Tuesday, June 4, 2024

 


JUNE 2024

WAR AND REMEMBRANCE
The 80th Anniversary of D-Day

By Rev Protodeacon George A. Haloulakos

On June 6th we remember a historic event -- the Allied invasion of Normandy, June 6, 1944 (Operation Overlord) -- in which members of the Allied armed forces made the ultimate sacrifice that made possible the survival of human freedom.  For an insightful and inspiring remembrance of D-Day, we invite you to please listen to our 2014 podcast marking the 70th Anniversary of D-Day which provides an in-depth presentation on the backstory, conflict and resolution that offers important takeaways about a watershed event forever shaping the lives of Baby Boomers.  Ten years later, this program features timeless insights for your listening pleasure.


To listen to our 70th anniversary program from 10 years ago, please follow this link:



In gratitude and loving memory, I would like to begin this month's Blog by sharing the following poem written by Stephen Spender as we recall all those who not only participated in D-Day, but everyone who has served in defense of our nation.
"I think continually of those who were truly great.  The names of those who in their lives fought for life,
Who wore at their hearts the fire's center.
Born of the sun, they traveled a short while toward the sun
And left the vivid air signed with their honor."

The impact of D-Day has been chronicled in books as well as major motion pictures such as "The Longest Day'' (1962) and "Saving Private Ryan'' (1998).  Yet this major historical event is perhaps best understood, if not appreciated, from a personal perspective.  As a sniff of the cork, here are three personal accounts which illustrate the magnitude of D-Day on this, its 80th Anniversary.

The first and second personal accounts are taken from personal notes recording the remembrance of D-Day by my parents, Dr Vassilios Elias Haloulakos (1931-2019) and Victoria Villarreal Haloulakos (1925-2018).  My father grew up on a farm in the Sparta region of Greece in the midst of World War II, with vivid recollection of the occupation by the Axis powers.  Beginning in 1942, his family was forced to surrender their personal firearms and give up 72% of their foodstuff production while living under severe curfew and restriction on all personal freedoms.  The news of the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944 was hailed with enormous gratitude in answer to prayers for deliverance from this occupation.  D-Day marked a resurgence in hope as the American led Allied forces would soon arrive on the shores of the birthplace of Western Civilization to liberate all those who had been subjugated under the boot of the Axis powers.  For my father and all the members of his family, D-Day forever changed their lives as it signaled a restoration of freedom that had been taken away.  My mother, who graduated from high school in a small town in Texas in June 1944, recalls that D-Day not only indicated that the Allies had seized the initiative to secure eventual victory in Europe but that forthcoming deployment of her male classmates who enlisted in the armed services were to be shifted or redirected to the Pacific Theater.  Sadly, the summer of 1944 was bittersweet.  While June was spent celebrating the victorious Allied invasion of Normandy, the mood shifted later that summer as nearly all of her male classmates dispatched to the Pacific were killed in action before the end of September!  For a young female high school graduate preparing to enter the workforce, this was a sobering reminder that the enormous sacrifice on D-Day to create the foundation for eventual victory in Europe, might likely be required again if our nation was to be victorious in the Pacific.

There is an interesting postscript to Mom and Dad's D-Day remembrance.  Forty one years later in 1985, my parents attended a reunion in Mom's hometown in Texas honoring the high school graduates from 1940-45.  It was at this reunion where my father was able to personally express his heartfelt gratitude as he met Mom's older schoolmates from the graduating classes of 1942 and 1943 that included several servicemen who had landed on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944.  It was a profound, deeply emotional moment in time as my father was able to thank his "liberators" who risked it all in the defense of freedom, thereby bringing everyone connected with D-Day full circle after the passage of four decades.

The third and final perspective is one that comes from Hall of Fame baseball broadcaster Vin Scully (1927-2022) who on every June 6th, would incorporate D-Day into the game's broadcast.  Mr. Scully's recollection is especially profound for he along with my parents, and the parents of countless Baby Boomers, were of the age group called upon to sacrifice their lives for the freedoms they had come to cherish.  Scully wanted to impress upon young listeners that D-Day should always be remembered, for it was this ultimate sacrifice that made it possible for the generations that followed to enjoy the pastime of baseball in comfort and freedom.  During his 2015 Dodger broadcast, Scully shared the following with his vast listening audience:
"It was the largest air, land, sea occupation undertaken.  It included over five thousand ships, eleven thousand airplanes, 150,000 servicemen, and it came down to this.  The boat ramp goes down, you jump, swim, run, and crawl to the cliffs.  Many of the first young men were not yet twenty years old, and they entered the surf carrying eighty pounds of equipment.  Many of them drowned.  They faced over two hundred yards of beach before reaching the first natural feature offering any protection at all."  

