Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas 1945
by Kenneth Neal

It was Christmas 1945 and I had come through World War II unscathed.
That wasn’t hard for a boy of 10.
Yeah, I bought stamps for war bonds, saved scrap iron and aluminum foil and shared the lack of gasoline, tires, shoes, meat, sugar and all those things that were rationed. In that war, citizens were expected to sacrifice, as were the young men who fought it.
My most enduring memory of the war is not the lack of toys during the war, but the Christmas when the toy floodgate opened and real toys were available.
I shudder to think what my dad paid for my two most memorable Christmas toys that year.
Then I remember, that for all his own contributions to the war effort, he was barely 30 years old and a child of the Great Depression. He wanted a toy or two himself.
So he splurged.
The Caterpillar purchased by Fred Neal - Christmas 1945
I got a wind-up metal toy caterpillar, complete with rubber treads. I got a working model of a steam engine. I have played with them since and plan to unwrap them and play with them this Christmas.
Dad bought a giant-sized Tinkertoy construction set (for you young whippersnappers, Tinker toys were stone-age Erector sets). We built windmills and wheels, all powered by the steam engine. When full of water brought to a boil by an electric heating element, the miniature engine generated a tenth of a horsepower. At least that’s what the literature said.
We had spools and windmills connected with string running all over the front room. What a great thing my mother must have thought that was!
As the years went by, I quit playing with the Caterpillar and the steam engine. But dad kept them. And true to his skill as a mechanic, he kept them in working order. Several times through the years he disassembled the “Cat” to oil the wind-up mechanism. He polished the brass and chrome of the steam engine and preserved it with oil.
He kept them wrapped and boxed for more than 30 years and on more than one Christmas we hauled them out to play with them. We must have been a sight; grown men playing with toys and memories.
I will not have Dad this Christmas. But I still have the toys, oil and shined and read to go. And the memories of Christmases past.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"Pop" - Part 3
by Kenneth W. Neal

Fred, Fannie & Ken Neal with the 1939 Chevrolet - Sand Springs, OK (1946)
     Pop grew up with automobiles, unlike his own father who was a “mule man” and never comfortable with autos. Radford Neal was born in 1880 and so was 40 years old in 1920 when cars came along in earnest.
     I know how bad it sounds (there’s a phrase right out of my dad’s mouth) to brag, but, as he would say, let me tell you a little story or rather several stories about pop and autos. 
     The earliest were of course told me by Pop.
     He told me that when he was about 13, which would have been about 1927, that he jacked up a Model T and pulled the oil pan on the engine. Then he fired the T up, got back under it to look at the engine while it was running to see how the engine worked.
     He knew enough to do this for only a minute because the engine was running without oil.
     By this time he was the family chauffeur
     It was about this time that a relative came to visit. I can’t remember whether it was an aunt or a grandma, but his father, busy in the fields as usual, sent pop into town to pick the woman up at the train station.
    At first she refused to ride with pop because he was so little, but she relented.
    My Uncle Virgil remembers that he and pop were in a Model T and the rest of the family in another vehicle in one of those nomadic moves from one farm to another.
    They were fording a river, probably one of the Canadian rivers. Once started across, it would have been disastrous to have stopped, so pop was “flogging” the T. In the jouncing and bouncing, some mattress springs slid forward from the top of the load in the touring car.
    “It was my job to hold up the springs,” Virgil told me some 75 years later.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

It's the Little Things that Make the Difference - Part 1
by J. Howard Bray - 1968


     The writer does not attempt to say that the following words and thoughts in the next twenty-four chapters of this book are the perfect way to sell.

     His only thought is that there are basic fundamental rules or ways of doing anything, and once learned the personality of the individual added, plus some hard work and maybe perspiration and inspiration with some serious though and with the few reminders that follow they will help to make more sales and an increase in your income.

     The author has spent a life-time in all phases of selling. He has written many articles of the inspirational and motivation nature and is now Sales Representative for Bartlett-Collins Co., of Sapulpa, Oklahoma.

     In 1967 he was recipient of the Company's DSA award for sales performance.



     Yes, what is it? What makes the world go round, in the world of commerce of exchange between peoples?

     Many times you have heard the expression:  "I can't sell or I would make a poor salesman, or maybe I just don't have the nerve to ask anyone to buy something from me."

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Civil War Trails
The John Wilkes Booth Escape Route - Part 1

November 21, 2009

As part of a comprehensive tour of Civil War sites in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia during a week in November 2009 -- with my brother-in-law Tim Danklef (aka, 21st Century Stonewall Jackson) -- we re-traced the John Wilkes Booth escape route from Ford's Theatre through Maryland and ending at Garrett's Farm in Virginia.  

