Thursday, September 3, 2015

True Stories by Norm

Note: The following are re-posts from various dates re-posted here in one place by special request.

Leo Is Gone Now, But His Story Is Still Alive
By Norman E. Hooben
A story about Psalm 91 God’s Shield of Protection
Torpedo Headed For Ship

My Uncle Leo was quite the story teller.  If the story was sad he made your eyes water.  If funny you laughed.  Of course all his stories came from real-life experiences.  I don’t remember a whole lot about Leo during my early years for he moved his family to California while I grew up in Massachusetts.  It wasn’t until I joined the Air Force that I was to get to know him like an uncle should be known.  He told me stories about my mom and dad that I had never realized but shed some light as to why I was brought up in an orphanage. 
My first get-to-know-my-uncle time was when I was on my way to Alaska in 1963.  I spent a few days with him while in-route to my new duty station.  We had a great time while he showed me all around his place of work.   He worked for MGM studios in those days as a night watchman and taking me around the studio back-lots in that army jeep (used on the TV series Combat) was as memorable as memories can be.  And yes, he told me a few more stories.

A few more visits over the years as I passed through California from one military assignment to another got to be almost as if the Air Force was playing family reunion as a part of my transfer orders.  There was the week my family and I stayed while on our way to Okinawa with a repeat of the same on our way back from the Pacific.   Just to mention that ocean brought more stories from Uncle Leo…you see he spent a lot of time there in WW II.
Then it was around 1973 while stationed in Texas that the Air Force would send me TDY (Air Force lingo for Temporary Duty) to Southern California…I guess the reason for the TDY is not important here, but just in case you’re interested, it was to buy dogs for the military working dog program.  Yeah, it was great!  Right down the road from my Uncle Leo’s place was Fort MacArthur where all the preliminary physicals and qualification testing was accomplished before the dogs got inducted into the service.  But that’s another story…for it was during this visit that Leo told the story that led me to tell this story.

I’m not sure what it was that perked his memory but he began this story by lighting up a cigarette (and yes, he was a heavy smoker…the old Lucky Strikes without the filter).  He was somewhere out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean being transferred to another island during some of the heaviest fighting of WW II.  Now Leo can only tell this part like Leo can and I cannot re-enact the inflection of his voice.  He describes the situation where he sees a young man on his knees reciting some prayer while a torpedo is headed straight for the ship.  Most everyone thought it would be their last day on earth…except Leo.  He lit a cigarette and nonchalantly walked to the ship’s stern and flicks his ashes over the torpedo that passes harmlessly below the curvature of the hull and disappears.
Now I may not have given the torpedo story much justice but let’s fast forward to October 1, 2011.  In the town where I live they have what is called Claybank Jamboree every first Saturday in October.  One of the vendors on display in the town’s square was distributing free books.  When a book was handed to me I didn’t pay too much attention to the title until I reached home later in the day.  It’s a religious book and I’m not a huge reader of denominational conditionings…my religious beliefs are pretty much set at my age.  But then again I wasn’t going to let a book go to waste…so I began reading “Psalm 91 God’s Shield of Protection”.  Not a catchy title that I’d be looking for at a book store but here’s what it said right there in chapter one:

“…a situation in which a U.S. Navy boy from Texas found himself.  Running spiritually to his secret place is most likely what saved his ship from disaster.  He and his mother had agreed to repeat Psalm 91 each day at a given time, to add agreement to his protection covenant.  He later told of a time when his ship was under attack from the air and from an enemy submarine at the same time.   All battle stations on the ship were in operation when the sub came within firing range and loosed a torpedo directly toward them.  At that moment the young man realized it was the exact time that his mother would be saying Psalm 91, so he began quoting the psalm just as the torpedo wake appeared, headed directly toward their battleship.  Then, when it was just a short distance away, it suddenly swerved, passing the stern and disappearing.”

