Thoughts at the Time of the Kennedy Assassination

I posted an article earlier this week that talked about my visit to my old neighborhood in Akron, Ohio. In that story, I mentioned that my first elementary school, Guinther School, had been torn down earlier this year. I even included a picture of where the school used to be.

I attended Guinther from kindergarten through 3rd grade. My teachers were Miss Pence, Miss Shade, Mrs. Randolph, and Miss Gross. What I remember most about my years there happened in my third grade year.

Actually, it will be the 49 year anniversary of this event next Thursday. It was a Friday afternoon in late November. It was about 2:00 pm Akron time. Miss Gross had left the room a few minutes earlier, and when she returned, she was obviously crying. As the room had gone into immediate silence, all 34 kids in our class were all wondering the same thing, what was wrong?

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I distinctly remember that she stood in front of the class, and in a very calm, but matter of fact way, proceeded to tell us that President Kennedy had been shot and killed in Texas.

If a class can get even quieter, it did at that moment. School let out at 3:30, and I don’t recall much of what went on between 2:00 pm & 3:30 pm, but I know it wasn’t a lot. I do remember talking a lot with my friend Kirk Murphy about it, who sat next to me in the room. We walked home together as we usually did. In a time before cell phones and social media, and in a time of youthful imagination, there was a lot of wild speculation going on.

I remember going into the house on Millbrook St., and my Mom had the old black & white TV on. She was in much the same shape as Miss Gross was. Crying, not believing what had happened.

It was a truly long weekend for not only our family, but for all of the United States, as well as the world. I remember being in our upstairs on Sunday morning playing with my 2 younger brothers, and all of a sudden, my Mom was yelling up to us about something that had just happened on the TV. Our TV, like most TV’s on that weekend, had been on pretty much non-stop since Friday afternoon. On that Sunday morning, Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused killer of JFK, was being led out of the police station, when Jack Ruby darted out of the crowd of reporters, and shot Oswald at near point blank range on LIVE television.

That video, as well as the famous picture of Oswald being hit by the gunshot, are images that live in infamy from that weekend. The funeral in Washington DC on that Monday tome is just remembered as a very sad time.

Over the years, I’ve read numerous books on the subject of the Kennedy assassination. Currently, I am reading the book, “Killing Kennedy,” written by Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard. This is a follow-up book to their #1 bestseller, “Killing Lincoln.”

Both books are very well written, are easy reads, and are quite informative. If either of these periods of time, and these events are of interest to you, I would highly suggest either of these.

A Visit to the Old Neighborhood

We all came from somewhere.
For me, it is the mid-sized, mid-western town of Akron, Ohio.

Millbrook St. “House of My Youth”

I spent the first 25 years of my life growing up & living there. Got married in Akron, and bought my first house there as well. Maureen & I moved to Mansfield, Ohio in 1980. Our 2 oldest sons were born while we lived there. We moved to Auburn, Indiana in 1988, and have lived here ever since. Our third son was born while living here.

As I grow older, many times my thoughts harken back to the days of when I was young, and to the old neighborhood where we lived when I was very young.

I had to travel to Akron on Monday night to go to the calling hours of a family member who had passed away. The funeral home was not too far from my old neighborhood in Akron. This area, when built in the mid to late 1950’s, was known as “Castle Homes,” and is located in an area of Akron called Kenmore.

With a short amount of time on my hands before going to the funeral home, I decided to make the turn off of Manchester Rd. and onto Carnegie to make the quarter mile or so drive to Millbrook St. We lived in the 13th house on the left hand side of the street, at 2951.

We moved into this house in November of 1957, and stayed living there until April of 1968. I was almost 3 when we moved in, and was 13, and just finishing 7th grade when we moved. Almost everything I can remember from my early childhood took place while living there.

The times spent with my Dad & Mom, and sister & brothers. The family Christmas get together’s with extended family were always at our house. Going to Guinther School and Highland Park School. The neighborhood of people who till this day, I can still remember names, and which houses they lived in. As I alluded to in an earlier story, the baseball playing with my Dad in the backyard. The making of lifelong friends (my 2 best friends, other than family, Gary Ilijevich & Bruce Frazier, grew up in this neighborhood as well. I keep in touch with them to this day).

