CHAPTER TWENTY THREE
Adulthood and Other Notions
Revised 08 July 2020 by author Lawrence Eugene Vaughn Jr
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Military Enlistment
- Joining the Air Force
- Charlotte NC
- Introduction to Broadcasting
- Carolina School of Broadcasting
- Frightful Return Flight
- Growing Up and Getting Out
- Sharing Discipline
- View On Suffering
I enlisted in the Air Force during my senior year of high school. I felt the Air Force mission was more sophisticated than the army’s, and better suited my quest of becoming a pilot. I had no interest in serving aboard ship because I had heard too many stories about riding out typhoons in a metal can tossed aimlessly from wave to wave, and other Navy wartime stories my uncles told.
Since active duty military service did not work out for me, I spent the next thirty years or so serving in civilian volunteer organizations such as Jaycees, Civil Defense Shelter Management, Civil Defense Police, Danville Auxiliary Police, Civil Air Patrol, Missouri Militia, Lions Club, and Indiana Guard Reserve. I finally retired as a Colonel, serving as Indiana Operations Director (G-3) , on the Commanding General’s Staff.
Shortly thereafter I was inducted to the U.S. Order of St George, which was an honorary society designed to recognize persons who volunteered time and talents to serve the public good over their careers. The Chancellor was Nicholas J Knutz, former Commanding General of the United States Civil Air Patrol, and Vice Chancellor was Herbert W Watchinski, Jr., formerly Chief of Staff of the Missouri Defense Force.
I was subsequently elevated to the governing board as a Grand Knight, and later elected secretary of the Order. The organization pretty well went dormant after the death of its leader, Dr. Knutz
Joining the Airforce
A high school football buddy, Tom Camara, and I enlisted under the “buddy program,” which would let us attend basic training together. I wanted to be a pilot, and Tom wanted to go into communications or electrical engineering. After we took the Vocational Aptitude Test the recruiter gave us documents to fill out to indicate what fields we wanted to go into. The recruiter had told me that I had scored well enough to get into my choice of vocations. I wanted to be a pilot. I didn’t care what kind of pilot, fixed wing or helicopter, I just wanted to fly. I was excited! It was going to be a great adventure!
I checked off all the boxes for aircraft pilot, ranging from fighters to air transport, fixed wing to helicopters. I just wanted to fly, and would take probably any field they would offer. The recruiter then scheduled us for physical exams in April, which would be just a few weeks before graduation. He told us that our schools would be assigned while there at the recruiting center.
On the appointed weekend we boarded a Recruiting Center bus at the local recruiting office, and were taken about 90 miles to the Joint Services Recruiting Center in St. Louis for our exam. We first took filled out paperwork detailing contact information, and then took a more detailed and timed Specialty Indicator Exam, then went into the physical examination area.
There were no females in the military in those days, and I found myself in a gymnasium size room with a couple hundred guys. We were told to make two lines on the two black lines painted on the center of the floor, line up shoulder to shoulder, facing away from the recruits behind us.
We were then told to undress completely and place our clothing on the shelf three or four steps in front of us, step back two steps to the red line, bend over and spread our butt cheeks. Then, a man in a white lab coat walked past each of us, inspecting I believe, for hemorrhoids and physical deformities. If he saw nothing amiss, he patted you on the back and said, Okay.”
As each of us was visually examined, we were tapped and told to move to station B, although there were some guys sent elsewhere at that point. At station B we were examined for problems with lungs and heart. Those with hernias were taken aside and more closely examined. Doctors checked height and weight, complexion, eye and hair color, joints, eyes, nose, teeth and throat.
The doctor who checked my eyes asked what occupation I was interested in, and I told him, “Pilot. He then asked if I needed to wear the eyeglasses I had on. I told him, “Only when I want to see.” And, he said, “Well, then, you can’t be a pilot!”
I told him, “My recruiter already did all the tests and told me I was a shoo in.” The doctor grinned wryly and just shook his head. I was very disappointed, shocked, to learn that my recruiter had grossly misled me. I asked about specialty lenses or waivers, and the doctor said, “No way.” I said, “Well, then, I don’t want to be in the Air Force.”
I was told to get dressed and go to an area where all the Air Force recruits were gathered to be counselled by senior level recruiters who would finalize our enlistment and assign us to occupational school training.
The counselor I talked to was not sympathetic at all, and told me that my test scores qualified me for a vast number of interesting occupations, but that I was not going to be entering flight training of any kind. So, I didn’t sign my final enlistment document.
Instead, I took my test results folder and went over to talk to the Army recruiters. I told my story, and a recruiter told me that the flight schools were booked up for the next several months, but that he could get me temporarily into a different school to prep me for when the flight school became available.
I was again disappointed, and his remarks didn’t ring true. So, I didn’t enlist with them either. I didn’t know what I was going to do after high school, but I knew it wasn’t going to be the miliary.
Introduction to Broadcasting
Upon learning that my plans to join the military had been dashed, my uncle, Bill Vaughn, gave me an opportunity to attend radio broadcasting training. At that time, I thought “radio” meant being a disc jockey like the famous ones we listened to on clear channel radio stations.
Dick Biondi, a Top 40 and Oldies disc jockey known for his screaming delivery and wild antics on the air, gained national attention in the 1950s and early 1960s on leading AM radio stations in Buffalo, New York; Chicago, Illinois; and Los Angeles, California. In our area we listened to his night time program on WLS Radio, Chicago.
As a young man, just barely out of high school and ready to take my place in the world, I leapt at the offer! I hadn’t known that there was such a school, and I hadn’t even thought about a career in broadcasting. The offer was extended through my dad, and soon a one way ticket to Charlotte, North Carolina on Piedmont Airlines arrived in the mail. It was for the day after my high school graduation.
It was all quite exciting! I hadn’t flown before, hadn’t lived in a big city, and was sure to be a famous disk jockey! I rounded up our record player and a collection of 45 RPM vinyl records and began practicing in our basement introducing the songs and singers as the disks dropped down the spindle onto the platter.
Carolina School of Broadcasting
My uncle, Bill Vaughn, my dad’s younger brother, owned a house he shared with two other professional men who rented bedrooms from him. There was a nicely shaded lawn out back with lawn chairs and a grill. The house was an older single story ranch style home with four bedrooms and two baths. The location was about fifteen minutes from the school which was located right on the edge of downtown Charlotte.
The school was housed upstairs in a two story brick office building that had been modified to house the sound proof radio station booth and two large adjoining classrooms with an office at the opposite end. The nicely decorated office had a large wooden desk, side chairs and a couch.
The school was operated by Bill and two contracted instructors from radio stations in town. The class I attended included seventeen men ranging in age to mid thirties, and I was the youngest, still in my teens. One of the first things the instructors had us do was to stand at a microphone at the front of the class and introduce ourselves, telling a little about our interests and what we expected from the school.
We had been given fifteen minutes to prepare our comments, and were expected to talk for at least two minutes. We were challenged to tell the class, in particular, our names and where we were from, something we like for people to know about us, and an interesting experience we had.
I was fairly comfortable at the microphone, and told about the high school oratorical contest, my military recruitment experience, and the interesting people I had met on my Grit newspaper route. Little did I know that our talks were being recorded.
At the school, we were taught broadcast station operations ranging from announcing, disk jockeying, auditioning new songs, creating playlists, news gathering and newscast preparation, commercial writing, audio tape editing and production, commercial traffic management, program production, directing, and all aspects of managing broadcast stations, focusing on Federal Communications Commission regulations for broadcast stations.
Another part of the classes that I enjoyed was learning to conduct interviews. The skill involved is to be able to listen to what is being said, while planning the next question to take the interview in an interesting direction, while arriving at the desired target information. Only a few of the class members were able to master it, but I found that it came easily to me.
