Posts Tagged ‘Thomas T. Fields Jr’

 

Different industries and different products have a definite life cycle that is ushered in with an idea that grows from a seed to a full blooming business only to eventually wither and die.  There are exceptions like the giant Redwoods of California that break with tradition and live for thousands of years.  In our own short life times we have witnessed this cycle with major products.

When I was a teenager 8-track tape decks came into vogue.  A person could take his car into the 8-track store in West Monroe, Louisiana and in an hour and a half you could drive out with a new Munce tape player hanging from the dash connected to four speakers that had been installed in the doors or beneath the dash.  The industry exploded and while you waited to have the deck installed you could scan thousands of 8-track tapes that carried toons from hundreds of musicians.  Later the 4-track tape was introduced and the industry expanded.

As the industry reached its’ pinnacle it was quickly replaced with the smaller and higher quality cassette tapes and the introduction of the Walkman.  Cars and trucks came from the factory with cassette players installed and the 8-track player disappeared.  Then the CD discs took over and replaced the cassettes and today we are watching MP3 players and touch pads challenging the CD industry.

All of this evolution took place over a mere fifty years and we have witnessed this in many other endeavors such as the VHS player to the streaming video we have today; stick welding in industry changing to automatic welding; rotary dial phones to digital phones to wireless bag phones to the iphones we have today;  change is constant and icons of our society disappear over time.

One representation of the American fiber is the good ole News Paper; rolled paper arriving daily or weekly and brought to us through the mail or by a person tossing it from the window of a car in the early morning hours.  Many years ago it was a paper boy on his bicycle making money in his after school job that delivered the news to us.

The news papers was used to light the flame of democracy in our fledgling nation.  Benjamin Franklin was a publisher and writer.  The news paper was the single most important source of information for our country.  It carried stories of war and peace, of entertainment and history and how amazing it was when USA Today began printing in color and we could see images in living hues instead of black and white.

We also found other uses for the paper.  If a dog did wrong then a quick pop on the nose from a rolled up paper could be expected.  Many a read paper found itself lining the floor of the parakeet cage and when winter arrived a rolled up paper kindled many a fireplace.  Yes, the paper had multiple lives in our society.  Unfortunately the paper copy of the news paper is going through a transition that threatens the future of our historical landmark.

Internet and digital publishing are major threats to the hard copy newspaper.  The competition is unique and quit large as we transition to music, books and news available on one small electronic device.  Major papers such as the Rocky Mountain News are disappearing and a list of ten papers that are in trouble has recently been identified.  Leaders in the industry such as the Boston Globe and the Miami Herald are on the list.  How sad as we watch a major thread in the fabric of our nation dissolve and disappear.  But alas there is some salvation and like a beacon from the past the newspaper will survive courtesy of the small town community focused newspapers.

Our local communities in Union Parish are fortunate to have two well-focused papers.  This is at a time that the much larger Monroe paper is evaporating as it shifts its focus on digital publishing while minimizing news in its’ printed edition and at the same time encouraging its’ readers to move from paper news to digital news.

The local papers around the country have been with us since the founding of our country and it appears that these papers will be the torchbearer for the industry.  At a time that we are experiencing technology advances at an exponential rate it is comforting to revert back to a slower time and sit down with a cup of coffee and enjoy reading about our communities in one of our local newspapers. The local newspapers are the Redwoods of the printed news industry.  And we will still have something to pop the dogs’ nose with.

 

The word retirement connotes different things to different people and situations.  To most it is a point in a person’s working life when they stop the process of formal work.  This stopping point can be determined by certain aspects.  Long term financial planning, working until physically unable to proceed or death are a few actions that lead to exiting the work force.  Forced retirement due to stresses placed on corporate America is another exit point for working America.  Another aspect of retirement is the concept of what a person does when retired.  Does a retiree merely change jobs and considers it retirement or does a person become so involved in civic action that their time is consumed with working for a better future for the country or world.  Of course there is the popular approach of doing nothing except living and enjoying the fruits of a productive working life.  There is no correct nor wrong approach to how to live in retirement, just what fits the individual’s abilities and desires.

The concept of retirement is relatively new when compared to the history of man.  Germany was the first country to introduce retirement in 1889.  Life expectations in 1889 was relatively short as compared to today.  The German government wanted to provide a few last years of comfort to the workers of its’ society.  Other countries adopted the same approach and 65 became the gold standard for retirement age and is still in effect.

