Monday, December 1, 2008

We Need Cheerleaders, Honesty, Integrity, Leadership and Common Sense

By now, we’ve all aware of the unsettling news about the economy. The stock market is unstable, companies are going bankrupt, financial institutions are struggling, the housing market is saturated with foreclosure and the average citizen is worried about their savings as investments dwindle in value. Daily, television screens are filled with images of politicians, corporate executives, economic advisors and media personalities posturing, lamenting, explaining, discussing and conveying to the American people how troubled, mismanaged and dire our economic institutions have become. They are expert at emphasizing the negative and “selling” financial fear.

Everyday citizens are filled with apprehension, anxiety and uncertainty as investment institutions collapse and their retirement funds, saving, and pension plans lose value. Like a roller coaster, markets plunge downward, yo-yoing back and forth between profit and loss, then, creep upward into positive territory. Parents saving for their child’s college education are worried when the time comes, funds will be insufficient to meet their intended needs. CEO’s describe their plight to Congress in hopes of a procuring a federal bailout. One gets the impression that our economy is hanging by a thread. Learned scholars use terms like recession, contraction, and volatile. A few media outlets show grainy black and white film clips of soup lines from the Great Depression. Images of despair, fearfulness and hopelessness now flood minds of Americans concerned about their future.

Loans are tough to come by, mortgages are scarce as the housing market faces millions of foreclosures and lenders deal with bankruptcies generated by homeowners unable to meet financial obligations. Retail stores forecast bleak shopping for the holiday season, as consumers “turtle up,” fearful of what the future holds. Automobile dealers are flooded with inventories of unsold vehicles sending ripple effects throughout the industry and economy. The bedrock of the American economy is the housing industry and automotive industry. The foundation of American society has always been the triad of Family, Church, and School. Today, our bedrock, the very foundation of our Country is being threatened, challenged and attacked.

Throughout the country, voices of disdain doom and gloom, and individuals—both within and outside—The United States strive to ridicule, demean, diminish and actively work to destroy our government, economy, society and sovereignty. Traditional values and individual rights are being threatened by secular activists working to eliminate Judeo-Christian values and implement their agenda. It is time for us to take action. It is a time for us to demand. It is also time for every American to invest. Now is the hour to demand of ourselves the investment of time, interest, energy and effort. We must hold accountable, all elected officials, corporate leaders, union officials, financial planners, and—ourselves. Let’s replace non-sense with common sense!

As a nation, we need to set an example of strength, confidence, courage, and belief in America for all to see. From border to border, shore to shore we must reinforce the qualities and values that are the bedrock of America . We need to vanquish fear and escalate Faith. As United States citizens, we need to fully exercise our duties and responsibilities. We need to stand tall up front not cowering in the shadows—we need to risk rather than withdraw. We must celebrate America ’s promise and belief in ourselves. We can do better---and, we must!

We need cheerleaders and leadership from podiums and pulpits, board rooms and classrooms, press boxes and soap boxes. We need celebrities and entertainers, athletes and movie stars, executives and officers, homebuilders and homeowners, corporations and associations, neighborhoods and brotherhoods, Unions and non-unions to promote honesty, integrity, decency and goodness. America needs to hear good news and reassurance from elected officials at all level of government: Federal, State and local. We have to set aside political bickering and cooperate for the good of America . We need to eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive. Our President, President-elect and members of Congress need to demonstrate leadership and reassure citizens at every opportunity that this Country, although battered and bruised economically, is fundamentally solid, strong, and secure.

Americans have always responded to challenges, adversities, threats, and harmful forces with resolve, courage, discipline and dedication. We face a difficult road ahead with many uncertainties; and we need to periodically hear voices of hope, inspiration, wisdom, prayerful words, and patriotic fervor to help restore confidence. We need to help one another—knowing that asking for help is not a sign of weakness; but a sign of strength. We are problem-solvers. Let solve the problems! And, along the way, prayerfully seek guidance until threats are vanquished, security reinforced, faith renewed, and the American spirit re-energized.

Soon it will be Christmas. And so I wish each of you: “Merry Christmas.” It’s been quite a year. God bless us all.

