Friday, February 16, 2018


            Sixty-eight years have passed since that June day that saw the peace of the Korean peninsula shattered by an invasion of the South by Communist forces from the North, with support from  the Soviet Union and China, and with entire armies of the latter country eventually joining the North Korea People's Army in overrunning free South Korea. Among those who responded to the call for assistance to the beleaguered South were over five million American young men, just 2.2 million (40%) of whom are still with us as of 2017. Some of those were also veterans of WWII, while some went on to fight in Viet Nam.
            These grizzled veterans who were born into the Great Depression and experienced the war years of Franklin Roosevelt's America are in their 80s and 90s. For the most part, they have not been a "noisy" group known for demonstrations and advocacies pleading for special recognition, but to the contrary   returned home to quietly take their place in a society which mostly thought of theirs, as the forgotten war.
            For some of us - and for various reasons - that has not been true. In my own case my particular military mission placed me in regular contact with my opposite numbers in South Korean society, both military and civilian. My interest in Korean history and in particular emerging details about the war I had just participated in tended to keep me involved in further study, especially after I found myself with responsibility for producing a weekly radio talk show with a strong history bent, and eventually as a regular newspaper columnist. Most important was my relocation to southern Utah where I quickly fell into a natural friendship with a Korean-American patriot and neighbor named Sunny Lee who had wedded her life to serving her adopted country in appreciation of the contribution its citizens had made to the freedom of her native land. I also discovered a rare sense of awareness among a group of veterans who had seen Korean combat service with the 213th Field Artillery Battalion, a unit of the Utah National Guard which had distinguished itself in the battle of Gapyeong  on May 26, 1951 after taking on large numbers of an invading Chinese Army without the loss of a single guardsman.
            With the generous support of the Korean government - in particular the ministry of Patriots & Veterans - Mrs. Lee literally became the U.S. spokesperson for this veterans group and others, leading a series of return visits for the Gapyeong and other Utah-American veterans of the Korean War. I was privileged to join the 2009 tour, and my granddaughter as part of a special contingent of  K.W. student- grandkids of Vets. participating in a Peace Camp and guided visit the following year.
             After carrying out a number of similar and very demanding veteran visits, Sunny went on to supervise an effort to help the surviving families of Missing-in-action veterans to better understand and "finalize" the story of their loss, concluding with a trip to present-day Korea, a visit to historic and sacred sites and a special memorial service. Only those few of us who know Sunny Lee intimately understand both the personal sense of fulfillment this experience involved, and the deep emotional price it exacted from this remarkable super-patriot.
            Recently a plane landed in Las Vegas carrying two young gentlemen whose errand it was to underline that partner-nation's appreciation of this unusual Utah Connection, and those who have supported the rare friendship it has engendered on both sides of the Pacific:  25-year-old Tae Hwan Park and Joon Chang Lee, both senior cadets at the Korea Army Academy at Yeongcheon stepped down on U.S. soil as representatives of a grateful nation. Prior to their official visits to Utah National Guard headquarters, Cedar City mayor and Veterans' Monument, an Idaho veterans home and a meeting with MIA families, several of us enjoyed a dinner and evening with them at the Springdale home of John and Sunny Lee. The depth of their sense of honor and respect, and their love for America made all of us as proud of these sons of serving Senior officers as if they were from one of our own service academies.

                                 Photo Caption: L to R   Standing: Cadet Tae Hwan Park, Cadet Joon Chang Lee
                                           Seated: Gene Gregory, Marine; Al Cooper, Air Force; Col. Dan Roberts, Army


