For the past 20-years I’ve had the pleasure of welcoming KEZW listeners to a new day each morning, and in the beginning it was just that, a pleasure. But lately it’s become a bit more of a challenge for everyone. Let’s face it, the news hasn’t been a lot of fun to listen to lately. For anyone 10 or younger America has always been at war. We’ve been living with a recession that has caused many of our family and friends to lose jobs, or give up careers they’d worked a lifetime towards. And yesterday came the news that 1 in 6 Americans is living in poverty. Hard to wake up with a smile when that’s the world you wake up to. Well, I have an idea how we might be able to dust ourselves off and get a bounce back in our step. We’ve waited quite a while for someone else to right the ship so maybe we should try to tackle this ourselves. Seems to me there’s a group among us who have already made this journey and we need to sit down and listen to how they got through it, and grew prosperous from it.
When I started at KEZW in 1991 I was spellbound by the stories of my grandparents, and the WWII generation that made up most of the listening audience of AM 1430. The first 10-years I was host of this show America was living in pretty tall cotton and we couldn’t imagine a world where people chose between dinner or a new pair of shoes. How could anyone possibly have lived without a three-car garage? Walk to school…are you kidding me? And wear the clothes my brother wore the year before? Right! But every older person I had on the air told the same stories which meant they were true, or there was one heck of an old person conspiracy going on! We heard our parents and grandparents talk about growing their own vegetables and stretching out meals by adding water. Kids played games in back-yards, rode bikes for hours and read stories of the far-away places kids today see on TV, and their laptops. Children of the 40’s slipped notes to each other in school, and their fathers wrote letters from the battlefield. Today’s kids text, and soldiers Skype or call on cell phones.
I’m not suggesting we give up all the new inventions that have shaped our lives and made them largely more enjoyable. I am saying until lately it’s been easier for us then it was for our grandparents. Baby boomers were beneficiaries of the great American post-war spirit of the late 40’s and 50’s. We loved the world we were born into and helped ourselves freely to the things our parents created for us. And we passed that love of things along to our children and wanted nothing more than for them to have the best we could afford, and many times even more than we could afford. But we forgot one thing. We never shared the lessons that were supposed to go with the gifts. We ignored the words of our elders who enjoyed the TV’s, microwaves and other new gadgets of their day, but didn’t buy them until they had the money in the bank. They didn’t wait at the store beginning at midnight to be the first to buy anything, unless it was a war bond. Many WWII vets tell of getting the first pair of new shoes they ever owned when they enlisted. When I was young we had Christmas Clubs at the bank and saved all year to buy one gift for Mom and Dad and siblings. And we were so proud of that.
If we want to fix the problems of today I think we need to have a long talk with the people who survived the Great Depression and WWII while they’re still here to share the lessons they learned. In fact, I think we need to create a Department of Life Lessons. Staff it with people who put on potluck suppers at church to raise money for the community. We’ll need someone who remembers baking pies for the neighborhood, or sharing leftovers when you had them. Heck, we’ll need to start by actually meeting our neighbors. We’ve got to add the guy who can make an overnight sleepover in the backyard seem like a trip to a foreign land and throw in a storyteller who can take us anywhere…with his words. And we’ll need people to remind us to put money away for a rainy day. And we need to hear that when one of us hurts it only gets better when all of us helps. There’s plenty of help all around us…just waiting to be asked. The Department of Life Lessons. Ready to start
Saturday morning at 8:30a I am going to be on my back deck enjoying a beautiful Colorado morning, much as I was five-years ago. I'll have my coffee, and my paper, and Diane will be nearby. I suspect we'll both have tears in our eyes as we look at each other for that will mark the exact moment five-years ago that Diane had her stroke, in that very spot. In a split second we went from enjoying a rare moment of time alone to having our world turned upside down and our lives changed forever. From the frantic ride to the hospital, to the zillions of questions and tests and then finally a bed in the critical care wing of Aurora South Medical Center we were, for a time, no longer in control of our own lives and that ended up being a good thing because we were placed in the loving and caring hands of people who knew better than us at that moment. I know without hesitation that we would be living much more difficult lives if it were not for the amazing people at Aurora South Medical Center who responded immediately upon our arrival and seemed to always be there right before we needed them. They didn't just treat Diane, they cared for her and one special angel on their staff, Dawn, was always there to make the dark moments brighter. And then there's Cindy's amazing team at Spalding Rehabilitation Hospital. I'm only half kidding when I say they not only restored Diane's speech, they made it better than before the stroke. It was at Spalding one day that Diane realized she had been blessed with a second chance. I'll never forget that moment. I'll also never forget the moment in her hospital room when she recited the Lords Prayer word for word. They were the first complete sentences she spoke. Father Steve still talks about it being one of the most powerful moments of prayer he's ever experienced.
I will also never forget the incredible outpouring of support we received from KEZW listeners. When I first went on the air I never said where Diane was hospitalized and I asked my staff not to release that information. And yet somehow people found out and soon Diane's room had more flowers than the Rose Garden. And the cards came by the hundreds. Please know she draws strength to this day from your kindness.
I must say that I don't know anyone stronger on this Earth than my wife. Five-years after she couldn't put two words together in a sentence she's managing the Colorado Freedom Memorial project, acting as part time room mother for Larissa, babysitting all three grandkids a couple days a week, taking care of me and being the best friend a person could have. I am inspired by her strength, her generosity for others and the determination she showed to recover. There was a bit of luck in it as well, but it was love from family and friends, faith and sheer willpower that helped her recover.
And so this Saturday morning we'll hold hands a little longer, smile a little wider, and have the peace that comes in knowing each day is a gift. Happy Anniversary Di.
I will admit from the very beginning that I was one of those very excited about IKEA coming to Denver. Not in the mass hysteria way that many of my fellow Coloradoans were consumed by. I didn’t have a desire to wait in line 4-days, but in a curious way. I’ve driven past many IKEA’s on trips to Europe and friends of mine from around the world have told me how cool the store was. So, when it came time for IKEA to open in Denver, I wanted to be there. I even had Diane talked into going on opening day until the bat flew into our house and we got a bit sidetracked. Finally, at 3:45p on Friday, we pulled off I-25 and County Line Road and began our adventure.
Now I must say the site of police cars spaced every 100-yeards or so for about a mile made me wonder what I was getting in to, but we followed their directions and were led to the street going to the IKEA parking garage. Dozens and dozens of vested traffic directors guided us first along side IKEA, then to the front of IKEA, then under IKEA into the parking garage, then past lots of empty parking spaces and out the other side of the parking garage and back onto the street leaving IKEA. After all this time I had just be sent beside, in front of, under, back in front of and out IKEA without stopping. I felt like Moses seeing the Promised Land from afar, but never entering. What the heck just happened?? So, back into line we went, past a few more vested traffic directors and finally, we were granted a parking space. Finally, we were on the path to see the wizard, and I have to admit I was a little excited!
I wish I could think of something more poetic to describe my first impression entering the store, but OMG is all I can think of. This place is HUGE, but it doesn’t seem like it when you’re in it at first. You start walking through rows and rows of themed merchandise. Kitchens, Bathrooms, Bedrooms, Living Rooms, Home Offices and there’s even room after decorated room for each area. You also find bins of merchandise that are very reasonably priced. Odds and Ends that you’ll find useful and probably a lot of stuff you don’t need, but who can pass up the price. It was obvious to me that many in the herd have never been to Europe and some of the styles of items puzzled them. One lady standing next to me said “It’s about time Denver had authentic European furnishings available.” I didn’t have the heart to show her the made in China label on the back of the lamp she was holding. I’m also hoping they found assistance for the person who said “Is this Heaven?”, to be answered by his spouse who said “No, it’s IKEA.” That’s just wrong.
My advice to you on your first visit is to not load up your cart at first. Walk all the way through the store. Go to the restaurant and enjoy some Swedish Meatballs, then go back through with a better understanding of what there is. It’s so HUGE you’ll be changing your mind a couple of times about things. What did we end up buying? The lovely new office chair I’m sitting in while writing this; a new comforter set for our bed and a few odds and ends. It was two-hours of window shopping, planning for our next visit and seeing things you don’t usually see around here. It was obvious many were there just to say they were there. Some wondered around in a daze looking for a place to lie down, mostly husbands. But I LOVE THE PLACE!!! I can’t wait to go back, but Diane says it’ll be a couple weeks. She’s afraid I’ll ask if this is Heaven again!
This last week I took vacation and for the first time in my adult life, didn't leave town. Counting weekends it was 9-days of doing nothing but work around the house and we worked ever single one of those 9 days. Diane and I had a plan going in. We wanted to clean up some gardens, work a bit on the yard and maybe have a little free time left over for a day trip to the mountains or something fun like that. The fun part never happened. For 216-hours we never got any further than the yard. Oh we visited the hardware store, the landscape supply store. 8 times, and went to the grocery store twice for medical supplies and ice cream, but that was it. For nine-days we worked side-by-side in the heat, then the downpours, and in a miracle not known since old testiment days, we remained married...and friendly! But during these days of unwavering dedication to reclaiming our fertile soil, we lost a dear friend. My back. It seems the 5 ton of rock moved, 2 ton of gravel laid, 200' of landscape timbers installed, 5 truckloads of Washington Cedar mulch spread, lawn fertilized, new shower head installed, outdoor canvas gazebo put up, 300' of backyard fence line garden weeded and trees trimmed was enough for my back to say, that's it. I've done your dirty work for almost 55-years and this has got to stop. And with that, a new era began. One filled with ice packs, pain relievers and a new 15-minute dance that looks like wild animals mating but is only me trying to put socks on. I believe this was glorys last shot. No longer will I be able to say, "Oh, I'll climb that large Maple tree and get the cat." Never again will I speak out loud, "Let me put in the new concrete driveway." O.K., I never said those things before, but they were on my bucket list!!! It seems my 9-days of vacation and non-stop yard work taught me something new. Damn I'm getting close to old!!! Through shear determination and good old hard-headedness we finished our list...just before it finished us. We got the house with the big yard so the kids and grandkids would have room to play. We never saw them once in 9-days. Amazing how that happens even when they're older when there's work to be done. Anyway, it's on to the Yardwork Senior Tour for me now. I'll be the guy on the porch with an ice cold beer supervising younger people. That's the life for me. Except Diane said we're not paying someone to do what we're still capable of doing. Sure hope the neighbors like weeds!
