Twelve Pictures ’17

Back to posting on January 2, 2018, or so. Like last year, I’m going to wind up the year with a leftover picture from each month. This time, for no special reason, no people, just places and things.

Champaign, Ill., January 2017Charlotte, NC, February 2017

Kankakee, Ill., March 2017

Rockford, Ill., April 2017

Muskogee, Okla., May 2017

Naperville, Ill., June 2017

Barrington Hills, Ill., July 2017

Vincennes, Ind., August 2017

Denver, September 2017Evanston, Ill., October 2017Chicago, November 2017

Birmingham, Ala., December 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.

The USS Batfish

A park in Muskogee, Okla., might seem an odd place to find a submarine, but that’s where the USS Batfish makes its home as a museum ship.

USS Batfish

Note the walkway leading to the top of the vessel. That’s the access point for visitors, as Lilly and I were on the afternoon of May 13.
USS BatfishNote also the water around the hull of the Batfish. I suspect that was because of a rainy spring, not a permanent feature. Soon we stood on top of the Batfish. I’d never stood on a submarine before. The fencing was clearly added for the safety of tourists. I’ll bet that during active service, either you maintained your footing or you didn’t.
USS BatfishI walked onto the sub thinking that was it, a look at the outside. Then we noted that both hatches, one forward, the other aft, were open. You can go inside.

The interior is well maintained, well lighted, and pretty much like crawling around in a cave made of steel. On display were such features as glowing torpedo tubes.
USS Batfish - torpedo tubesTo make your way through the vessel, you pass through a series of hatches like this. I assume they’re watertight. Submarines clearly aren’t meant for fat men.
USS BatfishI didn’t feel claustrophobic, exactly, just boxed in. It’s difficult to imagine the fortitude necessary to spend months at a time in such a steel box, with sudden drowning all too real a possibility.

Plenty of narrow corridors.
USS BatfishAnd limited comforts.
USS BatfishUSS BatfishI understand that the food was generally better on subs than the ordinary run of ships, as one way to compensate for other discomforts. I hope that was true.

A forest of pipes.
USS BatfishAnd controls. Many, many controls and dials.
USS BatfishUSS BatfishUSS BatfishAs a warship, the Batfish had a good run, completing seven war patrols from late 1943 to the end of the war. She clearly took the cinematic Patton at his word, making some other poor dumb bastards die for their country. Most notably, by sinking three Japanese subs in a 76-hour period in February 1945.

After the war, the vessel hung on until 1969, when it was struck from the Naval Vessel Registry. Apparently Oklahoma submarine vets, aided by state politicos, managed to obtain it for display from the Navy in the early ’70s, though the task of getting to its current site in Muskogee, near the Arkansas River, was a long and tedious process, as described here.

There’s also a small museum in a building near the submarine, and not far from the sub, a poignant display with plaques honoring each U.S. submarine, WWII and other eras, that didn’t return. On eternal patrol, as the submariners put it.

GTT 2017

This month Lilly and I visited Texas for a couple of weeks, beginning when I picked her up on May 12 in Champaign, at the end of her exams at UIUC, and ending with our return to metro Chicago on May 26. Unlike last summer, we mostly took direct routes, there and back. All together, we drove just a shade over 2611 miles through only four states, but ranging from about 42 degrees North to 29 degrees North.

Mostly we spent time with family: her grandmother and uncles and cousins, in San Antonio and Dallas, most of whom she hasn’t seen recently. She also met little cousin Neil for the first time.

From Champaign, we headed to Effingham, where we passed the giant cross, visible from the highway, but did not stop for it, and then headed west to St. Louis. By evening, we’d made it to Lebanon, Mo., and the Munger Moss Motel, which has had a few more neon burnouts since Ann and I stopped there last year.

Munger Moss sign 2017The second day, we went to Dallas by way of Springfield, Mo., where we stopped to stroll in the Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden, a part of the Springfield Botanical Gardens. Later that day, we stopped in Muskogee, Okla., and took a look at the USS Batfish, a WWII-vintage submarine incongruously perched on land and functioning as a museum.

On Sunday, May 14, we proceeded to San Antonio, with my brother Jay joining us. We stopped for a delightful lunch in Austin with Tom Jones that afternoon at Trudy’s, a local brand. Tom was already an old friend of mine when I was Lilly’s age.

Circumstances forced us to scrub our plans to drive to Big Bend National Park for a long weekend beginning on the 18th. While in San Antonio, Lilly went to North Star Mall one day by Uber, and on another day Jay and Lilly and my nephew Dees went to the Witte Museum and then the Sunken Gardens (formally, the Japanese Tea Garden). On Saturday, May 20, we to returned to Jay’s house Dallas via U.S. 281 until north of Austin, picking up I-35 near Killeen, because there’s no reason to go through Austin unless you’re going to Austin.

In West, Texas, — which is in Central Texas — we bought some kolaches at the Little Czech Bakery, which is next to the Czech Stop. Been there a number of times since I wrote this.
Czech Stop, West, Texas 2017The line wasn’t quite as long as usual. Good thing.
Czech Stop, West, Texas 2017Czech Stop, West, Texas 2017One day in Dallas we visited the Dallas Arboretum and Botanic Gardens, as lovely a garden as I’ve seen in quite a while. Despite its location on White Rock Lake, close to Jay’s house, I’d never been. Another day I dropped Lilly off at North Park Mall, known for its collection of artwork, and visited the next-door Sparkman-Hillcrest Cemetery, or in full, the Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery. A first-rate bit of landscaping.

