D Day Autographs

Years ago I brought my Utah Beach t-shirt to the D Day Museum for vets to sign.  After I left, I realized: Goodness, now I can never wear that t-shirt again!

About 2 weeks ago I realized that I should bring a book or two with me to get autographs.  People do this all the time, I just haven’t.  The 3 books I contemplated bringing:

* D Day – Stephen Ambrose

* Citizen Soldiers –  Stephen Ambrose

* The Greatest Generation – Tom Brokaw

I decided to only bring one, since I travel light, and ended up bringing my D Day book.

I messed up and brought it on Saturday, but didn’t get anyone to sign it.  I figured I would do that on Sunday.  However, on Sunday, there were just a few vets there.  Oh well…next year.

However, I must say that of the ones I talked to and got to sign it, I told each one: you can sign it anywhere you want and write anything you want.  I was surprised that each one wanted to sign it on the first page.  And when the first page was filled up [in order going down the page], then they went to the second page.

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World War II Vets

Don was a gunner on a Higgins boat. He manned a 20 mm [millies] gun and said that Higgins employed 26,800 employees with a weekly payroll was $1.1 million. The plant cranked out 6 to 8 boats a day.  Don was in the Pacific.   NOTE: According to this online inflation calculator, $1.1 million in 1944 would be the equivalent of $13.6 million in 2010.

Bowdre – was in Hawaii working as a Japanese code breaker.  When he became a code breaker, he took an oath not to tell anyone what he did.  He kept silent until he got a letter in the 70’s telling him it was ok to tell.  Now this is a man who can keep a secret!

Bob flew B 24 bombers.

Speaking of B 24’s, Margie took the train to Ft Worth and built B 24 bombers during the day, and went to school to become a teacher at nite.

Tiger is 87 yo. He fought in Okinawa and Iwo Jima. He said he spent 10 days on one of the beaches.  Once I get boned up on the Pacific, I’ll know which one!

Warren has a photo album with him and loves to talk about them. He was a diesel man on 200 man troop carrier, which had 2 landing ramps. Came in at Utah beach.

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D Day Museum – Sunday

Sunday was D Day, however, the “big” day at the Museum was Saturday with the Roll Call. There was a very nice crowd, but maybe only 10% of the vets in attendance, as compared to Saturday.

For $10, I saw the film “Beyond All Boundaries” which is a 4D film. Before the film started there was a very well done pre-film narration by Tom Hanks, recapping what led up to the both wars [Pacific and European], up until December 7th.

I’ve never seen a 3D film let alone a 4D one.  I got a little nauseous as they “spun” the earth going back and forth between the 2 wars.   To me, it would have been better to have 2 films…one for each war.  NOT solely due to the earth spinning, but I think it’s easier for novices to follow along when they are discussing one war at a time.

About the theatre and 4D:

* The screen is 120′ wide

* Uses 9 digital projectors [9 different screens, thus creating the 3D effect]

* 27 speakers [VERY loud, even when just music is playing]

* The seat shakes as a tank goes by, when planes fly overhead, as a carrier gets hit by a kamikaze pilot, when the atomic bomb explodes

* Snow [soap bubbles] fall from the sky during The Battle of the Bulge

* Smell of fire during the burning of cities in Japan and when the atomic bomb explodes

I enjoyed the 4D experience, but I wouldn’t go again.

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D Day Museum – Saturday

The D Day Museum today was packed! Nice to see so many people, especially those under 25. Today might have been the most people I’ve seen at the Museum. I remember the year after Katrina, there literally was myself and maybe 10 other people [besides all the volunteers]. So…this is good!

For me, the highlight today was supposed to be the “roll call”, where they call each state and people stand up and someone from the state says something/gives an anecdote.

Foolish me, This one really passed me by. I didn’t realize that there would be an hour of speakers beforehand. It would have been OK if vets were the ones who got up and said something, but instead it was the [sponsor] Chevron’s PR person and the museum President/Board of Trustees people… And then a vet from Iraq/Afghanistan held us hostage for probably 25 minutes, the highlight of which is him repeating over and over again in a deadpan voice: I love you.

Ahem.

Oh, they did make their “big announcement”, including a banner: that WWII vets now have FREE admission. Round of applause. I still think that it’s embarrassing that they have been charging them. They should have kept the change hush hush and just told the ticket takers, instead of making a big production out of it.

Saddest non vet story: I was going thru the Pacific Theater and there is a flag with 48 stars on it. A 16 yo young man next to me asked his dad why the flag only has 48 stars…where’s the other 2? Maybe I should be appreciative that he knows that there are now 50 stars.

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New Orleans

Ah…New Orleans. The humidity. The smell of cigarette smoke, urine and puke. Cock roaches.

The D Day Museum here in New Orleans is celebrating their 10 year anniversary this weekend, which coincides with D Day: June 6th. I fly into town each year to give thanks to the men and women who put their lives on hold in order to be involved (in any way) in the war.

The museum is truly a class act, top notch museum, and the volunteers really seem to care. It started off being just the D Day Museum (the European Theater), but then the warehouse across the street became available for sale, so they decided to buy the land and expand the museum to include the Pacific Theater, therefore becoming the first and only World War II Museum in the states.