Booth was on the run for 12 days after Lincoln's assassination, utilizing an assortment of Confederate sympathizers to help him travel throughout southern Maryland and Virginia.  I have always found it interesting that eastern Maryland had more Confederate supporters than western Maryland, a fact that hindered the Army of Northern Virginia at Antietam during the Maryland Campaign in 1862 and in the Gettysburg Campaign in 1863.

We started early in the morning on a Saturday at Ford's Theatre.  The Theatre has a museum in the basement that has recently been renovated.  It has some interesting artifacts from the assassination of President Lincoln, including the .44 caliber Derringer used to shoot Lincoln in the head and one of the boots that Booth wore the night of the assassination. My favorite artifact in the museum is the Brooks Brothers wool coat that was made for Lincoln's second inauguration and that he had with him the night of the assassination.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"Pop" - Part 2
by Kenneth W. Neal

Fred R. Neal in his garden - Sand Springs, OK 
The Ritual

My father hurried into the house with a sprightly, but reluctant gait, as if there was a bit of pain, which there often was. All the Neal men for several generations had the peculiar walk and the unusual physique that went with it. The upper body was a bit too large for the legs and the arms were carried as if they were slightly heavy.

Pop described the walk as "hunching along." It made the Neal men look - at a distance - a lot older than they were. Pop’s hunch was a little more pronounced. He'd been thrown by a horse at 15 and had suffered through two lower back operations.

The work day at American Airlines' big maintenance base at Tulsa had been routine. After a day of parts, paperwork and the smells of solvent, he was ready for the garden. It was 4 p.m. and there was still hours of June sun, time enough to get a lot done.

He thought of what he needed to do in the garden tonight. The tomatoes, his specialty, were up and thriving with blooms and small tomatoes showing. They needed a bit of spraying; blossoms needed a shot of blossom set and maybe it wouldn't hurt to work in a little fertilizer in the rows between them.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Neal Family Archive Home Movies
Movie Trailer:  California Trip 2011

Neal Family Archive Letters
California Trip 2011

To:  John P. Neal
From: Kenneth W. Neal

May 2, 2011

Dear John Patrick:

I write this after reading your father’s well-written account of the 5,900-mile western odyssey of grandfather, father and son. 

I can’t add much, if anything, to his account, but I will take this opportunity to tell you a bit about your father. 

But first, I ask a few favors of you: When you read this many years hence, perhaps when your dad is 75, please make snotty remarks about how older drivers should be kept off the road! 

Secondly, make fun of him because his hearing is failing. Finally, in general, treat him like your dullard child. In fact, he will be acting as if he is because in addition to his hearing, his health and memory will be in decline. 

And above all, watch his turn signal indicator like a hawk, and if he leaves it on an instant too long, jump his old skinny butt like a chicken on a June bug. 

For good measure, you might laugh anytime you get a chance at his skinny legs. As matter of fact, they are pretty skinny right now. 

And, you might laugh at his pot belly, his gray hair (if he has any) and his inability to walk very far. And you might show your boredom when he tells his stories. 

I am not sure what advances in electronics and other devices will be around when he is 75, but be sure and laugh at his efforts to operate same while simultaneously putting on his reading glasses with semi-crippled hands. 

Do these things for me and you will help me get even with your father. He deserves it. 
Neal Family Archive Letters
California Trip 2011

To:  John P. Neal
From: Patrick W. Neal

April 25, 2011
Grandpa Ken and I just got back from taking you on an 11-day driving trip from Houston to California.  I thought I would write down some highlights of the trip before we all forget and since you will likely not remember most of what you experienced.  
Grandpa Ken drove down to Houston to pick us up in his 2010 Infiniti QX-56. This was the same car we had taken to Yellowstone National Park in August 2010 and you named this car T-Rex because it was so big. It had a drop- down DVD player for the back seat passenger and throughout this trip and our previous trip you really liked watching DVD's in the backseat. One drawback to this was that to start or change a DVD, the car had a safety feature which required that the car be in park and that the emergency brake be engaged. Therefore, anytime you wanted a DVD changed or re-started we would have to pull over and completely stop the car. 
At the time of this trip the price of gasoline had recently appreciated to over $4.00 a gallon and T-Rex unfortunately required a lot of gas, only averaging about 15 miles per gallon. By the time Grandpa Ken returned home to Tulsa (after dropping us off in Houston) we had tallied approximately 5,900 miles. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Review:  Fujitsu's LifeBook
by Diane Young

April 13, 1999
Review: Fujitsu's LifeBook -- Welcome in This Bag of Law Books
The B112 mini-notebook is smart-looking, performs well, and weighs a lot less than this student's legal texts.

There was muttering in the office cube across from mine a few days ago -- muttering so persistent that it was distracting. Curious, I went to look. Huddled over a midget gadget were three reporters. The object of attention was so small that I assumed it was some sort of electronic planner or palm-size electronic calendar. But no, this was better.

