I am pleased to welcome you to my personal blog, which I started in March 2009. I first became interested in blogging about five years ago, using old "blogger.com", which was cumbersome to use and I never mastered. About a year ago I discovered that Google had bought "blogger.com" and had revised it considerably, making it fun to use, so much so that I have devised at least 15 blogs on various subjects and frequently add posts and Gadgets to them.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

William T. Johnson Learns to Fly J-3 Piper Cub

In September 1944 I was at Fort Benning near Columbus, GA, when I decided to take flying lessons. My father had learned to fly and had bought a Travel Air biplane years before. My friend Louise was taking flying lessons about that time in Washington. So I called the Columbus Municipal airport and made an appointment for the next Sunday morning. For the first lesson I suppose we had some "book learning". Then for the next two months I took the bus from Sand Hill to the airport and each week had a 30-minute lesson on the J-3, 40-horsepower Piper Cub - once or twice we used a 60-horsepower Cub. When it became too cold to continue in the unheated Cub, I stopped taking lessons. My cost had been $9.00 an hour,  so for nine lessons I acquired 4.5 hours for $40.50. I enjoyed it, but was a very long way from a solo flight.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

William T. Johnson and the Boy Scouts of America

I've just gotten home from the annual lunch meeting provided by F&M Bank to raise funds for continuation of the Boy Scouting program here in Washington. The speaker for the program was Lee Hutto, new athletic director of Washington-Wilkes High School. Lee said that he had grown up in a one-parent home and had never had the opportunity to be a Scout, but that after study he has found that his field, athletics, and Scouting both attempt to instill in its youth a high moral character and the ability to make right decisions about their lives. In a printed program the Friends of Scouting noted that they are the largest source of funds for Scouting, 30%.

The Boy Scouts program has occupied a large place in both my father's and/or my life for the last 100 years. I understand that Daddy was a Scout and that he was Scoutmaster of Troop 34 and was involved with construction of the Scout Hut in 1930.

Daddy took me to Scout meetings occasionally in the early 30s, and I met the Scouts and climbed the ladder to the loft area. By 1936, when I became old enough to be a Scout, I was thoroughly imbued with Scouting. I eventually became a so-so Scout, Second Class, but I remained in the troop as a patrol leader until I was 16. I remember earning enough money, $1.65, by delivering Octagon Soap circulars over town to buy enough culled lumber to build a patrol room in the loft area of the Scout Hut. 

About 1952, when I was working for my National Guard unit, I was persuaded to be the Assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 34 to help my friend James Blackmon. After a few months James became an Explorer Advisor and I inherited the troop. This turned out to be one of the bright spots of my life. The boys in the troop became my closest friends.

Monday, April 27, 2009

William T. Johnson's Earliest Attempt to be a Firefighter

Not long before the airplane ride mentioned in the previous posting, I lived with my parents at the Johnson Hotel in downtown Washington. It was part of a family business involving in one building the hotel and a department store. At the time my parents operated the hotel, which included boarders and a dining room. As part of smalltown life my father was a volunteer firefighter, as were all members of the fire department at the time. Whoever discovered a fire was charged with notifying "central" by picking up the telephone handset. The telephone operator would ask "Number, please?" The caller would announce the location of the fire and the operator would press the button to blow the fire whistle (actually, a siren not far from the phone office). The firefighters were authorized to ask the operator for the location of the fire in response to the sounding of the siren. On one occasion, when I was about two, the siren blew, my father dressed for the fire and ran downstairs enroute to the fire station about a block away. I remember distinctly my own actions on this one occasion. I also ran downstairs, through the lobby, and onto the sidewalk. I was not properly dressed for firefighting since all I had on was a nightgown. I dispensed with the gown about the time a neighbor from across the street, Mrs. Scavens, discovered my predicament and returned me and the gown to my mother in the hotel.
I don't know the details about the fire call.

