A Different Time

When I saw this topic, my obvious topic would be my Dad’s service in WWII. However, my schedule has been crazy and I wasn’t sure I would be able to do a post at all. It was with much delight that I saw Patricia’s post yesterday about the Wall of Honor at Coopersville High School. What a fantastic idea.


Our weekend was spent at a soccer tournament, and my Monday went from a schedule of madly cleaning before my in-laws arrive later today to pinch-hitting as chaperone on a school field trip. (If you have children, you know you can’t clean too far ahead or you will have to do it twice.)

So instead of writing my blog posts and making my house presentable, I took a tour of the history of Michigan at the Michigan Heritage Park. Around a half mile loop were stations representing various periods in Michigan history. Wigwams from the Ottawa Indians, a fur trader’s fort, a settler’s house, a Civil War camp, a lumberjack’s barracks… and two more: a turn of the century farm house and a Conservation Corps camp.


While each scene was fascinating–each place had a person who talked about the artifacts and the time periods– the last two stood out the most for me.

A couple weeks ago, I was helping my sister with a project that involved gathering family baby pictures. We went through a disc of pictures my dad took on in the early years of my parents’ marriage. My sister pointed out features in the house and things that she remembered that were long gone by the time I arrived. (There is about twenty years  between my sister and me.)

The features of the house at the park and my parents’ house were so similar despite the fifty years difference. Farms with gardens where if you wanted food you had to grow it yourself and then preserve it for the winter. Laundry wasn’t just thrown in a washer and then a dryer. Each piece had to be scrubbed and put through a wringer, then hung on the clothesline to dry. My mom told stories of sixty diapers out on that clothesline.  Visiting the house gave me more pictures to stories I’d heard from my dad a dozen times, helped me remember his voice, and share some of those stories with my kids who never got to meet their grandfather.

The last stop was the Conservation Corps camp. My mom talked about the work of the Corps near her childhood home. they planted trees and she and her sisters would walk by them to see how cute they were. Her family was a large family that struggled during the Depression. If any of her brothers had been old enough, they probably would have joined to help the family.

So I’d like to remember the work my parents did daily in a time where the daily life was harder, yet simpler at the same time.IMG_1346

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A Grateful Salute

It was my turn to choose this week’s topic, and with Memorial Day coming up I thought it would be a great idea for us to each write a tribute to someone. I have a couple of favorite American veterans in my family, but since next week is a free week and my next blogging day falls on the actual holiday, I’m going to tell you about them next Monday. Today I’m going to focus on two other American military vets who were a big part of my working career. To me, they embody the essence of American patriotism because they not only served in the Armed Forces but continue to contribute to their community in countless ways.

I spent twenty-eight years teaching in Coopersville, a rural community west of Grand Rapids. During that time I met many remarkable people, and even though I’ve been retired for eleven years I am convinced that I was blessed with the opportunity to work with some of the finest educators anywhere, backed up by a remarkably dedicated support staff and school board. The two people I’m featuring today are Kathy and José Gomez, two incredibly giving individuals well known in the Coopersville area due to their hard work in several areas of the school and community at large.


photo from Sara Gomez Bajema

Both Kathy and José are US Army veterans. They were married on their lunch hour while stationed in Germany. I had the pleasure of teaching their three children in music class. Their lovely family has now grown to include several grandchildren, and their social media feeds are filled with pictures of them all enjoying time together. They both attend and promote so many school and community events that if something is happening in Coopersville, chances are pretty good one or the other (or both) will attend!


Jose protest

While a student at SFVC, José (far left) joins a protest.

