25 Things Most People Don’t Know About Me

by Jack Dennis

Ok. I’ll bite. Per request, here are 25 things most people don’t know about me. #20 is unexplainable.

Dancing

1.  In August 1989 three men sat at a table in downtown San Antonio and flipped a quarter each. I was the odd man (I flipped ‘heads”) against the other two. I won a 15-day trip to Switzerland and visited the Matterhorn, France and Italy while there in October 1989.

2. Not long after I turned 50, I walked on stage at a motivation conference at the Alamodome in San Antonio and competed in a dance contest against 21 others. The crowd of 18,000+ decided the winner by applause. I won a free trip, with lodging, etc. to Disney World in Florida for my family the following September. 

3. When I had to go back stage after winning the dance contest at the Alamodome in 2006, I met and talked with comedian Jerry Lewis and former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani. I asked them both what makes them happy in life. They were kind enough to visit with me a few moments and their answers were outstanding.

Kidnap Attempt

4. We lived about halfway down W. Ansley Blvd. in South San Antonio when I was eight. One summer day I was down the street playing with a friend, Steven Price, when his mother told me my Mom had called and I was to go home for lunch. Mom was going to meet me half way.

Steven and I were in his back yard and I walked down their drive way to the street when a white station wagon drove up. The man in the car had his passenger window down and asked me if I knew “where the Hamners live?” I told him I didn’t. He got out of his car and had a piece of paper in his hand. As he walked around the back of his car he said, “Well, they left me a map and…”  

I don’t know what it was but instantaneously something in my mind told me to scream and run.

I ran back to the Price’s house yelling as loud as I could. Mrs. Price and Steven came out the front door and onto their porch. The man quickly jumped back in his vehicle and sped off.

The reason my Mother had called was not so much for me to go home for lunch, but because my Dad, a policeman had called her and told her they were looking for a man who had been trying to abduct children on our side of town driving a white station wagon.

Vegas, San Diego & More

5. My son Jack and I went to Las Vegas in June 2010. He was very interested in magic so we saw David Copperfield, Chris Angel, Lance Burton, Mac King, and Nathan Burton perform. Jack was able to meet the latter two. We went to the old International Hotel (now the Las Vegas Hilton) because I wanted to see the showroom where Elvis Presley performed in the 1970s. 

We opened an entrance door and saw a band rehearsing. They sounded familiar to both of us. We started to walk out and looked at a poster on the veranda wall by the doors. It was Aerosmith. We turned back around and reentered. No one stopped us.

We sat down and had our own private mini-concert for a few songs.
Ironically a few years prior I was able to meet them at a special Susan Komen Cancer fundraising event at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay totally by accident.

6. In the late 1990’s, I was a founder and first elected president of the PRSM, the Professional Retail Maintenance Association (now CONNEX). Because of this role, I had the honor of dining with such notable businessmen as Stanley Marcus (Neimann & Marcus founder), Norman Brinker (Brinker International: Jack in the Box, Steak n Ale, Bennigan’s, and Chili’s), Fred Meijer and Hank Meijer, CEO’s of the regional American hypermarket chain in Michigan.

I also dined with Fred Gandy while at a PRSM convention in San Diego. Gandy was an actor in the role of “Gopher” in the TV sitcom “The Love Boat.” When I met him he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from the state of Iowa.

“Why Don’t You?”

7. My earliest memory is being with my grandfather, Jack L. Dennis, Sr. and my father, Walter Dennis, at the Boerne, Texas Fairgrounds and Race Track  in the late 1950s. A horse kicked a door of a horse trailer and it scared me. I ran to my grandfather who picked me up for safety. They tell me I was a little over two years old. Many years later I would live in Boerne.

8. In the early spring of 1976, my journalism professor Jeff Henderson, asked his class to write down the names of two people we would like to interview if we could.  When he called on me to reveal my answers, embarrassingly, I said “Elvis Presley and Clint Eastwood.”

When my classmates laughed, he held his hand up and looked straight at me and asked, “Why don’t you?”

Superbowl & Astronauts

I thought of scores of reasons why I couldn’t. The question had profound impact. Within eight months I interviewed Presley and Eastwood.

9. I was fortunate to attend the first-half of Super Bowl XXI on January 25, 1987 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. I had a plane to catch at LAX, but had the opportunity to attend the game, which included over 101,000 other spectators. I compromised by attending most of the first half before I had to leave in a cab. Neil Diamond sang the National Anthem and by the time I had to leave the score was very close: Denver 10 and New York Giants 9. 

The quarterbacks were John Elway (Denver) and Phil Simms (New York). I also recall seeing famed Defensive End Willie Davis of the Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers toss the coin, as well as future Hall of Famers Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson and Bill Parcells. 

