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We attended a stirring and enjoyable  Sunday afternoon at a tribute to honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by the South Coast Interfaith Council. The program was hosted by the Gospel Memorial Church of God in Christ (COGIC), Long Beach, CA.

SCIC I South Coast Interfaith Council Logo

Around 150 attended and to say the crowd was diverse would be an understatement. The program featured leaders of local Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu and Zoroastrian congregations contributing to the afternoon festivities.

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from a speech in St Louis, 1964

Pastor Leon Wood Jr., served as MC. This gentleman is not only possessed of the most beautiful speaking voice I’ve heard in quite some time, but his background includes long-term activism in the homeless movement. He is retired from being Dean of the School of Business and Technology at Long Beach City College.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” From Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, 1963

Religious Leaders Speaking at MLK Day

Among the religious leaders present, I was most surprised to find out that Zoroastrianism has not died out. I learned about this religion from an historical novel set in the 4th century BCE, and its belief system influenced both Christianity and Islam. My wife, Estelle Toby Goldstein, spoke with him at length after the service and will probably write about that in her own space (if you are not her friend, this might be the time to hook-up).

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defence than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.” From Dr. King’s book “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” 1967

From my interest in music, I was already aware of the COGIC reputation for soulful, funky, grooving, gospel music and I was not disappointed. Gospel singer Erma Varnado did two numbers favored by Dr. King, “His Eyes Are On The Sparrow,” and “I Won’t Complain.” Her voice has power to rattle the windows and fixtures, and you can tell a lot of that power comes from her faith as well as her vocal muscles. She also sang two numbers at the closing of the ceremony. Her accompaniment was provided by music minister Paul Parker on the organ — and that gentleman matched the singer for fervor.

Gospel singer Erma Varnado

Another kind of gospel was provided by Nicholas Miller who sang and played guitar. He immediately got audience participation and moved the people to stand, clap, stomp their feet and sing along.

If you haven’t been in this type of environment before, it is happy, loud, spirited and joyful.

Nicholas Miller

This isn’t the hushed worship service often associated with churches.

The keynote speaker was Michele Antoinette Dobson, a local attorney and civic activist. She’s a prominent Rotarian and specializes in defending non-profit organizations. She spoke not only of her own racial struggles, but what she has faced as a woman working to enter a traditionally male field, as a woman, and with being judged for her weight and economic background.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” From a letter Dr. King wrote while in the Birmingham City Jail, 1963

Other speakers on the program were Maneck Bhujwala of the Zoroastrian Community of Southern California.

Milia Islam-Majeed, Executive Director of the South Coast Interfaith Council.

Spencer R. Butler, Jr. — a senior at Cal State Long Beach and a member of the student branch of NAACP.

Gretchen Krutz of the Long Beach Baha’i Community,

Naomi Rainey-Pierson, President of the Long Beach chapter of NAACP.

Sandi Zander, representing Temple Menorah of Torrance, CA.

Imam Tarek Mohamed of Long Beach Islamic Center.

Patti Heckman of the South Bay SGI Buddhist Community

Dr. Rini Ghosh of the Hindu Vedanta Society

Each of these spiritual leaders led the gathering in a call and response litany,

Ernest McBride, Sr and his children also offered reflections.

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” From a letter Dr. King wrote while in the Birmingham City Jail, 1963

The ceremony ended with everyone joining hands and singing “We Shall Overcome,” the anthem of the civil rights movement in the days of Dr. King — again accompanied by Rev Parker on organ.

The entire program was a bonding of different faiths and races, and it makes me wonder (in the words of Rodney King) — “Why can’t we all just get along,”

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” From “Love In Action from Strength to Love,” 1963 by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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It is “Craig Week” again and we are almost finished.  I’ve been posting daily on my Facebook page with pictures and anecdotes about Craig and the Bunkhouse Boys.

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Today I posted an introduction to the various people who were a part of that scene all those years ago.  And there are plenty of pictures.

