As anyone who has ever dealt with sickness in the home can tell you, some things have to be necessarily back-burnered so that even more necessary things can get done. In the year before my dear late father, Robert Rice, passed away, and during the year following his passing, there have been any number of projects that have forced me to put many other day-to-day activities on hold.
Pulse Of The City
There's a beautiful historic region in Venango County, Pennsylvania, where Dad (the late Robert Rice) and I were born. As far as I'm concerned, it's still one of the best kept destination secrets around.
The traditions of many, if not virtually all modern and ancient religious faiths, include a time of retreat and renewal. Archeologists and theologians will tell us that the practice of re-charging and renewing our spiritual batteries is not a new one. Sometimes, the re-charging and renewal process takes the form of celebrating special days in a calendar year. Summer Solstice, for example, was one such date when many ancient peoples paused to reflect upon their place in the greater scheme of things. These days, even many people having no particular religious affilitiation will set aside special days or times for retreat and renewal.
Why the need for such times? That's hard to say, but indeed, it seems to be a universal need. Over the course of our busy lives, sometimes a good night's sleep is simply not enough. Reserving a special time and place for retreat and renewal beyond the normal resting period seems to have been recognized by more and more people these days as being an essential component of our overall health.
Of course, what we do in order to retreat and renew can vary, according to our religious, spiritual, or emotional backgrounds, and what might mean a great deal to me, might not to you. A friend of mine and I were driving through the Rocky River Metroparks when the subject of church-going came up. My friend had some experiences that, early on, had alienated him from traditional religion. That said, he was a very strong man of faith. "Look around," he said (referring to the park), "This is my cathedral;" and so it was for him.
Well, there it was...the Christmas tree...
Fellow Lakewoodites all:
Many of you knew my dear late father, Robert Rice, a retired Lakewood Schools educator, Lakewood Schools Staff Hall of Fame member, and an active community volunteer for both students and seniors.
On January 14th, the day before that "letter of intent" concerning Lakewood Hospital's future came out, Dad suddenly collapsed on the floor of his bedroom here in Lakewood. For many years, Dad and my family received excellent care from Lakewood Hospital, and indeed, even on that day, Lakewood's paramedics were quickly on the scene; although for my 94 year-old Dad, his time was sadly passing.
Dad and I have both strongly supported Lakewood's public institutions. We played music for the library's re-dedication when it re-opened. We were active with our new schools. We've been active with the Observer Project. We've played our music at the hospital too, and we've often supported numerous civic and cultural activities, whenever we could do so.
Dear Lakewood Friends,
One hundred and fifty years ago this year, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published the poem "Christmas Bells," later to become the song, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day;" concerning whether there ever would be peace on Earth, in the face of such turmoil as the American Civil War. His son had been gravely wounded in that war, and he was suffering the passing of his dear wife. Through his trials, he was moved to write that famous song of hope in the midst of tragedy and despair.
Here in Lakewood, as with the West End debacle a decade ago, Lakewood citizens are once again pitted against each other in a sublime struggle over the future of our hospital. Now, as in the days of the Civil War, well-meaning people continue to rise to engage each other while laying aside the olive branches of peace. Still others in our community hope for a peaceful resolution soon for all of this.
Ordinarily, when I write these sorts of musings, they are either city or music related. This missive, on the other hand, relates to a faith-based experience that I had, just yesterday. Does a loving God continue to bring peace to us these days? I truly believe so, and yesterday brought just one more example of that for me. I was out by the garage yesterday morning, and over by the garage door, the Rose of Sharon bush was in full bloom.
The Rose of Sharon was my mom's (Betty Rice's) favorite bush, particularly because, like the dogwood, there are so many allegories connecting it with Christ. We had those bushes out by our camper in Brunswick, but one by one, over the years, they had died off after Mom's passing, back in 2004. Somehow though, and in some way, a Rose of Sharon bush decided to grow up right by my garage door here in Lakewood, and it has thrived. These come into full bloom right around the time of Mom's July 19th birthday.
Mom's passing over a decade ago was one of the hardest things I've ever gone through. For years afterwards my soul ached, although I was absorbed with caring for Dad. (Robert Rice) He lasted another ten years and they were good ones for both of us, but in January of this year, he too passed on. As an only child, it has been a challenge to keep the positive attitude and smile and willingness to help others that my parents insisted that I cultivate. I have certainly tried to do so, but there have still been moments...
Seeing that Rose of Sharon in full beautiful bloom yesterday was just too much for me. I broke down completely. When those sorts of triggers happen, I have always found prayer to be a great comfort, and such was the case then. Within a short while, I was back in the swing of things and off to lunch and groceries. Coming home, I spotted a yard sale in Cleveland. After bringing the frozen food home and putting it away, something told me to go back and peruse that sale.Yesterday being a Tuesday, yard sales are highly uncommon, and I almost did not go back.
Anyway, the seller and I got to talking about our hobbies, and the topic soon turned to music. They indeed had a banjo to sell, although it was in the house. Would I like to see it? He brought it out and told me that it needed a great deal of work and had been refused as a trade-in at the guitar store for that very reason. We opened the case. It was a no-name banjo, but was otherwise very nice; having multiple inlays.
I asked his price, paid it, and we quickly shook hands on a deal. It was only a half hour later, while in the process of repairing and setting up the instrument, that I had occasion to more closely inspect the floral inlays.
They were Roses of Sharon.
The banjo turned out fine, and more to the point, (and thanks be to God) so have I.
Peace on Earth? Truly it will eventually come to us on an individual level, and if history is any indicator of the future, eventually it will return here to Lakewood.
Especially if we all try and help to make it happen.
Back to the peace-making banjo...
It's been said by more than a few over the years that we can count our true friends in life on the fingers of one hand. In my case, I've been blessed to have had quite a few friends over the years, but yes, truth be told, over time, some friendships have not always turned out the way I'd imagined that they would. Sure, people move away, pass away, or otherwise leave the stages of our lives, as indeed- so do we, theirs. A few so-called friends can also betray our confidences, take advantage of us, and sometimes leave us grieving in their wake of their own destructive tendencies. A very few remain true friends for a lifetime. This story is about one of those friends.
I can't remember the exact time and place that I met Mark "Shane" Phillips, but it must have had a great deal to do with the music that we both enjoy so much. We had a rock band together, and it was a really good one; to the extent that 45 years ago, our band SKIE tied for the Battle of the Bands on Lakewood Day, 1970, down in Lakewood Park. No one could sing lead like Mark could. Both Mark's dad, and my own, were highly skilled musicians, so their expectations for both of us were always very high. They continually backed us with support, and with good equipment too.
When we came of age, the Vietnam War was in full swing. While I went off to college, Mark received his post-high school lessons in the jungles over there. Even then, he often entertained the troops; sometimes while they were under sniper fire. I'll let him tell you about those days if you want to ask him. Suffice to say that they were really tough ones. I met him at the airport when he came home from the army, and we left together for Florida immediately. I learned one thing about Vietnam vets very quickly: You do not wake them up suddenly. I apparently startled him one morning and, had he not quickly realized where he was, I could have been in for an adventure.
After he came home from Vietnam, Mark had changed in many ways. Oh sure, he tried to be the same old Mark, at least for awhile, but he was experiencing an uphill battle indeed. He took on the stage name "Shane", as he and his dad had always enjoyed the movie by that name, taken from the book by former Lakewood resident and author, Jack Schaefer. Indeed, much like the character in that movie, Mark "Shane" Phillips took many years, and endured many trials of life, in order to adjust to his post-Vietnam life. On his return from that country, he had also resolved to being a professional singer/songwriter/guitarist, and he's a really good one too. With half a dozen albums to his credit and many terrific original songs under his belt, his main audiences these days can be found at nursing and extended care facilities around the Greater Cleveland area, as well as at many area entertainment night spots. Shane can also be seen working as a solo artist on Bahama cruises, whenever the spirit moves him.
