Saturday, July 20, 2019

The Apollo 11 Mission: Fifty Years Ago


Where were you the day men walked on the moon? It was on July 20, 1969, fifty years ago today, that the world collectively held its breath as astronaut Neil Armstrong slowly backed out of the Lunar Module Eagle and cautiously climbed down a nine-rung ladder before stepping foot on the surface of the moon. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” were his now immortalized words. In the photo, his fellow astronaut, Buzz Aldrin, salutes the U.S flag during the Apollo 11 mission.



Friday, July 19, 2019

Does the Appollo 11 Flag Still Fly on the Moon?


One of the most iconic images from the Apollo 11 mission is of Buzz Aldrin saluting the American flag on the surface of the Moon. It was a standard 3-by-5-foot nylon flag, with the only modification being a hem sewed along its top edge to allow a metal rod to slide through – that gave the flag rigidity in the windless environment so that it appeared to wave. The flag was attached to an 8-foot flagpole, gold-anodized aluminum tube, that the astronauts planted into the lunar soil.

HOW WAS THE FLAG AND ASEMBLY CARRIED TO THE MOON?

According to NASA, the overall Lunar Flag Assembly, including a stainless steel case to protect the flag against temperature extremes, weighed 9 pounds 7 ounces. The assembly was attached to the forward landing leg of the Lunar Module Eagle three days before launch.

The video here shows Apollo 11 astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin deploying the flag on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969. The split screen shows the live TV downlink on the left, synchronized with film taken by an automatic camera set up inside the LM on the right.

SO WHAT ABOUT THE FLAG TODAY?

The flag left by Apollo 11 cannot be seen in recent years by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and is presumably no longer standing. The film taken from inside the lunar module as the astronauts lifted off from the Moon begins after the module is already airborne and the flag cannot be seen, but Aldrin claims he caught a glimpse of the flag getting knocked over during liftoff. But, over the next three years, five more flags joined the one left by Apollo 11. Photographs show that the flags left by Apollo 12, 16 and 17 appear to be still standing. On the later landings, astronauts planted the flags farther from the lunar module. The status of the Apollo 14 and 15 flags cannot be determined conclusively, although it looks like the Apollo 14 flag took quite a beating from the lunar module engine exhaust during liftoff.

ALL WAS NOT LOST!

The good news is that, flag-wise, all was not lost from the Apollo 11's trip to the moon. The flag that Apollo 17 left on the Moon was a flag that went to the Moon and back on Apollo 11. It had hung on a wall in Mission Control until it made a return trip to the Moon, this time to stay.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Attention Band Leaders, Do Not Play My Song


"There's A Star-Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere" is a patriotic anthem written in 1942 by Paul Roberts and Shelby Darnell (a pseudonym for producer Bob Miller). The song enjoyed great popularity during the World War II years. So why did Miller threaten to sue big-name band leaders if they played it?

It was because Miller was all about hillbilly music. When the song hit its third million in record and sheet music sales he placed an ad in Variety magazine, asking big-name band leaders not to play it, and when the song made the Hit Parade he threatened to sue if they did. He explained that his reputation as a writer and publisher was at stake. "This music," he insisted, "must have the common touch. It is violated unless done by a true son of the soil, one to the manner born."

The title of the song has a significant meaning. The word "somewhere" appears to signify heaven, for, as the lyrics state, only the great heroes of Uncle Sam get to go there. The narrator states he'll see the likes of Lincoln, Custer, Perry Washington and Hale. He adds that he is willing to die to "be a free American" and wherever that Star Spangled Banner is waving is where he wants to be living when his time to die is at hand.

My 1942 recording of this song by Arthur Fields (Hit Records) is among the first recordings after the song was written.