How a person’s retirement is funded is impacted by the countries approach to funding retirement and is affected by cultures.  Most major countries provide a normal retirement age of 65.  The United States is graduating this age and the standard is now 67.  Social Security is a nice government program to assist with retirement, the original intent was for Social Security to be only a subsidy and not a full retirement plan.  It came into being during the Great Depression to insure the future generations would be taken care of in later life.  For many decades companies provided pensions for their employees.  This is quickly disappearing and programs such 401Ks are replacing pension funds.  Some countries have little or no subsidy programs for their aged workers.  In countries such as India laboring classes have a large number of children.  This is the worker’s pseudo retirement plan.  When the worker becomes old, the children will take care of the parents.  This is not uncommon in our own country.  In the early pioneer years of America large families guaranteed support for the parents when they became too old to work.

The important thing to remember when moving into retirement is to embrace life and enjoy the new chapter of life’s journey.  Make the world a little better while accomplishing new experiences.  Make the best of the situation and remember, you only live once but if you live right once is enough.

This will appear in the Farmerville Gazette, Farmerville, Louisiana the week of 9/11/2016.

Recently we have seen protests against supposed grievance acts of oppression against some type or types of minorities in the United States.  While everyone has a right to protest in a manner that is not violent or violates another man’s rights the act of being disrespectful to our American flag or the playing of our national anthem I find revolting and sickening.  A lot of good men and women have given the ultimate sacrifice to allow the ability to disrespect the symbols of this great nation by pampered athletes who are sinfully compensated for their physical abilities.

Commentators have brushed off the protests by claiming that if people understood what was being said and understood the motives then it would be realized what the protesters are saying.  What is being said is not the issue.  The protestors have deflected their message by being so disrespectful that the message is totally lost.  There are many ways to deliver a protest so why perform in this manner.

Many conservatives have equated the protests that involve disrespecting the American Flag and the National Anthem as a slap in the face of veterans who wore the uniform in defense of our great nation.  This is right but only a part of the story, a small part of the contempt.

The American flag was first introduced in 1777 at the battle of Fort Stanwix during the war for American Independence.  There was no official flag following the first Continental Convention.  Following the second convention it was agreed as to what the flag would look like.  It was an emotional moment for our fledgling nation and the adoption of a national flag helped to solidify America’s commitment to becoming a free and independent nation.  This instilled pride in all Americans and the first flag was the product of a merger of military and civilian pride.

This first American flag was intended to be an ensign for the American Navy; however, reinforcements for Fort Stanwix brought word of the adoption of the flag to the Massachusetts garrison and patriotic fervor overtook the men and women fighting the British.  Soldiers cut up their shirts to make the white stripes and wives of the officers cut up their red petticoats to form the red stripes.  Capt. Abraham Swartwout’s blue cloth coat was cut to form the blue field of the flag.  A symbol forged in battle from the clothing of American Patriots to symbolize pride, courage and the spirit of a new country.

The American National Anthem , The Star Spangled Banner, came later than the flag.  It was born during the War of 1812 when an American Lawyer, Francis Scott Key, was being held hostage on a British War Ship that was shelling Fort McHerny.  When the sun came up Key was taken with emotion at seeing the large American Flag flying from the walls of the fort and thus showing it had not surrendered.  He then wrote the poem that would become the words for the Star Spangled Banner. Ironically, the poem was put to the music of a popular British tune of the time.  In 1889 the United States Navy officially adopted the Star Spangled Banner but it was not until 1931 that the song known as the Star Spangled Banner was officially signed by President Woodrow Wilson to become the National Anthem of the United States.

Disrespect of the American Flag and the Star Spangled Banner is not only a slight to the American Military, it is a slight to every freedom loving American.

Last Sunday we observed the 15th anniversary of the attack on America by Islamic Terrorist, 9/11.  The most iconic scene that showed the resolve of the American people’s will to survive was three firefighters raising the American flag over the rubble at the World Trade Center.  This looked reminiscent of the Marines and a Sailor raising the American Flag on Mt Suribachi  during World War II.

The flag at ground zero was lost for several years.  When discovered, it was placed under tight security since the symbol of America was such a prized target for terrorist that it was imperative that it be protected.  It is now on display at the ground zero museum in New York.