Since we were teenagers, we've been as close as two brothers could ever hope to be. I met Mark shortly after one of his older brothers had passed away suddenly. Because of our common musical interests, we grew very close. Whenever Dad and I needed help around the house; whether to insulate a room, or to remove wallpaper, or whatever... we could count on him being around, and he was here this week too, when the big downstairs A/C unit failed. Amazing how few friends you can find to help out with that job, but between Mark and my dear next-door neighbor, we made short work of that replacement project. Amazing though, how Mark and I lifted that heavy unit shoulder-high into the dining room. See, there's this inner strength, when you are with a friend- that you can draw upon when you don't think you can really do something, and then you just go and flat-out do it. Mark and I felt like we had the world on our shoulders, and we virtually lifted it up, too!
So yes, this is indeed a long overdue thank-you, as well as an expression of friendship, to a great guy, a fine entertainer, musician, and an all-round great human being. You'll often see him perform around Lakewood and he still lives close by. He was here entertaining at the Garfield School emergency shelter when Hurricane Sandy hit, and he and I still get together to play our music from time to time. We even re-formed our old band to perform at Lakewood High School's Class of 1969's 40th reunion awhile back. Mark and I have also played for Senior Center activities, veteran's events, and many other special occasions.
Mark "Shane" Phillips has always been a true friend to me, as I hope, from the bottom of my heart, that I have also been the same for him. His heart has always been close to Lakewood, and his music continues to be close to all of us; keeping good time indeed to the pulse of this city.
Yeah, I know, it's nowhere near Halloween.
On May 30th, a public centennial cornerstone ceremony transpired at Lakewood Masonic Temple, celebrating one hundred years of its existence. The Grand Lodge of Ohio visited the Temple, and provided a very moving program. As one of the participants in that celebration, I thought that I might give a shout-out to some people who came out that day to offer their help or support:
Here's a special thanks to Lakewood's Mayor Michael Summers for coming and representing the City of Lakewood. Another thanks goes out to our new Lakewoodite ace photographer Alex Belisle, for his professional documentary online Observer photo blog of the event. Thanks also, to the Gospel Group of the Lakewood United Methodist Church for performing a song that Dad (Robert Rice) and I wrote for this occasion: "A Temple Stands In Lakewood". That song was one of the last musical collaborations that Dad and I completed before his passing.
The Lakewood Masonic Temple is indeed a magnificent edifice, and has been a wonderful part of Lakewood's history since 1915. Masons have long had a tradition of placing cornerstones in Masonic and public buildings, including the United States Capitol.
There have been many questions, and indeed some fairly outrageous claims regarding Freemasonry on the web, so here's a bit of background about the organization from my personal point of view: American Freemasonry is simply a religious-respecting non-sectarian fraternity based on respect for God and brotherhood. There are also Masonic-affiliated women's groups like the Eastern Star. Men of all faiths and political persuasions meet within the walls of a Masonic Temple as Masons, leaving their particular political and religious opinions temporarily at the door of the Lodge; centering instead on activities within the Lodge that all moral people could agree with.
In spite of what you might read on the internet, Masonry is not a conspiracy-laden dark thing at all, nor is it a secret society, nor is it a religion. It is instead, essentially a private fraternity that has a few secrets. Indeed, it was perhaps the first private organization that was not officially affiliated with powers-that-be. Both wealthy and poor could meet on level ground and work on whatever unites humankind, rather than what divides us all. Because Masons existed outside of the control of kings and other powers, they were therefore the subject of much suspicion and many lies and misunderstandings that continue on the internet today.
I can only offer this observation for you from a personal perspective: Many of you know me well, or perhaps you knew my Dad. We have been involved with Masonry for many years. Many of you may also have known a Freemason personally, or have had an ancestor who was one. Look at the Freemasons whom you do know, and you will then have a better idea about the kind of organization that they belong to. To become a Mason, you must ask them to join.
Many of your fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers once belonged to this group. Lakewood Freemasons continue to serve this community and the world with quiet distinction.
"One Shovel Wide"
Lakewoodites who read the Lakewood Observer's online "Observation Deck" community chat room are well aware that the expression, "Back to the banjo..." is usually how I conclude my periodic postings. After working hard as a young man to be the best drummer around, and going from there to the world of the guitar as an older teen and young adult, (and from those modest beginnings to later becoming known as "Guitar Guy Gary", guitar tech to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) just how indeed DID Gary get involved with that banjo anyway?
Well, it's that time again.. November...
Well, it's that time again. Here come the ghosts, the goblins, and all the rest of those cute little wanna-be, once-a-year "monsters"; looking for those sweet treats to fill up their bags.
A Pulse Of The City Classic Revisited... A Lakewood Experience, Gary's First (And Last Regular) Column
For nearly a decade now, it's been a tremendous experience and an awesome responsibility to write these bi-weekly columns for this paper. I've gone from one end of Lakewood to the other, often visiting the stories behind the stories, while at the same time, exploring the roots of Lakewood's attitudes towards minorities, those having differences, and social justice issues, whenever possible. These columns have tried to help save churches, promote businesses, and recognize Lakewood's heroes among us, while stressing the thought that, however interesting and important Lakewood's past has been, (and future might one day be) it's still Lakewood's present that matters most.
Well, it's that time again. New clothes, backpacks, shoes, pencils, paper....You know the drill. It's time to get the kids ready for school again, and another school-year filled with challenges and adventures presents itself to our young people.
A Banjo Player's Meditations, Medications, Reflections And Ruminations...Lakewood Life, In The Balance
"Gary, you have to make yourself be happy. If you wait around for someone else to do it for you, you'll be waiting a long time." -Gary's dear late mom, Betty Rice
"So Gary, why are you always so freakin' positive???"
Well...it does take a bit of practice, I'll admit.
(And now of course, my disclaimer: I'm no psychologist or philosopher, so what follows is only my personal opinion about how and why I try to stay positive in life.)
Sooner or later, if we're fortunate, we realize that we've been on this earth for more than a few years. Time has a way of passing, does it not? Of course, it seems (at least to me) that the longer we live, the faster our time goes through that hourglass, although of course, that's not really the case. This old world of ours gives us the four seasons, in more or less equal measures of about 90 days each, although it could be argued that (around here at least) weather and climate surprises are more or less the order of our days. Just about the time we get our yards the way we like them, it's time again to check the oil in the snowblower.
The fall and winter times of 1963-1964 around Lakewood were, as all times are, I suppose, times of change. In November, our country had experienced the horrible trauma of losing President Kennedy to an assassin's bullet. By February, the Beatles arrived on our shores; providing a welcome distraction to the mass malaise that had overtaken our collective psyches. More and more American soldier/advisers were boarding planes in snowy locations for destinations in steamy locations like Saigon, Vietnam. The Iron Curtain in Europe was well-entrenched by then. Every now and again, you would hear of people either escaping from, or defecting to, the Communist world.
There have been some serious questions in recent years as to whether online shopping will eventually replace corner store sales. There are pros and cons to shopping either way, but believe it or not the question of mail-order shopping's impact on our local brick and mortar stores is not a new one.
As Lakewood High seniors prepared to don their maroon ties and red roses for graduation, Allied forces were also preparing to invade Northern Europe on June 6th, 1944. Lakewood High School students had been very active in the war effort, selling enough war stamps and bonds to purchase two ambulance planes and hospital equipment. Students also donated knitted and crocheted Afghans, and countless old newspapers to the cause of victory. The "V for Victory" hand sign popularized by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was seen everywhere. There was, particularly after the D-Day invasion, a feeling that the end of World War II was in sight. At the same time, Lakewood's Cinema high school yearbook soberly printed the names of 29 young men from Lakewood High who had already given their lives to the war effort since America's war involvement officially began in 1941.
Strict wartime rationing was still in play and nearby factories were churning out classified war materials in staggering amounts. Products such as gasoline, rubber tires, sugar, and objects made of metal would be in short supply for Lakewoodites for as long as the war lasted. Attics and basements had already been cleared of any clutter that could be otherwise donated to the war effort. Physical Education classes were actively operating in high gear, preparing male students for the likelihood of military service upon their graduation. In short? It was wartime, and the Lakewood High School Class of 1944 was well aware that many of the usual hopes and dreams of graduation would need to be put on hold until peace arrived.