            When Abraham Lincoln was born, the Republic was only 33 years old. George Washington had been dead only 10 years and many of those who had signed their names to the Declaration of Independence were still living and active. James Madison was president - our 4th, and the people of Lincoln's generation were not far removed from the events surrounding the nation's painful birth. The population of the infant states was still only 7 million, although that number would double in the next decade; the Indiana Territory was the western "frontier."
            Back in 1783 when the Constitutional Convention reached agreement over a supreme written law- thanks to compromise - they had failed to resolve three fundamental problems. These three "jaw-breaker" questions hovered over all those proceedings, but the founding fathers became convinced that in these areas of disagreement, there could be no chance of compromise. Many present there in Philadelphia believed in their hearts that these unresolved differences would eventually bring about the dissolution of the Union they had forged. Elbridge Gerry from Massachusetts, Roger Sherman from Connecticut, and even Madison himself wrote of their fears. The three unsettled problems loomed large by the time Abraham Lincoln was old enough to become a student of Government: Slavery!!   States rights vs. Federal!!  and  Secession!!
            One of the reasons George Washington had allowed himself (reluctantly) to be persuaded into accepting a second term as President was that of a growing trend toward partisanism. The constitution did not contemplate the emergence of political parties. Its framers had grown old and suspicious observing all that was wrong with England's "parliamentary democracy". Despite all his worst fears, Washington witnessed - and abhorred - the rise of multi-party politics, and a growing tendency toward international adventurism. Even before he left office he saw seeds being sewn which would result in the deterioration of relations with England (and the War of 1812;) conflict with the western tribes over Indian land rights, and the insoluble differences between states with respect to slavery.
            The political environment into which Lincoln was born saw two principle parties, the Democrats (pro-slavery, pro-South and largely pro-states rights,) and Whigs (more centrist and largely anti-slavery.) Increasingly though, both parties were becoming fragmented over the slavery issue, and the birth of a new more-solidly anti-slavery party was likely. (This would be the Republican party with which Lincoln would almost immediately align himself along with other Whigs.) Other issues which divided office holders swirled around the development of western lands, and even here slavery and its expansion was at the heart of debate.
            Slavery questions hark back to the founding fathers. Washington, though a slave owner, deplored the practice, freed his own at his death, and worked toward phasing out the system. Jefferson tried to lead Virginia toward being the first state to outlaw slavery outright, and in fact that state had embarked upon the implementation of a solution prior to the outbreak of civil war. When Lincoln observed in his debates with Stephen Douglas, that the nation could not continue "half slave and half free," that it must necessarily become "all one or all the other," he was putting his finger directly on the problem.
            With the passage of the Missouri Compromise in 1820, a national disaster seemed to have been averted when congressional controls on the admission of "new" territories at least produced a temporary quieting of southern outcries of unfairness. But all of that changed dramatically in 1858 with the Dred Scott decision, which among other things denied the former slave's argument while finding that slaves had no standing in any court. As disappointing as that ruling was for Republicans and all abolishioners, Judge Roger B. Taney's southern-leaning Supreme Court went a huge step farther in ruling that Congress did not have the authority to outlaw (or limit) slavery anywhere! Thus reversing the Missouri Compromise, and making the American Civil War inevitable.
Personal Note: For all of my life, I have believed that Abraham Lincoln's birth was no accident. ACC

Sunday, December 17, 2017


Somewhere among the jumble of memorabilia I have preserved over the years is a handwritten letter with my name and childhood address on it.  It is postmarked “The North Pole”, and is signed, Santa Claus in bright red ink. It continues to raise some interesting insights into one of our most enduring seasonal traditions.
The name Thomas Nast is seldom heard these days, and where it is, I doubt it is associated with Christmas.  But the fact is  this immigrant American who arrived here from his native Germany at the age of six,  a century-and-three-quarters  ago, has touched our national Christmas tradition far more than the casual historian might suppose.
By the time he was 13, Nast had already begun a career as a newspaper illustrator.  He was destined to become one of the most influential cartoonists of his day, his biting satires a regular feature of Harper’s Weekly.  His work directly affected the outcome of one of New York’s most famous political campaigns, and it was Nast who invented the Republican Elephant and the Democrat Donkey.
What is less known is that he also invented America’s Santa Claus.  The idea of Father Christmas, or St. Nicholas, came to our shores with the first Dutch settlers, who pictured this mythical character as a tall bishop of serious demeanor, clad in black clerical robes, and carrying a birch wood staff.
Thomas Nast set about changing this image with a cover design he did for an issue of Harper’s Weekly in December,1863.  He was burned out on serious subject matter, and tired of reporting on the grim war news coming from the battlefields of the Civil War.  In this drawing he depicts a fanciful Santa Claus, visiting a Union Army outpost, clad in the stars and stripes, and distributing toys to the soldiers. He entertains the crowd with a jumping jack dangling from a hangman's noose, its chest bearing the name "Jeff" for Confederate President Jefferson Davis. In the background Nast pictured soldiers  playing games, trying to capture an escaped pig and trying to climb a greased pole.
In the years that followed, Thomas Nast refined his idea of what Santa should really be like, deciding that the country needed someone who was brightly dressed, full of good cheer, and anxious that children should strive to be “nice”.  Nast and his artist’s pens turned Santa into a toy-maker headquartered at the North Pole, and in an illustrated children's book he published in 1866, he added a reindeer-drawn sled filled with toys.  Over a period of twenty-three years, the cartoonist who loved Santa Claus left us a legacy that has become a heart-warming part of every Christmas.. . a “right merry old elf” who refuses to be taken too seriously.