There's a star spangled banner waving somewhere
In a distant land so many miles away
Only Uncle Sam's great hero's get to go there
Where I wish that I could live someday

I see Lincoln, Custer, Washington and Perry
Nathan Hale and Collin Kelly too
There's a star spangled banner waving somewhere
Waving ov'er the land of hero's brave and true


Wednesday, July 3, 2019

From Whence Our True Freedom Comes


Did you know that ''The Star Spangled Banner'' wasn't actually adopted as the official national anthem of the United States until 1931? Before that, the nation had a few de facto national anthems, and ''The Star Spangled Banner'' wasn't even the most popular. That honor goes to ''America (My Country, 'Tis of Thee)." For a century, this was the most beloved 'unofficial' anthem of the nation.

The story of this popular hymn begIns in 1831, when Samuel Francis Smith, a student at the Andover, Massachusetts Theological Seminary, who would later become a Baptist preacher, journalist and author, was asked to translate the lyrics in some German school songbooks into English. The "God Save the Queen" melody caught his attention, but rather than translate those lyrics, Smith was moved deeply by the desire to create a national hymn that would allow the American people to offer praise to God for our wonderful land. And so, in just thirty minutes, he wrote his own words to the melody and "America (My Country, 'Tis of Thee)" was born.

The first three verses of this patriotic hymn encourage and invoke national pride, while the last verse is a petition to God for His continued favor and protection of the United States of America. "Long may our land be bright with freedom’s holy light," it says. 2 Corinthians 3:17 says “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (aka freedom)," which is to say Christ is where true freedom is found. It is a freedom that lasts for an eternity, not anything temporary. The kind of freedom we will never have to worry about being stolen or taken away.

It was William Penn who wrote: "Men must be governed by God or they will be ruled by tyrants." And, while America strives to provide freedom, let us pray that we never lose sight of from whence our true freedom comes.

Morgan's Kentucky Raid Began at Cumberland County


On July 2, 1863, Confederate General John Hunt Morgan and his troops crossed the Cumberland River at Burkesville, KY, where a skirmish with Union foes took place. Morgan's Rebels were able to drive the Yankees back to the nearby Marrowbone community, but another skirmish occured just beyond the community of Waterview. This time, however, the Union forces used artillery and fresh men to push Morgan back.

Morgan's whole purpose in conducting raids into the north was to create diversion to keep Union troops and resources away from the ongoing Confederate operations at Vicksburg and Gettysburg.

From Kentucky, Morgan's Men raided across southern Indiana and Ohio. At Buffington Island in Meigs County, Ohio on July 19, 1863, Union Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside ordered out all available troops for a battle that ended with the capture of over half of the 1,700-man Confederate force, including my grandmother Vada Boles' 3rd cousin, Samuel Washington Frost, who had grown up at Gap Creek in Wayne County and had enlisted in Co. H 7th KY Cavalry at the onset of the Civil War.

Samuel and hundreds of other prisoners who had fought at Buffington Island were sent to Camp Douglas prison camp in Chicago, where he died on March 26, 1864. It has been estimated that more than 6,000 Confederate prisoners died there from things like smallpox, dysentery, pneumonia, starvation and torture.

They are buried in the Confederate Mound at Oak Woods Cemetery, located in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. It is one of the largest mass graves in North America. Near the southwest corner of the cemetery stands a 30-foot granite monument dedicated to the thousands of Confederate soldiers who died at Camp Douglas. 

As for General Morgan, less than a month after the skirmishes that had taken place in Cumberland County, he surrendered, although, he escaped to fight again, only to be killed about a year later.

Three Cheers for the Red, White & Blue, But Not The Yankees


In 1974, a radio and tv commercial began airing that claimed there was nothing more American than "baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet." I'm not sure if fifty-four years earlier writer/composer Louis Hirsch would have agreed.

In 1914, Hirsch, who was born in New York City, was one of the nine founders of ASCAP, which stands for "American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers," a non-profit performance-rights organization that protects its members' musical copyrights by monitoring public performances of their music and compensating them accordingly.

In that same year, 1914, Hirsch composed a patriotic love song entitled, "The Red, White and Blue," which was recorded and released on Victor Records by The Peerless Quartet. It is one of the disks in my 78rpm record collection.