William T. Johnson's First Plane Ride

About 1926 or 1927 I went to the fairgrounds with my parents where a barnstormer pilot was selling rides in what was probably a Curtiss Jenny airplane. As I remember the scene, when Mother and Daddy's time came, I was left with a young woman, either a friend or a cousin, in the crowd under the goal-posts on the football field. I visualize that my parents were in the front seat of the bi-plane and that I could not stand being left behind. Before the plane could taxi over to the runway I ran out from the crowd toward the plane, the plane stopped, and someone picked me up and put me in the front seat with my parents. I don't remember much about the takeoff or the landing, but I do remember distinctly looking down at the town as we flew over it. My sharpest memory is of the Episcopal Church of the Mediator with its white sides and green roof. I went there for a community service last Sunday and was reminded of this early plane ride. I must deny that we ever flew upside down as shown in this valuable postage stamp, which was printed erroneously.

A Plane Ride for William T. Johnson's Family

During the thirties Daddy learned to fly and bought a 1928 Travel Air bi-plane. Most of his student time was in Augusta and his favorite instructor was Fred Dorsett, who later became a pilot with Eastern Airlines. At any rate, on July 4, 1934, Daddy wanted to fly the family to Elberton, 30 miles from Washington, for some special event at the airport. At the time the plane was "garaged," "hangered (?)", at Daddy's airport behind Jake Orr's house. So we went out there about 9:00, serviced the plane, and Mother, my little brother Jimsie, and I climbed in the front seat. The takeoff was uneventful and the trip over Tignall (at about 500 ft.) to Elberton came off without a hitch. I remember the red dirt at the Elberton airport but not much else. It's possible we visited Mother's parents on Railroad Street, but I don't know. I do remember the trip back home and that it was uneventful, too.

William T. Johnson at the Longs' Campground

The extended Long family, including my long-time friends Bobby and John Albert, owns or controls a former Methodist campground in Franklin County, Poplar Springs Campground. The day after my nephew Jim's wedding in Clayton in July 2006, Albert and I were driving back to Washington and decided to stop for a visit with the family at the campground. The campground is made up of a large number of unpainted houses (shacks) known as tents, without electricity or plumbing. I had seen similar campgrounds, but this one was alive with young people and older people, about to have lunch and play games. We were invited to have lunch and spend the night. I welcomed the lunch but drew the line at returning to nature on so little notice. Here are some of the pictures I took during our two hours there.

Friday, April 24, 2009

William T. Johnson at Fort Benning, Georgia

Typicalorderly room/supply room building in Harmony Church area of Fort Benning.

When several other guys and I were delivered from OCS in the Harmony Church area to the 71st Division in the Sand Hill area of Fort Benning we didn't know what to expect. I don't remember going to Division Headquarters but I do remember 14th Infantry Regiment Headquarters. The division was being filled up and retrained from a light division with mules to a heavy division with trucks so there seemed to be plenty of opportunities for everyone. I remember that we tried to get in the regimental band while we were in front of the 14th Infantry Headquarters, but they were not interested in us. I suppose that there were orders at some point, but I do remember that some of us walked down the hill to the 3d Battalion area and I walked on to Company M. It was not quite dark, some time in June, and a nearly empty company. I remember that the CQ was Martin Ritz, a corporal being retreaded from an Antiaircraft unit at Fort Stewart. He got me situated in the 3d Platoon, 81-mm mortars, in a very pleasant barracks at the bottom of the hill. At this point I had been in the Army approximately one year and my pay grade had gone back to private.

William T. Johnson at Officer Candidate School

During World War II the Infantry Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Fort Benning was in the Harmony Church area of the post. I had been in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program at Presbyterian College (known as PC) in Clinton, SC, and had there been more time to finish college I might conceivably have received a commission through ROTC. However, there was not enough time and we in Senior ROTC program were permitted to sign contracts to earn commissions through Infantry OCS, provided that if we did not succeed we would remain in the army as private soldiers. So that was our program - basic training, Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP), miscellaneous duties, OCS, and combat training and duty as either a Second Lieutent (2LT) or a Private (PVT). By attending college in the summer of 1942 I was able to get college credits and to be classified as a Senior ROTC student by the time I entered the Army in June 1943. So when my time came to enter service I had a guaranteed chance to enter OCS at the Army's convenience. When the end came for the ASTP program some of us with contracts eventually went to OCS and the others went into combat. From the ASTP program at Mississippi State College we traveled by train to Columbus, GA, by bus to an administrative company at Harmony Church area at Fort Benning, and on foot to whatever OCS company we were assigned. I was assigned to the 12th Company. OCS required 17 weeks of training, but I got no further than the 13th week when I was found short of the leadership abilities required of a lieutenant. In May 1944, after my failure in a night exercise while serving as a company commander leading the company across a wooded area during an attack, I was counseled, removed from OCS, and reassigned to the 71st Division, then being retrained in the Sand Hill area of the post. I was somewhat upset at being "kicked out of OCS" but eventually found the move to my advantage.

