Travelin’ Man

1958 Pontiac Catalina
1958 Pontiac Catalina

The spring of 1964 found this military brat living at 803 Jefferson Avenue in Sequin, Texas. Mother had just celebrated her thirty-first birthday that February. My father was in South Vietnam on a one-year tour of duty with the United States Air Force. At ten, I was the man of the house.

My brother was a third-grader at Jefferson Avenue Elementary School. I was a fifth-grader at the same school. My teacher was Mrs. Englebrock.

One of the neatest things that year was my house ‘s location. It was right across the street from the school. I could see the house and driveway with our 1958 black and white Pontiac Catalina out my class’s window. It allowed me to keep an eye on mother like dad asked me to do.

My school had an open campus. That means I was able to go across the street and eat lunch with my mother. While my younger brother took his peanut and jelly sandwich where he could eat with his third-grade classmates in the cafeteria, I liked to go check on my mother.

As winter turned into spring that year music became a major focus in the USA. The British once again had invaded the America.

Jefferson Avenue Elementary School jumped on the musical bandwagon. The principal decided the school would have a musical talent contest. No lip singing was allowed. The contestants were required to sing, play a musical instrument or both – sing and accompany yourself on an guitar, for example.

I had been trying to learn to play the guitar since I was around five years old. My fingers were finally getting long enough for me to play several chords like G, C, and D.

I decided to sign up for the contest. We did a fundraiser for the March of Dimes and Easter Seals I think. I remember the contest was somewhere around Easter. The entry fee was twenty-five cents. I mowed a neighbor’s yard to raise the money.

Spring of 1964 found my mother’s brother Vernon living with us and attending Seguin High School. One of the items, he brought with him were 33 1/3 RPM long play record albums. A favorite album he played was Ricky Nelson’s Travelin’ Man. I decided I would play and sing Travelin’ Man in the talent contest.

Travelin' Man 45 RPM - Ricky Nelson
Travelin’ Man 45 RPM – Ricky Nelson

I remember mother wasn’t so sure I should do it. She knew my singing voice wasn’t solo quality. She didn’t know if I had the poise to do it. She feared I would embarrass the family and myself.

My fearlessness confused her. She couldn’t understand how I could be so calm.

Well, the big day arrived. Mother was nervous. My brother just said I better not shame the family or him. He never mentioned me. I promised I wouldn’t. Neither one was so sure.

I had my six-string acoustic 1958 Gibson Hummingbird Guitar. I placed the capo on the second fret and fingered a C chord. I strummed it a time or two in the ready room trying to find the right pitch.

Then it was my turn. I loved hearing my name over the loudspeaker. I walked out on stage. I stood in front of the microphone.

Gibson Hummingbird Guitar
Gibson Hummingbird Guitar

Showtime!

I played the song on my guitar without any problems. I remembered the lyrics and sang flawlessly. I wish I could say that. Oh, my guitar playing was beautiful. My pitchy voice did the best it could. I didn’t win, but the applause warmed my heart.

What surprised me was how my efforts, while flawed, had the girls oohing and awing over me. I became one of the most popular guys in my grade.

The spring of 1964 showed me that the joy wasn’t in a perfect performance, but in the journey and the effort. It didn’t hurt that the girls suddenly wanted to be with me and be seen with me.


Jimmie Aaron Kepler

Jimmie Aaron Kepler’s work has appeared in six different Lifeway Christian publications as well as The Baptist Program, Thinking About Suicide.com, Poetry & Prose Magazine, vox poetica, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Bewildering Stories, Beyond Imagination Literary Magazine and more. His short stories The Cup, Invasion of the Prairie Dogs, Miracle at the Gibson Farm: A Christmas Story, and The Paintings as well as Gone Electric: A Poetry Collection are available on Amazon.com. He is also the author of The Liberator Series. The Rebuilder – Book 1 is available for pre-order on Amazon. It will be released October 2015. The Mission – Book Two will be available Spring 2016, The Traveller – Book 3 will be available Summer 2016, and The Seer – Book 4 will be available Fall 2016.


