Washington

500 BLOGS TO CELEBRATE!

It’s been almost 5 years since I started my blog, Words on My Mind. I’ve now posted 500 blogs – HOORAY!! At this point, judging by the statistics, I’ve had at least two million people check in.

I used a poem to begin my efforts. Here’s part of what I wrote:

Birth pains were negligible,

A little wine helped,

And some chocolate with nuts.

Since the Baby Blog

Has shot into Cyberspace,

It’s no telling what it

May eventually weigh.

Does anyone know

The Weight of Opinions?

I started the blog to promote my editing business and to sell my historical fiction novel, Melaynie’s Masquerade. Since then I’ve written 6 additional books (Ebook format) that are also for sale on Amazon. An Army Brat in Libya, Discovering the Victor in Victoria, Colonels Don’t Apologize, Angels in Uniform, Pink Glasses, and Weird Dates and Strange Fates.

Victoria Giraud

Victoria Giraud

As a consistent chronicler of my interesting life, in notebooks and eventually on computer, I’ve reported my personal history, ups and downs! I had written plenty of tales of growing up as an Army brat, my long career as a newspaper and magazine editor/reporter in Los Angeles, and life as a single woman. Since 2010 I’ve written about living in Bavaria right after World War II, living in Tripoli, Libya, in the 1950s, and residing in the Washington, D.C. area during John Kennedy’s presidency. For the past 50 years (alas, I’m no longer a youngster), I’ve enjoyed experiencing Southern California life.

The fun of getting older is looking back to the hurdles and successes of life and all the people you’ve known or seen in one way or another. I’ve written about most of it. I saw John F. Kennedy twice (when he was a senator and then a president), Robert Kennedy twice, shook hands with Richard Nixon in Libya, and observed Lyndon Johnson in the Senate. These experiences have been chronicled in my blog.

I observed Hollywood stars at Washington National Airport during the March on Washington in 1963. I stood at a window between Sammy Davis, Jr. and James Baldwin (the author), saw Paul Newman, James Garner and Sidney Poitier, and spoke with Charlton Heston. I lived through some of the repercussions from the Suez Crisis in Tripoli in 1956. I enjoyed the fun of a 1958 Mediterranean Cruise courtesy of the US Navy, landing in Athens, Istanbul, Naples, and Gibraltar, to name a few.

Since I knew and had interviewed character actor, Strother Martin, I attended his funeral at Forest Lawn in 1980 and saw Jimmy Stewart, Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine. I wrote a blog about the experience. Living in SoCal, I’ve had the opportunity to chat with James Whitmore, William Shatner, Peter Strauss, Ellen Burstyn, Robert Stack, Valerie Harper, Kelsey Grammar, Della Reese, and Sally Kellerman, to name a few. While I worked at the phone company in Hollywood, I observed Dean Martin on a motorcycle,  saw Cornel Wilde and Mitzi Gaynor at the Brown Derby, and had a lovely chat with Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft in Santa Monica. When I edited and wrote a magazine for the Beverly Hills Country Club, I interviewed athletes Rafer Johnson and Jack Kramer (my first tennis racket had his name on it) and TV star Barbara Eden. I’ve written about all these experiences as well as the sometimes crazy times of being single and dating.

One of my most entertaining interviews was with Jules Sylvester, an animal trainer born in Kenya. He was my neighbor for a while and invited me out to see his Komodo dragon (in the Marlon Brando/Matthew Broderick film “The Freshman”) and all the spiders and insects he trained for all sorts of films (“Snakes on a Plane” not too long ago).

I’ve written about the powerful 1994 LA earthquake, and about my genealogy on my mother’s Motley side, which included John Motley Moorehead, a governor of North Carolina before the Civil War. I’ve told my personal story of surprising my birth father at his office in the Pentagon in 1964. I was too young to remember him when he left to fight in Italy during WWII. Three days after we met and spent time together, he said I was his lucky charm: he had been promoted to Brigadier General.

When I’m not writing my blog, I’m spending time editing books of all types and have written/promoted many of them on my blog. So far, I’ve edited about 130 books in all genres: from historical fiction, memoirs, romance and action adventure, to self-help and children’s books.

I’ve tooted my horn enough. If, dear Reader, you’re intrigued, check out my archives after you read today’s blog. Thank you!

 

 

SUMMER JOBS–WORKING FOR US GOVERNMENT

Dulles Airport Terminal by Eero Saarinen

Now that summer is in full swing and college/high school students are looking for summer employment, it brings back many memories of summers in Washington, D.C. My military father insisted that typing was an admirable and necessary skill. What a prescient suggestion or should I say “order!” It’s not exactly rocket science, but my fingers have been flying over keyboards of various sorts ever since senior year in high school.

When I was accepted at the College of William and Mary, my father made it clear that I would work during summer breaks and contribute to my college expenses. Typing skills meant I could qualify for one of the most basic jobs: clerk-typist, known in government parlance as a GS-3. I haven’t checked to see if it’s the same designation.

The summer after high school graduation I found a job with BuWeps (Bureau of Weapons) in the Navy Department located on the Washington Mall in a grassy area near the Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial.  These multi-story  wooden buildings dated back to WWII and are now long gone.

I remember typing fourteen copies of documents on manual typewriters. A mistake required erasing (remember erasers?)  tiny or large portions on all fourteen copies. When the document was done, all the carbon paper had to be placed in burn bags because it was classified work regarding Navy missiles—I still recall the Terrier and the Tarter. I even looked it up to see if my memory was accurate and it was!