William T. Johnson at Mississippi State College

Life in B-40 was remarkably different from A-33. Except for the cadre and the company boxer the entire unit included only college-ROTC-educated men, from age 19 to 20. Their colleges included The Citadel, Clemson, Pennsylvania Military, andPresbyterian. I don't remember the effect training in another unit had on our B-40 training, but probably not much. Since we went into B-40 in early July we would have gotten up to bayonet training by August, and I remember the terrible heat of that training. We spent a week on the rifle range, walking out several miles each morning. At that time the Army provided salt tablets to prevent heat stroke, and I remember the white areas on my fatigues as a result of the salt tablets. We had a combination of marches of varying lengths and conditions. I remember one in particular at the end of a bivouac. We understood that the commander took a wrong turn and led us on a somewhat longer march off post through Pauline and back onto post. I remember carrying several rifles for a few other men during the last few miles. I was informed in October that I would be in charge of the group of six or seven men from PC in traveling to Georgia Teachers College, Statesboro, GA, for entry into the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP). There was not enough room in OCSfor us, so we would do something else while we waited to go toOCS. I was given our orders and travel vouchers for the trip, and we were provided with transportation into Spartanburg to meet the Seaboard to Atlanta about midnight. I don't remember seats being available on the train for awhile. However, eventually we got seats and reached Atlanta about 7 a.m. We were told that there was no transportation available then and that the train for Deep Step (a flag-stop) would leave about 6:00 p.m. This left us a day free in Atlanta. I don't remember much about it except going to a movie. I do remember a problem waiting for Bill Shields, who lived in Atlanta, to get to the train by 6:00. He barely made it and we reached Millen (instead of Deep Step) about 5:00 a.m. A truck from Statesboro was waiting for us and delivered us to the college about 6:00 a.m. We were assigned dormitory rooms and instructed about classes to attend. I recall that about a week later during physical training on the football field I was informed that I would take the same PC men the same day to Mississippi State College near Starkville. Again I was given orders and travel vouchers and we were provided truck transportation to Millen to meet the train for Atlanta at 12:30 a.m. This turned out to be fine since we got pullman berths and continued through Atlanta to Birmingham where we changed to a railway motor car. Enroute to Mississippi the motor car ran over a mule, which caused a long delay while getting the remains of the mule out from under the car. We got to Columbus, MS, about 9:00 p.m. and called the unit at Mississippi State College for transportation. They sent us an ambulance that delivered us to the college about midnight. The Charge of Quarters (CQ) took us upstairs in the big dorm and gave us a room that included my cousin Harris Johnson, who had been in tank destroyer training in Texas. We would be there several months, so my job was over. Almost the entire college was made up of ASTP men, although not all were scheduled for OCS. I enjoyed my time there and had some interesting courses, mechanical drawing, chemistry, English. We got leave for Christmas or New Year's, and then in February were sent to Fort Benning for OCS.

William T. Johnson at Camp Croft, South Carolina

When the train reached Camp Croft on Tuesday afternoon, June 22, there was some form of transportation to take us to our training unit, but I can't remember it. At any rate, I do remember that we boys from PC, together with some from Clemson, were assigned to Company A, 33d Infantry Training Battalion. We had been in Infantry ROTC training for two years and knew a little bit about the Infantry. Most of Company A, however, were draftees and knew nothing of the military. I recall all shapes and sizes of the draftees and felt sorry for some of them. We from ROTC were able to help with some of the training such as close order drill and map reading. This went on for a few weeks until we were told that we were being reassigned to another company, Company B, 40th Infantry Training Battalion. Since all of us had signed contracts with the Army to be given training in Officer Candidate School, it meant that all of B-40 would be in good physical condition and well able to absorb Infantry training.