In the 1960s, American Bandstand, hosted by ever youthful Dick Clark, was a very popular television program that featured teenagers dancing to the current top ten songs on the Billboard music charts. Most large cities had a local hour-long dance program that aired just prior to American Bandstand with local teens dancing to tunes ranked 11-20 on the top forty charts, and sometimes, a new release not yet ranked.
Through Uncle Bill’s contacts at WSOC-TV, I was able to get an intern position and I trained to become one of their studio camera operators. After just a few shows I got to run a camera during the local dance show held in their studios, where there was a turntable in the floor large enough to rotate an automobile for local car commercials. The turntable made it possible to just lock one studio camera down as it pointed at the turntable, and watch the dancers as they rotated in front of the camera.
The studio camera was so big and heavy that I sometimes had a difficult time getting the camera moved, but I enjoyed the challenges of live television. Later, as these shows became so popular, WIST radio broadcast a local show at Belk’s Department Store, which was the show’s sponsor, and featured live talent telling the background information on their current and past hits, and often giving a little insight into their personal lives.
I liked announcing better than camera work, and enjoyed doing interviews. I was quickly added to the floor team interviewing highschool and college age dancers; “Hi, what’s your name? Where do you go to school? What’s your favorite top forty song? What dances do you like?”
The early sixties were a fun and high-spirited decade, and the famous dances demonstrated this energy. Some of the popular dances included the Watusi, the Loco-motion, Mashed Potato, Bossa Nova, the Shimmy, and the Twist. Also, carryovers from the fifties included the Boogie Woogie, the Bop, the Bunny Hop, the Rock & Roll, and the Madison Line Dance. There were many faddish dances, too, that were inspired by a popular song, and disappeared when the song fell from the charts.
Interviewing the dancers was fun for me because I was about the same age as many of the dancers, and younger than some, so they didn’t take me as seriously as the older announcers on the crew. The talent usually regarded me as a youngster who asked the kind of questions that were of interest to listeners in my age group.
The big challenge for those shows was managing the very long, brown, microphone cord strung across the floor, not getting tangled with dancers, or wound up on the rotating turntable. In those days the microphone cable was about as thick as an adult’s ring finger, and was pretty heavy when there was fifty feet of it to haul around.
Occasionally, a recording artist that was performing at the Charlotte Coliseum would make an appearance or grant an interview during the program, and I got to interview several stars of the day. I had favorites, of course, and there were a couple that were disappointing because they were nothing like their public image.
In many cases I got autographed photos and seasonal Christmas cards, most of which were lost when I shipped a large box of momentos back to Missouri, with only a scant few brought back in my suitcase.
Eventually I was given a regular program slot by WIST and given the air-name Robin Vaun. The theme song for my 2-hour early evening shift was Rockin’ Robin by Bobby Day, which had been a 1957 top forty tune. I also did a Saturday evening jazz show named Charlotte Jazz.
My jazz show theme song was Stolen Moments by the Oliver Nelson Septet, and I read poetry by classical and local bards, did all commercials live in a very mellow manner, and had featured telephone interviews with local jazz musicians, and occasionally, well known jazz artists making local appearances.
One of my classmates, Hardy Paradise (real name) got hired by WIST after his internship, and was given the on-air name Rusty Morgan. He manned the afternoon shift and also auditioned all new records that recording companies submitted.
Another classmate, Denny Mills, did a children’s show on one of the local television stations. After an audition and a brief trial, he was hired full time and was enjoying doing his show when I left Charlotte. Other classmates went into positions at many area radio stations.
There was no pay for any of the internships I did at the various radio and television stations I worked for, so I supported myself by working the breakfast shift in a 1930s stainless steel streetcar diner.
I mostly tended the waffle machines, but also helped with the griddle, keeping the kettle full of water for poached eggs and steaming hash browns, keeping the stack of raw eggs, sausage and bacon stocked, and general cleaning of the work stations.
Occasionally I worked the flat top when the cook needed a short break, but he usually wanted to work when there was work to be done. I usually got paid a few dollar bills out of the register when I headed to WYFM for class, and it was just enough to keep me happy.
A day or two before graduation, Bill called me to his office and gave me a receipt for the school tuition, and then presented me with an invoice for almost $500. He said that the school tuition was a gift from him, but that the invoice was for the airfare tickets to and from the school.
I told him that I didn’t have anywhere near that amount of money and could not pay it. I knew that he had traded airtime (commercials) for the airline tickets, and, I realized that he was toying with me, so I told him that I could call my dad and see what could be worked out. He quickly said, “That’s okay. I just wanted to see what you’d say.” With that he dropped the invoice in the trash. Two days later I flew back to Missouri.
Frightful Return Flight
When I returned home that year, I flew again in a Piedmont Airlines turboprop regional airplane which had wing mounted engines at my eye level. As we approached St Louis, we ran into a rain storm which was bumpy, loud, and blocked out the sun. The darkness was pierced only by ominous streaks of lightning that seemed all too close.
To top it off, I had a view of the rear of the engine, and could see flames and fumes coming from them and illuminating the nearby clouds. I thought the engine was on fire! No one else seemed concerned, however, so I stayed quiet. But, I kept my eyes glued to that engine, and had a white knuckle descent and landing in the thunderstorm!
It wasn’t until years later that I saw video of a turbine engine in operation and finally understood that the flames and trailing fumes were normal, they were just made more ominous by the rolling dark rain clouds I was in at the time.
Growing Up and Getting Out
After broadcast school, I returned to my parents home in Louisiana, Missouri and began searching for work in broadcasting. Using the Directory of Broadcasters Manual while in North Carolina, I had compiled a short list of radio and TV stations I thought I might be interested in working with.
A few days before leaving Charlotte, I mailed postcards to each of them, listing my recent graduation and detailing my broadcast experience, which included radio stations WYFM, (Classical Music), WIST, (Rock and Roll), WBT, (Contemporary), and WSOC-TV where I ran a studio camera and conducted periodic interviews during the telecast of the local American Bandstand.
As I recall, I mailed about ten of the postcards, and soon received a call from Bill Tedrick, owner of KWRT Radio in Boonville, Cooper County, Missouri, and another from KOMU-TV in Columbia. In a telephone interview with KOMU I discovered that their open position was for sports announcing, which I had no experience or interest in doing.
My next telephone interview was with KWRT, Boonville, Missouri, which sounded like a mutually good fit, and a paid in-person audition at the radio station was set up.
Upon the appointed time the following week I was interviewed by owners Bill and Audrey Tedrick, husband and wife. The audition was recorded by Don Shepard, who gave me smiles and thumbs up through the window separating the recording booth and the control room.
Soon, I was hired as an announcer, and news director, a job the three of them had previously shared. My salary was $65 per week.
KWRT Radio Days
KWRT was named for its owner, William Robert Tedrick (the WRT in KWRT). He and his wife Audrey operated all facets of the station, and Don Shepard was the engineer and sign-on announcer. Don and Audrey had a mid-morning hour long talk show where they discussed the news, current events and upcoming activities.
Bill Tedrick was the station’s sales department and public relations specialist. Sharon Stoecklein was the traffic manager and receptionist. I served as news director, announcer, and liaison to the police department and city hall.
One memorable special event that I did the announcing for was the Heritage Days fishing contest, which was held at a lake near the radio station. The fishing contest was for children, most of whom fished from shore, but some were in small fishing dinghies and inner tubes.
I was in an Amphicar, a German made vehicle that transitioned from earth to water, which was outfitted for remote broadcasting by our engineer. It allowed me to float, or drive up, to children so I could interview them.