Boring work for the most part but it was good pay. Many of the girls working there brown-bagged it and we could go out onto the grassy area around the reflecting pool to eat. My mother believed in keeping trim: hard-boiled eggs and Triscuits were my usual lunch. I had my first glass of wine at a restaurant: a very sweet Mogen David when most of the office went out for some kind of celebration. A few sips had me polluted for hours! It wasn’t a habit I cultivated until much later in life when my taste buds matured.

Things picked up the summer after I started college when I got a job working in the office of the manager of Washington National Airport. Mr. Steiner, a longtime civil service employee, was a considerate, gentlemanly boss and his secretary, Helen Brewer, who could sense I wouldn’t need constant help and could follow directions, was the perfect supervisor.

The work wasn’t very challenging; I remember mostly typing arrival and departure reports and filling in by answering the phone. I had the time to type some exotic poetry from Asia from a library book and plan a school year abroad, perhaps at the University of London. The year in England never came to fruition—perhaps a reason I moved to Germany right after college graduation.

During the 1961 summer, a new airport, to be named Dulles Airport, was being constructed in lovely Chantilly, Virginia, 26 miles south of Washington. The architecturally unique terminal building was designed by Eero Saarinen, who described his design as “a huge continuous hammock suspended between concrete trees.” As I recall, the terminal was essentially finished by that time and it was gorgeous, in my eyes.

Passenger transportation was the most unusual factor for the new airport: mobile lounges were being designed to carry people from the terminal to special airplane parking areas and from the airplanes to the terminal. My boss thought the idea of using mobile lounges was not only stupid but costly.

I was excited when I learned the Federal Aviation Agency was going to use employees to test out these enormous lounges, and I was going to get an exciting field trip out of it. The lounges, over fifty feet long and equipped with very large tires, had room for 100 passengers. Originally, ramps led from the lounges to the airplane doors. Since the heights of airplane bottom floors were not uniform, we were going to test how well the ramps worked.

After a few ramp tests, the mobile lounge driver decided to give us a thrill and off we went on a fast drive down an empty new runway.  Years later, when I flew with my family to Virginia via Dulles Airport, I could brag how I had been one of the first to ride in one of these huge portable lounges. Apparently, most of them are now being phased out. Maybe my boss was right!

REMEMBERING JFK – 50 YEARS LATER

John F. Kennedy

Fifty years ago today, January 19, 1961, the Inaugural Gala was held at the National Guard Armory in Washington, D.C., for President-elect John F. Kennedy. The next day, January 20, the new President of the United States was sworn in at the U.S. Capitol.

Many of us remember President Kennedy’s immortal words from his inaugural address to the nation, “Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.”

I was a freshman at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia that January and only saw news reports of the momentous event. Televising important  events was not as common then, but ironically, it was President Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, Texas, in November 1963, which changed TV’s place in history. I was still at William and Mary during that tragedy and remember watching as much as possible as events unfolded on a small TV in my college dormitory lobby.

I was lucky enough to see JFK twice in person. In the summer of 1963, he had initiated a special program for college students working for the government, a sort of introduction to how government works. Kennedy gave an inspiring speech to us on the back lawn at the White House, emphasizing how valuable a career in government could be. We college kids were tramping around the play area for Caroline and John-John, the Kennedy kids.

US Senate Chamber Pass for July 8, 1959

During the summer of 1959, before my senior year at Hammond High School in Alexandria, Virginia, I had my first Kennedy sighting in the U.S. Senate. I had no idea at that time who he was.

My friend, Barbara, and I took the bus into Washington, D.C. and decided to see Congress in action. Since she had a boyfriend working as a U.S. Senate page, it was easy to get passes. Pages, who were at least 16 and high school juniors with a good grade average, worked for senators. Although they were mainly “gofers,” they got to witness history in the making. Her boyfriend had told her we could go to the Texas House of Representatives office and get passes for both the House and the Senate.

After getting the passes, we got seats in the Visitor’s Gallery of the Senate, which was in session that day. Lyndon Johnson, the imposing Texas Democrat who was the Senate Majority Leader at that time, was presiding over the Senate while lounging in a chair on the dais in front of the gathered senators.

The feisty senator from Oregon, Wayne Morse, was arguing with Paul Douglas, the soft-spoken senator from Illinois. I don’t believe I was paying attention to the issues because I was enchanted with just being there watching it all.

Both of us were intrigued with a scene on the Senate floor. We noticed an attractive, young-looking man with a nice head of chestnut hair at a table reading a newspaper. He didn’t appear to be paying attention to the discussion. Young pages were scurrying about bringing documents or coffee to this particular senator and others around him.

Next to us in the visitor’s gallery was a young man in a suit avidly studying the scene. “Who’s the cute guy reading the newspaper?” we asked him.

“That’s John Kennedy, haven’t you heard about him?”

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY

Celebrating July 4th always makes me feel proud to be an American, no matter where I’m living at the time. Fireworks are the capper: exciting and a bit ethereal.

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.

I’ve seen essentially the same celebration broadcast on TV the past few years (A Capitol 4th)  but it pales in comparison (perhaps because I’m not there!). They’ve moved the show to an area closer to the Capitol, probably to accommodate the huge crowds that come to see and hear Hollywood actors and music stars.

I no longer recall if there were fireworks in Tripoli on the 4th, but you couldn’t beat the camel and donkey rides on Thirteen Kilometer Beach, along with hot dogs and other goodies. Watching the recent movie Sex and the City as the stars rode camels, reminded me of my camel ride. The camels we rode weren’t as attractive, looked a bit mangy, and were muzzled since camels do bite. It was a little scary as the camel stood up, hind legs first. 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 to the Chinese invention of fireworks in the 12th century and to our Declaration of Independence in the 18th century!

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