Wednesday, August 20, 2014

S.S. Leopoldville Disaster Dec. 24, 1944

Not too many people know about the sinking of the Leopoldville on Dec. 24, 1944 in the English Channel and the cover-up that followed.   I have written about it on my blog before and it is very moving to read some of the comments left on those posts, many of them from the relatives of the survivors or the relatives of the men who died from this ship.
(There, you should be able to click on that link to see my Leopoldville post.)

Allan Andrade wrote a book, "S.S. Leopoldville Disaster Dec 24, 1944" with lists of all the survivors that he could find.
He later added new material with photographs along with a revised list of the survivors in a book entitled  "Leopoldville: A Tragedy Too Long Secret".  I have read these books and I am grateful to Allen Andrade for them both.    If you click on this link:  you will see a list of all the men who died along with drawings by Richard Rockwell, depicting the tragedy.

 How did I find out about it?  When I worked as a travel agent, one of the army veterans came in to arrange his military reunion and told me that he had survived the sinking of the Leopoldville and that I wouldn't have heard about it because it had been kept top secret for over 50 years.  That army vet's name was W. S. Connor. He told me that there was a book about it but somehow, his name was not listed as one of the survivors.  The author, Allen Andrade, was kind enough to inform me that Mr. Connor's name was now listed in his second book and I am very grateful that this is so.

"Forgotten by many, remembered by few", that is the quote from Clive Clessler about this may read an article about it here.

In Allen Andrade's introduction to his book, he tells us that in research for a book he was planning to write he found that in one American business, over 700 employees served in the military during World War II.  (The Oneida Company).  Thirty two of them were killed.  One of them, was an orphan who celebrated his 20th birthday on board the Leopoldville on Dec. 1, 1944.  He perished in the tragedy.  His name was Staff Sergeant Benjamin J. Blaskowski and it is to his memory that this book is dedicated. 

The ship was torpedoed and sank just five miles off the coast of Cherbourg, France.
There are so many personal stories that Allen Andrade shared and I found them to be so moving that I have found it very difficult to write a post about this book.  I am in tears as I write this.  Please know that this is a book that I will treasure and one that I think that everyone should read.  Like the story about Mr. Louis Zamperini, it is my hope that one day, someone will make a movie about this true story. Allen Andrade was involved in the documentary about the Leopoldville which was on the History Channel here in the USA and there is also a monument to the memory of the men, one here in Georgia and also, one in Florida.  I hope to visit both of them one day and when I do, I will show you the photos and will mention the men from the Leopoldville again.
I will never forget them.

Monday, August 18, 2014

George Ballas, Inventor of the Weed-Eater

You are just one thought away from an invention that could be very useful to the world!   For instance, the weed-eater was invented by George Ballas in Houston, Texas in 1971.  How did he get the idea?  He took his car through an automatic car wash and as he watched the large round brushes against his car, it gave him an idea.  He went home and attached some fishing lines to a tin can and hooked it up to a lawn edger.  After failing to get toolmakers to invest any capital for his invention. he came up with the money himself.  By 1977, the company was worth $80 million.

Like most inventors, this man had his regular day job. George Ballas owned a large dance studio in Houston with over 100 instructors.  His son Corky Ballas is a ballroom dancer and has won several Latin dance championship titles.  George's grandson, Mark Ballas, is a name that you might know from "Dances With The Stars"! 
George Ballas died in 2011 at the age of 85.  I wonder what it would have been like for him to see his invention become so commonly used by millions. And all of that came from his observation of watching those brushes in an automatic car wash .Of course, the idea itself is wonderful, but you must follow through and invent something!   Do that for me, would you?  Thank you! And the world will thank you too!  And hey, if you make money from it too, I would not begrudge you that either! 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Panola Mountain, Arabia Mountain, And Stone Mountain-Love For All Three

We love to walk the trails at Panola Mountain, Arabia Mountain and Stone Mountain as much as we can.  Arabia and Panola Mountains are closer to us, so you will see more photos of those two...but I love all three!

Peaceful to gaze upon Lake Alexander, at Panola Mountain State Park

Old Barn At Panola Mountain State Park...the Lake Loop Trail goes right through it!

Dayflowers At Arabia Mountain...see the star shaped leaves at the bottom? They will be Yellow Daisies!

So much to see on these mountains, but don't forget to look up! The clouds can be amazing too...

Don't worry, little flower, I will always remember to look out for you!  This has the enchanting name of "butterfly pea".  (Photo taken on trail at Arabia Mountain, beside Arabia Lake.)
At one time, there were houses at Stone Mountain, this is a remaining chimney which is on one of the trails at Stone Mountain.  You can often see stone chimneys like this in the South and I remember thinking, as a kid, why don't they just make the house of the same stone they used for the chimneys?
I would think that this stone is from Stone Mountain itself, since we are just steps away from it here!
Rock on!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Green Braselton and the Braselton Familly

Green Braselton died this past Saturday.  He was a true Southern gentleman and he lived to be 100 years old.  If you read his obituary in our local newspaper you will also be rewarded by seeing his photo.  You may read the obituary from the Rockdale Citizen here.  I am happy to tell you that I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Braselton over the past 14 years or so and you could not ask to meet a finer man.  I love this line from his obituary, " He had many friends and he loved them all". And I also love that he called his wife, "The Babe"!
When I first met him, and he told me his name, I teased him a bit about his name, asking if he owned the town by the same name.  "Well...."  was his modest reply, and of course, I knew that meant that he was too polite to tell me the background of his family so I had to do a bit of background reading...