Have you ever wondered what you were really like as a kid? We all have memories of random things from our childhood. I remember my very first girlfriend. Her name was Patty and we were nine-years old and living in Germany where our fathers were stationed in the Air Force. I don’t remember lots about Patty other than she had curly brown hair, and she visited me often when I had my tonsils out. I also remember the Cactus Bowling Alley in Tucson where I hung out many days after school with the janitor, Jessie, who would let me bowl free if I helped him clean the place up. Jessie was the first black man I befriended and it was in 1968 when most of America was still trying to figure out race relations. A 13-year old white boy and a 60-year old black man didn’t have a problem with it and we often shared French fries and a coke. Sometimes I bought with my allowance, but not often. I do remember things, but I don’t remember me. What was I like, and I mean really like? Not the memories your Grandma shared about how much you talked, or how you couldn’t sit still in church. What worried me? What did I want to be when I grew up? What was I really like? Well, yesterday I found out. On a pile of rocks, 5-ton to be exact, in the front yard of my house in the middle of the afternoon, I met me. It’s true. Sitting right on top of that mountain was six-year old me and for 30-minutes we talked about all the things I must have been captured by 49-years ago. As 6-year old me and 54-year old me tossed the rocks from the pile into the garden we talked about baseball. I told me that when I was six we didn’t have T-Ball like they do today, we started with the real game. Then 6-year old me said he thought T-Ball was ok and we must have been brave to start with a real baseball. Our visit moved to spiders and we took turns holding a daddy long-legs or two then moved on to how you would never long-kiss your Mom and in fact you would never long-kiss anyone until you’re 30! Then we shared how we both had seen with our own eyes how Moms can hear things all the way across the yard even when you’re whispering. And it’s usually when you say bad things. I asked 6-year old me what he wanted to be when he grew up and he said, “Like when I’m in 5th grade?” On and on we went, never quiet for long, and then it was time to finish and head our separate ways. “Poppi”, Ethan said as we climbed off the rocks, both covered with dust and dirt, “that was fun.” Yes it was little me, it was great fun. Thanks for sitting on the rocks with your Poppi and reminding me what it was like to be me when I was six. And please don’t let me go so long with coming back for a visit. Who knew there was much wisdom in a pile of rocks, and in a six-year old.
In the coming month I'll be hitting two career milestones that I can't quite get my arms around, and I have long arms!! The first happens on Wednesday, May 17th, when we broadcast the 5000th edition of the Breakfast Club. Think about that. 5000 times I've sat behind the microphone in the KEZW Studio and shared the morning with you. Over those 5000 sunrises I've interviewed countless celebrities and hundreds of hometown heroes. One of those shows was broadcast from the American Cemetery above Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. Another came from aboard the USS Missouri in Pearl Harbor on the 60th anniversary of the December 7th attack. Each show had its own special moments and both contributed to my ongoing effort to honor all our fallen heroes with the construction of the Colorado Freedom Memorial.
The second milestone comes June 17th when we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Breakfast Club with a special broadcast from the Wellshire Inn. The Wellshire was home for our Friday morning broadcasts for over 7-years and the site of some incredible shows. It was there that Captain Rober Morgan, pilot of the Memphis Belle during WWII joined us. So did countless other actors, singers, war heroes, athletes and authors who shared their stories and talents. The Wellshire was also where our daughter Sara had her wedding sendoff and granddaughter Larissa had her coming out party at age 4-weeks!! I'm often asked what my favorite memories are of the last 20-years at KEZW and I don't really know how to answer that. It has seemed to me, for the most part, to have actually been like watching someone elses life. Who gets to interview the likes of Julie Andrews and Tony Bennett and Mel Torme and Perry Como and Maureen O'Sullivan and John Glenn and Buzz Aldrin and John Denver and so many others? Who gets to mingle with Medal of Honor recipients and travel the world with listeners? I have stood at Pearl Harbor with 9-11 first responders and WWII veterans as they embraced one another. I have been in the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, with only one other living person there after it had closed for the day. I have been at my best friends bedside and watched as she spoke her first complete sentence's after her stroke, reciting the Lords Prayer, and knowing she would recover. I have known so many blessings in my 20-years at KEZW and there are not enough days left in my life to repay everyone who has made this journey possible. It has been more enjoyable because I had my buddy Diane at my side, and you close at hand. Thanks for sharing these last 5000 mornings, that add up to 20-years. It has been an incredible adventure, and we still have lots more to do!! Thanks.
In 1989 Ann Landers had an idea. She had been approached by the Veterans Administration to mention in her newspaper column that National Hospitalized Veterans Week was coming up. Not many of these veterans ever receive a visit during their hospitalization so Ann asked her readers to send Valentines Cards to patients at VA Hospitals as a way of supporting them, and send cards they did. Advance to 2003, the year after Ann passed away, and we decided to carry on her tradition at KEZW. This year the 9th annual Breakfast Club Valentines For Veterans program is bigger than ever!! We've been joined by Black-Eyed Pea Restaurants in metro Denver and the three Stacey's Hallmark stores who are official drop off locations for cards. You can also mail them to the station like always. All the details can be found on the main page of our website. Thanks to Stacey's Hallmark, The Black-Eyed Pea and all of you for not forgetting our veterans. I've seen the look on their faces as they've received your cards and it means so much to them. Kind of nice to know something so simple can mean so much!!!
Earlier this week I received several emails and phone calls from friends asking if I had heard the news that Major Dick Winters had passed away. He was the person whose service in WWII the original Band of Brothers was based on. Major Winters passed away January 2nd at the age of 92 and had requested that no word of his death be announced until after his funeral. His way of protecting his family in their time of grief. Then a day later the notes arrived from Boulder asking if I had heard that Col. Bill Bowers had passed. Bill was the pilot of B-25 #12 that left the deck of the USS Hornet on April 18, 1942 and joined 15 other Doolittle Raiders on the first air strike of Japan after the attack at Pearl Harbor. I had the pleasure of spending an hour one afternoon with just me, Bill and a cameraman and he shared his story from start to finish. Later we went to meet a group of students and he was the swashbuckling aviator we all remember from the movies. Good Looking, full of confidence to a point of cockiness and sharing tales that were AWESOME!!
Major Winters and Colonel Bowers are the latest of a grand generation that's leaving us. It underscores the importance of capturing as much of their history as possible. In as short a time as a decade we will lose all of our first- person knowledge of the WWII era. If you were a 17-year old serviceman in 1945 when the war ended, you're 83 today. We should all have some urgency to gather up recordings, printed materials, photos and other items that document that era before it ends up in the hands of children or others who don't understand the value and simply throw it away. I'm afraid that already happens more than we care to know. It has fallen on our generations to carry the torch and tell their tales. They are not gone until they are forgotten and I don't want to be the one to let that light extinguish. This December 7th marks the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the first time the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association will not conduct an official reunion. A couple years ago the 10th Mountain Division WWII veterans held their last reunion. Time is doing what the enemy couldn't, taking our WWII living history from us. I can see day soon where we take their seats at the bar and continue the tradition of storytelling. But instead of telling war stories, we'd tell war hero stories and recall their exploits as if they were our own. I think they'd be happy to know we had been listening. God Bless You Dick Winters and Bill Bowers. May we never forget you were here.
I've taken the last couple days off from work to spend time at home getting ready for the holidays. My friends know just how big a baby I am about Christmas. After my birthday, in early November, I start getting the urge to break out the decorations and Christmas records. Its been this way my whole life. And I'm not just an amateur Christmas lover. If it was an Olympic sport I'd be a medalist! Starting with my collection of over 1000 Santas, and 50 Nutcrackers the Crandall House at Christmas is quite a sight. I'm fortunate to be married to a kind woman who indulges my Ho-Ho-Ho obsession. There's just something about the season that touches you in a way nothing else can. The tree lights and decorations are warm and inviting. Christmas cards arrive from relatives you only hear from once a year. The smell of fresh baked cookies and the gathering of families fill your heart with joy. A special season indeed. But I've just realized that over the last many years I've lost touch with my favorite time of year in my haste to get it up, and over. From the moment the last Thanksgiving dish is washed, it's become a 30-day sprint to get as much in as possible. Decorations up, gifts purchased, parties held, and attended, Church on Sunday and Christmas Eve, Christmas cards in the mail, concerts to attend, and before you know it comes December 26th and you pack it all up without really having taken the time to stop and enjoy it. And so it goes year, after year, until we lose touch with why the season once meant so much to us. It becomes a holiday we try to live through, rather than being one we can't live without. I'm afraid I was becoming that person, until I started to decorate the living room tree during my two-day break and an old blue ornament that belonged to my Mom opened the flood gates to my Christmas memories. My earliest recollection of Christmas is 1964. My father had gone ahead of us to his next Air Force assignment in Germany and we spent Christmas at my Aunt Fuss's house in Detroit. The Motor City in the early 60's was a beautiful place at Christmas and it snowed, which was a treat for kids who had been living in Arizona. We got to sled every day and somehow we managed to set my little brother Toms ear on fire, though I'm sure I didn't do it! Everything was like a Currier and Ives scene and I've never forgotten it, I just misplaced the memory for a while. The blue ornament of my Mom's reminded my of many other Christmases growing up. It reminded me of the first Christmas Diane and I spent away from home, on the island of Guam with our 8-month old Sara. We closed the curtains and turned the air conditioning on high to try and make it cold like in Colorado. I remembered Christmases when money was tight and presents were few, and I remembered Christmas in 1982 when we got on I-25 as soon as the blizzard ended and took 3 hours to drive from Colorado Springs to Aurora to be home with Mom and Dad. The blue ornament that Mom gave to us, along with others before she passed away, may be the best gift of this Christmas because it will remind me each year forward to stop and remember just what the season truly brings. Not hustle and bustle, but love and peace. On that oold blue ornament there's a church and the words Silent Night. In the silence you can hear lots of wonderful things. Merry Christmas.
Back when I was growing up Halloween was my favorite holiday of the year. I'm not kidding. Sure, Christmas was a blast and your birthday when you're younger is always fun. There was just something special about Halloween, especially being a little boy. Dressing up was serious business. You weren't just putting on a costume, you were becoming a cowboy, or a pirate. You were assuming the identity of whichever hero you had chosen to look like and you couldn't let them down! And I don't ever remember going to the store and buying a costume. We made ours from stuff around the house. One year Mom put a cardboard box over me, painted it red with black buttons and stripes and I went as a tin soldier! I was a ghost another year and a cowboy. And then came the actual door-to-door attack. My brothers and I raced from house to house like we were on fire. We used pillow cases as trick-or-treat bags and I kid you not, it was not unusual to fill the cases half full with candy by the time the night was over. Filled with Necco's and bottle caps and lots and lots of suckers. Mary Jane's and pixie sticks and even a Carmel apple every year from Mrs. Jones at the end of the block. Then we'd get home, dump the stuff out in the middle of the floor, and start trading. And my brothers and I would trade for an hour, followed by Mom bringing out a big bowl for each of us and sending us off to bed. I'm convinced she and Dad helped themselves to a few treats after we were asleep, but that's purely speculation! We didn't worry about what could happen to us, because nothing bad ever did. We didn't check the candy for bad things because who do something like that? It's a shame my grandkids won't know Halloween like that. Maybe I'll lay on the floor and trade candy with them like me and my brothers did. Of course we'll have to dress up like cowboys! Happy Halloween everyone!
