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: http://www.nealfamilyarchive.com/CivilWarTrails/The-Bennett-Place-July-2009/19049580_grvVKQ#!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.