American Top 40 PastBlast, 9/28/85: Bruce Springsteen, “I’m Goin’ Down”

September and October 85 were the opening months of my last year at Transy. I’d spent a big chunk of the summer doing what you might call a paid internship at IBM; after it ended, I went to Boston for a week in August in Boston to visit my cousins. By Labor Day, it was time to get back to business, though. As per usual, I was taking most of my classes in Brown Science Center. The two most frequent offerings (at least by me) on the turntable in 402 Clay Hall would have been Little Creatures and Songs from the Big Chair (I’m listening to them again as I write this).  By somewhere around the end of September I would be spending a few weeks trying to figure out how I felt about a certain first-year student.

When I look back on that two-month period, many of my memories center around things that happened on the weekends. None of them are momentous, but having and being with wonderful friends was plenty good enough. Here’s a list of some moments I have in my head from then:

MTV Music Awards. For whatever reason, this was a big deal to me and others in my crowd. That year they were broadcast on Friday, Sept 13. Several of us drove up to my parents’ house in Florence to sprawl in the den and watch. I tried to think back to what won Video of the Year but gave up too quickly and looked it up. I’ll let you mull it over and give the answer at the bottom.  Two other notes, though: 1) I’m psyched to re-discover that ‘til Tuesday won Best New Artist in a Video for “Voices Carry;” 2) I love, love, love all the nominees in the Best Experimental Video category (Art of Noise’s “Close (to the Edit)” was the winner, but there were also  Lindsey Buckingham’s “Go Insane” and “Slow Dancing,” Chris Isaak’s “Dancin’,” and Lone Justice’s “Ways to Be Wicked” up for the award).

Hiking trip to Berea.  While I was in high school, my church youth group had gone a few times on fall Sunday afternoons to Berea, a small town in the Appalachian foothills about 35 miles south of Lexington. We’d go hiking on a trail called the Pinnacles. I continued going there while at Transy, taking college friends with me at least a couple of times prior to 85.  I spent the weekend of September 20-22 of 85 back there for a sort of “youth group reunion.” Several of the old gang and one of the leaders spent two nights at the Boone Tavern Inn (despite the name, Berea was a dry town then).  We spent the weekend reliving the glory days of 78-82, with the big hike on Saturday. The weather was cool, clear, and absolutely gorgeous. I had a marvelous time being with folks I hadn’t seen much over the previous three years. Even if I hadn’t been especially close with any of them, I was at ease with these longtime friends and must have been wittier than normal, as I remember people laughing at my jokes pretty much the whole weekend. It was a magnificent final hurrah for that chapter of my life.

(That may not have been my only trip to the Pinnacles that semester—I have photographic evidence of a group of Transy friends being in the parking lot near the trailhead. That particular set of people being together makes most sense in fall 85.)

GRE Exams.  But it was already time to be looking to the future, too. By this time, I’d decided to pursue graduate studies in math instead of computer science. One Saturday in October (likely the 12th or 19th), I drove over to UK to sit for the general test in the morning and the math subject test in the afternoon.

Marshall Crenshaw/Howard Jones concert.  I wrote about this show last year. A little online sleuthing tells me this took place on October 18.

High school football with James. Walton-Verona was too small to field a team back then, so I saw very little high school football growing up. James had been the videographer for his school’s team; I believe he continued in that role his first year or two of college.  I don’t remember if he’d been called in for emergency camera duty that night, but a number of us trundled down to Danville one crisp Friday evening in October to watch Boyle County do battle. My main recollection from that trip is riding down two-lane highways in James’s land yacht, singing along with whatever came on the radio.

One of which was this week’s #20 song. “I’m Goin’ Down” is one of my two or three favorites off of Born in the U.S.A. I won’t disagree with Len O’Kelly’s take from last week that it “sound(s) like it was written in ten minutes,” but I think it’s a completely fun romp, perfect for windows-down, crank-up-the-radio driving (to be fair, I may have been the only one in the car to have felt that way that night). It was the sixth of seven Top 10 hits from Springsteen’s mega-album, reaching #9.