The street is still in “kept-up condition,” for being as old as it now is. There are still a few of the people living there who have lived there now for going on 60 years. The old Young’s Restaurant is now gone, as is Guinther School. Highland Park School has been torn down and replaced by Sam Salem Elementary. Many of the people who helped to shape my early life as good friends and good neighbors have now passed on.

I could go on and on. There are so many memories, and so many stories to tell. For me, it is always nice, but somewhat poignant to go “back to my roots.”

Dekalb Health’s Annual “Healthy Halloween Fair” – A Great Time For All

Maureen & I had the pleasure of being at the Dekalb County Fairgrounds on Tuesday evening to take part in Dekalb Health’s annual “Healthy Halloween Fair.”

Bernie Interviewing at the HHF

The Mad Ants Mascot was on Hand

It is a truly great event that has become part of yearly fun that takes part around the Halloween festivities here in the Auburn area. Kids can attend and participate in games, events, and win prizes in a very healthy manner. Even on a night when the weather wasn’t the best, there was a wonderful turnout of young people.

What we have done in the many times that we have participated is to set up one of the cameras that we use for videotaping the programs that we air on Dekalb TV, and we interview the kids and let them watch themselves on the TV monitor. It is a lot of fun, and the kids, as well as their parents, really seem to enjoy it.

We usually ask names, ages, about their costumes, if they like being on TV, etc. You would be surprised as to some of the answers that we get. Some kids that might seem shy at first, once on camera, really start to “preen” as they see themselves on the screen.

The event is organized by Cheryl Clark & Terri Christiansen from Dekalb Health. I’ve known both for many years, and they do a tremendous job in getting this event “off the ground” each and every late October.

Dekalb Health has been a loyal supporter of ours at Dekalb TV since our inception back in 1998. We truly appreciate what they do for us. Like I am wont to say during our game broadcasts, “we would not be able to do what we do without the help and support that they give us.”

The World Series – The Apex of the Baseball Season

The World Series of professional baseball begins tonight in San Francisco where the Giants are hosting the Detroit Tigers for bragging rights as to who is “world champions.”

Justin Verlander and Barry Zito will be on the hill as each team tries to get the upper hand in game one. It should be a great series between 2 teams that I truly like & respect.

Some of the Family at a Texas-Cleveland Game From Earlier This Year

It is somewhat bittersweet though, as my beloved Texas Rangers will be watching from home after 2 straight appearances in the “Fall classic.” After being what was considered the best team in baseball for the better part of this past season, Texas faltered during the final couple of weeks, and were eliminated in the wild card play-in game.

I’ve been a baseball fan for all of my life, and getting the chance to go to the World Series in both of the past 2 seasons was something I will treasure forever. It not only was exciting, and had a certain “magic aura” to it, but having the chance to do this with family members made it very special.

Even though the Rangers lost the series both years, with last year’s being especially excruciating, being able to experience that whole atmosphere with Maureen, Brandon, Ethan, Krista, and our oldest son Joey, who works for the Rangers, made it truly memorable for me.

Good luck to both teams this year. It should be a memorable series in its own right, hopefully without any controversy. I’ll sit back and enjoy watching, and may the best team win!

Trilogy of Ali-Frazier Battles, a Great Time For Boxing

I was having lunch with my good buddy Larry earlier this week, solving the problems of the world as we usually do, when the talk turned to the subject of boxing, heavyweight boxing specifically.

Joe Frazier & Muhammad Ali

We both grew up in what we consider the “hey-day” boxing’s top weight class. That would be the 1960’s & 1970’s.

That “golden era” started with Floyd Patterson & Sonny Liston, and ended with Larry Holmes. But oh my, in between there were truly some great fighters, who put on some tremendous bouts.