The Amphicar was manufactured in West Germany and marketed from 1961 to 1968. It offered only modest performance compared to most contemporary boats or cars, and after operation in water, required greasing at 13 points, one of which required removal of the rear seat.
Boonville has more than 400 antebellum and other architectural sites on the National Register of Historic Places, including the 46-acre Kemper Military School Campus, and celebrated Boonville Heritage Days each summer with a weekend event that included a parade, craft booths, and a carnival. On the last evening there was a glorious fireworks show.
Periodic public events held at Kemper Military School were also special broadcast events as dignitaries made appearances, A private military school located in Boonville, Kemper was founded in 1844, and closed in 2002. Known as the “West Point of the West,” the school’s motto was “Nunquam Non Paratus” (Never Not Prepared).
I sold some radio commercials, mostly to give me a reason to produce them, because I liked adding in sound effects and music beds. I also contacted recording artists’ agents and arranged to do live telephone interviews during my afternoon shifts, a practice I had started while at WIST radio in Charlotte. It was during this time that I became interested in the volunteer fire department, but I didn’t have the opportunity to attend the annual recruit training because of duties at the radio station.
Ice Cream Shop
The sports announcer for KWRT was Cal(vin) Aisles, owner of a soft-serve ice cream franchise in Boonville. He also owned an apartment building not far from downtown where I initially rented a studio apartment from him. It had a kitchenette, so I usually cooked a TV dinner before heading out to cover evening meetings for local news. I also worked early morning store openings for Cal, prepping the ice cream machines, ovens, toasters, and general restocking while cooking to-go breakfast items.
There were no convenience stores or food trucks in those days, so Cal sold breakfast food items that were not on the regular menu of the ice cream franchise, which the franchisor didn’t allow, so he eventually had to give up the franchise and go independent.
Many of the food items he provided are just normal everyday carry out breakfast items today, ranging from sausage patties and cheese on a hamburger bun to Italian sausage on a hot dog bun, and scrambled eggs and crumbled bacon or sausage in an ice cream cone. But, still today, that franchise company doesn’t offer breakfast items.
Marriage and Mice
Lea and I were married February 8, 1964 in the First Baptist Church in Louisiana, Missouri, by my Uncle Virgil Vaughn, who had also married my mother and father back in 1942. Ours was a pretty modest wedding, attended by our families and a few invited friends, on a wintry Saturday afternoon.
Our wedding night was spent at a 1950s era motel in Bowling Green, Missouri. Lea had an awful night, as the ductwork made popping noises as it expanded and contracted as it heated and cooled.
She thought the noise was mice moving around in the ductwork, and could not rest well. no matter how I tried to calm her. It was a long and frightful night for her, with little sleep. The next morning, however, we arose to a spectacular fresh snowfall that had blanketed the countryside.
Nevertheless, I had to return to work on the next day, so after checkout we went to lunch and then drove to our home, an apartment in Boonville, which I had just recently rented. It was located on the second floor of a private residence at 1316 Main Street. Our life together started there in those simple furnishings, supported by the meager income I made as news director for the local radio station.
Assassination of Our President
November 22 marks the anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, TX. Most of us felt a tragic trauma that day so horrible we wouldn’t experience it again until September 11, 2001.
I was a young man, a recent graduate of the Carolina School of Broadcasting in Charlotte, North Carolina, working as an announcer and reporter for KWRT, Boonville, Missouri on the day of the assassination.
Serving in my first full time job, I felt privileged to receive the title of news director. I didn’t mind that the title brought with it responsibility to attend city council and other night time business and social meetings, checking the police blotter each morning, covering weekend events, and keeping up on all local area news. After all, I was grossing $65 a week!
News ID Signed by William R.Tedrick
It was a much simpler time. 1963 was before wireless anything. There was no internet. The White House and Moscow had just earlier that year agreed to have dedicated hard-wired telephones installed to provide fast communication between the two world leaders.
Alcatraz Penitentiary closed after 29 years of operation because it was too expensive to continue operating, and US car maker Studebaker closed business and ended production. The United States Postal Service launched the Zipcode System during July of 1963.
KWRT subscribed to the Associated Press news service, which is how we obtained current news to broadcast to our audience. AP reporters in far-flung news bureaus around the world could send text through teletypewriter machines connected continuously by telephone lines to printers used by local reporters, approaching real-time reporting of breaking events. The AP service included an hourly national news summary, periodic regional news reports, weather, and human interest summaries.
The Associated Press News Printer at KWRT in 1963 was located in a nearly soundproof wooden cabinet just outside the broadcast studio door. The cabinet had a door that lifted and swung back so the printed news could be reached and torn off at the printer carriage. Below the printer, on the floor, sat a large rectangular cardboard box with hundreds of feet of fan-fold newsprint paper that fed up into the carriage and under the letter keys.
A few minutes before the top of each hour, we would rip off the newsprint and quickly read through it to select stories for our 5-minute “local, regional and national” newscast. The printer was equipped with a bicycle-like bell that could be remotely rung by the network to signal a special bulletin, or news flash, then being printed.
It had started out as a normal newsday. We were more focused on events in Maryville, Missouri, where the Governor had just ordered the State Highway Patrol to enforce a strict curfew on the campus of Northwest Missouri State College.
For two consecutive nights more than 1,000 students had marched on downtown Maryville in noisy, stone-throwing demonstrations alleging that the college was serving poor quality foods.
The Presidential Visit to Dallas
We had reported earlier that the president was in Fort Worth with his wife, Jacqueline, America’s sweetheart, and that he would be making a speech at a Dallas luncheon. A light rain was falling there, but a crowd of several thousand stood in the parking lot outside the Texas Hotel where the Kennedys had spent the night.
The president made some brief remarks to the crowd, and the presidential party then left the hotel and went by motorcade to Carswell Air Force Base for the thirteen-minute flight to Dallas.
Arriving at Love Field, President and Mrs. Kennedy disembarked and immediately walked toward a fence where a crowd of well-wishers had gathered, and they spent several minutes shaking hands. Texas Governor John Connally and his wife, Nellie, were already seated in the presidential limousine as the Kennedys entered and sat behind them.
Since it was no longer raining, the plastic bubble top had been left off the presidential convertible. As was proper protocol, Vice President and Mrs. Johnson occupied another car in the motorcade distanced from the president.
The procession left the airport and traveled along a ten-mile route that wound through downtown Dallas on the way to the Trade Mart where the president was scheduled to speak at a luncheon. Crowds of excited people lined the streets and waved to the Kennedys.
The Local News
The big news story that morning had been the continued student rioting at Northwest Missouri State College. A curfew had been announced and a contingent of State Highway Patrolmen had been deployed to quell the disturbance.
Then the teletype alert bell began ringing almost constantly that early Friday afternoon as one of the greatest tragedies in American history unfolded!
President Jack Kennedy and first lady Jackie Bouvier Kennedy
Associated Press staffer James Altgens was photographing the presidential motorcade, and became an eyewitness when President John F. Kennedy was shot just after noon on November 22, 1963.
The presidential limousine turned off Main Street at Dealey Plaza around 12:30 p.m. As it was passing the Texas School Book Depository, gunfire suddenly reverberated through the plaza. High powered bullets struck the president’s neck and head and he slumped over toward Mrs. Kennedy. The governor was also hit in the chest.
Altgens’ quick phone call to the AP’s Dallas bureau became the first news bulletin about the shooting distributed across AP’s teletype circuit. Hours of frantic reporting followed, supplying local reporters with information as events unfolded.
Milton Wright was a young Department of Public Safety State Trooper in 1963. He was driving the “Mayor’s Car,” also called “Dignitary Car #1,” a 1964 white Ford Mercury Comet Caliente 2-door convertible with red interior, in 4th position behind the Presidential Limousine when the shots rang out.
