Thursday, December 18, 2008

Nicaraguan Boy Scout follow up

In my last posting to my blog I noted under a photo of me at the Managua, Nicaragua airport in 1949 the following "From left to right is Pablo Steiner, myself, Julio Pinel (who worked at the airport) and Gus Wilson. One of these days I will spend some time on the world wide web to see if I can track them down."

Well, I did track them down and here is my report:

It seems that in that one photo I had three of the early founders of scouting in Nicaragua. I wonder if the Boy Scouts of Nicaragua have a photo of the three of these founders in one photo? I will send them a copy of this one. You will note that my International Letter of Introduction from the Boy Scouts of America was signed by don Porfirio Solorzano who is noted below as having gotten the Nicaraguan Boy Scout Association recognized by the World Scout Organization. Gus Wilson (Gustavo Wilson Batleman) joined the first troop founded in Nicaragua in Bluefield on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. When he moved to Managua where he became a professor in a small Moravian college (Colegio Bautista) he founded the third Boy Scout troop in Nicaragua. Julio Pinell founded Troop Four "Leon" in Managua.

In 1945 the scout movement in Nicaragua was restructured and Professor Wilson became the first Chief Scout Executive of Nicaragua. The note in this history of scouting in Nicaragua (appended below) ends with a comment that the first national scout camporee was held at the Hacienda Las Mercedes, near the International Airport. The head of that camporee was Pablo Steiner (known as 'the Raven') who is also in that photo with me. Pablo Steiner has quite a personal story. He barely escaped capture by the Germans as he fled his home in Hungary in 1939. As a Jew he would have been exterminated in the Holocaust. He opened a print shop and began publishing in Managua and married a woman who became one of the most famous authors in Latin America. He died in the 1980s.

Happy holidays,


En 1943, el sennor Julio Pinell fundó la Tropa Cuatro “León”, en la ciudad de Managua, el profesor Gustavo Wilson Batleman, la Tropa Tres en el Colegio Bautista. Originario de Bluefield había sido uno de los primeros jóvenes que se integraron a la Tropa fundada por Campbell y el reverendo Harrison. En 1945 don Gilberto A. Blanco se convirtió en Primer Jefe Scouts Nacional.

En 1945 el Movimiento Scout de Nicaragua inicia una nueva estructuración. El profesor Wilson se constituye en forma voluntaria en el Primer Director Ejecutivo, con el apoyo de don Adrian Espinosa Orochena y el joven Róger Mendoza Solís. El señor Espinosa Orochena debido al derrocamiento del presidente Leonardo Argüello tuvo que salir exiliado. Actualmente reside en Miami, con más de 60 años de ser Scout, uno de los más activos dirigentes de su época.

En 1946, don Porfirio Solórzano Marín, logró el reconocimiento oficial de la Organización Mundial del Movimiento Scout. En 1946 se celebró en la Hacienda Las Mercedes, cerca del actual Aeropuerto Internacional, el Primer Campamento Nacional de Patrullas. El Jefe de Campo fue don Pablo Steiner, también importante funcionario de Caritas de Nicaragua y esposo de la escritora María Teresa Sánchez.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

December 2008 Holiday Greetings

December, 2008

Here it is, almost the end of the year and time to give thought to writing that end-of-the-year letter that brings family and friends up-to-date on what the Drake family had been up to the previous twelve months. I thought that maybe I should get one off to my blog also but finally decided that I would merely submit the one I wrote fifty eight years ago in December of 1950.

I am attaching a photograph of me at the US Boy Scout Jamboree at Valley Forge with Colonel Gus Wilson, Chief Scout of the World Association of Scouting. A year earlier I was visiting the Boy Scouts of Nicaragua and there met the other Gus Wilson, a black scouter who told me that he was the photographic negative of the other Gus Wilson that I was to meet the following year. So you can see both Gus Wilsons. I am also posting a copy of a picture of me with three Nicaraguan scout leaders at the Managua airport in March of 1949.

From left to right is Pablo Steiner, myself, Julio Pinel (who worked at the airport) and Gus Wilson. One of these days I will spend some time on the world wide web to see if I can track them down.

In January of 1950 I did enlist in the army for three years. While at Fort Devans, Massachusetts in training to be a high speed Morse code intercept operator I worked on my scout badge collection in my free time.

Here is a picture of me working on the collection and a picture of one of the panels of scout pins from various countries.

May you all have a good holiday season. George

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Placing the Korean War Children's Memorial sculpture, in Seoul or the Metropolitan City of Gwangju, South Korea?

I just got back from Korea where I spent 8 days looking for the appropriate place for the Korean War Children's Memorial sculpture that is being donated by my frie
nd SEBASTIAN of Mexico. On its base it is a bit over 21 feet tall and, given his world-wide fame, has a market value of over $700,000. He is the creator of the large blue steel sculpture in Big Rock Garden Park in Bellingham near the US Korean War Children's Memorial Pavilion.

On 23 October I hosted a breakfast meeting with His Excellency Leandro Arellano, Ambassador of Mexico to Korea. The Cultural Affairs Officer of the Mexican Embassy also attended as well as three Korean associates of mine, one from Seoul and two from Gwangju who flew up to Seoul for the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the
donation of Sebastian's sculpture. Sebastian offered it to me to support my project of honoring American servicemen and women for their aid to the children of Korea during the Korean War. Ambassador Arellano said he would host a reception for SEBASTIAN and wife Gabriela when they arrive for the dedication and would also call SEBASTIAN to inquire if the embassy could sponsor a showing of macquettes of his larger works in an art gallery in Seoul at the time he and Gabriela are visiting Korea. He is of the opinion that the sculpture should be placed in Seoul rather than in Gwangju where I have promised it. He also agreed that the sculpture should be given by the artist to the government of Mexico and then sent to Korea in "diplomatic pouch" status to avoid any taxes. It would then be given as a gift of the artist and the government of Mexico to the entity that ultimately receives the sculpture. Ambassador Arellano was delighted that SEBASTIAN would have a sculpture placed in Korea and would cooperate with my project to ensure that it gets wide visibility in the Korean media. He agreed to attend the dedication ceremony if at all possible. As we have no date nor location yet all of this is just a commitment on his part to help with the project.

From the breakfast with the Mexican Ambassador I rushed with Hong SungChang, my Korean associate, friend and interpreter who has helped me since 2003 on this project, to the U.S. Embassy which was located only about 15 minutes away from the Lotte Hotel where we had breakfast. Her Excellency Ambassador Kathleen Stephens was generous and gave me about a half hour of her time. She is newly appointed to the post and, interestingly, served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Korea years ago and consequently speaks good Korean. Ambassador Stephens liked my Korean War Children's Memorial project and agreed to attend the dedication of the SEBASTIAN sculpture "Las Palomas" (The Doves) if at all possible. She had some advice for me about how the event is to be advertised and what to be sensitive about when soliciting letters from former Korean War orphans. Two of her staff were in the meeting with me and SungChang. They will work with me as the project progresses. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to meet our Ambassador to Korea and told her that every Korean I met since her appointment speaks well of her.

The next day I took a trip to Ilsan to meet with Molly Holt. She came to Korea in 1957 to help her mother and father with their project of sending Korean orphans to the USA and other countries for adoption and has lived in Korea ever since. She is now Chairman of the Holt Foundation in Korea which has over 300 employees in numerous institutions around the country. She came to Bellingham for the dedication of the Korean War Children's Memorial in Big Rock Garden Park in July of 2003. I brought her up-to-date on the progress of the KWCM project in the USA and in Korea. She agreed to help me with the Korean part of the project and would definitely plan to attend the dedication ceremony. She is probably one of the best known Americans in Korea today.