Friday afternoon was kind of overcast in Siena and the beginning chill of Autumn was in the air. We sat in the Campo, the main square of Siena, watching people and enjoying a glass of the local red wine. The Campo is where the famous Il Palio horse races take place every year. If you don't know of them you should find a story about them and see what an incredible event it is. So here in this special place in ItalyÂ we were living la dolce vita...the sweet life! And this would have been enough to call the day a success when all of a sudden, across the Campo, the doors to the church under the beautiful clocktower opened and out walked a bride and groom arm in arm. They paused for a moment to allow the photographer to get set up and slowly, clapping, and cheering, began to move from outdoor patios and restaurants around the Campo in a circle. Kind of like doing the wave at a baseball game. The bride lifted her bouquet and waved to everyone and a group of school children that were in the square on a class trip began to sing to them in Italian. Couples who had moments before been walking with each other, but apart, began to hold hands and put arms around one another. A British couple at the table next to us began to smile, and so did the Italians on the other side. A German tour group stopped and took pictures and cheered with everyone else. For 20-minutes this scene played out as the newlyweds made their way around the Campo. It was as if that one wedding had united us all making us part of the wedding party. I don't know how long this young couple will stay married, or what their future holds but I do know they were given a grand send-off to the rest of their lives together. Hundreds of people from all over the world, gathered in a Siena piazza, cheered their future, and reminded the rest of us that we all do have much more in common than we realize. All of us really want the same things. Shelter for our heads, food for our bodies, and someone to share the journey with. A great lesson learned in Siena. Sometimes your travels take you on a journey to foreign places, and sometimes they take you on a journey to yourself. When you get both...you're having a wonderful vacation!! Potete avere molti anni di felicitÃ insieme!
Each of us has a place we go to when times get tough. When we have those bad days at work, or things are making us crazy in our lives, it's the place we close our eyes and escape to. In the Narnia stories you enter this world through the wardrobe, but for most of us it's a quick daydream away. I'd like to suggest you add the Via dell' Amore to that list of places that will touch your soul. There are five villages that make up the Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera. Cinque Terre literally means five lands and the villages are as unique as five seperate lands. Between Riomaggiore and Manarola is a wonderful walk known as the Lover's Walk, or Via dell' Amore. It is magical. The beautiful Mediterranean is below you with it's amazing blues and greens. The cliffs above you are lined with terraced gardens and olive trees, and you know with every footstep you are someplace special. I've posted a couple photos of the Cinque Terre on the website though I doubt they do it much justice. It's remarkable to know that in a world that seems so unfriendly at times, and changing so fast other times, that there are still places like this. If you see me staring off into space and smiling...more than usual...you'll know right where I am!!
Good Morning Breakfast Club Friends...
Greetings from the Italian Riviera and the town of Sestri Levanti. We are at the northern end of the Cinque Terra where today, we'll be exploring these five incredible villages all built into the mountainside. So far our trip has been incredible. We started in Stresa in the lakes region of northern Italy and enjoyed a dinner on Isola Pescatori. Yesterday, we traveled to the coast through the beautiful village of Orta and the images are the Italy we see in all the travel guides. The meals have been incredible, the wine unbelievable and already the group has formed a very close bond. I hope to blog about some of the wonderful people we're meeting here and I hope you enjoy the photos on the website. Ciao for now!! Rick
When I was little I remember my Grandmother saying "There but for the Grace of God go I." We'd see someone who appeared homeless, someone in a wheelchair and Nanny would utter the familiar, "there but for...". I was reminded of this quote just this weekend in Estes Park where the Blue Star Mothers of Durango had asked me to M.C. the Gold Star Weekend they sponsor. I have done it every year since it started, but this year really stood out because so many Gold Star family members were there. 141 gathered at the Lakeshore Lodge, coming from Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona to honor their fallen loved ones. It's a drive none of them wished to make under these circumstances, to be in a club that no one wants to belong to. They gather to be with others who honestly do know what they're going through. Here they find comfort in people who are on the same journey they are. Some lost loved ones at the start of the Iraq war in 2003 and others lost loved ones just months ago. All are trying to find peace and for some it's obvious it's still a long ways away. As we met on Sunday I could hear through the partitioned walls the sound of a celebration on the other side. I walked around to see a large group enjoying a late breakfast, friendship and many laughs. They had no idea that just a few feet away, on the other side of the wall, were Moms and Dads who were struggling with losing a child in war. They couldn't know that the freedom to enjoy a beautiful fall day in Estes Park had been defended by the loved ones of the people they couldn't hear crying behind the partition. To everything there is a season and sorrow and happiness will come. For a few hours Sunday they were side-by-side and Nanny was right, There but for the Grace of God Go I.
I remember well the first time I had veterans in the studio to share their heroic stories of service. It was a couple days before December 7, 1991 and 5 Colorado Pearl Harbor Survivors came by to talk about the attack at Pearl, 50-years after it had happened. There was a nurse who had been at Tripler Hospital treating the wounded; a submarine vet who watched the attack from the sub base and others who were aboard ships and on the shore. It was quite an education into the sacrifice made by our veterans and it has continued as I've opened the doors to those who have served in every conflict and age since. From the heroic actions of those under fire, to the quiet service of citizen soldiers during time of peace, all have answered their countries call, and all are entitled to benefits earned for that service. Often though those benefits can be elusive. Veterans don't know what they're entitled to for their time in uniform, or where to go to for answers. That's exactly what the KEZW Veterans Fair is all about. We've invited over 30 veterans groups and organizations who can answer questions about benefits ranging from health care to funeral services to employment and more. The Fair is free and open to every veteran and their family members this Saturday from 10a to 1p at the Aurora Center for Active Adults. Come spend some time learning about the benefits your honorable service earned you. For a complete list of participants go to www.studio1430.com. I look forward to meeting each of you this Saturday and saying thanks for your service. Our veterans served their country well and it's our turn to repay the favor.
Thursday morning at 7:20a we said hello to a brand new world, and in all likelyhood good-bye to an old familiar world. Time has a way of creating its own order in the Universe. On Thursday morning we introduced the new Sing & Swing Vol. 1 pre-loaded iPod. Working closely with the Glenn Miller Archive at the University of Colorado we've taken 100 songs from various Armed Forces Radio programs that were broadcast exclusively to the troops overseas and out them into this collection. You'll recognize the names. Miller, Dorsey, Goodman, Shaw. You'll even recognize the titles. Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Chattanooga Choo-Choo. What will be new is the incredible live versions of these songs, complete with great introductions, that never aired on American radio. It is an amazing time capsule that until now was never available as a collection. And it comes on a new Nano iPod, pre-loaded so all you do is push play! A portion of the proceeds benefits the Glenn Miller Archive at the University of Colorado. This is the perfect gift for those you know who served during the war and those that just love good music. As wonderful as this collection is, it's also bittersweet. Listening to these songs reminds me that we are further, and further removed from WWII and the big band era. 65-years in fact on September 2nd. With each passing day comes the loss of more members of the greatest generation. Time is taking those the enemy couldn't. Each song in this series reminds me of a WWII veteran I had in the studio, or traveled with in Normandy and Germany, and I miss them. The good thing is this collection gives me those memories, and the opportunity if for only a songs length, to feel they're back with me. So I encourage you to buy Sing & Swing Vol. 1 and own a piece of history that will continue to open your memory book for years to come. Buy it for a loved one who grew up in the big band era as a gift of their younger days. KEZW has saluted the WWII veterans and their families for 15-years and now the time has come to thank other generations. But not without one final opportunity to say thanks to those I always wanted to be like. I hope Sing and Swing does that.
Consider this a bit of a confession. I'm a collector. Yep, I have collections of things that have caught my fancy over the years. Nothing that's particularly valuable mind you. Diane would be very happy if I would collect gold, or cash. Instead, I have every Potato Head ever made. They're all lined up in the windows in my office and they do a great job of making sure no one who comes to meet with me stays in a bad mood. I also have a collection of political campaign buttons; Happy Meal Toy Story toys and WWII memorabilia. I mention this because I suspect we're all collectors and we'd be surprised just what our friends have amassed. This morning I rode up the elevator with Mickey, the producer for the morning show on our sister rock and roll station. He noticed I had a couple Potato Heads with me and asked if I collected them. I sheepishly said yes, figuring I'd be safe bringing the in at 3:30a and guessing this 20-something cool young man wold now think I was nuts. Instead he broke into a big smile and said, "You know what's weird? I collect buttons. I probably have 500 of them." With that the bond that forms when people admit odd things about themselves was formed. Mickey and I will now have each others backs no matter what. He knows something about me... I know something about him...that no one else in the building knows. That's like a pinky swear times 10. Care to share your secret collections?
When I started at KEZW in 1991 I was 34-years old and didn't have tons in common with listeners who at that time were near twice my age. Over time we were able to find some common ground and become pretty good friends and almost immediately I began to hear it. "You just wait until you have grandkids!", or, "Grandkids are so much better than your own kids!" On and on it went and I always politely said, "Oh I bet they are." Truth is I was thinking, "I can't wait for my kids to grow up and go and be alone with Diane!" Yeah, we got weepy when our oldest daughter, Sara, went to college. We were happy, but feeling older, when our daughters both married. We were misty-eyed for another reason all together when they started moving back home and secretly shed happy tears when they left again. All along KEZW listeners kept saying, "Just wait until you have grandkids, it'll change your world." And then it happened. May 2006, 2001, Larissa arrived and within one-minute I was in love like never before in my life. I was a 45-year old grandparent, the youngest grandparent ever I told people, and I was a blithering idiot. I spoke baby talk. I sang You Are My Sunshine like the record was stuck, over and over and over again. I bought every stuffed animal in Denver that was bigger than me. Damn right grandkids were better than your own kids, especially mine!!! Then came Joshua, and two-years later Ethan, and it got even better. Now I had boys to buy boy things for. We can giggle about body noises and collect rocks. We can see how many cheetos we can put in our mouth at one time AND Poppi can throw peas in the air and catch them in his mouth...at the dinner table when Nanna isn't looking! It doesn't get any better than this...until yesterday.