Dallas Mayor Earle Cabell was in the front passenger seat, his wife, Elizabeth Cabell in the left rear seat, and Congressman Raymond Roberts in the right rear. Separating him from the Presidential Limousine were Dallas police motorcycles, Presidential secret service follow-up car, the Vice Presidential car, and the Vice Presidential secret service follow-up car. Behind him were press pool vehicles and other VIP cars and police escort motorcycles
A few moments later, Secret Service agents frantically waved the motorcade to go ahead. The Vice Presidential car and protection detail peeled away to protect the Vice President, leaving Wright directly behind the Presidential car which Wright closely followed to Parkland Hospital. When they arrived, he helped lift wounded Texas Governor John Connally out of the limousine’s jump seat.
Wright was quoted as saying, “As soon as we got the Governor out (of the car) a secret service guy ran right up in the car and pulled President Kennedy over to one side,” said Wright. “I could see the side of his head was partially gone.” Wright helped put the president on a gurney and then stood guard outside while a medical team worked to save him and Governor Connally.
Little could be done for the president. The bullet was well placed, and the damage too extensive. Last rites were administered, and at 1:00 p.m. U.S. President John F. Kennedy was pronounced dead. I recall clearly the horror I felt when that report came in. There were many questions to be answered.
There was, and still is, much speculation about the assassination. The president’s body was quickly taken to Love Field in a hearse and placed on Air Force One. Before the plane took off, a grim-faced Lyndon B. Johnson took the oath of office, administered by U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Hughes at 2:38 p.m. Though seriously wounded, Governor Connally did later recover.
If you aren’t familiar with the rest of the story, just a few minutes earlier, police had arrested Lee Harvey Oswald, a recently hired employee at the Texas School Book Depository.
He was being held for the assassination of President Kennedy and the fatal shooting of Patrolman J. D. Tippit on a nearby Dallas street, as Oswald tried to escape the scene. On Sunday morning, November 24, Oswald was scheduled to be transferred from police headquarters to the county jail under heavy security.
The transfer was being broadcast on national television. Viewers across America, still in shock from Friday’s events, suddenly saw a man aim a pistol at Oswald and fire at point blank range. The assailant was identified as Jack Ruby, a local nightclub owner. Oswald died two hours later at Parkland Hospital.
A Dallas jury found Ruby guilty of murdering Oswald, and Ruby was sentenced to death. Later, he appealed his conviction, had it overturned, and was granted a new trial. Before the new trial took place, Ruby became ill and died of a pulmonary embolism due to lung cancer.
A Painful Day
As I was approaching the end of my shift on that fateful day, I knew that there would be many folks leaving work and wanting more details of the day’s events. I arranged with the station management to do an extended newscast at the 5:00 hour, putting aside our normal “drive time” programming. Audrey and Don were planning a special talk segment following the report so they could accept phone calls from the public.
I gathered news bits from the various Associated Press reports of the day and put together a stack for Audrey and Don, and another for me to use in the newscast. I selected 31 full or partial pages of news stories for my extended report, and after delivering the newscast, decided to keep the pages, rather than discarding them, as was the usual practice for news that had already been delivered. Those 31 pages wound up going into some storage device at home that I no longer remember.
But, 52 years later, while searching for and cleaning out things that no longer were worth keeping around, I came across a “Larry’s Papers” box that my wife had assembled. In the box were those 31 pages of news from the Associated Press. Reading through those pages recently, and recalling anew the dread and horror I felt that day, I am happy they got preserved because, for me, they bridge time to when America really admired their President and First lady, popularized by most Americans as “Jack and Jackie.”
We also came to a whole new appreciation for the Secret Service Presidential Detail. There was much heroism displayed in those days by people from all walks of life, including the law enforcement officers at the scene and the medical team at Parkland Hospital.
Below is a scan of the first page of the report made at 5:00 p.m. Friday, November 22, 1963. These 31 pages are now kept in a special notebook in safekeeping to, perhaps, someday, be of interest to my grandchildren who might have more than just a passing interest in an historic event of long, long ago.
World’s Greatest Volunteer
I suppose my dad’s military and police experiences had a deep impact on me, since I can so clearly recall images that so utterly impressed me, and forever affected my inner self. Uniforms and volunteer service were tightly woven into the fabric of my life.
From that first army uniform to Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Civil Defense Police, Danville, Illinois Auxiliary Police, Danville City Police, Civil Air Patrol, Missouri Reserve Military Force, Indiana Guard Reserve, Indiana Air guard reserve, to the Order of St. George, it seems I always had at least one uniform hanging in my closet.
Volunteer services over the years ranged from scout activities to Jaycees, 31 years in Lions International, Holts Summit Volunteer Fire Department, Civil Defense Police, 13 years in Civil Air Patrol, to State Guard/Reserve organizations in Missouri and Indiana, to countless days of service to one group or another. Uniforms and volunteerism, it seems, were imbedded in my lifestyle from those very earliest days in Hannibal.
My wife had no interest in any of the organizations, and I didn’t know until many years later that she resented me being away from home to participate in these activities. She had two young children, didn’t drive in the early years of our marriage, and had no way to contact me in case of emergency. I didn’t realize that I was being inconsiderate of her, and, of course, she was too strong to complain.
In 1974 I left the Danville Police Department because they passed me over for promotion to lieutenant. I had made the highest written test score of the seven sergeants who took the exam, and had the highest psychological score, but the least number of years experience.
Following the written exam the Board of Police Commissioners changed the promotion criteria in order to exclude me from the promotion. They adopted a rule to add five points to the written score for having military experience, an additional point for each year of military experience, another point for each year of police service, etc., until they found the combination to make the next highest scoring sergeant promotable.
To say that I was upset was an understatement. I felt betrayed, and gave a month’s notice, so they had adequate time to talk to me about staying with the department. Not one of the commissioners ever talked to me, and only the Chief of Police, Bill Brey, said that he was sorry to see me go, because he thought I would be a good Chief someday. It wasn’t enough. I left and went back into the civilian workforce.
I now know, with the wisdom age brings, that they were right in making those changes. I was the youngest sergeant they had ever had. I had only been a sergeant two years when I took the lieutenant exam, and had spent one of my sergeant years as a detective. So, I didn’t have the street smarts that would have made me effective in that post. If someone had explained that to me at the time, things may have been different.
After leaving the police department, I first went to work for GBC security division, in Indianapolis, designing and supervising installation of video security systems for jails and large corporate facilities. I designed the Marion County Lock up’s first video system, and another even larger system for the Chrysler plant in Ft. Wayne, and many smaller security projects.
I worked for Mike Allig, manager of the Indianapolis branch. I had to travel on my own dime and submit my expenses weekly to him, and he forwarded them to the main office on the east coast for reimbursement. I cashed in my police pension, and used that for living costs until Mike could get payroll worked out with the main office.
Meanwhile, I roomed during the week with a colleague, Keith Graber, a genius engineer and horrible housekeeper. He had a cat, and he had kitty litter. He just wasn’t good at getting them together, or cleaning up. I cleaned his house and cooked in exchange for rent. Lea and the boys carried on as usual back in Danville.
Keith and I collaborated on the security projects, and he could fabricate any kind of special electrical device I needed to do things not yet in the mainstream of security equipment. We would buy metal boxes with removable lids or covers, rheostats, resistors, capacitors, motors, wiring, solder and hardware that he would make into whatever kind of device I needed. And, he did excellent work.
Keith fabricated multiple-camera-and-monitor control boards with pan and tilt controls that weren’t available through our CCTV suppliers. We had no way to remotely control zoom in those days, and resolution was not that good, so strategic placement of cameras was essential. We excelled at what we crafted, and a steady stream of work came in.