José was born in Ramon Corona, Durango, Mexico. He attended San Fernando Valley College for a year where he became a member of the Brown Berets. He and one of his professors started a group that was the precursor of MEChA, a national organization promoting Latino higher education, culture and history. In 1972 he enlisted in the US Army because he learned he would be able to become an American citizen without paying the naturalization fees. During his time in the service he taught a race relations class where he Jose armymet Kathy Barbey, a young lady from Michigan, and he liked her so much he failed her just so that she’d have to take the class again!  After convincing Kathy to marry him he moved to her native state, completing his engineering degree at Aquinas College while working at General Motors and helping to raise his growing family – daughters Sara and Becky and son Alex arrived in quick succession. Eventually he became an engineer at the General Motors Diesel plant, which later became Delphi. While his children were in school he served as a Coopersville school board member for at least two terms (he had the pleasure of handing diplomas to his children), and for the past 15 years has served on the school board for the county (known as the Intermediate School District, or ISD). He’s also a member of the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, a charitable organization in West Michigan.

Kathy with migrant students

Kathy (left) and some of her students enjoy Art Prize in Grand Rapids.

When I started teaching in Coopersville Kathy Gomez worked with the migrant students. Gradually, due to her skills and engaging personality, her responsibilities expanded. Eventually she headed the migrant program, going above and beyond job expectations by visiting the migrant camps regularly and ensuring the children not only attended school but had all the food, clothing and supplies they needed. Each fall, when the migrant families are ready to leave Michigan and head south, she hosts a huge farewell dinner for the families. She also edits the districts newsletter, personally attending many events and taking pictures. My scrapbooks from the time I spent teaching contain several pictures that she took and shared with me. In the past, she’s been involved with the Coopersville Circle of Friends (a community service organization) and the local recreation department. As busy as she is with school concerns, Kathy has a DJ service, providing musicKathy dancing and entertainment for special events. It is really difficult to find pictures of Kathy – because she’s always on the other side of the camera! I did manage to find the pictures here on Facebook, and there are several in a School Communications Network article about her written earlier this year. To read more about this human dynamo, follow this LINK.


The school has a physical reminder of Kathy’s hard work. Recently she teamed up with one of the teachers to create the Wall of Honor in the high school, which recognizes all Coopersville graduates who have served in any branch of the military going back to WWII.

Wall of Honor

Daughter Sara told me an interesting story about her mother. “When my mom joined [the army] her dad, who was a World War II vet gave her one piece of advice: Don’t volunteer for anything. At boot camp the instructor asked who knew how to drive so she raised her hand and turns out she was volunteering to carry everyone’s backpack.” Obviously Kathy didn’t follow her father’s advice then, and she continues to ignore it!

Both Kathy and José are known as generous individuals who will do anything for anybody any time. I am honored to have known and worked with them, and am pleased to have the opportunity to share with you a small sampling of what they do.

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Thank You,I’m Honored to Be Here

This week we are asked to speculate on the idea that if we were to gain so much notoriety by our writing that we merited a TV interview,  which talk show host would we like to do the honors?

Tough one.

Of course, the most enjoyable of all was Johnny Carson. He was the perfect host in that he asked great questions, was well prepared, and he made his guests at ease. He joked with them, but never embarrassed them nor did he let his own opinions interfere with what they had to say. He had the biggest stars all of the time,(I would have loved to have been in their company!), but he often had on “regular” people, people who had accomplished something unique or unusual, and he treated them with the same respect, or perhaps more, than he did the most famous celebrities.

But I don’t think many authors were Tonight Show guests, and I doubt I could be entertaining enough to warrant staying on the couch.[ The guests moved from the chair near Johnny’s desk down the couch as the other guests did their thing with Johnny. Any given night Bob Hope may be with Dean Martin and Jimmy Stewart; it was that celebrity-packed.]

Several of us this week have brought up the fact that sometimes, when we have been interviewed for some reason, the reporters have tried to make us say things that we did not want to say, twisted our words or had what we did say taken out of context. I would be very concerned about going before a camera again with just any interviewer, since it happened to me on TV news and in newspaper interviews.

I don’t watch talk shows often for the very reason that most of them seem to be superficial and the current interviewers, (one can hardly call them “hosts”), seem to be rather silly…and they make jokes at their guests’ expenses.

I would like to think, however, that I could achieve notoriety for a work that captured the public’s imagination, or made a good statement that caused them to think, or perhaps, be better people.

In that case, I think I’d like to be interviewed by Tavis Smiley, a great host and a man who, although I do not always agree with him, has standards and integrity.