Being a native of New York, Hirsch loved the Yankees, but in 1920 he sued the baseball organization for $100‚000 because of an incident which happened at a game on May 24th that year. To avoid sitting next to a cigar smoker‚ Hirsch switched seats with his brother, but an usher informed him it was against the rules to do that and ordered the two brothers to switch back. Hirsch refused and had to be forcibly ejected from the stands.

The Peerless Quartet, a popular ensemble organized in 1906, recorded The Red, White on June 4, 1914.

Your lips are so red
Such a beautiful red
I just love to see you smile
Your teeth are so white
Like the stars in the night
or the pearls from a southern isle
The blue of your eyes
Like the midsummer skies
Form a color I just love to view
So no wonder I say
When I'm looking your way
Three cheers for the
Red, White and Blue


Thursday, June 27, 2019

Smitty's 1st Annual Summer Jam


It was a big night for CW Steele and Albany on that hot summer night in 1980 when the band played its now-legendary concert at Smitty's Drive-In. The lot behind the restaurant where we sat up the stage, a flat bed trailer, was standing room only. The parking lot there was full, as was the big one across the road at Albany Stockyards. A continuous flow of traffic encircled the well-known restaurant for what seemed like hours that day and evening. The carhops were kept busy, as were those working inside. But, oh what a night it was.

As far as the band went, we jammed the night away: myself, Dwayne, Leon, my brother Ronnie, Jeff "Monk" Flowers, Steve Claborn and Gary Lehman. Two things happened that night that clearly stand out in my mind after all these years. One was when Junior Byers came on stage to play his harmonica, a calling of his that he never really answered during all of the years he played music. The other thing was when the police came to tell us to turn down because residents living three miles away were complaining that we were too loud. In all my years of playing music, and being told to turn down, that night at Smitty's is my favorite "turn it down, you're too loud" moment, because the band played on that night (thanks to Smitty being on the city council) and we rocked the entire east end of town.

Before we started, Leon, Dwayne and I went inside the restaurant. Leon said, "Watch this," then turned to Smitty and said, "Hey, Smitty how 'bout a bologna sandwich," and then threw his head back and laughed. Smitty disappeared for a few seconds, only to return with a piece of bologna in his hand. "How do you want it?" he asked.

That night at Smitty's was the first time I had played keyboards in a live band setting since the age of 14, when my dad put together a little combo to play a couple of country club parties and let me be in the band. It also featured future bandmates David Pennycuff and Junior Byers, and that one night when my idol, Cecil Pryor, joined joined in at one of Smitty's famous Christmas parties.

My memory of Smitty's 1st Annual Summer Jam is a special one to me. My brother, Ronnie, died in a car accident in 1981 and Leon was killed in a boating accident two years later. We played the Smitty's concert for free that night for a couple of reasons. Number one, we wanted to give ourselves, and everyone else, something to do, and number two, just like everyone else, we loved Smitty and Shelva and wanted to do something special for them. They had given us, and the generation before us, a place to cruise and a place to hang out, not to mention the delicious food they served had up for what ended up being 38 years.

Smitty’s Drive-In opened on May 18, 1962 and closed on July 4, 2000. If ever there were husband and wife icons in Clinton County, James and Shelva Smith are it. Oh yes, how they definitely are it! Smitty was so popular. He served as a member of the Albany City Council for 15 terms, stretching out over three decades. For 36 years, he was chairman of Albany Housing Authority.

What kind of impression did Smitty's Drive-In leave on us? Robbie Davis, in a Facebook post dated June 30, 2016, the night before he died, shared a photo he had taken of the Smitty's sign out by the road, which is the photo you see here, and he wrote the following: "John and I cruised Albany late last night and I showed him the circle and shared what we did in Albany growing up. It was fun. The sad part is, we where the only people out at 11pm on a summer night. Things sure have changed."

By the way, the day Smitty's 1st Annual Summer Jam took place, my pal David Cross showed up with t-shirts to commemorate the occasion. Who still has theirs?

In Memory of James "Smitty" Smith
(1935-2019)



The Apollo 11 Mission: Fifty Years Ago

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