To this narrative on the enormity of human sacrifice on June 6, 1944, I would add that if we include the cost of human life in rehearsing for D-Day, we find the numbers even higher.  For example, Exercise Tiger carried out just two months before in April 1944 in Devon, England, resulted in costing the lives of at least 749 American servicemen.  In sum, the 80th Anniversary of D-Day is an important event not only in the context of human history, but resonates in the memories of all generations connected with those who lived and/or served while the world was at war.  Do you have any special memories or recollections from your own family records concerning D-Day? If so, please share them by either posting to the Galaxy FACEBOOK page or writing directly to me at: Haloulakos@gmail.com

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

 MAY 2024

Remembering When Air Travel Was Exciting, New and Fun

Boeing 727: A Legacy of Ingenuity and Resilience

By Rev Protodeacon George A. Haloulakos

The Boeing 727 was a transformative aircraft as it was able to capitalize on a then under-served end-user market requiring a jet airliner that could serve smaller airports with shorter runways while flying routes that called for ferrying fewer passengers in both domestic and international venues. This iconic narrow body aircraft symbolized Boeing's ability to create a family of commercial jet aircraft able to serve multiple end-user markets. From 1962 to 1984 Boeing produced 1,832 units of this amazing tri-jet and presently there are still a number in use for cargo and executive service!

Among the "firsts" associated with the Boeing 727 are having a trio of rear-mounted jet engines, an auxiliary power unit and completely powered flight controls. Its operational capability of flying in-and-out of remote or regional airfields helped make it a versatile, reliable commercial jet airliner.

The 727 represents a vital piece of history as it holds a special place in the hearts and minds of people from all walks of life connected with this aircraft. As a business traveler this was a long-time favorite. I fondly recall the 727 Eastern Airlines Shuttle [Boston (Logan) -- New York City (La Guardia)] with big, wide comfortable leather seats for the entire aircraft [2 on each side of the center aisle]. I also flew the 727 Alaska Airlines Seahawk One [used for the Seattle NFL franchise and having all the names of players, coaches and staff on gold plates in each seat]; similar interior design and comfortable seating as the 727 Eastern Shuttle. And how about the rear entry / exit with the fold-up stairway ramp that allowed passengers to board and disembark simultaneously from both front and rear of the aircraft? Much faster turnaround time! A great benefit for business people on the go! The built-in stairway ramp that would drop down was similar to the science fiction spacecraft seen on lots of TV and movies from the 1960s.


The 727 was also a part of ushering jet travel into political campaigns during that same era. In 1964, US Senator Barry Goldwater was the GOP standard bearer in the US Presidential Election and used a 727 for his nationwide campaign circuit. Mr. Goldwater, a Command Pilot and Maj General in the Air National Guard, often flew the 727 himself during the course of his campaign!

Do you have any special memories or recollections of the 727? If so, please share them by either posting to the Galaxy FACEBOOK page or writing directly to me at: Haloulakos@gmail.com


Monday, April 1, 2024

 APRIL 2024


- "SUMMER OF '49" -
David Halberstam Remembers the Way We Were
By Rev Protodeacon George A. Haloulakos

