The days of grocers past

Does anyone remember the jingle: “Let’s go to Henke’s now, Henke’s now, Henke’s now … thrifty place to shop.”

Well, the song is a lot like the one you hear or may have had heard in the past that goes: “Let’s go Krogering, Krogering, Krogering … “

It’s all the same and with a reason. The giant grocer Kroger bought Houston-based Henke & Pilot chain the same year I was born, in 1955. The Henke name was no longer used beginning in 1966, or there about. Although the jingle seemed to hang on.

I suppose if you are under 30 and grew up in the U.S., most grocery stores have always been a constant. I know the grocery chains in East and Southeast Texas haven’t seemed to change much over those years. Where I live, in Beaumont, there aren’t a lot of grocery choices. There is Kroger, of course. Two larger regional chains seemed to have elbowed out any potential large competitors with the exception of Kroger. H-E-B, which was once pretty much a Central Texas chain has grown like crazy and even some of the smaller towns around here have mid-sized or small versions of its stores.

H-E-B has mega-stores in different locations in the state. Two were built when I lived in Waco. There is one humongous H-E-B in Beaumont on Dowlen Road that anchors a small strip mall. When it first opened it featured a small “Central Market,” which is the company’s gourmet grocery chain. One may find all the hipsters at the Central Market in Austin (that should be ‘Markets,’ and they are littered with ‘foodies’ in major suburbs like Plano and Southlake in the DFW area.) I will give the tres chic  H-E-B that it does have many great items one would be hard pressed to find elsewhere.

Unfortunately, Beaumont isn’t a hipster town — at least not in reality — so its H-E-B Central Market was gone and installed was a doc-in-a-box. A new, and presumably likewise large, H-E-B is now solid ground but will be coming up at the site of the old Baptist Hospital at South 11th Street and College. This is next door to the booming Memorial Hermann Baptist Hospital and its surrounding medical village. This is kind of a crossroads of where Beaumont’s  mostly Black, goodly-sized Hispanic and minority White population all have to go at one time or the other. If they don’t go to Baptist they usually go up 11th to Christus St. Elizabeth or to Texas Medical Center in Houston.

Of course, the “Golden Triangle” also has an abundance of Market Basket stores. It is a chain in Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana some half-century old, based in Nederland, Texas, that has seemed to do just fine.

Various other stores either went out of business or got bought out. The Brookshire Brothers chain, based in Lufkin, can be found pretty much in the Big Thicket and Deep East Texas areas. The company has also moved into areas of east Central Texas and parts of Central Texas as well.

One need not mention Wally World.

I think about some of the stores that were once here in Beaumont: Albertson’s, Gerland’s, gosh knows who else. In Nacogdoches, where I spent a great deal of my life, Safeway was once a huge, unionized store. Kroger was also unionized there. One of the first girls I dated upon first moving to Nac, I met at Safeway. Those are the kind of memories one likes to have of a grocery store instead of getting stuck in line to no end. The Safeway girl and I parted quicker than some of those lines, I would suppose. But we left amicably as she wanted to move back to Houston and I said, well, if someone wants to move to Houston then I guess I have no great opposition to it. I was fine just where I was at that time, and several other times.

Also I remember the little East Texas town from where I came. We didn’t have any of those big-named stores. Maybe a couple of years after I left a Brookshire Brothers came. It was a familiar brand because my uncle Sox retired from the company. Uncle Sox then worked part-time after retirement in a little town outside of Lufkin called Huntington. Uncle Sox worked for Boots store, named after a man called Boots. Sox and Boots. Seemed kind of proper, yet still gets a big family chuckle.

Some of the small-town stores I remember delivered. Dick’s Grocery, whom I am named for (Dick, not Grocery), used to set their fruits and vegetables out on the curb. I remember one store, owned by Ira Bean, sold a little of everything. Then there was Joe Harrell’s who we saw for smoked meats and his homemade sausage. And like family was J & J’s, the corner store, but not like in a convenience store. I remember they had a big old wheel of cheddar sitting on top of the butcher case. John & Juanita were as good of people you could find.

Man, those were the days. Well, excuse me because I have to go to Kroger’s. Have a great weekend.

There is no free lunch (at McDonald’s)

Read this story.

If the facts are 100 percent correct as alleged by this McDonald’s worker then it would be enough for me to say: “I’m not ever going to McDonald’s again.”

What the hell. I hardly ever go to McDonald’s anyway.