After a couple months of repeated inquiries, and failing to get any of my $3,000 of expenses refunded, I recognized that I was being used, wasn’t going to get my money back, and I quit that position.
After much discussion with Lea, we temporarily moved our young family in with my mom and dad in Moberly, Missouri, where we could start a new life. I heard a few months later through a former co-worker that Mike had committed suicide with his pistol.
While in Moberly those months of summer and fall 1974, I worked for KCRG-TV in Columbia, Missouri, as a commercial salesman. The work was enjoyable, as I was able to explain to folks how their businesses could be elevated through well constructed television commercials. I was disappointed, however, that I couldn’t produce the commercials, since the station had producers and directors who handled that.
While calling on an insurance agent to discuss commercials for his business, I discovered that his district manager shared his office and that he was listening to my sales delivery from his desk a few feet away.
He approached me after we had been talking for a few minutes, and asked the question, “How would you like to make a sale only once, and have it automatically renew for the rest of your life?” He hooked me, and I became interested in insurance sales.
Within a matter of a few weeks I found myself attending insurance school in Owatonna, Minnesota, a small city nestled in the prairie of southern Minnesota, in November 1974. The company provided flights to and from Owatonna, housing, and a guaranteed, though meager, base salary for six months, at which time it went away, and was replaced by commissions on your insurance sales.
The schooling was an intense 10-hour day, with almost daily written tests and role-play exercises. Dormitory housing was provided, and there was a large meeting/library room with numerous comfortable overstuffed chairs.
The class of sixteen men elected me Class Sheriff, with duties to serve as the class representative to faculty and as dorm monitor. There were no televisions or digital devices for entertainment in off hours, but there were several folks attending the training who had driven to the school, so we could go into town for pizza and movies when desired.
Upon graduation, I was assigned the Mexico, Missouri territory, which had only two or three small business insurance customers, but I relocated my family there expecting to grow the portfolio substantially. After taking the Missouri exams, I was certified in life and business insurance, we rented a small home in Mexico and set out to make a comfortable living.
Mexico Composite Squadron CAP
I was a little surprised to find that there was a lot of interest in my Civil Air Patrol experience, and quickly organized a composite squadron with eight observers and two other local pilots. The story below relates the first ground/air search and rescue training mission I created to train the new members in their roles. In the newspaper photo the group is examining a map on the hood of my C.A.P. M38-A1 jeep. The C.A.P. Cessna 172 Search and Rescue aircraft is in the background.
After several months of calling on businesses in Mexico and surrounding area, during the winter of 1974-75, I had made only a few new insurance sales, and the commissions were not going to amount to the base salary the company was providing. I did, however, uncover another employment opportunity.
Holts Summit MO
Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives
AMEC is the statewide association for the rural electric cooperatives in Missouri. A.C. Burrows was the General Manager, and Frank Stark was his assistant. Both were outstanding association executives, lobbyists, and always on the lookout for ways to improve.
When I called on them to discuss television advertising, I discovered that they had a big problem during the days of winter and summer when the demand for electricity quickly rose above normal levels, putting a strain on their power plants. Sometimes the demand got so high the cooperatives had to buy power from an outside provider at very high rates because those systems were straining as well.
After thinking about their problem over the next couple of weeks I developed a plan that would allow them to use the radio and television stations throughout Missouri to get the word out that the system was reaching a peak demand, and alert their rural customers. This would allow the consumer to voluntarily reduce their demand, and their costs, for a given period of time. I called the solution “Peak Alert.”
When I went back with the Peak Alert solution, and laid out how the system would work, they loved the concept, and asked if I would be interested in implementing it for the upcoming budget year.
Volunteer Fire Department
Office of Mayor
I left the Association of Electric Cooperatives, where I was managing their in-house advertising agency, to move across Missouri to help with the family business. My father was the manager and part owner of a radio station in Chillicothe, Missouri, and he had just suffered a severe heart attack. The damage to his heart was going to keep him on a reduced work schedule for an extended time, as he refused to have open heart surgery.
I had the radio & television background to help bridge the station operations gap until his health returned, and Lea was operating a home based day care, which we were able to close down after finding spots for the children. Lea took on the program director role at the radio station, while I became the assistant station manager, and managed sales of commercials and sponsorships.
In subsequent months Lea also had a live daily radio show on weekdays, recorded commercials, and emceed live events such as parades. We enjoyed being part of the Chillicothe community, and were active in the local Lions Club, church, and social activities. For several years, we sponsored the largest annual Armed Forces Day celebration in the region and were heavily involved in the coordination of the event year around.
North Missouri Armed Forces Day
Beginning in 1979, KCHI radio sponsored the annual North Missouri Armed Forces Day celebration, which included aircraft displays, flyovers, and military dignitaries, including 3-star General (Lt. General) James Light, Jr., commander of the Fifteenth Air Force. General Light presented Gene with a patriotism award. The radio station broadcast the parade as it coursed down Washington Street, and did special reports throughout the day.
In its fifth year, the 1984 broadcast had expanded to three display locations . . . a large lot on the south edge of town, in Simpson Park, and at the National Guard Armory. A high level flyover by a B52 bomber started the day, with a flight of F4C Phantom jets making two passes, and later, a flight of A10 Thunderbolts made treetop level passes over the display area, and during the parade, a C130 made a dust-raising pass down Washington Street, over the parade and reviewing stand.
One of the favorite stories of that year came from the end of the celebration when the helicopters that had been on display were leaving and returning to base. There were a pair of Army Reserve Apache helicopters, a National Guard armed Huey (UH-1) helicopter, a Kiowa, and a Cobra Attack helicopter, and the Air National Guard sent two Light Observation Helicopters that appeared to be more bubble glass flight decks than anything else.
Ah, but the star of the show was an Air Force Chinook, the Boeing CH-47! It is a large, twin turbine engine, double-rotor, heavy lift helicopter with nearly 10,000 horsepower. The Chinook arrived first, and was parked in the center of a large field at the junction of Highways 63 and 36. It was watched closely by the crew throughout the day, but was opened up so the public could peer inside to see how massive it is. And, when it came time to leave, it was the last to go. Other, smaller, helicopters were parked around the outside edges of the grassy lot as they arrived.
All of the helicopters took off, one or two at a time, and made a treetop flyover before departing. We later learned that the light observation aircraft, the “bubble” helicopters, had to land in a field short of their destination to wait out a sudden gale that formed in their path. Meanwhile, the crowd of onlookers pressed in toward the Chinook as the flight crew did the final walk around inspection.
The turbine engines were started, their high pitched whine piercing the air. After three or four minutes, the props seemed to flop up and down once as though someone had accidently bumped a control. But, it was evidence that something might happen soon. We waited patiently, knowing that all we were going to see was another helicopter lifting off, and flying off into the distance.
The rear blades started to spin very slowly, followed by the front blades. As they began to increase speed, the noise the blade tips made seemed to drown out the engine noise. The flight crew eventually boarded through the ramp in the rear, after a final check, and closed it up. Soon, the front wheels lifted about two feet off the ground, while the rear ones seemed to struggle to leave terra firma. We wondered if the pilot thought he was completely off the ground.
Soon the rear wheels came off the ground, the front end dropped about a foot, and then bobbed back up like a cork, the whole huge helicopter slowing rocking front to rear. The blades were now spinning faster, emitting that familiar helicopter chop-chop sound as they sliced through the air, with little effect, as the helicopter slowly teetered up and down front-to-back, it then began to also slowly rotate to the right. Still only a few inches off the ground, the blades hurled a windstorm over the crowd, now standing back and shielding themselves from the flying debris washed up by the big cumbersome beast.
