The Braves were “Absolute Viewing”

braves-goalball

                Atlanta Braves infielder Gordon Beckham plays goalball with blinders on. 

            Back in the days when local televisions only showed thirteen channels.
            When most houses only had one television and it wasn’t a flat screen that covered an entire wall.
            When fights over who was going to watch what on television ended with my grandmother turning off the television so no one got to watch anything.
             Back  in those days, it seems the only time we weren’t fighting over the television was when one of the handful of television shows considered “absolute viewing” was on.
            Saturday morning cartoons, William Conrad’s television series “Cannon,” any John Wayne movie, Saturday afternoon wrestling, and the Atlanta Braves’ baseball games were the only shows considered “absolute viewing” in our house. There were reasons the television was always on whenever these shows came on.
            The television belonged to the kids in the house on Saturday morning.
            My grandfather was a huge fan of the detective show “Cannon” and John Wayne movies.
            Everyone in the house liked Saturday afternoon wrestling.
            And, my Uncle Walter, who didn’t live with us but visited each and every day, was the Braves number one fan.
           Before the Atlanta Braves became America’s baseball team, they were my Uncle Walter’s team. And it seems like his favorite place to watch the Braves play was at the home of his younger brother – my grandfather.
           It didn’t matter what was on television, the channel was changed when Uncle Walter drove up and announced with a question, “Y’all got the TV on the Braves games, don’t you?”
           Even if my grandfather was watching “Cannon” or a John Wayne movie, he would readily change the channel to the Braves game. My grandfather loved the Braves, but he wasn’t as big of a fan as his big brother.
            Because the television only belonged unquestionably to us on Saturday mornings, we pouted and turned the channel from whatever we were watching when we saw Uncle Walter drive up.
            “I’m tired of watching the Braves,” we mumbled under our breaths as we prepared to watch the game.
            Watching the Braves wasn’t always a bad thing. There were some bright moments, like watching the game when Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s homerun record.
            My grandfather passed July 3, 1976, but the Braves continued to be absolute viewing because Uncle Walter continued to visit each and every day. And, during baseball season, his visits lasted until the Braves’ games ended.
            In hindsight, perhaps the best part of being forced to watch the Braves play was the sense of family I felt watching the games with my grandfather, Uncle Walter, and the rest of the family.  
            Last month, I had the privilege of spending the day with some members of the Atlanta Braves as they celebrated Community Heroes Week and honored Hal Simpson, founder of the Georgia Blind Sports Association, and Hal’s son, Matt, who is part of the U.S. Paralympics goalball team that won a Silver Medal in Rio this month.
          The Simpson’s presented a short lesson on how to play goalball and then the Braves’ players put on blinders and took to the court. Goalball is played on an indoor court. During the game, two teams face each other and try to prevent the other team from getting a ball pass them into their goal. All players must wear black-out goggles to even the playing field between those who are blind and visually impaired.
          I didn’t play, but as I watched Matt and Braves players scramble around on the floor, I couldn’t help thinking about my Uncle Walter. The Atlanta Braves playing goalball would be “absolute viewing” for him.

 

 

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Remembering Mr. Bean

grandfathers photoMr. Bean was my grandfather, but I called him “Daddy.”