In 1989, Pulitzer Prize winning author David Halberstam published an instant classic -- Summer of '49 -- a wonderful narrative of the 1949 American League pennant race in which two legendary franchises, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, battled each other to a winner-take-all final contest in the regular season.  But more importantly, Halberstam provides a revealing, insightful look at a vastly different America through the prism of two iconic baseball teams at the height of their prowess on the diamond.  In this time capsule, the reader gets a first hand account of when games were played during the day while being broadcast on radio instead of television; train travel was the norm as St Louis was viewed as a western city; management determined salaries, not agents and players; alcohol, not drugs, was the most troublesome addiction.  Halberstam's superb journalistic skills enabled him to gather nearly all of his information from in-person, primary research interviews with virtually all the Yankee and Red Sox players along with players from other major league teams, executives, radio announcers, publicists, relatives and family members of the various baseball players.  It is a fusion of oral history with a rich tapestry of secondary research support (listed in the bibliography).
With springtime now in bloom and baseball underway, reading or perhaps re-reading Summer of '49 provides an insightful if not brilliant look at a special moment in time when legends and heroes of the game held a very special place in our nation's history.  Unlike the tedious, sequential and oft-heavy analytical content that dominates sports history, Halberstam's book transcends all of that, and more.  While today's analytical retelling of baseball history with Wins Above Replacement, Win Shares and so forth are interesting from a statistical perspective, Halberstam gives us deeper, more penetrating understanding on the players themselves while simultaneously offering the same on the post World War II period in our nation's history.  Only the most relevant or time honored metrics (namely wins and losses) are included in the narrative.  This makes for a more compelling read in learning about the people themselves because Halberstam provides a full-dimensional look at the various players.

Here is a small sampling that I hope will engender interest in wanting to read the book:
> Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams were even larger than life figures off the playing field as DiMaggio personified what it meant to create a life built on-and-around a carefully crafted, refined personal celebrity brand while Williams was a decorated combat aviator in both World War II and the Korean War.  DiMaggio's record of hitting safely in 56-consecutive games and Williams as the last .400 hitter are merely tips of the iceberg for these titanic legendary players.

> The Boston Red Sox had a fabulous collection of individual star-laden talent, but it was the Yankees who reigned supreme as the best team on a foundation of role players integrated with a nucleus of stars plus a trio of starting pitchers (Vic Raschi, Allie Reynolds and Eddie Lopat) who provided the on-field and locker room leadership connected with athletic dynasties.  This was, and is unusual, because such leadership is typically associated with everyday players, not pitchers!  Moreover, Halberstam documents that the Red Sox had a vastly larger payroll than the Yankees, but their Return on Investment was virtually nil in comparison to the dynastic New Yorkers.

> The evolution of advertising (with Ballantine Beer as a case study), the flight to the suburbs, the breaking down of racial and institutional barriers, the baby boom generation that began in 1945 are all examined in a thoughtful, sometimes meandering fashion tracking the weekly progress of the 1949 season simultaneously with a look back at how each of the players reached this point in their lives.  Despite the multiple tracking, Halberstam is able to tie everything together as the two teams prepare for their winner-take-all final game of the season.

> While examining the institutional barriers of the period, Halberstam also provides an equally keen understanding about the subtle but equally impactful social attitudes from that era on race and ethnicity that not only includes the trials and tribulations of Yankee World Series rivals Jackie Robinson, Don Newcombe and Ray Campanella (Brooklyn Dodgers) but for star Yankee pitcher Allie Reynolds (Native American), his pitching cohort and roommate Eddie Lopat (who was of Polish descent and with the legal name Lopatynski).  Also discussed are the burden of exceedingly high expectations placed upon first generation Americans of Italian descent to fulfill the dreams and ambitions of their parents and families ("Yankee Clipper" Joe DiMaggio and his brother Dominic, who was a 7-time All-Star with the Red Sox plus Vic Raschi the pitching ace of the Yankee staff and his battery mate Yogi Berra) and others.

> Celebrity radio broadcasters Mel Allen (Yankees), Curt Gowdy (Red Sox) and Red Barber (Dodgers and Yankees) are shown to have played an integral if not historic role in helping to inform and educate their nationwide listening audiences about the changes on-and-off the playing field while pitching the products of the major advertisers.
Thirty five years after its publication, the remarkable hold of the Summer of '49 on the public imagination and its importance in our nation's history is best captured with this photograph of President George Herbert Walker Bush (decorated World War II aviator and a star player for Yale in the College World Series) and his contemporaries from America's Greatest Generation, Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, at a special White House ceremony.

