Christmas season 2020 and the hope for a better and healthier new year in 2021!

Christmas 2020 was wonderful considering the isolation we all had to endure during the year because of Covid-19. The feeling of the season was all there in spite of the isolation. The sights. The music. The warm feeling that you get that comes with the season. Of being with the woman I love so very much. The warmth of hearth and home.

Visits with family members happened, aleit in a demishied manner. The happiness still happened in spite of Covid-19. And now as I look forward to 2021 and my retirement I am again reminded what Christmas is all about. It is not just about the light. Or the music. Not even the presents. It is a feeling of a hope of peace on earth where there is no war and all live together in harmony.

I know this may be too much to expect. But like John Lennon I am a dreamer. And I am not the only one. My one wish is that we could one day live together in peace and harmony and the world could live as one.

So now Christmas 2020 is over. It was my 65th Christmas. Wow. Christmases now are spent with grandchildren. We watch with great pleasure as they open each present selected with love and care.

It is my hope that all of you will cling to each Christmas memory.

The following is what I believe Christmas is all about.

C – Christ. Christ is what Christmas is all about is it not? After all Christ is in the word Christmas. The Christmas story is a beautiful story. That God sent a savior, his only son down to earth to save us from all the iniquity that we all face as mortals. And to make peace with our brothers and sisters. Some of us only make peace around this time of year. I wish we could keep this spirit of peace alive the whole year.

H – Home. Christmas to me is a time to be home with the woman I love very much. A time for home and hearth and that warm glow inside.

R – Rest. Christmas is a time for rest and regrouping. A time to recharge your batteries and make way for the new year.

I – Ice skating. I live in Florida now. However I was raised in Michigan. I have fond memories of heading out to the pond for a afternoon of ice skating.

S – Sleep. I get a lot of time off at Christmas time. Most of the time 12 to 14 days off in a row. I use this time to sleep in and get some rest.

T – Turkey. To me and my family Christmas means Turkey with all the fixings!

M – Memories. Christmas means memories of all the christmases from the past. All the memories of the people from Christmases past come flooding back to mind. It is a time to relive all the Christmases from your past. The good ones. The not so good ones. The sad ones and the happy ones!

A – Art. Christmas is a great time to enjoy the arts. Whether it be a Christmas live performance, or just staying at home to enjoy Christmas shows on the television. Or perhaps driving around the neighborhood and looking at all the Christmas lights!

S – Santa. Christmas means Santa! I have fond memories as a child believing in Santa claus. I remember waking up very early and heading out to the living room to find that Santa truly was here. To find the entry glass of milk and the crumbs left behind from the chocolate chip cookies left there for Santa. It is very easy as a child to believe in Santa claus. It becomes harder and harder to believe as you get older. How is it possible to believe in a man that travels all over the worlds delivering toys to good boys and girls, and expect nothing in return. You don’t have to believe in Santa. You will still get your presents. But you will not receive the joy that only comes from believing. At one point in my life I stopped believing. But I sure do now!

So this is what Christmas means to me. And I am now looking forward to a fantastic 2021.

I hope all of you had a fantastic Christmas! Now let us all look forward to a fantastic New Year!

Peace on earth! James and Susie Culpepper

A surprise farewell party and one last gig for our band “Wheat”

The school year of 1969/1970 continued. Christmas came and went. The school trip to Chicago came and went and soon the school year was over. It was a bittersweet time for me as I knew that in August we would make the move to the west coast of Florida. I did, and still don’t like change. People of the north think that Florida is some warm magical place with palm trees swishing in the breeze. I was intrigued at the idea of living in this “magical ” place. However there were a number of unknowns that unsettled me.

Greg Habenicht, Carlos Washington, and myself were still practicing and jamming in our band Wheat. I had been having some problems with my Farfisa portable organ. Some of the keys made no sound when the key was depressed. Carlos knew of a repair man so we loaded it into his car and drove it over to the repairman. By the way. Carlos and Greg are both a year older than me. They were 16 and both had their drivers license.

The next week Carlos gave me a call and told me the repair was done at that we could go pick the organ up. “Great” I said and Carlos drove over and picked me up.