When I was on the plane returning back to Texas, the captain announced the results: NY Giants 39, Denver 20.

10. I was showing my son Jack some of my autographs one day in 2006 and he was intrigued with the astronaut’s signatures. I told him perhaps someday I could take him to get some autographs from astronauts. He seemed very interested. I checked the Internet to see if there would be any upcoming autograph opportunities in the near future.

To our surprise there was a huge gathering of astronauts, cosmonauts and others associated with space travel and movies in San Antonio that same day at the St. Anthony Hotel.

We rushed to downtown from Boerne. Jack and I were able to meet and talk with Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Dave Scott, Gene Cernan, Ed Mitchell, Walt Cunningham, Richard Gordon, Vanentina Treshkova, Bruce McCandless, Alex Leonov, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra, Al Worden, Gene Kranz and so many others.

11. I witnessed the launching of the last Shuttle Atlantis in May 2010 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was flight STS132.

Jack Dennis

Presidents

12. Like many from the Alamo City, I saw President John F. Kennedy in San Antonio the day before he was assassinated in Dallas. It was November 21, 1963 when my mother took me out of third grade class. We drove to the corner of Military Drive and Zarzamora. When the President’s entourage came by, I was more excited about seeing my father, a policeman, on the motorcycle than I was JFK and Mrs. Kennedy.

13. I have shaken the hands of, and talked with three Presidents, Jimmy Carter at the Alamo, Bill Clinton at Mi Tierra Restaurant, and George W. Bush at the AT&T Center, all in San Antonio. I have seen Lyndon B. Johnson, George H.W. Bush and Donald Trump but did not get to meet them. I have interviewed First Lady Ladybird Johnson.

Being Elvis Before it Was Cool

14. In April 1973, I performed as Elvis Presley on our high school stage in front of 770 people. It was life changing. Prior to that date, I had never spoken or sang in public. The band and I performed several other times that year. Soon I was performing at local schools, venues and night clubs. I also performed at my high school reunions in 1983, 1993 and 2003.

2003

15. I have given speeches in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Seattle, Nashville, Orlando, Atlantic City, Washington D.C., Dallas, San Diego, Grand Rapids, St. Louis, Memphis, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Boston, Hartford, and many other locations.

16. The largest group I addressed was to the National Retail Federation at the Kravitz Center in New York City in 1999. In the green room prior to the speech I met Joe Torrey, the successful manager of the New York Yankees and Walter Martinez, the CEO of Sears-Roebuck. The crowd numbered over 10,000.

17. Jay Leno gave me a cap and free steak dinner after winning a dance contest against five others during “The Tonight Show” warmup prior to the taping of the show. Evander Holyfield was on the show after his March 17, 2007 defeat of Vinny Maddalone by a TKO. Antonio Banderas was also on that show.

More Serendipity

18. In 1977 there was a horror movie called “The Hills Have Eyes.” A poster, depicting one of the stars of the film, Michael Berryman, absolutely horrified me. I was afraid to even look at it, much less go see the movie.

Over 34 years later, while attending a horror film festival in San Antonio as a member of the press, I met Berryman. During our conversation he asked me to have lunch with him. We visited for over two hours. He was candid and answered all my questions honestly. I confessed how I was afraid of that poster.

Later, after he received an award, he came down into the audience and sat by me. He whispered for me to follow him to another part of the conference. Berryman pulled out an 8×10 photo of the poster and signed it for me.

19. In 1974, my father gave me a birthday card that read “Happy Birthday to a good looking guy.” When I opened it, it read “Now you can give me this card for my birthday.”  I did.

For 37 years, we exchanged the card back and forth. After his death in 2011, it was in Ripley’s Believe it Or Not as the longest continuous exchange of the same birthday card by a father and son.

Who Was the Sailor Boy?

20. One cold rainy night in 2007, I was walking with Andres Lira, the supervisor of the custodian crew of the downtown headquarters for H-E-B Food and Drugs, a major retail chain based in San Antonio. I was the Director of Facilities Management at the time and periodically would visit with Lira and his crew as they performed their nighttime duties.

The headquarters is on the beautiful campus of a Civil War era U.S. Army Arsenal and to this day is called “The Arsenal.” Lira’s crew would often tell me about seeing ghosts in two of the older houses and in other parts of the Arsenal.

On this particular night I was walking along on the exterior walk way in the interior portion of the Arsenal when I noticed someone at the foot of the steps leading to the entry of the North Building. It was raining fairly hard and I wondered why this individual was just standing in the rain.

