July, 2013:


Pete Remmert was only eight years old when he lived with his Air Force family at Wheelus Air Force Base in Tripoli, Libya, but he was already an aspiring guitar player.   When Pete read my blog, Words on My Mind, his memories of life in Libya motivated him to get in touch with me. He sent me several stories and photos to share. I put the story about King Idris and Queen Fatima in last week’s blog.

This week’s story, written by the “mature” Pete Remmert, concerns the Wheelus TV station.  “Early-on during my family’s time in Libya, I became interested in learning to play the guitar. When Dad was on TDY in Rome, Italy, he bought a guitar for me and gave it to me for Christmas. I took guitar lessons on base and after learning about three chords; I was ready for the big time!

Western Swingsters on Wheelus TV

Western Swingsters on Wheelus TV

“A group of enlisted personnel formed a country-western band and called themselves The Western Swingsters. Every Wednesday night the Swingsters would perform live on American Forces Radio Service-TV to bring a little slice of home to the people stationed at Wheelus. Although I was quite young, I just HAD to be a part of that, so I took my guitar down to the TV station and begged the band to let me play and sing on their show.

“The bandleader was a fellow by the name of Don Quesenberry (he’s the guy with a guitar on the left of the photo).  It didn’t hurt my cause any that I had a crush on a girl from elementary school named Jennifer Harvey, whose mom and dad, June and Lloyd Harvey were band members. Jennifer isn’t in the photo, but I remember a duet that I sang and played with her—I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.

“Jennifer’s mother June is in the photo, but her father Lloyd, who was the drummer, is not visible in the picture. I don’t remember the name of the other guitarist in the photo. The band also had a fiddle player and a bass player, also not pictured. I never got to be a regular on the show, but I did get to make a couple of appearances.

“The experience at AFRS-TV  spawned a 38-year career for me in the commercial television industry and a life-long hobby playing the guitar, which I enjoy to this day.  (Pete has an original composition on guitar—Baja Surfer—which he sells on Amazon!).

“Not long before my father passed away a couple of years ago, he told me that he always worried that we kids might have resented having to live overseas. I assured him that nothing could be further from the truth!  In fact, I would love to have the opportunity to go back there someday. “




In these times of upheaval around the world, it’s no wonder those of us who’ve lived into our senior years want to remember happier times. Like everything, memories are relative and dependent on who is remembering. Because I’ve written of my adventures in the Libya of the 1950s, I’ve heard from many Americans and also British who have stories to share of their time in Libya.

Pete Remmert, whose father, Lt.Col. Erwin Remmert, was stationed at Wheelus Air Force Base with Airways & Air Communication Service from 1958-62, took the trouble to share several stories with me and even sent photos. I’m going to share these memories in my next several blogs. Pete has a good memory considering he was only eight when the family got there.

Since Pete has a talent with words, I’ll share what he said mostly in his own words, “My uncle Col. Fred Easley had been base commander at Wheelus several years before we got there. Uncle Fred had established a wonderful relationship with Libyan King Idris and his wife, the beautiful and gracious Queen Fatima. (see photos below) As a result of that relationship, we had hardly settled into our new life when my mother and sister Melissa received an invitation to dine with the Queen at the Royal Palace! In 1960, my youngest brother Fred was born at the base hospital and Queen Fatima gifted him with an exquisite six-foot long, hand-made lace baptismal gown. My mother learned to make couscous after receiving the proper cookery…also a gift from the Queen.”


Col. Easley & King Idris

Col. Easley & King Idris – newspaper clipping

Pete remembered the old Aladdin kerosene heaters. “Prior to acquiring on-base housing, we lived in a villa that I remember got very cold that first winter we were there. Our only source of heat was a cylindrical-shaped kerosene heater. When the flame burned blue we knew it was working at full capacity. Later we lived in an area called Giorgimpopoli, a subdivision located to the west of the Tripoli city center, mostly occupied by Italian oil executives.”