Still, few at that time had any doubt that peace was indeed on the horizon. Enemy forces were on the defensive in virtually every theater of war by 1944, and while there would be many difficult and costly days to come, there was little concern about the war's outcome bringing anything other than total victory for the Allies.
Welcome to Lakewood, a neighborhood of Cleveland???
Yes, it could easily have happened. Collinwood did it. Old Brooklyn did it, West Park did it too, supposedly over an issue of fire protection.
I'm talking about merging with Cleveland. In the early years of the 20th Century, there was serious talk in Lakewood, and in the other inner-ring aforementioned neighborhoods, about whether we should merge with the big city. There were even referendums on Lakewood's ballot twice (in 1910 and 1922) and they failed both times, so Lakewood continued on as an independent city, while other neighborhoods did not. Interestingly, at that time, Lakewood was a "dry" town that did not permit alcohol establishments within its borders, and that may also have contributed to the voting pattern back then.
These days, partly for economic reasons, the term "regionalism" continues to come up from time to time. The replication of services in so many smaller communities is indeed a very expensive burden for taxpayers to maintain, particularly since the economic downturn of 2007-8. Even without official merging, inner-ring communities are increasingly and understandably trying to find more ways to work together to save money in order to make governments more streamlined and efficient. Just a few years back, four of our eastern suburbs seriously contemplated merging, although that did not happen.
The Playhouse Square area was envisioned many years ago by several people as being the primary jewel in Cleveland's comeback. Though many could not see it at the time, there were early visionaries, without whom, the astonishingly wonderful Playhouse Square revival would not have happened.
One of those visionaries, and arguably, one of the ones who started it all, was Lakewood's own Weldon Carpenter. Long-time Lakewoodite Weldon Carpenter is now perhaps the only living direct connection to saving Playhouse Square, and in truth and by extension, saving Downtown Cleveland, as well.
With the untimely passing of Ray Shepardson a few weeks ago, lovers of live theater lost one of their most enthusiastic promoters regarding the preservation of classic theater buildings. Through the force of his personality, and his enthusiastic promotional skills, Shephardson was a vital part of saving Cleveland's Playhouse Square. Shephardson, a former Superintendent of the Cleveland School District, had been dismayed to learn that Cleveland's classic downtown theater complex was scheduled for the wrecking ball. Wanting to do something, but reportedly uncertain as to how to begin, he happened to tune in to an episode of "The Mike Douglas Show" on TV. A young man named Weldon Carpenter was being interviewed that day. Carpenter had been talking about Cleveland's decaying Ohio theater; which was a part of Playhouse Square. Carpenter had learned about the importance of theaters while growing up as a young man in Ashland, where he had taken a great interest in Ashland's Opera House. Shephardson decided to contact Carpenter, and reportedly persuaded him to move to Cleveland to help him try and save the theaters at Playhouse Square.
The Civil War...150 Years Ago. The Civil War's First Conflict? The 1858 Oberlin-Wellington Rescue Story...
For some people, history is a dull and dreary topic, while for others it is a subject of endless fascination. Textbooks necessarily cover topics quickly for the sake of compressing complex time periods into a few paragraphs. Occasionally, textbook publishers were also motivated by the regions where they sold books. This was particularly true in the northern and southern United States, where there was a wide difference of opinion as to the causes and nature of the 1861-65 Civil War.
Many years ago, I became involved with a Northern Ohio Native American association. The association served a number of very beneficent purposes with the Cleveland Native American community. Quite a few people with whom I spoke with at the time were unaware that there were reportedly Native Americans from well over a hundred tribes represented in the Greater Cleveland area. There were in fact, thousands of people living here then, who either claimed to have, or were actually registered with Native American ancestry; not to mention thousands more who believed that they did, but either did not know for certain, or had been admonished by their elders to keep that identity secret.
When the Indian Removal Act (passed by Congress in 1830) went into effect, many who were identified as Native Americans were pushed from their homes and farms to lands west of the Mississippi. To this day, there remains tension at times between "government-registered" Native Americans who moved to reservations, and those who are "unregistered"; whose ancestors stayed behind and quietly assimilated into the "white" culture.
At the time I volunteered with that association, there was also a great deal of material and spiritual need among the Native peoples around Cleveland. For years, area volunteers helped to provide support for gatherings tied to spiritual and cultural awareness events, permitting quite a few good times for Native American children, while giving them a wonderful opportunity to celebrate their cultural heritage.
700 years ago, Knights Templar leader Jacques DeMolay was presented to the public near the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Held in chains by the French king for seven years, DeMolay was the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, known then as the Holy Church's own warrior-monks. At that time, DeMolay, who was by then quite elderly, was expected to publicly confess the many alleged and supposedly sordid "crimes" of the Templars, many of which had been supposedly admitted to under torture by the imprisoned knights.
As DeMolay cleared his throat and began to speak, the world would never be the same.
The tale began like this: On Friday, October 13, 1307, the Templars in France were rounded up under the orders of the French King Phillip IV "The Fair" and put into dungeons and chains (which is where we got the Friday 13th "bad luck" legend). Within hours, and under torture, confessions were allegedly extracted from the imprisoned knights, attributing all manner of horrible deeds and beliefs to the secret Templar organization.
As the tale continues, although incensed that his warrior-monks had been put into chains, the Pope was nonetheless persuaded to permit the investigations to proceed. Indeed, there was little that he could do, as the French king had already moved the Seat of the Papal Court from Rome to Avignon, France.
Everything's relative, I suppose. Just ask anyone familiar with Dr. Einstein's great theory.
Yes, at one time, the lands west of the Cuyahoga River were indeed considered both wild and western in the eyes of many of our early settlers. The land presently comprising Lakewood finally became a part of Rockport Township after treaties with various Native American tribes were concluded. This area was heavily wooded at that time, and was well marked by at least two major Native American trails that became the present Warren and Detroit Avenues. (Warren, by the way, was named after Isaac Warren, an early settler and son of Revolutionary War hero Dr. Joseph Warren. Isaac Warren resided at the intersection of Warren and present-day Madison Avenue.)
Even when civilization as we know it spread farther west, the Rockport area continued to retain a "Wild West" flavor for many years. Lakewood did not achieve "hamlet" status until 1889, and did not even become a city until 1911. Even then, and for many years thereafter into my own lifetime, concrete horse troughs, hitching posts, and old horse tie-down stones could commonly be seen around our city.
In 1849, when the East Rockport area (as Lakewood was then known) was still held primarily by large landowners with fruit farms, gold was discovered in California, and the adventures of the other "Wild West" began to be romanticized in the press. By then, Ohio's Native American tribes had been forced from the state. (Ohio's Wyandots were the last tribe to leave, in 1843, from their home in the Upper Sandusky area.)
A number of shallow tunnels were reportedly dug from homes along what was then known as Detroit's "old plank road" straight down to Lake Erie. Several residents from this area were also reportedly active in the Underground Railroad, and it was fairly common folklore that those tunnels were likely used by escaping slaves on their journey to boats out on the lake that would take them to Canada and freedom.
Lakewood life, a half-century ago... When "Chat Room" Chatter Was Spoken Aloud... "What's Your 20, Good Buddy?"
T'was a time, not so long ago, when "chat room" chatter took place in real time, and was a spoken event, rather than being written down. Generally too, what was said went unrecorded as well. Those were the days when CB (Citizens Band) radios ruled the roost. In those pre-Internet days, you could purchase a CB walkie-talkie, a mobile unit, or a home base station, and talk away to your heart's content. Originally, there were call signs and licenses to buy, but over time, the licenses were no longer required. People generally went by "handles", (adopted names) which is not so different from what many people in Internet chat rooms do these days. Back then, my "handle" was "Silversticks", as it happened to be the nickname that I went by as a drummer.
February 9th, 1964. Just a few minutes after 8 p.m., Eastern Standard Time... Anyone living in America at that time would not need to be reminded of an event that happened on Sunday night television.
Seems that a British "guitar group" had arrived on our shores, and had a spot on The Ed Sullivan Show, a popular variety show reminiscent of America's vaudeville theater productions that were popular prior to the advent of movies and television. In that type of show, you might have singers, dancers, plate spinners, and animal acts, in addition to a few live musical acts on occasion.