You Can Go Home Again

The title of Thomas Wolfe’s 1940 novel, “You can’t go home again,” is the story of writer George Weber and his journey back to his home town. These words have become both poetic and prophetic to anyone who left home and returned a number of years later only to be affected by changes over the period of their absence. In late September, members of the Whiting High School Class of 1958 came home to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary of graduation. It was a weekend filled with remembrance, renewal, and melancholy reflection. Activities began on Friday with an informal get-together at this writer’s home and continued at the Whiting Elks Club to enjoy dinner and more conversation. Saturday evening, classmates enjoyed a banquet and culminated their celebration with a Sunday picnic at Whiting Park . Friends from the classes of 1956 and 1957 joined in the camaraderie and exchanged “war stories” embellished by half-a-century of memories with the “youngsters” from the Class of 1958.

A number of out-of-town classmates as well as those who live distant from the community took advantage of the delicious autumn weather to tour their home town. Many returned to neighborhoods where they lived as teenagers, visiting favorite places enjoyed as a youngster. I, too, travelled the community that shaped my life, remembering those who served as role models and helped me along the way. Although I’ve lived the majority of my life in the Whiting-Robertsdale area—only recently moving to Dyer--I like to visit the places where so many moments and so many memories are now part of my life. In 1949, when I was in third grade, our family moved from my grandmother’s house on Oliver Street to Cleveland Avenue . I lived in that house until I married in 1965. It was the house in which I grew up. One of the joys of youth was walking to school each day with neighborhood classmates and friends. Initially, we walked to Sacred Heart; then, as high school students, two additional blocks to Whiting High. After a half century, I still clearly recall many of those journeys as we laughed, talked and shared friendship that has bonded us together over a lifetime. Some days we used sidewalks, other days we’d cut through neighbor’s yards and travel alleys. Over the course of our four years at Whiting High, routes to and from school and home were modified to meet adolescent priorities; and the camaraderie, friendship and affection for one another increased.

Inside the covers of my WHS Reflectors from ‘54 to ‘58, yellowing pages reveal photographs of captured moments from times long ago. Travelling through town, photos of yesteryear are compared with current observations: past locations that once housed storefronts and familiar establishments are now absent or reflect change. Landmarks like the Community Center seems subdued and no longer pulse and throb with the vibrancy of energetic youngsters as it once did. To teens of the 50’s, the Center was our Mecca , ground zero for gathering, activities, and for some—employment. I can still detect the bowling alley’s aroma and the ambiance of the pits as I plied my pinsetter skills on alleys 3 and 4. Images of Hardy Keilman and Andy Yanas are still vivid in my mind. Most of the graffiti we wrote on the ceiling and walls has eroded, but the spirit of those days remains.

We used street corners along 119th for our informal seminars, drugstores to quench thirsts, Neal Prices to preview the latest 45 records and dream about items that filled his store’s shelves. We regularly feasted at Hot Dog Louie’s gulping down soft drinks and his famous chili. On subsequent visits, we savored Louie’s hamburgers and mustard-drenched hot dogs. Immunized from all known bacteria and viruses we’d cross the street and head for Nick’s. Snooker tables and pinball machines beckoned adolescent skill. It was a “Boys Only” establishment; a sanctuary where teenaged guys could smoke and carry-on without disdain. After more than fifty years the ambiance of this marvelous parlor of pool balls and pinball, neon, and green felt tables still generates pleasant memories of friendship, camaraderie, laughter, and good times.

A restaurant replaced Salmon’s barber shop where my “greaser” haircut was trimmed and made ready for the next application of Charles Antell’s Formula Number 9. Walgreen’s now occupies Ande’s Pizza original location. Sacred Heart School closed long ago, and so many mature trees on Oliver Street are gone. To this day, the White Castle stands sentry to the entrance of my Mayberry. Sautéed onions and the perfume of Slyders activate saliva glands; and I fight the urge to indulge a half-dozen tempting geometric belly bombers. Places of my youth: Whiting High School , The Public Library and Whiting Park still saturate my mind with cherished memories of childhood and adolescence adventures.

As I complete my tour, I say a few words of thanksgiving for the people, places, and once-upon-a-time moments that gave me opportunity to do better. Rarely has a finer gift been presented and appreciated. And, if I could talk to Thomas Wolfe I would tell him without reservation that you can come home again; especially if one is a member of the Class of ’58 and their home town is Whiting, Indiana.

Where's Al going to be next???

Check back soon for his next appearance at a location near you!