Summer of '49 is truly an inspiring, educational and informative book that encompasses a love for history, biography and baseball all in a single volume!  Celebrate springtime with this classic look at the summer game while also learning something new about the history of our great nation.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Lieutenant Ralph Foulks: 1-5-68

by Margaret Sizemore Clark

    This simple inscription was on a metal bracelet my sister wore back in the early 1970’s. 
It was kind of a fad to wear one, so a lot of people wore them, but then stuck them in a jewelry box or footlocker and forgot them. To be sure, some of the kids wearing them wore them because “everyone” was, but for a few those names inscribed on the bracelets belonged to real people, and they were worn for the purpose for which they were made: to keep POW’s and MIA’s in the forefront of people’s minds.

    My sister is one of those people.  In remodeling her home this week, she was going through boxes of things that had been moved several times, but now needed to be seriously thinned out.  In her jewelry box she found her bracelet and wondered what had become of that serviceman.  Had he been found?  Did he return home after the war?  Had he been a POW?  More importantly, where could she find out how to return her bracelet to Lt. Foulkes or a family member?  Her questions started a chain of events that that resulted in nothing short of a modern-day miracle. I assigned that status because had she tried to make her inquiries during one of her previous moves, the bracelet could not have revealed its story. The information wasn’t there, and if it was, she would have to have gotten permission to see it and probably would have to have personally gone wherever it was kept to actually view it. Additionally, the information held some surprises for us as well as some of those people who were able to find the information that was needed.

    The Vietnam War ushered in a scary time for those of us who had been born after the Korean Conflict. We had known nothing put peace and safety during our young lives, but the advent of television brought the brutality and violence of Vietnam right into our living rooms every night. Thousands of men and women, some of whom we knew, were being sent to Vietnam to fight a war that was extremely unpopular with the public. Those of us who lived through those years can recall the protests, riots, and marches, and young men burning their draft cards. The numbers of those killed, wounded, or missing in action were in all the newspapers and magazines. All this turmoil was directed at the government with the clear message: the United States needed to get out of Vietnam.  

    A couple of college students, Carol Bates and Kay Hunter, wanted to DO something positive, but what?  They tossed around ideas that weren’t met with much enthusiasm by other students or the public, but they persisted.  They went to meetings and talked with others who felt the need to do something to support the families and friends of those who were killed or lost.  At one of these meetings, they met Bob Dornan, a former fighter pilot who had survived two ejections and now was a vehemently anti-Communist television talk show host.  He was wearing a bracelet he had received from a Montagnard tribesman in Vietnam.  The Montagnards were an Indigenous minority who fought alongside American Special Forces, which made them a target of the Communist People’s Army.  His bracelet was made from the metal of crashed aircraft and it had the word “Montagnard” inscribed on it. The tribesman had asked Dornan to wear the bracelet while “thinking of my suffering people who are being murdered and killed by the Communists.  Do not take it off, till my people are free.” Dornan vowed he would not.

    The idea of inscribing the name, rank, and date of loss on a metal bracelet hit a chord with the girls and started the ball rolling, but it wasn’t an instant success. There were those who were concerned about what would become of the money the bracelets made, and who would manage it. Some of the families of the lost service people didn’t want their loved-one’s names being used without their permission.  Over the months the objections were ironed out. Carol Bates and Kay Hunter met Gloria Coppin, a wealthy Los Angeles socialite, the adult advisor of VIVA (Voices In Vital America), and she joined their cause.  She supplied her checkbook and tireless energy to further the cause of making and distributing the bracelets. Gloria’s husband donated enough metal to make 1,200 bracelets, and the girls found an engraver, Jack Zelder, who agreed to make prototypes of the bracelets. The bracelets caught on, orders started pouring in, and the demand increased. Nearly 5 million were sold, and notable persons such as John Wayne, Johnny Cash, Fred Astaire, and Billy Graham started wearing a bracelet.  

    My sister’s bracelet carried the name of Lt. Ralph Foulks, a Navy pilot.  He was shot down on January 5, 1968 but that’s the last the family heard about him.  No wreckage of his plane could be confirmed. 

    The war ended in 1973 and soldiers began returning home to a country that wasn’t interested in hailing them as heroes.  These soldiers had “lost” the war and it stung.  Everyone would just as soon forget Vietnam and move on, but not everyone did.  Several organizations were born over the years that wanted closure for all the service people that didn’t come home.  They wanted answers and slowly they were able to get the information they needed from military records, and the periodic return of remains of service people to the United States. Lt. Foulks’s remains were repatriated in 1988, but authorities were unable to positively identify the remains of Lt. Foulks until 1993. 

