Archive for May, 2005
Faster than Car Stereo One’s Scuba Steve can say “turtle,” this little rascal popped out from under a cluster of dandelions. I spent Friday morning contemplating the common elegance of the noxious weed, and while I was zooming in for a close-up, a startled baby wood turtle made a hasty exit, scarcely allowing enough time to snap a photo. Perhaps I am not turtley enough for the Turtle Club?
DM Stanfield is Toledo Free Press photo editor. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Technical information: this shot was taken at 1/500 sec., ISO 200, f/9.5 and 200mm with a Minolta Dimage 7Hi.
Holistic Health Counselor
Lighting the Fuse
Pro Golf Warehouse
Rambo Sports Bar and Grill
River Road Realty
Toledo Express Airport
Dressed in black with a leather jacket, T-shirt and jeans, Tim Owens stepped up to the microphone and began to croon.
“You’ll never find … another love like mine,” sang the almost- Lou Rawls, hitting the low notes with precision and grace. The karaoke crowd gave Owens a deserved round of applause, but for one member of the audience the love song had special meaning: Tim’s wife, Connie.
Tim Owens has been in the employ of the U.S. Army in Afghanistan for almost two years, working as an electrician at a base near Kandahar. He recently returned for a short visit to Toledo.
“We Americans take so much for granted,” he said. “Coming over here has made me realize just how great we really have it at home.”
Unlike reservists called up for duty or new recruits eager to defend the nation from terrorists, Owens’ decision to seek employment with the military was largely based upon the poor economic conditions he faced in Northwest Ohio. He worked for years as an electrician at the General Mills plant on Laskey Rd., which began to phase out production in 2001.
After many months of fruitless job searches, temporary employment and odd jobs, Owens said he made one of the most difficult decisions of his life: to accept a position as an electrical contractor for the U.S. military in Afghanistan.
“My reason for coming over here was solely to be able to provide for my family,” he said. “Working through the union is great — when there is work.”
Owens’ search for steady employment extended far beyond the union halls of Northwest Ohio.
“I know I have a marketable skill and I couldn’t keep sitting and waiting for someone to call me with a job,” he said. “It became intolerable. The politicians were saying how great the economy was, but you couldn’t prove that by the thousands of unemployed IBEW workers all across the country. Many of my union brothers were losing their cars and homes. I was willing to travel and I called just about every union hall across the country. I even drove to Boston a couple of times to sign their book.”
The military subcontracted with Halliburton to provide logistical support for its Middle East campaigns in the post-9/11 era. Owens actually works for another subcontractor called KBR.
“We’re in southeastern Afghanistan, about 50 miles from the Pakistani border,” he said. “I can’t comment on the number of troops here but there are about 1000 KBR employees here, from everywhere, from all trades and all walks of life.”
Owens and his crews put in long hours in the desert sun.
“They begin at six in the morning and work twelve-hour days, seven days a week,” he said. While security concerns prohibit him from giving specifics, he said that the overall priority of the contractors is “to make things comfortable for the troops.”
Far From Home
To a Midwesterner, Afghanistan might seem distant in more ways than geography (it is 6,910 miles from Toledo to Kabul). Owens said that, while he rarely leaves the base, he comes into contact with many local Afghans.
“The Afghanis are a kind and gentle people,” he said.
The terrain in which Owens finds himself is very different from that of Northwest Ohio.
“The weather varies from hot to darn hot. At this time things are just starting to warm up and we have reached one-hundred degrees already,” he said, adding that it is still, officially, spring in Kandahar. “We are coming into the sandstorm season which is really wild and something to experience. You can actually see the dust rolling in.”
Owens said he feels the U.S. presence in Afghanistan is improving conditions for the average Afghani.
“The mission of the U.S. here is greatly appreciated by the locals,” he said. “This was especially evident to me during the time that they were holding their elections.”
Being separated from his family has been difficult for Owens. He spoke at length about how he, Connie, and his children cope with the separation.
“Yes, it is very difficult being away from my family but they are the reason I am doing this… they are my ‘why,’ “ Owens said. “When your ‘why’ is big enough, and your faith is strong, you can manage just about anything. I keep Christ Jesus first in my life and my faith helps me deal with the separation.”
