Posts Tagged ‘family’

A day at the ocean

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

Today my son, Joe, and his son, William, went to the harbor at San Pedro to see the USS Iowa on the first day it was open to the public. We had neglected to buy tickets online and, when we arrived, we found first that it had been moved from where we thought it was, and that the line was enormous. In fact, they had stopped selling tickets because the ship was too crowded.

Joe got on his cell phone and logged into the ship website, where he was able to buy tickets for the 2 o’clock boarding time. He couldn’t print, of course, so we went over to the yacht club where we were able to print the tickets. We had lunch and went back to the ship about 1:40. We found the end of the line for 2 o’clock and boarded just about on time.

It was still very crowded but the tour was enjoyable.

Here are Joe and William on the main deck with the two forward turrets in the background. The #2 turret is the one that had the lethal explosion in 1989. The initial reports suggested that it had occurred by sabotage.

The first investigation into the explosion, conducted by the US Navy, concluded that one of the gun turret crew members, Clayton Hartwig, who died in the explosion, had deliberately caused it. During the investigation, numerous leaks to the media, later attributed to Navy officers and investigators, implied that Hartwig and another sailor, Kendall Truitt, had engaged in a homosexual relationship and that Hartwig had caused the explosion after their relationship had soured. In its report, however, the Navy concluded that the evidence did not show that Hartwig was homosexual but that he was suicidal and had caused the explosion with either an electronic or chemical detonator.

Ultimately, that explanation was rejected by the public and Congress as an out for the Navy and the explanation was an error in loading the bags of powder.

Here is William standing by a shell and the powder bags on the main deck. The bags are behind the shell and are rammed into the breech after the shell with a rammer. The investigation concluded that it was not a human error or a deliberate act but an error in loading.

During its review, Sandia determined that a significant overram of the powder bags into the gun had occurred as it was being loaded and that the overram could have caused the explosion. A subsequent test by the Navy of the overram scenario confirmed that an overram could have caused an explosion in the gun breech. Sandia’s technicians also found that the physical evidence did not support the Navy’s theory that an electronic or chemical detonator had been used to initiate the explosion.

At any rate, the tour was fun and the day was beautiful. The ship is still not fully restored and will require a lot of work to get into good shape for tourists. It got quite warm in the after section where the ship store is and I finally headed up to the main deck again to cool off.

Here are Joe and William at the stern of the ship looking out at the empty cruise ship terminal.

Here is William on the bridge with the rest of the ship in the background.

Here is Joe taking a photo of William with the main gun turrets in the background.

It was a beautiful day. We will be back.

Winter !

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Last summer, I moved to the mountains. I had owned weekend homes here 30 years ago and always thought about retiring to this mountain resort area. I looked for homes last spring and finally settled on a house on a large level lot. That combination is rare up here. Since my basset hound Winston was to be my housemate and friend, the large yard was important.

We had a relatively snowless Christmas but a good dinner and a peaceful setting made up for it.

The Christmas tree had plenty of presents under it. Winston even got his own present, a nail grinder to trim his nails.

Here he is in his favorite place. Look at those nails !

Cindy and Annie were there. The other kids now have their own families and it is a long drive up the mountain.

Then, we had a big snowstorm Sunday afternoon and Monday morning. Here is the result.

Late Monday morning, as the falling snow slackened and stopped, this was the view of the front of our house. Since the front is heavily screened by trees, the best view is from the access road behind the house. Some of the young men who worked on the roof project last summer showed up and asked if I wanted my long driveway cleared. I answered yes and they did the job in 30 minutes. It was worth 50 bucks.

This is the view from the access road, a sort of alley very common here and the only access for some neighboring houses. I plan to build a garage just about in the foreground. It will open onto the access road. My neighbor, who has a garage opening to the access road, and who is a full time resident, takes his snow blower to clear the road from his garage to the street. Above his driveway, it is unplowed.

We took the dogs on a walk through the snow. Winston loves it, galloping through the snow like a sled dog. Of course, if the snow is more that 6 inches deep, it touches his chest and he would have a tough time with deeper snow.