Queen Fatima of Libya

Queen Fatima of Liby

Queen Fatima’s lovely and elaborate gift in the photo below continues to be cherished by Fred Remmert and his family.

I don’t recall ever seeing any photos of Queen Fatima. She is quite pretty and looks like many stylish American or European women would have looked in the 1950s. After seeing her photo, I was curious and discovered she was born in Libya in 1911 and was married to Idris in 1931, before he was king. They were related. They had one son who lived for only a day in 1953. No wonder she was interested in babies! She and the king, however, became foster parents to children of relatives.

When Gaddafi took over Libya in 1969, Fatima and Idris were in Turkey. Forced to give up the throne, they moved to Cairo where they stayed for the rest of their lives. Her husband, Idris, died in Cairo in 1983 at 94 years old. She died in Cairo in 2009  at the ripe old age of 98.

Baptismal Gown for Baby Fred

Baptismal Gown for Baby Fred



Since this is the month Muslims practice Ramadan, the following memory is very appropriate.

Pete continues, “I remember that we had a hired man who worked for us around the house. His name was Milad.  Every night he would cook his dinner over an open fire in the courtyard. He was very devout in his religious practices. He would often take out his prayer rug in the courtyard.  I can vividly remember the four-beat rhythms of drums playing in the distance during Ramadan. My wife and I went to Jerusalem a couple of years ago. We stayed in a convent located across the Kidron Valley on the east side of the Old City.  I mention this here because the sounds of drums and the calls to prayer that came the short distance across the valley flooded my head with the memory of the sounds of Tripoli.”




Although Californians can’t say we’re the home of many Presidents, like some states can, we do a good job of promoting them in various ways. Ronald Reagan, who was born in Illinois, came to California in 1937 to become a movie actor. By 1967 he had switched careers and was California’s 33rd Governor. He went on to greater glory as the 40th US President from 1981-1989. His body lies at rest at the Ronald Reagan Library, situated on a hill in the Simi Valley, a bit north and west of Los Angeles. His garden memorial gravesite features a panoramic view and nearby is a colorful piece of concrete from the famous Berlin Wall.

The Reagan Library is great museum to visit—the Reagan era was full of dramatic history but the museum doesn’t focus entirely on Reagan. Since I hadn’t been there in a few years, I visited recently with my friend Sally to check out the President Abraham Lincoln exhibit. I also came to see Air Force One, the presidential plane that served seven presidents and is on display in this 40,000 square foot building. The huge plane, which is open to walk through, faces a glass wall and looks out upon the same view as Reagan’s memorial. The presidential helicopter and limousine are also on view. A once operational Irish pub was transported from Ireland and set up a short walk from the plane. It now serves food and even wine and beer to visitors.


Air Force One

Air Force One

Hollywood laid claim to Lincoln long ago—can’t get much better drama than the tragic US Civil War and Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, shortly after he was reelected to his second term as president. There have been lots of movies made about Lincoln, including one with a vampire theme not long ago.  The Reagan Library Lincoln exhibit was unique, thanks to director Steven Speilberg’s 2012 movie “Lincoln.”  Speilberg and DreamWorks Studios donated two sets from the movie—President Lincoln’s very large office that appeared frequently in the movie, and Mary Todd Lincoln’s bedroom with vanity table and one of Sally Field’s costumes from the movie. Historical Lincoln items were gathered from many other donators: his stovepipe hat, his gold watch, his copy of the 13th Amendment known as the Emancipation Proclamation and signed by Lincoln, and the bloody pillow from the Peterson Boarding House where Lincoln died from John Wilkes Booth’s gunshot wound. It’s an extensive exhibit but only open through September.

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

One of the highlights was a display of a Civil War medical tent, which was rather gory if your imagination came into play. There were plenty of rather primitive medical implements, like saws, to perform all the amputations necessary from battle wounds. On an original wooden operating table that looked its age, there was a scary looking metal hook. Sally wasn’t satisfied until she’d discovered what it was used for. On the bottom line of the information display board, she read that doctors needed it to pull dead bodies off the table! She chuckled at that behind-the-scenes fact the rest of our tour!