Carlos seemed in no hurry to get to the repair shop. He kept making side trips for this and that stopping here and there. What was he up to? What would normally take a 15 minute drive turned into an hour drive. I began to get suspicious.

Well the thing that I didn’t know about was whilst we, Carlos and I, were zooming all over town here and there, my mom dad and girlfriend Sandy were setting up a farewell party at my home.

At last Carlos made it to the repairman. I paid him and put the organ in the trunk and we started to drive towards my house. When we pulled up to the house on Beaumont drive I noticed that there were a few cars parked in the street in front of my house. Very strange. We got out of the car and Carlos opened the trunk and I lifted the portable organ out and headed toward the front door and entered. All at once kids appeared from hiding screaming SUPRISE!!! Sandy Rockwell my girl. Greg Habenicht, Greg Hamilton, Mike Zull, Dennis Squires, David Zaborski, Mary Mishler, Carlos Washington, Carol Washington and others. Wow. I had never had a surprise party thrown for me! However it was bittersweet. This meant that the move in August was real and it was not too far in the future. I danced with Sandy. I held her tight and told her that I loved her and that I wished with all my heart that I did not have to go.

The first week of August came and the time for the move was very near. In fact it was just days away. We had a gig coming up the day before the move. We would get in our cars and make the move to Florida the very next day. Our band Wheat had been practicing for the gig for David Habenicht, Greg’s brother.

The gig was located right across from my house on Beaumont drive, across the retention pond on Wattles road. The gig went well. Everyone seemed to enjoy. After the gig we packed it in and the three of us, Greg, Carlos, and I got together for one last chat about our band. We were sad that it was our last gig. I did not want to go. I made my way home with my farfisa organ and went to my room and got ready for bed.

The event Woodstock had taken place earlier this month. The song Woodstock by Crosby Stills Nash and Young was running in my head. I did not want to move to Florida. However I knew there was no way to stop the move. I climbed into bed and thought things over. I knew what I had to do. So as I always do, I manned up, and forged ahead bravely into the unknown.

Freshman year at Harper Creek High. And a field trip to Chicago

Wattles Park Jr. High
The old Harper Creek High

In September 1969 my last year of school in the Harper Creek school system began. I would walk to the Wattles Park Jr. High and ride a bus to Harper Creek High school. Sometimes I would catch a ride to school on the back of Carlos Washingtons motorcycle. My parents did not like me to ride with Carlos as they thought it was dangerous. They were right. However I rode anyway from time to time.

Harper Creek Schools

Wow. Ten years of schooling in the Harper Creek school system including kindergarten. It seemed unreal to me that this would be my last year in this school system.

I can’t remember the names of my teachers in 9th grade. School life as a freshman was different in a few ways. It was first time I had a homeroom. No recess. We were all way too mature and grown up for that! I tend to differ with that thought. Recess is good for both the young and the old. You are never too old to play.

Classes consisted of the usual. Math. Sciences. History. English. And somthing new. Vocational classes. Machine shop. Auto shop and woodworking. I choose machine shop for my vocational class and at the end produced some fine punches.

Social activities at the school included football games and school dances. My girl Sandy and I loved dances and attended most of them. It felt so good dancing with Sandy. Holding her close. Smelling the sweet fragrance of her cologne and hair. I was in heaven when I was holding Sandy close to me.

Around May of 1970 our class took a field trip to Chicago. A Friday, Saturday and a return on Sunday via Greyhound bus. This trip made me, and I believe many other fellow students feel very grown up. The trip was chaperoned albeit lightly. My mother went too to serve as one of the girls chaperones. We all stayed in one hotel and ate our breakfast together in the hotels large dining room. After breakfast and announcements we all would que up for the bus for the days activities.

There are two side trips that we took on the Chicago field trip that stands out clearly in my memory. One was the trip to the The John Hancock Center.

