Sunday, October 14, 2012

Missing The Boat

If given the choice, which of the two rooms shown above would you rather be staying in: an intensive care hospital room or an interior cabin of a Disney Cruise ship?

I know my choice, and probably yours, would be the stateroom.  But for a man who goes to my church, out of these two choices, a bed in the ICU unit turned out to be the best one.

While this isn't my testimony I feel that it's a strong and very real illustration of how God has his hand on our lives, actively protecting us on a daily basis. 

These events happened to a family from my church. I'm not going to use their real names so as to protect their privacy as much as I can while still telling their story. I will call them Paul, Tina, and Suzie Whitaker. Paul and Tina are married; Suzie is their 10 year old little girl. 

Paul has had many medical problems ever since he was in his 20's. The most prevalent of which was a benign brain tumor. 
He has had several strokes and many many more health issues which are on-going to this day. 

But Paul has never let his problems get him down. He is amazing in his faith in God, his attitude and courage.  

A couple of weeks ago on the Friday morning that was the unofficial start of the local school district's fall school break, the Whitaker's headed for the Nashville airport. 

They were going to catch a flight to Orlando, Florida on their way to Port Canaveral to board one of the Disney Cruise line ships. Their getaway was going to include a stop in the Cayman Islands. 

That morning the family was a little late arriving at the airport.  But they made it to the gate about 20 minutes before their flight was scheduled to leave. 

The airline employees at the gate told them that they could not board because all the other passengers had boarded and the plane doors had been closed. There was no way they were getting on that flight. 

Paul, Tina and especially Suzie were very upset. They were going to miss the departure of their cruise. 

The airline officials were nice about things. They offered to send them on another flight that would take them to the Cayman Islands where they could catch up with the cruise ship when it arrived. 

However, there was another problem. The airline's computers would not allow the booking agents to add Paul to the new flight. Tina and Suzie's information transferred but Paul's would not. 

Finally after some computer troubleshooting the whole family had been switched to the new flight.  But then there was another problem. 

The family only had their US Passport cards. This is a relatively new provision by the US government which allows those holding the card to enter Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean islands, Bahamas, and Bermuda by land only. The Whitakers could not fly into the Cayman Islands with their cards. They needed complete passports.    

Someone suggested they try getting the passports by a rush process through a private company that specialized in such services. They contacted that company. 

But the turnaround time for the passports wouldn't allow them to get to the Caymans before the cruise ship disembarked. 

The family stayed in Nashville over night hoping there would be a way they could make it to their cruise but as it turned out there was not. 

They came home that Saturday, tired, upset and disappointed. To say nothing of the money they had lost. 

On Sunday afternoon Paul told Tina he was not feeling well. This was something that was not uncommon given Paul's on-going medical issues. 

By Monday morning, Tina knew she had to take her husband to the emergency room. 

The doctors there determined that a stint Paul has in his brain to drain the fluid had become blocked. He had to have surgery right away. 

By Monday night he was in guarded but stable condition. Instead of an inside cabin on a Disney Cruise ship, Paul found himself in a bed in the intensive care unit. And that's right where he needed to be. 

For you see the surgeons told Tina that had Paul gotten on either of those planes he would not have survived being in the pressurized cabin. 

In addition had he been on the cruise ship in either the middle of the ocean or on the Cayman Islands he may not have gotten to emergency medical treatment in time. 

I have no doubt that the series of roadblocks preventing that family from going on their vacation were direct acts of God in Paul's life. 

Now as of the writing of this post, Paul is still in the hospital. He's had to have a 2nd surgery. But he is still on road to recovery. Most importantly he is still alive. 

When I told my sister this story just the other day she said that it gave her goosebumps. It's that kind of story. It's evidence of God's power in action. 

He takes an active role in each and every one of the lives of His children, every day.

This past week in my life I have had a pair of situations, of them extremely serious, that confirms for me that one of the most gracious things God does for us is save us from ourselves. 

So the next time you are trying to go somewhere or do something, even if it seems harmless at the time, and the path seems to be unusually blocked, pay attention. It may be God telling you a different path is best. 