My colleagues had been mesmerized by a small, silver, mini-notebook from Fujitsu, the B112 LifeBook. I have to admit I've never cared about laptops, notebooks, or any other electronic gear that has to be hauled around. I really, really like my desktop computers at home and at work, and so far my paper calendar is doing just fine as my personal, portable organizer.

I was immediately taken with this compact-size notebook, however. It just looked so cool. If I had to compare the LifeBook to anything else, it would be to a puppy or a Tamagochi: Once I had it at my desk, visitors came by to look, touch it, play with it, and take it home (no house training necessary). But how did it perform?
"Pop" - Part 1
by Kenneth W. Neal

       I write about my father to tell others, particularly my own children, of an unusual and interesting man, flawed, to be sure, but outstanding in his understanding of human nature. But his story is difficult to tell apart from his own father, and for that matter, apart from me.
      It has occurred to me only recently that his story includes his father’s story and that my own story encompasses them both.
      I feel a bit awkward making my father the central character in my own life and memories, because it seems I am neglecting my mother. But there will be time and space to talk about her. She played a leading role in his life and quite obviously, mine.
Fred R. Neal (approximately 1932) with unknown lady.
      Maybe I should start with my earliest memories, not so much because they are so unusual, but because they will help to understand my father, hereinafter referred to variously as “pop,” “dad” or sometimes “the old man.”
      I was born September 26, 1935, in the “east basin” near Mannford, Okla., on an oil lease pumped by my mother’s father, Ray Ingalls. My birth certificate, signed by a Dr. McDonald, lists the place of birth in Cimarron Township, Pawnee County.
      Keystone and Mannford were my dad’s early “stomping grounds,” and some of the stories about him are from before he married my mother July 11, 1934.
      My father was a great story teller, taking great pains, not to mention time, to tell me much about his early life and his own father, Radford Andrew Neal, who died in November 1937.
      I have no memory of Radford, or “Rad,” as most called him, but I know him. That’s because pop told me so much about him.
      It wasn’t that dad consciously decided that his only child should know the family history, it was that he remembered his own father with such fondness that he constantly recalled what he said and did. The good times and the bad times were never far from his mind. I believed and still believe my father told the truth as he understood and remembered it.
      Only recently, I ran into one of his old cronies at American Airlines, who volunteered to tell me that “Fred Neal was the most honest man I ever knew.”
      That impressed me, of course, but it also reassured me that the many stories and anecdotes my dad told me were not only funny or unusual, but true.
      I struggle with how to unfold this tale, so I return to my first memory: It involves the Rock Inn and a few hazy memories.
      Some time around 1936, dad found work “running” a filling station (as they were known then and for years afterward) next door to the Rock Inn, which was just outside the old town of Keystone, now deep under the waters of Keystone Lake.
     There were cabins on the rise behind the service station and the nearby roadside cafe. The cafe was something out of a scene in the “Grapes of Wrath,” yet to be written, of course.
     But it had a juke box and a long bar common to roadside diners. That’s all I remember. I am not too sure I remember that, even. Probably my folks told me about it and that has influenced my memory.
     But I do remember this: Pop had a Model A Ford. He would start the old Ford and park it beside the station to let it warm up, which took a considerable time.
     That’s where I came in. The Model A needed to be “choked” during the warmup period to keep it running.
     A Model A had a choke rod through the firewall to the carburetor (I later learned) and dad put me in the right seat to operate the choke. When the engine begin to sputter, I pulled the choke to keep it running. That I could detect this and keep the engine running “tickled my dad to death” as they say, and he must have done this a lot because I remember it.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Donny & Marie, The Site
by Diane Young



It seemed like a regular day as I went through the BW Online mail (the printed variety). Then I pulled out a bright colored postcard, and there they were: Donny and Marie Osmond, smiling broadly and promoting their new Web site, which is called Excited (and mildly embarrassed), I purloined the card from a co-worker's mail and took a covert look-see. As a child I had loved plunking down in front of the tube to catch the Donny & Marie Show. I wanted to look like Marie. I wanted to marry Donny. I wanted Donny's purple socks. Looking forward to seeing how my idols had weathered the intervening 20 years, I typed the url into my browser. 

Bummer. The site is really a companion to the duo's new daytime show, Donny & Marie, which premiered on Sept. 21. I had heard of the show but hadn't seen it, and the site sounded like a way to check it out. Alas, Donny, I hardly knew you. I understand why a show needs a Web site -- for PR purposes, mostly. But it probably helps if it's a good Web site. Why ruin your chances for renewed stardom by disappointing aging twentysomethings like me?

