Anecdotes

Fathers’ Frolics

Back in the 50s when I was in Jr. High in Los Altos, the town had a Dad’s Club for men. Their main purpose was to put on a charitable musical revue each year called the Fathers’ Frolics. The cast was liberally filled with well-known local businessmen, teachers, doctors and regular dads. I really enjoyed going to these and watching these normally-staid and serious men display their musical and comedic talents. The whole thing was run by a theatre guy named Leroy Stransky. We had a band teacher at Covington Jr. High named Harry Miracle. He was the orchestra leader in the revues. The program notes indicated that the orchestra was “under the Miracle Whip of Harry.” I could easily have been the one who wrote that.

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Hawaii Is Just a Short Distance from Here

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“You fellas might remember that I was sent over to the IBM facility in Croydon, south of London” I began, as the customary reprobates were sitting around our usual table in The Scruffy Dog. Today there was Little Joe, still hiding from the sheriff, Lois, our guardian angel who helped keep the tone polite, Shortie, who worked at the Bar None ranch out of town and who was sloughing off when he was supposed to be bringing a load of feed for the goats, and Nils, our token Skanda-who-vian, who hails from somewhere north of the Arctic Circle.

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Saturday Morning Army Inspection c. 1966 Berlin

I was in the Army in the mid-60s, stationed in Berlin as a telephone repairman / switchboard operator. Our outfit was a Signal company, which included any job pertaining to communications – telephone, radio, microwave, crypto, whatever. Our sergeants and officers were not the the strict gung-ho types you see in war movies or accounts of life in the Infantry. We bunked three to a room. Each of us had a tall closet and a footlocker, where all our worldly possessions were kept. Every Saturday morning we peons headed to a movie theater for a couple of hours of training in some obscure military course. During that time the outfit’s sergeants would go room to room and inspect our gear and the general cleanliness of our quarters. The basic idea was that nobody’s perfect, so each room would get a demerit for one very minor infraction or another (such as one sock was gray from too many washings). You get the idea. At one point I found a fake dog poop in a store downtown and I placed it in a corner behind a couple of footlockers. There it remained for months – so long that I’d forgotten about it…until one day the list of infractions that was posted named our room with the following: “Dust on fake dog poop in corner.” The captain knew he’d been had as the layer of dust on it must have been there for a long time and none of the previous inspectors had noticed it. His note of infraction was priceless. And he knew exactly who to discipline over it!

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No Cats

From ’85 to ’89 I was frequently heading to London to work with British Telecom on equipment that we were developing for them, including a 911 switch for Scotland Yard. One time I was browsing the newsstand in the hotel and noticed a hand-written sign reading “No Cats.” I had no idea why the hotel specifically restricted cats. I asked one of the folks who worked at the front desk, and she was befuddled as well. She came around with me to the newsstand, where I showed her the sign. It turned out, she said, that it was posted next to a counter that sold theater tickets during the day and the sign was meant to alert guests that no tickets were available for the play “Cats.” Ever since then I’ve added “No Cats” in odd written communications, including occasionally my weekly status reports to management. Judging by the fact that no one asked me about it, I figured that no one read those reports.

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