Joshua just turned 7 and Ethan turns 5 next week. For their birthdays we took the boys to the store as a surprise and let them pick out new bikes. For Ethan it's his first. When we stood in the bike isle and told the boys the look on their face was worth the price alone. After a half-hour of test driving down every row, we settled on the two best looking bikes in the world and headed for the register. The boys pushing their bikes with huge smiles and Men passing by with smiles equally as big remembering when they got their first bikes. Halfway through the store Ethan looked up at me and said, "Poppi, thanks for doing this for us." I would have bought him a car after hearing that!! We managed to get the boys home with their shiney new rides and pass them off to their Mom and headed to Shady Acres. A little later I noticed a movie on TCM that I was sure Larissa hadn't seen so I called her into the family room and asked her to watch the start of it with me. It was the 1937 version of Heidi with Shirley Temple. First she told me how she doesn't care for black and white movies, then she told me how the sound was weird, then she watched as Heidi saw grandfather for the first time and she settled in and watched. By movies end, now three-feet away from the screen, she cheered when Grandfather found Heidi and turned and thanked me for sharing the movie with her. Then she hugged me like she did when she was 3 and returned to her duties as Nana in training.
Bikes with the Boys...Heidi with Larissa. It was the Greatest Grandparent Day EVER!!!
Yep, grandkids are way better than your own kids. For the time you're with them you have some confidence the world is going to be ok. You feel good that your legacy will be carried on by little ones who love you with outstretched arms and open hearts. There's nothing as sweet as the feeling of a small hand holding yours and two little arms around your neck. Just don't tell Nana about the peas!!
Last night was date night at the Crandall House, which doesn't come often enough at this time in our lives. There's no doubt Diane and I are closer than we've ever been in our 35+ years together, it's just a different close now. Somewhere between the goofy love note, kissing in the school hallway days and now life got in the way. Raising kids and grandkids; carving out a career; losing loved ones; dealing with health and other personal issues all steal from the innocence we once had. Back then the biggest worry was whether or not we could make it to the pizza parlor and back on time during school lunch hour. Or how many kids we could get in the car trunk, and not get caught, at the drive-in. Well, last nights date night took Diane and me back to those days the two of us shared in high school. For a couple hours we could imagine those kids, if not quite become them again, as Carole King and James Taylor serenaded us at Pepsi Center. O.K., 13,000 other people came with us on date night and that was ok. For the time we were there we were all kids again. We all remembered bell bottoms and guys with long hair. Many were once those hippie smokers. Remember when smoking was as rebellious as it got? As James Taylor sang Fire and Rain I could clearly hear Mom telling me I needed to get to bed so I wouldn't be late in the morning. When Carole King sang I Feel The Earth Move I could see Diane with her knit sweater and beautiful long hair. Please don't take this as one of those "Oh I Wish I Was Young Again" messages. I really don't long for acne medicine and Hai Karate. Burning incense in my room was fun...then. And blacklight posters wouldn't look quite as cool in the living room at Shady Acres. No, I'm very happy with the road I've been on and those who have joined me on the journey. It was just nice to know, that 40-years later we could go home again. For a minute it was fun to remember being in front of Diane's house and kissing her the first time...and waiting an eternity for the second kiss, even though it was later that night. Yep, our lives have been a tapestry of rich and royal hues. Thanks James and Carole for reminding us, and for the ride home again.
I love July 4th weekend. Just the fact we celebrate the birth of our nation should be enough, but with it comes more unabashed patriotism than you see the rest of the year. Flags will fly proudly in front of homes in most neighborhoods, a little wrinkled because they've been in the front closet for a year, but still gleaming. Picnics and parties will include red, white and blue everything and you'll reach way in the back of the closet for the stars and stripes shirt you wear once a year. For one weekend it's cool to listen to Lee Greenwood and be proud to be an American. Too bad it's not that way all the time, you know? We get bursts of patriotic pride. During WWII the attack at Pearl Harbor and the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima became rallying cries for our country. Neil Armstrong planting the flag on the moon was something we all watched when I was a kid. And who could forget the flag draped around the shoulders of the U.S. goalie, Jim Craig, when USA beat the Russians at the Lake Placid Winter Olympics! The flag waving over the ruins of the World Trade Center on 9/11 may be what my kids will remember as they age. Each generation it seems faces its own time of challenge and Americans often look toward Old Glory for inspiration and burst with pride when it waves as if to say, "Oh yea, we're here!!" What moments do you remember that gave you great pride to be an American? What one thing made you burst with red, white and blue joy? Share those thoughts with us. And remember, that flag looks better on the pole in your front yard than it does in the closet. Share it with the neighbors a few more times during the year. It's a shame that we ask one another "what holiday is it?", or, "who died?" when we see a flag out in a neighbors yard on a day other than July 4th. It would be cool if flying the flag was a more frequent habit, rather than once a year. For now, I'll take July 4th weekend
On June 17th, 1991, I walked into a very small and very cluttered KEZW on-air studio to do my first shift as host of the morning show. The name Breakfast Club came on the 2nd day so that first morning it was just me and the folks on the other side of the radio. The studio still had turntables in it and I couldn't really have visitors because there was no place for them to sit. Our audio board was old and so was everything else I was looking at. My shift went from 6a to 9a and then I went down the hall and did 10a to Noon on KOSI. The owners at the time had asked me to do the morning show just long enough for the station to be sold and they didn't really expect the format to stay the same. I was kind of like the Captain of the Titanic, except something funny happened on the way to the iceberg. We missed it. Yep, we kept the ship afloat and here we are 19-years later still sailing. The first nmorning I was on the air I received 3 calls, all asking where the old guy was. The first contest I did was call-in to win tickets to a concert. No one called. The first remote I did was at a factory glass outlet. I sat out front with a 7-piece German Band for two-hours. Not a single person came by. Gunther just stared at me for two-hours. Well, things have certainly changed haven't they. In the 19 ensuing years KEZW has gained a reputation as one of the legendary stations in the nation. We have been nominated for radios highest honor, the Marconi Award, eight times and have won the honor once. I was a finalist for national personality of the year as well. We have raised millions of dollars in donations and in-kind contributions to charities across the state. We have become the station of choice for Colorado's military community and we champion senior causes too. We are the top rated big band station in America and we're enjoyed around the world on our internet stream. It hasn't always been easy, but nothing worth having is ever easy. We've had our share of naysayers and we've been close to extinction more than once. Thing is, you can never underestimate the power of relationships and the one KEZW has with its listeners is unique in radio. We could not have done this without you and I can't thank you enough. It's be a wonderful, crazy ride the last 19-years and with your permission we'd like to keep going for a few more. We still have lots to do! Happy 19th Anniversary Breakfast Club fans. I love you all!!!
In Door County, on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan, there’s a town of about 800 people called Ellison Bay. Like many of the small hamlets in the County it lives for the summer tour season and the hordes that come from Chicago and Milwaukee to escape the heat and stay next to the lake. Of course all those tourists need to eat while they’re away from home and about 70-years ago the Viking Grill came up with a plan, the Wisconsin Whitefish Boil. Now the fish boil wasn’t a new idea, it’s been around since caveman days, but in the early 1940’s Lake Michigan was seeing a major decline in trout, the fish of preference for boils, so the Viking Grill turned to the second most plentiful fish in the lake, Whitefish. About 30-years ago a young man named Dan Peterson was working at the Swedish restaurant in town, where he had been for 25-years. It was a good job and the restaurant had a built in attraction, goats that grazed on the sod roof. It was a tourist stop for every bus and car that rolled through town and Dan learned a lesson about giving people a full experience with their meal. That came in handy later when Dan set out to make a name for himself and purchased the Viking Grill.
Watching fish boil may not sound like an exciting way to spend an evening, and it probably wasn’t until Dan showed up. He tells a wonderful story and he has a certain flair for the dramatic and people come from miles just to see it. He starts by building a nice fire under a large kettle. He then sets a timer and watches for the exact moment to place the cauldron containing dinner in the boiling pot. The cauldron is layered with new red potatoes on the bottom, sweet Spanish onions above that and then the whitefish. They are joined by about a pound of salt. Slowly the water works itself to a frenzy and oil begins to gather at the top of the water. This is Dan’s shining moment. What he’s been working up to for an hour. He orders the assembled group to back up and when one tourist asks how far he points to a black spot on the ground and says “That’s a tourist that was too close in the last group.” We all back up past the black spot. Dan then walks to the fire and throws fuel on top of it. There’s a huge fire ball that consumes the entire kettle, cauldron and boil. It burns for about 30-seconds taking the fish oil right off the top of the water and goes out as quickly as it started. Dan grins from ear-to-ear. We all move inside to eat and Dan cleans pots in the kitchen. Afterwards, as we prepare to leave, I chat with Dan a bit and tell him how delicious his meal was. He smiles and says “yeah, and how about that boilover? Did you see the kids eyes?” Another lesson for me on this trip. The actual preparation should be just as much fun as the meal itself. Dan Peterson appreciates that people like his food, but he lives for the 30-seconds of roaring flame, just like he enjoyed the goats on the roof. It’s all part of the show. I’m not sure Diane’s going to let me put animals on the roof, or create a nightly fireball, so maybe a nice conversation while cooking dinner, or a friendly chat during breakfast will work. It won’t have the flair, but it will have the impact. Thanks Dan.
We just finished another Breakfast Club listener trip, this time traveling thru the Great Lakes states of Michigan and Wisconsin. My mother was born in Detroit in the 1930's when Henry Ford's automobiles were very popular. My grandfather worked for a time as a tool and die man for Ford. On my father's side our German immigrant ancestors settled in Western Wisconsin and Minnesota. This heritage gives me a feeling of kinship with the people we met along the way. And I was really taken with how much they reminded me of my own grandparents. One lady in particular.