I took the fast train the next morning to the Metropolitan City of Gwangju arriving about 1:30 p.m. My host was the Rev. Haeryang Yoo Kim who is trying to get the old orphanage buildings on property she and her husband own in the center of Gwangju restored to their original condition. One of them is probably one of the oldest structures left in the center of the city. Their heavily wooded 2-1/2 acres is very similar to BRG Park in Bellingham except it is on a steep hillside. When I was in Gwangju in December, 2008, at a dinner following the ceremony when Mayor Park Gwang-tae made me "honorary citizen" he promised to fund the restoration of the old Korean War orphanage buildings so they could serve as a museum, archive and also as a hostel for returning Korean adoptees world-wide who want to visit Korea. It seems that bureaucratic squabbles and turf-wars in the City Hall has delayed any appropriation for almost two years. Rev. Yoo used my visit to try to get the money to start the restoration of the buildings. An article had already appeared in the local paper about my visit along with a photo of the Sebastian sculpture "Las Palomas."

The afternoon of my arrival to Gwangju a member of the Korean National Assembly who had previously served as Mayor of Gwangju came to the house and assured me that he would 'pressure' the current city administration to release the money for the restoration of the buildings. Several newspaper reporters visited for interviews and photos. Leadership in the local Korean War Veterans Association came and at the end of a delightful dinner presented me with a Korean War Veteran's 'Ambassador of Peace' medal. [Something else to hang on my 'ego wall' in my office.]

Sunday was spent visiting a famous Korean artist, the one who did the calligraphy on the wooden board hanging on the Korean War Children's Memorial Pavilion in Big Rock Garden Park.

On Monday we all had lunch with the Mayor of Nam-gu, the district of Gwangju in which the orphanage is located. He actually flew home from Japan one day early to have this meeting as I would be leaving for Seoul early on Tuesday and would not be able to meet him them. He agreed to a shift of a fire lane off the property so it would not cut the property in half. He also agreed to support the reconstruction of the buildings and the development of the museum, archive and hostel. Then, after a bit of a rest, we went to meet the Vice Mayor for A
dministration for Gwangju (a city of 1.4 million persons). There were some strong words exchanged between Rev. Yoo and one of the city staff persons who claimed that she was the one responsible for the delay in funding the project. After a lot of loud exchanges in Korean I spoke and informed the Vice Mayor that the Korean War Children's Memorial sculpture would NOT go to Gwangju if the money is not released by 1 January, 2009 and work begun by 1 February of 2009. I informed him that Samsung Corporation would like to have it in front of their children's museum in Seoul and that the City of Seoul itself would like to have it in a city park.

After further discussions in Korean the Vice Mayor assured me that the city would release $1,300,000 US dollars (equivalent in Korean funds) by 1 January 2009 and that the work would begin immediately following the release of the money. After discussing some more details of the sculpture and the dedication ceremony we left the office. Those in our group were delighted. I assured Rev. Kim that I was not kidding, that if the money does not come across by 1 January, for any reason at all, and if the work does not commence by 1 February I will not send the sculpture to Gwangju. It will go to Seoul. The story of my visit to Gwangju appeared in at lease six Korean newspapers. This puts a lot of pressure on the Mayor of Gwangju to put up the 1.3 million dollars as he promised. I give it a sixty percent chance of happening. Afterwards we all went out for a light Chinese meal. If work goes as hoped the dedication would probably be a year from now, i.e., late October or early November of 2009. Here is one of the newspaper articles showing a photo of the sculpture, over 21ft. high on its base.


The next day I took the fast train back to Seoul, met with friends, did some shopping and on Wednesday caught the 6 p.m. flight back to Seattle.

Now I am trying to catch up on all the tasks that I let slide while preparing for the time I spent in Japan and Korea. In addition to the 'office' tasks there is a mountain of leaves to rake, rearrange the furniture in the living room, paint one wall before putting things back together again, set up the new surround sound audio-TV system This troglodyte is having troubles getting the FM system working. I will have to post a note on the university "Help Wanted" board looking for someone who can help me. Probably just another button to push in a given order.

'nuf for now. gfd

Monday, November 3, 2008

Scouting in Korea, Costa Rica, Guatemala and the World

On arriving in Seoul last week I telephoned Simon Hang Bock Rhee, a Korean Scout leader that I met two years ago at a Korean scout jamboree. At that time he was the International Commissioner of the Korea Scout Association and held other posts in regional scout organizations. He offered to pick me up at my hotel and we would go to dinner together.

Over a wonderful Korean dinner he informed me that he has been elected Vice President of the World Scout Committee that has its headquarters in Switzerland. We spent much of the dinner talking about scouting in various countries. When I told him of my activities with scout organizations in Central America almost sixty years ago he said "You must talk to His Excellency Fernando Borbon, Ambassador of Costa Rica to Korea. He was active in scouting in Costa Rica." At that he took out his cell phone, punched in a few numbers and said "Your Excellency, is it convenient to talk a few moments with you?" Getting an affirmative answer he passed the phone over to me and Ambassador Borbon and I chatted about scouting in Costa Rica and also Guatemala where he lived for a while as a youth. He knew the names of some of the scout leaders in those two countries that I mentioned but, given our age difference, he had not met them personally. After all, it was almost 60 years ago that I was traipsing around those countries visiting the scout organizations. He suggested we get together for breakfast or lunch and talk scouting. Unfortunately, given my tight schedule, I did not have the opportunity to do so. I very much enjoyed the interaction with Ambassador Borbon as it was conducted in Spanish and dealt with scouting in those countries which still has a lot of meaning for me.

Among other topics Simon Rhee and I discussed declining enrollment in Scouting in developed countries but an increasing enrollment in developing nations, especially in Africa.

Since I did not get to visit a Boy Scout troop meeting in Japan where I spent the prior week I gave Mr. Rhee the scout badges that were sent to me by Mr. David Crow of Monmouth Council, BSA and some that I purchased at the local scout office and asked that he give them to scouts when he attends gatherings of scouts from Korea and elsewhere. He informed me that in several weeks there will be a gathering in Seoul of scouts from all over the country with the specific purpose of exchanging badges. He will give the badges away at that gathering. I also gave Mr. Rhee a sizable collection of Boy Scout stamps from many countries that I spotted for sale on eBay and asked him to use them as gifts to scout leaders as he travels the world on his scouting duties. It is always useful to have small packages of gifts in one's pocket when traveling. Mr. Rhee's personal collections are limited to scout badges and scout stamps that have the number "75" on them. Accordingly, he especially appreciated the Monmouth Council's 75th anniversary badge. That one, he said, will go into his personal collection. Simon Rhee insisted on picking up the bill for the meal and had it paid before I could grab it. Definitely my turn the next time.

Yours in Scouting, George F. Drake

Monday, September 29, 2008

Too busy livin' to write

Hello my friends:

I'm a story teller. I don't miss a chance to tell a story. All I need is an audience. I don't even need a subject, just an audience.

Often times folks would say "You gotta write your stories down. You gotta write a book." "Can't," I respond, I'm too busy creating more stories."

And so it is right now. Too busy. I haven't written to my blog for two weeks. Sorry, didn't know any one was out there listening (reading).

So what have I been doing? Well, family stuff, medical stuff that comes with growing old, a cheap form of cancer cells cut off my right calf, no biggie, just 20 stitches to close the cut and then only to find out the ole doc didn't get it all. Oh, well, back for more choppin'. Limits riding for a while. I could use it as an excuse to quit till it was all healed but that would be cheating as the wound does not preclude riding.