Yes, there was homework to do and tests to take during the opening months of that school year, but obviously that’s not going to be what stands out thirty-plus years later.

Oh, and I really should have sussed out that “The Boys of Summer” had won Best Video. My MTV-watching buddies thought it was WAY too pretentious. Yes, Henley and the director were probably trying too hard, but I can see the merit of the selection.


American Top 40 PastBlast, 9/28/74: Beach Boys, “Surfin’ U.S.A.”

Two iconic hits from the first decade of the rock era each spent a single week on AT40 in 74. Back on Memorial Day weekend, “Rock Around the Clock” snuck in at #39, and here, four months later, “Surfin’ U.S.A.” is planting its flag at #36. Maybe, just maybe, this 10-year-old  noticed an uptick in hearing Bill Haley on the radio back then, but the resurgence of the Beach Boys’ remodeling of “Sweet Little Sixteen” passed me by. But I’ve gotten to wondering: what led to these re-chartings?

The short answer, in both cases, seems to be American Graffiti, released in August 73. The movie is set in 62, the year that the Beach Boys first charted; two of their earliest songs, “Surfin’ Safari” and “All Summer Long,” were featured on the soundtrack. According to a piece at the end of this article about Beach Boys singles of the early 70s, the ensuing wave of nostalgia led Capitol to compile and release Endless Summer, a two-disk retrospective of music from their first three years. (I remember well Brian, Mike, and Al peering out at me through the cover’s foliage on many a record store visit in the mid-70s).  What exactly led to re-releasing “Surfin’ U.S.A.” as a single isn’t clear to me, but it worked to the tune of nine more weeks on the Hot 100.

(I also decided to look back at my father’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Revue cassettes, to see how he ranked Beach Boys songs. He sprinkled seven across his first two tapes: in order, it’s “Help Me, Rhonda,” “Surfin’ Safari,” “Fun, Fun, Fun,” “Barbara Ann,” “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” “Good Vibrations,” and “I Get Around.” Their early hits always make me think of him. As for me, I favor the stuff from a little later: I also go for “Good Vibrations,” but would take “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “God Only Knows” over the beach-and-hot-rods tunes.)

As for “Rock Around the Clock,” well, the connection to American Graffiti is both more convoluted and more direct. The common link is Ron Howard, one of the leads in Graffiti.  The movie’s success led ABC to pick up a series starring Howard whose pilot had been originally been broadcast on an episode of Love, American Style, one set even farther in the past (if I ever knew how Happy Days had gotten its start, I’d long forgotten). I also tend to overlook that the Pratt and McClain #5 hit from spring 76 wasn’t Happy Days’ original theme song; “Rock Around the Clock” was played at the opening for its first two seasons. The first episode of Happy Days was in mid-January 74, and the rock era’s first #1 song was back on the charts two months later.

As it happens, American Graffiti gets a shout-out from Casey on this very show. Wolfman Jack had a small but important role playing a DJ in the movie, a fact mentioned in the intro to the Guess Who’s “Clap for the Wolfman,” sitting at #7.

When I was very young, I preferred “Surfin’ Safari” to “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” but I’m not sure that’s the case anymore. The opening seconds of both are utterly fantastic, though.

Time To Play B-Sides: Beach Boys, “Shut Down”

I’ve mentioned before that a few of my father’s 45s migrated over to my collection in the 76-78 period, soon after I started buying my own. The reasons for which ones got picked are certainly lost to me now, but they included “Come and Get It,” “Spirit in the Sky,” and “Surfin’ U.S.A.” (with its awesome orange-and-yellow Capitol label).

The flip to that Beach Boys single is “Shut Down,” a not-quite-complete story about a drag race between a “fuel-injected Stingray” (a Corvette) and a “413” (a Dodge Dart, according to Wikipedia—the # refers to the size of the engine, in cubic inches). While it’s plenty slight and the lyrics are full of inside references to cars and racing, it’s also a darn catchy little number, one I played and sang along to on my little turntable many a time. I was pleased and a little surprised to hear it as part of “The Beach Boys Medley” that made it to #12 around this time of year in 81. It took a long time for me to realize I’d been holding a double-sided hit in my hands (“Shut Down” reached #23 on the 6/22/63 Hot 100).

