My Dog Spot …

Well actually he is a very big male cat. I say this because about a week ago I got a letter from a local governmental agency, which shall remain nameless, saying “it has come to our attention that you have an unlicensed dog in your home” and threatening some sort of legal consequences.  

“Hmm,” I thought. Where did they get that idea. Then the proverbial light bulb illuminated: We had taken Max, our cat, into the local animal shelter for a free rabies shot.

Now Max is a very big boy. He weighs about 23 pounds and is about 36 inches long when he stretches out.

Does he look like a dog? I don’t think so.

So I called the number in the letter an assured them, as I pointed how incidentally I knew who had “ratted” us out, that we did not have a dog in this house.  But we have had Max for the past nearly 14 years.

Actually Max has had us – for as anyone with a cat knows, the cat is in charge.  We are basically his staff who cater to his every whim while he views us with detached interest. Every day it’s the same routine, we feed him, we let him up, we give him treats (when he indicates that it’s time), we pet him when he lets us, we feed him again, we go into the upstairs bath and turn on the tub so he can get a drink -always on his schedule-, and we end the day by feeding him. Yes, its clear he is in charge, not like dogs who basically flatter their owners and follow them around adoringly all day.

Cats do not do that.   Max can survive without us for several hours a day until its time for the staff to provide for his needs.

We did have a dog in Alaska: Niki, a Samoyed. She was a beauty.

The cutest and prettiest dog I ever had. Most of the ones I had as a kid were what we called mutts. Usually a mix of something like a collie and a beagle with all the worst characteristics of each breed. They basically were out door dogs who came and went in and out of our lives with great regularity. We never had a dog in the country as long as we have had Max for a variety of reasons.

Niki lived with us and was mostly  an indoor dog.  When we left Alaska she went to live with another family as we were being assigned to Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. We knew that an Alaskan dog would not be happy there in the desert heat.

So why did I call Max my Dog Spot?

Well for those who have lived in the west you know about Cal Worthington a car dealer up and down the west coast in the 1970-1990s. Even in Alaska the ubiquitous Cal had a dealership.

Cal’s Dog Spot (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Each TV commercial began with Cal’s spiel, very similar to Michael Keaton’s Beetlejuice, that to make a deal he would stand on his head or eat a bug.  And it always had Cal with his dog Spot, which was variously an elephant, camel, horse, iguana, or any other type  animal, but never a dog.

Hmm I wonder if Cal’s son works at our local animal shelter?


For another story about a very BIG CAT see

Mascot 13 TFS



Posted in American History, Anchorage, Anchorage Alaska, New York, New York State History, Norvell Family History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Margaret Norvell – “True, Steady, Unfailing”

Margaret Norvell was a pioneer in American Life.

Born Margaret Celeste Dimitry Ruth, February 11 1860 in Washington D.C.  In 1883, she married Louis Gray Norvell, from a prominent St. Louis family. His brother Saunders Norvell was a very successful business man who was president of Remington Small Arms. Louis made some bad financial decisions and lost his fortune. He then became a light house keeper on the mouth of the Mississippi River on Deer Island at Head of Passes. When he drowned in a storm in 1891, trying to rescue boaters during a storm, Margaret took on his responsibilities as keeper. She served at the Head of Passes Light until 1896, the Port Pontchartrain Light (1896 to 1924) and the West End Light (1924 to 1932).  Margaret N News Clip

During a storm in 1903 that swept away every building, Margaret’s lighthouse provided shelter, there she cared for over 200 people who had been left homeless. Margaret later said that it was the most horrible experience of her career: “The pitiless rain came down ceaselessly, the wind howled about my lighthouse at Head of Passes and the water rose and lashed at the fastness of my home. I could look out into the swirling water and see people swept by and I was powerless to aid them.”

Dorothy Dix wrote in 1897: “Mrs. Norvell speaks of her decision [to become a light house keeper and dedication to duty] as nothing, though I think there is something heroic in the thought of a woman reared in every luxury settling herself to a life of hard work and isolation.” What Miss Dix did not say was that she also raised two small children and did it alone while doing her job in an exceptional manner.

Later again in 1926, when a small airplane crashed in Lake Pontchartrain, she battled terrible squalls for two hours in a small rowboat on the lake and rescued the survivor of the crash, a young naval aviator. Norvell served for 41 years with the U.S. Lighthouse Service.

To honor her service to our nation and dedication, the U.S. Coast Guard commissioned the cutter Margaret Norvell June 1, 2013 in New Orleans. The 156-foot patrol vessel was the fifth in the Coast Guard’s Sentinel class of “fast-response cutters.” About 55 of Margaret Norvell’s descendants attended.     Seal of the Coast Guard Cutter Margaret NorvellCutter Margaret Norvell






The motto of the cutter Margaret Norvell said it all: “TRUE STEADY UNFAILING.”

What better way to describe her.

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F4 Stuff

Recently I was looking at all the things I had collected that had to do with the F4.