Then, before I knew it I realized I gotta get ready for a trip to Japan with a city delegation to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Sister-City relationship of Bellingham with Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture, Japan. I was there for their 40th celebration ten years ago and recently was very much involved with the activities organized for the visit of the delegation that came to Bellingham from Tateyama in July of this year. So on the 13th of October I will fly to Narita airport north of Tokyo, spend the night in a hotel near the airport and then join the rest of the Bellingham delegation the next day. I am flying Asiana Air Lines which goes through Seoul, Korea while the rest of the group is going by Northwest on a direct flight from Seattle to Tokyo/Narita. Since I want to stop off in Korea for a week after I leave Japan I need to fly via Asiana. In Japan I will stay in a home of a Japanese host family, sleep on the floor on the tatami mat, eat with beautiful wooden chopsticks, etc, etc, I was going to take my cycling shoes, pedals and helmet and borrow a bicycle and go riding from 6:30 a.m. until 8 a.m. daily but realized that would be imposing on my hosts so I will go out for a walk each morning instead. On the 19th of October my hosts will dress me in a Samurai costume, complete with helmet and swords which I will have to wear in the Satomi Festival, one of the major festivals of this small Japanese city. Tens of thousands of Japanese come to watch the Samurai parade and engage in activities at the local temple. I will be the six-foot 'gaijen' (foreigner) who helps them in their battles. Sounds like fun but I just found out that once in that elaborate costume one can not "relieve" oneself for many hours as the costume is not to be taken off until the end of the day. That tells me that I will not be able to indulge in four cups of coffee earlier in the day nor have any Asahi beer during the afternoon. Nuts! That's no way to treat a guest!

The Japanese are 'gift givers' and there is no way one can 'out-gift' the Japanese, so don't even try. But you gotta take gifts, lots of gifts, a separate suit case just full of gifts, but not to worry, not only will it be full when you come back you will have to purchase a second suitcase for the other items you will get as gifts. And at the airport, just before you leave your hosts and head for your security check they give you a shopping bag with more items, large items, bulky items that you will never be able to crunch into your suitcase. So there goes your plan to purchase a bottle of cognac at the duty free store as you are lacking the six arms needed to carry everything. So, learn to smile broadly, say "Domo ari gato," bow low and make like you are absolutely delighted at the ceramic tea set that you just received (the fourth on this trip.) So I am trying to assemble at least 50 or 60 gift packages. By the time I am done I will have spent $300 to $500 on gifts. By the way, while in Tateyama I will be attending a meeting of a Japanese Boy Scout troop. Does any one have any extra scout badges that I could give to boys in the troop as a gift from scouts in the USA? If so send them to me at 'George Drake, 1421 Cornwall Ave. #B, Bellingham, WA 98225."

If I just went to Japan and came home I might be able to pull it off with relative ease but I also plan to spend a week in Korea, and they, too, are gift givers, not so avid as the Japanese, but still ya gotta take some small things for your hosts, dignitaries you will meet, etc. It will be a bit easier in Korea as I will give copies of my little book "GIs and the Kids - A Love Story: US Forces and the Children of Korea 1950-1954." I will autograph the book with a flourish for my lunch or dinner host and that is good for a $100 meal ticket. In Korea it is long metal chopsticks and at least 12 (or more) plates of various kinds of kimchi on the table around your main dinner plate. I love kimchi so I am in seventh heaven at a traditional Korean restaurant. I purchased a large collection of Boy Scout stamps on e-bay several months ago to use as a gift for one of the leaders of the Korean Scouts Association. He also happens to be the head of Samsung Construction that built the billion dollar Seoul/Inchon airport. I hope to have dinner with him when in Korea and solicit his help in my current Korean projects.

What is taking so much of my time now is the protocol and the letters, e-mails, FAXs, etc. arranging appointments with folks I want to meet, e.g., the US Ambassador to Korea, the Mexican Ambassador to Korea, the Commander US Forces-Korea, the Korean Minister of Patriotism and Veteran Affairs, staff of the President of Korea, President of the Korea Welfare Foundation and a few other such types. I drove to Seattle last week to meet with the Consul General of Korea. We had a good visit. He is a graduate of a US college and speaks excellent English. My Korean is limited to finding the bathroom and getting the price for a bottle of beer, and, of course the amenities of thank you, you are welcome, etc. What I wanted of Mr. Lee was his help to get an appointment with the Minister of Patriotism and Veterans Affairs. I want the Korean government to award (posthumously) their highest military honors to two fellows in the USAF, Colonel Blaisdell and M/Sgt Strang, who saved the lives of over 950 orphans in the 'Kiddy Car Airlift' that they pulled off on 20 December 1950. During their lifetime neither got even so much as a piece of paper from the government of Korea saying 'thank you." Chaplain Blaisdell got several awards from the USAF but Sgt. Strang got nothng until I was able to move the US military bureaucracy to grant him a posthumous bronze star and also grant him the "Four Chaplains Award", the highest award of the USAF Chaplain's Service, 53 years after the rescue. Now I am banging on he door of the Korean bureaucracy for similar awards for these two great unsung heroes of the Korean War. I want that award announced at the ceremony I am organizing in Gwangju, South Korea in May of next year.

I also want Consul General Lee to use his good office to get me an appointment with someone in the Blue House (Korean White House) so I can try to convince them that the President of Korea should attend the ceremony I am organizing in Gwangju. I also want them to get the President to agree to autograph 20 copies of a poster that I am having made to announce that ceremony which I will sell for $1,000 each. I'm shameless and, you know, I might actually even be able to pull it off! At least I'm gonna try.

I already have been able to get an appointment with the Mexican Ambassador to Korea. I will host him and the Agregado Cultural (Cultural Affairs Officer) at a breakfast meeting on the 23rd of October at one of the 5-star hotels in Seoul. There will be five of us at the table so there is another $300-400 dollars shot. But you gotta do wot ya gotta do to achieve your goal. I will be asking the Mexican Ambassador, His Excelency Arellano, to host a reception for my friend the great Mexican sculptor SEBASTIAN when he arrives in Korea next May for the dedication of the sculpture he is donating to Gwangju to serve as the Korean War Children's Memorial honoring the U.S. servicemen and women for their humanitarian aid to the children of Korea during that war. That sculpture is valued at $750,000 and will be the first by SEBASTIAN in Korea. I also want Ambassador Arellano to agree to attend the dedication ceremony in Gwangju in May. If he agrees to attend then I can use that to leverage the US Ambassador to Korea also to attend which will put pressure on the Commander of US Forces, Korea to attend and, if I work it right , the President of Korea will also be there. Now that takes a little bit of chutzpah ('cajones' en espanol) as I am doing all this with no money other than my social security check and retirement annuity from college teaching. I keep getting the sense that my wife is a bit annoyed with my ability to spend money we don't really have.

As if all this isn't enough I have to raise the money to bring the sculpture from Mexico City to Korea. That will be about $7,000 but I have a number of ideas of where I will be able to get that money. Then there is the book. Yup, I'm working on having a book published in time for the dedication of that sculpture. It will be a book of 'thank you' letters from Korean War orphans whose lives were saved by American servicemen and women in the Korean War. My plan is to inundate the Korean media with requests that they send out a call for such letters from the former 'war child' of Korea, their children and grandchildren, friends and just ordinary Koreans who want to show their appreciation for the acts of kindness shown by our 'Army of Compassion.' From my collection of over 2,000 photographs of the GIs and the children of Korea during the war years we will select pictures for the book. I already have about 20 letters we can use from the time of the war so the book is underway. The one I received from Eddie Cho is printed elsewhere on this blog. Now I want about 200 more such letters. The book will be published in Hangul (Korean) and English and will be available in Korea and the US. One letter will be selected as best of all those submitted and the author will be invited to read their letter at the ceremony in Gwangju in May. Hopefully the book will be out by then also...a mere six or seven months time frame for writing a book and getting it published, ouch!

