Tag Archives: Harry Truman

Our Big Northwest Adventure

22 Jul

We just returned from a trip to Washington and Oregon that I affectionately call the Big Northwest Adventure. It was an awesome excursion that took us to some places that I had never been and to a lot of places that my wife had never been. Each day was filled with adventures that could expand into several long blog posts. Instead of doing that, I decided to provide a brief description of the days along with my favorite picture from each.

Day 1 – Mount Rainier

Although the hotel bartender told us not to go because of the traffic, we had to see Mount Rainier. We had to wait a bit at the entrance, the traffic was not that bad. We made our way to Longmire, where we hiked a trail to nowhere. We saw some poop along the path that my wife Necole worried belonged to a bear. Unbeknownst to me, she was planning our escape from the bear for the rest of the hike.

After that hike, we walked across a river of snowmelt that led to my favorite picture from that day.

On the way back from Mount Rainier, we stopped at Chipotle. That meal made us feel like the fictional bear must have felt on the side of the trail.

Day 2 – Seattle

On vacation, I would rather see small towns that big cities. However, we were staying in downtown Seattle, a city that we had never visited. That meant that we needed to spend some time there. We checked out the University of Washington because my stepdaughter has shown interest in going to school there.

We also went to Pike Place Market, a famous landmark where people can buy fruits, vegetables, fresh fish, cheeses, flowers and trinkets. I took a photograph on one colorful stand.

We had a great meal but missed out on getting coffee at the original Starbucks because the line was a little long.

Oh yeah, we also had dinner at Aqua, a place the concierge recommended. When we saw one entrée for $142, we lost our appetite.

Day 3 – Olympic National Park

We got up early to begin the road trip portion of the adventure and immediately grew concerned. GPS was taking us to the ferry, which is not what I had planned. It was not what Necole had planned, either. She was not sure about getting on a three-hour boat ride. After all, we had seen Gilligan’s Island. We reconfigured the GPS and made it on dry land.

After some hits and misses on my part, we finally made it to Hurricane Ridge outside the town of Port Angeles, Washington. The ridge has the best hike in the park. On a clear day, you can see forever. Yes, I stole that line. Anyway, it was not clear on the day we hike, which may have been a good thing.

Remember when I wrote that my wife worried about seeing a bear after we saw poop on the trail? Well, we saw a huge bear along this hike. It was playing around in a foggy meadow. If the sky had been clear, then we could have seen its true size. At that point, we may have frozen in place rather than casually sauntering back the way we came. I did not get a picture of the bear, but I got a picture of this.

We spent that night at Lake Crescent Lodge in another part of the park. I think we could have spent a few days in that peace and tranquility.

Day 4 – Olympic National Park

This day was a continuation of our visit to the park. Yeah, it is that big. We hiked to a waterfall. We had lunch in Forks, Washington. Necole said that this town was the setting of the Twilight series. I have never read those books or seen those movies, but I know that is cool.

After lunch, we headed to the beach. Do not let Necole tell you that I never want to go to the beach. I have always wanted to go to this beach, and it was my highlight of the trip. Ruby Beach was everything that I expected.

It was certainly better than the meal we had that night. We stopped at an interstate hotel and asked for a good place to eat. The restaurant they recommended certainly did not have a $142 entrée.

Day 5 – Mount St. Helens

From childhood, I can remember the coverage of Mount St. Helens. The weeks of rumblings. Harry Truman, who would not leave his home. The eruption. The aftermath. It is something that I will never forget. It is also a place that I wanted Necole to see.

Several years ago, I visited Mount St. Helens with my dad, my brother and my nephews, and it was stunning to see what was left of a mountain that was once covered with snow and dense forest. It is truly a place where the destructive force of nature can be visualized.

From there, we drove through Portland and made our way to Oregon Wine Country in the Willamette Valley. We also made it to The Allison Inn, our lodging for the next couple of nights. It was amazing.

Day 6 – Vineyards

We hired a driver to take us to a few wineries. The first, Archery Summit, was recommended by a friend. The second winery is where I took my favorite picture of the entire trip.

The third was Utopia, a small family owned operation. We had a great conversation with the owner and his daughter, who is a History major. They told us about how they got into this business at that location. We also talked about music. It was good to see that the growing of grapes is not just done my wealthy investment bankers and corporations.