Manistique, Michigan is at the top of Lake Michigan. A couple of gas stations, a Lutheran Church, several lakefront motels and four fast food joints are about all you'll find. We made one of the burger places our group lunch stop and as we walked in several older women, likely all in their 80's, walked out. A simple hello from Diane to the departing ladies soon led to a friendly chat and we learned this group of life-long pals meets at this spot once a month to celebrate birthdays and catch up on news. Family and each others health are the most important topics, followed by memories of younger days and then cake. How often do we make it a point to spend that kind of time with old friends, the old ones who we learned to ride bikes with, and shared details of our first kiss with, and held hands at family funerals with? As the ladies were leaving Diane mentioned how good the cake one of the ladies had made looked. It was more a courtesy than anything and as the group left we were happy to have made new friends and went about our business of lunch. About 10-minutes later the door to the restaurant opened slowly and in walked the cake lady with a piece of paper. She strolled over to Diane and proudly handed over the recipe for what is certainly Manistique's best Pineapple Cake. Hand-written, in cursive, on a scrap of paper found in her car. She was so tickled someone cared about what she obviously loves to do. This was her chance now to pass on something very important and insure her legacy. With a smile, she turned and left. It was a simple act of kindness that gets lost in a big city like Denver. We get so unapproachable, and in such a hurry. For one afternoon in Michigan, I was glad we stopped and noticed. I hope I do it more often.
I love the American flag. There's just no two ways about it, I love the American flag. I love to see it fluttering in the breeze against the blue Colorado sky. I am moved when I see it drape the casket of a veteran, almost as if to embrace them and keep them safe. I love to see it fly over baseball stadiums and I'm sad to see it at half staff, but love that we do that to honor someone special. My grandchildren know I love the flag so they make me cool flags all the time. I have a flag from Larissa in my office made from beads, and I have a watercolor flag from Joshua hanging on the wall. I even have a flag that was flown on the Space Shuttle that was given to me by astronaut Dick Covey. And if all that wasn't enough, I love pictures of American flags and take lots of them on vacation. I was thinking the other day about why I have this affection for Old Glory. Yeah, I'm a bit patriotic, but it had to be more than that. Then I remembered the look in Joe Weinmeyers eyes when he told me of seeing the flag over Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima. He was a Marine flame thrower who battled on Iwo for all 34-days of the fight. Then I remembered the look in Glenn Berry's eyes when he talked of the flag he saw on the tail of a Navy plane flying over the onion field he was farming as a prisoner of the Japanese, having survived the Bataan Death March. he had ben a prisoner for over two-years at that time and seeing the American flag gave him hope for freedom. Do you suppose Betsy Ross knew her flag would have such meaning when she first sewed it? Do you think the Second Continental Congress had any idea when they adopted the Stars and Stripes as our flag on June 14, 1777 that Men would die for it and a nation would rally around it time and again? Long may she wave, and may we always be blessed with Patriots who will die for her, and citizens who will swear allegiance to her. She is a GRAND Old Flag! Be sure to fly your Flag on June 14th...Flag Day!!! And let me know what the flag means to you.
U.S. News and World Report magazine recently printed their Top 10 Things We Can't Live Without. They are, in no particular order, Portable Computers; High-Speed Internet Access; Smart Phones; Education; Movies; TV; Music Downloads; Pets; Booze and Coffee. Notice anything interesting about that list? Where are the people? Where's the interaction with other humans? Nine of the Top 10 don't include any personal contact at all and Education can be done on-line so even it isn't 100% necessary to have human contact. And maybe that's why we're in the shape we're in. We don't talk to one another anymore. We text and twitter and email and voicemail. We don't hand write notes, or sit and visit. When's the last time you said, "hey, I'd love to come and sit for a while."? We've forgotten how to be with one another and maybe if we had more hand holding, and talking, and looking into each others eyes and less www dot this and that things would be better. What would your 10 Things You Can't Live Without include?
Have you ever received one of those text messages, or emails, that don't really use words or sentences? You know the ones, they end with LOL or BFF or LMBO. You might get something like "I luv u 2." I guess when kids figured out they were paying by the letter for text messages they figured they better abbreviate stuff. That, or it's a secret language created so parents couldn't understand what kids were talking about. Yea, you know how those kids are because you did the same thing when you were younger. Yes you did, Oh, it wasn't texting or emailing, but it was for kids only, or have you forgotten, Cruisin For A Bruisin, Back Seat Bingo and See Ya Later Alligator. Maybe you've forgotten words like daddy-o, groovy, wig-out and adding ville to the end of everything like Coolsville. You said Holy Mackeral and Cat got your tongue and jeepers creepers when you were real mad. Every generation has its own language. For kids today it often comes in abbreviations or one word, like Dude. What were some of your favorites? That's all she wrote!!!
For 10-years I have moderated the Stories from Wartime panels at Regis University I do not get paid for participating, yet it has been among the most rewarding things I have done in my career. I’ve been blessed to have had a front row seat to history. I’ve made many friends who have taught me a thing or two about what’s important in the world. You come to realize it’s hard to get to excited about someone making you mad at work when you think of Spence Bullard and Joe Sakato both watching friends die in their arms during their day at the office in WWII. Hard to feel sorry for yourself coming home late from the office, or class, when you know there are families who will wait a lifetime for loved ones who won’t be coming home at all. Hard to get to excited about whether or not a 22-year old first round draft choice is going to get his $10 million a year, when you remember a similar aged Clay Decker volunteering for sub duty so he could get an extra $2 a week and make $1200 a year. It was a decision that would send him to a POW camp and cost him his wife and family. So what is this thing we call Stories From Wartime? Why does it affect 9 to 90-year olds in such a profound way? My Take?
Stories from Wartime represents the brave who raised their right hand to enlist and marched deliberately into the line of fire to fight for freedom. It’s also the unsure Patriots who answered their country’s call to duty cautiously. Each one forever changed by the experience. It’s the quiet service of citizen soldiers from all generations. It’s the young becoming old all too quickly aged by living minutes as if they were years, fearing their lives would end in the next moment on the battlefield. It’s the unwritten language of simple nods, a knowing look in each others eyes and an expression that says if you weren’t there you’ll never know. Stories from Wartime can be told, but never completely understood. When you’ve seen death, and created death and been part of the horrors of war all in the name of survival, how do you properly explain to someone, please don’t call me a hero.
Those of us who have come to this classroom to hear these stories week after week are left to wonder, how do I fit in? What would I have done? What kind of Soldier would I have been? I never smelled napalm, or dug a foxhole, or ate C rations, or marched with no end in site, or laid on frozen ground holding another soldier so we wouldn’t freeze to death, or watched as those around me died on Japanese hell ships, or wondered if there was a God why would this happen. What kind of soldier would I have been?
Will Rogers once said “We can’t all be heroes otherwise there would be no one to sit on the curb and wave the flag as they marched by. That’s Will’s way of saying everyone has their part to play. Some people make the rifles and some pull the trigger. Many people make uniforms and many others wear them. Each is doing what they’re destined for to achieve the same common goal. So I guess that’s the role I’ve been given. Flag waver. O.K. then, let me be the best damn flag waver in the world. Let me wave it for those who served like Paul Murphy and Joe Apodaca and Kay Gunderson and Terry Rizzuti. And let me display it with honor for those who didn’t return like Tommy Slocum and Andrew Riedel. And let me wave it for as long as my arms can wave. Then, when someone approaches me and says, why do you wave that flag, I can say “Well, let me tell you about a Story from Wartime I heard. After 10-years I’ve got a bunch of them.” Call it completing the circle. That’s what Stories from Wartime is to me.
Spring is a great time for smells. And smells are great for bringing back memories. This is a nosey followup to our last blog when we talked about things we remember. Today, it's rainng in Denver and that smell ALWAYS reminds me of being 10-years old and living in the village of Priest in Germany while Dad was stationed at Spangdahlem Air Force Base. I vividly remember looking outside at the German hillside, covered in fog and the farmers fields green between me and them. Every time I smell rain I get this vacation added! Smells have a great way of doing that, don't they? If I smell Rosemary I am immediately in a kitchen in Italy standing next to a young Italian chef as she's teaching us how to make Rosemary Focaccia Bread. Some places smells take you aren't so pleasant. Rubbing Alcohol always takes me to the hospital emergency room, but mostly they are fond memories. So, on this rainy Thursday morning I'd love to know what smells you're fondest of, and where they take you. Sorry, I have to go now. I just caught the scent of pencil eraser and I'm late for 2nd grade in Tucson, Arizona!
Tuesday night at Regis University, during our Stories From Wartime class, one of the guests mentioned shopping in the Spiegel catalog. It was fairly obvious right away that the 19 and 20-year old students had no idea what she was talking about. It made me realize that I am now a member of the "I Remember " generation. We all get our membership card eventually. It seems to happen about the same time the first Grandchild shows up. "I remember when you were this age.", is what we say to our kids when we hold their child. Then we tell our grandchildren, "When I was your age we played outside all day and never locked the front door and didn't own a color tv." I remember actually becomes a badge of honor, as if to say "you'll never have it as good as I did." Tuesday night at Regis got me to thinking not so much about the things I remember, but the places. The Spiegel Catalog reminded me of Montgomery Wards for some reason. I think Diane and I bought a couch and a shirt there at the same time one day at the old Buckingham Square. Then I thought about how much I miss the lunch counter at Woolworths, and the windows and skating rink at May D&F and the lunchroom at Nuestetters. Change will always come and it's not all bad. I'm just glad to be a member of the "I Remember" club and have something to sit and talk with the old guys about on the park bench. Heck, I remember when you couldn't shop on Sunday!! What do you remember??
I've not lived here all of my life like many of you, my wife included, but I have lived here for most of my life so I think that gives me some insight for this next thought. I believe we should change Denver's nickname. As you know it's the Queen City of the Plains, or, the Mile High City. I propose adding one more to the mix...THE BIG TEASE. Here's my case. 1.) Yesterday it was almost 70 degrees and today's forecast is calling for a foot of snow. 2.) The Denver Broncos keep winning the majority of games the first half of the season, and lose the majority of games the second half of the season. 3.) We have the most beautiful ski slopes in the world, and with all the traffic you can only ski one run and then it's time to leave so you can fight the crowd back down the hill. You get the idea. Nothing but a big Tease is the only town of Denver. You have any to add? I'd love to hear them. In the meantime, stop planting tomatoes and get the snow shovel back out!
By now you've no doubt seen the signs of Spring, they're every where!! The daffodils are shooting up, the birds are returning to the feeders and the Rockies are in Tucson getting ready for opening day. Yep, Spring is here and the calendar will officially say so on Saturday. My favorite season has always been Fall, but Spring runs a close second. My issue with Spring is Spring cleaning. We get a beautiful season of new growth, warmer days, fresh air and we ruin it by cleaning the garage!! I say we have a one week period in late February we call Cleaning Season and do all the scrubbing and painting and washing then. It's dark and dreary in February so it's the perfect time to do dark and dreary chores. Then in March, we enjoy Spring. If we can get the greeting card company's behind Cleaning Season it just may work. Happy Spring!!!