The Phantom II mascot was called the Spook.    He appeared on a lot of things from patches — to letter head that I used to write home during the war — to the Spook in an arctic parka that my wife got in Alaska on a 43rd Squadron ceramic tile trivet.

arctic        phantomii-3

Then there were other obvious things:  unit patches from the 310 TFTS, 13 TFS, and 43rd TFS — TFS was a Tactical Flying Squadron.


F4 other things  include  belt buckles, mugs, cups, photos, and models  and special patches that were worn on party suits.  Below is a 13 TFS Christmas Card from 1973.

air-p     13tfstac              gib-2

While I was in Thailand, I got a model of the F4 that had my name on the rear cockpit.  I still have nearly 50 years later.

F4 Model

Below commemorative patches and fighter related mottos.






My wife Bonnie even did an oil painting of the bird I flew in Arizona.









Probably the most important memorabilia about my flying I no longer have.   After visiting the Air Force museum in September, I decided to donate my 8 mm home movies of combat and a tape recording I made of the last F4 mission of the Vietnam War that took off from Udorn Thailand.   I  did this because I wanted to make sure that they were preserved as important artifacts of the war.  I had previously transferred them to a Cd and a DVD and knew that they would probably just be tossed someday.    That still leaves me with a great deal of F4 “stuff” to deal with in the future.  But I am sure that given time I will find a good home for it all.

Posted in 13 TFS, 43 TFS, American History, Cambodia bombing 1973, F-4 Phantom II, F4 emergency, F4 Phantom II, F4 PhantomII, Fighter Aircraft | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fake News”


The topic of “fake news” has been in the media of late. Many Americans may believe that this is a new phenomenon; sadly, it is not. Fake news has long been one of the center pieces of American political life.   And lest anyone out there thinks I am pointing fingers at any particular politician, both parties do it.

In 1807, my great-great-grandfather John Norvell, then a 17 year-old boy, wrote a letter to President Thomas Jefferson asking him about his opinion of journalism as a future career. JNorvellThe letter went in part: “It would be a great favor, too, to have your opinion of the manner in which a newspaper, to be most extensively beneficial, should be conducted, as I expect to become the publisher of one for a few years.” Today is it hard to fathom anyone writing the President of the United States for career advice, let alone a 17 year-old boy from Kentucky. Yet Jefferson answered his letter in what has become his most famous pronouncement on the role of newspapers in American life and politics.

In a very long letter to young Norvell, in which he discusses history, and politics, Jefferson sadly noted: “I really look with commiseration over the great body of my fellow citizens who [have the] belief [reading the press] that they have known something of what had been passing in the world in their time….” Jefferson was clearly dismayed by what he saw as a politically motivated press filled with lies, errors, and in many cases fabricated news designed to hurt him.

This practice did not end when Jefferson left office. Dirty tricks, misinformation, false claims, distortions, half-truths, error-filled stories, misleading reports, and fiction became prime tools in American politics. Opponents spread the news that Andrew Jackson’s wife Rachel was an adulterer. In 1864, during the Civil War, Lincoln was reported as having signed a fake order to call up an additional 500,000 men – many less kind things were said about him– in the opposition press. Later in 1884, Grover Cleveland’s foes called him a philanderer, and charged that he had fathered an illegitimate child. In 1898, fake news pushed the country into the war with Spain. During the Second World War, some sources reported that Franklin D. Roosevelt sent a destroyer to the Aleutians to pick up his Scottie dog Fala at a cost to US taxpayers. Some later asserted that presidential candidate John F. Kennedy conspired to install the Pope in the White House. The list goes on and on to the present.

What is different today is the speed at which these stories propagate and spread. Whereas in the past, perhaps only a few people in Buffalo might have heard of Cleveland’s alleged love-child, today it would be all over the media.

Fake news is alive and well. It will continue to be with us, until people begin to take stock of the sources that they are getting their information from and really begin to think about what they read and hear.

Perhaps Jefferson had it right more than 210 years ago when he commented on the phenomenon of fake news in the political press: “The man who never looks upon a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer the truth than he whose mind in filled with falsehoods and errors.”

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In the Country

In 1952 my father was ordered overseas during the Korean War.
At the time, we lived in Troy, New York, where I was born, and where my father was in the Army at the Watervliet Arsenal.   besaw-house

With my father’s impending move,  my parents decided it was best that the family relocate to upstate New York and live with my grandparents on their small farm.
I had never lived on a farm before and it really was an amazing place for a small child.  My grandfather had cows, pigs, and chickens.  Today kids live on farms, but my farm experience was different.  I  went to a one-room school and used an outhouse.

First the one-room school and then the other — perhaps– less delicate story.

The small one-room school contained kids in grades 1-8.  There were at least one or two kids in each class and the older kids helped the younger one with reading and other subjects.  Each morning we gathered at the school, which is still there today in Dexterville, NY, and waited to be let in.  If it were winter, our teacher had to get there early and build a fire in the wood stove.   school Then the day’s activities commenced.  My year there 1952-1953 was the last for this type of school in New York as centralized districts became the norm. But that year was special, and I think I never got to know a teacher as well as I did Mrs. Cosgrove.


