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.”

My Dad

He would have been 85 if he wouldn’t have passed away 12 years ago yesterday due to the ravages of Alzheimers disease. On that day, our phone rang at around 6:30 in the morning as I was getting ready for work. It was my brother Mike informing us of what had happened. He had died in his sleep at a nursing home in Barberton, Ohio.

Dad, Mom, & Me at My Wedding in 1978

My sister Sue posted numerous pictures of him yesterday on Facebook. Pictures of him with her, my Mom, myself, my 2 brothers, and with some of the grandkids. Looking at those pictures, as well as knowing it was the anniversary of his death, it just conjured up a thought that I often have. I truly long to be able to sit down with him and just have one more conversation, even if for just one hour.

If I had the chance, what would I say? I would have to start by thanking him for being a good Father. And then I’d thank him again. He set an example from as far back as I can remember of always being there for us. He worked hard, many times working 2, sometimes 3 jobs at a time to make sure we were provided for.

Some of my favorite memories are when he would take me with him when he was “lathing” houses, and let me earn a little bit of money by helping out. It was me, him, my Uncle Andy, and even my Grandpa on occasion. Great times!

Even while working to provide, he would find time to always play baseball in the backyard on Millbrook St. with us. He would be hitting us “grounders & popups,” and before you knew it, the yard would be full of kids playing right along. He never hesitated to include everyone.

I would tell him that Mom still lives in the house in Manchester, and she is still fairly healthy at 82. I would tell him that she always talks about him when I visit.

I would tell him that his kids are all doing well. I’d say we all have great families, great spouses, have good solid careers, and that his grandkids, and great-grandkids are just a terrific bunch!

I’d obviously be able to go into more detail with my 3 sons. I’d say what great young men they have become. They work hard to be the best that they can be in their respective fields. I’d tell him he would be intrigued by their careers & educational choices. I know he would love to sit down with them and discuss their lives.

We’d talk about the world we currently live in, and how different it is from even a decade or so ago. I’d tell him how 9/11 changed the world. He would be appalled.

I’d thank him again for building the groundwork for me to be able to live & prosper in a very tough world. And I would thank him for helping to instill in me the knowledge to be able to pass on the love & caring to my boys so they can do the same.

I wish that I had just one more hour. Through my faith and religious beliefs, I know he is with me, and he always will be. For now, that will have to do.

I’ll close by saying, that when I walk down the street, and the subject of my Father comes up, I can hold my head high and say, that just wasn’t anybody, that was my Dad!

“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.

“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.”

Legends of Music Transformed My Man Cave

When moving to Indiana back in 1988, all of my old LP record albums were stored in boxes, as was my “turntable” that played those record albums. During the 4 hour ride to the Hoosier State, my “turntable” was broken.

I never had the record changer fixed, as we rented a house for the first ten months in Indiana.  A lot of our belongings weren’t unpacked until we bought a house  those ten months later, including the above mentioned precious cargo.

Anyway, by that time, cassette tapes were pretty much the vogue, with the onset of CD’s already making a huge inroad into the way that people listened to music.

So my albums sat in those boxes. For years.

“Albums as Art” on Display

Those albums contained what in my mind was some of the greatest music ever created, by some of greatest artists ever to put their own special influence into the “rock-n-roll” genre.

“Meet the Beatles,” “Who’s Next,” “Bat Out of Hell,” “Abbey Road,” “Quadrophenia,” “Dark Side of the Moon,” “Band on the Run,” “LA Woman,” “Hotel California,” “Rumours,” “Sgt. Peppers,” “Magical Mystery Tour,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “Ziggy Stardust,” “Heartland,” “The Cars,” “Endless Summer,” “Grand Illusion,” anything by Led Zeppelin, the list goes on, and on, and on.

While rebuilding my “man-cave” a few years back, I was trying to think of a way to use these albums to remind myself when I was down there about growing up and listening to all of these great works of art.

I had to go on a business trip about this time, and while flying, I was paging through one of the airline magazines that is provided. There, right before my eyes, was a picture of what was called “Albums as Art.”

You frame as many albums that you want, and then you can display them in any pattern that you can imagine.

The problem in  my case was, which one’s do you display? Of course that is left up to the individual.

I love music. I truly loved all of these albums. The “man-cave” has never been the same.

Haight-Ashbury, Still Crazy After All These Years

Street Sign at Intersection of Haight & Ashbury Streets in San Francisco

When we traveled to San Francisco recently, one of my “must-do” bucket list items was to travel to a part of the city known as Haight-Ashbury. The name simply derives from the intersection of two streets right in the middle of this area.

If you are around my age, or are even a history buff who studies these things, you know that back in the late 1960’s, Haight-Ashbury was the epicenter of what this era was known for – hippies, drugs, protests, make love not war, music, more drugs, and so on and so on.

Tremendous amounts of people, mostly 15-ish to 25-ish flocked to San Francisco, and would ultimately end up in the area known as Haight-Ashbury.

While we were there, it was easy to go back in time and picture the thousands of people lining the streets, as well as congregating in the nearby park, and doing all of the things that I mentioned above.

A Couple of “Hippies” from the 60’s Era

Whether you agreed what was going on there or not, it was history in the making, and it was the cutting edge of a time that shaped what is going on in our country today.

There are a number of shops & restaurants that are still run by the people who were there and experienced the 1960’s first hand, even though, they are now “hippies” of an older variety.

If you ever get the chance to travel to the “City by the Bay,” make sure and visit this area. I truly enjoyed the experience.

Wow, man.

Celebrating Fathers Day

This past weekend, as happens every year in mid-June, “Fathers Day” was celebrated across the USA.

For me, I was truly blessed to have not only a great Dad, but a great Father-in-Law as well. Both of these wonderful men taught me so much in the game of life, that it would be impossible to ever attempt to give back to them all that they gave to me. In so many different ways, they didn’t talk a good game, they led by example.

Brandon, Ethan, Bernie, & Joey

All that I can do, is to try to lead by example, and to make my 3 sons a reflection of all that my Dad & Father-in-law did for me.

What are the keys to producing that reflection of the excellence that was shown me? As my youngest son Ethan so eloquently pointed out to me a few years back when he was very sick at Riley Children’s Hospital, our lives are built around Faith, Family, and Friendship.

I’m proud to say that while the boys were growing up, Maureen & I always attended church with them each and every week. Our family developed a strong spiritual bond that can only help to enhance a solid set of morals, as well as work ethic.

We would do a lot of things together, as a family. Even when money was tight, we would find ways to travel, to experience different things, do things that would help to expand your mind and make you think.

We read together, played together, worked together, grew together, and most importantly, prayed together.

If and when my boys would start a family, I only hope that they can pass along some of the same life’s lessons that were passed to me, and that Maureen & I have hopefully instilled in them.

To me, the greatest gift in all of this, is for your kids to grow up, and to become good, solid, moralistic contributing members of society.

Happy Fathers Day to my “Dads,” Ben Prebynski & Joe Pecko. Happy Fathers Day as well to my Joey, my Brandon, and my Ethan. You all have truly blessed my life, and made me very happy.

Note: I will be traveling out of town this week. My next article will appear Tuesday, 7/3. Thanks! – Bernie