And if you listen to Him and follow His leading you will never miss the boat.  


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Little Henrietta

This is the continuation of the last post about things I found at the flea market that I never expected to find. 

The last item I want to mention is probably the most unexpected find, not just of my trip to the flea market last Thursday but in quite a while. It's something that spans a gap of more than 40 years. 

Everyone has someone they can point to as the one person who has had the biggest influence on their life; a mentor if you will. 

My person of influence came into my life in 1976 when I was 15 years old. Marie Robinson was the wife of the new pastor at my church that year. 

You can read about her overall effect on my life in my February 5, 2012 post. The specific subject of this post is her ventriloquist puppet; Henrietta. 

This is a cropped picture of Henrietta the dog and Marie Robinson taken on January 31, 2012. 

Now here's a shot of the stuffed animal I found at the flea market last Thursday. 

One is a puppet and the other one is just your average everyday stuffed animal. These pictures don't really bring out the close similarity. But the two look so much alike that when I saw the "Little Henrietta" at the flea market I knew I had to have her. 

The memories I have of the way "Miss Marie" ministered to both children and adults with the sassy brown canine puppet by her side are very special to me. 

The prissy and proud pup was very genuine in saying and doing things that any "ordinary" kid would do. Her character and personality are the foundation of my approach to ventriloquism still today. 

Every time I am giving a children's sermon or teaching a lesson in children's church, the influence of Marie and Henrietta lives just under the surface. 

So now I have a reminder of my most important mentor. I will set Little Henrietta in a place on the shelf with my Ernie, Kermit, and Mr. Wiggle puppets. All are visual mementos in puppetry throughout my life so far. 

I am so blessed to have found this stuffed animal. I don't have any idea how long it was sitting in the booth where I found it. I'm sure there are not very many other people would have ever noticed it. 

I believe it's more than a coincidence that it was part of a cache of things I discovered last Thursday. That spontaneous trip to the flea market may not be something that will have a lasting effect on my life. But it's one that I will remember for quite a while. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Hugging A Treasure Then Finding Some

This post is about things I did this past Thursday. While it may not seem very exciting, it was a memorable day for me for reasons I'm about to share with you. 

This picture of my beautiful granddaughter was posted on Facebook on Wednesday night. 

After seeing it I realized that with going back to work, I won't get to see her as often as I have over the last 5 months. So the first item on my agenda for Thursday was clear: I had to go see her. 

So the next morning I did just that. She had just finished drinking 6 ounces of formula and was lounging in her swing. Within 30 seconds of turning the corner and seeing her, I got what I came for. The baby girl smiled when she heard my voice. 

I took care of her while James went out for a few minutes to run an errand. Other than the times I have picked her up from daycare, it was the first time I'd ever had her by myself. 

We had fun playing together. She stood on my lap for a bit and then I put her in her pink car themed walker. 

After about 15 minutes she got a bit fussy. Having just eaten, she wasn't hungry. I soon discovered why my usually happy granddaughter was upset. I was about to be inducted into Aria's diaper changing club. Luckily she was only wet. 

She really enjoyed being changed and smile the entire time; even through my putting the Pamper on backwards. Don't laugh; it was the first time I'd changed a diaper in about 20 years.  

As she lay on the sofa we played her favorite game: Get my toes. We alternated my kissing the bottom of her feet with her chewing on her "little piggys" (yes, I did just write that). 

By that time her daddy was back. James was meeting one of his friends for lunch so it was time for me to go. I hugged my "precious little treasure" and kissed her good-bye. 

I had a few more things to do while I was out and about so I drove into Bowling Green. While heading home I decided to stop at a local flea market. 

The Vette City flea market is in an area near the National Corvette Museum. 

I hadn't been there in about 6 months. There was probably a lot of new things there by now.

Just like all those "pickers" on the reality shows on TV, for me, going to a flea market or yard sale is like treasure hunting. 

I look certain things. I have three types of searches

Here's the items that I found and the types of searches they fit into:

Search 1: There are things that have a lot of memories connected to them that I'd like to have again. I have a mental list of them. All the items on the entire list may not be foremost in my mind but I'll know one when I see it.  