Ever since a personal adventure which led to being snowbound for three days in a mountain cabin, I have been an avid collector of winter survival stories, and weather phenomena from out of our national past.  And I am not alone.
Somewhere in the remembered past of nearly all of our northern tier of states, is the story of a blizzard or two, and many of us who grew up with grandparents who were story tellers, have heard them. 
Folks who were attentive to nature’s warnings might have noticed that the autumn of 1886 in much of the West was filled with such omens.  The birds which ordinarily stayed through winter headed south.  Hibernating animals fortified their lairs with extra care, and sought shelter early.  From November 1886 through February 1887, blizzards followed each other across the western plains, from Montana on the north to Texas on the south.  Howling winds and sub-zero temperatures accompanied heavy snow.  Following on the heels of a summer-long drought, the unrelenting winter storms took a heavy toll:  nearly 90% of the West’s free-ranging cattle were wiped out in what the day’s ranchers forever after knew as “The Great Die-Up”.  So devastating was this winter of blizzards that it was the death knell of free-ranging.  Never again would the great herds wander unfettered across the vastness of the American West.
Those of us who grew up on the knees of Eastern grandparents and great-aunts and uncles who were around during those last decades of the nineteenth century have heard our share of tales about “The Great Blizzard of 1888”.  It struck on March 12th, bringing unprecedented snowfall to the East Coast, where cities like New York were paralyzed, and hundreds of thousands of citizens were trapped in their homes, barns and places of employment.  In that great city alone, 400 people died and millions of dollars in damages were recorded.  For 36 hours the storm pounded the area, virtually isolating the city from the rest of the world.  Firefighters were unable to respond to blazes which broke out as citizens tried to survive the cold.  Those who lived through it never forgot “The Great Blizzard of 1888”.
Just two months previous to that event, another century-type storm hit the mid-west.  Because of the time of day the blizzard exploded over Nebraska and South Dakota, it became known as “The Schoolchildren’s Storm”, so many children were marooned in school houses on the northern plains.  Out of that storm came a national heroine whose name, Minnie Freeman, became a household word.  When the storm blew out first the windows, then the roof of the tiny sod schoolhouse in which she and her children were trapped, she decided to lead her charges to safety.  Lashing them together with whatever ropes and pieces of clothing were at hand, she started out in the teeth of the gale, for a house she knew stood about a mile away. Her exploit was heralded widely by a fascinated press, and she eventually received 80 marriage proposals along with her adoring mail.  A song “Thirteen Were Saved” or “Nebraska’s Fearless Maid” became The Song of The Great Blizzard of 1888.
Weather statistics suggest that if you live long enough, and happen to be in the right place at the right time, you stand a good chance of experiencing a blizzard of your own.  With that thought before us, it’s a good idea to equip your home and your family car with “The Big One” in mind.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017