As I approached closer I realized it was a young boy of about seven or eight years of age. He was dressed in a sailor or Navy type suit that reminded me of the boy on Cracker Jack’s popcorn boxes.

Immediately, from my vantage point on the Western interior walkway looking out across interior campus, I scanned the North, East and South Buildings to determine if there was some sort of projection device and determine if someone was trying to fool me.

I began walking more toward the North Building and the boy faded towards his left into some hedges next to the stairs. I went to the stairs and looked behind and around the hedges, and then examined the windows along the first floor to determine if there was some kind of reflection.

I could not find the boy and decided to go back to the South Building basement where Lira’s office was. When I told him about the boy, he smiled and asked if it was “a sailor boy?” I said yes and he indicated that is what others have seen too. I can’t explain it, but I know it happened.

21. In the middle of watching a movie at the Rialto Theater in San Antonio I made a quick run to the restroom.

I started washing my hands and grabbed a paper towel on the way out. I grabbed the door handle, pulled the door open and was startled by a man I recognized wanting to enter.

He stood there anxiously waiting for me to exit. I was in shock and just looked at him.

Finally, with much disgust, looking me straight in the eyes, he said, “You need to move!”

“Yes Sir,” I whispered back and moved away so actor Tommy Lee Jones could enter.

Celebrities

22. One evening just as I was finishing up my shift as a golf marshal at Fair Oaks Ranch Golf Resort & Country Club, I received a phone call from another nearby resort. It was Tapatio Springs asking if I could come take photos (I freelanced as a side job) for a special event they were having.

“It’s a private event by invitation only, so we need to be quiet about it until you get here.”

I always kept a set of additional clothes for such events so I showered in the locker room and drove straight to the “secret” event.

It was a private concert and auction  for elite donors to the Wounded Warriors charity organization. I recognized such well known personalities such as Mark Cuban the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks owner and from TV’s “Shark Tank”).

The show started with Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel and ended with country music icon George Strait.

I was able to interview both of them as well as band members, song writers and others. What a long but exciting day that turned out to be.

23. When I lived in an apartment above the Majestic Theater in downtown San Antonio for almost five years, I was able to interview such notables as B.B.King, Merle Haggard and Lou Diamond Philips.

During one pre-concert interview, I walked in a “green room” with several men in there but none I recognized until one of them spoke.

“Have a seat,” the man offered. I knew who it was by his voice, not his face.

This well known star had recently undergone a facelift that didn’t match my preconceived notion of how I remembered him.

It was a bit awkward start, but Kenny Rogers was the ultimate and patient gentleman.

Photo by Jack Dennis

24. During the world premiere of Shrek III at the Westwood Theater near Hollywood, I was placed in between Entertainment Tonight and a Japanese news crew along the red carpet.

Among those I interviewed was Mike Myers, Justin Timberlake, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Julie Andrews, Larry King, Antonio Banderas, Terri Hatcher and more.

While I was waiting for Steven Spielberg to finish with Entertainment Tonight, an older, but attractive lady was talking with me, but I didn’t recognize her. She kept looking back toward other celebrities so I grinned and asked who she was looking for.

She laughed and pointed at my camera, “You had better get ready to use that, honey because Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz are about to see each other for the first time in public since their breakup.”

I quickly peered over just as they embraced and snapped a photo of their greeting kiss. That photo alone paid for most of my trip to LA.

25. When I found out who the lady was who hinted I should photograph the Timberlake-Diaz kiss, I was embarrassed. She is the mother of the wife of Antonio Banderas, who most of us know as actress Melanie Griffith.

And the mother?

I talked with her casually a good ten minutes not realizing she was one of my favorite childhood actresses, Tippi Hedrin of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds fame.

____________________

Vintage Car Wrecks

Rubbernecking, to get a glimpse of a car wreck while driving on a highway is a dangerous gamble. But some say it’s human nature. It’s been around for over a century. Here’s the proof.

Make and Model?
This car was not even owned an hour by its owner.
1921

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Simple Things Baby Boomers Know That Millennials Don’t #1

I watched a video of two fourteen year old boys recently trying to use a 1970s vintage rotary dial phone without any instructions. It was hilarious. Hadn’t they ever seen an old movie video of anyone using a dial phone? Or watch an old episode of the Dynamic Duo on the Batphone?

“What is this coiled cord for?”

“These holes? With numbers?”

It took them 21 minutes, together, to do it. The dial tone was hard to figure out, but putting their fingers in a dial (especially “9”) and seeing their reaction as the dialer spun around was amusing.

This made us wonder what other things younger generations may not know about.

When my daughter, Jennifer, was a teenager, a large closet was open upstairs in my home office.