The Joy of Attending New Schools

Luke Air Force Base
Luke Air Force Base

Attending new schools was one of the great things about growing up as a military brat. I attended the first half of the first grade at Glendale Elementary in Glendale, Arizona. Early in the second semester I transfer to Luke Air Force Base Elementary School on Luke AFB, Glendale, Arizona. I also attend grades two, three and four at Luke Elementary School. I don’t remember my first grade teacher ‘s name.

In grade two my teacher was Mrs. Davis. I remember two things about the second grade. First, my teacher humiliated me. She made me try again pronouncing library until I got it correct. I would pronounce it as “lie-berry”. It drove her crazy and drove me to tears. The second memory was making an O on my report card, not a zero, but the letter O. My mother got excited thinking it was a zero. When I came home with the first report card, we went right out the door and back to school ASAP. The teacher explained it was O for outstanding. She said I made a perfect grade on everything without any mistakes, except not being able to pronounce library. She was a young, first-year teacher.

I had the same teacher in grades three and four. Her name was Mrs. Jensen. She was a grandmotherly woman. In the third grade, we memorized the Star Spangled Banner. We learned how the song was written. In the fourth grade, Mrs. Jensen showed her wisdom. Our physical education coach was involved in driving while intoxicated accident where a person died. His name was Mr. McCrayley. He went to prison. We were all sad. She explained people made mistakes. Mistakes have consequences.

My father went to South Vietnam in 1963 when I started grade five. My teacher was Mrs. Englebrock. I attended Jefferson Avenue Elementary School in Seguin. In November of my fifth grade year, President Kennedy was assassinated. In February, The Beatles were on the Ed Sullivan Show. My teacher was like a guardian angel. She taught me to do book reports. She entered a story I wrote for a school competition. I wrote of how a family deals with a dad deployed to a combat zone. She said It reminded her of when her dad was gone to World War II. My best friend was the girl who sat behind me. Her dad owned the local Goodyear Tire Store.

We moved again for grade six. I was in El Paso, Texas at Ben Milam School. It was at Biggs Air Force Base. Senior Romero was my teacher. It was neat having a man teacher. I got the best citizen award for the school that year. The Kiwanis Club gave the award. Ben Milam Scool is where my love of researching started. That year I did a long, twenty-plus page hand written research paper about the People’s Republic of China. Mary Williams, Shirley Huntzinger, and Robbie Moats (a girl) were my best friends at school. They were in my class. In the neighborhood, John Harris and Raymond Davis were my best friends. I was there for the first semester of the seventh grade.

I moved to Portsmouth, New Hampshire for the seventh and eighth grade. My dad retired from the United States Air Force while we were there. I learned to shovel snow, go to science camp at M.I.T. and to a writer’s course for gifted kids at Harvard while I was in junior high school.

Yes, attending new schools was one of the great things about growing up as a military brat.

The Joy of Attending New Schools

Luke Air Force Base
Luke Air Force Base

Attending new schools was one of the great things about growing up as a military brat. I attended the first half of the first grade at Glendale Elementary in Glendale, Arizona. Early in the second semester I transfer to Luke Air Force Base Elementary School on Luke AFB, Glendale, Arizona. I also attend grades two, three and four at Luke Elementary School. I don’t remember my first grade teacher ‘s name.

In grade two my teacher was Mrs. Davis. I remember two things about the second grade. First, my teacher humiliated me. She made me try again pronouncing library until I got it correct. I would pronounce it as “lie-berry”. It drove her crazy and drove me to tears. The second memory was making an O on my report card, not a zero, but the letter O. My mother got excited thinking it was a zero. When I came home with the first report card, we went right out the door and back to school ASAP. The teacher explained it was O for outstanding. She said I made a perfect grade on everything without any mistakes, except not being able to pronounce library. She was a young, first-year teacher.

I had the same teacher in grades three and four. Her name was Mrs. Jensen. She was a grandmotherly woman. In the third grade, we memorized the Star Spangled Banner. We learned how the song was written. In the fourth grade, Mrs. Jensen showed her wisdom. Our physical education coach was involved in driving while intoxicated accident where a person died. His name was Mr. McCrayley. He went to prison. We were all sad. She explained people made mistakes. Mistakes have consequences.