There probably isn’t another 45 from the 60s whose two sides I know better than this one (though I’m not finding it amongst my stacks of singles at the moment). I’ll be saying more about the song on the A side in a couple of days.

The song ends before the race is over; the Dodge is ahead but the Stingray is gaining. I know very little about cars in general, much less those of the early 60s, but the commenters in the video below are pretty much exclusively saying the Dodge would win.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 9/19/87: Prince, “U Got the Look”

John taught me a thing or three about music while I was rooming with him. One band he definitely turned me on to was the Smiths—their compilation of UK singles and B-sides, Louder Than Bombs, is one of my favorite late 80s disks, and 85’s The Queen Is Dead is also quite fab. It’s a bit surprising to look back and see I’ve not featured anything from Morrissey, Marr, and Co. here on the blog.  Hopefully someday soon…

Among more commercial enterprises, two of John’s favorites were Billy Idol and Prince, both of whom reached high on the charts in the fall of 87. Idol was just about to hit the show with the live, chart-topping “Mony Mony” (much better than his studio version), while the Purple One was already at #15 with “U Got the Look (it’d hit #2 four weeks later).  I remember seeing videos for these songs so many times in the apartment on Elm St.

I was never a super big Prince fan, though I enjoyed a number of his songs and definitely paid attention to much of his work—his talent pretty much demanded it.  If I had to venture a list of my five favorites from his 80s hits, it’d be fairly unadventurous and go something like: #5 1999; #4 U Got the Look; #3 Raspberry Beret; #2 Pop Life; #1 Let’s Go Crazy.  Please, feel free to tell me how lame this is!

Looking back, it feels odd that Sheena Easton didn’t receive label credit for her contributions to “U Got the Look” (and maybe Sheila E, too—love it when she bounces and catches the drumstick in the vid).  That’d never happen now, what with all the “featuring” fever of today’s hits.

Grandma’s Art Gallery

Today is the 120th anniversary of my paternal grandmother’s birth. Mary Elizabeth Brown Harris was the older of the two girls born to J. R. and Mary Jane Griffin Brown and she grew up right along the Ohio River in Warsaw. She married my grandfather in June 1920; the two of them spent much of the 20s traveling around Kentucky as teachers. As best as I can tell, they got back close to home in mid-1928, and she remained within a 30 mile or so radius of her birthplace the rest of her life. My father came along in June 31. She was widowed in late 61, became a grandmother two times over in 64 and 65, and began developing dementia in the early 70s. It advanced so much that her final years were spent bedridden in a nursing home in Florence, passing away in January 75. Unfortunately, I have very few memories of her in anything but that latter state.

Here’s a photo from her youth, probably her late teens.



Sometime in the 90s I received a surprise gift from my father: a framed watercolor, painted by my grandmother. (Amy got one, too, and another soon appeared on a wall at my folks’ house.)


It’s had a place of prominence in our dining area for over twenty years now. Dad went on to tell me that these were three of several pieces of hers they’d found some time before. He said the only ones that were dated were from 29; since that was the year Elizabeth’s father died, Dad speculated that painting may have been part of her grieving process.

Continue reading “Grandma’s Art Gallery”

American Top 40 PastBlast, 9/27/75: Orleans, “Dance with Me”

My sister and I took piano lessons for several years in the mid-to-late-70s. Sometime not long after we moved to Walton, an upright from (I think) Willis Music Co. appeared in our home. Learning to play the piano was one of two things I specifically remember my mother wanting for her children that she didn’t know how to do herself (swimming was the other).  Mom pretty quickly set out to find a teacher for us.

I realized early on that I didn’t have any particular aptitude for the instrument. Both Amy and I regularly resisted practicing, which of course didn’t aid my progress, but Mom persisted. I believe for a short while at the beginning our teacher was a young woman from our church, but it wasn’t long before we switched over to Mrs. Henson, a gray-blond, thin, bespectacled woman who was maybe in her late 50s.