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Tomorrow will be the Grand Finale for this year and it should be a doozy.  I’ll tell about our annual Fourth Of July Picnics and show some incriminating, ummm I mean … “Intriguing” pictures.

Here is the latest chapter — I hope you enjoy!

BHB Core Membership

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I think my brother fell in love with trucks during the CB radio craze of the mid-1970s.

Craig often had a wild affinity for some subject or another, and when he did he went all out.

And when Craig was crazy about something, everybody in the family would be roped in by his enthusiasm.

So then we all got into CB radios, every one of our vehicles had to have one. Everybody had to have a CB handle. Craig even went so far as to install a separate CB band aerial on top of the house. The breakfast nook in our kitchen was turned into the base station for the CBs. And of course we had to have a lot of equipment.

Craig Ward with his parents

Craig was the “Happy Hippy”. I was “Camelback”. Brother Bart went by “Cool Breeze,” and Dad was the “Roadhog” which he could never remember. He would get on the radio and say, “This is the Road Agent” or something similar but totally unlike “Roadhog”.

During this time it wasn’t just the radios that were hot — It was trucking in general. There were hit songs about truck driving and the newer ones were CB radio-oriented. There were movies about Over-The-Road-Truckers and their CB radios doing various things. There was even a hit TV show at the time called “Moving On” and it featured a theme song by Merle Haggard, no less.

Although I can’t lay my hands on it at this time, I remember well a photograph we took of Craig on his 22nd birthday. The cake was shaped like a CB radio and the legend in frosting said “Break

Read more on Truck Driving Craig…

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My brother Bart is three years younger than me. One of my earliest Easter memories is the time I nearly killed him.

I remember Bart was so little he wasn’t walking yet, so probably less than one year old. He was in one of those little seats where his legs could stick out and touch the floor so he could scoot around.

We were in the kitchen — I can picture this vividly. I was enjoying a chocolate Easter bunny so I wanted to share with my new little brother. Is that so wrong?

He started choking. Fortunately my parents heard him and came rushing in from another room. Mom was asking what happened and I just said I gave him some chocolate.

My father opened his mouth, fished around and withdrew a wad of tin foil.

I was lectured that the wrapping must be removed before feeding anything to the baby.

Who knew? I guess I though he could do it himself.’

Maybe this will help future generations.

Happy Easter Bart. I hope I didn’t ruin chocolate bunnies for you.

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Carolyn Rae Bartley was born at the height of the Great Depression, April 17, 1932. Today would have been her 85th birthday.

She grew up in Almena, KS, a small town, even by Kansas standards. The town was founded 1872 and had little to offer except being a shipping point located at the junction of two

Carolyn Bartley — approx. 4 years old. Thanks to Fran Post and Inge Bartley for the photo.

railroads. The population in the 1890 census was 366 and that’s about where it stands today. At its peak in the 1930 census, it was credited with about 700 citizens.

Mom was the youngest of three children born to Thomas R. Bartley, editor and publisher of a one-man newspaper, the Almena Plaindealer and Leona Bartley, known by her middle name, Ferryl.

My grandfather (born in Nebraska in 1894) was reportedly a brilliant man, but tragically alcoholic. I never knew him and the family never talked about him. Grandma divorced him when my mother was young, and this was quite scandalous in the 1930s — especially in small town rural areas of the Bible Belt. He died when my mom was 13, probably due to his alcoholism. My parents told me and my brothers that he died in a car wreck. When pressed for details, they said that a bee got into the car and he was trying to kill it or shoo it away while driving, lost control and had a wreck.

This story was supposedly better than acknowledging the shame of his “sinful” condition.

That’s really all I know about him, except that I have seen some of the newspaper columns he

Read more on To Mother On Her Birthday…

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Yeah, yeah, I know — another birthday coming around. Big deal!

When I was young, my family made a big deal out of the fact that my birthday was “The First Day Of Spring.” Actually, the Vernal Equinox would occur on Mar. 20 sometimes and Mar. 21 others.