Basically this girl alleges she was fired from her job at McDonald’s after paying for some firefighters’ meal after they returned from a house fire. Then another group came in and she felt they should get a comp as well. She texted her boss to ask. That was the straw that broke Ronald’s back, allegedly. McDonald’s say there is more to the story of her firing than was stated. Oh, but they can’t say anything because of privacy laws. How freaking convenient.

I guess this rubs me the wrong way in more than one way. The biggest irritant is that the fast food joint doesn’t make cops pay but apparently not other public service types. This has been and, apparently still is, a practice at more than just the golden arches. A bit more than 30 years ago when I was a firefighter that was the widespread practice in the town in which I lived. Not that you work for the perks, but hell, sometimes people do appreciate the job you do. You are risking your life when you roll out of the station.

People seem to have more of an appreciation of public safety people now, more so than they did before 9/11. Still, I guess some of the restaurant people figure they can only give out free food only to so many. Okay, when that grease trap you didn’t ever clean catches fire and puts the place into an inferno, go call your hero coppers to put it out. Sorry.

I do remember some girls bringing cookies to our station one time. It was a couple of days after we helped get them back inside their house after they locked themselves out.

Once, I do recall eating at a McDonald’s after a fire. It was an early Sunday morning, must have been early January because the college still was out and there was zero traffic. I was riding in the open jump seat with someone. Can’t recall who. Mike was driving and Mason was lieutenant. I don’t remember who all was on the other pumper either. I guess I remember those two guys because they are gone after relatively early deaths. I remember it was sleeting or snowing that day. A car with a guy, his wife and kids, passed by and looked at me and my fellow firefighter riding the jump seat like, “These guys must be freezing.”

This was back when I was still young. Really pretty young. I guess I was about 23. Man, I had fun back in those days.

We ate breakfast, a Mickey D’s Big Breakfast as I recall. And I remember Mason paid for it. I don’t recollect if Mason paid for those of us on both trucks but he did pick up Engine 309′s tab. That’s more than I can say for Mickey D.

Southwest 737 lands eight miles short of destination

All over the news today, the errant landing of a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 at an airport near Branson, Mo.

Southwest Flight 4013 had been scheduled to land at the Branson Airport. It instead landed at the M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport — a.k.a. Clark-Tanney Co. Airport — some eight miles away and with a runway almost half of the size of the Branson facility.  The Springfield News-Leader website reported that the Southwest jet took off today without incident. The aviation website FlightAware.com reported that the plane landed some 30 minutes later at the Tulsa International Airport in Oklahoma.

While this can be chalked up to one of those “Oops” moments — and was by some news outlets — the safe landing had the potential for disaster as the 737-700 came to rest only “a few hundred feet” from a 50-foot gravel embankment at the end of the runway, according to the News-Leader story by Thomas Gounley. The story and the initial one by Claudette Riley provided the best coverage of the incident I have seen in reading some of the Missouri, AP and network stories on the Web. Hey, trust me, I was a journalist  for some 20 years and covered several of these breaking news events that received national attention. And you can believe me because I’m always right and I never lie.

Southwest has suspended the pilots. Buses took the passengers, who spent about 75 minutes on the landed aircraft, to the Branson airport. The story today had the interesting footnote, one subtle yuk, that Southwest had to “find Branson for another five months.” The airline plans to cease flights to the airport in June.

The 2010 Census estimates say Branson has 10,520 people although the city has long been known for its many theaters catering to country music lovers and an older crowd such as Roy Clark, Glen Campbell, Andy Williams and the Oak Ridge Boys. Frontier Airlines is the other carrier currently operating out of Branson. Even with the extensive tourist trade its hard to imagine a city with 10.5 thousand folks having an airport with two major airlines serving it. Our airport here in the Beaumont-Port Arthur and Orange, Texas vicinity serves a regional population of a half-million people, however, it is only an hour-and-a-half from Houston and its two major airports. It currently has American flying to and from Dallas-Fort Worth International. United Airlines still has a bus service to George H.W. Bush International Airport in Houston back and forth to Jack Brooks Regional Airport in Nederland from its merger with Continental

Private and public entities had to put a $1.5 million revenue guarantee for American to begin flying its regional jets from Southeast Texas from its D-FW hub. American became the most recent airline over the past 40-something years in the Beaumont-Port Arthur area.

Southwest pulled out of Beaumont-Port Arthur after a little more than six months in 1979. My third airline flight, flying from what was Houston Intercontinental in 1974 to BPT, was on a turbo-prop Convair 880 that was part of the Texas International Airlines fleet. Texas International, previously Trans-Texas Airways, eventually merged with Continental.