Then we have to find the appropriate location for the placement of the Korean War Children's Memorial sculpture, discuss details of the bronze plaques to be affixed to the base, etc, etc, etc. Ah, yes, lots to accomplish in the 8 days I will be in Korea. At the same time I will be lugging around all those wonderful Japanese gifts! ;-) My energy will be sustained by Korean beer and kimchi. Aaaaah. Sounds good to me.

Today I sent off my critique of a manuscript of a book I have been reviewing on the life of an incredible Canadian sculptor, David Marshall, who was a good friend of mine. Here is one paragraph from that letter:

"Overall I think the book is GREAT! I loved David and he knew it. He knew how much I admired his incredible craftsmanship and his drive for perfection. He accepted my offers to a degree. That conservative streak and distrust of galleries almost killed the one-man show I was preparing for him at Big Rock Garden Park. He was VERY difficult to work with when it came to selling or even showing his art. He was his own worst enemy in that regard but I felt that with knowing him I got to know one of the great artists of this century. No hype, no glitzy pamphlets, no jumping front stage, just long hours of hard work seeking to present his art to the world. He eschewed publicity. He was the most self-effacing person I have ever known. Yet he knew he was good, not in an egotistical sense but rather as a master craftsman and artist appraising his own work. I take real joy and pride in having been a part of his life. gfd
When I was owner (with my wife) of the "Gardens of Art - Gallery of Fine Art for the Garden" in the acreage next to our house here in Bellingham I was showing the owner of a major Japanese corporation around the gardens. He spotted one of Marshall's works and asked about it. I told him that David's work was not popular. He did not produce for the market. He produced art to meet his own sense of what a work of art was and that began with incredible craftsmanship which he used to effect the shapes he sought in the sculpture. Nonetheless, I told him, after one or two centuries this work will still stand as the finest presentation of this genre of art. "How much?" I was asked. "$12,000" I responded. He did not say anything until about 300 ft. further on he noted another large bronze work and asked "Is this also by Marshall?" "Yes." "How much?" "$19,000." "I'll take this one." and he moved on as though he had just purchased a bunch of radishes in a grocery store. David was flabbergasted! He had never sold anything for more than $2,000 before that sale. But then, he never really tried. He was not making art for sale. He was making art because he was driven to do so and selling it was inconsequential to his mission in life. Read the book "Shakespeare in Rehab" to know more of this type of person, an absolutely unique individual who, to me, epitomized what the creative process is all about."

So, forgive me, if in these last few weeks I have been living more stories rather than writing them. I may get a couple more posted before I head off to play Samurai warrior in Japan or hustle the 'honorables' and 'excellencies' in Korea. Life is a 'kick.' I'm enjoying it. Tomorrow bodes to be a beautiful sunny day and I think I will put all thoughts of wot's on my task list in the desk drawer and go to the mountains with Mary Ann. After all, it is a sin not to be outdoors on a day like that, and I am not a sinner.

Sayanara. gfd

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fraudulent Hero


When I visited Korea in 1998 the Public Affairs Officer of US Forces/Korea suggested that I read the book Battle Hymn as it was a wonderful story of how Colonel Dean E. Hess, USAF saved the lives of almost 1,000 orphans. On return home I got a copy of the book and I was truly impressed. But then I also began collecting everything I could find on the relationship of US servicemen and women and the children of Korea during the war years and, much to my consternation, I found that Hess is rarely mentioned in the early reports of that rescue pulled off on 20 December, 1950. A reporter from Airman Magazine, the publication of the U.S. Air Force, called me and asked what I knew of that rescue and I had to admit that I was suspicious of Hess’s claim of being responsible for the rescue. Then Tom Brokaw’s staff phoned me and I, by that time, was even more certain that Hess had nothing to do with the rescue. I was able to direct Brokaw’s staff to movie footage of the actual rescue that was in the US National Archives. Then I met Chaplain Russell L. Blaisdell, Colonel, USAF, Retired who was the one who actually rescued the children. He gave me a copy of his diary of that event which clearly indicated that Colonel Hess had nothing to do with the rescue.

Frankly, I was shocked! I now had the evidence that one of the great “heroes” of the Korean War was a FRAUD! And, frankly, I am now doubly shocked to find out that no one seemingly gives a damn. In fact I have been called by a General in the Air Force located in the Pentagon asking me to ‘lay off” and not push this any further. I provide herewith an early statement that I prepared spelling out my charges that Colonel Dean E. Hess is a FRAUD.

I will comment further on this story in a later posting. gfd
Hess: Fraudulent Hero

by George F. Drake, Ph.D.

[The author presents evidence that Col. Dean E. Hess, supposed hero of the Kiddy Car Airlift, did not plan it, did not direct it, did not witness it, did not participate in it and even tried to delay it. His only role in the airlift was to prepare the housing for the children when they arrived at Cheju-do and yet he shamelessly, over the years, accepted credit and the highest awards of the Government of Korea for this rescue. His written account of the rescue presented in the book Battle Hymn suggested by innuendo that he was responsible for the rescue but the movie, supposedly a "true story," took the falsehood even further. Here is the story of how Dean E. Hess stole credit for the Kiddy Car Airlift.]

When the Chinese forces were approaching the northern edge of Seoul in December of 1950 Air Force Chaplain Russell L. Blaisdell and his Chaplain’s Assistant S/Sgt Merle Y. Strang, arranged for trucks to take 950 children and 80 orphanage staff of the Seoul Receiving Center and another smaller orphanage out of Seoul to Inchon to board an LST for escape to Pusan at the southern tip of the Korean peninsula. Chaplain Blaisdell was responsible for the rescue of many of these children from the streets of the devastated city in the months prior to their evacuation for Inchon. It was Blaisdell and Strang who stayed by the orphans and staff in a 35 ft. by 70 ft school building for four and a half days waiting for the ship that never arrived.

It was Chaplain Blaisdell who, on a desperate trip back to Seoul, with Sgt. Strang as driver of his jeep, made arrangements for the flight of sixteen C-54s to fly the children and staff from Kimpo airport the next morning to Cheju-do Island located to the south of the Korean Peninsula. It was Blaisdell and Strang who commandeered the trucks (Blaisdell “pulled rank” to take the trucks away from another unit loading cement on a boat in Inchon harbor) necessary to transport the children, staff and 15 tons of food and belongings to Kimpo Airport on the morning of the 20th of December. Hess had nothing to do with any of this and was totally unaware of the exigencies faced by Blaisdell at every step of the way in effecting this rescue.
On the 19th of December as soon as Blaisdell had arranged with Colonel T.C. Rogers, Assistant Director of Operations for the Fifth Air Force, for the flight of C-54s to arrive at Kimpo the next morning he wired Hess that he would arrive on Cheju-do Island on the 20th with the children. Hess wired back that the situation on Cheju-do was not ready for them and asked Blaisdell to delay the operation. Blaisdell responded that there was no way he would postpone the rescue flights. Other than this exchange of messages initiated by Colonel Blaisdell there was no other contact between Hess and Blaisdell regarding the rescue of the children between their last meeting in Taegu a week earlier and their meeting on Cheju-do after the rescue.