Friday, April 17, 2009

William T. Johnson at the Patron's Luncheon

Last Thursday, since I had been invited to the Patron's Luncheon for the purpose of meeting the recipient of my scholarship fund, Patty drove the two of us over to Clinton, SC. We went to the Administration building to freshen up & met Harry Workman. Harry rode with us to the President's house where the luncheon was being held. While we waited for lunch, Katie introduced herself to me (she already knew Patty from her work at the library). I knew a few people there, including John Griffith, the president; Harry Workman, the college representative; and a few others. After a lunch of fruit and salad, John had some remarks and introduced two prominent students who had received aid and were going on to bigger and better things. Harry went to get the car and we left, visiting the building bearing mine and Louise's names and touring Clinton a little bit before our drive home. A very pleasant day.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

William T. Johnson Learns About Beekeeping

    This is a picture of a queen bee with a few of her subjects at the beginning of a new hive. A Lincoln County en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beekeeping, Danny Byrd, and his son James visited the Washington Kiwanis Club today on invitation by host Kerry McAvoy, Sr., to tell the club of his experience as a beekeeper for the last eight years, during which time he has also established himself as an expert brick mason. Mr. Byrd brought parts of his beekeeping equipment which he explained to the club. He said that his beekeeping hobby has been so profitable through the sale of honey that he plans to pursue it full time. He noted that he has spent more than $15,000 the last year on beekeeping equipment but that the production of a large number of hives can be measured in tons. He explained how the human prepares the precisely-made boxes so that the bees will return to them each day during their long flights looking for nectar. He said that a bee can travel up to two miles and that a box of 12,000 bees can pollinate 6,000 acres of plants. In response to a question from Steve Blackmon concerning the death of the queen bee, he explained how the drones of the hive will make a new queen.

    Earlier in the program, which had begun with the standard patriotic song, pledge to the flag, and a prayer; and followed by a delicious meal of fish, mashed potatoes, black-eyed peas, tossed salad, and peach cobbler, the club president, Sherry Hudson, had announced that Harris Blackmon had accepted appointment to the Board of Directors for the remainder of this year. In addition, Louise Maynard, chair of the tour of homes committee, reported on the success of the tour earlier this month and presented to the club a check for $5,000 as its share of the profits. She said that $1,800 will be kept for the operation of the tour's website until next year's tour. Gale Seibert introduced her mother as a future resident of Washington and a possible club member. Also, as a part of his "Kiwanis Minute", Bob Simmons urged officers and members to sign up for the annual Kiwanis conventions, the Kiwanis Georgia District in Brasstown Bald, Young Harris, GA, July 31 thru August 2, and Kiwanis International Convention in Nashville, TN, June 25 thru 28.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

William T. Johnson's Male Relatives

This is one of several groupings of Mamie Smith Johnson's extended family that had lunch with her on Christmas Day 1941. These are her sons, sons-in-law, grandsons, grandsons-in-law, and a nephew-in-law. They are: left to right:

Front row: James R. "Jimsie" Johnson, W. Lloyd Johnson, Sr., R. Rochford Johnson, Sr., Mamie S. Johnson, Hillyer H. Johnson, William T. "Buck" Johnson,Jr.

Second row: Ralph W. Duggan, Malcolm M. "Mac" Sims, Monsey T. Gresham, William R. Reynolds, R. Rochford Johnson, Jr., Charlie Reynolds, W. Lloyd Johnson, Jr., Clifford Calhoun, George E. Linney.

Third row: William E. "Bill" Johnson, H. Harris Johnson, Jr., William T. Johnson, III, Robert C. Norman, Monsey T. Gresham, Jr., W. Johnson Gresham.

The house in the background is the Green-Pignatel House located where Fievet Pharmacy is now.

Friday, April 10, 2009

William T. Johnson in the Eleventh Grade

A Good Year

My last year of high school was a good one. My home-room teacher was Mrs. John C. (Esalee) Burdette. At that time my school had only eleven grades.

Unscored on in Football

Despite my dislike of football, I played for four years and this was my best year. I don't remember having a new uniform anytime, but we didn't complain. The season of 1940 started with a 0-0 tie with Batesburg-Leesville in South Carolina, a team coached by our coach Earl Carson's brother. After a few games without points being scored against us, we got a little nervous. After the tenth game we had scored 269 points to none for the opponents. Not counting the seventh graders we had about 15 players. Since we played both offense and defense, our games were not easy.