“What are those, Dad?”

“What?”

She pointed to hundreds of LP record albums in my collection.

“You don’t know what record albums are?”

I reached for one and unsleeved it to show her how to handle them. Fortunately I still had a workable record player at the time. She was amazed how the needle made the music.

Since then, we’ve gone through 8-track and cassette tapes, DVDs and a few other advancements along the way. Dodie and I Bluetoothed it along the way in our recent road trips and we are still not certain how they work.

As long as they can play Elvis, Beatles, Eagles, Roy Orbison, The Cars, Rod Stewart, Blondie, Dire Straits, Merle Haggard, George Jones, George Strait, Stevie Ray Vaughan and some good Mississippi Delta Blues, the technology doesn’t matter to us.

We started thinking about simple things younger generations may not know about. Some of these might be nice tips, hints for better living, or just interesting history. Here’s a few. We will add more now and then.

Loop In Back Of Shirt

First of all, this doesn’t apply to garden-variety t-shirts. Surely, you own at least one nice, collared shirt that has this mysterious loop in the top middle of your back. We actually have the Navy to thank for the loops on our shirts.

Believe it or not, there isn’t a lot of closet space while you’re out at sea, so sailors would have loops on their shirts so they could just hang them on hooks. College kids in the 1960s and 70s also utilized the loops, as we could hang up our shirts and keep them neat and wrinkle-free while at the gym.

Today, manufacturers put them on shirts as a sign of class and quality. Also, you may have noticed that young ladies sometimes pull the loops of boys they like, so there is still a practical reason to have these on our shirts.

Randomly Placed Buttons On Jeans

Avid jeans wearers are no doubt aware of all the extra buttons scattered about their pants, usually around their pockets.

Yes, it seems a little odd, but you’ve probably just accepted that’s how jeans are made. But those buttons actually have an important purpose.

First, they’re technically called rivets, even if they resemble buttons. More importantly, they are strategically placed on the jeans to prevent them from getting worn out at the seams and ripping. Imagine that happening at an inopportune time and you’ll be glad your jeans are properly riveted.

It’s actually interesting to note that jean tycoon Levi Strauss owns the patent on these rivets. The idea came about in 1829 after miners complained about how quickly their jeans were wearing out. Young Mr. Strauss came up with a solution to the problem, and now it seems like jeans can practically last forever.

Ridges On Coins

We’re not sure if everyone has noticed this, but both quarters and dimes have rough edges while pennies and nickels don’t.

Go ahead, check all of your coins to confirm that I’m not lying to you. See, it’s true. Well, the reason for this goes back to the days when coins were stamped in different weights to reflect the true value of the coin.

To stop people from shaving the edges of the coins and melting them into new coins, minters put ridges on coins made of precious metals so that it would be easy to tell if the edges had been shaved off. It’s not really an issue today, but we still have edges on our coins.

Volume 2 Coming Soon: Same Bat Channel, Same Bat Time.

The Hollywood Star’s Mother Who Saved Apollo 13 Astronauts

A Special Mother’s Day Story

On August 12, 2006, I had the privilege of interviewing astronauts such as Buzz Aldrin, Bruce McCandless, Wally Schirra and more at a collectSpace event in San Antonio.

There were other space related celebrities I talked with including James Drury (Classic TV’s The Virginian), Lana Wood (Natalie Wood’s sister, Diamonds Are Forever), and Clint Howard (brother of Ron Howard, TV’s Gentle Ben and 1995 movie Apollo 13).

One of the most interesting people I met was famed NASA Space Control Center chief Gene Kranz (“Failure is not an option.”) played by Ed Harris in the Apollo 13 movie.

During his interview he said the most riveting mission “was of course, the Apollo 11, our first manned landing” but the “most tense was without a doubt, Apollo 13.” He praised his team and engineers for saving the lives of astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jim Swigert in 1970 after an oxygen tank exploded on their voyage to the moon.

Kranz, 2nd from left.
Apollo 13 crew returns to Earth.

Judith Love Cohen was one of those engineers Kranz talked about. She had three children–Neil, Howard, and Rachel–when she saved Apollo 13.

Cohen had a fascinating life as an engineer who worked on the Pioneer, Apollo, and Hubble space missions. Later she would become an author and publisher of books about women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and environmentalism in the 1990s, a ballet dancer with the New York Metropolitan Opera Ballet Company, an advocate for better treatment of women in the workplace. Today, you may recognize her son.

She passed away in 2016 at the age of 82 following a short battle with cancer. Her oldest son, Neil Siegel, a professor of engineering, included an anecdote from the Apollo 13 mission in an obituary he wrote on July 29 the year of her death.