Leo is gone now but his story is still alive…
Note for the following:  A few years ago I was asked by a friend of mine (who was also a minister in a small Christian church somewhere in Indiana) if I could write something for his upcoming blog to be posted on Memorial Day.  At about that time the president was also giving a speech that was emphasizing “just words” when he was accused of plagiarizing others that used the same or similar words to make a point.  Without hesitation I began writing the following and decided that I could use that part of his speech, “just words” …   Is it plagiarizing?  I don’t think so.  Did I make my point?  See for yourself:

I Am a Retired Veteran
By Norman E. Hooben

I am a retired veteran of the United States Armed Forces
Now I am a member of We The People…just words
During my active duty years I’ve seen war and rumors of war
I protected We The People…just words
I fought for God and country
Blessed by We The People…just words
The path I chose was
The road not taken by We The People…just words
They were the best years of my life
Unbeknown by We The People…just words
The hardships I endured
Will never be shared by We The People…just words
For over two score years in uniform
Now I dress as We The People…just words
Time moves on and I’m here to say
Freedom is not free for We The People…just words
When it was said that old soldiers never die
They just fade away by We The People…just words
When the time has come and my years are spent
I’ll be buried by We The People…just words
Goodbye Ole Friend
It’s raining here in Alabama today…both outside and inside.  The drops from the skies are also dripping from our eyes.  We lost a close friend today but maybe that was for the good…he was in pain, but pain, no more…
He was a good ole boy…and he gave us much joy.  I remember the day just a little over eight years ago (October 29, 1999) as if were today, the day before he was scheduled to go…to go were I’m sure he did not want to…the humane place was overcrowded that day and he was happy to see us break that scheduled event.
He thanked us in so many ways.  We had much fun frolicking around the farm in Norton and the carefree jaunts along the Atlantic beach.  Oh, and those car rides, they were great, we even saw a rainbow together…over the falls of one the locks along the New York canals.  Then there were the trips to Florida and everywhere in between.  Yes, it is a long way from Sterling, Massachusetts the home of his would-be grave.  Ah and yes again, that’s where he got his name, Stirling… don’t worry about the spelling we thought the Scottish version was more appropriate.
We had our last words together as he looked at us with those big brown eyes, but he knew and we knew that it was time to go…he was rescheduled for that broken appointment of eight years ago…today, January 19, 2008.  Good-bye ole friend…we miss you dearly.
ps: To Jeannie Hebert
Thank you very much for introducing us to Stirling...
Stirling thanks you too...
We are here for only a mini-second in the sands of time.  Then we become the dust that makes the sand; and the Hand of God molds us anew. Take care my friend and may God bless...  N. Hooben
The Last Battle
If it should be that I grow frail and weak,
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then you will do what must be done,
For this--the last battle--can't be won.
You will be sad I understand,
But don't let grief stay your hand,
For on this day, more than rest,
Your love and friendship must stand the test.
We have had so many happy years,
And they are reflected in your tears.
You wouldn't want me to suffer so,
When the time comes, please let me go.
Take me to where to my needs they'll tend
Only stay with me till the end.
And hold me firm and speak to me,
Until me eyes no longer see.
I know in time you will agree,
It is a kindness you do for me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.
Don't grieve that it must be you,
Who has to decide this thing to do...
We've been so close - we two - these years,
Don't let your heart hold any tears.

 ~Author Unknown~
Edited Revision by N. Hooben
Oberammergau, A Story Telling Moment
Power point slide shows (pps) seem to be a popular format for sending emails that describe beautiful pictures of faraway places...they're usually accompanied with some background music and short descriptions of whatever the subject matter. Some time ago a friend sent an attached pps entitled, "OBERAMMERGAU (Alemania)" and immediately recognized the name for this was one place I could say, "Been there, done that!"  I watched the slide show and gave an immediate response with a "thanks for the memories" note.  The note however, turned into a short story...
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Wednesday, September 14, 2011 3:11 PM
Subject: Re: RV: OBERAMMERGAU (Alemania)
Thanks for the memories...
After spending nine months in Sicily I was fortunate to get a transfer to Germany arriving there in May of 1979. Knowing that the Passion Play would be held in Oberammergau in the summer of 1980 (its performed once every 10 years by the villagers of Oberammergau in thanks for being spared during the great plague that killed thousands upon thousands throughout Europe), I ordered tickets (actually there was only one left through the special services office) and I was also fortunate to have received the last one.