    When she discovered her bracelet my sister put a picture of it on Facebook, hoping to get an idea of where to start looking for any family of Lt. Foulks that might be living, with the goal of returning the bracelet to his family.  Within minutes she received replies from several classmates from high school that knew where to go for such information.  One classmate was able to find a website that could match the bracelet to Lt. Foulks’s family.  Another classmate was able to find that the lieutenant’s remains had been discovered and returned. He also learned that Lt. Foulkes’s city of residence was given as Ridgecrest, the town located outside the gates that guarded Naval Ordinance Test Station. It was where our father worked and where we had been raised.  (Lt. Foulks’s sister told me that her brother had graduated from the high school we had attended, and that he had played on the tennis team!  

    Those helping to garner this information had also gone to the same high school.) Next, a friend of my sister found yet a third website that provided contact information for the sister of the lieutenant, but it was from 2006.  My sister wrote to the email anyway and received an immediate reply from her!  When my sister told her what she had, Lt. Foulks’s sister was surprised.  She recounted the day when she was 12 years old, and the Navy chaplain had come to the door to inform her mother that her brother had been lost in action.  She told my sister that she thinks of her brother every day and she was very appreciative to get the bracelet.  In just a matter of hours, thanks to the skills and knowledge of several people, the needed information was gathered that would allow the bracelet to complete its journey home. The technology and websites that exist in 2024 allowed all the connections to be pieced together, thirty-one years after the return of the lieutenant’s remains, and 56 years after he was lost. That is a miracle!

    I contacted Lieutenant Foulks’s sister, and she graciously agreed to allow me to tell the bracelet’s story. She also supplied a few details about her brother and other members of her family, such as their father was serving in Pearl Harbor the day it was bombed.  Another of Lt. Foulks’s sisters was one of the first 16 ‘experimental’ women accepted into ROTC and went on to retire as a commander.  She explained that Lt. Foulkes’s medals and Vietnam paperwork are being donated to Naval Air Station Pensacola, and that Lt. Foulkes, along with both of his parents, are interred at Barrancas National Cemetery.  The pride and tradition of service to the United States was evident by the profuse thanks Lt. Foulks’s sister gave my sister and me.

    My sister summed up the experience best. “It does my heart good to know my bracelet made it back to where it belongs.” 

    I would like to recognize and thank Coronado Magazine and Taylor Baldwin Kiland for the facts they supplied describing the story behind the POW and MIA bracelets.  Additionally, my sister and I would like to acknowledge and thank Kitty Reeve, Michael Peacock, Linda Blake, and Stephen Harrison for providing their expertise in knowing where to start looking, locating military information, providing the answers to what happened to Lt. Foulks, and finally, where to return the bracelet.

###

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

 

My Show Biz History

 By Gil Tisnado

I was a constant embarrassment to my older sisters, Marie and Ginger. From the time I could walk and talk, I was always singing and dancing. It didn’t matter the location. I would perform at restaurants in front of jukeboxes, standing on a chair at our converted gas station Baptist church, or simply on the sidewalks of our San Diego suburban neighborhood. After much urging on my part, my mother decided that I could audition for a weekly local children’s television show on Channel 8 called “Tiny Town Ranch.” I was seven years old.

Mom called the television host, Monte Hall, to inquire about an audition. Monte Hall is not to be confused with Monty Hall of “Let’s Make a Deal.” The Monte Hall of San Diego was noted for his children’s variety show and children’s amusement park called “Monte Hall’s Playground.” As a local TV celebrity, he often appeared in parades as a western rider on his horse Comanche. During the initial phone interview with my mom, Monte asked, “Does your son have any talent?” My mom replied, “Well, you’re talking to his mother.” Monte then asked, “Is he photogenic?” Mom responded with, “Well Mr. Hall, you’re still talking to his mother?” An audition was arranged.