Tomorrow, July 22, is my mother’s birthday. She would have celebrated 92 years had she lived past age 52. She left me plenty of memories, starting with the circumstances of my birth.

World War II was the event that inspired my birth, right on the cusp of the Baby Boomer generation. The energy surrounding a war is fertile ground for creating and destroying . During that time there was plenty of anger, a thirst for revenge and retribution, along with a strong surge of sexuality that resulted in marriages and births, not necessarily in that order.

The war brought two career military men into my mother’s life; within five years  she had married, divorced and remarried.  The first, Capt. Victor Hobson, a graduate of West Point, was my father. He was shipped off with the infantry to the war in Italy before I got to know him. The second, Capt. Darby Williams, who graduated from the Citadel in South Carolina, appeared on the scene right after the war. He had spent the war training troops at Ft. Belvoir.


Garnette Motley

Garnette Motley

When my mother, Garnette Motley, graduated from high school in 1940, she was ready to leave small town life in Danville, Virginia, to head south to Ft. Bragg, near Fayetteville, North Carolina. Even though the US wasn’t involved in the war yet, many people felt it was inevitable, including President Roosevelt.  Mom had family in Fayetteville, which made it easier to get a job as a clerk-typist at the Army post, a typical low-paying position for women in those days.

Mom, a true Southerner, was naturally friendly and flirtatious and would have been considered a “dish” (an old compliment). What could be more fun than being among lots of available young attractive men in uniform?  I could see from old photos that Victor was a handsome man—he was tall, had dark curly-hair, and was very intelligent. Those were passionate days after war was declared and sex was a natural result. Apparently, they didn’t use protection, so little Victoria was conceived without the benefit of marriage vows. Mom was so embarrassed about that fact she didn’t tell me until I was 19. Being a “modern” girl by that time and in a time of “Free Love,” I thought the circumstances made my creation much more exciting, besides, Victor did the honorable thing and they got married before I made my entrance.


Victor Hobson

Victor Hobson

Major Hobson wasn’t in my life for long; I wasn’t even a toddler when he went to war. I believe my mother was in love with him but I’m not sure it was fully reciprocated. War may bring passion but it also brings separation, and the marriage was essentially over when Victor left. Mom and I went home to Danville and lived with her parents until fate, and Mom’s brother Penn, stepped in a couple of years later with an introduction to another Army officer, Darby Williams. Captain Williams was stationed at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, and met my aunt and uncle at a church they both attended in Northern Virginia.

Love struck again for Mom, and it turned out that my birth father, Victor, who was stationed in Trieste after the war, had met a lovely and vivacious Italian woman he wanted to marry. Mom obliged and took the train to Reno, Nevada, the best way to get a quick 6-week divorce in those days. Capt. Williams joined her when she was free; they got married in Reno right after the divorce was final and celebrated at the Top of the Mark hotel in San Francisco. Dad went on to Bavaria, Germany, as part of the US occupying troops, and my mother and I sailed to Europe to join him. And so began the second chapter of my life as an Army brat.


Darby Williams

Darby Williams

I’ve wondered occasionally what life might have been like if Mom had stayed with Father #1 since Father #2 was more than challenging. I did meet Victor and his family when I was 21 (I’ve written an Amazon Ebook about him and written about both fathers on my blog), and discovered he had also been a difficult father. Victor and I bonded nicely when we reconnected, however, and I got to know him and his wonderful family.

My conclusion: my mother followed her heart, had some good years and some very trying ones, but that’s life. My sister, brother and I wished she had lived longer, of course. Military men, especially of the WWII generation were not easy to live with on the whole. I think they kept their anguish and frustrations bottled up or took it out on their families; thankfully, marriages seem to be more open and communicative these days.