Once upon a time, little Gary Rice walked into a Pennsylvania first grade classroom that was preparing students for a readiness examination. The boy took one look around, took a good look at the paper on his desk, and then walked back out the door to his parents. "I'm not going to stay here!" said he, and he did not. It was another year before little Gary would be persuaded to return to school. For the next 12 years of his life, Gary would be at war with America's educational system. In many ways, he still is, even though he spent more than 30 years teaching in the public schools, and continues to volunteer from time to time as a retired teacher with your Lakewood Schools.
Little Gary was a pioneer in what has become the school testing refusal movement. Let's face it, testing could be so....Well, I distinctly remember getting a question "wrong" on that same readiness test the following year....We were shown a picture of two umbrellas- one having a curved handle, and the other with a straight one. We were asked which was a "man's" and which was a "woman's". I picked the "wrong" choice. Give me a break. At home, my parents used whatever umbrella was in the stand. Frame of reference governed my response, and not some artificial cultural or governmental expectancy, yet I was penalized for something totally beyond my control.
I'm not sure if there's any more peaceful time known to humankind than the quiet walk to church on Christmas Eve that Mom and I took each year. We walked down to church to join Dad, who was already there, directing the youth choir.
As walks go, it wasn't a very long one; just down Rosewood Avenue, across Detroit Avenue, and over to the Lakewood United Methodist Church. In the span of a lifetime, those walks generally only took about fifteen or twenty minutes. More often than not, there was simply the quiet crunching of our metal-strapover gumboots on the crystalline snow that shown like shimmering diamonds in the glow of those old frost-covered streetlamps; having their light interspersed by the shadows cast from those huge tree-lawn elms, arching ever Heavenward. The elms' V-like giant branches formed a natural cathedral of wonderment. Rosewood itself took on a surreal, holy, other-worldly quality, as childhood imaginations took flight on that Sacred Night of nights.
Sometimes too, we would be joined by neighbors on our pilgrimage down that street. Sometimes, we would all sing carols together. At the intersection of Detroit, some of those neighbors would turn left, for destinations like St. James, or Trinity Lutheran. Others stayed with us, and made the trip across the street to Lakewood Methodist. Sometimes, we walked in the footprints of others. Sometimes, especially with us kids, we made new pathways of our own, and not always on the sidewalks, of course. The mounds of snow at the ends of the driveways became our own little mountain range to conquer. All too often, by the time we arrived at church, we had wet trouser legs well above the height of our 8 inch gumboots, and we could have cared less too. Sometimes, we lost our balance, and ended up fidgeting through our beautiful, but always extra-long church services, with very soggy, itchy, wet, cold behinds.
As our nation continues to deal with more violence, both around the world, and in our land, I thought that it might be good to look at the potential effects of the permeation of war and violence in our culture with young people.
It seems like everywhere you look nowadays, kids have some sort of hand-held, combat-related video game in their hands. Every year, those games become more and more realistic, to the point that it might well become difficult for some kids to distinguish real life from the parallel universes offered by those games. For video game lovers, it's a great time to be alive.
As a child of the 1950's, I remember seeing all kinds of movies. You had your mainstream films at the local cinema, and then, there were those offbeat, unusual, or sometimes, just plain strange low-budget films that, as teenagers, we usually watched on those late evening TV shows; hosted by local luminaries like Ghoulardi, the Ghoul, or Big Chuck and Hoolihan (later, with Little John).
Movies were an absolutely essential part of 20th Century culture. Socially, they were generally enjoyed together, and were part of workplace water cooler discussions on the following day, much as sports always has been. It was the same thing with those off-beat black and white movies shown on late-night TV. Some of those were arguably so bad that they were actually good, or at least as they were remembered by many of us.
Believe it or not, there are those who not only still appreciate the power of those late night-type low budget films, but actually seek to perpetuate an art-form known as "cinéma vérité," that is, creating a credible-looking movie, focusing more on the story and the action, rather than on the lighting, pin-perfect sound, or by using the particularly expensive and sophisticated backgrounds and multi-camera scene work available to the major movie production people. Cinéma vérité -type people will sometimes even go to great lengths to even artificially "age" a film, or perhaps, produce it in a timeless black and white format; anything to lose the "pretense" of a camera to more directly involve the audience in the action in an effort to achieve ever-greater truth and an illusion of reality in the film itself.. Indeed, this form of movie still thrives in limited-run theaters. The words "cult following" could well apply for those who continue to enjoy this special art form.
Since I've been "Guitar Guy Gary" for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the past, many people are interested in that side of my musical life. While being a "guitar fixer-upper to the stars" was fun, I'd like to share some other musical memories with you this week.
As a child with musical parents, I was surrounded by music from the day I was born. I have so many great musical memories from my Lakewood childhood, and just in case you're wondering, it's never too late for YOU to learn to play and enjoy music as well! Fact is, back when I taught private music lessons, some of my best students were adults!
There are essentially two ways one can learn to play music, and they both work--in fact, if a person CAN learn BOTH ways, so much the better. The first way I'll call the "legitimate" approach. You get an instrument and a "Book 1" instruction guide, and then you find a good teacher and start practicing. The other way is to learn to play "by ear." Dad tried every trick in the book to get me to learn by "legitimate" musical instruction, but I was indeed a teen in the '60s, and the musical winds of change were coming along much faster than I could flip through the pages of "Book 3."
Living in 1950's America, air power and the space race were two highly significant areas of public interest, due mostly to the Cold War between the West and Communism. When WWII ended in 1945 with the birth of the Atomic Age, it was clearly understood by anyone who truly cared, that air power had played a highly dominant role in winning that war. At the same time, the explosion of rocketry and guided missile technology meant that every town and city worldwide could suddenly find itself on a front line of a new, sudden, and devastating world-wide war. Communism was competing for world-wide domination and small revolutionary wars were springing up all over the world.
Back when I was a Lakewood kid, one of the favorite writing assignments that teachers would roll out every fall would be having us write about what we did during the last summer. Creative writing prompts like that helped students to reactivate their imaginations after summer break. Tales of vacations, roller coaster rides, picnics, ball games, and friendships made would all come out as we scribbled our freshly sharpened no. 2 pencils onto that rough-draft theme paper during our first week of school.
Well, this is my tale of how I spent my summer this year. No, I did not get out of town once. I missed the beaches and the roller coasters too, at least the amusement park kind. The emotional roller coaster, I rode plenty though. More about that one later. Missed picnics and ball games, as well, but overall, it was probably my best summer ever.
See, I found the Holy Grail. At least I believe that I did.
Historically, the search for the Holy Grail has comprised one of the great stories in Western Civilization. Essentially, it went like this: Roughly two thousand years ago, one Jesus Christ of Nazareth was reportedly crucified on a hill outside Jerusalem. Afterwards, Joseph of Arimathea reportedly collected some of His blood in a cup that was later referred to as being the Holy Grail. That cup was considered to have been among the most priceless relics in Christendom, and the search to recover that cup has consumed kings, queens and knights for many centuries. Perhaps the most famous of those tales was the mythical Arthurian legend of Sir Lancelot's quest for that Grail.
Of course, there have been other interpretations of what the true symbolic meaning of the Grail was. Perhaps the best known recent interpretation was that the Grail's meaning implied that there was a bloodline of Jesus Christ. Interesting twists on the tale have included the theory that the other convicted man that Pilate released (Barabbas) was possibly Jesus's son. (bar-rabbi could mean "son of the rabbi") Another theory was that Jesus had a bloodline that was secretly preserved through kings and leaders of secret societies. Indeed, there are still those who relentlessly pursue the quest for the Grail, and countless books come out every few years related to this topic of endless fascination.