I arrived in Oberammergau mid-day the day before the Passion play was to commence so I had several hours of daylight to give it the ole foot-tour.

I remember walking along the river and meeting up with some guy fishing from the banks. He hailed me in German but I replied in English.  Ah, "We have an American here." he said.  And without interruption added, "I'm from Brocton, Massachusetts." "Well what a small world."  I replied and then added, "I'm from Taunton." After exchanging some small talk about the upcoming play I moved on.
Going up a street that seemed to beckon me, I saw a monk of sorts working in his garden. The monk invited me into his workspace that was adjacent to an old monastery. He somehow recognized my American aura and began speaking in English. He himself was originally from America but had been at the monk business so long that he wasn't sure how long he had been gone. He spoke to me about his life among the brothers and how they reeked out a meager living. And then it hit me...earlier in the day I had seen bottles of rum in one of the tourist shops with a picture of a monastery on the label. I asked the old priest if the rum was one of his products.
With a wink of the eye he said, "Yes indeed, it’s one of our products and at this time of year it’s our only product...and a good one at that!" Getting back to my line, a monk of sorts..., the robe and sandals gave him away but the blue jeans sticking out below the robe was another story.

I continued my walk and arrived in a neighborhood that would be the envy of most...well groomed lawns fronting nifty looking cottages...some with the "I only see it in the Alpine area" look with the extended eaves.  One driveway entrance had a tree that probably died some years ago setting off to the right...but the tree was preserved with a coating of lacquer that highlighted the beautiful carving of some figures most likely carved by the homeowner (Oberammergau is also famous for its woodcarvings).
The evening was very entertaining even though I was alone... I happened upon a small somewhat crowded cafe that, like the last available ticket, had just one available seat remaining. Nobody seemed to speak English here and I was seated by a charming German hostess and whatever it was she uttered I knew I was in a friendly environment. I ordered one of those big German steins of whatever kind of beer the hostess decided was good. What attracted me in the first place was not that the place was overcrowded, it was the music coming from a trio (or was it four, I forget) playing different instruments including one of those small accordions. But it was the singer's instrument that I'd never forget. It’s one of those things I've read about or seen pictures of but never actually seen a real one never mind hearing the sound of a zither. You know, now that I think about it, I've never seen a zither since!

I stayed at an elderly lady's home that was open for the influx of play goers but all I remember is the wonderful breakfast of fresh hard-boiled eggs and German sausage...I ate all that was brought to kept coming until I had to give some sign that it was enough. I would never see this lady's lovely home again for after breakfast it was time to hurry down to the playhouse and after the play I was headed back to Frankfurt.

The play was extremely well orchestrated and the audience was very attentive...I don't know how else to describe it for the solemn respect for the theme was highly noticeable; there was never any applause until the very end. I might point out that the theatre was unique in that the stage was separated from the audience by a roofless area that allowed some natural lighting in the forefront. Whether that observation was correct or not I will never know but what appeared to me to be a natural occurring event was the thunder and lightning that came through that roofless space at the highlight of the play...the crucifixion!

There were several intermissions during the play and at the outside I ran into more people from Massachusetts the most notable being a priest, also from Brocton, that knew my brother Richard.

I didn't know at the outset that this would lead into a story-telling moment but thanks for the memories

Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Short Story...hard to believe but its true...