Judith Love Cohen with son, USC professor Neil Siegel.

“My mother, USC alumna Judith Love Cohen Siegel Black Katz, B.S. EE ’57, M.S. EE ’62, died on July 25, 2016, after a short battle with cancer. She was just a couple of weeks shy of her 83rd birthday.”

“A beloved mother, wife, and friend, she was an accomplished engineer, author, and publisher.”

“Her first passions were dancing and engineering. By age 19, she was a dancer in the Corps de Ballet of the New York Metropolitan Opera Ballet Company, and a student in engineering school of Brooklyn. She met Bernard Siegel, the man who became her first husband and my father, at the end of her freshman year. They were married a couple of months later and made the move west to Southern California.”

“During the next 10 years, she worked full-time as an engineer, had the first three of her four children, and completed both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering at USC. She liked to be busy.

“She started dancing again – recreational folk dancing – around 1964, which she continued until the end of her life.”

“Her engineering career included roles on the teams that created the guidance computer for the Minuteman missile, the Abort-Guidance System in the Lunar Excursion Module for the Apollo space program, the ground system for the Tracking Data, and Relay System Satellite (recently retired after nearly 40 years of operations on orbit!) among others.”

“This picture is of Judy with the Pioneer spacecraft in 1959. She and my father worked together on this satellite, which was scheduled to launch in spring of 1959. “Life” magazine decided that a husband-and-wife engineering couple would be a good story, so photographers came to our house in Bellflower and took photos of the family.”

“Unfortunately, the Atlas-Able rocket that was supposed to launch blew up on the pad at Cape Canaveral, and “Life” lost interest in the story. A replacement satellite got built, and was going to be launched in 1960 or 1961. “Look” magazine thought that it would do the story. So we had another set of photographers at our new house in Manhattan Beach. The story never ran, but we still have the photos, including this one.”

“Judy and Bud divorced in the mid-1960’s, and she soon married Tom Black.”

“Her fourth child was born a few years later. She actually went to her office on the day that (he) was born. When it was time to go to the hospital, she took with her a computer printout of the problem she was working on. Later that day, she called her boss and told him that she had solved the problem. And . . . oh, yes, the baby was born, too.”

“My mother usually considered her work on the Apollo program to be the highlight of her career. When disaster struck the Apollo 13 mission, it was the Abort-Guidance System that brought the astronauts home safely. Judy was there when the Apollo 13 astronauts paid a “thank you” to the TRW facility in Redondo Beach.”

“She finished her engineering career running the systems engineering for the science ground facility of the Hubble Space Telescope.”

“During her engineering career, she was a vigorous and tireless advocate of better treatment for women in the workplace. Many things that today we consider routine – the posting of job openings inside of a company so that anyone could apply, formal job descriptions for every position, and so forth – were her creations. She had a profound impact on equality in the workforce.”

“She and Tom divorced in the late 1970’s, and she later met and married the man who turned out to be the love of her life, David Katz. They had been married 35 years at the time of her death.”

“Judy retired from engineering in the early 1990’s, and immediately wrote a small book called “You Can Be a Woman Engineer” targeted to eight- to 10 year-old girls. It was intended to encourage them to consider a career in engineering.”

“She was not able to find a publisher, so she and David started their own book company. This led to a new passion and an entire series of titles including, “You Can be a Woman Architect” (co-authored with my father’s wife, a practicing architect), “You Can be a Woman Astronomer,” and many others.”

“Judy sold more than 100,000 of these books; held hundreds of in-person book-readings and seminars; and prepared lesson-kits so that hundreds of other people could do the same. She must have influenced tens of thousands of young girls to become interested in professional careers of one sort or another.”

“Her husband David illustrated these books, so this was an adventure of love that they experienced together.”

“She was an ideal mother-in-law to my wife Robyn, especially when Robyn’s own mother died at a relatively early age. She invited Robyn to become a co-author for one of her books. The partnership worked, and she and Robyn co-authored the last 10 or so of the books in the series.”

“In the last 10 years, my mother acquired three grandchildren, giving her yet another passion.”

“Her life was not perfect: Her younger sister, Rosalind, died young; there were the two divorces; and she suffered the trauma of losing a child, my brother Howard, who also died young. But she was happy to have reached age 82½ without a single overnight visit to the hospital since age 6, and was busy every minute doing the things that she loved.”

“We will miss her very much.”

The rest of the story is that Judith Love Cohen worked on the day she was in labor with her fourth child. She took a printout of a problem concerning Apollo 13 that she was working on to the hospital. She called her boss and said she finished the problem and then gave birth to a baby boy–actor and musician Jack Black.