Until I saw this item on Thursday, it seemed as though it only existed in my memory. I searched all over the Internet to buy this album. I came up empty; didn't even see a mention of it. 

But during my flea market excursion, in one of the last of the many bins and boxes of albums I searched through I found it. 

When I was a young teenager, the Bill Gaither Trio was the "gold standard" in contemporary gospel music. Their concerts sold out all over the country and the world. My youth leader, Beverly Ernst, let me borrow this double album. 

I loved it and played it every chance I got. Eventually I had to give it back; but I recorded it onto a cassette. I listened to it until it wore out. The songs and even some of the dialogue from that album has stayed with me through the decades. I hadn't seen it in nearly 40 years, until today. 

I was so excited when I saw the cover. I could hardly believe it. My decision to go to the flea market was validated. Of course, my next concern was the condition of the records. They were just about perfect.    

One of the top items on my personal gospel music list is now mine. 

The most recent item to be added to my "must haves" was an important part of my personal music collection history. But it's no longer there because I found it. 

 This is the debut album of Daryl Dragon (The Captain) and his wife, Toni Tennille from 1975. It was one of the tapes I chose as my first "12 for a penny" packages from the Columbia House record and tape club. 

However, in this age of digital music only the singles from the album, "Love Will Keep Us Together" and "The Way I Want To Touch You" are available as MP3 files. I liked the whole album. So a couple of weeks ago I decided to look for the vinyl version. I now have it.  

Search 2: Looking for something I can buy and possibly sell at a profit. This is more of a pipe dream inspired by all the "flipping junk" shows on TV these days. 

As I browsed through the booths I saw several older complete sets of baseball cards. They were from different years between 1989 and 1994. 

For some reason I've always been challenged by the idea of buying a full set and selling the individual cards to make some money. So I picked up the 1992 Donruss set. 

I will be doing some research to see if I can sell some of the "star" and "rookie" cards to get more than my purchase price back.  

Search 3: Looking for something I don't know I want but once I see it I am intrigued. If my interest in it enough to validate the price; I'll buy it. Or I'll buy it if it's something I can't live without it and it's not super expensive. 

As I mentioned in my August 18 post I'm a fan of Soupy Sales. I already have several songs and comedy bits by Soupy in my I-Tunes collection. But this album displays an aspects of Sales' career that I am not that familiar with. 

Most people think of Soupy singing comedy songs such as: Pachalafaka, You're Brains'll Fall Out and his biggest hit, The Mouse. But believe it or not he was a serious singer as well. He made quite a few albums with pop music and other non-comedy genres. 

This album, which was very inexpensive, says it's a combination of comedy and serious songs. This is the first Soupy Sales album of this kind that I've seen and in intrigued me. I couldn't help but say to myself, "I'll try that for a $1." So I put it in my shopping cart. 

If you read my post about the Realistic portable cassette tape recorder from earlier this month you'll understand why I picked up this album. 

It's the vinyl version of one of the first "pre-recorded" cassette tapes (as my parents used to refer to them) I remember listening to on that tape recorder. I had it because mom and dad bought it for me. 

So this album has wonderful memories attached to it.  But I wasn't looking for it was a pleasant find.  

Now I know that records are like and "old school" technology but a clean unscratched copy still has a unique sound. I have a turntable that converts music from albums to computer files which I can add to my I-Tunes collection.

The final item I want to mention is something that came as a total surprise. It's an item that's a combination of a lot of memories (a direct link to my exposure to ventriloquism in the past) and something I never imagined I'd find. 

But because this entry is already so lengthy I'll save all that for my next post. Come back and I'll tell you what I found.   

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Shared Passion

It's one of the most powerful bonding forces there is. It can easily be mentioned in the same conversation as: faith in God, being part of a family, and physical attraction in regard to it's effect on human relationships.

It's one of the main reasons Comic Con, Star Wars, Star Trek and hundreds of other themed conventions happen every year. It's why there are sports bars and fan clubs all across the country. On a more personal basis it's the reason the podcasts I listen to each week, about Walt Disney World, The Muppets, and amusement parks, exist.  