One of the keys to managing a long-distance relationship, Owens said, is the same as in any relationship: honest communication.
“Talking to my wife almost every day — either by phone or e-mail — helps a lot,” he said. “I can honestly say that this time away has made me realize just how much I truly love her and how important she is in my life. We keep each other strong by staying focused on the reasons we are doing this and what we truly mean to each other.”
One of the most difficult times for Owens occurred in April, when a Chinook military helicopter crashed about 100 miles south of Kabul. On board was Clyde resident Sy Jason Lucio. The tragedy was more to Owens than just the loss of a fellow electrician.
“I am so sorry for his family’s grief. You can’t insulate yourself from experiencing that kind of loss here,” Owens said.
Owens maintains a positive outlook with regard to the mission in Afghanistan.
“I have met and befriended a lot of military people and some of them have gone out on missions and did not return,” he said. “It is a constant reminder to me not to get too comfortable here because, although things are relatively quiet, this is still a war zone. I do support what we are trying to do in this region and for the people here, it was long overdue. We are making a difference.”
The year was 1936… long before anyone had heard of NOW or the Equal Rights Amendment. Most baseball clubs had Knothole Gangs for boys, but in addition to their Knothole Gang, the Toledo Mud Hens did something special for girls, a “ Fanette Club!”
I was 10 years old when my daddy first took me to some Mud Hen games. Before the season was over I was allowed to go to some day games by myself.
There I was with a whole group of kids, with our little autograph books, waiting patiently to get the stars of the future to sign their names. We learned the game; we learned to keep score; we learned that umpires are not always right. We had fun.
My first-ever real job was at KSD and KSD-TV, St. Louis where, because of my knowledge of baseball, I was assigned to cover the games, in person. Wow! I watched the on-field prowess of Stan Musial, Marty Marion, Red Schoendienst, et al. But I also had to cover the St. Louis Browns. It was the year before they became the Baltimore Orioles where the highlight was watching Satchel Paige sitting on a canopied chaise lounge in the bullpen, then dancing on the mound.
I was working for Gene Autry at KTLA when he bought the Angels, and worked setting up their promotional programs. The circle was unbroken. When I was a “Fanette,” Fred Haney was the Mud Hens manager. When Mr. Autry introduced me to his “right hand man,” Fred Haney, we reminisced about the Mud Hens.
I moved in time to be in New York for the Amazing Mets’ leap to the World Series.
Ten years ago I came home, to the Toledo Mud Hens. I don’t carry an autograph book, but I still go to Mud Hens games.
Did Abraham Lincoln sleep in Janie Knorr’s bed? Chances are 50-50 that he did.
Thirty years ago, Janie and husband/bandleader Johnny Knorr had the chance to purchase the historic canopied bed, dresser and night stand that had originally graced one of two identical suites at the elegant Oliver House built in 1859.
Newspaper accounts explain that Lincoln spent a night at Toledo’s first hotel, to meet with Ulysses S. Grant and Cleveland businessman John Jay, to discuss financing the Civil War.
“Whether Lincoln slept in this bed will never be proven, but it sure makes a good story,” Janie said, laughing. “And what a beautiful, elegant bed it is! We had to replace the linen canopy, but the bed itself is in perfect condition.”
That’s just one the many stories Janie has to tell about her 64 years of marriage to the “savior” of Toledo’s famed Centennial Terrace.
Her tales go way back to her first real encounter with the fledgling band leader. It was at the 50th anniversary party for her grandparents at the Toledo Club. Janie and her identical twin sister Jean (Hammer) were the last to leave the party, except for Johnny and his musicians, who had played for the event. She was 16; Johnny was 18. She thought he was rude, and threw her coat at him.
“At least it got his attention,” she said.
Soon Johnny took Janie out on their first “date.”
“A date meant go with him wherever he had a job. That’s still the pattern today,” she said. Which is why if you’ve been to any place Johnny played in the last 20 years you’ve probably seen Janie … and their son Jerry, one of the original members of the orchestra and daughter-in-law Emilie.
One month before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Janie married Johnny Knorr.
“He wasn’t always home,” Janie said, “often getting jobs as a side man with bands like Les Brown and Jimmy Dorsey. We were newly married and he was still in school so he turned down the chance to join Glenn Miller’s band to go overseas.”
