In my opinion, as the clock keeps ticking toward the time when each of us becomes just a memory, the remembrances of those who made huge differences in our lives should be acknowledged. The names and occurrences that follow will mean little, if anything, to those who read this, but perhaps it'll trigger some thoughts about those who have helped make your life better along the way. For me, they are too numerous for this space, but I'll try to remember who they were, and why they made such a lasting impact on my life.
Tying shoelaces - My stepgrandmother, Alberta Steepleton. Through at least an hour's worth of patience, when I was age seven, she taught me how. I really wasn't all that fond of her, but I certainly remember her every time I tie my shoelaces, 67 years later.
Learning to drive - A friend girl, not girl friend, named Winnifred Farrar, from suburban D.C., circa 1955. I bought my first car that year from Winni for 90 dollars. It was a 1946 Ford, but it behaved like a Stanley Steamer until my grandfather paid for the radiator to get fixed. It was a stick shift, and Winni taught me how to drive circling the Lincoln Memorial, which one could do in those days. Every time I didn't put the clutch down far enough, she always said, "Grind me a pound", because of the awful and obvious grinding noise a not-fully-engaged clutch would precipitate against those poor defenseless gears.
Broadcasting acumen - I learned from one of the best. He was a Mutual Broadcasting System announcer. commercial spokesperson and sometimes actor named Phil Tonken. He was also a local radio personality on WOR in New York. Phil coached me on how to cut my first announcing audtion tape and had WOR's engineers cut it for me. I still have that reel-to-reel tape, cut in 1957, and it was the worst audition tape anyone ever could have made, but I got hired anyway, for my first radio job, because of it, or maybe as a mercy hire! It was in Helena, Montana, at KCAP-AM, for $55 a week, on which one could easily live in those days. Thank you, Phil. I'm certain you're one of the angels with the best voice and delivery.
Ironing - I actually LIKE to iron. It takes my mind away from whatever the problem's of the day may be. The lady who taught me how to iron, and most efficiently, was my landlady in the Missoula, Montana, suburb of Piltzville. The year was 1958. Her name was Betty Otto, and every time I've picked up an iron since, it's as though it's the first day, since I remember every step, first to,last, about positioning the shirt, thanks to Mrs. Otto.
Skiing - Bob Gill was the world's first African-American ski instructor. I was producing Bob's television show in Seattle about jazz, skiing and any subject one could name. One day he invited me to go to Snoqualmie Pass with him to learn how to ski properly. It was the ski area where Bob instructed on weekends. I had been on skis only once before, at Berthoud Pass, Colorado, during my Air Force days, and it was disastrous. I hated it and didn't say "Yes" to it again until Bob invited me to try it again. The year was 1965, ten years after the Colorado debacle. It was disastrous again, but Bob wouldn't let me give up. He was so strong he could literally ski UPhill. He had enougbh patience to let me finally get past snowplowing, in one day, and the rest is history. There's a lot more to tell about Bob, but I'll save that for later. He helped me in much more than skiing.
There are many more. I'll continue my list next time. I hope these remembrances will help trigger your memories of those wonderful people who helped enrich your life.
(I hope you'll visit my Star Tribune webcasts each week. A SENIOR MOMENT can be accessed at www.startribune.com/video. The subject changes every week, and so does my choice of breakfast cereals. Fascinating, huh?) :)