Or, better yet, Charlie Rose.

Often Charlie Rose has authors on his show who have made what he considers a contribution to culture or the world. If their work is made into an important movie, he often has the author, the producer and/or director and the major stars of the work to discuss the book and the movie version. That would be beyond a dream!

Of course, Larry King always did the same and last I heard he is still kicking around, doing  interviews that can be seen online, although he seems to be slowing down quite a bit.

So there are my picks and I can dream that one day I will give them the opportunity to prove my faith in their abilities!

What are your opinion of Tavis, Charlie and Larry?

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Cavett or Koppel, You Can Interview Me

If You’ll Behave

By Jeff Salter

If I were interviewed for television because of some writing fame or accomplishment, I’d want to steer clear of most of the so-called “interviewers” I’ve observed in recent years. Too many of them prefer to set up a confrontational – or even antagonistic – ambush than to seek insights into their subject (me) or the writing goal I’ve accomplished.

Well, I don’t want a grandstanding, preening, loudmouth shouting me down, baiting me, and otherwise running roughshod over me and my achievement.

Give me an interviewer who actually cares (or seems to care) about my accomplishment and wants to learn more about how I achieved it… and who I am. I want someone who asks intelligent questions without providing his/her anticipated answer within the phrasing of their question.

While replying to the three Foxes who have posted so far this week, I’ve revealed some of my observations about the general and unfortunate decline of journalistic standards in TV interviews — the so-called “gotcha” journalism. No need to repeat them here — just go back to my replies on the posts for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday… and to whatever Tonette has in store for us tomorrow.


Dick Cavett

I’ve wracked my brain to come up with someone and the closest I can get to my ideal interviewer would be either Dick Cavett or Ted Koppel. Both would make me feel as though we were having a conversation (rather than a trial) and both would treat me respectfully. With both Cavett and Koppel, I believe they would be more in the background, prompting my responses and then thoughtfully (and perceptively) following up to my answers.

Ted Koppel

Ted Koppel

That said, I believe Cavett typically revealed much more humor while Koppel demonstrated greater gravity. But both seemed earnest and made me believe they wanted to learn something new and interesting… and thereby share it with their viewers. And that’s the way to interview — NOT focusing the session on themselves and using me as a tennis ball to smash against a wall for their own entertainment [or to see how hard they could hit me before I turn into mush].

Before our interview, I would hope they would ask me, “What would YOU like to focus on?”
After I replied, I would ask them, “And what else do you think your viewers might like to know?”
Now THAT would be a great interview.


What about YOU? Who would YOU want to interview you on TV?

[ JLS # 281 ]

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Talk Show Dreams

When asked who I would want to interview me once I make a name for myself in the book world I was sort of stumped. I don’t watch talk shows, I don’t get any channels on my television so it is used for dvds and Netflix. I know who Ellen is but I can’t see myself on her show. I don’t even know who is on The View.

After giving it some thought I realized there is one person I watch. He makes me laugh. The guests come out and sit on a sofa with their drink of choice waiting for them. When someone new cones on they sit next to whoever is already there so by the end of the show all the guests are talking together. It has made for some comical shows and yet when someone is answering a question they pay attention. So e other guests have even asked questions of each other. It comes across as a gathering of friend’s. A laid back atmosphere. I think I could relax enough on that show to actually talk without feeling sick.

What show am I talking about? Who is this amazing host? Graham Norton of The Graham Norton show. I catch episodes of this BBC shoe on YouTube. It is the only talk shoe I have ever really watched, others I would get bored and switch off. I find the host funny and quite handsome as well.

I love the variety if guests he has. I saw one show where Julie Andrews was sitting next Pharrel Williams. I never would have thought to put them next to each other but it was a great show. I like the unlikely pairs.

I would be honored to be on his show.

Is there a talk show you would like to be a guest on?

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You want me to what?

When I saw this topic, my first thought was Oh dear! I have no idea.