Back and forth. Up and down. That’s the airline biz.

This is no fun vacation. Of course, it isn’t really a vacation.

It has been a week since the government shutdown and many of us who work for the feds have been furloughed. Time off is good and I planned on taking annual leave next week, but it looks like that won’t be happening. I may be wrong, and I hope that I am, but I don’t see the federal government totally opening shop until at least Oct. 17. That is, of course, when the debt ceiling must be raised or the nation will default on its debts. At least, that is the best I can make out of it.

I have always enjoyed time off from work until lately. I can’t remember the last time I took off just to go somewhere and enjoy myself. It was maybe one or two years ago.

If I had the money, I would go somewhere for a week or a few days. Maybe I would visit a friend in El Paso, or another in Mississippi. But I have very little money and that little money I have I am trying to determine what I will have to use it for.

Never in my life have I seen a group of people – and I am speaking to Congress and my President – who seem to have a total disregard for the employees whose welfare they are charged to oversee. I still support the President, but I truly hope he gets something done and soon. I am headed toward a place I never wanted to be again, that is homeless. Wouldn’t that be a nice “visual” for Congress or President Obama?

I have a “Donation” button on my blog page that goes to my PayPal account. Please feel free to use it. Your help for this furloughed government employee is much appreciated.

Note: I work part-time for a government agency. In the last couple of years health problems have forced me to rely more on that part-time job than on my dream of freelancing. I ask those whom I know who read this to please give me a hand so both that I and this blog can continue. — Thanks, Dick

Sitting here, waiting for the fiscal shoe to drop

My friend Marcie sent me a text message earlier that unfortunately is more enthusiasm than accuracy at the moment.

“Looks like no govt shutdown. Good news for you! We’ll see … ”

That’s okay, Marcie, it’s the thought that counts. For the moment at least.

The latest in the war between the Democrats vs. the GOP vs. Tea Party is a Senate spending bill that restored funding for Obamacare as well as to keep the government running. It’s been sent to the House where it either be accepted or sent where old bills go to die.

Our only words of encouragement are in the form of our regular teleconference agenda that came by email this afternoon, which says nothing shutdown-related. Of course, us part-timers were already given a short phone call  from our supervisors late yesterday afternoon telling us we would be told something Monday as to any possible furloughs. The procedure is roughly the same as we had during the last time the Republicans threatened to shut us down. As far as I know, unless there has been any last minute change, we still will be considered non-essential personnel.

I suppose I look at the possibility of going unpaid for however long. If it is a day or maybe two, then I might be okay. Anymore than that and I might have to try a Web-driven telethon.

But I shall not dwell on these things. I just hope the media will have the good sense to stop making a hero out of Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, who now is the most toxic Texan in the Senate. Yes, he’s different. Different in the a**hole way.

Have a great weekend and, in the words of the late, great Bob Marley: “Don’t worry. About a thing. Cause every little thing going to be all right … ”

I sure hope so, Bob.

 

The monkey dances as the scores run upward.

The fields hosting some of the best teams in college football were a slaughterhouse last weekend. See for yourself:

No. 4 Ohio State 76, Florida A & M 0.

No. 7 Louisville 72, Florida International 0.

No. 8 Florida State 54, Bethune-Cookman, 6, By golly at least the small, historically black Wildcats scored a TD.

No. 20 Baylor 70, Louisiana-Monroe 7.

Stephen F. Austin 52, Montana State 38. This sounds more like Texas 6-man football but my alma mater the Lumberjacks of SFA were pretty even unlike some of these match-ups.

Even here in Beaumont, Texas, the rebuilt-from-the-grave Lamar Cardinals, a FCS, or what was once Division 1-A, throttled the smaller Bacone Warriors of Muskogee, Okla., 53-0. I saw the Bacone bus at the MCM Elegante Hotel while coming home from work late. I said: “Bacone?”

Bridge City HS, UT wishbone T fullback Steve Worster. Those were the days.

Bridge City HS, UT wishbone T fullback Steve Worster. Those were the days.

Some football “purists,” if such a word exists came to work Monday at their radio or TV studios, eyes raised, ready to engage in “for” or “against.” What do smaller schools get in exchange for playing much larger and ranked BCS schools? Oh, and getting beaten like a rented mule? Money. Yeah buddy, beat me until I turn green like the GEICO Money Man. I think GEICO, who is owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire-Hathaway, has some of the most clever advertising characters ever. Love the Gecko and Ralph the Pig, along with the Money Man. He must be Buffet in a younger day.

