United States of America...'"

As I looked around at my classmates reciting in unison, and up at that familiar red, white and blue flag, my little heart would feel a flutter of exhilaration. Was it pride, or an overflow of thankfulness? Now we not only had the blessing of God, maker of heaven and earth on our day but were reminded once again that we were a part of a very great nation, a nation under God.
Somehow I began to feel less insignificant. It was a very secure feeling, a feeling that gave me confidence, to do my very best -- to learn that script and whatever else was in store for a big second grader.

The second-grade classroom was surrounded by pictures of some very important people. Not ordinary people -- presidents of the United States. There was our very first president, George Washington, he was also a very brave military leader and Abraham Lincoln.... I knew he was the sixteenth -- he was assassinated by a man named John Wilkes Booth. Then there was Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was in office that year, 1958. His wife's name was Mamie. She had bangs and so did I, so my Dad nickname me 'Mamie'. Little did I know that the name would follow me for the rest of my life.

"... And what would you like to be when you grow up?" was the question often asked during those first years of school. Hands would dart up quickly, desperate to be the first to be called on. "Fireman! Policeman!" most of the boys would blurt out. On occasion one who had not been called on would be asked, "And how about you? What would you like to be when you grow up?"
".... President of the United States."
There would be a hush. Everyone would look over at this classmate and finally let out an "...OOOH!"
Because we all knew that presidents were very special people, and very few people would ever become president.


November 22, 1963... Sixth grade.


The announcement came over the public address system in my sixth grade classroom that our president, John F. Kennedy had been shot. There was a hush -- some tears and commotion in the hallways. My two best friends and I walked quickly home from school shaken by the news.
I ran in to break the news to my parents, but they already knew. Their eyes stared in disbelief at the black and white images on the television set; a motorcade through downtown Dallas, a slow-moving Lincoln convertible transporting a smiling waving JFK, suddenly hunched over in the first lady's lap, stricken by a gunman's bullet.
Then came word from newsman Walter Cronkite — “The president has died,” he said, before slowly removing his black-framed glasses and becoming visibly choked up. Our nation mourned, the entire world mourned with us. The president of the United States, the most prestigious office one could aspire to, the office that sets the tone of our land and the course of our nations future -- open for all the world to observe. Someone killed our president.

Something died in the soul of our nation that day. Whether a Republican or a Democrat, it didn't matter -- our president was dead.

In office
January 20, 1961-November 22, 1963



Today is the 57th anniversary of JFK's assassination.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Fourteen Years Ago Today—A Hero to Remember



This is not my usual light-hearted "nostalgic" post—though the hero I will be writing about is a Baby boomer.This memory is one I must write about today, October 25th.


It was a day much like today—autumn, sun shining, leaves covering the ground, though the trees not completely bare. Normally, a day I would consider to be among the most beautiful of all the days of the year. But this day began for me at 3am with a phone call—that call we all dread—a police dispatcher on the other end of the line.
Of all scenarios I could imagine—the one that was about to unfold, was set aside in my mind as one I could never face.
I went to bed at 11 o'clock and woke up at 1am realizing my husband Ed was still at our office two miles away. He had taken his motorcycle and gone in to fix the computer system that was down. He said it might be a long night—it had to be up and running by morning. Our employees were in the middle of a big job that had to ship the following day.
I was awakened again at 3am to the sound of a Medevac helicopter. It sounded like it was about a mile away, "Oh my God, he's not home...is this it?" I just found myself praying, "...have mercy on my husband, if this is for him, please spare his life!"

Within a short time the phone rang—the state police dispatcher,
"Is this Mrs.Walsh? Your husband has been involved in a motorcycle accident. He has some head injuries and is being Medevaced to the Lehigh Valley Trauma Center. I'm sending some officers to your house, can you give me directions?"

Within minutes two state police officers were walking toward my front door; one holding Ed's helmet and the other his back-pack and the shirt he had been wearing, shredded, in pieces. My son Chris had come upstairs and when he saw them coming started crying, holding me. "We have to be strong for each other," he said. For the first time, I started to panic.

The officers told me he had a leg injury and head injury but could not tell me how serious it was. They also had no idea how the accident happened. There was no deer, no car, he had not hit a tree; but there was glass all over the road. They were going to investigate and get back to me.

I went to see Ed in the hospital and amazingly, his injuries were not life threatening. He did, however, break his neck; but thank God it was in such a place that it did not kill him or paralyze him. He had a puncture wound to his shoulder, 50 stitches on his right knee, several broken fingers, and dislocated toes. His right side was hit pretty badly, but no broken legs.