The John Hancock Center is a 100-story, 1,128-foot supertall skyscraper located in Chicago Illinois. Located in the magnificent mile district, its name was changed to 875 North Michigan Avenue on February 12, 2018. Despite this, the building is still colloquially called the John Hancock Center.  When the building topped out on May 6, 1968, it was the second-tallest building in the world, the tallest in Chicago, and the tallest outside New York City. It is currently the fifth tallest building in Chicago and the thirteenth tallest in the US, behind the Aon Center in Chicago and ahead of the Comcast Technology Center in Philadelphia. When measured to the top of its antenna masts, it stands at 1,500 feet (457 m). The building is home to several offices and restaurants, as well as about 700 condominiums, and at the time of its completion contained the highest residence in the world. The building was named for John Hancock Insurance Company, a developer and original tenant of the building.  In 2018, John Hancock Insurance requested that its name be removed and the owner is seeking another naming rights deal.

From the 95th floor restaurant, diners can look out at Chicago and Lake Michigan . The observatory (360 Chicago), which competes with the Willis Tower’s Skydeck, has a 360° view of the city, up to four states, and a distance of over 80 miles (130 km).

I remember the elevator ride to the top floor. It was a very fast elevator indeed!

The museum of science and industry

The second side trip that comes to mind is the trip to the Museum of Science and Industry. What a place! As you walk into the atrium there is a pendulum that hangs from the ceiling that looks like hundreds of feet high. The pendulum never stops swinging back and forth and it is said that it is the rotation of the earth that keeps it swinging.

My favorite exhibit was the German submarine U-505. It was one of just six German submarines captured by the Allies during World War II,  and, since its arrival in 1954, the only one on display in the Western Hemisphere, as well as the only one in the United States. The U-boat was newly restored beginning in 2004 after 50 years of being displayed outdoors, and was then moved indoors as “The New U-505 Experience” on June 5, 2005. Displayed in an underground shed, it remains as a popular exhibit for visitors, as well as a memorial to all the casualties of the Battle of the Atlantic during World War II. I was amazed how anyone could survive in the cramped quarters of the submarine.

It was a good trip indeed and on Sunday morning we all got on the Greyhound bus and made our way back to Battle Creek, all the time singing at the top of our voices, 99 bottles of beer on the wall!

Mom and Dad retires and we plan for the move to Florida

In the summer of 1969 we took a trip to New Port Richey Florida. Mom and Dad had retired earlier in the year from Kellogg’s. He sat mom and I down and told us that he would like to move to Florida. He was tired of the cold, snow, and harsh Michigan winters.

Well dad deserved the move. He had worked hard all his life and he deserved to be where he wanted to be and to be warm and comfortable! On the other hand moving to Florida would mean a big change in our lives. It would mean moving again into the unknown. New school. New friends. I told dad that I would go with them as I was only 15 and had no choice in the matter. However I told dad. As soon as I was 18 I would move back to Michigan. Well this never happened as I stayed in Florida for the rest of my life.

So in the summer of 1969 we got in the car and headed for New Port Richey Florida. We had been there once before in the early 60’s. My aunt Zoe had been corresponding with her brother, my father for some time now and invited us to come down and check out the housing market.

We drove the 1700 miles from Battle Creek Michigan to New Port Richey Florida in 3 days as my dad drove about 9 hours a day then layed over in a motel to rest, clean up, and have dinner.

We arrived at my aunt Zoe’s and uncle Ward’s house in Gulf Harbors in New Port Richey Florida. Gulf Harbors is a gulf of Mexico community connected to the gulf via canals.

When I got out of the car I immediately felt the hot humid heat of a typical Florida summer day. I now understand why everyone had air conditioning in their homes and in their cars. How could anyone live in this hot humid heat? It was like breathing clam chowder! Ugh. I was hoping mom and dad would change there minds and return to Michigan immediately!

The next day Ward drove us out to realtors to have a look see. We looked at some already built homes away from the water. They were nice. However dad wanted to be near the gulf. So the realtor drove us to Leasure Beach in Port Richey Florida. All of the lots had a canal in back for access to the Gulf of Mexico. We looked at the models and dad and mom fell in love with one of them. It was a 2 bedroom 2 bath home with a single car garage. No basement. If you dig a few feet in Florida you hit water. There were many lots to choose from.

301 3rd Isle North as it is today.
The Leasure Beach Community with Gulf access

Mom and dad selected a corner lot at 301 3rd Isle North in Leasure Beach Port Richey Florida. They signed the papers and they told us work would begin in a month and that the home would be ready to occupy in the summer of 1970.