Muhammad Ali (aka Cassius Clay), Joe Frazier, George Foreman, George Chuvalo, Jerry Quarry, Jimmy Ellis, Ken Norton, Earnie Shavers, and Leon Spinks, just to name some.

These guys fought each other, didn’t back down, and fought frequently. Nothing like today where guys wait YEARS before getting into the ring to take on a top opponent.

In my opinion, the greatest boxing rivalry ever, maybe the greatest sports rivalry ever, were the 3 fights between Ali & Frazier that took place between March 1971, and September of 1975.

The first fight, staged in Madison Square Garden, was probably the biggest, most hyped sporting event in the 20th century. Both fighters were guaranteed 2.5 million dollars, an unheard of amount at that time. Anybody & everybody from the sports & entertainment industries were in attendance. Frank Sinatra was a ringside photographer for gosh sakes!

“Smokin Joe” knocked Ali down in the 15th round, and won the decision. The fight did not disappoint as far as action & and punches thrown that landed.

They met for the second time in January of 1974. I was living in Daytona  Beach, Florida at the time, going to school. I skipped out of a Monday night class, and drove 80 miles to Orlando to watch the fight on closed circuit TV. This fight was the least remembered of the three. Not as much hype as the first, but a good fight none the less. Ali controlled the fight, and won the decision.

Their third and final fight, took place just over 37 years ago in Manila, as my good friend Gary pointed out in a Facebook posting recently. Ali had regained the championship in a stunning upset of George Foreman about a year before this fight, and Frazier was hoping to regain the crown that he had lost to Foreman a few years prior.

The fight was simply a war from the opening bell. Both fighters would just pound and pound on the other, but neither would back down. Ali controlled the first five rounds or so, but then Frazier took over. Joe turned the fight around between rounds 6 and 10. Ali is actually quoted as saying he wanted to quit in around the 11th round.

But then, like the great champion that he was, Ali regained the momentum. By the end of the 14th round, Joe’s eyes were a swollen mass. The fight was stopped, and Ali kept the title. Ironically, despite the punishment that was inflicted, neither fighter was knocked down.

Looking back, this fight was the apex for both of these tremendous champions. They were never the same again. Frazier’s career came to end not long after the “Thrilla in Manila.” Ali hung on until early 1981, but he was a shell of himself as he lost his two last fights to Holmes & Trevor Berbick.

My buddy Larry was at the Ali-Holmes fight. As he has told me many times, you just don’t realize what it was like to be in an arena, and to have the heavyweight champ(s) come out of the dressing rooms and make their way to the ring.

I like to tell people that I met Ali in early March 1975, about 6 months before the 3rd Frazier fight. He came to Daytona Beach to fight an exhibition for the local boys club. My brother and I got first row ringside seats for $3 each. Ali fought 6 rounds against 2 separate opponents. He then entertained the crowd for about 30 minutes or so. As he was leaving the ring area, he shook both of our hands as he went by. It’s a truly great sports memory for me.

Who is the current heavyweight champion?

“Bat Out of Hell” Evokes Great Memories

The Materpiece, “Bat Out of Hell”

Growing up in the sixties & seventies, and during that time, learning to love what is considered “rock & roll” music, you could say that I truly am addicted to good compositions from that era.

Last evening, while getting ready for a good walk on the treadmill, I was looking for something to listen to while I was “sweating.” You could say that I am an old-time creature from the past, as I have good size speakers set up on each side of the treadmill to hear the music in a clear, crisp, but most of all, LOUD way.

Meatloaf, Ellen Foley, & Jim Steinman

I chose what I consider to be if not the best album I have ever heard, it is certainly in my top 2-3. That would be “Bat Out of Hell” sung by Meatloaf, and written by Jim Steinman.

Recorded in 1977, it has since sold over 43 million copies. Including LP’s, cassettes, and CD’s, I’ve probably worn out 10 myself.

I was introduced to this masterpiece in early 1978. After I listened to it for the first time, I bet that a day didn’t go by for the next few months that I didn’t listen to the whole album at least once.