For me, the story of his family sounds like a wonderful outline for a historical novel.
In 1876, William Harrison Braselton, who was a poor dirt farmer, married Susan Hosch, the daughter of a rich plantation owner.  Braselton built a house on 786 acres that he purchased that was just north of the Hosch Plantation.  Harrison and Susan Braselton had three sons, William Henry, Green and John.  In 1887, John, the youngest son of William and Susan, began selling goods to the workers on the farm out of a small 6ft by 6ft building. (He was only 8 years old!)  Later, the business expanded and his two older brothers joined him.  This business became known as the Braselton Brothers Store and was a well respected and much loved business.  The company was one of the first to extend customer credit and to have the most up to date goods.  The business grew and grew and they built a beautiful brick building covering over 70,000 square feet in 1904. These three brothers, or the Three B's, as they were called, were ahead of their time...their store was almost one stop shopping...departments for clothing, food, furniture, toys, hardware, linens, housewares, gifts, and there was also room for the local bank!
You might notice that the middle brother was named Green, so I believe that Mr. Green Braselton who was born in 1914 would be his son.  I find this kind of family history quite interesting and I find it especially fascinating since I met this man and liked him very much. It makes me see why this business was so very popular.  I am sure that the brothers were just as charming and gracious as I found Mr. Green Braselton to be.  Honestly, can't you just see this become a best-selling book or very popular movie?

Monday, August 11, 2014

We Have Lost A Very Funny Man-Robin Williams

A little girl was talking to her teacher about whales. The teacher said it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human because even though it was a very large mammal its throat was very small. The little girl stated that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. Irritated, the teacher reiterated that a whale could not swallow a human. The little girl said, "When I get to heaven, I will ask Jonah". The teacher asked, "What if Jonah went to hell?".  The little girl replied, "Then you ask him."

As far as I know, Robin Williams never told this joke, but he might have, it sounds like him.  It's funny and it make me laugh.
Robin Williams died today and very sad to say, it seems that it was a suicide.  I just spoke with my son and Christopher remembers the movies from his childhood...Aladdin, Hook, and Jumanji...all very much loved and fondly remembered.

Does anyone else remember that Robin Williams was raised as an Episcopalian?  He once listed the Top Ten Reasons To Be Episcopalian.  I found it for you...

10. No snake handling.
9. You can believe in dinosaurs.
8. Male and female God created them; male and female we ordain them.
7. You don't have to check your brains at the door.
6. Pew aerobics.
5. Church year is color-coded.
4. Free wine on Sunday.
3. All of the pageantry - none of the guilt.
2. You don't have to know how to swim to get baptized.

And the Number One reason to be an Episcopalian:
1. No matter what you believe, there's bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you

"Wherever there are four Episcopalians, there is bound to be a fifth".
(Sorry, couldn't resist telling you one last joke about Episcopalians...I am sure that Robin must have told that one!) 
And just one more joke from Robin... I found this on the BBC!
In England, if you commit a crime, the police don't have a gun and you don't have a gun.  If you commit a crime, the police will say, "Stop or I'll say stop again."
My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.  May he rest in the peace of the Lord.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Music Through Barbed Wire

   What if you were contacted by an English newspaper about your blog?  I am sure you might be skeptical.   This happened to Janice on her blog, Bluebell Woods. She made inquiries (that is what they say in England!) The newspaper reporter was exactly that...he was from The Telegraph investigating a story about English POW's that were held in Japan during World War II and Janice's father was one of the prisoners.  It is a great story and I have the link to her blog post  just here.

In case you are not able to get to her blog, I can tell you that her father, Harry Hines, along with his fellow prisoners were held at the notorious Omori Prison Camp and it was in an area which was adjacent to civilian homes.  One of the teenage girls would play her piano and she realized that she had her "regulars" who would listen to her music through the barbed wire.  After the war ended, these same men who had enjoyed the music, made a point of going to the home to say thank you to this Japanese family. The woman is now 85 years old and she wanted to find out what happened to the make sure you go to Janice's blog and read this story!  If you live in the UK, you might remember reading this in the Telegraph just a few weeks ago...
And when you read this story, you might notice that one of the POW's was an American from Georgia, and that does make me curious, I wonder how we could find out what happened to him? If you know nothing of the brutality of the POW camps, there are plenty of accounts from the men who survived them,  I think that all of us should know their stories and remember them, the men and women who gave so much.

Janice granted her permission to have this link to her post and she asked me this: If there is anyone who might have any more information about her father, Harry Hines, to please contact her as there are gaps in the information that she has about her father's life. 

Let there be Peace on Earth and let it begin with me.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Colorado Wildflowers

My sister moved to Colorado this summer.  My Dad just visited her and he told me that the wildflowers that he saw there were some of the prettiest that he has ever seen.  This is what he had to say... "They are just growing beside the road, they're everywhere and no one has sown them, they just come up, natural, lots of them too, you would love them!" 
You know that I would!
I have read that some of the hiking trails in Colorado are called "Century trails".  They are called that because of the ONE HUNDRED or more varieties of wildflowers that grow there!  Okay, I am thinking that Pam should be ready for a visit from her big sis come next July or August!