Learning Cursive

There have been a host of discussions concerning the pros and cons of using Cursive. So while at our bank last week the teller jotted something on a slip of paper and when she handed it to me I asked her if she printed or used Cursive. The question caught her off guard. She said she’d not thought about it and after looking we decided she used both, kind of like mixing Spanish and English while speaking. I think they call it macoronic. It’s okay if you understand both.


So yesterday our oldest and youngest daughters – 50 and 55 (am I really that OLD?) –   visited and brought with them a Father’s Day card which they had both signed. I took the opportunity to ask about Cursive. Evie, the oldest had learned it in school. Vicky hadn’t, but she told me she’d learned how to use from Evie.

I neglected to ask what age.



The USS George Washington

The date of the photograph showing the USS George Washington sailing into New York Harbor was taken after World War One and published in September 1, 1919 edition of the Omaha Bee Newspaper.

At that time the USS George lWashington was the largest ship in the United States navaL inventory. If was a captured North German Lloyd Ocean Liner. It was refitted and became the third USS George Washington.  Days before the President’s departure, plans were laid to install a 40 kilowatt arc transmitter, a task normally requiring six weeks to complete. But Don Wallace (amateur radio call sign W6AM) had gathered a skilled  crew of 35 wireless operators they were nearly finished when the ship sailed on 5 March 1919. Wilson remained in France while his ship brought 4,000 servicemen home to America.

However, the first half of the story is just as interesting.

During the year following the Great War was, 1919, the largest ship to sail the sea was President Wilson’s USS George Washington. Perhaps it was a bit of an overkill, using such a large vessel for the president and his staff and crew. But it may have served as a symbol, having been captured from the German Navy two years earlier during World War One.

Obviously, it served America well, except for communications.

While amateur radio operators were using a kilowatt to send a signal thirty miles, the USS George Washington was trying to communicate halfway across the Atlantic. The only available transmitter was an arc.

Don Wallace, a US Navy wireless operator happen, by chance, to meet a former commanding officer with whom he’d served during the war. The commander mentioned that his search for wireless operators to serve on the president’s ship, stating that of the 400 radio stations, nationwide, he was unable to find a single operator who knew anything about arc transmitters. Don had the necessary experience and accepted the challenge.

The transmitter in question was a 40 kilowatt arc. Not only was it yet to be installed, Don had locate a number of top-notch operators. After a time he chose 35 telegraphers and they began the task.

Normally, six weeks was allowed for the installation of a wireless system on a ship, but the president was taking part in the Versailles Peace Conference he was leaving for Paris in three days.

They were still fine tuning it when the USS George Washington set sail.

Operations were scheduled in hour-long segments – one hour sending, one hour receiving. During the receiving hour they were able to resume preparation for the higher power. As the distance increased they were able to increase the power and communications was established.

Because of the extreme voltage required, keying relays were required. This slowed the transmission rate to about 20-words-per-minute. This combined with the number of messages resulted in some being held over when hour was up.

Don approached the president’s chief-of-staff, asking if he would ask the president to shorten his messages. The Chief-of-staff was enraged that a 20-year-old-kid would make such a request.

Sometime during the voyage the president decided to speak personally to someone back in Washington, D.C.. Since the president didn’t do Morse code a microphone had to be installed in the antenna feed line, and the current was of such great the microphone required water cooling.

Only then did they discover that President Wilson suffered from mic-fright. They had to clear everyone from the room and camouflage the microphone before he would utter a word.

In spite of the many challenges the USS George Washington voyage was successful.


The Poker Game

While thumbing through my coveted copy of YANK, the 1942 section, I came across a poker game photograph. YANK is a book compiled from Yank Magazine, a World War Two publication written by and published by and for the 12,216,097 enlisted people, the Dogfaces, Leathernecks, Swabbies, Airhogs, Crate Pushers, and Seabees who fought with Kilroy in order to bring victory.