Here is my alma mater playing Texas Tech on Sept. 7. Tech 61 SFA 13. Attendance, more than 54, 000. On RedRaiderSports.com, old buddy, former co-worker and fellow SFA journalism alum Kevin Gore hit the nail on the head:

“Texas Tech is the toughest opponent on SFA’s schedule, how do you think they’re gearing up mentally for their trip to Lubbock?
KG: “Well, you know, it’s a money game for Stephen F. They’re getting $387,500. They try to play a money game every year.”

To paraphrase an old chem professor, you don’t get 20,000 students to show up for a chemistry lecture.

I have been searching for what SFA brought home in cash in the beating they took a year or two ago playing the Texas A & M Aggies at Kyle Field, but can’t find the amount.

Other reasons exist for these mismatched contests but money reigns supreme, at least for the “beat-ee.”

The question raised is whether these games contain “sportsmanship.” WTF? I remember in high school, a football player and a pretty girl would be the “Sportsmanship Couple.” This couple would take a bouquet to another such couple from the other team. I never got to be a sportsmanship, uh half-a-couple. I was just the equipment manager. And I remember a game in high school in which I watched from the sidelines as our team racked up 60 to 0, the best I can remember. We put a 300-pounder lineman in at halfback and he bulled his way through a couple of yards a la Refrigerator Perry style. That was before The Fridge though.

This score-up-running scene I described was a district football game. It was a school we played year in and out, except every so often and when the University of Texas body that runs interscholastic events — my best friend and I were 2-for-2 in the Nederland Foresnic Tournament. We raced to see who could first dig up dead bodies and find crucial evidence. Oh bullshit, it was a debate tournament!

Where this all comes out is sometimes the score gets run up. It seems a bit unseemly when this is all for money. But you have to make that dancing monkey dance. That is not a racist statement. You ever see a dancing monkey?

 

Have mercy. Been ridin’ on the bus all day …

This is Post #2,400 for the ol’ EF’enD. But no time to celebrate boys and girls, cause I got a bus to catch. Tomorrow. Going to Dallas on that ol’ Greyhound. That means a ride from Beaumont->Houston->Dallas–>Catch that ol’ DART Red Line light rail to Arapaho station–>Then catch a ride with my amigo to Frisco. Hot Damn (or not.) What that means is I will be sitting on my ass a lot tomorrow. Start the music boys:

No infringement is meant here. First and last, if you don’t have this album, go out and get it. I mean the vinyl. Doesn’t matter even if it’s scratched up a little, in fact, that’s the way it should be played. And loud. Make the fine China dance up and down on the dinner table of those pretentious metrosexual assholes upstairs above you.

This song reminds me of my younger days. A long-haired punk riding the bus to the AFEES in Houston for a physical for the Navy and a ride back to Kirbyville where somebody picked us up. Oh I’d be back to that old AFEES, entertain the thought of going AWOL to see Crosby, Stills Nash and Young, but go ahead anyway, crawl in a big yellow taxi for Houston Intercontinental Airport, now known as Bush Intercontinental, for Old Man Bush.

Riding the bus all day or waiting for the bus all day. One kind of blends into another. That’s why this “Waiting for the Bus All Day,” by ZZ Top, which merges effortlessly into “Jesus Just Left Chicago,” is so appropriate for the po’ man traveler. Nowadays, you have to be really broke (which I am at the moment) or you are some kind of nut, and or outlaw, to ride the bus.

ZZ Top’s been with me for 40 years or more. They sing a kind of multi-racial blues that black, white, brown, it doesn’t matter, you know?

So here is to ZZ Top and to that long bus ride tomorrow.

A & M to be deprived of Johnny Football for one-half against Rice, sources say.

Okay Johnny, which wrist would you like us to slap? Oh. Of course, we wouldn’t want to slap your passing arm even though the slap will be more like a finger tap.

I know I should tread lightly talking about Texas A & M and it’s headline-making quarterback Johnny Manziel. Half of my family went to A & M and a close friend from college days is a big fan since our college is only what is now called a “Football Championship Series” team and not a BCS one.