I am referring to the bond of "shared passion".  Finding out that someone is interested or "obsessed" with same thing that you are. I won't go into the psychology of it all; but there's something extremely compelling about knowing there are others like you.

Finding someone with the same intense interest gives you a sense of belonging. It eliminates the haze of self doubt that hangs over the head of someone who feels isolated in their passion for a specific interest or subject.

Over the last few years the Internet has made finding others with similar interests much much easier and almost common place.

Connections between people with common passions have formed online and in a lot of cases, transitioned to face to face friendships. The one I'm most familiar with is the large group of Disney fans. 

The people of the Disney online community regularly have meet ups and special events. They are a diverse group of people drawn together because of their passion for the Disney Company, it's history, and theme parks.   

There are Internet websites and message forums for those who are interested in puppetry and ventriloquism, as I am. Some are devoted to those who are involved in Christian puppet ministry. 

But the opportunities for face to face meetings and spending time with others who share that interest are few and far between. Occurring only once or twice a year. 

This brings me to my recent discovery of someone right in my own church who shares my passion for puppets.

Connecting with him may open up the "mentoring" aspect I've been wanting to add to my ventriloquism ministry for a while. 

Several months ago Dennis came to me explaining that he is interested in puppetry, has puppets of his own, suggesting that he would like to talk about it with me. 

This past Wednesday night, along with several of our puppets, we finally got together to discuss our passion and potential ministry partnership. 

We shared a few of our stories and personal history in regard to how we became involved with puppets. He told me that being able to do funny voices drew him into performing with puppets. 

As a demonstration, he did a very good impression of the voice of Spongebob Squarepants for me. Although it was an impersonation it can be used as a very good puppet voice. 

He showed me some of his puppets which included a policeman, a fireman, and a baby characters. 

I showed him my primary and animal puppets. He met Cecil, Schnozz, Archibald Jones, Calvin, Lanoline, Nigel the Nerd, and more. With each of the characters, I explained just how and why they became part of my menagerie.Telling these stories helped me realize just how bonded I am to each of my puppets. This gives me an idea for some future posts. 

Dennis expressed a desire to learn ventriloquism. Like anyone with a passion for a performance art; he wants the opportunity to share it with others and move up to the next level in his craft. 

His passion for puppetry is evident in the way he talks about his past history and his characters. He really enjoys making people laugh. This is rather ironic because his "day job" is in the funeral service business.   

We spent less than an hour in our sanctuary talking but it only seemed like a few minutes. After leaving the church (we were the last ones to leave the building after a busy Wednesday night of activities) we both agreed that this could be the beginning of a "beautiful friendship". It's was real blessing to find someone who shares my passion for puppetry.

I am excited about sharing my sketch writing experience and knowledge of the world of ventriloquism with him. His creative spirit and enthusiasm will be a welcome shot in the arm for me.

In addition he's directly involved in a local service organization that I've been trying to establish a contact with for some time now. 

This is definitely one post that has a "to be continued" attached to it. I'll make sure I keep you up to date. 


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Search Is Over

For those of you who, like me, when you read the title of this post, thought about the Survivor song from the 80's, I apologize. The 1985 Top 5 ballad, has nothing to do with what I'm about to write. But at least you'll have something to sing to yourself for the rest of the day. 

For those who didn't think of the song or have no idea what I'm referring to, you're better off not knowing. Now onto the subject at hand.

Over the last 6 to 8 weeks I have turned up the intensity of my effort to find a new job. As a man over 50 with a high school diploma and 30 years of work history my options were limits. But I was careful in deciding what ads to respond to, I knew there were jobs I didn't want or couldn't do. 

Working in the retail, fast food or industrial worlds were not going to be a fit for me. While being as selective as I needed to be I also had to make sure I threw enough "mud at the wall" that something would stick. 

From the beginning of June until now I had been putting in applications but received no response whatsoever. But over the last week or so, I've finally started to get some call backs and have had several interviews. 