Valentine's Day is an interesting holiday. It's a day for love and romance that has it's origins in martyrs and really weird pagan rituals. Throw in the St Valentines Day Massacre and it's a wonder there's anything romantic about the day at all! It's also one of those confusing days for guys who wonder, "Is a card and flowers enough?" "Is dinner and jewelry clever enough?" "Is a home-cooked dinner and a bottle of wine sweet, or cheap?" Lets face it, most guys really want to do the right thing, we just have trouble every now and then knowing what the right thing is. They didn't teach us much in middle school about what women think, and what they like. We did learn a lot about what a wet towel can do to someones backside in the shower and how to make body sounds with your armpit. So, consider this an appeal from a middle-aged adolescent who needs your help. What is the appropriate gift for Valentines Day? Is a gift necessary at all, or do you women think like most men that Valentines Day is a conspiracy created by greeting card companys and flower shops to reduce inventory? Please, post your thoughts and help us all. Seems like every day should be Valentines Day if you're in love, not just one day a year. But don't take my word for it.
It's been three-and-a-half years now since the Crandall world was turned upside down when Diane suffered a stroke, followed by surgery to repair the hole in her heart that led to the stroke. With time, and Diane's near complete recovery, I don't always think about August 6, 2006 when the stroke happened. But it is very much a part of my every day routine. Before I leave in the morning I kiss Diane on the forehead and linger long enough to make sure I hear her breathing. If I don't get a cellphone call by 10a I start to worry just a little bit. When I ask a question, and don't get a quick answer, I look to make sure she's not confused or having trouble the way she did the morning the stroke occurred. We were blessed the first time because we had an immediate sense of what was happening and acted quickly. Thank God for all the doctors that have been on the radio station over the years sharing warning signs! Do you know the signs?
February is Heart Month and you can read more about Diane's experience on the front page of our website. If you have questions about what she went through as a stroke survivor, and what I learned as a care-giver, please ask. The rest of this month we'll answer those questions as honestly as we can. I also encourage you to visit the American Heart Association and Stroke Association websites. They have wonderful info there. Lets begin the conversation. You never know when you'll need it.
"Should Old Acquaintence Be Forgot..." Many of us started the New Year with the familiar strains of Auld Lang Syne. Just doesn't seem like it would officially be a New Year if that didn't play. For some reason the song struck me differently this year thean it has in the past. Seems to me many an old acquaintence has been forgot. I was surprised when I stopped to think about the number of people I haven't heard from in months, and years. Once great friends and avid listeners who I haven't shared a word with in a long, long time. That makes me sad. Had I known the last time I saw them, or talked with them it would be the last, I would have said thanks for the friendship, or good luck in the future. I might have even asked them to stay in touch. So many people are responsible for who I am today, and the success I've enjoyed, and the tragedy's I've overcome and I'm sure I didn't get a chance to properly thank them. Maybe that'll be my 2010 resolution. Always acknowledge a kidnness, always be grateful and never let an old acquaintence be forgot.
It's the day after Halloween and already the pumpkins are gone and the Christmas Trees are up. Toys R Us has its Biggest Gift Book ever in today's newspaper and Christmas decorations are already half off at the hobby store. WHAT DID THEY DO WITH THANKSGIVING??? It's time to take back our holidays and ...celebrate them in order. No Christmas music before Labor Day. Stop wearing green before Valentines Day. Independence Day is the 4th of July, not the 4th of April. Let's reclaim our holidays, together, starrting with Thanksgiving. Want to join me? Become a member of this group and share Thanksgiving recipes, reasons to be thankful and prayers for the Thanksgiving table. We don't celebrate Christmas until Santa shows up at the Macy's Parade!!! Let all your friends who feel like they have lots to be thankful for know, they can join us right here and be thankful with us. Christmas will be next!
YEP, WE'RE OLD
Over my almost 19-years at KEZW I've heard more than once how we're the "Old Station." Competitors have sold against us saying, "Only old people listen to that station, their listeners don't spend money." Kids have told their parents while they were being driven to school, "Turn the radio, you listen to the old station." Even the name for the type of music we play, Nostalgia, is old. It used to bother me a lot. But the longer I've been here, the more I like it. Being old means something entirely different to me now than it did in 1991 when I began here.
If taking off your cap and putting your hand over your heart during the National Anthem is old, then yep, we're old...
If keeping the rabbit ears handy, just in case real TV makes a comeback, is old, Yep, we're old...
If driving 20-miles to use a buy one-get one free coupon is old, Yep, we're old....
If wanting to eat dinner before 5p so you can have the dishes done before the news makes you old, then yes, we're old...
If remembering the names of everyone in our high school graduating class, because there were only 20, is old...you're on to us, we're old...
If failing to send a thank you note for a gift would keep you up at night makes a person old, then yep, we're old...
If wearing your pants above your hips is old, thank goodness we're old....
If it's old to say please and thank you before give me and I want, we are very, very old...
If shedding a tear on Memorial Day because you know the terrible cost of our freedom makes you old, then we must be ancient.
If telling the same story over, and over maybe because we forgot, but mostly because it means so much to us is old, Yep, we're old.
If knowing that life is a wonderful journey that is filled with all kinds of sad and happy but in the end it's the happy you remember most makes you old, Yep, we're old, and we're grateful for the wisdom that comes with it.
In Estes Park there's a real nice place called Lakeshore Lodge. Sandy runs the place and is a wonderful character. She lost her twin brother in Vietnam and to this day thinks of him every day. The Lodge looks out over Lake Estes and in the distance Longs Peak rises right above the town of Estes Park. This time of year all the tree's are yellow, or red and the Elk have made their way into town. In fact, it's the Elk that draw most people to Estes Park this time of year. Most people.
Back at Lakeshore Lodge last weekend while this was going on 29 Moms gathered to share membership in a club not a one of them wanted to belong to. They have all lost sons in Iraq and Afghanistan during the current war on terror and this weekend they were together to share their grief, tell stories of their heroes, cry, laugh, cry some more and make friends who will help them get through this. Gathered here were the only people in the world who truly do know how they feel, other Gold Star moms, and Sandy.
Some lost sons 6-years ago, others just this year. They are all on different parts of the journey, but they are all on the same journey. When the gathering starts on Saturday night the "new moms" sit apart, afraid to let anyone in. By the end of the night they have been welcomed to the Gold Star family with hugs and hand holding and finally they feel free to be themselves. It is an amzing thing to witness. A sad, emotional, heartwarming, painful, necessary thing that will make them better...eventually. For the past five-years I've been asked to MC the event on Sunday that concludes their Gold Star weekend. It's a ceremony that honors all Colorado veterans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Moms present light candles in honor of their fallen sons. This year a couple shared stories of their journey from the time the knock on the door came. Nothing I will ever do compares with the experience of this weekend. The Blue Star Mothers of Durango put this event on, driving the 8-hours from their part of the state to be in Estes Park. They are angels and this event has become a life-saver for many of the Moms who are drowning in grief. And all the while people drive by on the other side of the lake unaware this going on and that's ok. The Moms, and their fallen heroes would want you to enjoy the fall colors and the freedom you enjoy to drive around on a Sunday afternoon and see the sights. But at the end of the day if you'd be kind enough to remember them in your prayers, and ask God to bless those Gold Star Moms that would be a great way to say thanks. And the next time you're in Estes Park be sure to drop by the Lakeshore Lodge, and say hi to Sandy. You'll be better for it!!
I'm happy to report our band of merry travelers has returned safely home after our 8-day journey through New England. We came back with tons of photos and memories and some anxious moments at the airport hoping our luggage wasn't overweight with souveniers. We weren't all so lucky!! This group of KEZW listeners really got along well and enjoyed each others company so much. That's the cool part of being on a Breakfast Club trip. We all have so much in common to begin with and feel like friends from the start.
As for the trip itself, it was near perfect. The weather was beautiful, the people were kind and our guide, Melanie, was the best we've ever had. Jozef, our coach driver, was pretty special too. The food was wonderful, and I'm not sure we left much seafood in the ocean!
I really enjoyed my first visit to Plimouth Plantation. To see what it must have been like for the Pilgrims was eye-opening and you come away with a whole new appreciation for what they overcame to start this new nation. Plimouth should be on your bucket list. I also fell in love with Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard and the whole of Cape Cod. Now if I can figure out how to get a million dollar a year pay raise I'll be all set!! Boston remains one of my favorite cities in the world with its rich history and beautiful downtown and I never tire of Quincy Marketplace and Legal Seafood!!! I really hope you liked following along with the pictures and stories. It was kind of fun to bring you along this way and I'm sure we'll do it again next year when the Breakfast Club hits the road for other exciting destinations!!!
Of all the things I'll miss when we leave New England and return to Denver, I'll miss the American Flags the most. Sure the clam chowder is the best in the world, the scenery is amazing and I can never get enough of the ocean, that's all true. But seeing the American flag displayed on home after rustic home is inspiring. It seems every house has a flagpole, or porch flag, or banner, or bunting. Flags are on shirts and hats and bags and hang in windows and from trees. The unabashed patriotism of the people of New England should be a lesson to us all. No wonder they call their team the Patriots. It's displayed in every day life. I'll miss that when I'm home. We have a flag, or two in Denver but not the display you see here. I guess it was a Fall colors tour after all. Red, White and Blue!!
There are ferry's that run between the islands in Cape Cod. One goes from Hyannis Port to Nantucket. Another from Hyannis to Martha's Vineyard. One of those ferry's is run by Hy-Line Cruise Line and the crew is made of largely by a group of older guys. Guys who work a couple shifts a week as a retirement job. On our ferry ride to and from Nantucket we meet Michael who works the snack bar and tells stories during quiet times at the counter. He's from Lafayette. Yep, just north of Denver. He moved out here about 8-years ago looking for a change in scenery when he retired and boy did he find it. Two or three times a week he boards the ship and makes new friends as he serves coffee and pastries. He lived in Lafayette 30-years before he moved and he misses it some, but thinks he's found the perfect retirement job. He keeps busy, he gets to meet new people and the views are spectacular. Sailing past the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis and eventually into the harbor at Nantucket is pretty good duty for a 60-something year old who just doesn't want to sit at home and watch tv all week. Michael says he misses Colorado, but only a little. I can't blame him. Three days a week he's got his own yacht in the most expensive ports in the world. Pretty lucky guy!!