Creative writing serves all sorts of purposes: love letters, poetry, personal ads. Call it personal advertising. I would imagine personal ads in one form or another have been around for  many hundreds of years. Roman graffiti might have attracted some young swain to a woman looking for love or money. I enjoyed Jimmy Stewart in the 1940 classic movie The Shop Around the Corner, which centered on a personal ad and anonymous mail.

In the 80s there was a widely distributed Southern California paper that focused on personal ads, aptly called the Singles Register. Local newspapers and the L.A. Times also carried personal ads. Compared to Match.com, eHarmony and countless others, this was the Dark Ages. Nowadays the online dating sites are complicated and a thriving, pushy business. Everything is marketing!

I felt like a pioneer in the single’s revolution of personal ads; none of my divorced friends had tried it. I did persuade a few to go a local bar and dance spot that featured a live band and lots of available men (or guys who didn’t wear their wedding bands). One friend met her future husband there. I found some great dance partners.


Newly divorced, I was ready to explore the single life. The Singles Register was readily available and had hundreds of ads from all over LA. The ads had some things in common with the more modern ads of today, but lacked the bells and whistles of graphics, photos, tapes, etc. A man or woman with an imagination and willingness to create an enticing ad could have a field day exploring Love or Lust. Things weren’t as threatening in those days before AIDS sprang into full life.

In my ads I mentioned I enjoyed walks on the beach, candlelight dinners, great conversations, good movies, and the like when those descriptions were a lot fresher. This type of ad is totally passé at this point, but then so are newspapers. The method of contact was also old-fashioned. The respondent was required to send a letter, and those letters could be flowery and clever or very simple. Just analyzing the handwriting gave a clue about personality.

I’ve always appreciated creativity and good writing, but I soon learned that the “buyer” must beware; not everything or every person was as advertised. And photos weren’t necessarily current or very representative of the person. Oddly heartening, however, was the fact that advertisers often believed what they wrote about themselves. They actually did see themselves as looking younger, having all their hair and a great body. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  I’m still single and the ads are full of some of the same claims–no surprise!

One of my early experiences was meeting a man in his twenties, much too young for my taste but I admired his enthusiastic and creative letters, and his persistence. When we graduated to long telephone conversations, I was impressed. New at the game, I was curious and had always enjoyed interviewing people for my newspaper column. He knew I was almost 20 years older and kept claiming he wasn’t after a “mother” type; he truly liked older women. I decided to meet him at the Boardwalk restaurant at Venice Beach, a fun place to people watch at least. I coaxed my daughter to come; at 19, she was closer to his age.

Some “relationships” are better served at a distance. Letters (those missives that come through snail mail) and even phone calls leave more room for fantasy. My earnest knight wasn’t unattractive but our age difference was awkward. Besides, I didn’t feel he had the self-confidence to take me out and I wasn’t attracted to him. We had an awkward lunch and I never heard from him again. My daughter handled it well and we had some giggles as we drove home.

My most amazing date was the man who loved costume parties. And then there was the older man who said he coined the word “parenting.” I may resurrect those stories in the future or check out my book: Weird Dates and Strange Fates on Amazon. The link is in the top right corner of this page.



This sample is a true story that happened to a friend of mine. The entire tale is available as a Ebook on Amazon.

When Samantha arrived in Los Angeles, she got an immediate job as a feature film extra. Although she sometimes tired of standing around waiting for filming to begin or end, she found the business fascinating and took the time to ask questions and get to know the players both in front of and behind the camera. Her striking looks, with her added knowledge and flair for the right clothes that attracted attention while emphasizing her curvaceous figure, encouraged many a director or producer to talk with her.