Necole chose The Painted Lady, a famous local restaurant, for dinner. I can only describe it by saying that it is similar to The Catbird Seat in Nashville. Unfortunately, my wife is not a fan of The Catbird Seat. It is a long and winding story that I will not get into. Just know that she likes to bring up the night that I took her there when we were dating. That will probably stop because I can now bring up the night that she took me to The Painted Lady. If you want to know about The Catbird Seat experience, then you can click here.

Day 7 – More Vineyards

We visited more vineyards, but I did not take good photographs. I should have because they were beautiful settings. However, this was the day that our adventure started to wind down. After a few stops, we drove back to Seattle for a night near the airport. You know things are becoming more normal when you have dinner at Jack in the Box. The next day would be a flight home

The Big Northwest Adventure was great, but the real world was waiting. Here is the thing. The real world is pretty great, too.

 

Know What You Are Talking About Before Bringing It Up On The Radio

1 Sep

Several months ago, I was listening to the afternoon show on our local sports talk station. They call themselves 3HL because they used to be on around lunchtime. For those outside of Nashville, 3HL is supposed to stand for 3 Hour Lunch. Anyway, they are no longer on at lunch, and the name does not stand for anything.

On this particular afternoon, the discussion, as it often does, turned away from sports and toward something that could be considered historical.

For some strange reason, they were talking about Ernest Borgnine. I like Ernest Borgnine, but I wonder how many listeners have ever heard of him. Anyway, they started talking about some of his roles and remembered the made-for-television movie that he made about the explosion of Mount St. Helens. They knew that the man he portrayed stayed on the mountain and was never found. However, they could not remember his name.

I decided to help them out. We had just returned from a trip to Oregon and Washington and had visited the mountain.IMG_2917

I tweeted the show and told them that the man’s name was Harry Truman. I knew this because of our trip, but I also remembered it from when the disaster happened. Truman was on television all of the time, and, for obvious reasons, his name stuck out.

They read my tweet on the air and immediately brushed it aside with comments like:

“Harry Truman was president.”

“He must be thinking about another Borgnine movie, Harry and Tonto.”

I was livid. Obviously, they did not know that I just visited the mountain, but they could have read my Twitter profile. It plainly states that I am a historian. In other words, I know a little about what I am talking about.

Finally, somebody called in and said that I was right. The man on the mountain was Harry Truman. The radio guys acted shocked at this information and could not believe that I was right.

I have pretty much stopped listening to 3HL, but I have some advice for radio hosts throughout the land.

If you are going to talk about history or pop culture, then you should know what you are talking about.

If you do not know what you are talking about, then you should listen to people who do.

By the way, there is this thing called Google.

 

Northwest Trek – The Fate of a Man and a Mountain

21 Aug

Before the trip began, my brother said over and over that Mount St. Helens was the one thing he definitely wanted to see. It did not matter where else we went as long as we went there. He remembered watching the weeks of television coverage as the volcano built towards a massive eruption. Although I am younger, I also remember the images of the mudslides and ash. After visiting the mountain, I know that television did not portray the impact and destruction.

There is only one road to Mount St Helens, but there are a few places to stop along the way. The Mount St. Helens Visitor Center sits a few miles off the interstate and provides a good introduction into the events of 1980. My nephews did not know much about what happened, but they knew a little more after watching a movie about it. Obviously, the film was about the volcano, but it was also about the people who were affected by it. This included a man who I still remember seeing on television.

Harry Truman was in his 80s and had lived in the shadows of Mt. St. Helens for 50 years. As law enforcement evacuated people who lived in the area, Harry was determined that he was not going anywhere. He became a celebrity as reporters flocked to interview him. He was full of quips and quotes and became the face of the people of the area. Harry disappeared in the eruption. It is assumed that he was buried under the boiling mud that slid off the mountain.

As we walked out of the movie, I made the comment that I would have never stayed around to die in a volcano. However, my nephew had another view. Here was a man who had lived his life, and he did not want to leave his home. By staying near the mountain, he lives on in memory rather than fading from our minds.

I am not sure I agree with that, but it is true that Harry has not been forgotten.