This departure was not even close to being as graceful as the others, each of which gave us a sense of pride in our military might, while this one seemed like an ugly duckling, ungainly and hard to handle! The helicopter continued to teeter and slowly rotate to the right, until it had turned 180 degrees so that now we could clearly see the crew in the cockpit.
We muttered among ourselves, wondering why they were having so much trouble getting the ungainly machine under control, when, all of a sudden SWOOSH! it hurled up into the sky, above the clouds, and out of sight, as though fired from a slingshot! It vanished before any of us even realized what had happened! We couldn’t look up fast enough to see it disappear! It was just gone!
To say that we were amazed would be an understatement! No one saw that coming, but it certainly changed our opinion of that awesome craft! A photo of our collective faces in that moment would be priceless! Our thanks to the pilot and crew for giving us such an awesome experience!
Lt General Light
Lt. General James E. Light, Jr., Commander of the Fifteenth Air Force, was the guest of honor at the fifth annual North Missouri Armed Forces Day Observance in Chillicothe, MO in 1984. Organized in its first year as merely an Armed Forces Day parade, by the fifth year it had expanded into helicopter displays at the junction of highways 36 and 63 on the south edge of town, multiple flyovers by a variety of fixed wing aircraft including a B-52 bomber, demonstrations of rappelling, hand to hand combat, and a patriotism program featuring the “Pageant of Flags” organized by the Chillicothe American Legion, Vern R. Glick post, followed by a performance by the band “Festival.”
The General was a Command Pilot with more than 9,000 flying hours in over fifteen types of aircraft. He had 220 combat missions with more than 500 combat hours. His military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star with two oak leaf clusters, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with six oak leaf clusters, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal and Air Medal with 18 oak leaf clusters.
General Light was the highest ranking officer to attend one of Chillicothe’s Armed Forces Day Observances, and participated in many of the day’s activities, as well as reviewing the parade. In a special radio ceremony he presented Gene Vaughn, KCHI Station Manager with a large plaque honoring him with a Patriot Award from the Fifteenth Air Force. Dad had never met such a high ranking officer, and was quite honored.
One of my proudest moments was seeing my father awarded a patriotism award by an Air Force general for the radio station’s sponsorship of the annual Armed Forces Day event. He had served many years in military organizations from the Marine Corps Reserve, Missouri State Guard, and the National Guard. He had worked his way up to Chief Warrant Officer in Criminal Investigation before leaving the service. He was quite honored to be given an award by a three-star general.
And, our eternal gratitude to all those who give service to their country, and for defending our freedom. Thank you for serving!
Boy Scouts of America
By Larry E Vaughn
There’s something a little frightening about your twelve year old son achieving manhood. First he’s childishly mischievous, kicking pea gravel at his buddy, and then he’s using proper logic to make a decision that will affect his entire adult life. He’s gaining self confidence, becoming self-sufficient, and learning independence by conquering the elements of nature with his fellow Boy Scouts.
It was with great excitement the twenty-four scouts from Holts Summit, Missouri climbed aboard the 28-foot cabin cruiser, Gidoris, for a forty five minute cruise to the Lake of the Ozarks island where they would camp for the weekend. The skipper, Gideon Houser, gave the scouts a tour of his well-appointed boat, briefed them on water safety, then issued and fitted life jackets.
Scoutmaster Dwight Gates, who had driven the scout troop‘s bus, had overseen the packing of tents and supplies into a small fishing boat towed behind. “The boys have been preparing for this trip for several weeks,” Gates remarked, “and, I am very grateful to Mr. Houser for making this special opportunity available to us.” The scouts’ boat was launched, and tied on behind the big cabin cruiser.
Houser, a skilled and courteous ship’s captain, eased the big boat from the dock into the main channel. After setting his course and stabilizing the gentle throb of the engines, he stepped aside, allowing each of the scouts to take his turn at the wheel. Keeping an ever watchful eye on other lake traffic, the skipper answered a continuous barrage of questions from the admiring boys. “One of life’s greatest pleasures,” Houser chuckled, “is being able to share a new experience with someone. I’ve been looking forward to this weekend, myself.”
Excitement reached new levels as our destination came into view. The scouts began scanning the wilderness along the shoreline for campsites, likely fishing spots and interesting areas to explore. The Gidoris was quickly anchored thirty feet offshore, and scoutmaster Gates untethered the fishing boat loaded with gear, and headed for the beach.
After unloading the boat on a graveled beach with secluded coves on either side, Gates began shuttling the scouts and adult leaders ashore. Tending to business first, the scouts quickly erected the six tents that would house the troop that night, and gathered firewood for campfires.
Then there was free time for fishing, swimming and exploring. Gates, now in swimming trunks, selected an area to be set aside for swimming. After checking the lake bottom for hazards, he established boundaries by anchoring lifejackets on the perimeters to serve as markers. Then appointing lifeguards, testing each boy’s swimming skill, and pairing the boys into a buddy system, he let them swim freely, while maintaining a constant vigil.
While some scouts were exploring the island’s wooded and beach areas, searching for new discoveries, collecting shells, or just admiring nature’s wonders, others had broken out fishing rods.
Uniformed scouts could be seen on almost every point, trying to catch a trophy fish. It didn’t matter to them what kind of fish it was they caught, just so it was big enough to brag about. And, sooner or later that night, where you saw a scout, you saw an adult leader untangling fishing line, working lures loose from obstructions on the bottom, tying new knots in the line, and putting fish on stringers. It was a new experience for many of the youngsters, and a rewarding afternoon for the adults.
The sky had become cloudy during the afternoon, and now as dusk approached, a solid overcast hid the sunset. It was time for supper. The boys chose spots for their cook fires, downwind from the tents. They brushed debris away from their chosen spot, then assembled kindling and firewood. Soon there was chatter from all around the campsite as each group busied themselves with preparing their meals. The variety of foods ranged from simple canned stews to steak and potatoes. Some had even brought a dessert.
As each scout finished his evening meal, he collected any trash he had created and placed it in the troop trash container. Then he scoured, washed and rinsed his mess kit before packing it away for the night. Some scouts, on their first overnight camping trip that required them to plan and prepare their own meals, received helpful advice and instruction from more experienced scouts to help them make cooking and cleanup quicker and easier.
Night had already fallen by the time everyone had finished their supper and cleanup. Now it was time to unpack bedrolls, lay ground cloths, and make the tents ready for the night. The evening’s cloudy skies threatened rain, so trenches were dug around the tents to carry off any rainwater that might fall that night. Tent bracing was double checked in case there should be any wind. Some scouts double braced their tents and placed large rocks around the bottom walls to hold them securely in place. Others were not so cautious.
A large, cheerful, bon fire ringed with driftwood seats crackled at the edge of the campsite, and the scouts were assembled for a campfire discussion before retiring for the night. The stillness of the lake echoed the sounds of laughter and singing as the scouts and leaders recounted the activities of the day, shared jokes, and closed with singing in unison.
It wasn’t even a half hour later that the first sprinkles of rain fell on the campsite. It was a gentle rain at first, with only a few small gusts of wind. Occasional bursts of quiet laughter and the rumbling of voices telling stories still seeped from the tents. They diminished only when the lightning and thunder worsened, rain pummeling the tents became a constant dull thudding. Gusting wind shook the tents like tissue paper.
Scoutmaster Gates was concerned. “My boys are going to get soaked in this rain,” he worried out loud. “Those darned tents aren’t as good as I would like for them to be, but they’re all we could afford. Maybe someday when we get our bills paid . . .” He donned his rain suit and stepped into the storm. He headed for the campsite to check tent staking and tie downs, to secure flaps and place rocks around those tents that needed them.
