MEMORIES: THE WAY WE WERE
At first, I was going to tweet about it, but then I thought it was worth more than just 140 characters.
The conversation also got me thinking about all the great stories people share with me on and off the about their jobs, places they come from and interesting things they’ve done. So I’ve decided to put them down in a blog and share them with anyone who cares to drop by.
As a journalist for more than 30 years, I met thousands of people who had great stories to tell. So, I guess, once a journalist always a journalist.
I’ve interviewed celebrities, Royals, murderers, gangsters, heroes, who without a thought for their own safety dashed into a burning building or plunged into stormy seas to rescue people, charity champions who challenged and pushed themselves to raise money for worthy causes, parents, whose sons and daughters made the ultimate sacrifice, and the boy and girl-next door who find themselves on the front page.
Many authors get inspiration for their "stories" by the stories they read in newspapers, hear on the radio or watch on TV. Feel free to be inspired by any you read on my blog.
I'm kicking off with Al's story:
A STORM IN A ...
Al was a typhoon hunter in the US air force during the Korean War, 1952-54. He flew into all four corners of a storm in a B29 to measure its speed and direction.
"It was like stepping into an elevator and not knowing if it was going to go up or down," he told me.
Scary and dangerous are two words that instantly jump into my mind.
"Yes, but we were young and didn’t think about it," he added. "There was only one crash all the time I was there. A plane with 11 crew went down. We never found them. Today, the equipment is much more sophisticated and they measure the storm by flying above it."
ATTENTION! NO HORSING AROUND
Martin deccided to join the British Army in 1960.
He recalls, "When I walked into the recruiting office, the sergeant behind the desk took one look at me, turned his head and shouted into the back, ‘Here’s one for you, Charlie’."
Just like that. No horsing around; Charlie was Corporal Of Horse recruiting for the Royal Horse Guards and he needed recruits.
"The reason I was for him was that at the time the minimum height to join the RHG was 6ft and I am 6ft 1ins."
That’s because the RHG are part of The Household Cavalry, which is the personal bodyguard of The Queen.
NO CAVING IN
Mary’s family emigrated to America from Switzerland in the mid 1800s.
"After they arrived on the East Coast they travelled inland looking for land with good soil to farm. They found it when they got to Maiden Rock, Wisconsin. It was winter, so they found a cave and lived in it until spring. Then they cut down trees to build a house. That’s the story my dad told me."
Retired photographer Jack was green with envy when his pal was given a Baby Brownie camera for Christmas 1937. He was 12, in 6th grade at the time, and couldn’t afford one. So he saved every nickel and dime from mowing lawns and sweeping leaves until he had the 98 cents to buy one of his own.
He had fun taking pictures and by middle school he had a camera with a flash attachment, but it was too expensive to get prints. In 1940, in his hometown of Hillsdale, Michigan, he got a job in a drugstore, where he was able to salvage equipment from the junk photography pile to do his own printing.
He took photographs for his school newspaper before graduating. He then went to work for a photographer friend of his father, holding down a job as a pony holder, before going into military service in 1944.
This involved holding the reins of the pony on which kids sat to have their pictures taken. After the Second World War, he went back to work for the pony photographer and when he retired, Jack took over the reins.
Susan’s aunt, Sofia, never dashed into a burning building or plunged into a stormy sea to rescue people. But she was hero all the same. Her mother came from Sicily with Sofia and Sofia's four siblings (the youngest was one year old) around 1922 to be near family and make a fresh start after her husband died. But tragedy struck soon after they arrived at Ellis Island. She died and sadly no one else in the family could take the children in, so they were separated and put into homes.
Then, when Sofia turned 18, she did a remarkable thing. She took all her siblings out of care and looked after them herself.
"My aunt had a hard life taking care of them," Susan said. "It was a remarkable thing for someone so young to take on. They lived in the New York area for the rest of their lives. They never moved far from each other and they all had good lives. The last one died recently, aged 100."
A FISHY TALE
In the 1990s, Sandi loved lobstering. Her home was in Eliot, Maine. Close to the Atlantic Ocean, overlooking the Piscataqua River.
"One day I was sitting with my husband on the porch watching a fellow lobsterman retrieving his catch, when we saw a baby whale coming up river on the stern of the boat," she told me.
"Charlie had his back to the whale and was so occupied, he didn’t see it. We shouted but he was too far away to hear us. The whale surfaced and the swell made the boat rock. It was a baby but was still a pretty good size. It caught Charlie totally unawares. He just about fell out of the boat. I’d never known a whale come two miles up the river like that before – it must have got lost.
"A group of fellow lobstermen got together with their boats and herded the baby whale back to the ocean. Afterwards, they really rode Charlie’s butt about it. It was so funny. He got the shock of his life."
Thanks for reading and don't forget to keep reaching for the stars