On a hot and crowded set one day while filming a crowd scene in a busy parking lot, Peter sauntered up to her during the lunch break. Six-feet tall with a tanned, muscular body, a Germanic face and thinning blond hair going gray, his studied informal air and casual but expensive clothes gave him away as a producer.  Sam perceived all this in an instant; to protect herself she had always been observant and perceptive.  He stood in front of her, removing his sunglasses to reveal startlingly azure blue eyes. He gazed frankly into her eyes, assessing her looks and manner with no apology; he had been in this business too long to waste time on courtesies. Her height, in small heels, was equal to his; her forward gaze did not flinch or look away modestly. She took a few lazy moments to give him a slight smile, her nose flaring as she smelled his expensive cologne. She was at ease and ready for any banter he might direct her way.

“Miss?” he opened casually.

“Hunter. Samantha Hunter.”

“I’m Peter Hood, the producer for this epic.” He laughed.

She gave him a cool smile. “I know.”

“I haven’t seen you before. Are you new at this game?”


“I imagine you get impatient on days like this, when it’s hot and crowded.”

“Actually, no. I thoroughly enjoy this business, even though I am at the bottom…for now.”

She could tell her reactions were intriguing him. He was probably so used to the star-struck, over-impressed, naive routine. The chase, she thought to herself, how they love the chase.

“Would you care to learn more about the business?” He paused for emphasis, testing her self-contained manner. “From a producer’s point of view?”

“What did you have in mind?” She could just imagine, but she gave no hint of sexual interest, it was too early in the game.

“Dinner this evening… perhaps by the ocean.”

She deliberately took her time answering as she slowly smiled at him, her dark eyes were pools of mystery. “Yes…I’d be honored,” she answered with just a hint of sarcasm.

He laughed, genuinely delighted at her comment, and knew he might not be the master of this game. Here was a dark-skinned woman who looked like she would lead him around if he were not careful, a challenge to an attractive, powerful man used to getting his own way. He was heartily tired of having women gush and succumb over him so easily because of his money and position.

They had dinner in Malibu, sitting by the expanse of window at one of the trendier, wood and glass dining palaces perched along the coast.  Each crash of the incoming waves seemed to meld these two passionate natures together. Sam was sassy and direct enough for him; Peter was more mellow, but opinionated and strong enough to fight for control. Sexually, the chemistry blazed, and they lit the fire that first night. He took her to his home, and she’d been with him ever since—until she left this morning, before the sun was even up.

Thinking of how their romance began,  Sam’s tears began to flow again. They became sobs that racked her body, so powerful they sent pains through her chest and back. She nearly lost control of the car, and was forced to drive more slowly.  As she gained control of herself and the car, she began to analyze.

Why couldn’t he accept her as she was, slightly damaged? He knew she had inner strength, had survived much for her young years. Hadn’t she told him some of her darkest secrets? Maybe she should never have opened up to him; he wasn’t the father figure she never had. Was that what she expected? When would she stop looking for the strong, caring male? They did not exist. This thought brought tears again, but she willed them away.  She needed some music and grabbed for a CD in a holder on the console. She put one in without even looking. As she started to listen she recognized Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. How appropriate, she thought ruefully—star-crossed lovers, only happy in death. What a beautifully sad piece of music, certainly in keeping with her mood. Why didn’t she drive off the highway now, and end it in a flash? But what if it didn’t work, and she became more maimed that she was already? She wanted something certain, at least in death.

Available in Ebook format on Amazon.  http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud



In May 2010 I decided writing a blog was just what I needed to enhance my life and writing/editing career. I’ve always been a writer and a blog on the Internet would reach all over the world! I’ve been published in newspapers and magazines around Los Angeles and Southern California, but the world, I felt with confidence, was waiting for my thoughts!

I’ve had an adventurous life so why not write about it? I’ve been a witness to history and  interviewed the “movers & shakers” as well as other celebrities like movie stars. I’ve always enjoyed other people’s experiences, so why not share mine?


Victoria Giraud

Victoria Giraud – At home with my computer!

Since I started writing, on Wednesday and Sunday every week, I haven’t missed a blog but was late once when Word Press and Dream Host had some kind of glitch. I am consistent and dependable—maybe from the “orders” in my youth,  issued by my US Army dad, Colonel A. Darby Williams.