Well, I've got some good news. I have found a new job. Although I had aspirations of going in a different direction with my vocational efforts, I am returning to work at a call center once again. 

Don't get me wrong, I am thankful for getting a new job, I was just looking to do something different. But you know what "they" say. Tell God your plans; He laughs, pats you on the head and sends you down the path He has for you. 

While I'm not going to give the specifics about the job until later I can give you some details about it now.

For this job, instead of driving south to the Bowling Green area as I have over the last 13 years, I will be going north to a town called Glasgow.  

I start with a 5-week training class on October 1. While this is in an environment I'm very familiar with, the job is going to be something I haven't done since I first started at AFNI in April 2000. 

My work schedule and other aspects of the job are not exactly what I wanted them to be but it's the door that has opened up for me. I will walk through and have faith and trust that it will work out for the best. My goals will be to have success and grow as a person. 
So with going back to work this coming Monday, I've got some things I need to get finished up here at home. In addition there are outside obligations that I have to take care of as well.  

But I just wanted to share with everyone who has been praying for me that God has patted me on the head and answered my need. I am thankful for and appreciate all your support. 

Now I must keep moving forward and make the most of the opportunities I've been given. I am thankful at the aspect of having a steady paycheck coming in again. 

With the way the economy and employment situation is in this country that's a good thing. So in that aspect I am glad my job search is over. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bits & Pieces

In a discussion with my daughter-in-law during lunch at a Mexican restaurant the other day I mentioned that after writing my blog series about our Chicago vacation, I am a bit at a loss for subject matter.  

A lot of things going on in my life are "in progress" and I don't like to write about things until they are finished.  

I guess the main reason for this is because as a "storyteller" I need a beginning, middle, and an end. 

I don't like the "to be continued" tag as a rule; unless it's a multiple part story that just takes a while to write. 

So I have a couple of "complete stories" from the first half of the month of September that, although not worthy of their own posts, can be included in a post I'm calling "Bits and Pieces." 

Hot Rods Happenings 
September started off with a sports fantasy come true. On Saturday night, September 1, I had the privilege to go into the booth during the broadcast of the Bowling Green Hot Rods baseball game. The station that broadcasts every game of the Class A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, is WBGN. 

I was chosen to be the fan in the booth thanks to a "contest" on Facebook. 

At the bottom of the 2nd inning I was led by a ballpark usher to the press box. There I met Hank Furst, the play by play guy. He normally does the broadcasts all alone but my job was to help him by doing some color commentary on the game. I was to be on the air for 1 inning.  

In the top of the 3rd inning Hank introduced me and we talked about my history as a baseball fan. In the inning, the Fort Wayne Tin Caps scored 2 runs. There was so much going on in the inning that I didn't get to do much talking. Hank kept me in the booth for the 4th. The Tin Caps score their 3rd run in the top half of that inning. Those three runs were all that they scored in the game. 

The Hot Rods would end up winning the game 5-3 thanks to a bottom of the 8th grand slam by Hot Rods first baseman, Jeff Malm. 

I was so excited because it was the first time I'd seen a grand slam at the Bowling Green Ballpark. I cheered so loud and so much I was hoarse the next day. 

A week later I would return to the ballpark to see the Hot Rods lose the 2nd game of a "best of 3" playoff series; ending their 2012 season. 

I was very disappointed. I thought for sure they would get to the championship series this year. But maybe next year. Nevertheless it was a great season for the Hot Rods. They had most wins than in any other of their 4 seasons so far. They were a fun team to watch. Can't wait for opening day 2013.

A Not So Glowing Experience
On the Friday night before my birthday, Paula and I went with our friends, Mark and Patty to the Balloons Tunes and Barbecue. It's 3 day festival featuring hot air balloons that's a fund raiser for the local United Way fund. 

It is held ever year but we had never been their. Without going into detail the overall experience was not all that great. 

Parking was free and there was no admission charge. But as Mark kept reminding us, you usually get what you pay for.

There were not very many food vendors and the barbecue they offered was not that great. However the Chaney's Dairy Barn ice cream was delicious. The carnival rides and games were geared mostly toward kids. 