I knew that big changes were coming in my life. I was not sure I liked the idea of once again leaving my stomping grounds and heading into the unknown. Would I adapt? Would I make friends and be excepted? These were questions that were in my mind that I had no answers for. However I was taught at an early age to work with what you have. Don’t complain. Work hard. Be polite. Have good manners and to think of others and not yourself. I believe that these basic standards helped me, when we made the move in the summer of 1970, adapt quickly to the Florida way of life.

The Eagle lands on the moon.

In July of 1969 we made our yearly trip to Dubois Pennsylvania. This trip we stayed at Uncle Bob aunt Donettas home on Shaffer siding. As it so happens, something very interesting was happening in space. The first lunar manned landing was going to be attempted.

The primary objective of Apollo 11 was to complete a national goal set by President John F. Kennedy on May 25, 1961: perform a crewed lunar landing and return to Earth.

Michael Collins, center, poses with Neil Armstrong, left, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. for a group portrait a few weeks before they took off to the moon in the Apollo 11 mission in 1969.

Apollo 11 flight objectives included scientific exploration by the lunar module, or LM, crew; deployment of a television camera to transmit signals to Earth; and deployment of a solar wind composition experiment, seismic experiment package and a Laser Ranging Retroreflector. During the exploration, the two astronauts were to gather samples of lunar-surface materials for return to Earth. They also were to extensively photograph the lunar terrain, the deployed scientific equipment, the LM spacecraft, and each other, both with still and motion picture cameras. This was to be the last Apollo mission to fly a “free-return” trajectory, which would enable a return to Earth with no engine firing, providing a ready abort of the mission at any time prior to lunar orbit insertion.

Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy on July 16, 1969, carrying Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin into an initial Earth-orbit of 114 by 116 miles. An estimated 650 million people watched Armstrong’s televised image and heard his voice describe the event as he took “…one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” on July 20, 1969.

Two hours, 44 minutes and one-and-a-half revolutions after launch, the S-IVB stage reignited for a second burn of five minutes, 48 seconds, placing Apollo 11 into a translunar orbit. The command and service module, or CSM, Columbia separated from the stage, which included the spacecraft-lunar module adapter, or SLA, containing the lunar module, or LM, Eagle. After transposition and jettisoning of the SLA panels on the S-IVB stage, the CSM docked with the LM. The S-IVB stage separated and injected into heliocentric orbit four hours, 40 minutes into the flight.

The first color TV transmission to Earth from Apollo 11 occurred during the translunar coast of the CSM/LM. Later, on July 17, a three-second burn of the SPS was made to perform the second of four scheduled midcourse corrections programmed for the flight. The launch had been so successful that the other three were not needed.

On July 18, Armstrong and Aldrin put on their spacesuits and climbed through the docking tunnel from Columbia to Eagle to check out the LM, and to make the second TV transmission.

On July 19, after Apollo 11 had flown behind the moon out of contact with Earth, came the first lunar orbit insertion maneuver. At about 75 hours, 50 minutes into the flight, a retrograde firing of the SPS for 357.5 seconds placed the spacecraft into an initial, elliptical-lunar orbit of 69 by 190 miles. Later, a second burn of the SPS for 17 seconds placed the docked vehicles into a lunar orbit of 62 by 70.5 miles, which was calculated to change the orbit of the CSM piloted by Collins. The change happened because of lunar-gravity perturbations to the nominal 69 miles required for subsequent LM rendezvous and docking after completion of the lunar landing. Before this second SPS firing, another TV transmission was made, this time from the surface of the moon.

On July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin entered the LM again, made a final check, and at 100 hours, 12 minutes into the flight, the Eagle undocked and separated from Columbia for visual inspection. At 101 hours, 36 minutes, when the LM was behind the moon on its 13th orbit, the LM descent engine fired for 30 seconds to provide retrograde thrust and commence descent orbit insertion, changing to an orbit of 9 by 67 miles, on a trajectory that was virtually identical to that flown by Apollo 10. At 102 hours, 33 minutes, after Columbia and Eagle had reappeared from behind the moon and when the LM was about 300 miles uprange, powered descent initiation was performed with the descent engine firing for 756.3 seconds. After eight minutes, the LM was at “high gate” about 26,000 feet above the surface and about five miles from the landing site.