We headed back for home beginning on May 25, driving from Dallas back to the Munger Moss for one more night (getting room 67; the first time we got 66). The next day we passed through St. Louis en route to the Chicago area and home.

On the last leg of the trip I was determined to stop a few places. First, we saw the abandoned Gasconade River Bridge, which counts as a Route 66 sight, though it could have been along any old road and still be just as fine. In St. Louis we visited the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, one of my favorite churches in North America, and then the wooded, hilly Bellefontaine Cemetery north of downtown, which is in the same league as Green-Wood in Brooklyn or Woodland in Dayton. First rate, that is.

Arnn Pictures, 1973

In June 1973, we had an unusually large number of relatives visit for an afternoon — 13 are in a picture I took, but I know that’s missing a few. I’m not sure how it was all arranged, only that hadn’t happened before, and it never did again. Mostly people came over in small groups.

One of the visitors was my uncle Kenneth Arnn, down from Oklahoma with my aunt Sue and cousin Ralph. I knew them better than any of the others, since we’d see them every year or every other year, and of course I still visit Sue and Ralph.

I took a picture of Ken standing near one of the kitchen doorways at my mother’s house.

KenJune1973He was impressed enough with the quality of the shot to ask for a copy sometime later. I look at it now and think, even my cheap Coolpix could take a better picture than that. But all I had then was a Kodak Instamatic 104, and I was 12, so I suppose that’s a pretty good image for all that. Also, if you took a shot from the same position now, most of the background would be the same, except for the arrangement of hats and the Magic 8 Ball.

Here’s the startling thing: in 1973, he was the same age as I am now. Chronologically, I understand. He was born in 1919. But it’s still hard to wrap my mind around that.

A few basic facts about Uncle Ken (unless I’m misremembering, which is entirely possible): he hailed from Childress, Texas; was a U.S. Army staff sergeant in the European theater in WWII — a cook in Patton’s army; did a stint as a teacher in Barrow, Alaska, in the 1950s with my aunt, whose older sister is my mother; and for most of his career he worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in South Dakota and later Oklahoma.

The last time I saw him was in Ardmore, Okla., in late 2001. He’d suffered a stroke by then, and so was frail, but still mentally lively, as always. We were on our way back home from Thanksgiving in Dallas, and I’m glad we stopped in (he got to meet Lilly, among other things). He died a few days before Christmas in 2002.

Here’s another picture I took during that visit in 1973: cousin Ralph, age 10, jumping off the swing set we had in the back yard at the time.

RalphJune1973Ralph’s a sales executive these days, a resident of San Antonio with a wife, grown stepdaughter and two teenaged daughters. I’ve always liked this kinetic picture of him.

Summer of 1969. Maybe.

Terrific storm early Saturday afternoon. I watched most of it from the front entrance of a Schaumburg Park District facility, outside the building but under a sturdy overhang. We didn’t want to venture out into the parking lot for a while, so strong was the lightning and fierce the rain (though not much wind, oddly). One crack of lightning – right at the beginning of the rain, and unexpected – seemed like it was just across the street. I was looking directly at it. A woman crossing the parking lot was even more startled that I was, but it didn’t hit her.

About 45 years ago, my mother, my brothers and I went on a driving vacation around  the South. I was eight, and I’d been staying with my uncle and aunt in Ardmore, Okla. for a while previously (arriving there the day Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon), so the trip might have been late July, early August.

My mother and brothers came up to Ardmore, and from there we headed east through Arkansas and Tennessee, getting as far as Chattanooga. Then we returned to Texas by way of Georgia (briefly), Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. This must have taken about a week. I remember staying in a motel somewhere west of Memphis, and a five-story hotel in Chattanooga. We also stayed with relatives in Philadelphia, Mississippi. We must have stayed with my mother’s friend near Houston, too, but I don’t remember that, or any other place we might have stayed.

We went to Shiloh and Chickamauga, and the Hermitage in Nashville, and I don’t remember where else. We saw a lot of signs that said some variation of SEE ROCK CITY. According to this site, there are only about 100 of them left. Tennessee and some of the other states involved ought to pony up some funds to help preserve what’s left, since it’s a part of Southern heritage.

There seem to be only a handful of images from the trip. Jay took this one outside some eatery. I used to dislike the picture, but I like it now. Look carefully under the “O” and you can see a reflection of Jay taking the picture.

1969This is at a Texas welcome center. I’m on the left, my brother Jim on the right. Taken when we returned? That’s what I assume, since the only time we crossed a Texas border together was on the return. Before that I’d been in Oklahoma. Hard-to-see detail: on the other side of the highway is an ad for Esso, complete with a tiger.

TexasborderJay tells me the following two pictures are the Will Rogers Memorial Museum, which is just northeast of Tulsa. I’m not entirely sure we visited there in 1969, but it’s also entirely possible. I have no memory of the place.

aug1969.1An equestrian Will. Fitting for a man so adept at rope tricks, I suppose, though you’d think he’d be holding a lasso.

aug1969.2Here’s one I can’t pinpoint in time or space, and Jay can’t either.

aug1969.3I’m with Jim, in front of what seems to be a WWI-vintage cannon. It’s clearly summer. That’s about all I can tell. All the back says is Summer 1969, but even that’s suspect, since I wrote it sometime in the mid- or late ’70s. It’s easy to misremember.