The "Tunes" part of the festival included a large stage set up at the far end of the grounds. It was an impressive set up. But the cover band that was playing while we were there was not very good. The singer couldn't even stay on key while singing the well known  Beatles song "Get Back". 

The weather that night was warm and humid making it uncomfortable to walk around. The only thing we really enjoyed about being there something called the "balloon glow". 

At twilight all the balloons at the festival fired up their burners creating a beautiful picturesque glow. Here's what it looked like. 

Although they did the "glow" several times it only took about 10 minutes and then they were done. 

The only other thing that intrigued me was the chance to take a tethered ride in a balloon. But the line was too long so I didn't even consider it. With nothing left to do after enjoying our ice cream we called it a night. 

Now I am fascinated by the idea of riding in a hot air balloon. It is on my "bucket list".  But based on this experience my first visit to Balloons, Tunes and Barbecue will most likely be my last.  

New Benchmark For Goals
If you look back at my 500th post from January 9, 2012 you'll see my goals for this year. So far I've only achieved a couple of them and that's probably all I will complete. 

But as disappointed as I am about that fact I've decided that setting goals at the start of the calendar year isn't personal enough. I mean everyone makes New Year's resolutions and most break them. This makes following the same pattern acceptable.

I mean if "everybody" does it you can't be held accountable as an individual. That make failure an option. It shouldn't be. 

So with the passing of another birthday and the start of another year of my life I've decided to make my "resolution" starting point more personal. From now on I am going to set and work toward my goals based on my birthday. I will now work on them from September to September. 

I've already set new goals for this new starting point. I'm not going to make them public yet. But as I accomplish them I will make sure I post about them. 

Finding Nemo In 3D
The 3D craze at the movie theater has been going strong for quite a while now. The Disney company doesn't see any end to it any time soon. 

Their most recent animated feature to be rereleased in a 3D version is the Pixar classic, Finding Nemo. At the conversion cost of $5 million the 3D version made over 3 times that much in it's opening weekend alone.  

Paula and I went to see it the day it was back in the theaters. The 3D is not an "over the top" type of effect. It's not the "calling card" of this rerelease. In fact it does an amazingly subtle way of enhancing the already amazingly beautiful and amazing animation. 

If you've ever read anything I've written about "Finding Nemo" in the past you know I've mentioned many times that Ellen Degeneres' voice performance as Dory is the best supporting role in an animated feature ever. 

I've also mentioned that the movie is one of my top 5 favorite Pixar films. Well after sitting in the theater and watching the 3D version I've changed my mind. 

"Finding Nemo" is now my #1 favorite Pixar movie of all time. It replaces "A Bug's Life" on the "Pixar Only" list. "The Lion King" remains at the top of my all time Disney list (this includes both Disney and Pixar animated films) but "Nemo" is a close second. 

If you are a fan of Finding Nemo I highly recommend going to see it in 3D. You'll come out of the theater humming "Beyond The Sea" and loving this Pixar classic even more. 

Building A Tower

While visiting the Sky Deck on the 103 floor of the Willis Tower in Chicago I resisted buying any of the several souvenir models available at the gift shop.

The reason being, I knew that when I got home I could get a really cool model that was less expensive. 

Last week I went to our local Barnes and Noble bookstore and picked up the Lego version of the Willis Tower. The price was about $10 less in Chicago. 

Up until last night I didn't have time to put it together. But I wanted to have it on my bookshelf so I decided that it was time. 

With all 69 pieces spread out on a snack table I started assembling the model; following the instructions. 

I built the foundation...

Added the first couple of floors...

 Capped off the lower columns... 

built up the taller ones.

And with the addition of the antennae... was finished. TaDa! I have my own Willis Tower in my living room. 

So there you have the "bits and pieces" of what's been going on with me. I have a few more irons in the fire but their stories are or will be played out over the next few weeks or months. 

These stories include: being a volunteer teacher for Junior Achievement, my continuing search for a job; integrating social media into my ventriloquist career and several more. 

Looking forward writing about them soon. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

This is a Recording...Device

This is a picture of something that I hadn't seen in decades. But one just like it was a big part of my early teenage years. 