Protesters, please select another icon to pick on.

 

Growing up in rural America in the 50s and 60s, a young boy was exposed to the wonderment of the Boy Scouts of America.  Scouting in Union Parish was a way of life for many of the young men and helped to mold them into good citizens for the future building of our great nation.  As a young man we had two scout troops in the parish.  One was in Bernice and one was in Farmerville and each year the troops would go to summer camp at camp KiRoLi in Monroe.  Named for the three civic organizations that built and supported it, Kiwanis Club, Rotarian Club and the Lions Club, the camp helped the scouts hone their outdoor skills.  This camp was closed in the mid-1970s and moved to property donated by the T.L. James Company and this new camp bears that name.

Scouting originated in England by Lord Baden Powel in 1907.  A couple of scouting type programs in the United States had been started at the same time that Powel had launched the Boy Scout program.  In 1909 a Chicago publisher, was visiting London.  He became lost on a foggy night.  From out of the fog came a young British Boy Scout and provided guidance to help the publisher find his way in the foreign city.  This scout is referred to as the “unknown scout”.  When the American publisher offered the boy a tip the boy denied, explained that he was a Boy Scout and he was doing his daily good turn.  The publisher was so impressed that he met with the English Boy Scout staff.

In 1910 the Boy Scouts of America was incorporated and was later turned over to the YMCA for development.  One of the early ardent supporters of the Boy Scouts was Theodore Roosevelt.  He had been vocal about the decline in the manhood of the American male and saw the Boy Scouts as a means to ensure that manliness would stop its’ decline.

Anyone possessing very old Farmerville High School yearbooks, the Pine Knot, will see pictures of boy scouts in their uniforms.  It was a way of life for the boys of our area.  Farmerville had Troop 16.  Several years ago it was noted that this troop was the longest active chartered Boy Scout troop in Louisiana.  At one time the scouts met in a very unique cedar logged scout hut on the edge of Farmerville. This was built by the citizens of Farmerville after World War II.   Located in the woods, people visiting the hut were greeted with two large totem poles.  A connected garage housed the crown jewel of any troop in the state, a trailer that carried six aluminum Grumman canoes, the only set in the area.  After a half century these canoes are still in use.

As dynamic as Troop 16 was with its material holdings, the true gem of the troop rested in its’ leadership, its’ scoutmaster and the person considered to be one of the best in the country was Larce Holder.  Affectionately referred to as ‘The Big L”, Mr Holder instilled a love of the outdoors, respect for nature and our fellow man while reinforcing the tenants of the Boy Scouts.

Troop 16 was very organized and those that went into the military had an advantage over the other recruits.  Self-discipline and dedication to cause had been instilled into the psyche of these young men. Camping trips were planned a year in advance and each one had a theme.  Canoe trips were a yearly event.  As a child I remember watching on KNOE TV, news footage of f Troop 16 landing their canoes in Monroe after paddling from Farmerville to the Ouachita and on to Monroe.

Many a good citizen came from Troop 16.  Soldiers, sailors and airmen were forged in the hearth of Troop 16.  Bank executives, doctors, lawyers, engineers and even a Federal Judge had their roots with Troop 16.  Good citizens from across the state were members of Mr Holder’s troop.

When I arrived in Saudi Arabia, it was quit gratifying to watch the yearly Halloween parade in Dhahran.  Leading the parade were four Boy Scouts and being carried by one was the flag of the United States of America; the only place the American flag would fly in public outside of American government installations.

This will appear in the Farmerville Gazette, Farmerville, Louisiana the week of 8/28/2016

I have been known to be quit vocal when our country is being steered in a direction that is contrary to its’ core values and being guided in a direction that is alien to a the dreams of our founding fathers.  It is the policy makers and the regulators that must provide the guidance that keeps our great nation moving in a direction that keeps us great; but it is the individual citizen that is the brightest star in our country.  When the American citizen does small acts of kindness in a great way this needs to be identified and held up as a banner to others as an example of how a benevolent country exists.

