Wednesday, November 25, 2015


It has been four years since I wrote my third Thanksgiving post on this blog.   All three of those posts addressed the memories of Thanksgiving at my grandfather's house.  They told of the huge Hill family gathering together to sincerely give thanks for all of our blessings as a family.  All my uncles and aunts were there and the distance between the families was not spread out as they are now.  Back then my uncle Dan lived the furthest away but everyone else seemed to be within a four hour drive of the old house on 54th Terrace in Kansas City, Missouri.  Death was relativity rare in the Hill family in those days when I was young and so grandpa's house would be totally filled and noisy with laughter and good talk.  Since then the family has changed.  Four of my uncles have passed, Melvin, Buster Dan and Bill, and two aunts have left us, June and Jane.  The family has spread out into Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Colorado and the glue that held that family together, the two people who brought that huge gathering to their home, grandma and grandpa are gone as well.  Very seldom does the family have gatherings like it use to on Thanksgiving every year.

I sit here thinking about Thanksgivings past.  When thanksgiving use to be observed in school every year.  In elementary school the teachers would have us make Pilgrim hats or Indian head dresses and we would observe Thanksgiving sitting there dressed in our little construction paper hats and learn about the Pilgrims, Plymouth Rock and how two different cultures came together for that magical first Thanksgiving.  It was not ACTUALLY the way things happened but it was a good story for a second grader learning about and falling in love with history at such an early age. I visited Boston some years ago and made a point to visit Plymouth since I was going to be close to there when I visited Quincy to soak in some John Adams history.  I saw what was said to be THE Plymouth Rock, protected by a greek structure and with "1620" engraved into it.  It was magical to see it after hearing about that rock since I was six years old, but in reality, I knew that it was just a rock that had been chosen to represent the day the Pilgrims landed in the name of religious freedom onto a new land.  I had learned more of the true history of those days between the westerners and the Indian cultures and how they did not get along as well as we were taught.  History has a way of making itself known.  Sometimes it takes a while but it is there ready to burst out with truth instead of idealism.

Thanksgiving has become lost in today's society as Christmas continues to spread itself earlier into the fall months and I think that is a bad thing.  Thanksgiving is important.  Thanksgiving should be a time of reflection, not on the past year necessarily, but on years past, all the way back to as far as you can remember.

The world seems to be in turmoil.  This country, the United States, seems to be in turmoil.  A midst all of the turmoil though, there are organizations made up of ordinary people who care for the sick, the homeless and the hungry.  The television stations come out at this time of year to show what an organization is doing to help those in need, but in reality, they are helping those people all the year around.  Thanksgiving is important because it reflects what these groups do every day of every year.  It isn't the government helping these people, but ordinary citizens who see a problem and step up to give relief to those who need it.  Yes, the government does do a lot to help people, but the true resources of help come from these people who see the problem and take measures to help fix them.

Thanksgiving is important and needs to be set aside from Christmas.  Thanksgiving needs to be kept as it was intended.  To give thanks for the blessings we receive.  To be thankful that this country, either through government aide or through citizens stepping up, will continue to see the problems and the injustices that people endure, and will continue to take measures to right the wrongs.  To help the helpless.  To feed the hungry.

Thanksgiving is important to help remind us of where we came from, where we are, and where we can be as we continue to help those who  can not help themselves on a year round basis.  To be thankful that as we continue to see the wrongs, we continue to fix them.

Thanksgiving is important to remind us of how important and special are the people we have been influenced by.  The people who were and those who still are in our lives.  They can older than you or younger than you and still have influence on your life that helps you to grow as a human being.  I have always believed that you can learn as much from someone much younger than you as well as from someone much older.  I have learned something that helped me from everyone in my family, both the maternal and paternal sides.  I have learned from my wife and son. My nieces and nephews have taught me so very much about life, especially Justin and Mei.  Aunts, Uncles and cousins have always had a word of wisdom when I need one as well as my parents,grandparents and my siblings.  Pastors and fellow church members have been there when I needed them.  I haven't had in the past nor do I have now many friends, but when I need one, they are there.  I truly am thankful for all of these.