Dateline Berlin, Germany, January 1980 ...along the Berlin wall: ~ I talked about this photo throughout the years and thought that I had lost it somewhere along the way from there to here. Today, while rummaging through a bin full of books stored in the basement, I saw something that looked like a book-mark and upon pulling it from between the pages was overjoyed with my discovery. But before we look at the picture I have to explain the significance of an otherwise simple photograph of two children standing in the snow and a graffiti covered wall in the background.

While stationed with the Air Force in Germany in the early 80's I took the opportunity to visit the infamous Berlin Wall along with some friends. While touring Berlin and East Berlin (The East was occupied by the Soviets at that time) I took numerous pictures of, among other things, the wall. As we walked along one segment of the wall my daughter Terrye asked, "Dad, why are you taking so many pictures of this wall?" My immediate response was, "This wall got your daddy into this uniform." as I pointed at my Air Force blues (I should note that I originally got my military draft notice during the Berlin Crisis of 1961 while the wall was under construction).
So now, long story short... Without looking at the wall I asked my two children to stop for a moment while I took their picture. You also have to realize this was in the old days when you had to buy film to put in the camera and then bring the film somewhere to be developed.  It was about a week or so later while back in Frankfurt that I got the picture(s) back from the developer and the first thing I noticed was the graffiti on the wall (I swear on a stack of bibles I did not notice the graffiti at the time I took the picture). I mentioned that my daughter's name is Terrye...but did you know that my son's name is Mark! Now look at the picture…


Did you know that George died 100 rods from his burial place?
Photo by N. Hooben
The following narrative comes from
George Weekes had lived in Boston, but in 1714 removed to Harwich. He was dismissed from the Old South Church in Boston March 27, 1720, and joined the church at Harwich (north side) under the care of Rev. Nathaniel Stone. He afterwards removed to the south part of the town, where many of his descendants now live, and where he carried on a farm. George Weekes was not "liberally" educated, but was well versed in the theological books of the day, and was familiar with the scriptures. In 1730, though not ordained by human hands, he commenced preaching to the Indians, who were located toward the south and far removed from the meeting house, which was on the north side of the parish of 23 square miles. Mr. Weekes built a house of worship for the Indians at his own expense.  Notwithstanding these facts, the pastor, Mr. Stone, objected, but does not appear to have insisted on a discontinuance. Learning, however, the Mr. Weekes on one or more occasions preached to some of his white neighbors, who, no doubt, were glad to assemble occasionally on a weekday or stormy Sunday for religious instruction and conference, being as they were so far removed from their regular place of worship. Mr. Stone vigorously protested and complained to the church in regard to the matter. His grounds of complaint were that Mr. Weekes had "no more if so much as an early common education," that he "had thrust himself into the meeting," that he "had preached to a people of whom I have the pastoral charge, without my leave and against my declared mind." There does not appear to have been any charge of want of orthodoxy. Some years later, Mr. Weekes seems to have taken pity upon an unfortunate woman and taken her with her child into his house. Some took offense at this and would not come to the Lord's table with him, in view of which state of feeling he absented himself from the communion. On being called to account for his absence, he made explanations which were accepted by the church as in a measure satisfactory, but at the same time he was advised to dismiss the woman from his house and to avoid "her conversations as much as convenient. "There seems to have been no charge against him of impropriety. [CI:1236:?4:CI]

In the later years of his life, his mind was clouded, which led to aimless wanderings about the country. He died from exposure to the cold in the low ground south of Harwich Academy, known from the circumstance as "Weekes' Hollow" to the present day -- being more than 80 years old.[CI:1235:?4:CI]

A short distance beyond the new cemetery in Harwich, in an open field where there are a few ancient graves, is one with this inscription: "George Weekes, born in Dorchester, Mass., A.D. 1683, came to Harwich, married Deborah Wing Oct. 15, 1714, preached to the Indians, and perished in a snow storm in the hollow one hundred rods south of this spot. he was a grandson of George Weekes, a Huegenot, who fled to England, and came to America in 1630."[CI:242:?4:

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