No basketball

I left off basketball entirely. I did think at one point in 1937 that I should at least try, so I went to practice one afternoon. (Later, in the army I played a few games in combat boots.

No baseball

I don't know exactly why, but our school never played baseball while I was there. We played baseball in the third grade but that was all.

Enjoyed track

I was never really good at track, but I enjoyed it. Our own running track was of loose dirt and was terrible. It had been built as a half-mile automobile track. I enjoyed the short dashes and by the fourth year I was fairly good at the 220-yard dash. In what must have been a district meet we ran on a cinder track at the University of Georgia, and I managed to place third. That was good for me.

Frequent class officer

For some reason I was frequently elected a class officer. The last year I was vice-president with Lelia Cheney as president.

Editor of The Blue and Gold
In high school I could write well and was appointed editor of The Blue and Gold, the school newspaper. It wasn't a real newspaper, just a section ofThe News-Reporter, the local weekly newspaper. I wrote occasional editorials.

Succeeded in the District Literary Meet

Literary meets provide competition in academic subjects. The disrict literary meet seemed to be limited to seniors, but maybe not. At any rate, I was chosen to enter "Boys' Essay" in the 1941 Disrict Meet in Evans, Columbia County. In those days we didn't have television, but short subjects at the movies took its place. The meet was to be on Saturday and on Friday night I went to a movie and saw a short subject with journalists discussing the question "Should we have reciprocal trade agreements?" Dorothy Thompson was on the panel. That was the question to be answered on the essay I was to write and I won first place.

Supporting Role in Senior Play

I don't remember much about our senior play except that I was the butler, Reunette Bennett was the maid, and Hirsch Wengrow was in it.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

William T. Johnson at Fort McPherson, Georgia

After leaving Presbyterian College about the end of May 1943 I had a couple of weeks before going into the Army on Tuesday, June 15. I met the bus about nine o'clock, together with my cousin Harris, and found several other PC boys from Augusta already on the bus. When we got to Atlanta there was no great rush to get out to Fort McPherson, as I recall. I don't remember how we traveled, probably a city bus. We eventually reached the place shown on our orders and were assigned to barracks. As I recall, the PFC in charge of the barracks was the meanest man I found in the Army. The first thing I learned was how to make up a bunk. Our week at Fort Mac included no wasted time. Uniforms were issued Wednesday, and necessary administration such as the classification test, the Army physical examination, shots, and mandatory training came about in quick order. On Saturday I was told that I would be on KP the next day and that I would be issued a special blue fatigue uniform. I reported for duty at the mess hall about five a. m. on Sunday and was assigned to a sink in this 900-man mess. As I recall I was involved mostly in washing aluminum trays, cups, and silverware, using preliminary rinsing and steam to get the utensils clean. Between meals the KP crew had to clean the dining room, inside and out. I suppose we finished our duties about eight or nine p. m. and returned to the barracks, showered and turned in the blue fatigues. By the next day, Monday, we knew that we were going to Camp Croft, somewhere in South Carolina, for basic training. Early Tuesday morning we carried our duffel bags filled with strictly GI stuff (we had mailed our civilian clothes home on the previous Wednesday or Thursday) to a train at the edge of the post. I recall a gate in the chain-link fence through which either we or the train departed for Spartanburg, SC, and Camp Croft.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

William T. Johnson Learns About Patrick R.Chance


At the weekly meeting of the Washington Kiwanis Club today I heard a very interesting talk by Kris Gordon (706 863-7405)concerning her six-year-old grandson Patrick R. Chance and the deadly cancer that has afflicted him for the last three years. Kris told us about the course of his disease, neuroblastoma, and about the efforts to cure it. Patrick was diagnosed in June 2006 with Stage IV neuroblastoma, and, since his diagnosis, Patrick has endured surgery to remove his primary tumor, ten rounds of radiation, and eight rounds of oral chemotherapy. He is now undergoing monoclonal antibody therapy at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. Kris mentioned that cancer is the number-one disease killer of American children. She said that more children die from cancer than from cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, asthma, and AIDS combined, and that neuroblastoma is the second-most common solid tumor in children and is extremely difficult to diagnose. Its progression is often rapid and very painful, and in most cases, children with neuroblastoma are not diagnosed until Stage IV, when long-term survival rates stand at a dismal twenty percent or less, she said.