It was shortly after he left the campsite one tent’s bracing gave in to the wind and collapsed onto the boys inside. It fell twice more that night. After he returned from the first of many trips to check the campsite, as we were discussing whether to move the boys to a sheltered dock somewhere, I felt the hurt all parents feel sooner or later. I realized, all of a sudden, that my son had been able to plan, prepare, and take care of himself all day, without any help from daddy.
Now, he was out there, in a tent during a severe thunderstorm, dependant on his own resourcefulness for comfort and safety. What a strange mixture of hurt, dismay and pride I felt that stormy night!
The violence of the storm abated in the early morning hours, and turned into light, but persistent, drizzle that continued until near noon. As dawn broke, a few of the scouts donned their raingear, rounded up fishing tackle, and headed for the favored fishing spots. Others slept in, weary from the busyness of the previous day and sleeplessness during the storm. But, by seven o’clock everyone was up, in rain gear, preparing for another day.
The problem of getting a cook fire started was uppermost in everyone’s mind. Pine needles and Cedar bark were gathered from the woods to serve as kindling. Small twigs and sticks were gathered from under trees where they were somewhat sheltered from the previous night’s downpour. The scouts stretched out a large plastic drop cloth and lifted it shoulder high over the selected cook fire site. Scoutmaster Gates climbed under it, assembled the necessary materials, and soon had a warm bristling fire burning.
The boys fried and scrambled eggs, baked biscuits, stirred up hot chocolate, and one even fried the fish he had caught the evening before . . . . all in the rain, water dripping off their rain suits! Breakfast took a little longer than planned, because the boys had to take turns using the campfire. After most of the scouts had finished eating, and were cleaning their mess kits, I unpacked my food and cooking gear. It was during this time that my son came over and sat beside me. “I’m still kind of hungry, Dad,” he said. What music to my ears! It sounded sort of like he said he still needed me! It was with great joy that we mixed up some pancake batter, fried potatoes, heated hot chocolate, and shared a rain soaked breakfast.
Before breaking camp and boarding the Gidoris for the return trip to our waiting bus, the scouts were assembled again for a Sunday morning services of thanksgiving. The scouts themselves provided the opening and closing prayers, and related the things that they had learned from the campout. They spoke of such things as fellowship, sharing, caring, and helping others. They related the times that they had needed help that weekend, and the times that there were able to help someone else. They spoke of God, of gratefulness, and appreciation.
Later, as they folded their tents and packed their gear, they kicked pea gravel on their buddy, and played practical jokes on each other. Soon, they were on their way home to their parents, who are just a little bit saddened as they watch their twelve year old sons growing into young men.
While we lived in Chillicothe, our sons participated in the Boy Scout troop sponsored by the Methodist Church. Troop Leader was Vince Moore, owner of Moore Monument. He had led the troop when his own son went through the Scouting program, and remained for many years afterwards to inspire many young boys to make good ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.
My boys attended the annual weeklong scout program at Camp Geiger, located on the bluffs over the Missouri River near St. Joseph, Missouri. Camp Geiger is operated by the Pony Express Council, and was accredited by the Central Region, Boy Scouts of America. As a part of the scouting experience, the boys both went through initiation into the Tribe of Mic-O-Say, the Pony Express Council’s alternative honors program similar to the BSA Order of the Arrow.
To be invited into the order was considered an honor, and it was conveyed through a tap on the shoulder by the Sachem during an evening parent’s day ceremony conducted around a huge bonfire. After dinner on Parent’s Night the troop had a variety of activities planned, ending with the Induction ceremony after nightfall. A huge bonfire using long logs arranged to resemble a teepee was lit, and distant drums started beating a steady cadence, signalling that the ritual was about to begin.
The shirtless boys from Tenderfoot, and other ranks that were not yet inducted, made their way to the bonfire and formed a circle completely around, and facing, the bonfire. The adult leaders of the troop, and scouts already inducted into Mic-O-Say, were in costume and had positioned themselves around the outside of the circle of boys. The drummers made their way to the fire while maintaining their cadence, which now began echoing from the surrounding ridges.
The scouts who were already members of the tribe, and in costume, entered the ring of boys and danced around and around with ankle bells jingling and Indian war cries resounding through the night. Then the drums suddenly stopped, and the braves of the tribe moved silently into the dark. The Troop Leader, now in costume of a tribal chief, explained to the audience, and the scouts, that those who had been recognized by the leaders as worthy to join the tribe as braves would be selected that night, and would be given this final test to prove their worthiness.
They would have to build a fire from scratch, in the presence of another member of the tribe, and then carry it up to any point they chose on the ridge, and keep it burning all night long. In the morning the Sachem or Sagamore would come to see their campfire, and if it was still burning, they would be inducted into the tribe. Then the drums started their cadence again.
The costumed Sagamore and Sachem, with a drummer, moved silently around the outside of the circle. When they arrived behind a scout that was to be inducted, the Sachem’s drummer would beat a constant fast paced tempo. The other drums stopped. The silence was broken only by the snap and crackle of the bonfire as it shot flaming embers high into the air. From behind, he Sachem laid the tip of his ceremonial lance on the right shoulder of the inductee and mumbled an indiscernible phrase, which we all presumed was American Indian.
The Sagamore then sharply tapped the inductee’s other shoulder, and the Sachem’s drummer started up the previous cadence. All the other drums joined in until the Sachem stopped behind another inductee. When the ceremony ended with the last tapping, inductees were told to gather what they needed for the night of tending their fire, and to return to the bonfire. All the scouts then departed with no one knowing who had and hadn’t been tapped.
When the boys returned it was obvious most hadn’t planned for sleeping out all night tending a fire. Most were sent back to their cabin to get bedding or snacks and water or rain gear. When they were suitably equipped to spend the night out of doors by themselves, they were assigned a tribe member to observe them starting their fire flint and tinder or with bow sticks until the kindling could be ignited.
As each boy got his fire started, he then moved it by any means he could devise, up to a position on the ridge where many campfires had burned before. There they established a campsite with a nearby source of firewood. The boys usually spent a hour or more getting their campfire going in their selected spot, and then spent another hour collecting firewood. Many built up their fire, got good and warm, and fell asleep.
From down below, the campfires could be seen lining the ridge surrounding the campground. As the fires began to lose their glow, an adult leader or senior scout would go silently to each campsite to watch over the sleeping scout and keep the fire burning until morning. At daybreak the Sachem and Sagamore would loudly approach each campsite to check the campfire. Most of the scouts had no idea they had fallen to sleep, and were awarded the first rank in the tribe, “Fire Builder.”
Link entered the Mic-O-Say program first, and was given the tribal name “Strong Legs.” When I was subsequently inducted as an adult leader, I was given the name “Big Strong Legs,” meaning “father of Strong Legs.” Two years later when Lance was inducted he was given the tribal name “Least Strong Legs,” meaning “younger Strong Legs.” Link advanced through the ranks and conducted his Eagle Scout project by building bird houses and placing them in a nature preserve. Lance discontinued Scouts when we moved from Missouri to Indiana.
Leesburg, Evilrock & Vulgarity Railroad
Bedford & Medicine Creek Railroad
I once spent 180 consecutive days in the hospital caring for my wife, who had been stricken by necrotizing pancreatitis during vacation, 1000 miles from home. Lea was in a drug induced coma that physically paralyzed her for 78 days, while doctors performed over 30 surgical procedures on her. Statistically, she had a 15% chance of survival. After clinically dying four times, and being revived, she eventually recovered and was released to begin the long road to recovery.
During her illness I was able to explore just how important she has been to me in so many ways, as wife, friend and lover, and I was led to share my thoughts by email with family and a growing list of friends as her ordeal unfolded. I also grew much closer to God, as I drew on His strength and sovereign power to guide me through the trials and despair of each tortuous day.