We drove to the end of the road and the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. There sits the Johnston Ridge Observatory, named after a scientist who was also killed in the eruption. It is an impressive building that provides an excellent view of the north side of Mount St. Helens. In other words, it is in the blast zone.

There a televisions in one part of the observatory that show news footage from the time. There are interviews with a lot of people, and there are interviews with Harry saying that he will never leave the mountain. When the televisions go dark, doors open into a theater where we learn about the explosion. The cause. The destruction. The environmental impact. When the movie ends, the screen rises and a huge window appears. Outside sits Mount St. Helens. It is an awesome thing to see.IMG_2917

On the observation deck, park rangers explain the event in detail. The mudslide was the largest in recorded history and traveled at 150 miles per hour. What impressed me the most? The entrance to the Columbia River went from a depth of 40 feet to a depth of 9 feet.

The ash cloud traveled at a speed of 300 miles per hour and circled the globe in two weeks. There is no way to describe the destruction in a blog post, but it was total and absolute. The national park service has preserved the land in its ruined state and is studying the environment as it recovers.

Driving back to the interstate, we stopped at a restaurant called Patty’s Place at 19 Mile House. It was a good meal, but it is not the food that stood out. As we walked out, there was a picture hanging of Harry Truman. He was right when he said that he would never leave the mountain, and my nephew was right when he said that Harry is still remembered. Mount St. Helens and Harry Truman are intertwined.

A Man in Georgia Passed Away

2 Aug

A few days ago, a 93-year old man passed away in Georgia. The widower was retired from the DuPont Corporation and left behind a loving family. When the news of his death came over the Associated Press Twitter feed, I read the article and read the replies by people in the Twitterverse. I hardly ever do that. Everyone has opinions about the news of the world, and Twitter provides a platform for sharing. However, something told me that I needed to read these.

Some examples:

“Good”

“Rot in Hell”

“Mass Murderer”

What could lead to such hatred toward an elderly man who had just passed away?

Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk was the last surviving crew member of the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and introduced the world to nuclear weapons. Tens of thousands of people died instantly and more died from the radioactive effects. In the years that followed, more destructive weapons were developed, and two Super Powers pointed them at each other during the Cold War. People lived under the shadow of the bomb, and little kids learned to “Duck and Cover” at school.Duck and Cover

It was a momentous event in history and, obviously, was not humanity’s finest hour. However, I was taken aback by the hatred aimed at “Dutch” Van Kirk, who was a 24-year old navigator following orders.

Each May, a few other teachers and I lead a field trip class to New Mexico and, as part of the trip, visit Los Alamos, the place where the atomic bombs were built. We sit outside of a museum housed in one of the original buildings and discuss the Manhattan Project. During this discussion, we talk about the bombings of Japan and their aftermath. At some point, I ask them what they would have done if they were part of the decision-making process. Undoubtedly, they say that they would not have done it.

Then, I ask them to put themselves in the places of the people involved. Take away 70 years of hindsight and make a decision. When I read the Twitter responses, I tried to put myself in the place of Van Kirk.

World War II began in 1939 when he was 18 years old. He probably heard news reports of the war in Europe where Germany was bombarding London, invading Russia and killing civilians. He may also been reading about the Japanese advances in Asia and their killing of civilians. He could not have known about the Holocaust.

In 1941, Japan attacked the Pearl Harbor, but it was not only an attack of the naval base. It was an attack of the island of Oahu, which probably killed civilians. Van Kirk was 20-years old. Did he volunteer? Did he get drafted? I do not know, but I know he was trained as a navigator for bombers.

During his time in uniform, Van Kirk flew 25 bombing missions over Europe and North Africa. Undoubtedly, these were harrowing missions. I have no idea of his targets, but I know that the Allies bombed German cities. Dresden was bombed into oblivion, and over 100,000 people were killed. That is more than were killed at Hiroshima.

What does all of this mean? By 1945, Van Kirk had spent 25% of his life with the world fighting the largest war in history. It was a war where the killing of civilians became military practice for all sides. It was a war that every side tried to win at all costs.

At some point, Van Kirk found himself training in the Pacific and being told that the mission being planned could end this war – a war that had cost millions of lives and people wanted to bring to an end. In August of 1945, the orders came through to complete the mission. The man who had given the order was President Harry Truman.Harry Truman

What was Truman thinking?