Unfortunately, pediatric cancer is under-funded, Kris told us, and that in August 2007 physicians announced the development of a new neuroblastoma antibody that may extend the lives of many children with neuroblastoma five to ten years. However, since Federal law precludes the production of the antibody with grants the physicians have appealed to the families of neuroblastoma patients to raise the approximately three million dollars needed to bring the antibody to clinical trials. The parents raised almost one million dollars by December 2007, culminating in a commitment by Sloan-Kettering officials to initiate a contract for the production of the antibody.


Since funding for the hospital's initiative was not and is not now complete, Patrick's parents, Erin and Stephen Chance of Atlanta, formed the Press On Fund of CURE Childhood Cancer, Inc.,Georgia's oldest 501(c)(3)childhood cancer charity for the purpose of providing funding for clinical research relating to neuroblastoma.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

William T. Johnson's Athletic Career

Third Grade Baseball

This season marks the 76th anniversary of the beginning of my less-than-illustrious athletic career. In the third grade I felt obliged to play baseball on my mixed-gender team.  We had a good pitcher, Thomas Strother; a good catcher, Hirsch Wengrow; several good hitters, Mary Johnson, Harris Johnson, and Charles Wills; a good utility player, Lelia Cheney; and some less-than-good players like me. I remember when we challenged the fourth grade to a game - which we won 36 to 21 - and went about town chalking advertisements on the sidewalks. Lelia was good at that. I've recently seen a scoresheet of the game indicating that Mary and Charles scored five runs apiece and that I scored two. Some baseball equipment was hard to come by - balls and catcher's equipment, for example. We brought in Octagon soap coupons to help get Hirsch's mitt and mask. We usually used a 25-cent ball, but once Dr. E. B. Cade, a dentist, brought us a 15-cent ball that lasted less than a game.

High School Football

When high school arrived in 1937 I had decided not to go out for football when Charles and others persuaded me that it was the patriotic, good-citizen thing to do. So I reported to the coach and was issued some uniform items - a sweat shirt, a jersey, and a pair of pants, but no shoes; I had to have leather cleats added to my brogans by the shoemaker. I don't remember anything good about the 1937 season. I remember that I weighed 128, which was too little to do much with. I was in one play - a kickoff in the Lavonia game; Wilson Callaway was seriously injured, which persuaded half the team to quit; and in the last week of practice I chose to go to a movie instead. The next morning the coach saw me and told me that he was removing me from the team and that I must turn in my uniform immediately. The next year, 1938, was better, I played enough to earn a letter, but I sprained my ankle in the Madison game. The third year,1939, was better still, but I drew a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness (I felt honored) in the Madison game. The last year, 1940, was almost good, I played first-string left tackle, was not injured or thrown off the team, and in ten games we scored 269 points to 0 for our opponents. The only problem was that I never achieved my goal of being the guy who runs with the football. The Lions Club awarded trophies to the best players and gave me one for being the best student. I was not pleased.


Basketball was a no-no for me. I went out for practice one time and could not handle it. However, in the Army I played occasionally outdoors in combat uniform.


Track was something I enjoyed and was eventually pretty good at. I was best in the 220-yard dash and ended in third place in the district meet at the University of Georgia. Their cinder track was great. At home we used a dirt track once used in automobile races and needing frequent scraping.


Golf was unrewarding; I played one afternoon but lost the ball. Tennis I liked and frequently played on Lelia's dirt court. Swimming was not good; I never got the several strokes just right. I played very little softball. I experimented with snow skiing while on outpost duty in Bavaria after the war. My water skiing was not inspiring; I gave up after cartwheeling a few times. I've seen a soccer game but never had the chance to play. Boxing was a disaster; as a freshman I was matched with a larger man and don't remember the last of our match. Bicycle-riding was more transportation than sport for me; I remember one Saturday afternoon 71 years ago that I headed out on my bike with a canteen of water and a light sweater for my girl friend's house near Celeste, nine miles away. When I arrived, as I remember, her hair was in curlers and she was miffed that I had not called. I kept up with the number of trips out there and ended with 40.