His name was Willie White, but I hardly ever heard anyone call him by that name. Instead, my grandmother and his friends called him, “Bean.”
He was “Uncle Bean” to his nieces and nephews; He was “Mr. Bean” to unrelated younger folks.
His big brother, my Uncle Walter, who was a couple of years older, called him, Son.
And his children and grandchildren, we all called him, Daddy.
By the time I came along, my grandfather was nearing retirement. He’d worked with his brother as a logger for years, but health problems were forcing him into retirement. What         I mostly remember are the years after he retired.
When my grandfather could no longer work as a logger, he became an entrepreneur.
He grunted earthworms and sold them as fishing baits.
He raised rabbits then sold them.
He collected aluminum and scrap metal then sold it.
He even put a vending machine on our front porch and sold sodas.
My grandfather did what he had to do to take care of his family.
Becoming an entrepreneur was an easy decision for my grandfather. After he retired, he quickly realized he had everything he needed to “sit and watch” as he made money.
He had a light brown Chevy truck.
He had a big yard.
A front porch.
And, he had an able-body workforce of children and grandchildren, who were already paid in shelter, food, clothing, and a lot of love.
For his fishing bait business, we would load up on the back of his truck with our wooden stakes and iron bars then head out to the woods, where my grandfather spent the day watching us grunt baits. I always stayed near my grandfather, who loved using snakes for target practice. When we got home, we became sales clerks, counting out fishing baits to customers, sometimes in the wee hours of the morning.
For his rabbit business, my grandfather bought several rabbits, sat in a chair and instructed us on how to build rabbit cages, and then waited. And not that long.
For his aluminum and metal collection business, he loaded us up on the back of his truck and we road to all of his established collection sites. When we got home, we processed and bagged the metal then packed the bags on the back of his truck for shipment to the recycling center.
Selling sodas didn’t start out as a business venture. Initially, my grandfather’s plan was to stop us from spending every quarter we got our hands on buying RC and Nehi sodas from Mrs. Lillie down the street. After he put the vending machine on the front porch, he quickly realized that his household members weren’t the only ones buying drinks from the machine. All times of day and night, we would hear people walking up on the front porch to buy drinks from the machine.
My grandfather was also a wise man.
He knew that all work and no play does not make for good children. So, when it was time to clock out, he let us play. And play we did.
On July 3, 1976, Daddy closed shop.
I was 11.

The Handwritten Letter in the Mailbox

mailbox photo How long has it been since you opened the mailbox and saw a handwritten letter from a family member, friend, or someone you used to know?

It seems the art of writing letters has disappeared. And oh how I miss it!

Rushing to the mailbox and finding a letter from an out-of-town relative, one of the 4-H friends I had scattered across the country, or a local friend who had moved away, was the highlight of many of my childhood days.

My grandmother was a letter writer, so there was always stationery, pens, envelopes, and a book of postage stamps at our house. Because my grandmother loved writing letters, she loved nice stationery. Even if the stationery didn’t have a pretty design or pretty color, if it was plain, then it had to be on fancy paper.

The most anticipated letters, the ones we waited for our grandmother to receive and then read to us, were the ones from her mother.

My brothers, cousins, and I were entranced by our great-grandmother for a number of reasons.

She wasn’t a medical doctor, but her title was Dr. Berthenia Horne, which was clearly stated on the pre-printed return address label.

She was part of the National Baptist Convention, so she traveled the world through her Christian ministry and mailed us pictures from nearly everywhere she went. One of my all-time favorite pictures is a picture of her kneeling at the monumental site of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. I still have that picture and I pull it out for display every Christmas season.

As soon as I was old enough to write, my grandmother started including letters I wrote in the letters she wrote to her mother. As I grew older, I began writing and mailing my own letters, which started a letter-writing correspondence that lasted until my great-grandmother’s death in 1998.

I have this same type of long-time correspondence via handwritten letters with a few others.

My brother, Tony, and I have written back and forth since I first left home for college in August 1982. Our correspondence via letters continues to this day.

My brother, Ken, wasn’t too big on writing letters, so I still have the one letter that I can remember him writing me.

I also have a letter my uncle, Archie Thomas, wrote me when he was doing a tour of Iraq during Desert Storm in 1991. I was living in Detroit at the time, and my grandmother had requested that everyone in the family write my uncle. So, I did. I was overjoyed when I received his handwritten response.

The number of handwritten letters I get in the mail has the decreased over the years. This year, I’ve only received two, and both were from my brother, Tony.

Email, social media, and cell phones have all contributed to the decline in writing letters. Now, instead of grabbing a piece of paper, a pen, an envelope, and a stamp, people just log onto their electronic device, press a few keys, and the message is sent and received in a matter of seconds.
I don’t have a problem with technology. I use it every day, nearly all day because it’s faster and more convenient.
But ten years from now, when reminiscing about family members and old friends, nothing compares to being able to hold a letter that they took the time to write, place in an envelope, and mail to you. It may have taken a few days to receive it, but the memory of having received it, will last forever.