The site's pages are attractive enough, laid out well, and easy to navigate. But the content is lighter weight than the lyrics of an old Donny & Marie song. Come to think of it, that isn't fair. A typical D&M song lasts three minutes. It requires a full five minutes to take in the entire Web site. Lynda Keeler, head of Columbia TriStar Interactive (which produces both the show and the Web site from Los Angeles) thinks there'll be more to see after the show is on for awhile and the producers get a better feel for what interests the audience. O.K. But aren't people looking at this site because what mainly interests them is Donny & Marie? Hel-lo-o! 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Finding Michelangelo

Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1654)
Madonna of the Stairs
Created:  1491
Dimensions:  22.3 in x 15.8 in
Current Location: Casa Buonarroti - Florence, Italy
Visited: September 2005

After our initial visit to Italy in 2004 I became somewhat obsessed with all things Michelangelo. This led to another trip to Italy in September 2005 and on this trip I was determine to see nearly every Michelangelo work of art that was in Italy. Over the next few weeks I will try to write a blog entry for every Michelango work of art that we visited in the chronological order of their creation.  Keep in mind that I have no formal art training, so consider my opinions as someone who is basically viewing these works as a tourist.

Madonna of the Stairs  is now accepted as Michelangelo's earliest surviving piece and was sculpted when he was around 15 years old. The scene depicts Mary and Child in front of stairs.  The muscular definition of the Child's arm will become on of Michelangelo's signature styles in sculpture and painting. 

Madonna of the Stairs is located at Casa Buonarroti which was Michelangelo's house in Florence. Now a museum, it houses many of his early works. I was surprised by how small the sculpture is in person. In my head and after seeing pictures before our visit, I had imagined it being larger. Nevertheless, it is still fascinating to stand in front of what is considered the first work of the greatest sculptor (and artist) in history.

Casa Buonarroti itself is a very interesting little museum and I highly recommend taking the time to visit it in Florence. It is not as well known as some of the other main attractions and is small, but because of the size I found it more accessible than some of the larger museums in Florence.  

Monday, October 8, 2012

The National Parks
Yellowstone National Park
August 10-11, 2010

Location:  NW Wyoming, portions of Montana and Idaho
Established:  March 1, 1872
Visited:  August 10-11, 2010 (Patrick Neal, John Neal & Ken Neal)
National Park Arrowhead Rating (5 out of 5):

They don't get better than this.  Ken had visited Yellowstone National Park as a teenager on a Fred Neal three week driving tour of the west back in the late 40's.  During August 2010, John and I were in Tulsa waiting to move into our new house in The Woodlands, TX.  Ken (who never met a drive he didn't like) suggested taking T-Rex (the name of his giant Infiniti QX-56) and driving to Yellowstone.  Due to a tight schedule we managed two fantastic days in the park.  Yellowstone lives up to the hype.  Scenery, wildlife, history and geothermal features that are from another planet.  My personal favorite parts include The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and the Old Faithful Inn.  Did I mention that nearly the entire park is contained in the Yellowstone Supervolcano (the largest supervolcano in North America)...amazing!  Yellowstone National Park easily gets a 5 arrowhead rating and a scheduled return visit in 2013.

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
 After the jump is an e-book on our trip to Yellowstone.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Happy Birthday Ken Neal!!
September 26, 2012

Round the Clock
by Troy Gordon
The Tulsa World
September 27, 1975

My longtime friend and punching bag, Ken Neal, went over the hill Friday.

No, it wasn't an escape. He turned 40. And there were a considerable number of people in the newsroom who wanted to rub it in.

That's not a sign of dislike. The attitude of most newsrooms is loose and insulting. I suppose news people deal with so many different kinds of news - much of it sad - that we take it out on each other.

It's a matter of being too old to cry and too sad to laugh. So we get rid of our frustrations speaking frankly.

Fortunately, most of the people in the newsroom are reasonable, and it works well.

Herb Karner, Riley Wilson and I - three of the elder statesmen - searched the city for the worst looking rocking chair to present to the middle-aged whippersnapper.

We found it and sneaked back to the World. We took it up to the executive floor and hit it at the end of a corridor.

Later we decided we could sneak it into the women's room, on the theory that Ken probably wouldn't go in there.

By then I found the chair was in the office of our publisher, Byron V. Boone.  I offered to move the rocker and Boone said he'd rather leave it right there.

I must have registered disbelief, for he added:  "I'm having too much fun with it."

I gathered that people coming in to see him were intrigued by this eyesore in an otherwise beautiful office. So I agreed. Obviously nobody would find it.

Some years ago, employees were awarded their birthdays off. But Friday was payday too, and Ken had to come in for his check. And we were waiting for him.