The original Knights Templar were a group of soldier-monks whose legends have also heavily intertwined with tales of the Grail, and these days, the Masonic Knights Templar organization continues to honor and protect the memories and traditions of traditional Christendom. As a matter of fact, Holy Grail Commandery no. 70 of Knights Templar continues to meet regularly at our Lakewood Masonic Temple. It was widely believed that many Christian treasures were deposited with the original Knights Templar, but on Friday 13, 1307, the Templars were betrayed into the hands of the French king, accused of all manner of crimes, thrown into prisons and tortured. The Templars were ultimately disbanded by the Church without a finding of collective guilt or innocence. In 1314, the Templar's last Grand Master, Jaques DeMolai (DeMolay) was burned in Paris after publicly proclaiming the innocence of the Order. Most, if not all Templar treasures were never discovered. A Templar fleet of ships also went missing, and a Templar emblem (the skull and crossed bones) later flew above pirate ships for many years afterwards. Although no direct connection can be traced to the original Order, the Masonic Knights Templar nonetheless go to great lengths to honor the spirit of the original Templars.
One of the things that the Templars, and later, Masonic organizations, would be accused of would be the "heresy of relativism". At times, there could be several holy books of different faiths present on Masonic altars. By either working with, or accepting people of different God-believing faiths, it was felt by many religious groups that the Templars and later Freemasonry, believed that one religion was as good as another. That was not true, however. Freemasonry instead, allowed a man's personal political and religious opinions to remain his own, while teaching that well meaning people could then work together for the greater good of humanity. America's Constitution and Bill of Rights both reflected that same ideal of having people put aside their religious and political differences for a greater good. America's place in the world continues to exemplify the results of this ideal.
I actually have an interpretation of my own regarding the Grail to tell about here. As I mentioned, yes indeed, I believe that I have found the Grail, and I'll present the particulars of the matter here for your own evaluation.
For the past few months, my 93 year-old dad had been seriously going downhill, health-wise. Being his sole caregiver, I was able to see first-hand what was going on. Late in July, Dad fell and hurt his foot, necessitating even more changes in his routine. Before long, his other conditions worsened, and it was back to the hospital in August. During a gut-wrenching week at Fairview Hospital, and through the aid of some magnificent doctors and nurses, Dad was given life-saving treatment, and is back home again and well on the road to recovery. That fact, of course, has been the main reason why I've had a good summer.
While at Fairview, we were helped by many people of many races and religious backgrounds, all working, very Masonic-like, for the greater good of humankind; while putting aside the particulars of what divides them in favor of that which unites them in service to humanity. No one is forced to change or hide their beliefs either. People in clerical collars work beside people in turbans, or wearing yarmulkes. People wearing head coverings stand beside others wearing Crucifixes with that central goal of helping everyone to feel better. The truly international flavor of the Cleveland Clinic Hospitals truly reflect the best that can be attained by a world of wonderful people having differences, and yet, working together for a greater good; while still retaining their individual beliefs.
But what about the Tower of Babel story in Genesis, you may ask? What happened then when people tried to work together building a tower to Heaven? According to that tale, God stopped their work and gave them different languages, forcing them to abandon the project. The Tower of Babel has been used by many groups to justify not associating with others who are not of their kind. I would submit rather that it was simply the wrong reason (trying to make a name for themselves, rather than working for God and others) that got those people in trouble back then.
On the dark night before my father's life-or-death procedure was to transpire at Fairview, Dad and I were in serious need of prayer and reflection. I went down to the Hospital Chapel, and, passing by the Chapel's office, noticed someone sitting there. I went in and discovered that he was a Catholic Chaplain We then engaged in conversation concerning many things, and particularly, my ailing father. In a kind of joking manner, I then asked him whether he might be willing to pray for a couple of Protestant Freemasons. With a chuckle, he then carefully asked whether that might be OK with my dad? When I assured him that would be wonderful, three people from wholly different faith traditions then met in Dad's room for prayer; providing an infinite expression of Christian love in an infinitely ecumenical setting.
Dad and I cannot say enough good about that Catholic Chaplain, or Fairview Hospital, or the doctors and nurses that work in the Cleveland Clinic System. In fact, even while Dad was still in intensive care, he continued to compose music. After his release, we supplied our doctor, as well as the Cleveland Clinic, with some new songs to sing!
The other day, a friend sold me an antique drum that had been used in the now-defunct Drum and Bugle Corps of Lakewood's Holy Grail Commandery of Knights Templar. Appearing to be nearly a century old, the drum speaks well to the traditions of people who were, and are, willing to put their personal religious and political differences aside, while working together for humanity's higher purposes. Echoing Christ's message that loving God and others sums up the laws of religion, that message, at least for me, shows the REAL essence of the Holy Grail.
Yes, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a very real condition seen primarily in active boys who sometimes display short attention spans and/or hyperactive behavior. ADHD has been in the news quite a bit lately because more children are apparently being diagnosed or treated for suspected ADHD. Treatments for this condition have historically included prescription medications. The diagnosis of ADHD for children is normally arrived at through the input of a psychologist or a pediatrician.
Being a retired Special Education teacher, I've been involved with children having symptoms of this condition since serving as a Learning Disabilities tutor at Emerson School in the early '70's. At that time, Emerson was a junior high school, and special needs educational services were just beginning in the higher grades. Prior to that time, special educational services were based in the elementary grades, and were generally intended to be "pull-out," "as-needed," and "temporary" services. As research increased, it was discovered that special needs did not necessarily end in the 6th grade. Eventually, special educational services expanded into the junior high and high school years, and even beyond, as some so-called "special needs" simply did not go away with age.
The question of how to deal with students having "differences" has been around since schools began. Students having so-called "differences" have been labeled, re-labeled, and un-labeled over the years as various educational fads, political leadership, and classroom assistance programs have come and gone. In the 1970's, Public Law 94-142 (the Education of the Handicapped act) and other laws were passed to ensure that special-needs children would receive a "free and appropriate" public education in the "least restrictive environment" possible in order to suit their needs.
For about 250 years now, the American educational system has primarily been a come in, sit down, shut up, we-know-what's-best-for-you, pencil-and-paper, tri-modality system of learning. You listened, you read, and you wrote, and that's pretty much the way it was, and all too often, that's the way it continues to be in many schools. It's no accident that so many on-line, private, and charter schools have sprung up because one-size-fits-all learning never seems to fit everyone.
The traditional system of learning does work...for some students, but for many others, it has not worked well at all. The number of drop-outs in high school and college continues to be staggering. An incredibly high percentage of individuals incarcerated in America's prison systems have either failed in schools or have been found to have some form of special needs that might not have been addressed when they were younger.
The "one-size-fits-all," "go-through-the-same-cattle-chute" philosophy of American education was based on the utopian supposition that everybody is capable of experiencing success at the same time in every subject offered in the public schools. Higher and higher educational standards have been called for by politicians from both parties, and a huge testing industry has developed in order to insure that students are meeting those higher standards. Diversity in education somehow became a dirty word in the last 20 years or so, as America's students have been pushed towards increasingly uniform academic education, often at the expense of learning about the trades and the fine arts.
The cry for "higher standards" was very much a bi-partisan political push in the 1990's, resulting in a "No Child Left Behind" law that mandated testing and continuous improvements in the public schools. The failure of that law is patently obvious these days, as a vast majority of the states have sought waivers from the standards that the law had demanded. There were several problems: While the intent of that law may have been meritorious, funding for schools continued to lag behind, and there was a huge failure to address the issue of many students who were simply unable to respond to the social, educational, and political pressures that were placed on them. Intending to increase our competition with the world, standards-based advocates tended to forget that much of the world allows educational specialization (directing students into diverse interest areas) earlier in life. Ironically, those high academic standards achieved by many countries only seem to be higher because many of their students have already entered vocational or specialty schools.
These days, the "Common Core" movement is the latest attempt by the federal government to raise academic standards ever higher to a nationwide standard of uniformity, while offering financial incentives for states that move in that direction. While the backers of "Common Core" school standards may mean well, there still remains the issue of what to do with individual students who fail to meet those standards.
Can all students learn? Of course they can. Common sense, however, will tell you that students are not always ready to learn the same thing at the same moment in their lives. There's something called "developmental readiness," as well as the maturity factor, and then you have differing abilities and interest levels. Were you, for example, a genius in all of your subjects in school? Neither was I. Back in the old days, you were taught to master something before you went on to the next challenge. These days, more and more subjects are being covered for content rather than mastery. Teachers are often being forced to teach to the tests, rather than being able take the time to respond to the interests and abilities of each child.
