memories

Do You Remember Where You Were When….?

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As we approach the end of the year our minds wander to past years and the events, both good and bad, that are burned in our minds. My parents could remember in great detail where they were on December 7,1941 when Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese. My mother actually carved the date on the inside of her wooden sewing box that I still have today.

JFK Before First Shot
President John F. Kennedy From Zapruder Film |Photo through youtube.com

For me November has the strongest memory and it dates back 54 years to November 22, 1963. I was a senior in high school when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, Texas.

I don’t remember what class I was in at the time, but the Principal, Fr. Carr, came on the PA system to announce that the President had been shot and that was all that was known at the time. A little later the next announcement was from the radio broadcast saying that President Kennedy had died. To us the whole situation was inconceivable. It just couldn’t happen here in the United States. Well it did and every November 22nd I think back on those dark days.

McQuaid Jesuit High
McQuaid Jesuit High School, Rochester, NY | Image by McQuaid Jesuit High School

Our modern social media has really changed things. I have been in touch with some of my classmates from McQuaid Jesuit High School in Rochester, New York through Facebook and we shared memories of that horrific day.

Princess Diana
Princess Diana Death Headlines | Image by newyorkdailynews.com

Another day I’ll never forget was the day that Princess Diana was killed at 12:23 am in a car accident in Paris, France on Sunday August 31, 1997. According to Pacific Daylight Time she was pronounced dead at 4:23 pm PDT on Saturday August 30, 1997. My wife and I spent the day at the coast and as usual I tried to get my perfect sunset picture over the ocean near Florence. We were traveling back and it had already gotten dark. We had the car radio on, but the reception faded in and out so we couldn’t hear much. We did here a few words of the network news which said something about Princes Diana and then a car accident. It was so garbled we turned the radio off. I think we were approaching Venetta when we turned the radio back on and finally heard the news broadcast explaining that Diana was killed in a car accident in Paris as the limo driver attempted to outrun a parade of Paparazzi that chased them. It was very hard to believe that it was even possible and that it really happened.

Twin Towers On 9-11
Twin Towers 9/11/2001 | Photo from google.com

In a previous column I related how I found out about the terrorist attack in New York City on September 11, 2001 (9-11) and that it’s a moment I’ll never forget. I was working for both a television and a radio station here in Eugene. I was in my home office preparing my morning radio weather forecast at about 6:00 am when, as usual, I turned on the little TV over my desk to see what the current weather looked like from our station’s tower camera. Instead of the local news there was a live picture of the Twin Towers burning. It looked just like a scene from an action/adventure movie. The person reporting said they would have the videotape rewound shortly. They played the tape and it showed the second plane approach and crash into the second tower. Again,a scene that was so unbelievable.

2004 Indonesian Tsunami
Indonesian Tsunami 12.26.2004 | Photo from d.ibtimes.co.uk

Another event that I’ll never forget was the Indonesian tsunami that followed a large earthquake. The earthquake’s epicenter was in the Indian Ocean off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia and struck at 00:58:53 UTC. The quake triggered a series of devastating tsunamis that killed 230,000-280,000 people in 14 countries. The tsunamis inundated coastal communities with waves up to 100 ft. high. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in history. What was I doing when I heard about it? My wife and I were on the way to Rochester, New York for my Father-in-law’s funeral. We heard about it first at the Portland airport and then had to wait until we got to Chicago to get more information. It took days before the unbelievable death toll numbers emerged.

I’m sure you have moments like these that are burned forever in your memory. They could be from these events I have discussed or other events that had an impact on your life. I’d like to hear your story. Please feel free to add your story to the comments section at the end of this article.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].

Boy, Does That Take Me Back To…

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Recently I was listening to the radio (KKNX Radio 840 of course) when a familiar song was being played. Just hearing that music brought back a specific memory from my past. I’m sure that it has happened to you also. Maybe you are not really paying attention to the song, but suddenly a particular memory is stirred up reminding you of what you were doing or feeling when you heard it years ago.
Let’s go on a brief journey through some of the memories in my life that can be triggered by simply hearing a particular song. To make this as simple as possible I’ll move through time in chronological order. The music videos and audio tracks are all via YouTube.