But, it wasn’t until after the hospital stay was over, and a very feeble Lea started recovery, that I began to fully understand the lessons I had been given. When we returned to the Midwest, we were led to attend a church new to us. We had planned to visit the church years before, but just never seemed to make it. Now, I felt led to visit there. As soon as Lea was strong enough to sit up for an hour at a time, we made our way to the morning service.
The minister was teaching from Hebrews chapter 12, where God’s discipline for His children is discussed. Over the next several weeks, I felt the sermon was being directed specifically at me, as the work the Lord had done in my life over the past few months was being revealed, and I came to understand my obligation to share my testimony with all who would listen. That’s really what this website is all about; sharing that testimony.
Scripture is very clear that you cannot accept Christ and then just live any way you please. And, God, our heavenly Father, takes our obligation to serve Him seriously. Like earthly fathers, He often has to take action to protect us from ourselves. Sometimes that disciplinary action is harsh. Often it hurts . . . a lot.
We need to understand, though, that when we are disciplined by a loving heavenly father it is not to discourage us, it is to encourage us. It is ALWAYS corrective, never meaningless! God uses discipline to help His children grow in grace, and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that they might carry out their assigned personal ministries.
Proverbs 3:11-13 teaches: “My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord, or loathe His reproof, for whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father, the son in whom he delights. How blessed is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding.”
Even when we sense God’s disciplining hand upon us we should be encouraged by this, for it shows that God is at work in our lives. Therefore, we should not lose heart or faint when being disciplined. God will never go too far in His discipline.
View On Suffering
Ah, Sunday, July 15, 2007. The Lord’s day. The day of the week set aside for rest, reflection and appreciation of all He has set before us. It’s a day of fellowship with friends and family, listening to His word with fellow believers, and giving praise for His glorious works. It is also the day for putting your life purpose in perspective.
As I sit at Lea’s hospital bedside day after day, standing ready to render what assistance I can to make her suffering more tolerable, I constantly remind myself to be open to the message God is sending. The message He is sending to me, and through me. Putting aside all other things to care for the most precious gift God has given me has taught me a lot about suffering.
Lance, my youngest son, wrote earlier this year, “Man! God sure is pouring it on, isn’t He?” I would have to say so. It breaks my heart to see Lea suffer so much. But, as we think about the significance of suffering in our lives, we have to recognize that everyone has suffering they are dealing with every single day. Everyone has a story to tell.
We all know folks who seem to manage their problems well, while it seems other folks’ problems completely manage them. Just as a little boy who finally gathers the courage to stand up to the school yard bully, and even losing can be a win, we learn and grow from confronting the challenges we face, and suffer through the battle to overcome them.
As I stated in my personal testimony, I walked through the valley of the Shadow of Death straight into Hell, and served a term there while Lea was hospitalized in Hartford Hospital. It was the most horrible thing I have ever experienced, and I certainly don’t want to ever have to go back there again. But, it was my Father’s way of getting my attention, disciplining me, and getting me back on track.
The important life lesson is not what challenges you are given, but rather, how you handle your suffering and any other trials that come. And, they definitely will come! I Peter, chapter 4, verse 12. “Don’t be surprised at the painful trials you are suffering as though something strange were happening to you.”
Sometimes something negative happens to us and we say, “Lord, this is so strange that this should happen to me! Why me Lord?” I asked that an awful lot in Hartford. But, you know what? Almost every single day of the suffering I was going through, I would receive emailed messages and testimonies from readers of the Hartford Letter dispatches that gave me just the right amount of support to lift me up and keep me going.
I learned through that to look around, and listen, to all the folks around me and understand that all those other folks around me were suffering through their own challenges. I often would thank God that I was not confronted with the problems others were facing.
I still do today; probably more frequently and openly than ever, uttering, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”( John Bradford) This famous phrase helps us understand that things could always be worse for us, and that we should suffer according to God’s will, commit ourselves to Him, and continue to do good. (I Peter, chapter 4, verse 17)
Although everyone suffers, not everyone is suffering according to God’s will. Peter talks about three kinds of suffering; Common Suffering, the kind we all experience because we live in a fallen world. This includes things like sickness, conflict, heartache. Christian and non-Christian alike, some suffering is common to all of us, and much of it can’t be avoided.
Secondly, Peter talks about Carnal Suffering. That is suffering that we bring on ourselves because we disobey the laws of God or the laws of man, which are derived from the laws of God. This kind of suffering you can largely avoid.
But, did you know that if you’re a true Christian, you’re going to suffer for it? This is the third kind of suffering Peter talks about; Christian Suffering. A lot of people think if they join a church and show up for worship service pretty regularly, they have a ticket to heaven, and life will be trouble free. That’s not the case!
God uses persecution in the Christian’s life to purify him, unite him with Christ, empower him, and to persuade others to believe. Christian suffering is a definite sign that we are walking with Christ and in direct opposition to Satan. When you oppose Satan he will attack you directly. That’s why Peter says not to be surprised when you suffer as you walk with Christ.
When you are doing what God wants you to do you are going to encounter criticism and other types of suffering, because this is how God matures you and equips you to be a soldier for Him. For most of us that equipping doesn’t come easily. We often resist Him, preferring to think we can run our own lives just fine.
His plan, however, is for us to become Christ like. He usually has to work on each of us individually to get us there, and He uses suffering to perfect and purify us. In Romans 5:3, Paul said we can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials for we know they are good for us. They help us learn to be patient. And, patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it.
This is a part of Common Suffering. Trials come, divorce comes, heartaches come, financial reverses come, struggles come, disappointment comes, depression comes and God uses all of it. Suffering comes because God is perfecting us and we are not yet what God wants us to be.
God uses suffering to direct you in your walk with Him. This was the case for me in Hartford. I had strayed from the Church, and had to be brought back in line. Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways. (Proverbs 20:30) Sometimes God has to get our attention forcefully. Sometimes He has to let us feel the heat.
I remember my grandfather, Reverend W.T. Vaughn saying that we Christians often don’t change our lives when we see the light; we change our lives when we begin to feel the heat! That was certainly true in my case. God had to let me see what it would be like to lose my precious wife to get my attention. I truly suffered, and suffering never leaves you where it found you. Where it leads you, however, depends on how you respond.
We learn more through suffering than we do through success, it seems. God uses problems to correct and direct us. We can submit to Him, and accept His will for our lives, or turn to Satan. You learn the true value of walking with God when you resist His will, and have to be corrected. God uses suffering to correct us. He uses suffering to direct us when we are going the wrong direction. He uses suffering to inspect and perfect us.
In Isaiah 48:10, the prophet talks about the testing of Israel to see what was in them. God, he said, put them in the fire like a refiner puts precious metal into the pot and turns up the heat until the impure metal becomes so hot it becomes liquid. Then all the impurities that keep the metal from being valuable and precious rise to the surface, so the refiner can skim them away. The refiner knows the metal is pure when the only thing he can see is the reflection of his own face.
The same is true in our lives as Christians. God will turn up the fire of suffering in our life until all impurity has been removed. He’ll know we’re ready when He looks into us and all He sees is the reflection of Jesus Christ. How ready are you to be inspected? I know I’m not ready, but I continue working on it, and just pray that if that inspection comes today He will forgive me of my shortcomings.
Thank You, Lord, for the blessing of being forgiven my sins of commission and my sins of omission. Thank You for the incredible sacrifice of Your son who died on the cross that I might be forgiven. Please keep Your hand in my life that I might serve Your will. Bless my loved ones that they might find peace and comfort in You. In Jesus’ righteous name I pray. Amen.
Next Chapter: The Danville Decade