We’ve all heard of the Overland Express, and of course the Pony Express.  But how much do you know about the “Snowshoe Express” ?
Back in 1856, an unusual plea was printed in a Sacramento newspaper:
People Lost to The World,
Uncle Sam Needs a Mail Carrier . . .
read the two-line appeal.  The unusual story which began with those brief words has been all but forgotten among those tales of daring-do which spice the history of our Mail Service.
Scattered along the ridges of the High Sierras between Nevada and California were dozens of mining camps and the isolated communities which grew up around them.  For much of the year, winter storms and twenty-five foot snow drifts effectively cut the inhabitants of these camps and villages off from the rest of the world.  From the first snowfall to Spring thaw, there were no lines of communication and the remote gold-seekers were strictly on their own.
A Norwegian-born Californian named John Thompson, himself a prospector-turned-farmer, read the newspaper advertisement and, after some trial experiments, presented himself to the U.S. Postmaster in Placerville with a plan.  Equipped with a set of what he called “Norwegian Snowshoes” - long wooden skis- constructed from childhood memories, ten feet long and weighing a good 25 pounds, Thompson proposed to carry the mail.  Real snowshoes were known as "webs" or Canadian snowshoes while the long skis Thompson used were often called "Norwegian skates". The post office quickly signed him on.
For the next 13 years, “Snowshoe Thompson” became the winter angel for hundreds of isolated families, carrying 80-pound sacks of mail over uncharted miles of the most perilous alpine country in North America, with 1 or 2 blankets and only such dried foods as he could fit into his pockets.   In time the people along his bi-weekly route came to depend upon him, not only for mail, but for medicines and emergency supplies. John Thompson was much more than a carrier of mail and supplies. He was a powerful man of exceeding generosity and a deep sense of devotion to the people he served.
 In December of 1856 he found a miner named James Sisson lying on the floor of a cabin in obvious distress with both legs frozen and gangrenous. Thanks to Thompson's efforts and rapid back-country travel the man was transported to the care of a medical Doctor who upon examination refused to perform the needed amputation without anesthetic. To provide the needed pain-killer Thompson skied another 90 miles to Placerville, then another 50 to Sacramento and finally the same distance in return. Sisson survived the ordeal and eventually moved back east.
Sadly, the postmaster in Placerville never came through with any of the promised pay for Thompson’s unique service and it fell to the families he served to compensate him as they were able.  Finally, with the completion of the Central Pacific Railroad in 1869, the need for Thompson’s “Snowshoe Express” ended.  His grateful clients petitioned Congress to grant a pension to their devoted carrier, but it never happened.  His tireless energy finally gave out, and he died at the age of 49 unable to complete the spring planting of a grain crop on his farm.
 As a collector of philatelic cancellations, I would give almost anything to run across one of those envelopes once carried by the skiing mailman of the high Sierras bearing his own handmade postmark:  “SNOWSHOE EXPRESS - 1857”.
There remains one last postscript to the story of John Thompson.  The unusual service he rendered may have been forgotten, but the long wooden “snowshoes” he used left their mark.  The sport of cross-country skiing in the U.S. West owes its origins to his example.