He has been in movies such as Jumanji (2017 & 2019), Po in Kung Fu Panda, School of Rock, and Nacho Libre just to name a few.

How My Sister and I Learned the Value of Recycling

Our father was a natural junker. I started out at age five, living on the Southside of San Antonio, accompanying him on his junk routes.

Years later, my sister Bobbi would join us. As I became busy with important things like Little League, sometimes she’d go solo with him.

On his days off, Dad, or San Antonio Police Officer Walter “Corky” Dennis, would strike out early mornings on his route that included places like Precision Manufacturing, Walter Keller Battery Company and H-E-B Construction (Yes, of H-E-B Food/Drugs fame. Ironically, years later as Director of Facilities Management for them, I officed at that same location).

Our father, Walter ‘Corky’ Dennis managed my Little League baseball team in 1966 and 1967.

I learned to sort and separate different types of metals (copper, iron, tin, aluminum…) into 55 gallon drums on the back of his 21 foot “junk trailer.”

For years our goal was to strip as much copper wire, haul as much metal and gather as many used batteries as we could to get them to Newell Salvage, Monterrey Salvage, Ashley Salvage or other recycling centers before they closed each junk day.

I suppose, being born after the Great Depression and during the rationing days of World War II, junking was in Dad’s blood.

Once my Grandpa Jack L. Dennis announced to his grandkids he was going to start a fund for each of us. The deal was, for every penny, nickle, dime or even quarter we saved and put in the Rexall pill bottle with our individual name on it, he would match it.

Immediately, on the days Dad was at work and couldn’t junk, I’d hook up  my red wagon (modified with a ‘fence’ to maximize loads) to my banana seated bike. My mission: gather and sell as many soda (.03 cents each) and beer (.05 cents) bottles as I could.

Pulling that wagon on Commercial Avenue as far south as Gillette and north to S.W. Military Drive (including the motherlode areas of Six Mile Creek), I’d earn a good $4-$6 a day. It might have taken 3 or 4 loads to Paul Woodall’s beer joint on the corner of Hutchins and Commercial, but I’d get the job done. Every now and then, on especially hot days, Mr. Woodall would treat me to a cold Big Red in an ice cold frosted beer mug for good measure.

Well, eventually Grandpa Dennis had to put a halt to the grandkids savings accounts. He’d swear to me for years that he stopped after I’d “graduated from pill bottles to Folger’s Coffee cans. Grandma said we couldn’t afford it anymore.”

Dad was always helping people out. In my preteen and early teenage years he owned a used car lot with another police officer, Sargeant Doyle Soden, on Commercial Ave. I worked there washing cars, charging batteries, and repairs.

We’d spend a lot of time going to automobile and truck junk yards to salvage parts for not only his cars for sale, but many times to rebuild junk cars TO GIVE (yes, for free) to those in need.

Usually these were starter cars for teenagers that were in some kind of trouble, or maybe they were from a broken or abusive home. But on at least half a dozen cases he would give a car to some guy he may have arrested or found drunk and took him home instead of to jail. It didn’t matter if they were Mexican, Black or Anglo, I saw (and often helped) him get cars ready and give them away.

“If they’ll stay out of trouble, be good to their family and get a job, I’ll give them the title,” he said.

Being a policeman, Dad saw some of the worst in people, but he also didn’t mind helping anyone who was willing to help themselves.

During the later 1960s and early 70s, when there was floods from hurricanes or bad storms, Dad and I would take his wrecker and we’d actually go rescue people stranded in their cars or in trees. Usually it was along Six Mile Creek, but also around areas south of Espada Park.

He’d wade out with a rope attached to his waist, holding some rigging and the hook from the cable of the wench. Sometimes it would be pouring, but I’d wait for his signal. At the right time I’d turn the handle and the next thing I knew there’d either be a vehicle or a person attached with his rigging being wrenched toward me. It was an amazing thing for an 11 or 12 year old boy to see–and actually participate in.

At age 14, I sold my first car at C&D (Corky and Doyle) Auto Sales. It was a 1958 Edsel. When he came home from work that evening and found out, he was so proud. I earned $50 and it was more money than I had ever had in my wallet. Today that’s the equivalent of $372.54.

With that $50, money from selling bottles and buying stamps for a U.S. Savings Bond booklet in elementary school (Mom was Homeroom Mother and sold them each Wednesday, grades 2-6) and other odd jobs, I opened my first ever savings account with San Antonio Savings Association with a balance of $212.56 (worth $1571+ today).

On my 16th birthday, in 1971, after I blew out the candles and we cut the cake, I opened up a present–a small box, gift wrapped–and inside were car keys.