Forced Marching

I enjoyed the Army's method of training in marching and was particularly pleased when my company at Fort Benning used the Scout pace of walking and trotting to go nine miles in two hours, and I was not winded.

So my athletic career was much less than spectacular.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

William T. Johnson's Tour of Homes 2009

A Perfect Day    

 This seems to be a perfect day for our annual Tour of Homes, sponsored by the Kiwanis Club, the Woman's Club, and the Chamber of Commerce.  This is a fund-raising project I've been involved in or thought about for more than fifty years.  The sponsors must set a date at least a year ahead of time, provide someone to meet with a joint committee, and understand that they must be prepared to stand for a loss of funds. Several things could go wrong: The weather on or before the tour date could be atrocious; high gasoline prices could affect attendance; the committee could overspend its budget; or the committee might not advertise properly. However, today seems about right: The weather is perfect;  gasoline prices are reasonable; and, as I understand it, the committee has used good judgment in its expenditures and obligations. 

Tour Cars

     Any tour can be affected by ideas adopted by the committee and the sponsors. More than forty years ago I got the idea of using our private cars as taxis, as in New York. This idea has worked out well. We decided early not to provide gasoline, insurance, or other emoluments to the drivers, with a few exceptions, such as magnetic signs for the cars and sandwiches for drivers at tour headquarters. It seems that we need about three dozen cars to start with, including Kiwanians, Rotarians, and anybody else who volunteers.  As this works, all drivers are expected to be lined up at tour headquarters (the Elementary School, this year) thirty minutes early to be issued signs, ID cards, and instructions. If we're lucky there will be several dozen tourists also ready to go by start time, 10 a.m. We have a group of starters to line up car loads, to load the cars, and to instruct the drivers to which house to take their tourists first and to return immediately for another load. After taking care of the early arrivals, the drivers are expected to drive around looking for tourists waiting in front of the homes for transportation to another home. I think of this operation as "organized chaos." A driver who works until the 5 p.m. closing time can expect to drive about 100 miles.

Printing Costs

   One of the major expenses of the tour will always be printing, from tickets to brochures to special inserts for the weekly newspaper, the News-Reporter, which has begun with publicity about the tour weeks ahead of time. Some of this printing cost will be paid from tour proceeds and some by the newspaper.

Name Tags

   Several years ago I prepared name tags for tour workers - drivers, docents, ticket sellers, starters, etc. - and found that about 350 people were involved. Every house will require a dozen or more docents to explain the house to the visitors, the special places being shown - churches, museums, libraries, food service, etc. - will require similar numbers of shift workers. I understand that one home owner has agreements by forty docents to work at his house today.


Signs are an important part of the tour. In the old days we either didn't have signs or used paperboard signs - a mess. Now we have well made signs that are reusable from year to year. Each sign shows a letter of the alphabet - "A" through "T" this year, a number, or instructions to drivers. These must be installed at the correct spot some hours before the tour and removed shortly after. We presently have a dependable group to handle signs for the tour and to store them until next year.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

William T. Johnson and Lionel Hampton

This is one of my heroes, Lionel Hampton,1908-2002, who had one of the best swing bands in the 30s and 40s. In January 1945 I was at Camp Kilmer, NJ, for about a week until my division, the 71st Inf, could sail for Europe. I had been to New York City in 1941 on our Senior trip and wanted to go back. On a couple of days we were given passes long enough to go to New York and return to Camp Kilmer before midnight. With the wonderful transportation system in the New York area it was easy for me to catch one of the frequent trains from New Brunswick to Pennsylvania Station. I was alone and had no one else to please so I was free to look around and discovered the big movie theaters were competing by having the prominent swing bands or orchestras play concerts on stage between showings of the movies. I jumped for the chance to pay $2 or so to hear Lionel Hampton's big band play and have seldom been so excited as when he played his signatue piece "Flying Home." *Wow*. I didn't bother to stay for the movie but left and went to another theater to pay to hear Woody Herman's band play a concert, including his theme piece "At the Woodchoppers Ball." Another *Wow*. After the two concerts I went back to Penn Station and caught the train to New Brunswick. That was a fine afternoon.