Thanksgiving is important.  Do not let it slide by as another benchmark in our march towards Christmas. Make it what it was meant to be.  A time to be thankful inspite of all the hard times we all endure.

Monday, November 16, 2015


Things have certainly changed since the early to mid seventies as far as a cafeteria in a high school is concerned.  I first noticed this when I went back to my old high school, Ruskin, for a community meeting one weekend.  There was a machine in that room that I had never seen when I was attending.  It was a soft drink vending machine.   When I was in school, all the way from kindergarten until I graduated in December of 1974, our choice of drink of milk.  They did give us a choice though.  We could have white or chocolate milk but a Coke for lunch?  Not going to happen.

When my son was in high school and we would have meetings in the cafeteria at Bishop Hogan or O'Hara, vending machines had grown from just one soft drink machine to two or three drink machines, a candy machine, and a few other machines designed to keep the kids healthy and awake for the remainder of the day.

To be fair, there were treats in the morning before school if you got there early enough.  The special education class of Ruskin would sale donuts and coffee every morning.  Not exactly a vending machine but at least it wasn't the no choice that happened at lunch at the school.  There was a group of about six of us who would arrive at school early and have some social time with donuts and coffee before starting another boring day.

There was but one vending machine in the Ruskin cafeteria when I attended that great school.  It was a vending machine of music, otherwise know as a jukebox.  This juke box was, of course, before the days of the compact disc and so it was filled with 45 rpm records.  It was the juke box in the cafeteria that i began to accumulate information concerning the flip side. or "B" side of the hit side that groups released.  It became a hobby of mine to learn, to memorize which songs were on a 45 rpm record.  From this I spread my knowledge of records to include label, label color, group, the writer of a song, the year it was released, the album it was taken from (although there were plenty of singles that were released only as singles not appearing on an album) onto learning the producers and any other kind of knowledge that could be learned about a record or album.  It was an interesting hobby as long as the music was interesting and for me the music ceased to be that interesting around the mid eighties.

There must have been a hundred songs on that juke box but few songs were played on a regular basis.  Everyday at lunch, there seemed to be a play list that was required to be played over the lunch period.  Everyday the same songs seemed to be played and from this playlist a string of songs are embedded in my memory.  When I hear these songs today, a lot of times my mind wanders back to the lunch periods in high school.

I am going to make a list here of the songs that I remember being played constantly during my years at Ruskin.  I am sure that some of my classmates may have other songs that they remember and I would really appreciate it if some of my classmates would send in songs that they remember.    The songs I am going to list are probably the songs I appreciated the most, not necessarily all the songs that were played daily.

Here are the songs that click in my mind as the songs that were played most often (not in any particular order):

Summer Breeze - Seals and Crofts
Without You - Harry Nilsson
Black Dog - Led Zeppelin
Rock and Roll - Led Zeppelin
Garden Party - Rick Nelson
Foot Stompin' Music - Grand Funk Railroad
Closer To Home - Grand Funk Railroad
Stairway To Heaven - Led Zeppelin
Misty Mountain Hop - Led Zeppelin
Levon - Elton John
Make It With You - Bread
China Grove - The Doobie Brothers
Brown Sugar - The Rolling Stones
One - Three Dog Night
Chest Fever - Three Dog Night
Share The Land - The Guess Who
Bus Rider - The Guess Who

Those are the songs that pop into my mind as I think about those lunches at the school.  It doesn't seem like they ever changed the records in the juke box the whole time I was at Ruskin.  Every year the same songs, with the same numbers were there.  It played the songs at a fairly high volume and it seems like the juke box was constantly playing leaving silence behind during each lunch period.

Loved that juke box.  Taught me a lot of music.  In a way it was continuing our education clean through the lunch periods.