In addition to the horrible rocker, there were a couple of verses.  Mine was short and to the point:

          Ken, Ken
          I Knew You When

Julie Blakely, another friend of the new elder citizen, had to leave early so she left this verse:

          Ode To Ken Neal on the occasion of his 40th, count 'em, 40th birthday.
          by Julie St. Blakely

          Happy Birthday OLD Ken Neal, 
          Oh, ancient one, minus sex appeal
          Where there's a way there may be a will
          But from now on it's all downhill.
          My mother has told me of times like this
          When you may have the urge but not the strength to kiss
          Your hair turns gray, your walk is feeble,
          Let's say you've had it, Evil Kennealvil.
          Your peers, with great effort and expense
          Brought you a gift as recompense
          For leading the way to the life beyond 40
          May you always be hale and sometimes hearty
          Now that you're revered as venerable
          Try and recall when your days were sinner able
          Sit and rock and call your youth --
          It's ancient history but tell the truth
          Next you'll be 50 and then 60 and then BINGO!
          You just have time to repent your sins before you go.

I must say it was successful, and - apparently - just in time.

Ken's over there sitting in the rocking chair with a happy look on his face.

I just hope it isn't the first symptom of senility.

In return for my use of the material created for his birthday, Ken insisted that I use his definition of a "Mature Biological Community."

"That," he says, "is when Julie Blakely stops by to visit with Troy."

Monday, September 24, 2012

The National Parks
Castillo de San Marcos National Monument

Location:  St. Augustine, FL
Established:  October 15, 1924
Visited:  July 28, 2012 (Patrick Neal, Diane Neal, John Neal, Catherine Neal & Patrick Neal)
National Park Arrowhead Rating (4 out of 5):

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument entrance - St. Augustine, FL

On a recent trip to DisneyWorld we stopped in St. Augustine, Florida to visit the oldest masonry fort in the United States.  I had previously visited Castillo de San Marcos in 1993 and remembered it being an interesting visit, so I was anxious to give it another visit to see if my memory was correct.  Castillo de San Marcos makes for a great two hour visit and is one of the better national monuments I have visited.  It is perfect for kids ages 5 and up.  Our 6 year old son, John, had a great time going into all the rooms and talking to all the National Park Service employees that dress up as Spanish soldiers.  My 2 year old daughter on the other hand was running around everywhere and there are many places on the upper level for younger kids to get hurt or fall over the very short walls.  Did I mention that it can be really hot when you visit?  Let me just say, on this particular visit at 10 a.m. on July 28 and it was brutally hot. Nevertheless, we stayed long enough to watch the canon demonstration, which runs several times throughout the day.  

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument gets an overall rating of 4 out of 5 National Park Arrowheads due to the fantastic fort, great scenery, and good re-enactments by all the National Park Service employees.

Additional pictures after the jump...

Civil War Trails
Bennett Place - Durham, North Carolina

Bennett Place - Durham, North Carolina
Home of James and Nancy Bennett, simple farmers, their home served as the site of the surrender negotiations between Major General William T. Sherman and General Joseph E. Johnston April 17, 18, and 26, 1865. It was the largest surrender of the Civil War officially ending the fighting in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.  

We visited Bennett Place while staying with Ben and Rebecca Joyner in July 2009. Their house is about 10 minutes away from the Bennett Place State Historic Site. Photos of our visit can be found at:!i=1481466074&k=N8SMgb9

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Neal Family Archive Letters

To:  Kenneth W. Neal
From: Mary A. Beck (Ninth Grade English Teacher, Sand Springs High School)
Date: October 1, 1985

Dear Ken,

In the past three weeks I have written over two hundred thank you notes in long hand to express my appreciation of flowers, food, and memorial gifts. Now I can allow myself the luxury of a typewriter to express my thanks for the five or six letter that I will keep at hand and reread long after the flowers have wilted and the food is gone.

It has occurred to me a number of times in the past twenty years or so that I would like to let you know that I am proud of you; but I was afraid I would end by sounding a little bit presumptuous.
Kenneth W. Neal
"The Birth of Radford Andrew Neal"