“Your car is outside waiting for you,” my Dad grinned.

It was a seven-year-old 1963 Chevrolet Impala, freshly painted green and gold, McCollum High Cowboys school colors. What a proud moment, but I worried how my parents could ever afford such a nice car for a present.

Years later, my mother told me how. When we would go junking and recycling over the years, Dad would keep some of the day’s earnings in a hidden spot. With the proceeds he held from the profits of selling that Edsel a couple of years prior, he was able to buy and paint that Impala.

1972

Today, my sister and I both have empathy and special feelings for those who recycle, reuse or repurpose anything.

Jillski’s Art

One of my favorite watercolor and graphic design artists is Jill Vance Bukowski out of Hewitt, near Waco, Texas.

I first met Jill–from Portales, New Mexico–in December of 1983. As the construction supervisor overseeing a new H-E-B Food-Drugs store we affectionately name “Challenger 7,” (it was the 7th store in Waco at the time), Jill was one of the retailer team Partners during the final phase before opening the store.

Very talented, with her trademark smile and happy disposition, Jill was fun to be around. Over the years we remained friends as she moved to San Antonio H-E-B headquarters at the historic U.S. Arsenal complex to work in graphic design in 1985. We would take our children, (Jill’s: Lacey and Logan, mine: Jennifer and Mark) to the circus or zoo back in the day.

Her husband, Paul, is a hardworking, dependable plumber with his company, Bukowski Brothers Plumbing, in Waco nowadays.

Paul & Jill

Over time her son, Bo and my youngest boys, Jack and Brady came to know each other at our lake house on Lake Buchanan (good halfway point between Waco and San Antonio) in the early ’90s.

Although I haven’t seen them in over 15-years, through the magic of internet we’ve kept up as our children have grown into adults with kids of their own.

Recently, I noticed she has Jillski’s Art in Hewitt and recognized the same familiar talent and style in her watercolor offerings.

See for yourself by clicking here.

Johnny Gimble

Buck Owens’ Stories of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash

Country Music legend Buck Owens was once asked, “Looking back on your great career, is there any one thing you regret doing or not doing?”

Owens performed at Houston Rodeo one week after Elvis in 1969.

“Elvis Presley was appearing at the Hilton in Las Vegas,” Owens thought of the first thing that popped in his head. “Bakersfield to Las Vegas in a plane is only 30 minutes. So, I set up [an arrangement] with Colonel Tom [Parker] for my two sons and I and my wife to see Elvis.”

“At the last moment I felt bad and my wife and I didn’t go, but my two sons and their wives went. They had a big box, a special place. And nobody got the word to Elvis that I wasn’t there.”

“In the middle of his show, Elvis made this great introduction to Buck Owens. … My sons told me they put the spotlight over on our box and folks were applauding. I was very upset. I never had another chance to meet him.”

“I was a great Elvis fan. They were very kind. They sent back a couple of security people from the Hilton to take my sons and their wives backstage to Elvis’ dressing room. They said hello, got to meet him and had a couple of pictures made with him. I really do regret that I missed it.”

Hee Haw

“The most memorable person I ever performed with was Don Rich; there’s no doubt about it. However, talking about other artists, I owe so much to Johnny Cash, because in 1960 Johnny Cash took me on a tour with him all the way across Canada, down through Seattle and Portland.”

“Then Luther [Perkins, Cash’s guitarist] dropped me off at my house in Bakersfield after the tour. I got to play before tens of thousands of people. Johnny Cash was so hot, and he gave me that opportunity. I sang three or four songs each show.”

Cash in Hee Haw

“I always felt like I owed Johnny Cash that debt forever. I would never be able to repay him. So, my most memorable person is Johnny Cash. I don’t know anyone that has meant more to country music than Johnny Cash has meant. He’s the absolute champion. Although I’m a fan of many of the others, I’m a great believer in the great Johnny Cash.”

Have you ever turned down a song to record and then it became a hit with another artist? If so, what was the song title?

“Well, you know I did turn down a song. Nat Stuckey sent me a song one time called “Hungries for Your Love.” I changed it to “Waitin’ in Your Welfare Line.” Don Rich and I took that and wrote some verses about it and made a nice big song about it.”

Stuckey

“Immediately thereafter, I got another song from Nat Stuckey. Nat Stuckey passed on some years ago from cancer. He sent me “Pop a Top.” I loved the song. I thought the song would be a hit, but I didn’t want to do a song at that time about drinking and all that.”

“Jim Ed Brown put it out and made a hit out of it. I never regretted that, because it wasn’t that I didn’t believe in the song, it’s just I didn’t want to do a drinking song at that time.”