He had become president a few months before and around the same time Germany had surrendered. It was then that he learned of the Manhattan Project and the weapons that it had created. As the war in the Pacific went on, the American people were getting restless. Germany had been defeated. When is the same thing going to happen to Japan?

Allied forces were getting closer to the Japanese mainland, and Truman’s advisers were telling him that an invasion could lead to a million casualties. A man that I know said that he was training for that invasion, and he, along with everyone training with him, knew that they were training to die. He never liked Truman, but, when he heard about the bombing, he loved Truman.

Truman had a decision to make. He could ask the American people to sacrifice more men in a battle like the world had never seen, or he could use a weapon that tax dollars had been spent to build.

What would happen if he agreed to the invasion, and Americans later learned that it could have been avoided?

He chose to use the atomic bomb.

Van Kirk and the rest of the Enola Gay completed their mission by dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. A few days later, another plane, Bock’s Car, dropped another bomb on Nagasaki. With that, World War II came to an end, and the Cold War began.

Did Harry Truman make the right decision? I have no idea. I am not trying to justify it. I am saying that we should put ourselves in the past before judging decisions with hindsight.

Should Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk be vilified on Twitter for the actions of his crew? I do not believe he should. He came to age during the worst war in human history and was told that he had the chance to end it. For 69 years, he lived with the memory of that mission. I have no idea what he thought about when he looked back. He was in that place at that time and did was he was ordered to do.

Maybe the people on Twitter would have done it differently, but they do not know that for a fact.

I Hope the Buggles Were Wrong…

20 Sep

When they sang “Video Killed the Radio Star.” Why? This week, I appeared on WANT 98.9, the station that plays Real Country.WANT

Before anyone gets worried, I did not sing. Instead, I was a guest on Coleman & Company, a talk show where local people are interviewed. This time, it should have been called Larry & Company because my good friend was hosting while Coleman is on vacation. You have read about Larry before.

We talked about all kinds of things, but history dominated the time. We discussed Quanah Parker, a famous Comanche, and his mother, who was taken captive by the Comanche. We talked about the pioneers who traveled over the Oregon Trail. We also talked about George Allen, a Cumberland University student who later went on to become a close confidante to Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Harry Truman. It was an enjoyable experience, and everyone said that I did a good job.

After the interview, I started thinking about the first time I was in that studio. When I was a kid, the radio station held a spelling bee, which was divided by grade level. Each school sent the winners of its grades to compete against the winners at other schools.

There was this one kid that I could never beat. Her name was Melissa, and she was not my favorite person. Every year, I finished second to her first. Finally, we made it to 5th grade, and I won. It was one of those pivotal moments in life that affects everything that will come later. After beating her, I could conquer the world.

That’s when the 5th grade teacher changed the rules and said it would be best 2-out-of-3. It was devastating. Think about a team winning the Super Bowl and being told they have to win it again. With my spelling senses reeling, she crushed me in the next two matches.

I was not happy. My mom was not happy at a completely different level. She confronted the teacher and asked about the change. The teacher’s answer was simple. She thought Melissa would have a better chance of winning on the radio and set it up so she could make it. That was not the answer my mom wanted to hear.

Fast forward a couple of years. I am in 7th grade at a local private school. It is the last grade that takes part in the spelling bee. I breeze through the contest and qualify for the spelling bee on the radio. On a Saturday morning, we pull up to the station and go to the studio, the same studio I was in this week. Kids from the other schools were going to their seats, but I only had my eye on one.

One by one, kids made their way to the microphone to spell a word. Some got through and some didn’t. I only paid attention when she was up there. When she got one right, I knew that I had to get one right. I didn’t care about winning the whole thing. I just wanted to outlast Melissa.

The contest continued until the unthinkable happened. She missed a word. I knew that I had to get the next one right to truly beat her. I got to the microphone. The moderator, which may have been Coleman, gave out the word. I took my time and nailed it. With great satisfaction, I went back to my seat and she slithered out of the room.

I didn’t win the contest, and I don’t remember who did. All I remember is who stayed in the longest, and it wasn’t Melissa. I hope my old 5th grade teacher was listening.