The descent engine continued to provide braking thrust until about 102 hours, 45 minutes into the mission. Partially piloted manually by Armstrong, the Eagle landed in the Sea of Tranquility in Site 2 at 0 degrees, 41 minutes, 15 seconds north latitude and 23 degrees, 26 minutes east longitude. This was about four miles downrange from the predicted touchdown point and occurred almost one-and-a-half minutes earlier than scheduled. It included a powered descent that ran a mere nominal 40 seconds longer than preflight planning due to translation maneuvers to avoid a crater during the final phase of landing. Attached to the descent stage was a commemorative plaque signed by President Richard M. Nixon and the three astronauts.

The flight plan called for the first EVA to begin after a four-hour rest period, but it was advanced to begin as soon as possible. Nonetheless, it was almost four hours later that Armstrong emerged from the Eagle and deployed the TV camera for the transmission of the event to Earth. At about 109 hours, 42 minutes after launch, Armstrong stepped onto the moon. About 20 minutes later, Aldrin followed him. The camera was then positioned on a tripod about 30 feet from the LM. Half an hour later, President Nixon spoke by telephone link with the astronauts.

Commemorative medallions bearing the names of the three Apollo 1 astronauts who lost their lives in a launch pad fire, and two cosmonauts who also died in accidents, were left on the moon’s surface. A one-and-a-half inch silicon disk, containing micro miniaturized goodwill messages from 73 countries, and the names of congressional and NASA leaders, also stayed behind.

During the EVA, in which they both ranged up to 300 feet from the Eagle, Aldrin deployed the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package, or EASEP, experiments, and Armstrong and Aldrin gathered and verbally reported on the lunar surface samples. After Aldrin had spent one hour, 33 minutes on the surface, he re-entered the LM, followed 41 minutes later by Armstrong. The entire EVA phase lasted more than two-and-a-half hours, ending at 111 hours, 39 minutes into the mission.

Armstrong and Aldrin spent 21 hours, 36 minutes on the moon’s surface. After a rest period that included seven hours of sleep, the ascent stage engine fired at 124 hours, 22 minutes. It was shut down 435 seconds later when the Eagle reached an initial orbit of 11 by 55 miles above the moon, and when Columbia was on its 25th revolution. As the ascent stage reached apolune at 125 hours, 19 minutes, the reaction control system, or RCS, fired so as to nearly circularize the Eagle orbit at about 56 miles, some 13 miles below and slightly behind Columbia. Subsequent firings of the LM RCS changed the orbit to 57 by 72 miles. Docking with Columbia occurred on the CSM’s 27th revolution at 128 hours, three minutes into the mission. Armstrong and Aldrin returned to the CSM with Collins. Four hours later, the LM jettisoned and remained in lunar orbit.

Trans-Earth injection of the CSM began July 21 as the SPS fired for two-and-a-half minutes when Columbia was behind the moon in its 59th hour of lunar orbit. Following this, the astronauts slept for about 10 hours. An 11.2 second firing of the SPS accomplished the only midcourse correction required on the return flight. The correction was made July 22 at about 150 hours, 30 minutes into the mission. Two more television transmissions were made during the trans-Earth coast.

Re-entry procedures were initiated July 24, 44 hours after leaving lunar orbit. The SM separated from the CM, which was re-oriented to a heat-shield-forward position. Parachute deployment occurred at 195 hours, 13 minutes. After a flight of 195 hours, 18 minutes, 35 seconds – about 36 minutes longer than planned – Apollo 11 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, 13 miles from the recovery ship USS Hornet. Because of bad weather in the target area, the landing point was changed by about 250 miles. Apollo 11 landed 13 degrees, 19 minutes north latitude and 169 degrees, nine minutes west longitude July 24, 1969.

All of this was extremely fascinating to me. Wow! Man had set foot on another world. I remember going outside and looking up at the moon. The moon seemed different to me now as man had now been there. I could never look at the moon now and not think of the brave men that made that journey to the moon and returned safely to earth.