Each year my readers have increased and for the first six months of 2013, I had over 350,000 requests for blog pages. I think that’s pretty impressive! I’ve acquired over a million hits on my blog in three years and done 342 postings. People have commented, (2,469 of them) although I haven’t posted all of them since some would be considered spam.

I’ve written about a wide variety of subjects and took some of my blogs and combined them to create Ebooks on Amazon: An Army Brat in Libya, and Discovering the Victor in Victoria. My life in Libya in the 1950s provided a lot of material. How fortunate that I wrote about the three years in Libya right after I returned to the U.S. so those times would not be forgotten. I put it all in a high school term paper and still have the original typewritten copy from 1959, including a couple of poorly drawn pictures!

Since I’ve edited over 100 books (and written 8 myself) – from memoirs and advice books to fiction, fairy tales and spiritual advice—I’ve shared their covers and samples of their content. My books are all available on Amazon and there’s a link on the blog.

Because I went to high school and college in Virginia in the 1960s, I experienced history in progress. I saw John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy in person, as well as Lyndon Johnson. I was one of the first people to ride in a mobile lounge at Dulles Airport, and vividly remember the emotional pain of JFK’s assassination. I was working at Washington National Airport during the March on Washington and stood amongst the stars gathering for the demonstration—Sammy Davis, Jr., Paul Newman, Sidney Pointier, and James Garner, among others. I wrote about all these subjects in my blog.

I’ve written about meeting Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft, Kelsey Grammar, Strother Martin, Charlton Heston, Della Reese, Barbara Eden, Harry Belafonte, Ellen Burstyn, and Gallagher, among others. In my journalism days working for local Southern California newspapers and magazines, I interviewed many celebrities and still had my articles to share with my blog readers.

I’ve written about California’s wild animals that are never far from our homes (which includes animal actors), about making independent movies and TV shows, about my challenges driving old cars on Los Angeles freeways.

I explored my Scots-Irish ancestors and wrote about my relative in the 1800s, who was a governor of North Carolina. I’ve visited LA museums and discussed their exhibits.

Since I’ve always been fascinated with the metaphysical questions in life, I’ve written about mystics, ghosts, channeling and spiritual wisdom and psychic readings I’ve had.

There isn’t much I haven’t been interested in or written about…and I’m not finished writing! All these subjects in my blogs are in my archives, so check me out and please enjoy. Comments are welcome.


I am curious about almost everything…what makes the world tick, what’s unique about various cultures all over the world, artistic expressions through painting, photography, sculpture, etc. Museums are ideal places to explore and to satisfy my curiosity.

As a fifth grader in the Bronx, we took a field trip to the Museum of Natural History, the first museum I remember. I don’t recall specifics, but a few years later in high school, I distinctly remember the huge preserved elephant in the entryway of the Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C. In Tripoli, Libya, about 1957, I recall visiting the small museum that was in the old Barbary Pirate fort, which still exists in Martyr Square in Tripoli.

Tripoli's Barbary Pirate Fort

Tripoli’s Barbary Pirate Fort

Washington, D. C. is an ideal place for museums—they line the National Mall. Before the new Smithsonian Museum was built, it was fun to visit the old castle. It had such atmosphere and was the entrance was highlighted with Charles Lindbergh’s famous plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, which hung from the ceiling. The Army Medical Museum nearby was fascinating. I particularly remember the displays of jars of deformed babies that hadn’t lived, a preserved leg of a man with elephantiasis (huge, as the word indicates), and some photos of a man in the last stages of syphilis.

In later years on visits to D.C., I enjoyed the “new” National Gallery of Art designed by I.M. Pei with its triangular design and pointed corners. I still recall checking out a huge exhibit of Rodin sculptures. The various statues of this talented Frenchman appear everywhere—in LA the “Thinker” is located outside the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena and it can be seen every New Year’s Day when the Rose Parade passes by. Another Rodin is at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) that my daughter Heidi and I visited yesterday.