One of the things you must do when you come to Cape Cod is have a Lobster Dinner. It's like seeing Pikes Peak in the Springs, or the Coors Brewery in Golden. It's just what you do. But this isn't ordering a Lobster for Dinner, this is participating in the Lobster Dinner. And there we were, all 45 of us, minus four who don't like seafood, dressed in bibs and armed with crackers and small forks ready for the challenge of eating Lobster. Our guide had even shown us a video on our bus on how to properly open a Lobster. This is serious business! After much anticipation, and some nervous laughter, the kitchen doors opened and our came plate after plate of Lobster, corn on the cob, red potatoes and mussels. I watched as most of our group ate the potatoes and corn first, then some ate the mussels and finally all that was left was the Lobster. Cautiously one, then the other picked the beautifully red-colored creature up, closed their eyes and started cracking. Most of you know this becomes a treasure hunt. Cracking and prying and peeling in search of claw meat and tail meat followed by screams of joy when a piece was found! Now Lobster juice was flying everywhere as KEZW listeners encouraged one another and lobster after lobster was cleaned of its treasured meat. The smiles told you the group had survived, and actually had a little fun. It was a great time and one of those experiences that keep bringing people back on our trips. We still have work to do as several of the group left the restaurant and walked on the bus with their bibs still securely fastened around their necks! I did ask if anyone wanted another and didn't get a single yes. Some experiences are meant to be shared only once!!
So, here's what I learned today. No one really knows what happened to the Mayflower after she dropped the 102 first Pilgrims in Plymouth. She went back to England, made a trip to haul salt from Spain and did a few other things and then vanishes from history, likely salvaged at some point. No one knows for sure if Plymouth Rock is really the rock our ancestors first stepped on in the New World. In fact, this rock has been moved two or three times, cracked and been cemented together and probably was no where near where the Pilgrims first stepped. Don't even get me started on the first Thanksgiving!! Had there been radio, and Edward R. Murrow, we would have had an accurate record of all this!! Despite all that, Plymouth is a cool place and Plimouth Plantation is an awesome 1620's village that Pilgrims and Native People "live in" and share their experience. You do learn a lot about how we started as a nation, even if we not quite sure about the exact spot it started!
Jack and Dot are the kind of people KEZW listeners love, because they remind us of ourselves. They are the owners and operators of Flax Pond Cranberry Bog in Carver, Mass. and have been for over 40-years. They have 35-acres of cranberries that are just a few weeks from harvest so while the crop continues to ripen, they have time to sit in the gift shop at the bog and greet everyone. They will gladly talk to anyone about cranberry farming, how times have changed, the history of their land near Plymouth and offer words of wisdom you know are true. Their family is all around lending a hand, right down to a three-year old grandson who will likely be doing the dame work years from now. It's comforting in a world that changes just for the sake of change to meet people like Jack and Dot who remind us of the good old days. If you're ever in the neighborhood you should drop in for some fresh cranberry juice and a chat. You'll be glad you did.
For the longest time we've heard the jokes about Boston and its Big Dig. That's the project that took the highway that ran through the city and moved it underground. It also created the tunnel to Logan Airport. It cost billions of dollars, took 15-years longer than it was supposed to and sprung a leak. Now, the good side of the project is starting to show and downtown Boston is absolutely stunning. I remember the old days when the noise and delays were horrible. There's still lots of traffic congestion, but where the highway used to be is now gardens and walkways. There's lots of green in the city and it's beautiful. Of course there's also history and as we toured Boston you couldn't help but be a little patriotic and taken with the stories of those that fought the American Revolution. It's cool to stand where the Declaration of Independence was first read aloud to the people. It's cool to sit in the Old North Church and know the story of one if by land two if by sea. It's cool to see the U.S.S. Constitution and Bunker Hill and Quincy Market. We had a beautiful day with sunny skies and end of summer temperatures and I fell in love with Boston all over again. If you've never been you really should come. Today...cranberries and pilgrims. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow!!!
Hi Friends. Boy how I wish you were with us in New England! Let me bring you up to date. Our group had a wonderful travel day Friday with Southwest Airlines, arriving in Providence right on time. After a night of leisure and rest we spent Saturday seeing Providence, with it's beautiful downtown and then it was off to Newport. We had an 80-degree day, not a cloud in the sky and few tourists since it's Labor Day. IT WAS FABULOUS!! We toured the Marble House Mansion, former home of the Vanderbilt's and had dinner at the Atlantic Beach Club. There will be pictures on the website soon, but it really was a wonderful day. Lots of folks spent lunchtime sitting by the wharf in Newport while others shopped. Then, at night, we drove back to Providence with a near full moon rising over the ocean. Oh how I wish you had been with us. Off to Boston today!
Diane and I started hosting Breakfast Club listener trips in 1993 and since that time thousands of people have traveled 100's of thousands of miles with us. We've seen amazing things, and been wonderful places but the most fun has been all the life-long friendships that have formed. Travel can do that for a person. So, here we go to Cape Cod and the East Coast and we want to take you with us. Keep an eye on this page where I'll be updating the blog with notes from our days on the road. My next post will be on Saturday. Starting Monday we'll have photos in our gallery so you can see what we've seen. A Breakfast Club vacation for all. Make sure you packed clean underwear!
There's something I'm starting to realize as I grow older. You don't lose your childhood when you turn sweet 16, or 21. It doesn't happen when you start to shave, or your voice changes. No, your childhood disappears when all of your boyhood idols are gone. For me, Walter Cronkite was one of those. Oh sure, I miss John Wayne and Bob Hope and countless others I wanted to be like. But I was never going to be an actor, or an astronaut, or a war hero. An announcer was always the path for me and with the passing of Paul Harvey first, and now Walter Cronkite, the two men whose careers I most wanted to mirror have gone, and my childhood heroes with them.
Walter Cronkite was the man who told me what was right, and was wrong with the world. He showed you could have emotion as a newsman, as long as it was controlled, and he gave you all the news, not just a :30 second cover version. You felt smarter for having spent a half-hour with him. And as I watched the clips last night of his Apollo newscast and others, I found myself comforted by hearing his voice, like I had been so many times before. I don't expect there'll be a big concert in his honor, and Walter Cronkite newscasts probably won't make the Top 10 downloads on I-Tunes. But I do hope people will reflect on the passing of the man who was the historian of generations and know we've moved a little further down the road from our childhood. Rest in peace Walter Cronkite.
In case you didn't get the news, the Sound of the Rockies chorus just competed in the International Barbershop Harmony Society's annual competition and finished 4th in the world!!! And, the quartet Storm Front finished 3rd int he world!!! Congratulations to both.
This got me to thinking. We really do have some great local musical groups. Sound of the Rockies, Denver Brass, Hot Tomatoes, The Fray, Dianne Reeves and the Queen City Jazz Band are a few. Who is it you like to listen to locally? This is a excellent chance to introduce us all to local musicians we may be unfamiliar with, or remind us of acts that have been around forever. Post your comments here and tell us who's timeless in your songbook.
The last couple of years I've really been trying to take Diane, and Larissa, to see parts of Colorado we've never seen before.Â Last October it was Mesa Verde and the great southwestern part of our state.Â We rode the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge and had a blast.Â ThisÂ week we headed north and took a car trip over Trail Ridge Road to Grand Lake.Â It was AWESOME!
First, the drive overÂ Trail Ridge was stunning, andÂ oddly quiet.Â We drove over onÂ Monday, which helped, but it was still wide open.Â With all the rain we've had the wildflowers were beautiful and at a couple of the pull-offs we were greeted by Park Rangers with stories to tell and things to show.Â
Then it was on to Grand Lake and pedal-boats and horseback riding.Â Again, we were very surprised by the lack of a crowd in Grand Lake.Â I guess if you avoid the weekend you're in good shape.Â We stayed at a delightful place called the Wind River Resort which has cabins and horses and the Colorado River right beside it.Â We saw tons of deer, elk and even moose.Â Moral of the story... there's still time to enjoy a summer vacation right here at home!!
You regular listeners of the Breakfast Club know we try to find ways to spend time together so we can get to know you better. We do trips, concerts, veterans events and things like that and always have great turnouts. This time we were invited to participate in an afternoon of theatre and I'd love for one of you to join us. Simply post a comment to this message and you'll have a chance to win a pair of tickets to join me for the matinee performance of Quilters on Thursday, June 11th at the Denver Center For the Performing Arts. And, we'll include a pre-show lunch in the lobby of the Denver Center catered by the Hot Ticket Cafe, a wonderful bistro located in the DCPA. I have long been a fan of the work of the Denver Center Theatre Company because of shows like Quilters. I hope you can join us!!!
You probably noticed the picture of me and Diane on the front page of the KEZW website. Couple of kids that are still pretty fond of one another after 34-years of marriage. Pictures are wonderful, but they never tell the full story. That's the part that lives just past the edges of the photograph. and many times that's the most important part of the story. If you could see past the edges of our pictures you'd see a very close family of two daughters, three grandchildren and an extended family from Rhode Island to Oregon. You'd see more friends than any two people should be allowed to have. You'd see travels around the world. And you'd see the Medical Center of Aurora.
In August 2006 my best friend, and wife of 34-years, Diane suffered a stroke. As soon as we recognized the signs we got in our car and drove immediately to Aurora South, the Medical Center of Aurora. What happened over the course of the next week there was nothing short of miraculous. The staff at the hospital slowly, and surely, nursed Diane back to health and helped an unsure caregiver do what he needed to do to support his partner. You don't practice for a stroke, you pray you'll never have one. But if you're faced with it there's no better place to be. From nurses to speech therapists to doctors we received nothing but top notch care and we will be forever thankful.
This Saturday I get a small chance to say thanks. The Medical Center of Aurora is opening a new Heart Tower and Saturday KEZW listeners can join me from 9a to 10:30a for a continental breakfast and exclusive sneak peek of the Museum of Heart. See for yourself why Diane and I think this is a special place. You might even ask Diane a question, or two, about her own recovery. We know there will be many more photos, and many more stories around the edges. We thank you for being part of the story.
Yeah, it's really been that long since Diane and I left Aurora Central High School, arm-in-arm, and began our "adult" life together. We've been pretty close to joined at the hip ever since. Oh sure, we've had our share of ups and downs just like everyone else. We've had good times and bad. We've had success and failure and we've earned the little patches of grey that are starting to show up. Don't tell her but Diane was always the girl I wanted to be with. Ever since she was in the chorus with me for Central's 1971 production of The Unsinkable Molly Brown. It took me three-years to convince her I was the right guy, but it worked out in the end!