Magazine Mountain, Arkansas
September 18, 1880

“I’m sorry, John, but she’s gone.”
The midwife, Mary Sturgis, stood wiping her hands. 
Her splattered apron spoke to a long and difficult birth, one that had ended badly.
“But you have a healthy boy,” she said, putting her hand on his arm.
“He’s awful robust, considering what he’s been through. He must weigh better than nine pounds. That was the problem, I think. He was a big old baby and Melissa was to small to bear him.”
“Can I see her?”
“Sure, but take a look at this big old boy first. He’s already begging for something to eat.”
John Henry Neal took his new son in his arms, and sure enough, the boy was gnawing at his hands.
“I need to see her,” he said, handing the baby back to Mary.
He pushed past Mary to a bed in the corner where a now silent Melissa had struggled to bring the boy into the world.
“For the first 24 hours or so, she was pretty quiet,” Mary said.
“She was mostly Indian, you know, and their woman don’t moan and carry on like us whites,” Mary said.
“But even out in the barn I heard her crying and screaming,” John Henry said.
“Well, you would too in her place. The boy tried to come out butt first and I couldn’t turn him around. He got stuck. Wouldn’t come out; wouldn’t let me push him back in.”
“How long did this go on?” 
The tears were coming freely now as John Henry realized that he had not only lost his second wife but also now had a newborn baby on his hands.
“I reckon she just strained and pushed until she was exhausted. You know it’s been nigh onto three days since you called me.
“I’ve seen it before. She was in the midst of a hard push and then went limp. When I couldn’t get a pulse, I went ahead and pulled the baby. Kind of tore poor Melissa. I hope you don’t mind. I had to do it to save the boy.”
John Henry nodded.
He pulled the sheet back from Melissa’s face. She was as beautiful as he remembered.
His mind was racing.
It was September and winter would be coming soon. The boy wouldn’t have much of a start before snow flew.
On Magazine Mountain the winters could be tough.
John Henry turned to Mary.
“How am I going to feed him?”

The National Parks
Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Location:  Southwestern South Dakota
Established:  March 3, 1925
Visited:  August 11, 2010 (Patrick Neal, John Neal & Ken Neal)
National Park Arrowhead Rating (4 out of 5):

Mount Rushmore National Memorial...the money shot.

Driving home after visiting Yellowstone National Park, we visited Mount Rushmore National Memorial during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally that basically takes over this part of South Dakota in August. Our first clue that something was going on was when we had to pay $350 to stay at a Hampton Inn. We checked-in late in the afternoon in Rapid City, S.D. and proceeded to drive out to Mount Rushmore. At arrival we had a very cranky 4 year old on our hands so we proceeded to have some food at the newly-renovated cafeteria/visitor center/gift shop/museum.  The food was pretty sub-par even by national park standards, however, the museum and gift shop were very good.  We took a hike on the Presidential Trail that leads to the bottom of the mountain and to the Sculpture's Studio (which was one of two studios used by Gutzon Borglum to sculpt the mountain). After the hike, we headed back to watch the Evening Program and get John some ice cream.

The Evening Program has seating for about 2,000 people and has the sculpted presidents as a backdrop. A short film entitled America’s Lasting Legacy is shown and the program includes the singing of the national anthem, a flag ceremony honoring military personnel past and present, and the lighting of the monument. I found the film to be somewhat disappointed, particularly in comparison to recent films I had seen at other national parks and the entire program took way too long.  John barely made it through the whole program. This is one of the few times I have found the National Park Service Ranger (who had a major role in the program) to be boring.  A large part of the program included presidential trivia which of course included a question about President Obama that had portions of the audience booing.  Very classy.

The monument itself is everything you would expect, very scenic and is truly an amazing achievement. Mount Rushmore National Memorial gets an overall rating of 4 out of 5 National Park Arrowheads due to national importance, renovated facilities, disappointing evening program and fantastic scenery.

Additional pictures after the jump...

Concert Review
KISS & Motley Crue
by Diane Neal

August 3, 2012
The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
The Woodlands, TX

As a former member of the KISS Army, Mr. Neal bought tickets to this show in The Woodlands without a second thought or even consulting with me.  Which is fine, I was up for it.  Granted the only KISS stuff I know is whatever Tulsa's KMOD ever played on the radio back in the day.  It never occurred to me as a kid to buy records of my own so I more or less never had any and relied on radio exclusively.  Same with Motley Crue, but I always liked what was on the radio so I was game for the show.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Think Different.
September 21, 2012

iPhone 5 launch

Kenneth W. Neal
"Memories of My Father"

Some time in the fall of 1951, after my 16th birthday and a driver's license, I hungered for a car of my own. Nothing fancy, of course, because I knew that there was no money for anything more than a clunker.
But like all 16-year-olds, I wanted my own wheels.
I kept an eye out for prospects. On my daily walk from 809 Cleveland Street in Sand Springs to the high school, I spotted a 33 Chevrolet coupe with a For Sale sign on it.
I'd stop and look at it every day; finally an old person came out and priced it to me at $75.

After a lot of negotiating, I finally offered him $50. He asked if it would be cash. I told him I'd have to talk to my folks.
I had managed to save $25 from my job delivering groceries ($12.50 a week) and I knew I'd have to wheedle the other $25 out of Pop (Fred Neal).
When I broached the subject, mom was dead set against it. I can still remember her position. I could drive the family car, she said. But I told her how much I wanted my own car.
I knew my best bet was with Pop because he loved cars as much as I did; I knew he'd understand me wanting the old car. He did, of course. He gave me the $25 and so we went down the street and made the deal.
The old car, naturally, had a lot wrong with it.