The post-war era found Johnny back in Toledo, playing at the Paramount and Rivoli Theaters and anyplace there was music.
“We had a new baby girl, Janice. Then calamity struck,” Janie said. “Johnny hurt his back and required surgery. I was faced with the fact that we had two children, and didn’t know if or when Johnny would be able to work again.
“I had to do something. I already had some credits at UT before we were married, so I went back to college and got my elementary education degree.
“She saved me and the family,” Johnny interjected. “She taught second and third grades at the old Glenwood school for 20 years!”
“In 1979 we faced another challenge,” Janie said. “Johnny decided something should and could be done to restore Centennial Terrace. It was known as the country’s largest outdoor ballroom, with 10,000 square feet of terrazzo floor. I was with him all the way — organizing ‘Friends of Centennial,’ painting furniture, ordering Port-A-Potties, lugging drinking water. He did it!,” she said.
Janie was with Johnny when the newly formed Johnny Knorr Orchestra debuted at the El Rancho Ballroom on Woodville Road in 1960 and she will be with him at Centennial Terrace on June 11, the start of the orchestra’s 45th year and the beginning of a new season at Centennial.
Music has the power to help people get through even the toughest situations. That power will be showcased in the cabaret “I’ll Be Seeing You – The Love Songs of World War II” at 8 p.m. May 27 in the Toledo Museum of Art. Great Gallery.
“We’ve done this show before, and people really seem to like it,” said Teresa Clark, a soprano who has arranged and performed at programs at the museum for four years. “There seems to be a real nostalgia for that time when people worked together.”
The Findlay resident will be joined by mezzo-soprano Monica Swartout-Bebow of Chicago, baritone/bass Ivan Griffin of Flint and pianist David Aro Zobel of Ann Arbor.
“The show takes a sentimental journey — the partying, the waiting, the hoping and finally the coming home,” Clark said.
From patriotic to sentimental, songs during World War II served different purposes. “Some of the songs were used to boost morale, some were used at the canteen —– the swing music allowed the men to distract themselves from the war. There were songs that were used as propaganda, and there were songs about longing and waiting,” she said.
“G.I. Jive,” “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square,” “Moonlight Serenade” and “We’ll Meet Again” are some of the numbers on the bill.
“It was really a period when our best songs were written,” Clark said. “It was a field day for composers.”
The hour-long show at the museum is free. A 90-minute version of the cabaret will take place at 8 p.m., June 17 at the Franciscan Center Commons at Lourdes College in Sylvania. Tickets for that show are $10 or $8 for those 62 and older.
For information, call the Toledo Museum of Art at (419) 255-8000 or the Franciscan Center Commons at (419) 824-3999.
To gain additional favor with customers, Blockbuster Video earlier this year tried scrapping late fees.
But this isn’t the case with some Ohio utility companies, which believe late fees go far in keeping residential customer payments on time.
“The bottom line is, if you pay your bill on time, then you don’t have to worry about it,” said Mark Durbin, a First Energy spokesperson.
The company’s subsidiary, Toledo Edison, charges residential customers 1.5 percent of the unpaid bill on the subsequent balance if payment is not remitted by the due date. The charge only applies after two or more late payments in a 12-month period, and customers on payment plans are exempt.
Durbin said the utility attempts to work with past-due customers but “many times we just have any alternative. We owe that to our other customers, that there’s some kind of sanction there.”
He defended the practice of late charges, saying, “Look and see sometimes what you would pay with a credit card, and then you may not think (late fees are) unfair.”
After researching other wireless companies’ policies, Verizon Wireless established a monthly $5 or 1.5 percent late fee — whichever is greater — nationwide in 2002.
“Our goal is not to penalize the customers,” said Laura Merritt, Verizon public relations manager. “It’s more or less to remind the customers. It’s very easy to forget.”
Merritt said Verizon initiated a late fee to protect customers from incurring costs generated by late payments. “Like any other company that has enacted the same policy … it’s a way for us to ask people, ‘Hey, what can we do to make you remember your payment?’”
The company offers an online payment option that allows clients to view their bill and avoid paying extra fees, Merritt said.