Hess states in his book Battle Hymn that he desperately was trying to make arrangements for the flight of C-54s from the Combat Cargo Command. No one doubts that he was working on that task but nowhere does he clearly state that he actually made contact with anyone who made a commitment to send the planes to rescue the children. If, in fact, he did make that contact and obtained a commitment for the flight of C-54s Hess gives no indication of how he got that information to Chaplain Blaisdell so Blaisdell could get the children to the airport to meet the rescue aircraft on time. Hess is portrayed in the book Battle Hymn, the movie and in later newspaper articles as desperately calling every one he could to get a flight of planes to rescue the children. We can agree that Colonel Hess was concerned about the children but the facts show that it was Blaisdell and not Hess who was successful in making contact with the Combat Cargo Command to bring in the flight of C-54s to rescue the children.
In other words Colonel Hess actually had nothing to do with the successful rescue of the children in the famous Kiddy Car Airlift. Accordingly it is incomprehensible how Hess could successfully claim over the years to be the one who rescued the children.

Once the children were located at Cheju-do Colonel Hess was in regular contact with the orphanage and provided extensive assistance. Besides the involvement of Hess and his crew many tons of material aid and tens of thousands of dollars were coming from persons in the U.S. and from military units in Korea and Japan to help the orphans. Most of this was as a result of Hal Boyle’s Associated Press article on the rescue that appeared in newspapers throughout the United States. Colonel Blaisdell went to Cheju-do with an air shipment of aid packages on several occasions but Colonel Hess was there on a regular basis doing all he could for the welfare of the children.

Hess’s first inference that he was the one responsible for the rescue of the children in the Kiddy Car Airlift appeared in his autobiography Battle Hymn which was first published in 1956 almost six years after the actual air lift. On the book jacket one reads “But Colonel Hess will perhaps be best remembered for his heroic efforts in Seoul, Korea, in 1951 [sic.] on behalf of thousands of defenseless Korean orphans about to be engulfed by the Chinese Communist armies sweeping down from the north. Tormented by the sight of these homeless doomed children in the streets of Seoul, he shepherded them to the Seoul airport where he sent out a distress call to his commander. At the last minute, a Fifth Air Force airlift, later to become famous as “Operation Kiddy Car” picked up the orphans and flew them to safety on Cheju Island off the southern coast of Korea.” This statement is total fiction and part of a publisher's campaign to sell the book as a true story.
This blatant misrepresentation of the facts of the case was but the beginning of a steady flow of falsehoods. The book Battle Hymn as a grossly self serving distortion of the facts of the Kiddy Car Airlift and a poorly researched document. Had Hess actually read any of the media coverage given the Kiddy Car Airlift, which he refers to in the book, he would have been able to write a much better and more accurate account of what actually happened with regard to the airlift. The lack of accurate information in the book regarding the airlift is inexcusable since Hess, after leaving Korea, was appointed Director of Air Force Information Services and had access to everything published in the Pacific Stars & Stripes newspaper on the rescue.

The errors of the book were magnified in the movie. In the movie, which was presented as a true story, Hess is shown walking with the children from Inchon to Kimpo Airport. None of them walked. The movie doesn’t even mention Blaisdell and leaves the viewer believing that it was Hess who organized the rescue and was with the children during their time of trial.

In the first several years after the rescue the media recognized Colonel Blaisdell as the person who successfully rescued the children and orphanage staff in the Kiddy Car Airlift but after the release of the book and movie in 1956 and 1957 no one went back to the earlier records to ascertain the truth. The accepted story from then on was that it was Colonel Hess who rescued the children. And, it seemed that Hess began to believe the distortions as truth and accepted credit for a rescue he did not organize, did not manage, tried to delay and was not even witness to.

This is unconscionable as Hess had dinner one night in Los Angeles during the filming of the movie Battle Hymn with Mike Strang who had assisted Chaplain Blaisdell in the rescue. Hess asked Strang about the rescue but once knowing the truth from one of the actual heroes of that airlift he refused to help Strang get a role in the movie. Even if Hess had never read any of the articles printed in the Pacific Stars & Stripes, Colliers Magazine, Time Magazine and other publications about the rescue back in 1950, 1951, 1952 or 1953 he now had information on what really happened directly from Sgt. Strang.

It seems that Colonel Hess was now a captive of his own inaccurate portrayal of the rescue as presented in his book. The media now had him as the hero, the person who walked with the children from Seoul to Inchon and back to Kimpo for the rescue. Now that the rights to the book were in the hands of movie producers Hess had lost control of the story. And the story really got out of control when the movie was promoted throughout Korea and the U.S. as a true portrayal of the Kiddy Car Airlift.

The articles published in newspaper accounts about the book and film were outrageous in the amount of incorrect information that was printed. From various issues of the Pacific Stars and Stripes we quote, “Using AF C-119 aircraft, Hess gathered some 800 orphans from different sections of the country and flew them to safety”. (27 Sept. 1956) “Hess organized “Operation Kiddy Car” (12 Jan. 1957). “Battle Hymn Has Seoul Premiere…Korean waifs and ROK Air force bands teamed up to provide fanfare marking the premiere of “Battle Hymn” describing Col. Dean Hess’s heroic actions in saving trapped Korean orphans from the Chinese communists in the winter of 1950-1951.” (30 June 1957). “Air Force Col. Dean Hess, famed for his life-saving rescue flights of Korean orphans during the 1950 fighting…” (21 July 1959).

On 18 December 1960 we read “Hess to get ROK (Republic of Korea) Honor. U.S. Air Force Col. Dean Hess, whose Korean War exploits were depicted in the movie “Battle Hymn,” will receive the Republic of Korea Order of Cultural Merit Tuesday in Seoul ceremonies. ROK President Posun Yun is scheduled to present the award at a banquet in Hess’ honor. During the Korean War Hess was instrumental in saving the lives of some 800 orphans. He airlifted the waifs from battle-torn areas to Cheju Island, some 70 miles off the southeast coast of Korea.”

And on 21 December we read, “Republic of Korea President Posun Yun Tuesday presented the Order of Cultural Merit to U.S. Air Force Col. Dean E. Hess, the “flying parson” of Korean War fame. Hess, first American military man ever presented the Korean medal, received it for his humanitarian assistance to Korean children. … The presentation was made 10 years to the day after his Operation Kiddy Car airlifted 1,000 Korean orphans from the communist-menaced Seoul to the safety of Cheju-do. … His famous airlift was carried out virtually under the nose of the communist armies streaming toward the Korean capital. He managed to round up 16 planes to fly the children south away from the battle.”

Newspapers on 18 January 1962 reported “Col. Hess To Receive Sopa Award. SEOUL, The annual Sopa Memorial Award will be presented to U.S. Air Force Col. Dean E. Hess during ceremonies here at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Korea House. Hess, public information officer of the Fifth Air Force, is being cited for his extraordinary service in saving some 900 homeless war children during the Korean War.”

The above are cited as examples of the recognition Col. Hess received for an airlift he did not organize, a rescue he did not manage and even tried to delay, and, from all evidence in his own report of the incident, he wasn’t even an eye witness to! It is obvious that the reporters following Hess’s every move in Korea used his book and the movie as their source of information on his role in the airlift. Nowhere does Hess explain that he had no contact with Colonel Blaisdell after their meeting a week prior to the evacuation of the children from Seoul, knew nothing of their wait in Inchon or return to Kimpo Airport, that he had no contact with Chaplain Blaisdell regarding their rescue other than to attempt to delay the rescue one day until he could complete arrangements in Cheju-do to receive the children. Never does Hess give credit to Blaisdell and Strang for their role in the operation.