While it could be that Mrs. Henson began by giving lessons at our home, we spent the better part of Monday afternoons over four years being shuttled out to her place a few miles outside of Walton. She lived on a sparsely populated road that led out to the local landfill, so following or being followed by garbage trucks was the norm on those trips. It was a fairly new house; she and her husband also seemed to provide a lot of care for their toddler granddaughter.  The interior was largely unfinished when we started going out there, though progress toward completion was made over the years.  The room where we played for Mrs. Henson would have been one of the bedrooms, though it contained only the piano, a bench, and a chair, all sitting on the particle board floor. I remember her as nice and largely patient with us, though she had to be frustrated with our practicing habits. I still have a Christmas ornament she gave us one year.

One of my classmates lived on a small farm across the road from the Hensons.  As I got older, particularly in junior high, I made sure I took my lesson first; afterward, I would walk over to Andy’s to hang out for the thirty minutes Amy was playing. He and I would talk some about music (Bob Seger comes to mind), baseball cards (I was a big collector in my youth), and other things important to 13-year-olds.

My sister and I kept trying to tickle the ivories until the end of my eighth grade year, the spring of 78; by that point, Amy was getting much more involved in sports (as was I, though she was very much the jock of the family). Practices after school plus HW left not enough time for piano. Plus, Mom would have had to admit we weren’t advancing all that far.  I can still pound out scales and some mean chords on occasion, but not much else.  Mom held on to the piano the rest of her life—Amy took it down to Florida three years ago as we were emptying the folks’ house (you can imagine it was badly out of tune). The bench still contained our lesson books, with Mrs. Henson’s notes, suggestions, and maybe occasional admonishments throughout them.

It’s the music of 75 that I most associate with those trips out to our lessons—maybe it’s because it was still before I was listening to the radio almost all the time.  I imagine we didn’t go out there over the summers, but there are songs from both the spring and fall that always stick me back in Mom’s Ford Fairlane, out on the hills of McCoys Fork Road. Spring tracks include “You Are So Beautiful” and “Poetry Man,” while for fall there’s “At Seventeen,” “Feelings,” and this week’s #12 song, “Dance with Me.” Orleans had formed a few years earlier in upstate New York and would reach #6 with this utterly winsome song, their first big hit. Trivia time: a decade ago, band member John Hall, who wrote “Dance with Me,” was in the middle of serving two terms in the U.S. House.

We lost touch with Mrs. Henson after the lessons stopped, though I’d guess we might have seen her at the grocery or drug store from time to time while we were in high school. There was a snippet of sad news while I was in grad school—the granddaughter, now in her late teens/early 20s, had gotten into a legal scrape big enough to make the community paper.  Several years later, after I was back in Kentucky, Mom told me during one of our twice-weekly calls that she’d come across Mrs. Henson’s obituary.

About three years ago, I stopped off at Walton on one of my trips to Florence to drive out the road where she had lived—checking out “the old places” is something I seem to do from time to time.. Maybe I’m just getting old and forgetful, but I couldn’t find her house. I’m pretty certain I found Andy’s place, and there wasn’t anything across the way.

9/1/79, 9/17/77, and 9/18/82 Charts

Three countdowns I charted have been rebroadcast so far this month. First up is 1979.


If I had to venture what my five favorite songs were at the time of the show, I’d probably go with #1, #5, #12, #15, and #18, though not in that order (#22, #27, and #37 wouldn’t have been far behind).

The circled numbers down by the LDDs indicate where the song came on the show; the 18 by Helen Reddy means it was played between #18 and #17 (that song draws an emotional reaction from me now that didn’t happen five years ago.)

Next up is the 77 show that was just played. It appears that this sheet was folded into quarters at some point.


A real-time top 5 might have consisted of #5, #7, #8, #12, and #20.