It also marked the first day of Ares, for those who follow astrology.

But some few years ago, I lived long enough that the universe rotated and my birthday was no longer the first day of spring — which now will be either Mar. 19 or 20 some years.

“The precession of the equinoxes refers to the observable phenomena of the rotation of the heavens, a cycle which spans a period of (approximately) 25,920 years, over which time the constellations appear to slowly rotate around the earth, taking turns at rising behind the rising sun on the vernal equinox.”

So I will have to be patient if I want to wait around for my birthday to synch with spring.

What this means in astrological terms — I really don’t care.

Precession of the equinoxes

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As a middle child, I have a lot to thank my older brother for. But in a few things, I wish I hadn’t followed in his footsteps.

My older brother was a trail-blazer when it came to drinking, smoking and most of the other passages from childhood to adult. Being only slightly more than two years younger, I became his sidekick — his drinking monkey.

Monkey smoking a cigarette and carrying a bottle of booze.I’ve since wised up and dropped my evil habits. But I know that many people aren’t able to master their habits.

On an unrelated topic, my younger brother (when he was very young) asked my mother if she would have another boy so HE could have a little brother (the poor lady had already given birth to three boys.)

She told him that more children were not in the picture.

So little brother asked, “Then can we have a monkey?”

For purposes of these anecdotes, both brothers will remain nameless. Please forgive me, my brothers.

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If you are wondering why there hasn’t been a front page post recently, it is because I have been working on my history of The Bunkhouse Boys.

This is the way I honor the memory of my big brother, Craig Ward, who was taken away from us much too soon by cancer.

I believe that a huge part of his joy in life was his time with The Bunkhouse Boys, comprised of his two brothers and a great friend. To make this public is to show the world (or at least the world wide web) what he did and what he meant to us.

There will be more installments on this blog.  How many?  I don’t know.  I think there are a lot of stories to tell.  First I’ll set down the basic chronology and then get into anecdotes.

If you knew him and loved him, I hope you enjoy reading about Craig.

If you didn’t know him, you are welcome to get acquainted by reading these tales.

Happy Birthday Craig.

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My family always made a big party out of Easter.  My grandparents were very religious (Methodists) and we all went to church, but afterward it was your typical family feast with all the relatives.

My Grandpa Roy and Grandma Lee hosted (until they got too old) and we had a big egg hut for the kids in their yard. We also had small gifts — nothing like Christmas, but little things.  Also Easter was a time to buy new clothes (usually “Sunday School” clothes but sometimes everyday stuff).

Painting Portrait Of Wade On Easter Egg

Always A Good Egg

The food was outrageously good and plentiful — lots of stuff with all the good Midwestern-type of picnic food — every kind of salad and Jello dish you can think of — all the baked goods from cookies and brownies and fudge to cakes and pies, and of course LOTS of ham, potatoes and that stuff.
Then — whenever we had a big gathering — the men would churn home-made ice cream.  Grandma made her own special vanilla mix with a hint of lemon extract — I have never found any commercial ice cream that tastes quite like it.  We would fill the tub with ice and take turns cranking the mixer … Grandpa Roy would start, then poop out and my dad would take over, and when we got older, the boys would finish off (it got more difficult as the ice cream solidified).  One person would keep adding ice and rock salt as it drained off (of course you did this outside because of the water flow. )

Great memories.  I think after we found all the eggs, sometimes we nagged the adults to hide them again!

Most of the day was spent watching TV (adults) and playing board and card games.  It was a real close, extended family.  My Uncle Bill and Aunt Bee (Dad’s sister) had two kids about ten years younger than me, so it was like a new generation and my two brothers and I moved up into the adult roles — hiding Easter eggs, helping make ice cream and whatever else men did (this was back in the day when the women did all the real work — cooking, serving, washing dishes).

Great memories.  And I really miss every bit of it.

Hope you and your family have a very happy Easter.

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