Johnny Football after June 2012 arrest for fighting and fake identification. / Photograph courtesy of Brazos County's Judicial Records Search at http://justiceweb.co.brazos.tx.us

Johnny Football after June 2012 arrest for fighting and fake identification. / Photograph courtesy of Brazos County’s Judicial Records Search at http://justiceweb.co.brazos.tx.us

But if all the reports this afternoon are right then it seems Heisman Trophy winner “Johnny Football” will have to sit out one half of the Aggies season opener against Rice. This news comes from ESPN and other media outlets, based on a Twitter feed from an Aggie insider.

The one-half suspension will permanently shut the door on allegations Manziel was paid to sign more than 4,000 autographs. Scott Van Pelt said on his ESPN radio show this afternoon that autograph brokers who snitched on Manziel to the media would not talk to NCAA investigators. At least that is a popular theory. The reason is that, allegedly, the Aggies quarterback was devaluing his autographs by signing so many.

Might one say that they smell a rat in Indianapolis, home of the NCAA?

A second Heisman season is possible for Manziel and there is an outside chance he might lead the Aggies to a national championship season, this being the team’s second in Southeastern Conference play.

With this chapter in Manziel’s history apparently closed, plus putting his legal problems to bed, this might be quite a season for Johnny Football. After this season Mr. Football will be eligible for the NFL draft. And he seems eager to let the draft madness begin and escape College Station. If he can just keep out of trouble …

 

Drone industry in Washington to drone on about expanded unmanned aircraft use

 

A headline on today’s Stars & Stripes Website threateningly announces: “Drones descend on Washington — Just for show.” But the content of the story sounds much scarier than the headline.

It seems that something called the “Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International” is featuring 600 exhibits in a three-day trade fair in the D.C. convention center. In other words,  makers of drones are seeking every possible buyer for the unmanned aircraft ranging from law enforcement to those managing forests. The article says the first objective of the show is to ease the fear of drones, going so far as to avoid using the word “drone.” Ah, do we want an unmanned plane loaded with missiles flying over our neighborhoods and playgrounds? Anyone with even the most remote, pardon the pun, common sense probably wouldn’t.

Those who accept the broadest interpretation of the right to bear arms would perhaps believe these unmanned aircraft would be great for hunting white-tailed deer in the woods. Why you wouldn’t even have to leave the house to “harvest” a 12-point buck!

Aside from the, hopefully, most far-fetched uses of drones many people likewise fear the opportunities for expanded privacy intrusions that have already traveled far afield from what even the sharpest of our “Founding Fathers” might have imagined. You might have to give up some privacy to live in a safe world of expanding terror. Then again, there is no sense in handing the government the keys to the kingdom.

Even the most practical matters — how to manage an ever-crowded sky –seem far from determined in a world in which drones are commonplace. Plus, we must remember that is is already the 21st century and we’ve yet to see even the most limited use of flying automobiles!

I hope people see such a gathering of unmanned flight as a warning to our society that maybe, maybe hell, that we should have a giant public debate before these drones begin to take off aside general and commercial aviation. But I have been disappointed by society so many times before.

 

That tragic, deadly, ol’ Love Boat

Have you ever wondered how many boxes of toothpicks can be made from a single tree?

Most toothpicks in the U.S. are made from birch, according to Ask.com, the answer to everything, the trut,’ the whole trut’ and nothing but the trut.’

Well, according to one site whose pedigree I couldn’t tell you:

In one cord of wood (logs 8′ in length, stacked 4′ high, and 4′ wide) can be turned into 7.5 million toothpicks.

Reminds me of a cartoon I saw as a kid. The board of directors are sitting around in a board room (where else). A chart is being pointed to at a company called Acme Toothpick by some suit. The suit says: “Unfortunately, we expect a sharp decline in profits this year since the company bought a new tree.”
And we all laughed.
So what brings this up? Why it is the Love Boat. Yes, you remember so many years ago … “The Love Boat promises something new for everyone …. ” Like the prospect that this episode will be followed by “Fantasy Island.” “De plane, de plane … “
The MS Pacific is the ship once known as the Pacific Princess. That was when she embarked from across the way from the Long Beach shipyard in which my destroyer was dry-docked during that magic summer of ’77. Magic? Magic Tragic. It’s just “artistic license.” After all, someone probably made tons of money from that terrible “Love Boat” theme. Get over it. The Pacific limped into a Turkish shipyard last week, listing much like half of my crew on a one-night liberty in Fiji. A ship recycling company bought the ship — the Princess, not my destroyer — for about $3.3 million.
One might think this about the worst ending ever for a 70s icon of love. But, oh no, it gets even worse.
No doubt the “Love Boat” sucked as a TV show. Who knew it was actually lethal?