“The Harris Box” was a very short-lived feature, maybe a month. The week before it’d contained lyrics to one of the seven songs that fell off on this show, “Whatcha Gonna Do?” Clearly I’d listened to this one, as I more or less regurgitate in minute detail (Dear Abby-style) Casey’s story about Ted Nugent’s hunting interest.

One more notable thing about this one–it’s the first time I recognized Saturday as a chart date (I used Sat-Sun dates through the end of the year, then switched over exclusively to Saturdays starting on 1/7/78).

I think I’ve said before that I maintained personal charts through the end of 82, even though my AT40 charts stopped after 10/2/82. This was the first of three weeks at #1 for Alan Parsons and Co. Chicago, the Go-Go’s, and the Motels were all previous chart-toppers, while Randy Meisner has the only future #1. Melissa, Kim, and Eddie all climbed one more position before topping out.  Billy got to #7, while sadly, Marshall only made #12.


Finally, here’s the real 82 thing.


Bare bones, though apparently I had a lapse in remembering how to spell September. I was two weeks into college life, and kept only two more charts after this. One of the Lexington papers (the Herald and the Leader merged in December 82) carried the Billboard top 20 on Sunday mornings; I don’t know if I was relying on that for half of the countdown or not. I think WLAP was also doing the shows on Sunday mornings by this time.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 9/18/82: Tané Cain, “Holdin’ On”

My wife and I are pretty darn similar in numerous ways, but there’s at least one topic on which we diverge: during our respective college years, Martha was in a sorority, but I did not join a fraternity. Being a member of Alpha Omicron Pi was an enjoyable and fairly important part of my wife’s time at Hanover, and she defends Greek life (in a non-defensive way) whenever I make a snide comment (or two) about it. Ultimately, there were several reasons for my decision not to rush or pledge; this post centers on one pause-giving incident that arose very early in my collegiate life.

Back in the day, rush at Transy occurred over the first couple of weeks of classes—perhaps it still does. This practice didn’t make a lot of sense to me. I do recognize there are benefits to going Greek, such as having a support group and gaining networking opportunities after college. But I have a difficult time imagining the way things were set up at TU gave everyone involved time to make reasoned decisions about which, if any, group to join, never mind the accompanying need for merging pledge life with the whole adjusting-to-college thing. On the other hand, it really didn’t take long to discern the “personality” of each of the four fraternities and four sororities on campus, so maybe one could make a quick determination of which one(s) to target. (Another conflicting thought: where I work, recruitment—that’s what they call it now—doesn’t happen until January. Might this have the effect of turning the fall semester into one long, informal rush?)

I elected not to go through the process that first September, mostly because I did want to find my feet in my new surroundings before tackling anything so time-consuming as that. I was a legacy of Pi Kappa Alpha; being in that group had meant a lot to my father. I became pretty certain pretty quickly, though, that Pike life wasn’t for me.

My recollection is that Bid Day arrived for the women first, I believe on a Sunday; the corresponding event for the men would have occurred the following Friday afternoon.  My then-roommate pledged, as did a number of the guys on my hall. I think it’s fair to say that in many cases (though certainly not all), the choices we made regarding affiliation or lack thereof in that opening month impacted our relationships going forward. Some of our initial friendships strengthened, while others faded away. It’s completely understandable in retrospect, given the limited number of hours we had to allocate, though it doesn’t mean I necessarily expected that at the time.

But going Greek is a two-way street, as I realized on the women’s Bid Day. This was most likely to have been September 19th (the other possible date would be the 12th, but that’s only eight days after we new students arrived; that feels awfully quick). At this point, I was still in the process of trying to sort out which campus organizations I actually might want to join. I had volunteered to go with a group to a church on the south end of Lexington to help manage activities for pre-school-aged kids, I guess while Sunday evening services were going on. (If I want to feel really old, I suppose I could chew on the fact that those children are now around 40.) I rode out there with at least two fellow students, both women. The one not driving was a sophomore, and it was clear early on in the trip that she was upset. Through tears, she told us she had not received a bid that afternoon. I don’t remember now if she had aimed for a specific sorority or had been shut out across the board—for all I know, this might have been her second time through without success. The driver was appropriately sympathetic; I, having just met her fifteen minutes before, stayed quiet in the back seat, but I certainly felt badly for her.  I suppose I was also taken aback a little. Until then I was probably somewhat naïve about quotas and realizing a group could actively turn someone down for membership. It was an education to see the flip side of all the shouting and excitement one sees when pledge classes are first introduced.

