11 October 2010

Wild birthday celebration

This weekend saw The Better Half's mom's 92nd birthday. The big present was that she passed her driver's test (after 87, Illinois drivers have to take the actual driving exam with an instructor. Makes good sense to me.). She doesn't have the best eyesight, but she only drives to church and a couple of other civic functions that she knows how to get to. We drive her for shopping and any big trips out of town.

The 'wild celebration' consisted of dinner out at a local family-style place with just me, TBH, her mom, and her mom's boyfriend/companion, Bob. He's a relative youngster at 88 (bloody cougars!) and in many ways he's a bit more frail than she is. They still go to senior citizens' dances and functions. Bob got off the music train about 1946 and is not a big fan of recorded music and music with them noisy, newfangled guitars, so it's getting harder for them to find functions to go to. The people in their 60's these days cut their teeth on the first acts of rock n' roll on 45rpm platters, so the music and atmosphere at a lot of the places they go to are changing.

See what we all have to look forward to?

Bob is one of those types who pretty much tells the same stories every time we see him. Most of you know the type because most of you probably know someone like that or, even better, have somebody like that in the family. He's done an arseload of interesting stuff and been a lot of places in this world. The problem is that I've heard all of these stories at least half a dozen times, so it doesn't really catch my interest any more. TBH is really good at acting like it's the first time she's heard a particular story.

But what to do with someone like that? Really, the only thing you can do is let them go on. Again, we're all going where they're at, and we'll want the respect from our youngers.

He does delight in telling us that he's never applied for a job. He grew up in a time when a person could get a good job right out of high school, and he managed to become the youngest apprentice machinist at Rock Island Arsenal when the Arsenal was gearing up for WWII. He got drafted into the Navy, showed better aptitude at math and basic electronics than his instructor, and when most of his class headed off to the Fleet, he and a cadre were sent to Texas A&M University for advanced training, then he made the big time.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Radiation Laboratory, the birthplace of American radar, where projects like radar-controlled guns and proximity fuses were being developed. Big stuff. When in Boston, his group was shunted away to a nondescript downtown location. Real spy-type stuff, with secret entrances, a guard, and a warning to Keep His Mouth Shut-in the days when talking too much could earn a person a comabt assignment of the court-martial board was feeling generous, or a stretch at Leavenworth or Yerba Buena if they weren't. When there, these guys developed, built, and did manuals for the first Airborne Early Warning aircraft-Project Cadillac and Cadillac II. These were Avengers and B-17 Flying Fortresses with big, tempermental, cumbersome long-range radar sets, used to detect large kamikaze formations heading for our and our allies' ships. Those first planes were the ancestors of today's E-3 and Hawkeye AWACS craft used by our armed forces and those of our allies today.

Pretty cool, huh? Actually, it's a fascinating tale and should be put in a book. That bunch contributed in no small way to our winning WWII and are responsible for an important, no, vital, part of our air defenses today.

After the seventh or eighth time hearing this, though....well, not so interesting to me. And if I were you, gentle reader, I wouldn't laugh-for I might trundle this post out as a repeat a few dozen times. I have to hear the story, so do you! But I suspect many of you could relate a story you've heard from some older friend or relative, and relate it by heart because you've heard at every holiday or get-together. It's one of those things-you get tired of hearing those same tales, then the person dies and you say 'Remember when Uncle Dave (Aunt Sue, Grandpa Tom, whoever) used to talk about...'. I suppose out of such things mythologies are created.

And that, kids, was my weekend. Got a story you hear at every family event? Bring it on!

yankeedog out.


  1. It's not just an eighty-somethings deal, the repeating-stories thing. A couple of mates of mine from highschool (so early 30s now) have as long as I've known them subscribed to the 'If a story's worth telling it's worth telling over and over again' school of anecdotes.

  2. The Old Man (3 to 1), now regrets saying, "If I ever get repetitive just tell me."