One of the first songs that brings back old memories is a Christmas song that was released in 1947. I was born in 1946 so my first memory of this song is around Christmas time in the mid 1950s. The song is “Here Comes Santa Claus” written by Oakley Haldeman and sung by the famous cowboy movie and TV star and singer Gene Autry. I can still see myself sitting by the Christmas tree listening to the song in anticipation of Santa’s arrival at my house.

We’ll move forward quite a bit to the summer of 1961. I went with my parents back to Uniontown, Pennsylvania to visit with family members. Every time I hear this song it takes me back to the town where my parents and I lived until I was 5 years-of-age. I can feel the car rolling across some railroad tracks and turning onto one of the main streets. The song is “Hit The Road Jack” written and performed by Ray Charles.

McQuaid Jesuit High School
McQuaid Jesuit High School, Rochester, NY | Photo by pinterest.com

One particular song brings back a strong memory from the fall of 1961. It was the beginning of my sophomore year in high school. I attended McQuaid Jesuit High School which was way across the city of Rochester, New York from where I lived. I had to take a Rochester Transit Company bus from my house downtown and transfer to a second bus that would eventually arrive at the school. That Fall there was a bus strike and since I couldn’t ride the bus my parents had to find another way for me to get to school. They both worked and there was no way they could drive me to school and still get to work since we had only one car. We found a freshman student who lived nearby and his father drove us to school. I’d walk to his house and wait in his dining room until it was time to leave. That first day they had the radio turned on and the song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” was playing. It was sung by the Tokens, but was originally recorded in the Zulu language in 1939.Whenever I hear that song I can see myself sitting in a strange house waiting to be driven to school.

We’ll move on to the 1970s next. In 1971 My wife and I were living in Binghamton, New York where she worked in a hospital and I was a disk jockey at a local radio station. The song that triggers the strong memory of that time is “Joy To The World” written by Hoyt Axton ( best known to many as the failed inventor father in the 1984 movie “Gremlins.”) and sung by Three Dog Night. What made that time so special is that we were waiting for the birth of our first child, Michelle.

May 1979 had us moving from Austin, Texas to Spokane, Washington for my job as the main weather anchor at KREM-TV. The drive seemed like it would last forever so we kept alert and mentally occupied listening to the radio. One particular song that was played on all of the rock stations we tuned in was “YMCA” by The Village People. It was the kind of song that could be sung while driving and keep you alert when you start feeling tired.

Then there was the time back in 1981 when we drove from Spokane, Washington to Evansville, Indiana to move to a new job for which I was hired. The tedium of the 2,500 mile trip was eased by listening to the radio. The theme song from one of our favorite television shows at the time had been released as a single and was played on many rock stations. We heard it, and of course, sang along each and every time it was played on multiple stations along the route. The show was “The Greatest American Hero and the theme song was called “Believe It Or Not.” That’s another song that helped keep me awake when “highway hypnosis” tried to get me to close my eyes while driving.

The end of the 1980s saw us living in Memphis, Tennessee. While working out at a local Gym one song that they had playing on a speaker in the workout room from a local radio station kept me riding the stationary bicycle when I wanted to quit. The beat of the song kept my feet peddling steadily. The song was “She Drives Me Crazy” by the group Fine Young Cannibals.

I’ll wrap this up with a song from the year 2000 that I listened to on my iPod while I walked a treadmill at the gym here in Eugene. It is the theme song from “Mission Impossible 2” that starred Tom Cruise. I particularly like the new arrangement they wrote for it adding in the Australian didgeridoo, also known as a didjeridu. To this day when I listen to that song I want to walk at a fast pace. I’m sure you have particular pieces of music, whether rock, country, classical, hip hop, jazz or whatever that brings back specific memories of events and times in your life.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].