In the case of those ADHD diagnoses, there would be an honest question in my own mind as to whether more kids need diagnosing, or should MORE SCHOOLS be "diagnosed" for failing to respond to the needs of a diverse population? Students are indeed NOT all the same. Some are attentive. Others are easily distracted. Some can listen well. Others? Not so well. Some can write or sing well, and others, not so well.
Our Century City...Living In Lakewood 50 Years Ago. Encouragement! A Tribute To An Unknown Harding Teacher
Going through those old papers...
You know the drill. Around your home somewhere, you probably have a drawer or two (or three) filled with them. It's amazing how quickly papers accumulate, is it not? Old credit card receipts, medical records, and phone bills mix in with old business cards and household warranties...Before long, those drawers won't close, and it's clean-out time.
I've been doing that for awhile now. My dear late mom saved everything she thought might EVER be needed for reference purposes. She learned a valuable lesson about that when a milkman claimed that we'd not been paying our milk bill. Fortunately, she'd sent checks in for payment, and had the canceled checks to prove it. She taught me that if I kept my receipts, I'd never have to worry about those kinds of problems later on.
Mom kept all my school stuff too. I came across all of that not long ago. Want to see my photos? What age would you like to see? I have them all. Want to see my grades, on the other hand? Well, never you mind about those. If you've read my columns now for any length of time, you'll know that, essentially, I was at war with school since my first day of class.
So much has been written about the Battle of Gettysburg and its aftermath, (including President Lincoln's famous address) that, at first glance, one might wonder why we continue to be fascinated by that epic struggle. Many, if not most 8th graders in this part of the country, have visited that battlefield either on the way to, or from, their visit to Washington D.C.. Hundreds of school buses enter and exit those bus loops around the Gettysburg Visitors Center each year, giving students the opportunity to view the iconic Cyclorama painting by Philippoteaux, and to purchase different souvenirs. In all of that hustle and bustle, students could be excused for missing a few aspects concerning that sacred ground.
For sacred it is, in so many sublime ways.
As far as I have been able to determine, I may have had ancestors on both sides of that historic struggle at Gettysburg. That was because during WWII, Dad had been stationed in the South, where he met the prettiest Southern Belle that Alabama had to offer, (or at least he thought so!) and I certainly agreed with him. Mom and Dad kept on fighting the Civil War, good-naturedly, on and off for the next 59 years, but they made a really good team otherwise, and, of course, they also made me! As a "Sou-northerner", I've always been fascinated with the Civil War, and the stories behind the stories of that sublime conflict.
Some are unaware of their secret. Others learned their secret at an early age, but by now have either forgotten or repressed it. Some know it well, but couldn't care less. Some feel that revealing their secret would serve no purpose, or that it would be irrelevant in today's world. With the passage of time, some are even uncertain as to whether their secret is true or not.
Still, there are those who remember and honor their secret secretly. Sometimes, you can tell who carries their secret by subtle signs. Not wearing a watch could be such a sign. Yes, there are those among us who do not measure time as others do. There are those among us who still look to the skies, the lakes, the rivers, and the hills to mark passage of the natural cycles of life, because the strict precision measurement of western time simply does not fit into their life's cultural or spiritual paradigm. Those would be the ones who quietly (and among themselves of course) measure their lives in "Indian time." They would be the ones who still walk on what is known as "the Red Road."
Our Centennial City...The Civil War, 150 Years Ago...From These Honored Dead... (A Memorial Day Reflection)
"...from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Abraham Lincoln 1863
With these last words of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address, given at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery on November 19, 1863, and only a scant four months after the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, Lincoln established a goal for a national post-war reconciliation while at the same time acknowledging that the American Civil War was not yet concluded.
Most people, including a great percentage of our nation's civilian and military leadership, had not envisioned the Civil War to last very long. At the war's first significant battle at Manassas (also called Bull Run), a fair amount of Washington D.C.'s glitterati had even come out to watch the battle with their picnics and carriages while dressed in their Sunday finery. Only when the battle had turned to favor the Confederates did their carriages (and the Union army) race back to Washington D.C. in disarray.
A documentary film, Guilty Til Proven Innocent, will have its world premier screening April 28 at the Capital Theatre in the Gordon Square Arts District of Cleveland. The film should be of interest to Lakewoodites as nearly one-third of the footage is from various Lakewood City Council sessions. The legislative body deliberated and ultimately passed an ordinance in 2008 banning Pit Bull dogs within city limits.
The 83-minute film, produced and directed by former Lakewood resident Jeff Theman, and edited by another former Lakewoodite, Bryan Porter, “examines the controversy of Breed Specific Legislation, chronicles Ohio’s breed specific law from its inception, and uncovers the truth behind the misleading information of the most misunderstood dog…the Pit Bull,” according to the film’s promotional material.
Our Centennial City...Lakewood 50 years ago... School Movie Day! (Morals, Manners, And A-Bomb Mayhem!)
OK, we've all been to school and know how classes work. Whether the teacher initiates a discussion on a lesson or there's classwork to be done, the thing about schools is that they want you, the student, to be engaged in the learning process. That was pretty much the way schools worked, except for those of us who nodded off, daydreamed, or were otherwise occupied with passing notes to the object of our desire sitting just a few seats away. Of course, once in awhile, the teacher would pick up such a note from some poor unfortunate writer, and then? Let's just say that the outcome was not pretty.
There were, however, three important school days when our spirits were inevitably brightened by circumstances beyond our control. One of those days involved heavy snow and the announcement that our school district was closed (which, in Lakewood's case, was all too seldom!). Another favorite day was when we walked into the classroom and saw a substitute teacher. Immediately, that circumstance ensured that a new, often surprising, and utterly interesting classroom dynamic would come into play. The third day, of course, was "Movie Day"!
I once again had the opportunity to witness an Easter "Passion Play" a few weeks ago. Like so many times before, I stunned some of my friends by refusing to go and see it. I have consistently refused to witness yet another replay of that dark, morbid, tragic, and yet timelessly hopeful story of the Easter message.
If you were thinking that Christmas was the most important time in the Christian year, think again. For Christians, the message of Easter was what totally defined the birth of Christianity. Indeed, for many years, the celebration of Christ's (birth) Mass did not receive the celebratory acclaim that it does today. Easter, on the other hand, was when, according to Scripture, the Son of Man defeated death on the cross, and the Christian message of salvation through a belief in Christ started to spread around the world.
Easter, at once a dark and brooding, and yet- infinitely hopeful story, tells the tale of the betrayal of Jesus in Jerusalem (by one of his disciples) into the hands of the high priests. Jesus was then delivered to the Roman Prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate, who questioned Him and ultimately brought Him before a crowd, along with another man, and offered to pardon one of them. The crowd chose to save the other guy, and Jesus was then crucified along with two others on the hill called Golgotha on the afternoon of what today is called Good Friday. On Sunday, His tomb was found to be empty, and a living Jesus reportedly appeared to His followers before ascending to Heaven; leaving them with messages of hope and salvation.
Our Centennial City... Luddite Lakewood...Or Not? Lakewood's 21st Century Urban Vision... What Exactly?
Urban planners, professional or otherwise, are always looking for ways to improve cities. Change, after all, is one constant gift that keeps on giving. As we turn the page on another year of the 21st Century, Lakewoodites can once again reflect on our historical and future place in the scheme of this bustling and rapidly expanding throng of humankind that we call Earth.
As with many cities, there are things that we have done very well to position ourselves in a positive light for the future. At the same time, there are things that perhaps we might have done better over the years. This column takes an admittedly opinionated historical look at the state of our centennial city, by one who has lived here for more than half of that time.
Being the first suburb west of Cleveland, the Rockport Township/Lakewood area was ideally suited for homes and recreational activities. The wealthy developed the Clifton Park area as a 19th century resort, and even built their own private railroad in order to get there. For the better part of the 19th century, Lakewood was also a fruit and farm paradise. Orchards, farms and grape vineyards mixed with a lakeside polo field, while Lakewood resident Dr. Jared Potter Kirtland and his estate (located at present-day Bunts and Detroit) helped to develop the nation's agricultural technology.