Columbia Gas of Ohio has not assessed late charges for residential customers since 1994, although the company has that option should a balance reach or exceed $2,000.
“We don’t normally charge a late fee for residential accounts,” said Gina Thompson, community relations manager. “We try to make payment arrangements. If they’re already struggling to pay the bill, assessing them a late fee is not going to help the situation.”
Each Ohio utility company determines its own late fee, then files an application with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), according to spokesperson Shana Eiselstein. She said the individual fees are usually approved as long as they’re applicable to the utility’s rate schedule. PUCO commissioners will suggest a fair fee amount if the utility’s application is deemed too high.
For the majority of SBC Ohio customers, telephone late fees aren’t an issue, said spokesperson Kim Kowalski. Late payers face additional monthly charge of 1.5 percent of their unpaid balances, but not until they exceed $25. There are exceptions, such as unpaid amounts in dispute, and each customer can receive a one-time late fee waiver, Kowalski said.
She said the late fee was initiated expressly to discourage late payments. Customers struggling to pay can arrange a reasonably personalized payment schedule to fit their financial situation.
MCI telephone service also charges 1.5 percent of an unpaid balance if charges are not paid within 35 days of the due date. An MCI spokesperson was unavailable for comment.
His voice trembled; his eyes filled with tears and he said, “I can’t go into that … it’s just too hard!”
Thomas Boggs, 82, still cannot talk about the horrors, pain and suffering, and the loss of comrades he experienced during his three years of service during World War II.
PFC Boggs was a member of the elite Parachute Infantry Regiment 511, the “Angels” who, under cover of darkness, jumped 1,200 feet onto the island of Luzon in the Philippines, with the mission of driving the Japanese from the island and rescuing 2,000 Americans prisoners.
Because Boggs is the last survivor of F Company, he is now caretaker of the guidon, the identifying banner of his military unit. It will eventually be passed on to Boggs’ son Randy, who recently built a shadow box to preserve and display the guidon along with his father’s military insignia and service-era picture.
Drafted at 18, fresh out of Woodward High School, Boggs and his sweetheart, Betty, became engaged before he reported for training at Camp Mackall, N.C. “I volunteered for the paratroops because they made double the money as regular infantrymen,” Boggs said.
He earned $100 a month.
There is a strange dichotomy to Boggs’ memories. He remembers everything concerning his training: the bases, dates, months, year — everything except his return home. He knows his company was the first to go to Japan after the atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He knows he started his trek home on a ship to San Francisco; he remembers that he shared a duffle bag with two other men on the train to Indiana where they were separated. He rode a bus to Toledo, he thinks. He feels it was probably the first attempt to black out the memories from the battles and the taking of Tagaytay Ridge.
Thomas and Betty were married one month after he came back to Toledo. Parents of three, with six grandchildren, they have been married almost 60 years.
He and Betty share stories about the 511th reunions they attend every other year.
They both started laughing at memories of one of the first reunions.
“This fellow, Harold Spring, he got hit bad … two shots to the stomach. One guy alone got him out. It was in the midst of sniper fire. Next thing Spring remembered is that four men were carrying him someplace on a stretcher. His next memory is being prepped for surgery … on a hill. No hospital, no tents, no lights … just flashlights. He survived and was flown to the USS Hope., then to the VA Hospital in Chicago.
“What made us laugh was that none of us knew he had made it. He showed up at the reunion, and all anyone could say was ‘I thought you were dead!’ ” Boggs said.
Boggs also laughs at the memory of a “Tokyo Rose” broadcast where she told in “delighted” tones how the Japanese paratroops had wiped out the American troopers, “ the same troopers who were the first to occupy Japan” he said.
Paratroop training was rigorous. First there was basic infantry training, then four concurrent courses in parachute packing, daily half-hours of “double-time,” tumbling and 7 foot jumps, all to strengthen leg and ankle muscles. Next came two- part tower jump training, in harness, from 150 feet. Finally, qualification jumping from an in-flight plane and mass jumps of 12 men, called a “stick,” at two-second intervals. It took five jumps to be qualified.
Responding to a question about the worst of the battles he saw, Boggs said, “Tagaytay Ridge.”
That’s all he could say.