What to sing? We approached our next-door neighbor, Mrs. Bennett, who was a classically trained opera singer and a church organist. She agreed to teach me a song. The song choice was “April Love” a pop hit by Pat Boone. I tried not to giggle as Mrs. Bennett sang a Pat Boone song in her operatic style. The song was learned and I was ready for my audition. Mom and I made the trek to the downtown studio of Channel 8. The high ceiling room with a piano in the middle seemed enormous to me. With sheet music in hand, I walked over to the pianist. With all the confidence a seven-year old boy could muster, I burst out in song about young love in April. Apparently, I was a hit, because Monte Hall in his trademark cowboy hat rushed over to me, picked me up, and swung me around the room. It was agreed that next Saturday morning I would appear on “Tiny Town Ranch.”

Since the theme of the show was western, I thought I should be dressed like a cowboy. That would have come later. Now the task was to find appropriate clothing for a boy who had outgrown his Easter Sunday suit. Obviously, my usual clothes of t-shirts and jeans wouldn’t work, so neighbors were recruited to help out with my television debut. Mrs. Wooten offered up her son’s grey slacks. With cuffs rolled up and waist at mid chest, the too large pants would have to do. Our neighbor, Winnie Graham, who used to have a dance studio, loaned me tap shoes and a shirt. To this day, I wonder why I wore tap dance shoes when I wouldn’t be tap dancing. Nonetheless, they were black and would pass as dress shoes. Mrs. Graham also pulled from her costume trunk a puffy sleeve, mustard-yellow shirt with a clumsy looking choirboy bow. I recently asked my mom, “Gee Mom!  Why did you dress me so funny for my TV debut?” She said, “I don’t know. I just thought since Winnie was a dance teacher, she would know what to wear, and I just followed her advice.” Even though I was chosen to sing, I looked like I was more suited to play “O Solo Mio” on the accordion.

My one TV appearance would turn into a three-year gig. When I was ten years old, Monty Hall died and “Tiny Town Ranch” died with him. Within two years, I would retire from show biz, a twelve-year-old has-been.

Fast-forward sixty years! Amberlee Prosser asked me if I would play a role as a grandfather for the Voices of California production of “Once Upon a Song” at the Harris Center for the Arts in Folsom. For anybody else, I would have said “No thanks!” However, because the request came from the beloved Amberlee, I agreed. Then she emailed me the script. As I watched the printer spit out five pages of dialogue, I started to panic. “Oh shoot! Why in the heck did I ever say yes to this?” Any senior citizen with short-term memory issues will identify with this. However, just as I had taught my former fourth graders, I decided I would simply “chunk it” into smaller pieces of information to learn the lines. I would retype the script in much larger type, and then tape the pages to the wall. I would also photograph pages into my phone for easy access. Flight or fight definitely kicked-in. But then I figured, “Oh hell, if I forget a line, I’ll just improvise something close.” My teaching career and the ability to “wing-it” would help me here.

Yesterday was the performance. Actually, there were two performances, a matinee and evening performance. I kept sneaking glances at my script on my phone to calm my last minute nerves. My co-star, the wonderfully talented twelve-year-old Christian Cabral, and I opened the show. I had to make sure I didn’t blow the opening. “Oh dear God! Just get me through the first lines.” The spotlight was on Christian and I as we began our dialogue from the audience and then proceeded to walk onto the stage. We were off and running. Then I was fine. Actually, I was more than fine. There was a moment when I thought; “This feels oddly familiar like I’ve been on stage forever.” I guess old show biz ways die-hard.

As I struggled with the preparation for my acting role, I decided that after sixty-years of being on and off stage that this would definitely be my last performance. But then Amberlee said, “Hey, I have an idea for a show where you could. . .”

Performance Postscript

Truth be told, I really didn’t want any friends or family at my “swan song” performance. No flowers or fanfare! I just wanted to do my job, not fall on my rear, and be done with it. My ninety-one-year-old mother, Jeanne Bolstein, would have none of this. She would be there. She would buy her own ticket and arrange her own ride. At the end of the performance, I walked out to the lobby to find her. Carrying two tote bags and a cane, she wanted to give me a present. The gift was a beautiful, leather bound writing journal. Even though I really didn’t want or need any family there, it did warm my heart to see my mom’s beaming, proud face. It did seem especially fitting since over sixty years ago this woman walked me hand-in-hand into my first audition, and now was still here to offer a mom’s support. Boy, how lucky can a man get?