When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait the American military poured into the Mid-East and especially Saudi Arabia.  Never in the history of our country and possibly the world has there been an example of members of a country living in a foreign land showing so much support to its’ own military as the support for American forces during Operations Desert Shield/Storm.  Every night a large number of soldiers would come to ARAMCO to be treated to home cooking, clothes washing, television and a call home.  This small act of kindness was repeated for thousands of troops living in the Arabian Desert.  On weekends convoys of western expats would venture into the desert and feed as many as a thousand troops for a home cooked super, remain to serve breakfast and then go home to work the next day.  Everything was funded by the individuals; there was no company funds or American government funds providing the money to buy the food, gas or supplies.  Funding came from the pockets of the expats.  There was no grandstanding and no high fives; just a desire to help fellow Americans.  One Saudi told me that the American government funded this and that is why there was no Saudi support like the Americans.  I quickly corrected him and he was quite surprised to hear that the funds for all the support came from the expatriate citizens; the quiet American.

Recently our sovereign and proud state, Louisiana was hit by its’ second flood of the year.  The anguish of the flooded citizens of the state was broadcast around the world.  Support from the Federal and State governments was swift.  Just as fast was the response from various private groups around the world.  Great football rivalries were cast aside as South Carolina was one of the first to send aide, recalling the love portrayed by LSU during the flood last year at the University of South Carolina.  The University of Alabama sent its team’s truck full of supplies to the residents of beleaguered South Louisiana.

Last week I witnessed acts of kindness that would bring a lump to the throat of any proud American.  I was checking out at Home Depot and asked the lady if she was having a busy day.  She acknowledged that it was extremely heavy but for an emotionally sad reason.  The Home Depot in Baton Rouge went under water so material for rebuilding had to come from as far away as Monroe or even further.  She told me that one lady was checking out and her bill was about four hundred dollars.  A man in line asked if she was buying material for the flood victims.  She looked at the man and told him no, that she was one of the victims herself.  The man pulled out his credit card, swiped it and said this one was on him.

I told my wife Bonnie about this story and she said she heard a similar story.  A women from the flooded south was in line at WalMarts and when her three-hundred and fifty dollar bill rang up, a man in line pulled out his credit card and swiped it.  Again, the customer declared that this one was on him.

This is a great example of a great nation and the people that are its’ citizens, the quiet American.

 

Over the past few years I have written about people that have built our great nation.  Most were political or military leaders.  This is not the only breed of American that had an impact on the development of our country.  There are countless private Americans that continue to do their part to build our country in a quiet manner without fanfare and without seeking the spotlight.  Every once in a while someone will rise to the spotlight but without political agenda or seeking financial wealth and acting upon one’s volition to simply bring light to a subject that requires change.  One such person was a man named John Muir.

Muir was born in Scotland and as a child migrated to America with his parents in 1849.  He was brought up in a strict religious family and by 11 he was able to recite the New Testament and most of the Old Testament. At 22 he entered the University of Wisconsin, took many diverse courses, was still a freshman after two years and never graduated.  He did have a very diverse range of science courses and this would serve him in the future.

After he left the University of Wisconsin he traveled up to Canada and explored and collected botanical specimens.  With money running low he took a job at a Canadian saw mill. Later he returned to America and worked at a wagon wheel factory.  It was there that he had an accident, almost lost an eye and was confined in the dark for six weeks where he emerged with a new disposition and direction in life; one of those epiphanies in life that completely changes a person’s future.

In 1867 he went for a “walk” from Kentucky through Florida and lasted for a thousand miles.  His only requirement he would later state about the route was that it would be “wildest, leafiest, and least trodden way I could find”.  When he arrived in the Florida Keys he worked again in a saw mill until he hopped a boat to Cuba where he studied shells and the seashore environment.  Eventually he made his way to New York and then got passage to California.  At this point in life one would think that he was simply a drifter and in fact he was but with a purpose.  He studied the natural environment while he toured the country.

Muir worked for a short time as an officer in the Unites States Coast Survey.  The wild called him and he visited Yosemite where he later returned and built a cabin.  The corner of the cabin had a part of the river running through it so that he could hear the water at night.  He also invented a water mill to cut wood that had fallen in the river and could then be used for lumber.  After living for three years in Yosemite he was visited by a group from the American East.  Though not having completed college, he was so versed in nature that the group offered him a professorship to Harvard.  Muir could not leave the beauty of the Sierra’s and declined.