I’ve even been to Roy Rogers’ personal museum in Apple Valley, no longer there. His horse Trigger and Rogers’ dog were stuffed and in a very large display case. His bowling ball was also on display because he had accomplished several “perfect” games of 300.

Speaking of Western themed museums, Heidi and I went to the Autry Museum on Friday. It’s a great place to visit—right in the middle of Griffith Park and across the street from the LA Zoo. Western star and enterprising businessman, Gene Autry established the museum 25 years ago. Their continually changing exhibits are always very interesting–in LA the film industry mixes easily with history. Besides celebrating their years in business with new artwork, they had an exhibit called “Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic.” Jews had great influence on Los Angeles: where would the movie business be without Louis B. Mayer, Billy Wilder, David O. Selznick, and Max Factor (the makeup king)?

Autry Museum

Autry Museum

The museum “bug” prompted a Saturday visit to LACMA for my daughter and I—we had joined LA’s venerable encyclopedic museum a few months ago. The museum campus is too large and comprehensive for one day, so we concentrated on the Pavilion for Japanese Art with all its very beautiful and delicate scrolls of nature and animals, some several centuries old. The building itself is gorgeous and reminds me of a ship. Inside is a circular ramp that invites you to walk up to all three floors—it couldn’t be more artistic.

We stayed until early evening and if we’d had the energy, we would have found a place in the park behind the museum where there was an enthusiastic crowd listening to Latin jazz.


Celebrating July 4th has always made me feel proud to be an American, no matter where I might have been living at the time. Fireworks are the capper: exciting and a bit ethereal.


Fireworks by Heidi Giraud

Fireworks, a new painting by Heidi Giraud

The fireworks in Washington, D.C. are probably the most spectacular of any I’ve seen. I remember going with friends Ellen and Braxton, in the early ‘60s, to see them at the Washington Monument on the Mall. Since the crowds were dense and the parking sparse, we drove into D.C. early, way before it got dark.

With a blanket (no folding seats like today) and a few snacks, we explored the grassy area around the Monument for a likely spot. We were soon surrounded by hundreds of people. There was probably some entertainment, but I only remember the incredible variety of fireworks—all sorts of colors and types of explosions, including large frames standing on the ground that displayed patriotic graphics like the flag or faces of presidents in exploding fireworks.

Lying on my back watching the pyrotechnics explode above the white spire of the Washington Monument was an amazing experience.

Thanks to public television, PBS, I’ve watched the July 4th entertainment and fireworks from Washington D.C. for years. It’s presented on a stage across from the Capitol. In the summer of my college years, there were always concerts and plays to attend around that area. When I was in high school my church group put on a Christmas play there (I played a large toy rabbit in “The Little Match Girl”). It’s fun to reminisce about  my connections to Washington, especially as I get older.

In the 1950s I was living in North Africa. I no longer recall if there were fireworks in Tripoli on the 4th, but it was hard to beat the camel and donkey rides on Thirteen Kilometer Beach, not to mention the  hot dogs and other goodies. The more recent Sex and the City movie featured the stars riding camels, which reminded me of my camel ride. The camels we rode on that Tripoli beach weren’t as well groomed or attractive; they looked a bit mangy, and were muzzled since camels do bite. I can still imagine the way it felt to be so high up, grasping the horn of the swaying saddle as the camel moved in a sandy circle while the owner held onto a rope.

There’s a German celebration in Heidelberg in the summer that uses fireworks quite effectively. The “Burning of the Castle” commemorates the few times the castle was actually burned, twice in the 17th century. My family joined my brother’s Cub Scout troop on a boat on the Neckar River and watched while all the lights in Heidelberg were turned off. The impressive fireworks, that looked like real fire, came from the Old Bridge across the Neckar and from the ruined Castle on a hill above the famous old city.

Here’s a toast  to the Chinese invention of fireworks in the 12th century and to our Declaration of Independence in the 18th century!

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