 

 

 

         

 

Friday, March 1, 2024

 MARCH 2024


- "ALL GOOD THINGS" -
A Celebratory Farewell and New Beginning
By Rev Protodeacon George A. Haloulakos

Thirty years ago in 1994, Star Trek: The Next Generation (aka TNG) concluded its seven year run in broadcast syndication with the Hugo Award winning "All Good Things," a series finale so well done that TV GUIDE Magazine rated it the number one finale for any television series!  It was filmed as a two-part episode, but shown as a made-for-TV movie that provided the segue for the classic small screen series to migrate to a series of major motion pictures in the ensuing years.  The Star Trek franchise historically has been very strong with its character development and the deep bonds of friendship between its crew members.  This is especially true for TNG, as the relationship of its bridge officers is noteworthy for following the same formula in this regard as the original 1960s series.  What makes this TNG finale so compelling after three decades?  The simple answer is that "All Good Things" serves as a template on how to bow out gracefully while simultaneously setting up a platform for future adventures in different venues.  From an artistic standpoint, it allowed the TV series to go out on top while from a financial perspective it established a platform by which to create multiple future revenue streams that opened up with the advancement in digital technologies.


The image of the starship Enterprise engenders wonderful memories for both casual and serious fans of the TNG franchise.  The features that made "All Good Things" an award winning film can be identified as follows:

> Innovative format that leveraged the theme of time travel.  Specifically, the story centers on the Captain Picard character travelling back and forth in three different time periods (past, present and future) in order to resolve a paradox in the space/time continuum that ultimately requires the reunion of the Enterprise bridge officers.  The viewer is able to see the action unfold from the Captain's perspective while interacting with the full group of TNG characters from its series run while traversing back and forth in the different time periods.  No other TV series or franchise has ever made more innovative or effective use of the time travel theme than Star Trek, and the TNG finale put an exclamation point on this.
> "All Good Things" was a fitting finale as over the course of preceding episodes, the series was able to tie up all the loose ends in connection with the storyline for each of the main characters.  The TNG finale was able to put a nice bow on its seven year voyage as a valedictory gift to its fans.
> In the closing scene, Captain Picard joins his bridge officers for their regular Poker game, after having shared with them the details of his time travels to help them avoid the missteps that would otherwise lead to them drifting apart.  Having affirmed their strong bond of friendship forged over seven years of interstellar space travel, the fadeout shows Captain Picard dealing out the cards with the promise that more adventures lie ahead!



Since the TNG series finale, there have been multiple Star Trek programs and/or series, some of which have involved the TNG cast to various degrees.  In several instances, we are treated to the TNG bridge crew and its starship Enterprise plotting out new adventures that reflect the passage of real time since the 1994 finale while also interacting with characters from the other Star Trek series that followed.  The advent of streaming technologies and fan fiction have generated enormous creative viewing opportunities and new journeys of imagination.  Needless to say, this was preceded by a series of big screen motion pictures that transported the TNG bridge officers to spectacular new adventures while forever cementing their lasting image as offering an optimistic vision of the future.  As noted, new streaming technologies concurrent with changing demographics and viewing habits have helped keep TNG fresh and vibrant, thereby attracting new generations of fans.



If you are looking for a made-for-TV movie that features imagination, character development, adventure and a truly satisfying ending that leaves the viewer wanting more, then "All Good Things" would be a worthwhile program to watch.  As inferred from the title of this blog, it is both an end and a beginning!

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Remembering Valentine’s Day

by Margaret Sizemore Clark On a calendar February 14 is singled out as Valentine’s Day, a day for celebrating love. For adults it could mean a proposal or celebrating an anniversary. Today’s moms and dads are busy people so many parents simply go online to buy the cards that their children will be taking to school to share with classmates. When I was a teacher, I set aside time for making Valentine’s bags, which called for LOTS of red and pink construction paper, glue, and the dreaded glitter. As I kid, I can remember making that same kind of bag and looking forward to filling them with valentines on which I had written the recipient’s name with fancy lettering. Then, when Valentine’s Day arrived the cards went into the bags and then were taken to our desks to open and read each one, maybe even hoping to get a special card from a particular person. After school we gathered up our bags and headed home, where the bag was put on a shelf to reread the cards later. “Later” turned into days and weeks and eventually those once-anticipated cards found their way into the ash can and forgotten.