The clutch grabbed so badly you could hardly drive it. Once you even thought about letting it in(out) it would leap forward. Our next door neighbor, Earl Guinn, who pop always said had only "half sense" kidded me about not being able to drive and that infuriated me.
The National Parks

George Washington Birthplace National Monument

Location:  Where Popes Creek joins the Potomac River - Northeastern Virginia
Declaration:  January 23, 1930
Visited:  November 21, 2009 (Patrick Neal and Tim Danklef)
National Park Arrowhead Rating (3 out of 5):

This was a short visit to the birthplace of George Washington during an all day re-tracing of the John Wilkes Booth escape route with my brother-in-law Tim Danklef.  We had followed Booth's route from Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. through southeastern Maryland across the Potomac River into Virginia. Ultimately, Booth was shot and killed at the Garrett Farmhouse which is not too far away from the George Washington Birthplace National Monument.  

George Washington was born here on February 22, 1732 and lived here until the age of three.  The original house no longer stands, although there is an outline of the the original house and you can get a pretty good idea of the size of the structure. A Memorial House was constructed in the 1930's that represents a typical upper-class house of the era. The National Monument opened on the 200 anniversary of Washington's birth in 1932. 

The George Washington Birthplace National Monument gets an overall rating of 3 out of 5 National Park Arrowheads due to great scenery, limited facilities, and moderate historical interest.
More photos after the jump.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Red's Eats
Wiscasset, Maine
by Diane Neal
September 5, 2011

Diane waiting in line...she is the last one on the far right side

And I mean it.  Finding Red’s Eats in Wiscasset, Maine was one of the happiest accidents, serendipitous events and surprises I think we may have had in our travels. 

During a work trip to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Mr. Neal and I decided to have him fly up to meet me before the weekend and then do a long weekend visiting Bar Harbor over Labor Day.  Previously we had driven to Bar Harbor from New York City in 1998 for Labor Day weekend. 

On our drive from Portsmouth to Bar Harbor we took highway 1 rather than the I-95.  Highway 1 passes through Wiscasset, Maine near Montsweag Bay.  Cute little town, funky stores.  And Red’s.  At the time we didn’t realize what Red’s Eats was.  Highway 1 goes right by it and here is the impression:  “Hey, why is there a craaazy long line of people in front of that shack on the corner?”  and let me tell you—it was a long line.  My guess was at least an hour long to go get something and then eat it on a patio next to this shack on the street corner we passed on the way out of town.  “Shack” is a little bit of an exaggeration.  Not sure what you call it.  I guess really it is just a roadside kitchen only food stand.  So we drive by completely clueless and thing maybe we will stop and check out whatever they are selling in the way back because whatever it is, it must be awesome.

Three days later we are chugging back on Highway 1 towards the airport in Portland, Maine.  We budgeted time to stop at the food stand and wait in the line to eat whatever it is people are eating there.  At some point we had coincidentally looked up lobster rolls on the Google machine and saw some post somewhere about a place called Red’s Eats.

I should probably also back up a bit and note that I had spent pretty much the entire weekend eating lobster or food with lobster in it.  I love lobster.  Of course I would want a good lobster roll on the way out.  My only concern?  I hate mayo and I think lobster salad which is common to most lobster rolls is fairly nasty business.  It was with great pleasure that I read a review of Red’s and learned they just give you a toasted roll full of lobster and a side of either butter or mayo.  The end.  You don’t want to add anything then don’t.  Perfect. 

By the time we got to Wiscasset we totally lucked out. The line didn’t stretch all the back to the bridge over the highway, but just to the parking lot in front of the bridge. Yay!  We hop out of the car and start our wait. In full noon day sun at about 85 degrees.  Not the worst conditions, but you know, toasty.  An hour later it is our turn to order.  

20 minutes later we have fries and 2 of the biggest, baddest lobster rolls you have ever seen.  I read that you get the equivalent of the meat from a whole 1.5 pound lobster in the roll, but I daresay it might have been more than that.  Lobster was busting out of this thing.  Poured some butter over it all and launch into my roll.   The combo of sweet (and super fresh) lobster meat and crunchy toasted roll with the warm butter—I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  Probably one of the best things I have ever eaten in my life.  

I’m sure it helps to have your food stand 20 paces from the bay where the local lobstermen have traps.  And yes, I ate every bite of that roll.  Mystery solved about the long lines as well.  I think we lucked out with an hour wait. But would I wait longer?  Hellz yes I would!  If I ever get anywhere within striking distance of that place again—you know where to find me.  Red’s Eats. Thank you Wiscasset!