But then Hess also fails to give credit to any one else who was helping the children once they were located on Cheju-do. To read his book one would think it was his unit that was providing the bulk of the material and financial support for the orphanage. In reality the material aid coming to the Orphans' Home of Korea as a result of Hal Boyle's article far exceeded anything Hess and his unit raised from family and contacts in the states. Nowhere does Hess mention the tens of thousands of dollars coming to the Orphans' Home of Korea from military units other than his own. Hess does not like to share credit with anyone. This additional distortion of the facts led to the false conclusion that Hess was the hero not only of the Kiddy Car Airlift but also in helping the children survive their first years on Cheju-do.

Once the movie was released it seemed impossible for Hess to say “This is not a true portrayal of what happened.” Hess had become a captive of his own earlier mis-statement of the facts of the rescue. Recently Hess has privately, but not publicly, stated that he was upset with the way the movie distorted the story of the rescue but the truth of the matter is that his concern for that distortion of the facts did not prevent him from accepting the honors due someone else. Nowhere does Hess state “Wait a minute. This has gone too far. I want to acknowledge the role of Chaplain Blaisdell and S/Sgt Strang in the rescue of these children.” All of this is very sad in that Colonel Hess was truly concerned with the plight of the orphans and he did provide extensive aid to Whang On Soon and the Orphans Home of Korea. He did not need to steal credit for the airlift to be honored for his work on behalf of the war orphans of Korea. Hess’ role as a fighter pilot and as “Father of the Korean Air Force” truly justifies his status as a Korean War Hero. His work on behalf of the children in the Orphans Home of Korea and with other Korean War orphans justifies him being honored for his work with children but only as one of hundreds, if not thousands, of other servicemen doing the same in othe rparts of Korea. But by also taking credit for what did not belong to him, i.e., credit for the Kiddy Car Airlift, he seriously damages his own credibility.

Hess, who is also characterized as "Preacher" and the "flying Parson" is an ordained minister who gave up his pulpit for the cockpit. His theft of credit for the Kiddy Car Airlift leaves one to wonder about his sense of commitment to his religious credentials.

Drake recently asked Blaisdell how come he and Strang allowed Hess to take the credit for the airlift and accept all those honors and say nothing for all these years? “Well,” Blaisdell responded, “Mike wrote me a letter about this in 1957, right after the film “Battle Hymn” came out. He was angry.” In his letter Mike Strang bitterly complained about Hess taking credit for the rescue and wanted to ‘blow the whistle’ on him. But Blaisdell responded to Strang’s letter writing
“The goal of our efforts, in regard to the orphans … was the saving of lives, which would otherwise have been lost. That was accomplished. In a sense, Mike, well-doing has its own reward, which is not measured in dollars, prestige, or good will, provided the avowed principle is fulfilled in the publication of the book and the preparation of the movie, which is to turn all proceeds over to the orphans. I rest content and would not becloud the issue at this time with an attempt to criticize or correct the portions which we know to be false. In the event that the proceeds did not go to the orphans in Korea I may be inclined to change my attitude."
To Strang's credit he took Blaisdell's advise and said nothing. We have accounts of individuals receiving a Presidential Citation for saving the lives of four Korean war orphans and yet here we have a former Air Force Sgt. and his commanding officer, willing to keep quiet about their role in the rescue of over 950 orphans just to insure that Hess could maximize the income from his book and the movie about that air lift.

So far as is known Hess did turn over to the orphanage all the proceeds from the book and the movie. For that he deserves credit. But Hess, by distorting his role in the airlift, denied both Colonel Russell L. Blaisdell and Sgt. Merle (Mike) Strang the credit due them for one of the most dramatic rescue operations of the Korean War. More than 50 years after the fact Blaisdell was finally honored in Korea for the rescue of the children in the Kiddy Car Airlift. Recently, at the dedication of the Korean War Children’s Memorial in Bellingham, Washington, Blaisdell received the “Four Chaplain’s Award” of the Office of the Chief of Chaplains of the U.S. Air Force for the rescue of the children in the Kiddy Car Airlift.

Unfortunately, Mike Strang was not at that gathering along with Chaplain Blaisdell. He died in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1998 without recognition of any sort during his lifetime for his role in that rescue.


When I was a soldier in Korea during the war I was stationed north of Seoul but not quite up to the front lines. Our camp was surrounded by rice paddies that were fertilized with ‘night soil.’ It stunk, especially in the summer time. I hated being cooped up in that compound and every chance I could I took off for a hike in the hills not too far from the camp. Here is a picture of me out on an exploratory walk in the neighborhood. In this photo I am a 22 year-old GI, Pfc, newly arrived in Korea.
The first thing I did when out on a hike was to hire one or more local youths to go with me. They knew the trails, where to look out for the booby traps, the land mines, etc. I usually took my camera with me. Here is a picture of some of the kids who went with me on one of my hikes.

On the trail up to the hills we would encounter brush cutters who made their living gathering brush to be used for cooking and heating the houses.

Way up in the hills we came across an ancient wall of carved granite blocks. It was strange to see that wall up there with no evidence of a road, only the small trail that we were following.

As we got higher into the hills we came upon military observation posts, now deserted as he battle lines had moved northward about 30 miles.

One had to be careful when encountering old bunkers. Often they were booby-trapped. I encountered one with a decomposing body in it. I was about to poke the body with a long pole and one of the boys yelled. He indicated that it was booby-trapped and we would have been blown off the hill if the hidden land mine exploded.

These hills were not just low bumps on the landscape. It was a good day’s hike to get to the top of the ridges from the camp. Often times I would get back to the camp just as darkness was falling. Here is a photo of the hills I hiked in.

Late one evening the company commander called for me to see him. A group of Korean soldiers were in the commander’s tent. He explained that there were reports of an enemy sniper hiding in the hills and since I knew the trails he wanted me to show this group how to get to the ridge leading to a certain observation point that I knew about but hadn’t been to. So, with rifle and ammunition ready for an encounter with Chinese or North Korean infiltrators off we went. When about half way to the ridge the mission was called off as the Koreans got a message that the lights at that point were from one of their own men. That’s the closest I ever got to being in face-to-face armed conflict with the enemy.

Now, I am told, this area is a popular area for persons from Seoul who want to spend a day hiking in the mountains. I have not been back to this part of Korea since the war.

Monday, September 15, 2008


When I got my job teaching 9th Grade Social Studies at Pacific Grove High School in California I was told that I would be the first teacher to introduce a unit on ‘Sex and Society’ for 9th graders. The Home Economics teacher would teach the unit on the biology of sex to Seniors but I was to introduce the subject to Freshmen via a unit on the sociology of sex. My class room was in the basement of the building and had a very high ceiling as the school was on a hill. Well, what I did was to have the students clip advertisements from magazines and newspapers that were in their living rooms. They were not to clip advertisements from magazines that daddy hid in the bedroom. The advertisements were to illustrate how sex is used in advertising: from selling cars, vodka, tooth paste, underwear, etc. I then plastered the large wall in my class-room with these advertisements which the students mounted on 8-1/2 x 11” sheets of paper. To say the least, that was not the normal décor of a high school 9th grade class room.