I saw this Realistic portable cassette player and microphone in the last place I ever expected to see it. I came across it as part of a display in the American Girl store in Chicago. 

I was totally surprised to see it but when I did a rush of memories came flooding back to me. 

I got my first (I say "first" because there was more than one) for Christmas in 1971. I had been asking for one for a long time. At age 11 my parents seemed to think that I could handle the responsibility of owning my own tape recorder.

Sometime during the year I broke it (so much for being responsible). The next Christmas Santa brought me another one. I used that one just as much if not more. 

The summer of 73, was the one I consider my first as a teenager. Although I was still 12, all my friends had turned 13. I went really crazy about popular music that year. I used my hand held microphone held up to the speaker of my portable radio to record my favorite songs played by our local stations, WEEX and WLEV. 

In August my Sunday School teacher and her husband were going to volunteer for a week at our church youth camp, 5 hours away, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They invited me to go along paying for my camp registration. 

It was the first time I'd been that far away from home for that long. I was not a good handling being away from home at that time. Plus I had another very important reason for wanting to stick around my neighborhood. But my parents made me go. They thought it would be good for me to get away for a while and the camp was paid for by someone else. To make the time away "less painful", I took my faithful electronic companion, with me. 

At the time I went to camp I was in the middle of my first "summer romance". My girlfriend and I had several special songs including: "My Love" by Paul McCartney and Wings; and "Diamond Girl" by Seals and Crofts. 

Also at the top of the charts at the time were: "Live and Let Die", the theme from the James Bond movie, also by Wings; and "Back When My Hair Was Short" by one hit wonder group, Gunhill Road. 

I had a favorite cassette with all those songs. It was a "Realistic" brand cassette; the kind you bought in a 3-pack for like $2 or $3 at Radio Shack.

For those of you who don't know back in the early 70's through the late 80's Radio Shack stores were just about the only place to go for electronics, stereo equipment, parts and accessories. 

I played that tape every time I got the chance during the week I was at camp. When the batteries in my tape recorder got low (I didn't bring replacements) I had to plug it in to listen to my music. 

This was an old fashioned campground with dorms that had sets of bunk beds. The only electricity were a few hanging electric lights. The only plug I could find was on the platform of the camp tabernacle. 

This was an outside pavilion filled with benches 3 rows across and of about 40 deep. They were sitting in front of a raised stage. The platform had a piano on the left side, an electric organ on the right side and a pulpit in the middle. 

I plugged my tape recorder in on the left side and set it on the railing at the front of the platform. Every afternoon when we had free time I'd go to the tabernacle and listen to my tape wishing I was home. I missed my friends, especially my girlfriend. 

I've explained all of that to say that somehow I left my cassette player at camp. I was heartbroken. My parents tried to contact the camp officials to have them look for it but it was never found. 

So the next Christmas I got my 3rd tape recorder. It would be the last of the kind pictured at the top of this post. But the last one was special. 

Not only did I continue to record music from the radio, I moved on to recording the sound from some of my favorite TV shows. I remember recording the Bob Newhart show, The Carol Burnette show, MASH, The Odd Couple, and more. 

The most memorable recording I made was the Muppet Valentine Special which aired at the end of January 1974. 

This recording was very special to me in my relationship with my dad. I believe I've wrote a post explaining the details. Check out the February 15, 2011 post for the complete story.

I took better care of the 3rd Realistic portable cassette player I got for Christmas in 1974 than I had the others. Perhaps it was my parents' threat that I wasn't going to get another one. I kept it for several years.

Using it, I recorded a Christmas radio commercial that I wrote and produced myself. This also made a connection for my dad and me.The complete story about that can be found in my December 19, 2009 post. 

So there you have a brief story of my history with my trio of portable cassette tape recorders from Radio Shack. 

All those memories were brought back to me simply because I just happened to see a vintage Realistic portable cassette tape recorder in a display in the American Girl store in Chicago. 

It was a store that I had almost no interest in. But it just goes to show you. If you look long enough you can find something good in everything.