Since D Day falls on a Sunday this year, there are festivities/activities both Saturday and Sunday.

According to my memory (unsure what reality is), seems to me that two years ago there were less than 20 vets attending. Last year was a big anniversary of D Day (65 years) and the place was hopping with people and lots of youth groups. I believe close to 300 vets were in attendance.

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Indianapolis, Indiana

July 2, 2008

 

I am at a rest stop about an hour north of Indianapolis.  In the shade with a nice breeze.

Just when I thought I was getting “soft” on what I thought of towns…

I drove into Indianapolis.

Oh my.

I lasted an hour there.

Took the downtown exit and am greeted with the ugliest underpass one can imagine…dirty, trash everywhere and street people. 

However, the very next view is this 284’ Monument to Soldiers and Sailors that is further down the street.  Situated very impressively.

There is a roundabout around the monument, and water falls.  Really beautiful, except all the street people hanging out around it.

I read that street parking would be tough to find, but I found a spot where there were actually 2 spots available [so one long spot].  However, there was tattoo’d up young man who was standing in one of the spots and really didn’t want to move.  He had his phone open and just holding onto it.  He wasn’t using it, wasn’t looking at me, wasn’t doing anything, except standing in the spot.  I parked my car maneuvering around him, and he still didn’t move.  I decided that I am the one who needs to move.

Indiana is the only state that I have been to that does NOT have a visitor center soon after you cross its border [when driving on an interstate].  Indianapolis apparently does NOT have a visitor center either.  I did find a number in my travel book, but the person answering must be in need of a holiday.

So…that was nearly that.

I did get out and check out the state capitol [impressive – and it has windows that you can look into the house and senate, which I’m not sure if I’ve seen anywhere else before].  I also walked around the monument.

I went into this old restored church, with beautiful stained glass windows – Christ Church Cathedral, and there was a man playing the organ!  Nice.

Also – the street smelled like urine…and I was walking down a major downtown street…not some side alley.

Per my book, Purdue is here.  I called them up to ask for directions. The woman was really nice, but forewarned me that the campus isn’t very pretty.  She’s right.

I decided to get back on the road and make some headway towards Naperville.  I see that Lafayette is on the way.  Hmmm…isn’t that the home of Purdue?  Per my AAA book, it’s not. But per people at the rest stop, it is.

So, I’m thinking what is in Indianapolis is the medical center branch, and the home campus is in Lafayette.

It looks like it’s going to blow up a storm, so I’m off.

 

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New Orleans, LA and Bay St Louis and Biloxi, Mississippi

June 6, 2008

 

On Friday morning I headed into New Orleans.  It was 8.30 am and 92’.  And of course humid.

 

My main goal of the day was to go to the D Day Museum in New Orleans.  Actually, they have re-named it the National World War II Museum.  I will write this up later, since it will take me a little time, and I want to get this out.

 

After the Museum, I headed east along I-10 then onto hiway 90, to go along the coast of MS and view the hurricane damage. 

 

I must say, that coming into and out of New Orleans, I drove over more bridges than I ever have.  I guess it is all swamp, so the interstate is up over the swamp and officially a bridge.  I guess that is what they would be called.  No matter what, it’s quite some infrastructure they had to build.  East of New Orleans toward Slidell they are building new roads/bridges [apparently to replace existing ones] and it was quite an impressive sight with hundreds of …can’t think of what they are called besides “legs”…in place for as far as I could see.  It just went on and on and on.

 

Just after this, I-10 is called the Stephen Ambrose Memorial Highway.

 

I stopped in Bay St Louis, MS.  I pulled over so I could check the water out.  It was what most people would consider way too warm, but I thought it was just right.  So, I put my bathing suit on and went it.  I then got my low lawn chair and rosemary triscuits [sp?] out and sat under a huge old tree that took a pounding and just watched the world go by while eating my triscuits.

 

Along the water, about half the houses have been fixed back up.  Same for their little downtown area.  I saw one house, which was, let’s say, 10 blocks from the water…so no water view.  It was a big house and zero has been done to it – it needs to be demolished. For sale for $395k.

 

Then I drove along 90 towards Biloxi.  I saw one corner lot across the road from 90 [unobstructive view of the water], for sale for $595k.

 

It looks like 75% the area along the coast has been rebuilt.  And when they rebuild, they are building the big, fancy homes and condos.  So, it is the 2 extremes…fancy vs nothing done yet.  The trees def look weather beaten, but unsure if that is due to the hurricanes vs constant, daily pounding by the wind.  The trees all seem “short”…probably 30’ tall.  I don’t know my trees, so can’t tell you what kind they are.  They are also planting a lot of palm trees along 90.

 

There seems to be a Waffle House every 2 miles.

 

I decided to stay in Biloxi, in a hotel on the water.  At dusk I went out to the beach.  There was only one other woman there.  It’s Friday nite, finding a room was tough, and NO ONE is on the beach.  So, I went over to ask her …what’s the deal?  Am I missing something?