Patrick James Neal
July 16, 2012

Photo taken at Primrose School - The Woodlands, TX

Friday, May 25, 2012

Memorial Day and Roots
Finding family grave provides a connection to the past
by Ken Neal
Article originally appeared in the Tulsa World on May 27, 2007

     Monday is Memorial Day, so we get a three-day weekend. Sadly, that is about all the day means to most of us — a holiday.
    As American dead pile up in yet another war, perhaps it is time to restore Memorial Day to its original status, a day set aside to remember and honor those who, in Abraham Lincoln’s words, “gave the last full measure of devotion.”
     Memorial Day was proclaimed in 1868 by Union Gen. John A. Logan and for more than 100 years was celebrated on May 30, regardless of the day of the week on which the date fell.
     Then Congress, trying to “fix” things, in 1971 set Memorial Day for the last Monday in May to guarantee a threeday weekend. We swapped a day of remembrance for a holiday. 
    Memorial Day grew out of the Civil War when women in many communities began to decorate fallen soldiers’ graves with flowers. The practice became so widespread that many Americans still refer to the holiday as “Decoration Day.”
    Through the years Decoration Day became more than a day to honor war dead. It was a day to remember all dead loved ones by visiting and decorating their graves.
      It always seemed a futile exercise to me; after all, dead people don’t give a hoot about flowers. But I’ve come to realize that the day of remembrance and decoration is not for the dead so much as it is for us, the living.
     A walk through most any graveyard can be a solemn experience; a connection with the great body of humankind.
    Here’s an old fellow who lived a long life and, judging from the inscriptions his family put on the tombstone, a happy and productive one.
      But here lies an infant swept away by a childhood disease long since conquered by modern medicine.    Nearby is a young man killed in an accident just as he was starting an adult life.
     In many cases, there are the graves of several wives near the patriarch’s grave. Early day America was hard on women. Through the early 20th century, women worked at their men’s side in the field, managed the household chores and bore children — many children — as well.
    The graves of relatives — even remote ones — trigger the connection with the past and the realization that
these people once suffered and triumphed much as we do today. If they hadn’t, we wouldn’t be here.
That is hardly a profound thought but it came home to me and my son during a visit to a small country cemetery near Stidham, Okla.
    It was a few days before Memorial Day, but people had already started with decorations. The Lenna Cemetery, like thousands all over the country, is well kept. It is on a hill in a bucolic setting.
     It is a comparatively large cemetery, given the fact that Stidham at last count claims but 23 living souls.
    My son, Patrick, digging into the not-so-illustrious background of our Neal clan, found Grandpa John Henry Neal’s grave at Lenna. Through the miracle of the Internet, he located grandpa’s burial site. Patrick had learned that grandpa was a Union Civil War veteran and thus entitled to a standard issue tombstone
complete with his name and the unit in which he served, Company H of the
3rd Arkansas Cavalry. 
    Gale and Mary Treat of Wichita, Kan., had meticulously recorded the graves of people buried at Lenna and put them, complete with pictures, on a Web site. 
    Armed with that information, we walked straight to old John Henry’s grave. He was my great-grandfather. He died in 1912 near Stidham. My father had referred to his grandfather in telling me of his own father’s
early life. I knew great grandpa’s name was John Henry but I didn’t know he was a union soldier in the Civil War. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Kathy and Julie Neal
by Ken Neal

May 2012
I am writing about my daughters in one remembrance because most of my memories are of them together. After all, their mother and I had barely gotten used to Kathy Rene when Julia Lorraine came along.
So for more than 50 years now, it has been “Kathy and Julie.’
Kathy arrived nine months and two weeks after our wedding, only because February was a short month. I am reminded of my mom’s wry observation any time a baby was close to the wedding.
“Well,” she would say when the aunts were clucking and counting months, “it never takes as long for the first one.”
         Kathy was an early college graduation present for me.
        We lived in an upstairs apartment at 910 S. Indian Ave. in Tulsa. That apartment house was on the site of the present parking garage at the current OSU hospital.
        It was Oklahoma Osteopathic Hospital in 1957 and our family doctor, Ivan Penquite, was chief of staff there.
Kathy’s mom, Patty Jeanne, was not quite 20 and I was 21. Looking back now from the vantage point of 55 years, I realize we were all children together.
Patty was an instinctive great mother and at 90 pounds and a bit over five feet, delivered a 6 pound, 14 ounce baby girl with ease. At least it seemed easy to me. In those days, fathers were not allowed in the delivery room but kept at bay in the waiting area.
       We walked out the back door to the hospital at about 6:30 a.m. and Kathy came bouncing into the world at about 12:30 p.m.
       Her mother and I were in the waiting room together and after a bit we decided we weren’t helping anyone and took off for breakfast! Patty never forgave us!    

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mother's Day
Approximately Late-1960's

Patty Neal (approximately late 1960's)

The Magic, The Memories and Us
Photos from the World of Disney

Catherine Neal - Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World - January 2012

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Patrick Neal Letter
Approximately 1977

Patrick Neal letter to himself (approximately 1977)