This column is dedicated to my father:
Robert R. Rice, 336th Band, CWS, United States Army 1941-1945
My father is a war veteran, a retired Lakewood teacher, a school band and orchestra director, and co-composer of "The American Veterans Last Salute March," showcased and conducted by Dad in 2011 with the American Festival Pops Orchestra in Manassas, Virginia. He recently got a call from someone who wanted to interview him about his WWII experiences. He has received a number of those in the last few years, as students and archivers frequently want to document those pivotal times in American history. Like all soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, WACS, WAVES, and merchant marine sailors who participated in that superhuman effort to defeat what was then the greatest threat to democratic ideals that had ever been assembled, Dad has looked at his own participation in those events quite simply:
Timing is everything, or so they say.
You know what people say about the truth being stranger than fiction sometimes?
I had JUST completed a twelve hundred word column, expressing in the strongest possible terms, why I felt that it was high time that we took a hard look at doing something about those supposedly "temporary" modular classrooms currently in use across the street from Lakewood High School. For six years, going on seven now, our students have needed to cross busy Franklin Blvd. several times daily, in all kinds of weather, in order to complete their high school education. Both Dad and I have felt for a long time that having so many students out of the building, multiple times during a school day, continues to be a very serious concern. Thinking of possible short term solutions, we even wondered whether Franklin Blvd. could be closed off during the school day, or whether an enclosed over-the-street walkway might improve the immediate situation? Hopefully, our school district is taking a hard second look at all aspects of school safety and security, particularly these days.
It does not seem possible that fifty years have passed since Dr. Martin Luther King and some of his associates were incarcerated in the Birmingham (Alabama) city jail for civil disobedience actions relating to the Civil Rights Movement in the spring of 1963.
While in the Birmingham jail, King composed an open letter in response to some pastors who had questioned the necessity for King's methods of non-violent civil disobedience. In that letter, King essentially laid out a thoughtful rationale for his actions, and also provided inspirational words that have guided many of my own thoughts and actions ever since I first read them.
That letter should be required reading every year in every school in this country.
"A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more."
This column is dedicated to all the victims of school violence.
According to the book of Matthew, Joseph was forewarned in a dream to take his family from Bethlehem to Egypt because King Herod wanted to kill the baby Jesus. What reportedly followed was a massacre ordered by Herod of all boys under two years old in Bethlehem. While questions remain as to whether the massacre actually occurred (due to lack of corroboration from other sources), it is nonetheless recorded that, at some point in his reign, Herod may have even killed his own sons. As Bethlehem had a population of about a thousand souls at that time, estimates place the possible child death total of such a massacre at about twenty innocent souls.
Lakewood's Antiques... Those Old Rocking Chairs.... (A child learns about life's questions, and the costs of war)
Every couple of years, I face the same question concerning two old rocking chairs on our front porch.
Paint 'em and patch 'em... or pitch 'em?
Frankly, one might think that would be an easy question to answer. These two rockers are not in the best of shape. They could probably use a good re-caning soon, and they're just, well, getting a bit older. (just like yours truly) Having virtually no monetary value, they could certainly be easily replaced with a couple of nice new rockers for a relatively modest sum.
Practically speaking, it's probably getting about time to pitch 'em out to the tree lawn.
Problem is, I'm just not that "practical" yet. At least, not in this case.
No question about it, our own Lakewood has been a hotbed of music, musicians, and musical development, ever since we hung out our city's shingle over a century ago. Those ubiquitous bars and night spots spilled music into Lakewood's red brick streets since well before you and I were born, and that music mixed and mingled with the numerous high church organs and carillon bells that marked the evening Angelus chimes and Midnight Masses. The schools too, have long echoed Lakewood's eclectic musical experiences with a long and continuing tradition of instrumental and vocal music excellence. The list of Lakewood's musical educators, performers, and inventors is a long one indeed. From the legendary baton of Lakewood Schools Director Arthur Jewell, to performers and entertainers like bandleader Sammy Kaye, steel guitarist Alvino Rey, (Alvin McBurney) legendary guitar and electronics designer Dan Armstrong, (who had been one of Mr. Jewell's students) to so many others, Lakewood has experienced, supported, and developed more musical talents than I could ever list in one column. Local performance venues like Mahall's, The Phantasy, and the Winchester, continue to support our effusive local music scene. Lakewood retail music establishments like Marrell's Musical Instrument Repair, Educators Music, and Vance Music Studios, also all contribute to the ever-present-and-mighty musical pulse of this city.
If church pews could only talk...
Ever think about all of the church pews in Lakewood? It seems as if they might soon be on the endangered species list. There once were plenty more of them than there are now. It seems somehow, in the last 20 years or so, that both churches and their pews have fallen on hard times. Even with those churches that have not closed around here, their trustees and other powers-that-be have been taking a hard look at the hard surfaces of those well-worn wooden pews. The latest church fad seems to be to replace those old pews with movable chairs so that sanctuaries can occasionally be re-purposed easily, and also so that people will feel more comfy, welcome, and private, with those padded seats and their fortress-like arm rests.
Churches these days seem to forget that the original purpose of a hardwood pew was twofold. First of all, you weren't supposed to feel too comfy in church. You were there to reconcile with a loving God. Your creature comforts were not the priority for that hour of worship. As well, pews were intended to be communal and not individual, as chairs are. You were supposed to share your pew, as well as your faith, with other parishioners. Chairs can bring to mind individualism and separation. Pews, on the other hand, symbolize unity, and communion with others.
Having just been walloped by the remnants of Hurricane Sandy, I thought that when we finished chasing down our garbage cans and recovering our porch furniture, we might remember one of Lakewood's other major storms from the last century with this updated reprint of a classic "Pulse of the City" column.
A while back, I wrote a column about Lakewood in 1969. I suppose that year set the stage for many of the changes we are living with today. In many ways, that year changed everything. Just about anyone alive at that time knew it too. Much of what is remembered as "the '60s decade" transpired in that year, or soon would. It was also quite a time for this young writer, who was about to graduate from Lakewood High School.
By now, you've heard the above expression more than a few times, have you not? (Although. not with MY name in that phrase, of course.) If circumstances had been a bit different, you MIGHT have heard the above expression as written, however. After I retired from the classroom in 2005, I seriously considered running for political office in Lakewood.
When I graduated from college in 1973, my degree was in Political Science. Back then, there was a feeling that change was in the air in America. The Vietnam War was winding down. Issues concerning civil rights were entering the mainstream of America, and there was a real hope in some parts of our country that things were going to get better. The 1960s taught America that everyday people did indeed have a voice in historical events, especially with the advent of evening television newscasts. The world was changing. With the resignation of President Richard Nixon in the wake of the Watergate scandal, there was a widespread feeling that common people could make a difference in our country and that, ultimately, right would indeed prevail.
Of course, that was before the gasoline and oil crisis hit the world, as well as other crises too numerous to mention here. Life's trials continued, as they always do, but at least we had the Bee Gee's (1977) "Stayin' Alive" Disco song to dance to and cheer us up. Steppenwolf's "Monster" (1969) had already replaced the Youngblood's (1967) recording of "Get Together" and then was replaced by The Who's (1971) "We Won't Get Fooled Again" (that said something about meeting the new boss, who was same as the old boss). These days, I sometimes wonder whether we shouldn't bring "Monster" back. Listen to those lyrics and see whether you agree with me.
Comparing America's political system to a huge out-of-control political monster does not require much imagination, at least to many people nowadays. The seemingly endless sums of money spent by political action groups, as well as by the two principal political parties in this country, all but insure that everyday people have to wonder just how much of a say they have anymore in the American governmental process. Still, it would be a mistake to paint that political process with too broad of a black brush. There are still everyday people who can and do make a difference in government and in life every single day. You, too, can be one of those people. All you need to do...is vote.