I’m assuming the picture was taken in 1942. Whether or not my assumption is correct isn’t nearly as important as are the faces of those gathered around the poker “table”. I’ve participated in enough games to read the faces of the players, well, some, anyway?

Starting at the left side of the circle is a GI who is apparently the dealer and he’s asking who wants cards. He seems comfortable in his role. To his immediate left is a player studying his cards. It’s a tense moment. He’s hoping he hasn’t made a mistake. Next and back from the table is a shirtless man looking on, apparently wishing he was in the game. Continuing, is one responding to the dealer, telling him how many cards he wants. Last in the circle and facing the camera is an individual who recently went bust and now he knows why.

The Power of Cursive Letters

Peter – 1914
cursive Written Mail
My mother came into this world on 30 December 1909 in Carlton, Nebraska. Her father owned a butcher shop. Her mother was, naturally, a stay-at-home-mom. During her early youth her mother participated in activities that helped generate funds for the public schools – Play Parties, Ice Cream I’ no, and Box Dinners. These events were ancient history by the time I came on the scene and with my mother having  passed on about thirty years ago there is no one left to check my facts. So please bear with me as I reflect on my riddled, hand-me-down past.
Ice cream socials were much as they sound – neighbors brought their hand-crank freezers and ice and then sold ice cream to each other by the dish. The Box Dinner was more complicated.
Women and young ladies participated by preparing two sandwiches and two pieces of pie. They were then placed in a highly decorated box along with the preparer’s name and address inside. The thrust of this event was that the men and boys were urged to bid on each box and the girl/woman whose name was inside the box was obligated to sit and eat with the winning bidder. It evidently generated some great memories which I overheard through intercepted conversations.
Early,during World War I, soldiers – doughboys, or soon to become – were aboard troop trains. One of stops for replenishing water for the steam locomotive happened to be Carlton, Nebraska. My Grandmother Suzie acquired a train schedule from the railroad telegrapher and then, taking chicken, pork, and beef from Grandpa Isaac’s butcher shop, she prepared “Box Dinners” – with name and address included, and handed them in through the windows while the railroad crew replenished the locomotive water.
A one-person USO, as it were.
One soldier corresponded with her throughout the years spanning 1914 – 1918.
During my mother’s long life her social media consisted of letters. The arrival of the postman, ranked high in her daily life. In order to keep these letters coming, she kept active memberships in a dozen or more “Round Robins”, written in cursive, of course.
A round robin consisted on six or eight individuals who shared a common interest. Person one wrote a short letter and then mailed it to person two. Person two read the letter, wrote one of their own and then mailed both letters to person three, etc., etc. after the packet of letters completed the round, Mom read all the letters, replaced her letter with a new one and sent off to person number two.  These Round Robins kept her busy for,,any years.
I’ve been an amateur radio operator for more than thirty years. But my wife is now starting with Alzheimer’s. The radio noise is causing her unnecessary stress and I’ve made a choice, give up the radio and find a quiet activity that is somehow associated with communications. A Round Robin interests me. Is anyone else of the same mind? My only requirement is that we communicate by snail mail using cursive, pen or pencil.
Anyone who,wishes to discuss this further may email me at <rameyfms77@gmail.com

Continue reading The Power of Cursive Letters

Gene Memory?

I’m not certain how Cursive and Calligraphy are related, but therein lies my interest

Long ago, my paternal grandmother frowned on my decision to enlist in the air force. But as a grandparent should do, she supported me in by way of cursive written letters, one each week in my mailbox. I counted on them. Some of the letters, especially those with captioned photos are still in my possession even though forty plus years have passed. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

For some thirty years I’ve kept a running journal. The words were little more than notations of passing interests, all recorded in cursive. I often switch from ball points to pencil and back again.

One evening, as bedtime approached, I was using a #2 yellow pencil that was, like my grandmother’s often were, in dire need of sharpening. But I didn’t want to stop for fear of losing my stride, as it were. Instead, I charged on until my inspiration was spent.