Monday, December 4, 2017


            You can no longer even find the town of Coytesville on a map of New Jersey; it has long since been absorbed into the sprawling collection of ambiguous and ever-changing bedroom communities serving as way stations for New York City commuters. But in my circling mind it looms ever larger in importance. Founded and laid out in the early 1800s by my maternal great-grandfather, its’ very name is eponymous with one of my own and its imprint lies deep in my spiritual DNA. For the first 14 years of my life it was my home, and my own mother, like her own, had never known any other; with family roots imbedded in the same sod on which Washington’s rag tag army had encamped in its most desperate days and whose musket balls and cannon shot I could find untouched beneath mere inches of forest duff.
            I thought of this once again as another Thanksgiving celebration came and went, surrounded by three generations of my own posterity, not one among whom has ever walked where I played hide-and-seek beneath arching oaks which were two hundred years old, now doubtless paved over by “progress”.
             One of my Thanksgiving Day memories is of a local tradition which saw neighborhood children dressed in colorful costumes roaming the streets and ringing door bells, usually armed with a cast-off purse or money bag, asking “Have ya anathin’ for Thanksgivin’?” Usually small coins or other treats were happily handed out from stacks waiting just inside every doorway for the playing out of a much-enjoyed event known as “Ragamuffin Day”. As a kid I assumed that “ragamuffins” were universal; that they inhabited the streets of every American community during this festive season. Only years later would it dawn on me that this was not true; that ragamuffins and their colorful antics had been born in New York City’s Brooklyn neighborhoods where European families had settled, and from which the observation would branch out only to nearby enclaves – obviously to my own. Popular in the 1930s and 40s, it would die out in postwar years, and would remain only a fond memory for folks of my generation who had lived there.  Interestingly, historians looking back on the ragamuffin parades which took place in New York City in those largely-forgotten days believe that the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade had its birthing with those costume-clad clown-like ragamuffins of bygone times.
                        My favorite dictionary defines the word tradition as “the passing down of elements of culture and time-honored practices from generation to generation”. I subscribe wholeheartedly to the belief that traditions – whether family-centered, locally-born or widely held – are the glue that binds us together, and endows us with a sense of identity that clings protectively in good times and in bad. I, for one, take comfort from the notion that if our parents and grandparents could return for an ethereal visit to our 21st century family, they would recognize us as their own, and find reason to take pride in the things they passed down to us. I sometimes feel - on special occasions - that they even sit at our table with us.
            While I try hard to convince myself that we live in the best of times, and that even better days are still ahead, there is part of me that laments the loss of the kind of closely-knit and caring neighborhoods of the past many of us grew up in, and I find comfort in the words of the great Scottish poet and thinker James Barrie who wrote “God gave us the gift of memories that we might have June roses in the November of our lives”. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017


            When I answered our doorbell yesterday, I was met by the happy face of a neighbor and very special friend who is as “close” to my heart as any fellow human not born my twin could be. She – with her husband – lives just 3 miles away from my front door today, but when I arrived at Seoul’s Kimpo Airport to help defend her country 65 years ago she had not yet been born. We share between us not only a mutual love for and devotion to the United States of America which is our homeland, but a deep appreciation for the unique history which ties us together across years, miles and continents.
            Both together and separately we have addressed or attended dozens of gatherings, on both sides of the Pacific in the interest of insuring that the struggle which kept the land of her birth free is not forgotten, and that those who fought that very costly war together will be honored and remembered across the “free world” and across the generations. Each year we gather Korean youth to our “backyard”
 here in southern Utah for several weeks of remembrance, and many of the college-age grandkids of our American veterans have been introduced to “the land of the morning calm” in the company of this friend. And in addition, for several years, my friend – Sunny Lee of Springdale -- has been personally leading the families of U.S. MIAs on voyages of discovery searching out the stories of their loved ones “over there”.
            I make reference to all this in order to introduce the exact subject about which I wish to direct today’s comments. Not only do I welcome the “THANK YOU” greetings our veteran headgear invite as we wend our way through everyday society, but this quiet “communication” which is a reassuring part of American life affords me a chance to let those I meet know that I am immensely proud to have had the privilege to serve; to actually represent the thousands - even millions of my fellow citizens who didn’t happen to have that opportunity.
            Make no mistake about it; I hate war as does anyone who has held the hand of a wounded or dying friend or who has grown up in the family of a disfigured and damaged loved one; I have experienced both. On the other hand I have learned the meaning of the word honor at such a personal level that my entire concept of living a good life was changed forever. How do I pay for that!
            When November 11, 2017 dawns, I will once again don my Air Force class A dress “blues” and venture out upon the public way in order to “rub shoulders” with my neighbors and perfect “strangers”, as I do every year. Not only does it give the people I meet an opportunity to think about and even speak of important things, but it gives me a chance to express my very personal sense of pride in having had the privilege to serve, and a visible reverence for all those American men and women whose ability to do the same thing has been denied them by the very cost of that service.
             At any given time, it is estimated about 1.4 percent of our national population are living veterans. Talk about an honored minority!
Historical Note:  At 5:00 AM on the morning of November 11, 1918 the Central Powers and the Allies signed the documents of armistice officially ending World War I. The “politicians” among them decided to delay the actual announcement until 11:00 AM, making possible the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month mantra which they thought had a nice ring to it. In those six hours of warfare 2,738 men from both sides died while more than 8,000 were wounded; needlessly. Nearly 3,000 men who would never get to be fathers, grandfathers, et cetera.