My father went to South Vietnam in 1963 when I started grade five. My teacher was Mrs. Englebrock. I attended Jefferson Avenue Elementary School in Seguin. In November of my fifth grade year, President Kennedy was assassinated. In February, The Beatles were on the Ed Sullivan Show. My teacher was like a guardian angel. She taught me to do book reports. She entered a story I wrote for a school competition. I wrote of how a family deals with a dad deployed to a combat zone. She said It reminded her of when her dad was gone to World War II. My best friend was the girl who sat behind me. Her dad owned the local Goodyear Tire Store.

We moved again for grade six. I was in El Paso, Texas at Ben Milam School. It was at Biggs Air Force Base. Senior Romero was my teacher. It was neat having a man teacher. I got the best citizen award for the school that year. The Kiwanis Club gave the award. Ben Milam Scool is where my love of researching started. That year I did a long, twenty-plus page hand written research paper about the People’s Republic of China. Mary Williams, Shirley Huntzinger, and Robbie Moats (a girl) were my best friends at school. They were in my class. In the neighborhood, John Harris and Raymond Davis were my best friends. I was there for the first semester of the seventh grade.

I moved to Portsmouth, New Hampshire for the seventh and eighth grade. My dad retired from the United States Air Force while we were there. I learned to shovel snow, go to science camp at M.I.T. and to a writer’s course for gifted kids at Harvard while I was in junior high school.

Yes, attending new schools was one of the great things about growing up as a military brat.

Book Reports, Essays and Term Papers

Examination Blue Book

My late mother used to say I wanted to be a writer since I was three years old. I’m not sure that’s accurate. However, I cannot ever remembering not wanting to write.

Mom says I told stories even before I could write. I don’t know about that. I remember how excited I was when in the fifth grade at Jefferson Avenue Elementary School in Seguin, Texas. Mrs. Englebrock, which was my teacher, had us read books and then write a story telling what we read. I thought that was the neatest thing. Read the book, write a report about what we read, and if we were one of the lucky ones, we could stand before the class and read our report!

I liked that part as all the kids were looking at me I wanted to make the book sound so interesting every boy and girl would be dying to check it out of our little school’s library. I seemed to do a good job of my report writing. I would always mention something I just knew those girls would like. At the same time, I found something I knew the other fifth-grade boys would enjoy.

I used to take some of those book reports and turn them into plays that I performed with my brother and the neighborhood kids. It was such fun.

When I was in college and graduate school, I use to select professors by the criteria if they gave an essay test using examination blue books or multiple choice tests. I found the multiple guess test as I called them boring. An essay on the other hand allowed me to show what I knew. I enjoyed doing the research or term papers as well as doing book reports. If a professor gave essay tests, required two or three book reports and made you do a term paper, I would sign-up for the class. It was as if I had won the trifecta at the race track!

Mother was correct about one thing; I do like to write.

March 14, 2014

Jack Ruby
Jack Ruby

This Day in Texas History:

It is Friday March 14, 2014. It is the 73rd day of 2014. There are 292 days left in the year. It was 50 years ago today that Jack Ruby was convicted of the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald. Less than four months earlier, back on November 24, 1963, Ruby had shot and killed Oswald. Lee Harvey Oswald was the accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy. The shooting took place on live national television in the basement of the Dallas City Jail.

I find it amazing that the trial and conviction happened so quickly – less than four months after the crime. Most people don’t know the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Jack Ruby’s conviction. Mr. Ruby was awaiting a retrial when he died in prison in 1967. Ruby always denied he was part of a conspiracy. He stated until his death that he shot Oswald on impulse from grief and outrage over his concern for Jackie and the kids, referring to President Kennedy’s widow.

My Memories:

I was living at 803 Jefferson Avenue in Seguin, Texas when John Kennedy was assassinated. I was a fifth grade student at Jefferson Avenue Elementary School. I saw Ruby shoot Oswalt. It was craziness on television and the world felt out of control to me. My father was in South Vietnam at the time. He was in the United States Air Force. We were proud that Texas Lyndon Johnson was the new president as we had no doubt he could lead the country and protect us from the Soviet Union. Mostly, I remember being sad about the entire assassination.

Photo Credit: Image can be found at http://www.history-matters.com/archive/archive_holdings.htm Originated from the report of the Warren Commission a US Government report. From WH Vol.18 p.32, detail. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code. See Copyright.