Finished, I was reviewing my work when  I sensed a familiarity, a comforting sensation with the tails on the lowercase g and y. For a week, perhaps two, I considered those with whom I corresponded in cursive. There aren’t many. The younger generation seems satisfied with printing when a keyboard was not available. It seemed the peers of my age group were the last to communicate cursively.

The teller in my bank used a mixture when she answered my question with a written note. When I asked her about cursive she remembered being severely scolded by her teacher if she printed after being instructed to use cursive. Yet, she couldn’t recall when she began mixing the two. She seemed unaware of her macaroni situation until I quizzed her about it. That still didn’t shed any light on my original quest.

The answer remained elusive until I was reviewing some old photos in hopes of finding one that might spark a short story. The solution on the backside of a picture of my grandfather standing with his rock fence, the product of a five-year endeavor. In cursive, my grandmother had described his venture using a #2 pencil in dire need of sharpening. I have

Was I witnessing gene memory, or what?



The Mountain

Mount. Broken Top

Photo source: Internet

Many years have passed since the spring of 1956, the year I graduated high school. With those years a host of events have evolved. The memory of many have faded with time. But those of the cattle ranch located in the high desert country of Central Oregon are stored there forever. In some ways – the open space, the freedom to think my own thoughts – my experience paralleled the yarns Zane Grey left in his wake. However, I recall no damsels in distress, or gun-blazing  range wars. The work was hard, the hours long, and the financial rewards were – well there was little time left for spending money anyway.

Punching cows was mainly left to the foreman and his three cow hands. Seldom did I stride a horse. I baled alfalfa hay with a Ford tractor and fixed fences with a Studebaker pickup loaded with posts, wire, and tools. He seldom checked on me.

Clarence, the owner, was a laid back, soft-spoken  gentleman, a World War II Army veteran with one bum arm. His demands were few, but firm. He expected us to work from dark-to-dark Monday through Saturday for$80 per month, a dry, warm bunk house, and all we could eat.

Clarence’s spread, the C BAR B, encompassed several hundred acres and about 200 head of mixed-breed beef cattle.

A large bunk house window faced the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains, offering an unobstructed view of the seven mountain peaks – Bachelor, Washington, Jefferson, Three Sisters, and Broken Top. Using borrowed field glasses while awaiting breakfast call, I often observed their changes from dark shadows, to a hundred shades of pink, and finally white. Jefferson with its sharply defined ridges was a beauty, but Broken Top interested me most because of her drastic changes that I witnessed. Shortly after the first pink shades became apparent and for only for a brief period of time the bold shadows created a third dimension, depth. The top wasn’t broken as I’d been lead to believe. It was scooped out. Of course, no one knew anymore about her than I did, so, Broken Top remained a mystery for the following quarter-century.

I don’t recall when Mount St. Helens grew restless. But sometime in 1979 instruments were placed on her slopes in order to monitor any change in her shape. And when she began bulging people were cautioned to stay away. But the sightseer traffic increased.

The Oregonian Newspaper sent a reporter to visit with Harry Truman, not the haberdasher Harry who became President of the United States during World War II, but the Harry who owned Spirit Lake Lodge. When asked if he was going to leave the mountain and head into town he shook his head and pointed. “If this old girl wants me, I’ll simply join my wife,” he said, pointing to a headstone not far from the porch where he sat.

I was at a company picnic the morning of May 18, 1980 when word of her eruption was announced. Anxious to see her in action, I rode a motorcycle to within fifty miles. Smoke and ash bellowed out like our Earth was turning herself inside out. I experienced nothing with which in could compare it. So after watching an hour of unrestrained activity I headed home wondering how this event might change our lives when it stopped – if it ever did.

As the wind changed, ash flakes the size of half-dollars floated into our yard like snow. My youngest daughter – 12 – tasted one and then arched her eyebrows, but made no comment.

Eventually, the eruption decreased. Slowly, Mount. St. Helens grew quiet again. After the smoke cleared I saw that her peak was gone. Her side was scooped out.

Broken Top now had a cousin.