Muir loved geology and put a theory out that Yosemite was formed by a glacier.  This was in contrast to the belief that was originally thought to be the product of an earthquake.  His theory of this “amateur” proved to be correct.  His writings were so good that he was being printed in New York.  In addition to geology he also studied the plants of the west and visited the giant sequoias of the Pacific coast.  Later he visited Alaska and wondered at the natural beauty of the American territory that would someday become the 50th state.

By the 1890s Muir had become an activist for natural America.  His writings were being published in magazines around the country and was leading to legislation being passed to protect large tracts of Federal Land.  He encouraged a bill to make Yosemite a National Park and to be modeled after the first National Park, Yellowstone.

The unique thing about America is that we find a balance in diverse beliefs.  This is where John Muir and his naturalist beliefs are a part of our everyday life today.  His world has come face to face with modern manufacturing and economic expansion.  Because of what he has taught and the followers he has today, debate continues about ecology vs pollution and many compromises have taken place to insure that America continues to grow its’ industries but with a conscience for natural beauty.

In 1992 Muir co-founded an “alpine club” that two weeks later would be incorporated as the “Sierra Club”.  He remained president until his death 22 years later.

 

We in America seem to characterize, segmentise and compartmentalize data.  This will then place specific aspects of life into neat packages that makes it easy to understand different characteristics of life.  In politics we are segmented by party and then we break that into smaller groups by declaring a person to be conservative or liberal.  This segmentation helps us to take vast amounts of information and then process this information with smaller bite sized chunks.

We have broken down various generations and categorized them by their accomplishment to society or some other social aspect associated to that age group.  The Greatest Generation was stamped on the age group that went to World War II and came back to build a country that put a man on the moon.  The baby boomers represented the children of the Greatest Generation and characterized the explosion of the population from parents that wanted to place the horrors of the war behind them and grow a large family unit.   Today we have the Millennials, the young adults that were born around the time of the turn of the century, the millennium.  On occasion this generation has been characterized as being couch potatoes, computer nerds with no interest toward society and a group more interested in games than reality.  I am here to tell you that while this may be the perception, it could not be further from reality.

The company I work for has an intern program.  This program allows young men and women who are in college to join the company for ten weeks, learn about the company while at the same time performing legitimate work; not just observing the work.  I was fortunate enough to have been assigned as a mentor to a young intern and while I was to teach a young lady basic aspects of Project Management, I question who got the most from the experience.

We had college students from around the country visiting Monroe.   Some were international students from afar away as Nepal and India.  Several misconceptions were dispelled.  This generation is anything but couch potatoes.  At the end of the internship program twenty of the participants presented to members of the company their personal experiences while sharing who they were and thus gave a glimpse into their lifestyles.  Many related to an active life.  Picture of this lifestyle were shown and one of the two interns from Farmerville flashed a picture with his girlfriend wearing camouflage while she was holding up the six point buck that she had just bagged.  One intern from Bangladesh that was attending ULM and majoring in Computer Science told of his interests with literature, history and enjoyed performing as a standup comic.  This generation is not the couch potato slugs that some have attached to this age group.

The internship had a unique requirement to give back to the community and the interns were all involved in some type of community project.  Instead of reluctantly going into this endeavor, they embraced it.  My intern selected visiting the Veterans Home and sharing time with our vets.  She was happy to tell us that she had never played dominos but did so with an aging vet, beat him and he demanded that she come back for a rematch.  The Greatest Generation meets the Millennials and the fit was good.

What I really took away from the experience was the quick wit, caring personality and zest for life that these young men and women exuded.   The materialistic drive that the baby boomers possessed did not appear to be at the front of desires for this generation and I find that refreshing.  Experiences and adventures seemed to be a major driver for the millennials.

While I got a look at our newest generation I learned a new phenomenon that has exploded across the nation; has been a primary question at quarterly calls of major corporations such as Apple and connects millennials with their parents for an evening of sharing fun and will ultimately have a major impact on our society while it gets participants out the door moving around their towns; I was introduced to Pokémon.  This has to be one of the most ingenious games developed since Monopoly hits the markets in 1902.

I have had a glimpse of the future of our country and I see a future that eclipses the gloom and doom that we see portrayed on television news today.  I see a generation that will ignore the status que and naysayers and break down walls and lead our great nation forward.  I have seen the future and I like what I have seen.