The phrase "All politics is local" has been attributed to former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill, meaning that politics begins with the interests of a community. Here in Lakewood, and in other communities across America, politicians who aspire to local or regional office must demonstrate a responsiveness to their electorate. Indeed, that responsiveness can insure a long political life for that politician. There are many Americans who might not share the political viewpoints of an incumbent, but may otherwise appreciate the services provided by that politician's offices. Politics IS local, make no mistake about it, thanks to that incredible power that you have....the power of the vote.
This, of course, is a presidential election year. As usual, we are shocked (or at least pretend to be) by all the negative rhetoric from those ubiquitous campaign ads (many of which are not generated by the politicians themselves, but by those independent political action committees--PACS). Negative "politikin'" is not a new thing either. Collectors of political memorabilia can show you negative political stuff going back to the early days of our country.
The good thing about all of this, of course, is that you and I do still have our vote. Although our votes do not directly elect a president (the Electoral College does that), we do vote for the electors who will do that job. A presidential election does, at least, generate a relatively fair voter turnout. To be frank, under the Electoral College system, we can pretty accurately predict how most states will go, even before an election. There are only a handful of "swing" states that generally will decide a presidential election, and Ohio is one of those states, which is why you are presently being inundated with all of this campaign stuff. Also, quite frankly, many Americans apparently want very little to do with the political process as it is today. A presidential election brings out the most voters in our country and yet, in 2004, only about 61% of Americans who could vote did so! More than 80 million eligible American voters reportedly stayed home in the last presidential election.
It probably would be easy to not blame them for doing so either...except that when we don't vote, we give whomever does vote more power than they really should have. Voting is indeed a precious freedom and responsibility. Not to vote is to walk away from the democratic process, and give away your power and responsibility to someone else. As much money as the PACS throw at an election, as much blather as the politicians spout, they can't buy you or your vote in the privacy of the ballot box. No one knows how you vote, and no one WILL EVER know, unless you tell them!
Look, you might be a conservative, a liberal, or somewhere in between. You might not have even voted in a while. You may even be sick to your stomach with all the garbage on TV about politics these days. Still, if you do vote, IF YOU DO VOTE, you WILL be among America's elite "secret" decision makers. You will then have MORE political power in your hands than the millions of Americans who stay home and do nothing but bellyache on election day. You've heard this proverb a thousand times: "If you're not part of the solution, then you're a part of the problem." 'Nuff said.
Please vote. I'm Gary Rice, and I approve this message.
When my family moved to Lakewood in the 1950s, we were welcomed by many people. There was even a "Welcome Wagon" type of experience, where we were greeted by a wonderful lady bearing a basket and coupons from neighborhood merchants. The church and school system both took us in with equally welcoming gestures, and people on our street quickly became our friends and good neighbors.
That was then. These days, baskets can be hard to find. Especially when young people want to play outdoor basketball, although I do understand that some of that may finally be coming back to more places in our city.
Getting back to my topic, I wonder whether new arrivals to our community are able to receive anything like the welcoming my family experienced? While it seems many new businesses are being welcomed along Detroit Avenue these days, I cannot help but wonder whether we are welcoming new Lakewood residents with equal enthusiasm. While a solid business district is a good sign of a healthy community, I have not heard much about how we, as a community, welcome our new residents. True, that welcome is there if those new residents reach out to our fine community resources and organizations, but exactly how much do we, as a community, reach out to them?
When the final history of this world is written, the period from 1865 to 1914 will arguably be one of the greatest times of invention and discovery for the human race. True, life is a continuum, and many of the inventions that first saw the light of day during that time period had roots even earlier. Still, just think about it ....Beginning perhaps with the first practical applications of electricity, that era also saw the rise of the telephone, electric lighting, cameras, bicycles, automobiles, sewing machines, dictation machines, and recording devices. And of course with advances in communication came advances in the arts and sciences, medicine, and also, unfortunately, weaponry. For the purpose of this column, we note that this era also marked the dawn of the home vacuum cleaner.
Indeed there were so many inventions back then that by the end of the nineteenth century, there was a feeling that "everything that can be invented has been invented." Although an American Commissioner of Patents was credited for the quote, research seems to indicate that it may not have been said by him at all. Nonetheless, that expression appears to have been a popular sentiment at the time, and even reportedly appeared in the Punch/London Charivari periodical in 1899, expressed as a joke.
Lakewood's Treasures... Lakewood Hospital's Professionals... When In Need? Friends Indeed! Gary, with Bob Rice
Over the years, I've discovered that talking about hospitals or medical care is a great deal like talking about politics or cats. It's been my experience that people have very strong opinions about all four topics, and it seems that the older I get, the more I hear about the topics of hospitals, medical care and politics. As far as cats go? Well, I would suspect that cats and their owners would regard their topic to have been settled once and for always. Anyone not sharing their point of view? Pity them.
In all candor, I have, over the years, heard from a few people who said that they did not have the best experience at Lakewood Hospital. In the case of my family, we've needed that facility many times in the past, and our experiences, while not always perfect, have generally been very good ones.
With any hospital or medical experience, there's a boatload of anxiety involved. Families are, at times, uncertain what to do...or where to turn. Ever-changing insurance issues can also necessitate patients needing to use doctors or hospitals that are a part of their particular plan, and if their insurance changes? They may then need to consider getting other medical providers. All too often these days, people may find themselves without medical insurance at all, so those situations can also come into play. In the face of all these variables, it's little wonder that a trip to the hospital can be stressful.
No Lakewood, this column will not be about those pretty lady models in those centerfold periodicals that came out back in the 1950's and '60's. (You know, the ones that teen-aged boys ogled behind the garage, supposedly safe from the prying eyes of the adult world.) Sorry, but the Lakewood Observer does not come in a plain brown wrapper. This periodical does not cater to those sorts of "observers."
Just as an aside, we kids once caught an uncle who (apparently unaware of the limitations of photography) was trying to "angle" a racy photo in order to attempt to get a peek under a bikini. Of course, that did not work out too well for his embarrassed and dirty old mind!
I've written a number of columns on these pages about churches, as well as about my own faith experiences. My own religious journey was combined with the crisis of being a sickly child, frequently in and out of hospitals. As Dad was a church choral director, we attended a variety of churches. My denominational loyalties were therefore virtually non-existent, although my personal faith continued to be strong.
Happy 100th Birthday, Woody!
Woody who? Which Woody? Well, the person in question would be Mr. Woodrow Wilson Guthrie, although I have it on pretty good authority that Woody would probably have taken serious umbrage if anyone would have called him "mister."
Woody was a man who often defied categorization and had a universal attraction to the whole human family. When he was hospitalized, he was reportedly asked what his religious preference was. His response, supposedly, was "all." When the registrar pressed for something more specific, Woody is said to have told her to list either "all"... or "none."
It's well-known among my readers that every now and then, I like to do a column about music. If you know ANYTHING about Gary Rice, you know that a great portion of my life has been connected to the world of professional music. This particular tale goes back fifty years, and begins with a pair of drums.
The drums that you see in the photo are Ludwig™ 400 model snare drums. At the time, those drums were truly considered to be among the best snare drums in the world. Turns out, all of you have heard that kind of drum on more songs than you could probably count. That type of drum was an in-demand piece of studio equipment, providing that essential back-beat and distinctive "rifle-crack" sound that defined the essentials of modern Rock and Jazz music. That professional-level drum sold for quite a bit of money back then, and as a result, was not always purchased by parents as a student's first drum.
In the early sixties, these two drums were purchased at Educators Music in Lakewood by two sets of caring parents who had sublime faith in the talents of their two young sons, both of whom were beginning their journey in the world of music.
This column tells the remarkable story of those drums... and those sons.
This story, that happened on June 14th, is like so many of my stories. It's almost too strange to be true.
I was sitting on my front porch steps relaxing this afternoon, having just finished scrubbing and rinsing my front porch walls, floor, porch door, furniture, and windows, when I engaged my neighbor in conversation. As the City had come down the other side of the street recently and cited several residents for one problem or another, I wanted our home to have good "curb appeal," especially if someone from the government happened to come by to look at our side of the street. Having just discussed these aspects with my neighbor, he looked up and said, "Look, it's the President!" Thinking him to be joking, I turned around, feeling very much like a sucker...