I guess that's the story of most of our lives as we look back. It seems to work out in the end. Mostly. We've been blessed with two great daughters, three wonderful grandchildren and more blessings than most. I still think about high school a lot though. I had a blast and I'm certain Diane did as well. I'll share some of the stories of those days this Friday when I broadcast the morning show from the stage at Aurora Central where Diane and I met. I'd love for you to share your favorite high school memories as well. Send me something I can share Friday morning. Memories are something we specialize in at Studio 1430. We'll treat yours with care!!!
I know many of you are just like me. The day doesn't start right without a moning cup of coffee, the radio turned on and a newspaper in front of you. We're visual beings and we like to SEE what the world is up to. For those of us raised before morning TV news programs that meant reading the paper. Well, have I made a discovery for you!!
A friend of mine sent me a link to an amazing website. CLICK HERE
At this website you can see, and read, the front pages of nespapers from around the world. It's updated every morning so it's as current as you can find. I love it!!! Now you can start your day with a cup of coffee, the Breakfast Club, and headlines from around the world. Sometimes technology is pretty cool!!! Let me know what you think.
for Erwin Isaac Rogoff
July 21, 1926-July 30, 1988
My brother was in high school in Englewood, New Jersey in 1943. He was a senior, played bass violin in the orchestra, loved art and music. That was 1943.
One day he was notified that he would be given an “honorary diploma” and was drafted, with many others, into the Army. America was at war with Germany and Japan and millions of American men and women were drafted to fight in the war. Our family was anxious and fearful, We are Jewish and had already experienced the tales of the atrocities coming out of eastern Europe. Many of our family perished in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Germany and Hungary at the hands of the Nazis. They were good people. Good Poles; good Germans; good Hungarians and good Czechs.
June graduation was only a few months off, but many young students including my brother were given their honorary diplomas at a special patriotic ceremony, taken to Fort Dix for basic training and then sent to many other military bases around America for advanced training in Heavy weapons, tanks, etc. I recall Fort Joseph T. Robinson, Fort Bliss and other installations as they advanced toward when they would be carried by troop ship to England.
We received a call from my brother in November of 1944 that he was being transferred to Camp Shanks in Nyack, New York for preparation when his unit was to embark for Europe. In late December of 1944 my mom and dad packed bags of food and stuff my brother and his friends might enjoy, and we were told we would be allowed to visit him at Camp Shanks for a couple of hours. That plan changed however, when we were told to be at the city hall in Englewood, New Jersey where we lived, on a Saturday morning after Thanksgiving. It was from that location they would be taken by bus to their point of embarkation and we would have that opportunity only, to say farewell. Those guys were all seventeen and eighteen years old. I was thirteen and my brother was my hero who taught me all I knew. My dad was a Penn State graduate with a degree in electrical engineering, but cold not get a job because he was Jewish and, in those days if you were black, Jewish or Italian the sign on the door said, “ Blacks, Jews and Italians need not apply”. I only saw my dad on week-ends because he was out trying to sell socks, and clothing, door-to- door, small town to small town, and so it was my brother who taught me the street smarts.
At the Englewood, N.J City Hall that clear sunny morning in November, the families of the young men were able to have their last hugs and embraces with their kids. We exchanged delicacies and home backed goods and for an hour or so we met other families and the friends of my brother who were about to board a yellow school bus and be taken somewhere to begin their journey to an undisclosed embarkation port near Port New York. I was proud of my brother and loved how he looked in his Olive Drab Army uniform. He gave me some shell casings and small memorabilia items from his last training camp and I coveted them. A photograph of my brother in his uniform just before he left, hangs in my office. I cherish it.
When the bus pulled away and turned on to Palisades Avenue. Englewood’s main street, the mothers all wept and the brothers and sisters stood, wondering, what next. I can not imagine what a dad must have felt seeing his son go off to war.
We did not hear a word from my brother for several weeks, but one day we received a note that he was in a hospital where he had contracted poison Ivy and had been separated from his unit. He said that he missed the troop carrier but would follow shortly. As kids we were both prone toward getting healthy cases of poison ivy every summer, but this was winter and we were surprised that he had been exposed to it at that time, but believed he probably got it crawling in the underbrush somewhere.
The war blazed on and we corresponded by “V” mail to his APO address. We all know about the Battle of the Bulge when the Germans broke through at Christmas time in Belgium and the terrible toll it took on American and English lives as the Germans spared no one. We were only given scant details, but of the 23 who left Englewood that Saturday morning, all but two died in that battle. My brother was spared and so was another of his friends, Danny Elders.
Danny was returned to the U S in 1945 and spent the rest of his life in a Veteran’s mental hospital in Millington, NJ with what they called, “ shell shock”.
My brother was transitioned into what they called the “Army of occupation” and was stationed in Frankfurt, Germany after the war ended. He spent all of his time helping displaced German families. He helped restore a synagogue the Nazis had fire bombed. Then, because of his musical training, he was placed in the Army band and orchestra. The band traveled all over Europe entertaining our troops. They played in the hospitals and at other gatherings. His band played for Jan Masaryk, the president of Czechoslovakia in Ventaslov square. The next day it was reported that Masaryk was pushed to his death by “the Russians” from the balcony in the square and the following day Russian tanks rolled into Prague and the Russians occupied Czechoslovakia from then until around 1981. His unit was one of the last units to leave Czechoslovakia after which he toured Europe with Danny Kaye and Bob Hope and other entertainers.
My dad had a partner who was German and the partner asked if my brother would bring food items to a family member he discovered was alive in Weisbaden. Food sent to an APO address got to Germany in less than three weeks. Food sent to an individual, not military, often never arrived or took months and so my brother started to take packages he received from my dad on behalf of his partner, to a surviving cousin who lived in a concrete bunker in Weisbaden. The father of the family had been the president of Frankfurt bank and the Nazis, as with all Jews, sent him to Terezenstat concentration camp.
The wife was spared because she was not Jewish, and so was their daughter. The daughter rode a bike fifteen miles each way to work in a German machine gun factory as forced labor, together with fifteen other young Polish students. Until my brother met them they lived on potato soup. We sent flour and spam and salami, chocolate and some canned fruit and vegetables. The daughter was a little younger than my brother and he began taking walks with her and he had her visit for some of his performances. Edith came to the United States and they were married here. That is an entire other story, but during the height of the war those in the factory where Edith worked in forced labor began sabotaging the machine gun parts by leaving the particles off from the carbon grindings in the mechanisms so the guns would fail. It was discovered and the polish students were all murdered in the field next to the factory. Edith was spared and to this day, ( she is 83 ) does not know why they spared her except she believes it was so she could train others to do the work.
We were notified that Edith would arrive by boat at the Port of New York. My brother contacted us to say he would arrive a week before her but we were not to let anyone know because she believed he would stay in Germany for another year during which time she would live with us. He wanted to surprise her. I had begun to drive as things got financially better for the Rogoff family and was on a Saturday night date with my high school girl friend. For some reason, in the middle of the evening something compelled me to call home. My mom told me that my brother had surprised them and was home after four years.
There is no way I can describe what it was like to race into my brother’s arms. I was taller than him, and when he left I was a head shorter. We talked all night long and it was then that we learned that all his friends had perished. During the war my mom was president of a veterans auxiliary where she began to work to take care of the returning injured. She was instrumental in helping to get the government to build the Millington Veterans Mental Hospital and it was in that hospital that my brother’s friend Danny spent the rest of his life.
My brother went to Cooper Union, a fine school of art in New York City, and became an architect. He had a studio on the beach in Mantoloking, New Jersey where he immersed himself in his art and music, both jazz and classical. He was never the same though. He and Edith had two children but the marriage failed. His daughter Claudia lives in Ward, Colorado on the Bar Ranch and his son Kim, is an anesthesiologist near McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. Claudia is a fire fighter, an RN who teaches EMT and participates by doing great things for her community where she lives.
My brother Erwin sprinted on the beach each morning and swam in the ocean. One day I received a call from the New Jersey State Police asking me to come identify a body they had recovered floating in the ocean. He had drowned in the ocean he loved. He was an expert boatman and swimmer. He was my best friend.
Today is the 4500th episode of the Breakfast Club. 4500 time's we've shared coffee and blueberry muffin's to start the day. And during those almost 18-years we've shared stories. Lots and lots of stories.
As you know the Veterans stories are my favorite. Those who serve their country are forever changed by the experience and I think we owe a tremendous debt to the men and women who gave up their own aspirations for serving in the military. And what they experienced is something most of us can't imagine. If you haven't been on the frontlines, you can't know it.
Not all veterans stories are about the frontlines and that doesn't make them less interesting. Homefront veterans are just as responsible for our freedom for their selfless acts of service. Rationing, the military draft and other sacrifices meant everyone contributed. There's a great story about the North Platte Canteen that shows how civilians showed their gratitude to American servicemen by greeting everyone who passed through. Watch the video and you'll see a wonderful video about the Canteen.
What's your story? How did you, or someone in your family serve? I'd love to hear your story and I'm sure many Studio 1430 listeners would as well. Post your story here for others to read. We'll keep them up as our own history of service and sacrifice. At a time when we could all use something to rally around these stories can be a great example of what sacrifice means. What did you do in the war????
My very first shift on the air was 33-years ago, on an August morning at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.Â I was an Airman First Class hosting the Daybreak Show on American Forces Radio.Â A few weeksÂ after I went on the air I was busy at work when the alarms started going off on the teletype machine with the news Elvis Presley had died.Â I still have the old yellow bulletins that printed out.Â I had to stop the record I was playing to make the announcement.
Now, 33-years later I'm writing a blog, while the computer in the Studio plays the music.Â I can click and drag a few songs, download some mp3's and update my Facebook page while I'm at it.Â Then I can pre-record an hour if I have a meeting and no one's the wiser.Â Wow.Â The changes we've lived through are simply amazing.Â IPODS instead of record players, ear buds instead of headsets, digital audio instead of scratchy records.Â Radio on your phone and computers.Â
I sort of feel like my generations' Andy Rooney.Â I'mÂ a member of the "older generation" now.Â I long for a good 8-track player and electric typewriter.Â Oh, I'm doing my best to keep up with the newest stuff, but when I'm alone I dig out the cassette tapes and note paper and actually write a letter.Â It just seems like you're more in touch, when you actually have to participate, not copy and paste.Â So, as I begin a new chapter and start blogging with listeners of Studio 1430 I hope you won't mind if I still dust off the vinyl every now and then for old times sake!