Thursday, September 7, 2017


            As the ongoing Hurricane Harvey disaster unfolds before our eyes I cannot help but be carried back 13 years in time to another August and another storm, that one with the assigned name of Hurricane Charley.  Charley came ashore on Florida’s Gulf coast near Punta Gorda on August 11, 2004 as a category 4 storm with winds of 145 mph. After doing unprecedented damage there and at Port Charlotte, it headed north into the heart of southeast Florida and into Hardee County where it was destined to devastate the county seat of Wauchula. Before it was done it would take 18 lives directly and do 16.3 billion dollars in damage.
            The state of Utah had only recently become a signatory to an interstate disaster assistance compact, and when Florida sent out a plea for outside aid Utah’s Emergency Management leaders responded. I immediately volunteered and became one of a task force of four to represent Utah in response to the stricken state. Flying into Tampa, we were immediately assigned to Hardee County where local responders had been overwhelmed by events which crippled the county seat of Wauchula and the surrounding communities. When we arrived rescue efforts were still in progress and first responders were still involved in a door-to-door search for people trapped by fallen trees and debris in homes and workplace. There was no electric power and would not be for weeks to come and only one limited fuel source was operating on generator power.
            The management of response and recovery efforts was in the hands of the Public Safety Director whose home and everything he owned had been totally destroyed. He and his family were living in the downstairs of the Public Safety building in who’s upstairs operating headquarters we would find ourselves huddled for the next six days with a dedicated cadre of local volunteers directing every life-saving and public safety effort for a wide area of suffering. Every single person answering phones, making decisions and dispensing resources in that room had likewise lost all or part of their own home.
            At first it seemed impossible, in our clean clothes, intact footwear and fresh clean-shaven faces, to fit in with that roomful of tired overworked and weary “veteran” responders, but by the time we departed a week later they would be our “brothers” and “sisters”, and a cheer for Utah would go up from the tear-stained faces of everyday heroes handing out sincere hugs and kisses.
            It was decided that we could be of most immediate and effective use to the command structure if we took charge of managing volunteers and donations, one of the designated and important Incident Command functions. Dividing our duties between the phone desk at headquarters and the volunteer assignment point in the field, we would soon become immersed in one of the most personally gratifying areas of disaster operations; one in which we had direct one-on-one personal contact with everyday Americans arriving by the hundreds each day, dedicated to the most magnificent of human motivations – the thing we call loving thy neighbor. And come they did, with chain saws and tools, with prepared meals to feed a crowd or a few, individually or more often by the whole-family, from as far away as Tampa and Orlando. Since we had 5,000 lost or homeless domesticated pets housed at the Fair Grounds, we had a ready-made and safe arena in which to employ the children who wished to perform a service while their parents were assigned elsewhere.
            Most often assigned to the desk at the Command Center (where I often and gladly manned the desks of other functions as needed: infrastructure management, animal services, diesel fuel supply for dozens of commercial-size generators or emergency medical response). It was here I came to understand the broad area of donations and donors. In a single hour (we operated the center in overlapping 12 hour shifts) I might hear from a PETCO semi driver approaching town with 20,000 pounds of pet food wanting to know where to deliver, a loaded-to-the-gills WAL-MART van wanting a location to set up, a family wishing to donate a meal of spaghetti-and-meatballs to feed 100 seeking directions to an appropriate parking lot, or an expert on Florida alligators offering his needed services to deal with one of our ongoing problems. Arriving daily would be generous individuals with money (large and small), often preferring to donate it to “local” rather than national institutions (a common sentiment I found in such disasters.) I always had a deserving and proven alternative in mind including one group who helped families with expensive power line problems on their own property, or other repairs uncovered by utility companies or insurance.
            Many of the local residents of rural Wauchula were non-English -speaking and too concerned by their uncertain citizen status to even come forward and admit they needed help let alone sign their names to a questionnaire. (One of my pleasures was to drive our van during time-offs into such residential areas where I could invite little kids inside for ten minutes of air conditioning comfort and watch the sheer joy on their faces.  (And thrill to their joyful “high-fives”!)
            Later, I would serve at FEMA headquarters at Port Charlotte where I would gain important Disaster Management skills, but from where I would have given anything to be back in the “front lines” touching hands with real people and experiencing the wonderment of American Volunteerism at its finest.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