Proud and Grateful to Be a Baby Boomer

Born between 1946 and 1964, U.S. Baby Boomers are 73 million strong and by 2030 all will be at least 65 years old, according to the Census Bureau.

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BONUS: More Boomer memories.

Was President John F. Kennedy “Too White?”

You be the judge.

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For the record, Elvis was a Pepsi man.

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Famous people of all persuasions who have endorsed Coca-Cola include Marilyn Monroe, Ray Charles, Anita Bryant LeBron James, George Michael, 50 Cent, David Beckham, Paula Abdul, Cal Ripken, Kobe Bryant, Roger Clemens, Neil Diamond, Christina Aguilera, Sandra Dee, Wayne Gretzky, Whitney Houston, Marc Anthony, Gary Busey, Suzy Chaffee, and Courtney Cox.

Celebraties who have been associated with Pepsi include Michael Jackson, Beyonce, Bob Dole, Jeff Gordon, Faith Hill, Ozzy Osbourne, Michael J. Fox, Shaquille O’Neill, David Bowie, Janet Jackson, Britney Spears, Tina Turner,and Madonna.

More cola ads.

Mel Tillis Dreamed of Playing in Las Vegas Where Elvis Presley Performed

I first met Pam Tillis in Las Vegas, Nevada in July 1979 while she was singing backup  to her father, country music singer Mel Tillis.

Mel and Pam Tillis


Mel surprised his daughter by announcing to the crowd at the Frontier Hotel that night that he was inviting her up front so she could sing a song by herself.

“Daddy would do that occasionally,” Tillis laughed later. “So I am always ready.”

“Daddy always says he  wanted to play at the Frontier because that is where Elvis played,” she laughed after the show.

The first time Elvis Presley ever performed in Vegas was back in 1956.


Mel Tillis introduced his next big hit that night. It was “Are You Sincere?,” a song Elvis had recorded and released a few years before his death in 1977. 

Years later, daughter Pam, released a big hit “Maybe It Was Memphis.”

Mel died on November 19, 2017 at age 85. His biggest hits included “I Ain’t Never“, “Good Woman Blues“, “Sawmill,” “I Got the Hoss,” “Southern Rains,” “Send Me Down to Tucson,” and “Coca-Cola Cowboy“.

It is only fitting that Pam Tillis today, pays tribute to Elvis, the King of Rock and Roll, and another King, Martin Luther in her co-written song ‘Two Kings.’ She often tours with Suzy Bogguss and Terri Clark at “Chicks With Hits” performances and on her own.

Happy Birthday Dear Frisbee

Today in History January 23, 1957, machines at the Wham-O toy company rolled out the first batch of their aerodynamic plastic discs–now known to millions of fans all over the world as Frisbees.

The story of the Frisbee began in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where William Frisbie opened the Frisbie Pie Company in 1871. Students from nearby universities would throw the empty pie tins to each other, yelling “Frisbie!” as they let go.

In 1948, Walter Frederick Morrison and his partner Warren Franscioni invented a plastic version of the disc called the “Flying Saucer” that could fly further and more accurately than the tin pie plates.

After splitting with Franscioni, Morrison made an improved model in 1955 and sold it to the new toy company Wham-O as the “Pluto Platter”–an attempt to cash in on the public craze over space and Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs).

In 1958, a year after the toy’s first release, Wham-O–the company behind such top-sellers as the Hula-Hoop, the Super Ball and the Water Wiggle–changed its name to the Frisbee disc, misspelling the name of the historic pie company.

A company designer, Ed Headrick, patented the design for the modern Frisbee in December 1967, adding a band of raised ridges on the disc’s surface–called the Rings–to stabilize flight. By aggressively marketing Frisbee-playing as a new sport, Wham-O sold over 100 million units of its famous toy by 1977.

High school students in Maplewood, New Jersey, invented Ultimate Frisbee, a cross between football, soccer and basketball, in 1967.

In the 1970s, Headrick himself invented Frisbee Golf, in which discs are tossed into metal baskets; there are now hundreds of courses in the U.S., with millions of devotees.

There is also Freestyle Frisbee, with choreographed routines set to music and multiple discs in play, and various Frisbee competitions for both humans and dogs–the best natural Frisbee players.

Today, at least 60 manufacturers produce the flying discs–generally made out of plastic and measuring roughly 20-25 centimeters (8-10 inches) in diameter with a curved lip. The official Frisbee is owned by Mattel Toy Manufacturers, who bought the toy from Wham-O in 1994.

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This article is sponsored by GOETTL AIR CONDITIONING & PLUMBING, servingTucson, Las Vegas, Southern California, Simi Valley and San Antonio.

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