If going to the the school was a pleasant experience, using the outhouse often was not.  When we arrived at my grandparents farm in the winter of 1952 it was, like many of those in rural areas at this time, without indoor plumbing.   Located behind the house about 30 feet from the back door was the privy.

Now we really didn’t use it much in the winter. First of all, it was much too snowy in that part of New York to brave it.  Secondly, my grandmother had chamber pots in the bedrooms for nighttime use.   outhouseI really don’t remember using them, as I must have, but I do remember seeing them.

When the warm weather returned in the spring we did use the outhouse.  This wasn’t too bad at first. But when it got hot it became a trial to use it.   It smelled and to add to the misery there were mosquitoes,flies, and spiders and occasionally snakes — which my grandmother was deadly afraid of.  Which, of course, brings me to the time I locked my grandmother in the outhouse.

I am not sure what motivated me to do so other than I was an “active” child.  I remember going up to the door while she was inside and turning the piece of wood that effectively locked the door from the outside and then hiding to see what happened.   When she finished her business she went to leave.  To her dismay the door wouldn’t budge.  I could hear her yelling my grandfather’s name: “Eddie, Eddie, Eddie.”

The outhouse was there for a few more years — one other time I locked my cousin Patty in  it, for a joke, which she too didn’t appreciate — and then it was gone.

Where it had been, my grandmother planted a flower garden.

Its said that on that spot the best flowers grew.




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For many years we wanted to go to Jamestown Island.

Jamestown Island today is a relatively well-manicured park where tourists can visit the remains of the original settlement.

Yet, if one looks behind the reconstructed area, the essential wildness of the place is still visible: Swamp, wooded thickets, which coupled with the hot, humid air of the Virginia summer must have been unbearable at first to the English settlers. And this indeed is where it all began.  Trip 020

Sometime before 1660 the Norvell family arrived in Virginia. The records are now lost. There are several Norvells (Nowells) on the early manifests. The name could easily be confused as Norvell in script often looked like Nowell.

As we walked around the park, we could imagine these newcomers and what it must have meant to them to be there.   We could stand on the shore and see across to the beckoning land see the promise it held for them.

Below, the shore of the James River.jamestown

Later the family would established a foothold at Skiffes Creek, below,  one of the first Norvell grants.

Skiff's Creek Va

Others settled along the York River to the right.

Riverview Plantation York River

A John Norvell or Nowell arrived on Ship Margaret and John in 1624 and was a principal of the company – according to Land Grants in Virginia 1607-1699, initial grants were made for each principal and then additional acreage could be purchased for 12 pounds for 50 acres. John Norvell arrived and disappeared almost as quickly as he came. Most likely he was a gentleman as other records indicate that he had a firearm. Other early arrivals included George Norvell, Thomas Norvell, Lydia Norvell, a widow of a John Norvell who died before 1665.

The precise location of these places is not possible today.  But from the descriptions that have been found, we can get an idea of the approximate locations.

wbLike so many of their time, they came here for new lives and opportunities.  Some succeeded, some did not.  It was a difficult time.

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Long Ago, In a Galaxy far far away…

Over the last few months, since I visited the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio and sat in the cockpit of an F4 again, the Phantom II has been almost continually on my mind.
And as I thought about all those hours I sat in this cockpit so far away and long ago, I realized that I too, like the mythical Luke,  was a Skywalker.    F4 1972

This was further brought home to me in December when after a long, long  time my wife and I finally set up a Facebook page in order to see our grandsons’ photos.

One of the happy consequences of this was that I discovered a group devoted to the F4 Phantom II.  It was a group that loved this aircraft .   As one who had flown it so long ago I quickly joined in their discussions and viewed the many pictures people shared with great interest.   And in the course of time, I too shared some photos and videos.  And  something unexpected happened.

People thanked me for flying the F4.  Now people have thanked me for my service, but never for flying the F4.   Somewhat humbled by this I simply said I was blessed to have flown it.   

Flyers take joy in flight and flying is the ultimate, and somewhat mystical experience.   High Flight, a poem by John Magee,  captures the feeling:

“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds –
and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of –
wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence.
Hovering there I’ve chased the shouting wind along
and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.”

Late in my time in the F4 I came to a special kind of flying:  Functional Check Flight.   udn35

The FCF crew takes planes that have been grounded for mechanical problems and after they are “fixed” takes them up and tries to break them again.  And as the poem above says, we did a hundred things you have not dreamed of.   We pulled G forces in excess to try to rip off the wings, we flew at the height of the envelope on the edge of space at over 50,000 feet and were as free as anyone can ever be.  We swooped and turned on a dime, as the adrenline and speed built.  We pushed the bird to more than Mach 2.  Then we landed.

“OK, she’s fit to fly,”we told the crew chief, and signed off the forms.

And yes I was blessed to be a “Skywalker.”

Posted in 13 TFS, 43 TFS, Alaska, Alaskan Air Command, American History, Anchorage, Arizona, Cambodia bombing 1973, F-4 Phantom II, F4 emergency, F4 Phantom II, F4 PhantomII, Fighter Aircraft, Fighter pilot lingo, Fighter pilot slang | Tagged , | Leave a comment