We then discussed the meaning of this in terms of societal values. Wow, were the students ever interested! I first had them prepare a list of questions that they wanted answers to regarding the display, e.g., why were 95% of the ads using female figures, why were the females scantily dressed while the guys were in cowboy costumes, etc., what did this say about prejudice, etc. It got them thinking and some great discussions and library follow-up resulted. But one thing I did not expect was the reaction the wall of advertisements generated on ‘parent’s night’ and as the story spread throughout the building it seemed that all parents ended up visiting my room. Some parents laughed, some were very thoughtful, some were outraged. I’ll tell you one thing though, the kids were really ‘joining issue’ with the subject and initiating study on their own through this impetus.

Soon after arrival at PG High School I became ‘informal’ advisor to the marginal kids, the children of the Portugese and Sicilian fishing families, kids of families on welfare, from broken homes, kids who were having trouble with the law, etc. For whatever reason they felt that my room was a safe hang out for them, and it was. Several times a week we would close the door to the “goodie-goodies” and have a group discussion of some matter of concern to the bunch. We pulled our chairs in a circle, no empty chairs allowed and when one left their chair was removed from the circle. The kids chose the topics of discussion. One time they wanted to form a club and compete as a club in school activities. I suggested that their club would have the same status as they did in the school and would be at the bottom of the pecking order. No, I suggested, if they wanted to raise their status and acceptance in the school pecking order what they should do is to infiltrate a ‘good’ club, especially one with a budget, and then take it over when new officers are elected. They loved the idea so plans were made to do just that.

The woman who taught Home Economics was aghast when I informed her that I had encouraged the ‘marginal’ girls to join the Home Economics Club and hoped that she would be able to instill in them some good family values. She was afraid that these rough-and-tumble street wise girls would destroy her nice girls club. I told her that she could not refuse them permission to participate and that she had to do her best to make them feel at home in the group.

One morning she called me aside and in a very troubled voice told me that she was afraid the girls were up to mischief, that at the end of the club meeting the night before she overheard one of ‘my’ girls say “Let’s go over to my house to see what we can cook up.” I was a bit concerned when one of the girls saw me in the hall that morning and said that we had to have a meeting at noon, that the group has something they want to tell me. I said “OK, I’ll be there.” I sat with my back to the door and chit-chatted with the kids as the circle grew larger, waiting for Jeanne Maitre, one of the ‘ringleaders’ of the girls group to arrive before we got down to the concerns of the kids. Then I felt two arms come down, one on either side of my head and in the hands of Jeanne Maitre was a lovely cake in the shape of a heart. It was Valentine’s Day and the cake decoration said “To Our Valentine George– thanks!” I blushed, my eyes watered and the kids cheered. Ah, yes, they had truly “cooked something up” the night before.

At 2 a.m. I heard a tapping on my bedroom window and heard a voice softly call “George.” I went to the door and found one of the kids, really shook up, wanting to say ‘good by’ as he was running away from home. His mother had another “uncle” spending the night with her who beat him up and threw him out of the house. He was fed up with this life and was going to ‘hit the road.’ I asked how much money he had in his pocket and what he was taking with him. He had less than a dollar and was taking nothing with him. I told him that was stupid, that he should sleep in the garage and return home in the morning and see me at noon when I would give him some advice on how to ‘hit the road.’

Well, the word passed among the group that I was giving advice on how to ‘hit the road,’ i.e., how to run away and by noon I had about 12 kids in my informal seminar. Of course all of this had to be very hush-hush. I had years of experience hitch-hiking in many countries, finding food, finding a place to sleep, etc, etc. so I was able to bring some reality to the table. We met each noon that week and on Friday I said, “Enough of the bull. Now it is time for experience. Jim, you go to the Schnitzel Inn, Jeanne-you go to Sambo’s, Bill you go to the Black Angus, etc,etc” I assigned each kid a restaurant and told them their assignment was to get a free meal over the week end AND NO STEALING! We would meet on Monday and discuss the experiences. Well, Monday came but the kids didn’t. I didn’t see any of them. On Tuesday I saw Jeanne and called but she merely waved and ducked into the girls’ room. On Wednesday I cornered one of the kids and said I wanted all of them in my room at noon. Well, what had happened was that not a single one of them did their homework. The subject was dropped and no one ran away.

One of the subjects I was to cover in the 9th grade social studies classes was race. Well, I told the class, we are not going to spend time discussing Apartheid in South Africa, nor would we discuss race relations in Little Rock, Arkansas where the High School had recently been blown up. I said, let us take a good look at our own town of Pacific Grove, California, this nice little Methodist Church community (the West Coast copy of Ocean Grove, New Jersey.) PG still had ‘blue laws’ and no alcoholic beverages were sold in shops in PG. You had to go across the border to Monterey to buy a bottle of wine or spirits. And, of course, the town had lots of lovely old churches. But underlying all this pious façade was a racist attitude that reflected many values to be found in American communities in the 1950s and 1960s.

Sure, we did the intellectual trip but I wanted the students to experience race prejudice so I assigned the class the task of locating the Relator’s ‘red line’ beyond which a home would not be sold to a minority person. I brought to class the dead on the property that I owned on which was written “This property is not to be sold to or occupied by any person of African lineage, Native American lineage, Oriental lineage or whose ancestors have ever lived under the domain of the Ottoman Empire (that kept out the Jews.) Samuel Morse, founder of Pebble Beach and formerly owner of all this property placed these covenants on all his property. I then related to the students several public protests when a Chinese or Korean instructor at the local Army Language Institute tried to purchase a home in Pacific Grove in the area protected by these covenants.

The students went out in pairs to do their field research. Two girls went to the Chamber of Commerce where they were met with indignation by the secretary there. She was outraged that their teacher was spreading lies and stirring up trouble. She insisted that there was no such line and sent them to see the City Manager who should know these things. Well, the City Manager was new to town so he called a friend who was a Realtor and asked him about the race line. His friend said, “Of course there is a line. Beginning at … “ he described the line as the City Manager marked it on a small city map. When he was done talking with his friend he got out a very large city planning map and with a red marker made a heavy line indicating the Relator’s ‘red line.’ The City Manager was appalled at this information and wished the girls luck in their research.

Well, as you can imagine, the ‘stuff’ hit the fan. Not only did the Board of Realtors get after the Principal of the high school, they protested to the School Board and all of this became part of the class lesson on “Race in America.” The Principal told me that I had been called some very uncomplimentary names but he agreed that the students certainly got a vivid lesson on the role race plays in their own small town, but, “Please George, stick to South Africa next time!”

Another time I got in trouble with the School Board was when they decided not to renew the contract for the school psychologist and use the money freed up to hire an additional staff person for the grounds department. I went to the board meeting and spoke up for keeping the school psychologist and letting the grass grow over the roof of the school, that the mental health of the kids was more important than the aesthetics of the school grounds. They disagreed with me and terminated the position of school psychologist.

Well, not too long after that was another “Parent’s Night.” My social studies students did some demographic research and we prepared a large poster on ‘butcher paper’ about six ft. tall and about 30 inches wide. It was directly opposite the entrance of the room and VERY visible. On it we wrote “PG High School has 750 students (as I recall) and of these during their life: (then line by line we wrote) 150 will end up in a mental hospital classified as psychotic, 420 will be divorced, 35 will commit suicide, 225 will spend time in jail, they will have 300 illegitimate children, etc, etc. We had a footnote by each figure and on the bottom of the poster indicated how we calculated the figure. I don’t recall all the social ills we listed nor the actual numbers but they were impressive. Next to the large poster with the demographic characteristics we had another poster saying: “Exam for Parents = which is your child? NOTE: the school board just removed the position of the school psychologist so they could hire a gardener. Do you think this is a wise choice? What are you going to do about it?”
Every school board member visited my room that night. One of them said to me in a low voice “You bastard!.” At the next meeting of the school board they reinstated the position of the school psychologist and fired the school nurse. I was next.