While Ed was in the hospital he got a call from a lady, also named Mary. She was so interested in knowing how he was and how badly he was injured. He remembered very little about the accident and she told him this amazing story.

She said she runs a little drive through coffee shop a few miles from here. Every morning at 2:30 she picks up bagels for the business and opens at 4am. She said she was driving down the road which was very dark, very dimly lit and saw what she thought were garbage bags, perhaps dragged into the road by a bear. She slowed down to avoid hitting them and realized it was someone lying face down in the middle of the road with pieces of a wrecked motorcycle all around him. She pulled off the road, put on her 4-way flashers, called 911 but realized if this person stayed there he was going to be run over by a car.
As she got out of her car a truck drove by dragging a piece of the bike underneath. He stopped his truck, removed the piece from beneath it—and kept going. She said she went through thinking about how you're never supposed to move an injured person—would she be sued—but then determined she HAD to get him off the road.
She tried to talk to him, explained that he had been involved a motorcycle accident and she had to get him off the road. He told her he didn't own a bike—but his leg was injured. Somehow she had him lean on her and use his good leg to help her get him off the road. This was all happening while about ten cars flew by, none stopping to help her.
The ambulance arrived, took over and the police told her to "move on," not realizing what she had just been through. She was so traumatized she couldn't drive.

That's not the whole story...

The police determined that this was a hit and run. The glass all over the road at the scene of the accident was from a car. Ed had hit the car and smashed through the glass with his head.
Ed did recall riding down the road that night and seeing a car coming in the opposite direction—no blinker—begin to make a left hand turn right in front of him. He tried to slow down, but knew he was going to crash into him—and it was going to be bad. He was going close to 40 mph, slower than usual since it was late and he was tired and watching for deer that often crossed the road in that area. The police believe the car that hit him was yellow because there's yellow paint on parts of the bike.

Ed's bike—before


Ed's bike—after the accident

When I talked to Mary on the phone the following day she said, "I believe in God, but I don't pray very much, so please pray that we find this person! Anyone who could leave a person to die or get run over like that should go to jail!"

It is now fourteen years since the accident that dreadful night. We are very thankful that Ed has healed from most of his injuries—following the initial surgeries. 

To this day, the person who left Ed for dead has never been found.


But, as Mary wrote in the letter she sends to Ed each year at this time,


"Pray for the person who did this to you, because he needs all the prayers you can offer. He will have to answer to a higher power one day and answer for what he did."

Mary was honored by our township with an award for her heroic deed that night. She literally put her life on the line to save my husband's life.


How do you thank a person like this?
One way is to tell this story to at least one person
on this day each year—
and the deed will never be forgotten.
.....And I guess I've done that!


God bless you, Mary Hardy!

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Family Camping-Are We Having Fun yet?


Family Camping....what a romantic idea! Bonding—building teamwork-facing challenges together–getting close to God's creation....economical... well...