 

She was wondering the same thing.  We got to talking and really hit it off.  Her name is Sylvia, and her hubby Kevin, and daughters Caroline and Laura were in the water.  I look out, and about 200m out, there is a man walking with water up to mid calf.  And there are 2 little heads coming out of the water.  They are walking in, and he looks like a giant walking on water.  I asked her what in the world is he standing on.  She said he’s not, the water is that shallow.  Then how old – and tall – are your daughters?  Come to find out, there were on boogey boards lying down, which is why I could only see their heads.  When they stood, they too looked like they were walking on water.

 

So, we all hit is off and I spent the evening talking and hanging out with them.  They were very delightful. 

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Lake Charles and Alexandria, Louisiana and Natchez, Mississippi

May 31, 2008

 

As of a few days ago, I had planned on visiting Louisiana and Mississippi during this next week.  Even though I have been to Lafayette, Shreveport and Baton Rouge, I can always come back to those places and check them out again.    I decided to drive to Alexandria, LA, which is located directly in the middle of the state, to see what that city is like.  And then I wing it from there…stay in LA or go over to Natchez, and start exploring MS.  If I have my fill of MS, then I will go and check out Lafayette and Baton Rouge again.

 

I left Lake Charles, LA this morning.  I did go and check out their downtown, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be!  If Lucinda Williams can write songs about it…how bad can it be? Ha.  They have a boardwalk along the lake, and this really cool “fountain” that kids can run and play in.

 

I got to Alexandria, and I should have skipped it. Nothing is going on here.  I did want to check out the Bentley Hotel, which is supposed to be where Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley… pow-wowed back in ?? 41-42 while army troops trained at the nearby army base.  But alas, it is now closed.  However, I looked in the windows, and all the furniture and everything is still there.  It would have been a splendid fancy hotel, with a majestic lobby with chandeliers, nice tile flooring, murals on the ceiling, fountains…

 

There is a Dollar General store [with a bunch of cars in front] in every little town that I go thru. 

 

I then made my way to Natchez.  When you cross the MS River and arrive in Natchez, the visitor center is right there.  I got there exactly at 5 pm and they were locking the doors.  I grabbed some info but found the curse of my travels…Saturday nites and finding a place to stay. 

 

I’m ended up staying at this historic hotel downtown – Eola [which claims that the flag in the lobby is the first flag draped over Grant’s casket].  I paid up for a balcony room and enjoyed sitting outside on the balcony listening to the fountain in the courtyard.

 

Natchez IS really pretty, however, they lack nite time activities.  They were actually putting on Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte, which started at 8pm.  I really like that opera, and would have loved to see it, but I chose to ride around and explore the town on my bike.

 

I had forgotten how much I love to ride my bike around town.  It is so much fun and I cover a lot of ground.

 

There were 2 music options for the evening.  One was a guy with his guitar, but he was smoking a pipe.  Sheesh. The venue was named “biscuits and blues”.  Now, I can dig that name.  However, they only had one type of biscuit…mushroom biscuits.  Yuck…even though I didn’t try any.

 

The other place for music is the saloon, “Under the Hill”, which is in an historic area.  Natchez is on the river, but it’s up on a bluff, very high from the water.  The Louisiana side is even with the river.  When Natchez was a booming town and lots of river activity, down by the water front is where all the illicit activities took place.  And the building where Under the Hill is, apparently has been around for a long time.  Unsure as to how long, since most or maybe all of the places have eroded away.

 

Inside, the place was packed and it seemed that everyone smoked.  A local couple tells me to go in and look in the back room.  This is a cool room with lots of “memorabilia”, and had plants growing out of the walls.

 

There were 2 guys and a woman [probably in their early 20’s] playing darts.  The woman asked if I wanted to join them.  I said sure.  So, we’re playing darts, and I start getting this “weird” vibe from the woman, but didn’t think too much about it.  Then she starts playing songs on the jukebox…and starts singing and dancing.  Do you remember the Jodie Foster character in the film “Accused”, and how she looks and how she’s dancing at the bar?  Well, that is her.  She’s dancing with the 2 guys, and dancing for me.  Ding, ding, ding in my head.

 

Back outside…I asked a woman working there what kind of music the band plays.  She replied “good music”.  Getting more specifics was difficult.  I spoke with a local couple outside for a bit when a guy walked up carrying a guitar.  I asked him what type of music his band plays, and he replied “good music”.  Ahem.

 

When they did start up, it was a not so good cover band that was incredibly loud.  So loud that I couldn’t talk to the couple anymore… we were outside and the front door was closed.

 

They rent out 3 guest rooms, located above the saloon.  On the brochure it is written: “weekend entertainment in the saloon is not overpowering, but one demanding complete silence before 2 am should probably stay elsewhere”.  I would say this is NOT accurate.

 

I then meandered to the casino/steamboat which was docked nearby.  I don’t gamble, but thought I would check it out.  The place was packed.  I ended up deciding I would give the casino a buck.  So, I found the penny slots…there were lots of them.  And bet on five lines at a time…so I was betting 5 cents a shot.  Yes…big spender.  After a bit I won something and then had 101 “credits”.  So, since I was ahead by a penny, I decided to take my winnings and cash out.

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