The seven songs that are presented take up a total of 46 1/2 minutes of listening time, and each song is a truly special in their own way. In case you didn’t know, the seven songs are:
1) Bat Out of Hell
2) You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)
3) Heaven Can Wait
4) All Revved Up With No Place to Go
5) Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad
6) Paradise By the Dashboard Light
7) For Crying Out Loud

The album plays like a rock opera that tells a story that includes motorcycles, speed, young love gained, as well as young love lost. There is also more than just a hint of sexual innuendo.

Meatloaf, who was born Marvin Lee Aday, does a masterful job presenting the lyrics in his own, unique way. Jim Steinman, who wrote the songs, does most of the piano work. Todd Rundgren, a great rock& roller himself, produced the album. Rundgren also does the guitar work during the “motorcycle revving” part on Bat Out of Hell, which starts at about the 6 1/2 minute mark of the song. There are also appearances on the album by Max Weinberg & Roy Bittan of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, Edgar Winter on sax, great female vocals by Ellen Foley, and of course, legendary baseball announcer Phil Rizzuto. His call of the “suicide squeeze” during “Paradise” is unforgettable.

After all of these years, it is still a tremendous listen. My time on the treadmill flew right by as I was “singing the lead” on most of the tunes.

My favorite song on the album would have to be……………………? I love them all. Go out and get yourself a copy.

Tremendous Fireworks Display Cap Off Evening in Cleveland

I had the opportunity last week to “go on the road” and take in a baseball game between the Texas Rangers and the Cleveland Indians over at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

One of the Many Fireworks

If you read the stories that I post, you know how much I enjoy watching baseball. Watching the game though, was only one of a few reasons that made the night special.

My oldest son Joey, who has worked for the Rangers for a number of years,has always had a great sense of family, and family values. Since we grew up in Akron,Ohio, and have a number of family members who still live in that area, he invited many family members to come to the game(s) over the weekend so we could spend some time together. For that reason alone, it was pretty special.

We had attended a game in Chicago on the fourth of July, and the folks there put on a dazzling fireworks display. I thought that one was one of the best I had ever witnessed.

O-H-I-O, performed by Krista, Michael, Ethan, & Joey

But after last Saturday’s nights game, I saw, bar none, the absolute best fireworks show I have ever watched. It was Labor Day weekend, so the show promised to be special. The show was a non-stop, 40 minutes of “grand finale” fireworks the entire time. It had laser lights interspersed while the fireworks were going off, and the best was, the show was synchronized to Beatles music.

While the music was playing, which included a wide array of Fab Four songs, Beatles video was playing on the “jumbotron” to make it even more enjoyable.

I’ve always loved the Beatles music, so I was in entertainment heaven while the show was going on. I was totally mesmerized. It was fantastic!

Family, baseball, fireworks, Beatles music. A great time was had by all.

“I’m Your Huckleberry!”

If you are at all familiar with the movie “Tombstone,” you know that the phrase “I’m your Huckleberry” is said by the legendary Doc Holliday many times throughout the picture.

The movie is a truly great “western” that glamorizes the exploits of the aforementioned Holliday, as well as Virgil, Morgan, and Wyatt Earp. A central theme of the movie is that it tries to convey the togetherness, as well as “family above all else” when it comes to addressing issues that need to be addressed.

Virgil, Doc, Wyatt, & Morgan, A.K.A. Bernie, Brandon, Joey, & Ethan

Whether you agree or not as to how close the movie is to the actual historical record, it does convey the “central themes” in a very enjoyable, as well as believable way. It is a family favorite of ours that has been watched many, many times.

As a family, we kid around as to what characters each of us might be in the movie. It always comes down to me being Virgil Earp. I think the reasoning behind this is just that I’m old, and Virgil was the oldest brother. Brandon ends up being Doc Holliday, Ethan is Morgan Earp, and Joey is Wyatt Earp. Obviously, this is just fun fantasy.