But not so with my mother. She was born in 1922 so when she reached elementary school age it would have been the late 20’s and early 30’s, and the Great Depression was gaining momentum. Her family was fortunate in that her father had a job and kept his job all through the Depression, but I’m sure many of her friends were not as lucky. Money was tight, so things like valentines were a luxury. Many of us that had parents who were raised during that time have learned it’s difficult for them to part with things. In their lives nothing went to waste, whether it was a piece of equipment that broke, flour sacks that were sewn into dresses, even newspapers that were used as insulation on walls. Perhaps that’s why Mom saved her valentines; they were precious things that were given by someone who cared about her, and they meant something to her. Mom saved about forty of her valentines from a range of years and stored them in a candy box, never sharing them with us kids. In the late 90’s Mom developed dementia and when my dad went through her things, he discovered the box. It was hard for him to know what to keep and what to part with, but he kept the valentines, and on the candy box he wrote a note to us “kids”. "These are old valentines Mama received as a child and later youth. They are really keepsakes. One of you please keep them as they were meaningful to her.":


The valentines came to me for safe keeping. When I opened the candy box I discovered a bit of my mother as she had been as a girl. She must have been well-liked. Many of the cards were still in their envelopes, yellowed with age, and on them, handwritten in very legible cursive, was written, “To Mary Lee James” or just “Mary Lee”. Some were brittle and had tears on them, while others were just as bright and crisp as they were when they were new. I opened each card and read the sentiments on every valentine. They were sweet and reflected the innocence of their day. One valentine has a little boy in shorts holding a hot water bottle that says, “Warm up to Me” then below that it says, “and be my valentine.” The little girl is wearing a baby-doll dress with bloomers that peek out below the rather-short dress. Another shows a burglar complete with newsboy cap and a mask over his eyes breaking into a safe. It reads, “I think it’s “SAFE” to say I’m fond of YOU.” His bag of burglars’ tools is red, has a heart on it, and asks the reader to “Be Mine.”

Another card made me smile. It depicts a little boy driving a black jalopy that resembles something one would see in a Keystone Kops movie. It’s a convertible carrying a load of valentines, and the boy has a valentine in his hand that says, “Greetings Old Dear.” (How’s that for a romantic lead-off?) He must have just graduated from the School of Love and is now headed to see his sweetheart, because there is a document in the back seat that says, “Diploma of Love”. His jalopy is emblazoned with his printing, telling the world it was “New York or Bust”. On the driver’s door “She’s My Baby” is written and there’s a drawing of a red heart with an arrow through it saying, “Spiked For Life”. I’m not sure if I would appreciate being spiked for life, but you get the idea; this kid is in LOVE!!
Fruit was mentioned on several of the cards. One had a little boy in an orchard who has just picked a heart from one of the trees. He is handing it to a little girl who is holding both hands out. The card reads, “Say yes, Valentine ‘cause you’re a peach and we’d make a good “pear”!” Another shows a little girl holding an adorable little puppy sitting on a large peach. “It Will Be Peachy” is written on the piece of fruit, but the rest of the valentine is hidden under glass. Several of the cards referred to being up in the air. On one, a hot air balloon is floating with a little boy dropping a valentine saying, “I Love You” down to a little girl. On the gondola is written, “I want to drop in” and the balloon is hovering over a fence draped in valentines that say, “And Be Your Valentine”. There is another that features a little girl who is balancing on a highwire. The card tells us that, “You are keeping me “Up in the Air” My Valentine”. I thought it interesting that it was the girl telling the boy that he was keeping her dangling.


One year I thought of a way Mom’s valentines could be shared with my siblings. I sorted them, carefully trimmed some of them, mounted them on lignin-free paper, and placed them in shadow boxes made with glass that filters 99% of UV rays. I made copies of my father’s note and placed a copy on the back of each shadow box so that my brother and sisters would know the significance these cards had to our mother. I’m sure that the children who presented the valentines to my mother could never imagine that they would still be around almost a hundred years later and that they were cherished by her. They could not know that their sweet little valentines gave Mom’s family the gift of glimpsing their mother as she was as a child. So, if you are fortunate enough to get a valentine this year, think about the person who gave it to you, and consider how much they care about you. Happy Valentine’s Day.

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