            I might more properly have titled this working document Lucky to Have Had a Boyhood Hero until I thought about it a while, and realized there has never been a time when Jack Dwyer ceased being just that for me; a hero whose image and imprint is as real today as the last time I saw him standing in his sharply-pressed Army Air Force “Pinks” in our front yard.  All these years after he most certainly passed on from this world I wish there was a way I could say a “Thank You” to him.
            I must have been no more than seven years old when Jack – in his early 20s – would have arrived with his parents who came to live in the big old house across the street from our hundred-year old New Jersey family home. I know that Pearl Harbor had not happened yet when I was first invited to tour Jack’s upstairs “private museum” of swords and knives and weapons-of-war collected from around the world. Mr. Dwyer Senior was a senior executive with the Cunard White Star shipping line, and Jack had gotten to work as first a cabin boy and then a steward aboard that shipping giant’s passenger vessels since his early youth.
            Along with every shining, jewel-encrusted blade came a story, and Jack was an accomplished collector and teller of tall tales. Along with a Gurkha knife would come a recitation of Kipling’s Gungha Din and a replay of a story known to every child of the day. When allowed to hold in my hands a curved scimitar of rippling Damascus steel, I was able to envision images of knights in shining mail as seen in my favorite weekly newspaper chronicle Prince Valiant, while the iconic twisted blade of the Kris dagger  from Java is easily the most easily-remembered of them all to this day. Then too there was an attic room hung with an assortment of military weapons from WWI: a British Lee Enfield rifle, a French Labelle, a German Luger pistol, a “Broomhandle” Mauser and a belted Webley as I still recall; all exciting and memorable for an imaginative kid of my age.
            I realize now that Jack was a “one-of-a-kind”, even for the age in which he had grown up, and was obviously – if not a thoroughly spoiled lad – at least one greatly indulged by generous and loving parents. Along with the aforementioned collection of weaponry, he had managed to bring home on his father’s ships an English sports car and an unusual matched motorcycle and sidecar of European manufacture he had acquired from a “bored” Prince (or other person of royal birth.) Both were to add their own chapters to my legacy of hero-worship.
            The bright-green sports car was an open two-seater with three headlights, the center one of which was “steerable” for seeing around bends. We took it for an initial spin at dusk so that I could steer the light from my passenger seat on the left. On subsequent trips I made certain to guide Jack down every side street in town on which I knew other kids would be sure to see me; especially Barbara Hummel and Elizabeth Riker. The motorcycle was an even bigger thrill, and my driver knew just how to go around a curve so that the side-car in which I rode rose up in the air just enough. I think we wore matching leather hats, but I could be over-imagining.
            When war broke out Jack was quick to join the U.S. Army Air Corps and enter training to become a fighter pilot. (He may have already been a Reserve pilot since he advanced - it seemed to me -quite rapidly.) To begin with he was flying Curtis P-40 fighters, made famous by Clair Chennault’s Flying Tigers and the best we had at the time. Flying training missions from east coast bases, Jack would regularly buzz my house at altitudes low enough to shake my Mom’s upstairs clothes line.  Shortly thereafter, Jack transitioned into a P-51 “Mustang”, the plane whose arrival would change the very course of victory, and whose Rolls Royce Merlin engine I could hear coming when still many miles away.
            On those increasingly rare occasions today when my ears are “serenaded” by that mystical sound, my boyhood friend comes automatically into view and I feel renewed to realize that I still enjoy the imprint of a boyhood hero who remains larger than life.