I would always like to think that our family is quite close. Such as the relationships that are displayed in Tombstone. We are always there for each other, no matter what the problem, through thick and thin. We always have each others backs. No issue is either too big or too small that we can’t be there for each other to offer advice, or a helping hand.

Brandon is in California, Joey is in Texas, Ethan is in his second year of college at Trine, and Maureen & I are at home. If we don’t talk every day, we talk a few times a week to stay abreast of what is going on in each of our lives.

Like the Earp’s & Holliday, it is all for one, and one for all in our family. Don’t ever forget, that “I’m your Huckleberry!”

Caribbean Dunn’s River Falls More Than Expected

A few years back, we decided to go on a Western Caribbean cruise with a group of friends. We had never been on a cruise, so we thought it was about time to see what this was all about.

Bernie (with camera of course), Ethan, & Maureen

We sailed out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida in mid July. Even though it was a bit warm that time of year, once you get out on the water, it’s not as hot as you might think for that part of the world.

You have the opportunity to experience a number of excursions that are available at your “port-of-calls.” Just about anything water or island related you can take part in.

After we spent a day in Key West on our first stop, we set sail for the open sea, and were heading towards Jamaica, and our excursion there was something we were all looking forward to.

Once docking in Jamaica, we headed for an attraction known as “Dunn’s River Falls.” Our whole group were all going to traverse up the Falls. Naively, we thought it would be something where you would walk up around the side of the Falls, maybe get a little wet, and then be done with it.

That was not the case. Now this wasn’t Niagara Falls, but there was plenty of water, and you got plenty wet. You literally walked up the rocks with the Falls drenching you with water for almost the entire time. Sometimes it was a bit slippery and dangerous, and you would have to help each other out, but eventually, you would make it up the Falls if you were careful.

I had my video camera with me, and I got off the trail up the Falls at about the 3/4 mark, and was able to take video of Ethan & Maureen getting to the top.

It was truly a great experience that we still talk about. The rest of the cruise was certainly a lot of fun, especially all of the wonderful food. But the true highlight was “Dunn’s River Falls.”

The Knightstown Gym – A Wonderful Place to Visit

In the state of Indiana, there are numerous places to see and visit with a sports related theme, that don’t cost an arm and a leg,and are just a whole lot of fun.

The Team poses in Front of the Knightstown Gym

I had the opportunity to visit just such a place a few years back with my Summer league baseball team.

If you grew up in Indiana, what is one of the biggest things that we are known for? Well, besides corn, it is the game of basketball. Even though it was invented on the East coast, it was here that high school and college basketball was nurtured and grew into what it is today.

Saying that, what is one of the first things that comes to mind when thinking about Indiana high school basketball? For me, it is the movie “Hoosiers.” Released in 1986, it starred Gene Hackman, Dennis Hopper, and Barbara Hershey.

The scenes in the movie that take place in the “Hickory Husker” gym, were filmed in a small gym in Knightstown, Indiana, which is about 20 miles or so East of Indianapoolis, a little ways off of I-70.

Many great scenes from the movie take place there. One of my favorites is when Coach Norman Dale (Hackman), refuses to let one of his players back in the game for not following instructions. He then has to play with only 4 players. According to that player, who is named Rade Butcher in the movie, and is played by Steve Hollar, it took 4 days to shoot that game & that sequence.

Our Baseball Team in the Very Locker Room Where Coach Dale Talked With the Team

Another of my favorite scenes is when the coach “talks from the heart” to his team in the lockerroom after that first game.

When you get to the Knightstown gym, which is now used as a community center, you would never know that this is the famous gym. It seems so small. But once you get inside, it is still almost identical to how it was in the movie.

You are allowed to play hoops, go into the lockerroom, recreate some of the famous scenes from the movie, and all in all, just have a lot of fun.

If you are ever in the area, don’t miss out on a golden opportunity to visit a true “mecca” for basketball fans, the Knightstown gym.

As a sidenote, our family visited the Knightstown gym about a year or so after our baseball team did, and my 3 sons and I played a seven game series of two-on-two. We had the whole gym to ourselves for over 2 hours.