I stopped watching interview shows a few years ago when they devolved into gotcha sessions and arguments. I wanted to learn about the point of view or the topic, not see how the interviewer could trip the interviewee up.

I shuffled through the various morning shows and talk shows I remember and even a few of the evening news shows, but still came up blank. What show would be an appropriate venue for presenting my writing, which one would have the best audience, and which host would be the most friendly?

Still nothing.

Being on the spot, especially in a live interview, would not be a place where I would do well. I would probably freeze up, mispronounce something inappropriately, or wear something that made me look like a full garbage bag.


I finally came up with Kelly Ripa. She seems very sweet and funny on air. A few years ago she even had a book club for beach reads. She would be a fun host to talk to. It’s been years since I’ve watched her show, but I enjoyed the banter between her and Regis. (Yes, it’s been that long since I watched regularly.) So Kelly, if  you’re interested in promoting some summer reads again, message me.

On a side note, I have done a television interview. It was after the Sleeping Bear Marathon and I was freezing cold, so you can imagine how delightful I looked. They were able to find a soundbite that wasn’t too ridiculous and it can still be viewed here: http://upnorthlive.com/news/local/sleeping-bear-marathon-attracts-runners-from-around-the-country?id=1105782 Watch at your own discretion.

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Look! I’m a Celebrity… Maybe

Our resident hound asked us to imagine that our notoriety has soared to the point where we not only give television interviews, but that we can choose our interviewer. Oh my. I don’t watch a lot of television shows. Hubby controls the remote during the day (by default – I’m not around all the time) and he doesn’t enjoy the morning talk shows, so I don’t have any idea how well those interviews go. I’ll have to comment on those I’ve actually seen.

PicMonkey Collage1I have vague memories of the Merv Griffin Show back when I was growing up. My mom used to watch him in the afternoons before she started dinner. I honestly don’t remember any of his interviews, but I thought he was quite handsome. As I recall, he was quite witty, too. Ellen DeGeneres seems to have a similar style – understated humor, and impeccable timing. But I’m not sure I’d want to subject myself to some of the shock pranks she pulls on her celebrity guests.

Tonight ShowSince The Tonight Show airs at 11:30 pm in the Eastern time zone I used to watch the Tonight Show only during the summer, when I didn’t have to get up early the next morning. I thought of Johnny Carson as a debonair host, and envied the people who sat next to the desk on his show. Later on the baton was passed to Jay Leno. During his reign I retired from full-time teaching and and am now able to stay up as late as I wish. I enjoyed Jay’s monologue and several of his segments (Headlines was my favorite) but I became annoyed with the way he kept interrupting his guests. He’d ask a question and before they could complete their answers he’d insert a joke or funny comment. I wanted to yell at him to shut his mouth and let the person complete a full sentence for once! Jimmy Fallon isn’t quite as annoying at interviews, and he’s an awesome musician and so creative with the games he asks his guests to play, so I wouldn’t mind an interview with him.

IntimidatorsOf course, there’s the fabulous Barbara Walters. I’m not sure I’d be comfortable sitting in a chair across from her. She’s a good interviewer, but since she’s spoken to heads of state and all sorts of celebrities I might feel intimidated sitting across from her, so I’ll leave her to the hard-hitters. Phil Donahue and Anderson Cooper would also intimidate me. The same would apply for several of the political pundits I see on the early morning shows. Many of them also have the annoying habit of interrupting their guests to insert their own opinions before the person has had the opportunity to answer the question they’ve been asked. I find that extremely rude. Why ask a question if you don’t want to hear the answer?

Hugh_DownsSo who would be my choice? Hugh Downs. I watched 20/20 every Friday night when he hosted, and sometimes he would interview the guests. I didn’t think about it at the time, but I imagine his intelligent and thoughtful questioning, and the way he listened to the answers set the bar in my mind for the way an interview should be conducted. He reminds me a lot of my dad – calm, reassuring, and fatherly. He seemed like someone I could trust, and who was actually interested in my answers.

Do you have a favorite interviewer?

(Source: All images were downloaded from the Wikipedia pages of the celebrities mentioned above.)

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