The Principal called me in to his office for an “evaluation” session. He told me that he was disturbed that students who were expelled from school by the vice-principal were found ‘hiding’ in my classroom. [the vice principal came into my room one day and found three kids that he had expelled earlier in the day sitting in the back of my room. “They are not supposed to be on the campus.” He exclaimed. “They will disrupt your class.” “No,” I explained, “this is their home. They will not give me any trouble and later, when school is out, we will talk about their problems. Leave them alone.”] After a bit of discussion with the Principal of the problems that I was causing him with the community and the school board he suggested that it might be best for my own professional career to seek employment somewhere else. He indicated that he was not going to fire me, yet, but that such was immanent if I did not shut up and behave. So I went job hunting.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

HAVING FUN IN THE LIBRARY (Shhhh…don’t tell the librarian.)

One of my responsibilities as the 9th grade teacher in Pacific Grove, California back in 1959 and 1960 was to introduce the students to the library. The school had a large library overseen by Miss Whitehead. I wanted to encourage the students to see the library as a mine where, with sufficient exploring, you could find gems, but you had to know how and where to look. That was what I was supposed to teach them.

As we walked around the room I spotted a white leather bound edition of the complete works of George Bernard Shaw on the lowest shelf. I reached down and picked up the copy of Man and Superman. “Wow,” I quietly exclaimed. “I don’t think Miss Whitehead is aware that this is down here. Look, no one has checked this book out of the library for a long time.” And then I blew a lot of dust off the top of the book. I opened to Chapter III and quietly but with a sense of doing something illicit, I read the first lines of Don Juan in Hell.

THE OLD WOMAN Excuse me; but I am so lonely; and this place is so awful.

DON JUAN A new comer?

THE OLD WOMAN Yes: I suppose I died this morning. I confessed; I had extreme unction; I was in bed with my family about me and my eyes fixed on the cross. Then it grew dark; and when the light came back it was this light by which I walk seeing nothing. I have wandered for hours in horrible loneliness.

DON JUAN [sighing] Ah! you have not yet lost the sense of time. One soon does, in eternity.

THE OLD WOMAN Where are we?

DON JUAN In hell.

THE OLD WOMAN [proudly] Hell! I in hell! How dare you?

DON JUAN [unimpressed] Why not, senora!

THE OLD WOMAN You do not know to whom you are speaking. I am a lady, and a faithful daughter of the Church.

DON JUAN I do not doubt it.

THE OLD WOMAN But how then can I be in hell? Purgatory, perhaps: I have not been perfect: who has? But hell! oh, you are lying.

DON JUAN Hell, senora, I assure you; hell at its best: that is, its most solitary - though perhaps you would prefer company.

THE OLD WOMAN But I have sincerely repented; I have confessed-

DON JUAN How much?

THE OLD WOMAN More sins than I really committed. I loved confession.

DON JUAN Ah, that is perhaps as bad as confessing too little. At all events, senora, whether by oversight or intention, you are certainly damned, like myself; and there is nothing for it now but to make the best of it.

THE OLD WOMAN [indignantly] Oh! and I might have been so much wickeder! All my good deeds wasted! It is unjust.

Acting out a little scene I glanced around to make sure Miss Whitehead had not seen what I was doing with the students and said to them quietly in the manner of a conspirator, “There are real gems to be found in Shaw. But be careful,” I added, “there are folks who do not think Shaw is proper for young people to read.”

The next day Miss Whitehead said to me “George, you really turned those kids on to Shaw. Every copy of his books that we have in this library were checked out yesterday by your students.”

I wonder how many of them still remember those first lines of Don Juan in Hell?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My Cabin in the Woods

In about 1973 I responded to an ad in the local paper advertising cedar fence posts. When I got to the farmer who was selling a stack of used fence posts I noticed an old log cabin that was almost completely covered with blackberry vines. I asked him how much he wanted for the cabin. He glanced at it and then at me and responded “Someone once offered me two hundred dollars for it but he never came back. If you want to pay that much you can have it.” I immediately wrote him a check for $200.

The cabin was built by an Icelander settler in about 1864 out of old growth hand split cedar logs. It is about 16 ft by 20ft and has but one room with a door on the front and a window on each side. It had no fireplace. The octogenarian who sold it to me said that it was on the land when he purchased the property and he lived in it with five children until he built the farm house that he was then living in. Soon, though, he would be moving to town as his land was purchased by a large oil company to become part of a parcel of land for a refinery. Accordingly, he was selling everything he could as all structures would be razed and the land totally cleared.

I cut back the brambles and stripped the cabin interior and exterior down to the original logs. I removed the rotted shake roof and removed the roof timbers. Then I numbered each of the logs and took many photos of the structure. I removed the caulking which was mainly clay although at times I would find cloth stuffed between the logs. I removed the window and door frames which had been modernized, probably in the 1920s. For the most part the logs were devoid of rot and were in solid condition. With help I then lifted down the logs, one by one. They were ‘dove tailed’ and the cabin walls were built with no nails, the dove-tail character of the log ends held the building together.

Once on the ground I now had the problem of getting the logs home. We had a 1970 VW bus which was used (abused) to achieve that goal. At the end of the task of getting all the logs to my home the back seat of the VW bus had a distinct sway to it and the roof rack also had a curve to it. I could not carry too many logs at a time so it took many trips to move them to Bellingham from Ferndale, a round trip of about 30 miles. I had a pile of old timbers from a railroad trestle that had been demolished not too far away from our home which I used to construct a foundation for the cabin which raised it about 20 inches off the ground. I found some salvaged 12 inch by 12 inch old oak or maple timbers that I used for framing the floor. Then I reconstructed the cabin on that base.

An old retail lumber company went out of business in town and there I found several very old windows that fit in the spaces in the cabin walls for the original windows. Originally I covered the roof timbers and framework with hand split cedar shake but the wet weather we have here in the Pacific Northwest combined with the fact that the cabin was in the woods and was in the shade most of the time caused the shake to be covered with moss and soon rotted. Eventually we replaced the shake with a metal roof that is now faded so it blends with the wooded environment.

Rather than use clay as caulking material I used cement. I hammered in lots of small nails near the space between the logs and then plastered the space between the logs with cement which, when dry, was held in place by the nails which were totally covered by the cement. This has held up well for over 30 years. I ran an underground electrical cable to the cabin from the house which is about 50 ft. away and brought it up into the cabin from beneath so it is not visible from the outside. Then I framed the inside of the cabin with two-by-fours and filled the spaces between with heavy insulation. The ceiling was framed for a drop ceiling and florescent lights were installed. An electric wall heater was built into one wall. I covered the walls with beautiful straight-grain 2 x 6 boards placed horizontally that I got as salvage material from a local manufacturing plant that made cross-ties for power poles. They were varnished rather than painted so as to keep some of the aesthetic of an old wooden structure. The floor was fully carpeted with a dark green tightly woven carpet. I characterize the job as having built a silk purse inside a sow’s ear.

The structure served as my wife’s weaving studio and has a bed in there for guests who are willing to ‘rough it.’ Grandchildren of the man from whom we purchased the cabin come from time to time to get their pictures taken in front of the old family home. I do not pretend that it is an original pioneer log cabin but rather characterize it as a cabin constructed with elements from an older cabin built by early settlers in this area. The original structure cost me $200 but I figured that I had spent about $2,000 reconstructing it on our property. I am sure it is worth much more than that now. Regardless of its putative market value we enjoy having it on the property as one of our ‘out buildings.’