And so we remember…

I have visited my father.

Memorial Day seemed like an appropriate time. I didn’t realize until just recently that the holiday is intended to honor those who died in military service. Ray J. made it back from combat in the Pacific, but I suppose a cemetery visit is still allowable even though he died long after the end of World War II.

There are more than a few folks, I imagine, who simply recognize Memorial Day as the kickoff of the warmer weather of summer.

In an online op-ed column, John F. Sweeney points out that there is more to the long weekend than festivals, camping, and cookouts:

…the real purpose of Memorial Day is to remember the sacrifices of the men and women who gave their lives in service to our country. The origins of this holiday stretch back to the years following the Civil War, when local townspeople would plant flowers and decorate the graves of soldiers who had died in those battles. Ultimately, the U.S. government standardized the date and, over the years, the tradition expanded to honor soldiers lost in subsequent wars.

Heck.

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I thought it was a general, across-the-board observance for remembering those folks who were important in our lives but are no longer with us. Not meaning to detract from veterans and those who were lost in action – I was just confused. All those little American flags dotting the cemetery make a lot more sense now.

My grandmother had the Blue Stars displayed in her window, a red-bordered banner with a star for my father and another for my uncle – both of whom returned safely. The families who made the ultimate sacrifice were those displaying a Gold Star banner. I don’t know if the tradition continues, but I still have Grandma’s banner on the wall near the checkout counter.

I suppose Grandpa was over the age limit for service in the Second World War, but I ran across his registration paperwork where he listed himself as available. He was 45 when he filled out the form in 1942. (A little sobering to consider the fact that my grandparents were born in the 1800s. Suddenly, that seems like a long, long, time ago – more so than it used to.)

In the image you can see that he lists himself as self-employed: operating the Palace News in Parsons, Kansas. When I’m high atop the ladder changing a light bulb, I think of Grandpa Ray (who fell from his ladder while performing the same chore and broke something… he recovered and went on to change many more bulbs.).

Since our family has no one that fits the requirements for Memorial Day observance, I’ll dedicate this small remembrance to those of you whose lives were changed and to those who made such a sacrifice in serving the country. And – to the rest of us indebted to those veterans – have a safe and happy holiday.

The bookstore and bistro will be closed Monday, but I hope you’ll visit later in the week!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main Street
Broken Arrow, OK 74012

You say tomato. I say toe-mah-to. Aw, heck. I do not.

Maybe they thought I was a basket-case. The baskets of fruits and vegetables in front of the bookstore just didn’t happen, but – with a couple of exceptions – the artist’s rendering of the Rose District is very similar to the finished project.

The most obvious difference between the brainstorming phase of Broken Arrow’s Main Street makeover and the final product is that center median in the image (click it for a better view). Maybe a median and trees would eliminate those U-turns for opposite direction parking, but I have my doubts. I am pretty sure the trees in the drawing would quickly outgrow those narrow planters.

Then there is that fruit and vegetable stand in front of our bookshop, and maybe that’s the artist’s depiction of me in the picture, leaning over and lining up the tomatoes. I used to have some high-water pants like those.

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The image is courtesy of John Ferguson, whose story in the Broken Arrow Ledger looks back on the groundwork and research that went into planning the streetscape makeover.

Main Street Tavern is easily recognizable in the image as the red brick once-upon-a-time bank building – center right – with the multicolor sidewalk umbrellas. The brown awning just below the New Orleans-style iron-railed balcony these days has the logo for Glamour Gowns. Our own awning – is missing.

We were on Main Street when the concept was introduced, just a ways down the road back then. The books and shelves were all moved into the current location just in time for all the orange construction barrels and protective fencing. Well, we survived it.

And haven’t regretted making the move.

I have often shared the observation included in the news story – that Main Street was largely deserted in the early evening hours, and certainly was by dark. When I closed up the shop and drove through the old downtown, it was rare to see a single parked car.

These days, it is just as rare to find a parking space.

Some folks complain about that, and I don’t know quite how to respond. Parked cars are a sign of business and customers. Commerce and such. Tax dollars and all that. My thinking is that – if you pull into a restaurant parking lot at lunchtime and there aren’t any other cars – maybe you should look somewhere else for eats. The good places are busy, because people want to be there.

I’m happy that people want to be in the Rose District. They’ve already announced plans to work the side streets for more parking. And most of us think nothing of parking on the north-forty at Walmart and walking to the door. It’s a longer walk from one end of Woodland Mall to the other, than it is from any parking space near the Rose District businesses.

Come on down. You’ll find plenty of things to do. Paint a picture. Smoke a cigar. Try on a formal gown. Sample chocolate. Have dinner. Shop for a unique gift. Or even buy a rose. The Rose District has you covered.

Except – no apples or tomatoes on the sidewalk in front of the bookstore.

The tomatoes are on your sandwich, at lunchtime. Come visit!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main St. Broken Arrow OK!

Must be Spring Cleaning time!

I was riding on two wheels when Schwinn was advertising the Sting Ray and Krate bicycles. My ride had a little engine on it, but it wasn’t a lot bigger than those in the Schwinn ad on the back of the Boy’s Life magazine.

There are all sorts of odd-ball things that come in through the front door. Mostly books, but I’ve looked over everything from puzzles, games, documents, and sheet music – to statuettes and coffee mugs. They call it spring cleaning, but whatever the occasion, we seem to be offered more items for purchase this time of year. There were a few books in this load, but the greater part of it was old magazines.

Hate to call them old, because I remember the time well. Boy’s Life was a magazine that was delivered to our house for a time and I remember the excitement of something arriving in the mailbox with my name on it. I have a vague recollection of the Krate bicycle as shown in the image – but I might have been paying more attention to motorized transportation by then.

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The Sting Ray, though… that was the stylish ride when I was a young and on the pedals. I didn’t have the real-deal, but created one – Frankenstein style – by cannibalizing an older bike and buying a set of high-rise handlebars. There was a kid in McAlester who could pop a wheelie and ride on the back wheel alone for as long as he wanted. City blocks.

I wanted to be able to do that.

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So, I practiced and crashed, practiced and crashed – but finally got to the point I could keep a “wheelie” going for about as long as I wanted. Got good enough that I started trying to do it on the front wheel by bumping up against the handlebars. That didn’t work out so well.

If I had been a bit younger, I would have been fantasizing over the Krate and its available models: the Orange Krate, the Lemon Peeler, the Apple Krate, the Pea Picker, and the Cotton Picker. Shock absorbers. Shift lever, five-speed. Dual brakes.

And a price tag that had to have been startling back then.

A hundred bucks.

That amount was more than my monthly rent for the little garage apartment I had just a couple of years after the Schwinn ad came out. Of course, I’ve not priced bicycles lately, and it could be that they cost as much as a month’s rent.

The Boy’s Life magazine had a cover price of forty-cents, which is proof of its age. There aren’t many publications to be had for under a dollar these days, and back when I tried stocking magazine titles, most were closer to five bucks each.

These however, can be had for a song – if you happen to be in the market for some memories. Don’t have the space to keep them around so I’ll be working to find a home for them. There is a passion among book people to keep printed materials out of the landfill.
The magazines may be cheap, but the bicycles certainly aren’t. The second image is from a couple of current eBay auctions, which proves that the bike might have been a pretty good investment back then.

We’ll be wheeling at lunchtime, so…

Come visit!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main St. Broken Arrow, OK!