Here is another view showing that the house really faces this way. The decks and the big windows all look out on this magical view of my back yard and the trees beyond. Below is a view from the upper access road where it is unplowed. My daughter and three of her friends came up Monday afternoon and have been sledding in the area.

The house can just be seen in the distance with the access road going downhill toward it. This is a good sledding area as the houses here are mostly owned by weekenders and several are vacant. The economic collapse has hurt this area badly.

Here Winston is investigating the new snow. In many places he is down to his chest in the snow and he prefers to gallop along like a sled dog.

After loping through deep snow (for him) for a while, he decides the plowed pavement is easier.

After a day playing in the snow, a nap is in order. Anyone who disturbs Winston while he is asleep learns that he really likes his sleep and hates to be disturbed. He will growl at me if I wake him up getting into bed.

That is his expression when awakened from sleep.

He has never growled at my grandchildren, however. They were up over the New Year weekend but missed the snow because they had to go home Sunday.

They did find some snow in a large lot that is vacant and is a popular place for sledding. There wasn’t much snow around but there was enough here.

Here are Kendall and William. She is 7 and he is about to be 5. Mary is the youngest and she is the daredevil.

Mary had her snow suit on and her mittens but her boots had been left at home. It did not slow her down a bit.

The kids got plenty of chances to slide down the gentle slope and even Mary got a couple of rides with Mom. Finally, the sledding had to come to an end.

A final slide with all three.

Winter is here.

Frank Flanagan

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

When the second world war ended, and the boys began to come home, my parents held parties for all of them who came back to Chicago. Many were friends of my cousin, Bud Kerrison, a B 17 bombardier who served in North Africa. Bud flew 50 missions; the 8th Air Force flying out of England only had to complete 35 missions because their loss rate was higher. His friends, some of whom were from Chicago, had similar military records and had served with him in the same theater. In addition to his Chicago buddies, a bunch of friends from other cities came to the parties and quite a few of them stayed. Why ? Bud had two beautiful sisters and they had a large number of beautiful girlfriends.

Here are Bud and Marion with me in the middle.

There were quite a few marriages that began with my parents’ parties and my mother kept in touch with many of these couples until she died 55 years later. There were a lot of beautiful girls and they all stayed married to the guys they met at the parties.

On of the friends of Bud who stayed on was great big guy named Frank Flanagan. His father was Chief of Detectives in the Philadelphia PD and, as some say, if cut, Frank would bleed blue. At that time, and for years afterward, the Chicago PD was corrupt but, as in any big city department, there were pockets of career officers who maintained the honor of the position and were respected even by the corrupt among them. One such was the father of Pat Neary. She was a beautiful girl with a Irish smile. Her father was an Inspector of the Chicago PD and a great guy. I was about 8 years old then and was fascinated with a tie clasp he wore that had suspended from it a tiny revolver. The tiny pistol worked mechanically and the trigger could be pulled and the cylinder would revolve and the hammer would fall, just as with a real pistol. He told me it even shot tiny bullets but I fear that may have been an embellishment. There are such tiny working guns, so maybe he wasn’t exaggerating after all.

Many of those girls from 1946 stayed beautiful into old age. I haven’t seen Pat in 20 years but she was trim and beautiful with a slight Irish accent the last time I saw her. She had three beautiful daughters.

Marion still looks pretty good at the age of 92. That’s her son Kerry who is 65. She lives alone in a nice condo and goes to the movies with my sister every week.

Anyway, Pat and Frank got married and lived happily ever after, except for one small problem. The Chicago PD pay scale was lousy. They could not afford a house for years and Pat drove an old clunker of a car. My father used to show up with piles of toys for the kids but no one doubted that the purpose of the low salary was to keep the policemen susceptible to bribery. Frank put up with it and there was never a whiff of anything improper about him. The crooks in the department knew this better than anyone else and so a little conspiracy was launched to protect Frank, and probably others like him, from the hustlers. The Mafia had a stranglehold on Chicago and the one place where someone like Frank was least likely to run a foul of organized crime was hit and run accident investigations.