Preparations for our first camping trip as a family in 1964— destination Lake George, N.Y.— were almost as exciting as the actual trip. Very characteristic of my dad, (Mr.Sawdust) we were going to do this right! One Saturday he escorted my six brothers and me to a large Army-Navy surplus store in Manhattan, a forty minute drive from our home in Upper Montclair, NJ. These stores were equivalent in the 60's to the sports outfitters of today. Each of us was fully equipped with a comfy flannel lined sleeping bag, a denim duffel bag, a compass, a whistle and a flashlight. Every purchase was multiplied nine times-the clerk was loving it! We filed out of the store wearing matching tee shirts and white sailor caps. ...Now if that wasn't a classic scene for the makings of a great family musical!
We had collapsible canvas water buckets, even a portable toilet with a curtain for the utmost privacy. All we had to do was dig the hole.
After careful consideration, figuring how much room the nine of us (..and the dog) would need for sleeping, Dad purchased a tent that would house a circus. Tents back then were not made of lightweight nylon. They were made of heavy canvas so this tent was not only huge but weighed a ton! I remember the center pole was about nine feet tall when the two hardwood poles were assembled. But not to worry—dad and the boys had built a car top carrier that was so big it would easily transport all we had purchased that day...and much more. It extended the entire length of the top of the Dodge wagon. My dad's excitement was contagious! By the time we returned home that night I felt like I had already been on vacation.
The actual camping trip turned out to be much more exciting than that trip to the city for supplies; in fact, it was far more exciting than Dad could have possibly anticipated. That "great family musical" was about to become a hair raising drama.
Dad was always proud to have the family together, crowded into the big Dodge station wagon, along with the family dog. Our basset hound, Boots accompanied us on this trip, claiming his spot behind the driver’s seat. He’d position his stubby hind legs on the edge of the back seat and drop a paw over Dad’s shoulder. Hanging his head out the window, he’d let his long, pendulous ears flap in the breeze. He would rest his head on Dad’s shoulder when the ride became wearisome.
“How many kids have you got there?” attendants would inquire curiously as we stopped for gas. “Seven! Six boys and one girl!” he’d reply. “She must be treated like a queen,” they’d inevitably respond.
It is remarkable how many times I heard that growing up. I guess it was, in fact, true. Taking my place in the middle of six boys, with the understanding that any mistreatment of the one daughter would result in an unhappy situation, made me feel like somewhat of a princess in a strong fortress. I’m sure my “special” position was resented at times, especially on nights when Dad found an interesting movie on television. I would sit up on his lap eating popcorn, slide down from time to time and run up the stairs. “Now, you boys go to bed! We’re downstairs eating popcorn.” I’d skip eagerly back down the stairs.
They loved that, I’m sure.
Yes, we were well equipped, no doubt, but totally unprepared for the violent storm that blew up and threatened to relocate our enormous tent in the middle of the night. I can still see my Dad leaning the weight of his entire body against the massive wooden center pole, in an attempt to keep it standing. The large canvas tarp that had been attached to the pole at the peak of the tent was being hoisted by the winds. Lightning flashes revealed our frightened faces as we sat clutching pots and pans to catch the dripping water.
Thoroughly exhausted from the night, we left the soggy camp site for a site-seeing drive the following morning. The day was damp and chilly and it actually felt good to be back in the crowded station wagon—dog and all. Dad still had his sailor’s cap on, pipe in his mouth, clenched securely between his teeth. He was no doubt a bit shaken by the storm, but didn’t show it. He was still ….on vacation! We drove until lunchtime. “Well, what do you say we head back to….wait a minute—I know where we are! We’ve got to stop up ahead. We’re at the Ausable Chasm!” There was that whisper of suspense in his voice.

Note: See the USA the Easy Way put out by Reader’s Digest describes the Ausable Chasm as follows:

“Here sheer walls of rock rise some 200 feet above the rushing waters of the Ausable River. A tour of the chasm includes a 3/4 mile hike on dangling suspension bridges and winding walkways, past plunging waterfalls and raging rapids, culminating in a boat ride through the swirling waters.


We received a few instructions. I was to keep the dog on his leash, Mom had my youngest brother Chris close by her side. Bruce, Jeff, little Wally and Carl were to follow Dad. We climbed carefully down some boulders, wet and slick with moss, not an easy feat for a basset hound. We could hear the deafening roar of the mighty rapids, rushing furiously due to last nights storm. Soon we could see for ourselves why Dad had made the stop.
It was breathtaking!

This great photo of the Ausable Chasm
by Bryce Koechlin, (AddVision Studios) is as I remember it!

As we stood together looking warily down into the chasm, I recall my Dad’s words, “I seriously doubt a man could fall in there and come out alive. Let’s head back.” With that, he turned to leave. Seconds later, my brother Bruce, who had been mesmerized by the water, was falling headlong down into the rapids. It was one of those moments in time when you are awakened with a jolt from a terrible dream, so relieved—but this was not a dream.
“BRUCE FELL IN!!” I screamed, straining to be heard above the water.
Without a moment’s hesitation, Dad made his way to the edge and jumped in. I could see Bruce’s arms flailing out of the water as he was tossed around and pulled under by the rapids. Within seconds, my mother made her way to the edge, jumped in and was pulled down the river as well. I grabbed as many little hands as I could and walked along the chasm, hoping to see all three, remembering all too well my Dad’s ominous words. Would they come out alive?
What a wonderful sight it was to see my Dad, sailor cap still on his head, and—I kid you not—pipe in his mouth, standing beyond the rapids in an alcove of rocks, embracing Bruce and Mom.
It was a very tearful, thankful, crowded ride back in the station wagon. Bruce cried the loudest however. Thankful, yes, he had not lost his life, but a comparable tragedy to him — he had lost his harmonica.
We sat quietly at the picnic table in the stillness of evening, humbled by the day. “Do you see this frail little mantle in this lantern?” Dad asked. We gazed in to see the delicate mantle providing the only light in the campsite. “That is how frail our life is. In one second, it can be taken away!”
We were dirty. We were tired. We were sick of being on vacation. But the following morning we filed into the nearest church we could find, just to say, “thank you” that we would all be heading home.



This picture of Boots and me was taken while swimming
in lake George-the day before the incident at the Ausable chasm.
*No wonder my teacher thought I was telling tales when I returned in the fall and turned in my “What I Did on My summer Vacation” essay....and hard to believe there would be a second family camping adventure.