There was one frat that I think would have been a decent fit for me temperamentally, but I didn’t strongly consider investigating to see if they’d have me. My dad was at least a little disappointed in that (though he was okay with me rejecting my legacy after I described to him the excesses of some of his current brothers’ behavior). I didn’t lack for friends—many were fellow independents, but plenty weren’t, too.  It all worked out for me just fine. I didn’t have many other interactions with that unhappy young woman, but I hope it worked out for her, too—perhaps sometime later she received an open bid.

If I’m right about the date above, then Tané Cain’s lone AT40 appearance began that weekend, the first of three in a row for her at #37. At the time, she was married to former-Babys-then-Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain. A little research indicates the accompanying album got decent reviews but stiffed in stores. I like “Holdin’ On” well enough, but I can’t shake the feeling that her voice doesn’t quite stay in tune on the question “Am I wrong?” in the chorus. I remember hearing it on WLAP-FM for a few weeks; it showed up on a K-Tel collection, Blast Off, I got on cassette several months later. For years that was where I’d have to turn if I wanted to hear it.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 9/17/77: Meco, “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band”

September means fall festival season has come to many of the small towns and cities in Kentucky. The Lexington Herald-Leader carried an article recently about the various options folks within a couple hours’ drive have over the next couple of months.  For instance, you could visit the Kentucky Bourbon Festival (Bardstown) or Cow Days (Greensburg) this weekend; later in the month come the Spoonbread Festival (Berea), Hatfield-McCoy Heritage Days (Pikeville), and the World Chicken Festival (London). The one here in Georgetown is called the Festival of the Horse—it happened last weekend, and it endured its usual crummy weather. My first experience with this sort of event came back in my pre-teen years, in Walton: Old Fashion Day.

The inaugural Old Fashion Day, according to Walton’s Wikipedia page, was held in 73, just a year-plus after my family moved there. It’s a one-day affair, always held the Saturday after Labor Day. There’s a morning parade (the W-V band marches) and afterward, Main Street is shut down for vendors and general hobnobbing. I haven’t been in well over 30 years, but I figure that one of these days before long I’ll go back—I get the sense that I’d still run into a decent number of friends and acquaintances from high school.

It was less than a mile from our house to the heart of downtown, and as I got to be a teenager, I’d walk down there by myself and spend a huge chunk of my day at Old Fashion Day. In those early years it was liberating to be able to stroll down the middle of the street, up and back, back and up. I suspect that got to be less of a big deal after I had my license and was moving closer to graduation.

But moments from Old Fashion Day in 77 still flicker in my memory. It was a clear, beautiful day; the upper atmosphere must have been very still, because I noticed over and again how well the jet contrails held together, often long enough to stretch across the entire sky. There I am, bounding out the kitchen door, ready to head down Bedinger Avenue toward the festivities, songs of the day in my head. This also has a very decent chance of being the year I surprised Mom by bringing a goldfish home in a bag in the early part of the afternoon. I named him (fifty-fifty chance, right?) Sparky. We dug around for a glass bowl as a temporary home. Of course, I had no long-term plan and knew zero about caring for such a creature, but surely changing his water couldn’t be a bad thing, no? Yes—I didn’t think about temperature and must have made things a bit too chilly for old Spark. By the end of the day, I was burying him in the back yard.