Frank became chief of Hit and Run. A few years later, Life magazine ran a special feature on him as the first crime lab in Chicago law enforcement history began to get results. They developed means of identifying paint chips recovered from accident scenes and then identifying the make, model and year of the car the chip came from. That is no big deal now but it was revolutionary then. The rate at which hit and run crimes were solved became phenomenal. The Life Magazine feature began with a photo of Frank answering the telephone with his signature greeting, “Hit and Run, Flanagan.” He went on to Homicide and thrived as a good Homicide detective.

In 1960, everything changed. The city was hit with a monumental scandal when it was discovered that a burglary ring was run from a police district on the North Side. Corruption had taken over the department and Mayor Daley was faced with a desperate need for a respectable figure to take over the department and clean it up. He found him in a Harvard Professor named Orlando Wilson. Daley was desperate and this gave Wilson enormous power. He could have just about anything he wanted.

In 1960, Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley, in the wake of a major police scandal,[6] established a commission headed by O.W. Wilson to find a new police commissioner.[7] In the end, Daley decided to appoint Wilson himself, as Commissioner.[8] Beginning on March 2, 1960,[4] Wilson served the Superintendent of Police of the Chicago Police Department until 1967 when he retired.
Reforms demanded at the outset by Wilson included establishment of a non-partisan police board to help govern the police force, a strict merit system for promotions within the department, an aggressive, nationwide recruiting drive for hiring new officers, and higher police salaries to attract professionally qualified officers.[8]

Wilson began searching the department for honest and competent men. He found Frank Flanagan in Homicide and made him Chief of Homicide. Among the big homicide cases investigated by Frank was the Richard Speck case, in which Speck raped and murdered 8 student nurses in one night. It was a huge sensation in Chicago for years.

Here is a copy of a Chicago police newspaper (pdf) with a story about Frank and a photo of Pat and his three daughters. Pat is still beautiful there, 18 years after they met at my parents’ party. The two stories about Frank are on pages 4 to 7.

I got stimulated about this after reading a post at Patterico by Jack Dunphy. Dunphy (a pseudonym) wonders what is wrong with Chicago? Crime is out of control and nothing is being done, or at least it seems that way. The details of the sickening situation are here. My brother-in-law is a retired CPD officer. He was retired by the time the situation as described arrived but he was constantly frustrated in the promotion process as affirmative action was in full flower then and only blacks were considered for promotion. If there were not enough blacks applying, some white officers would be considered. The linked article does not mention race but you can be sure it is a huge factor. My brother-in-law finally gave up and stopped taking the sergeants’ exam, a disservice to my sister, but he was sick of watching the list posted every six months.

Frank died a few years ago and, unfortunately, had no sons. He and Pat (still with us but ailing) were the products of a tradition of police families. Maybe if there was a Flanagan on the force, things might be better. In addition to his police service, Frank was the commanding officer of an Army Reserve unit in the city. He retired a full colonel. There aren’t many like him. Among other things, he was a big, hearty, friendly guy and he never lost his Philadelphia accent.

Don’t lose your Volkswagen key

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

I have a teenage daughter who loses things. A couple of months ago, she lost my car keys while driving it to visit with friends. I had to go to the Toyota dealer and wait an hour while they made a new key for my car. My daughter also has mishaps with her car and it was scheduled to be dropped off at a body shop for significant body work today. However, my daughter flew to Tucson last weekend, where we have another house and where she recently finished her first year of college. She took the only key to her car with her. Now, her car sits in the driveway useless. I used to have an extra key for her car and kept it in my car for emergencies. She found it about six months ago and it hasn’t been seen since.

I called the VW dealer and asked if a key could be made from the VIN number since we (I) bought the car there. No, I was told. I would have to have the car towed to the dealer for a key to be made. I called Volkswagen of America and was told the same thing. It seems that a key has to be “matched” to the car and that can only be done at the dealer. Supposedly, this is for greater security but I cannot for the life of me understand why this is. A car is a car. I own it. I can prove that. Why, in an emergency, cannot a key be made for the car ? I don’t care if it is a temporary key.

What I need is the name of a good car thief. I suspect it would take him (or her) about 20 seconds to get the car started and ready to drive. There are other reasons why I will not buy another Volkswagen (I have bought four for kids) but this one caps the story.