And as for the music? Two songs immediately stand out from that day (which would have been a week prior to this countdown). One is “Cold as Ice,” but going with Meco instead allows me to segue into discussing Star Wars just a little. It took quite a while to get around to seeing A New Hope, maybe even into early 78. Afterward, though, I had the fever enough to see Episodes V and VI pretty soon after their opening dates. Maybe five years ago, I re-watched them with Ben. My takes now probably don’t differ all that much from the consensus. A New Hope: somewhat surprising in retrospect it was such an enormous hit. Mark Hamill—what a whiner! Harrison Ford—very easy to see how he became the star he did.  The Empire Strikes Back: By far the best movie of the three, even if I do like A New Hope almost as much. Very tight thematically.  Return of the Jedi: You really want me to believe the Ewoks could take out Stormtroopers like they did? Far too silly in spots.

I couldn’t know what was coming for that mega-franchise when I was 13, however. I was just hanging with friends on a carefree Saturday, thinking about a quirky instrumental that would soon be #1 for two weeks (it was lucky #13 on this show). “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” snuck in at the top amongst probably the three biggest pop hits of the calendar year: right after the nine weeks that “I Just Want to Be Your Everything” and “Best of My Love” traded blows, and immediately before the ten-week run of “You Light Up My Life” (which happens to debut on this show).

Fly Like An Eagle

Ben came home from school one afternoon with a piece of paper in his hands, gave it to us, and asked, “Can I please do this this year? I have friends that are.” Our eight-year-old had recently started third grade and was brandishing information about an organizational meeting for Cub Scouts to be held soon at the school. This wasn’t the first time, of course—he’d showed interest a year earlier, when we’d chosen to dodge the issue. I had spent some good portion of a year in Cub Scouts, probably when I was a fourth-grader, but I don’t recall any particularly fun or interesting stuff that we did—not enough to want to continue, apparently.  Besides, neither Martha nor I are exactly the outdoorsy type.  But Ben was well aware that the father and son next door to us were heavily involved in Scouting; our son saw the boy, who was four years older, as something akin to a big brother. Whatever Brennen was doing, that’s what Ben wanted.

Fairly close to exactly nine years later, on Monday evening, Ben successfully navigated his Eagle Scout Board of Review, with a little over seven weeks to spare (he had until his 18th birthday). We’re very pleased for and proud of him. It turned out that he really enjoys camping and not bathing for days on end! But along the way he certainly learned many valuable skills. (As an aside, it’s no surprise that he elected to join Brennen’s Troop when he crossed over from Cub Scouts.)  When we asked him after the meeting Monday about his favorite Scouting memory, he named two: his High Adventure week of sailing in the Florida Keys, and participating in a National Youth Leadership Training Leadership Academy in the DC area (he’s also been on staff at his Council’s NYLT the past three years).

I went camping with Ben twice. The first was for a Scout Centennial Jamboree outside of Louisville in the fall of 10, while he was still a Webelo.  The second came in the summer of 15, on a trip to Muskegon, Michigan. We spent one night on the USS Silversides, a WWII submarine, and another in a local state park. Both were great times; looking back, I can say I wish I had done more of that.

Ben undertook his Eagle project last fall. Its primary focus was cleaning an almost century-old DAR monument near downtown Georgetown, but he also organized a sprucing-up of the area around the monument and replaced the flag on a nearby pole. Later, on a crisp, clear early November morning, there was a rededication and a flag retirement ceremony; members of the DAR and the mayor, among others, were in attendance. From there, just a few merit badges remained. He finished the final one, Family Life, this summer when he completed a landscaping project in our back yard.

At Ben’s Board of Review, the man serving as the chartered organization’s representative to the Troop, who has long ties to the community, gave Ben the photo you see at the top. It’s from the first dedication of the monument, in 1920. That’s quite an incredibly generous gift! The photographer was facing north; directly behind the assembled dignitaries, out of view over a hill, is Royal Spring, the land feature that made Georgetown a desirable spot to settle. There’s now a parking lot for our local electrical utility on the spot where the camera was set up.

It’s dangerous to thank by name the adults who helped guide Ben on this journey—I’m afraid I’ll fail to highlight someone who played a vital role. But I would be remiss if I didn’t specifically mention Ms. Rice for her three years of Cub Scout leadership, Mr. Caldwell, Mr. Maddix, Mr. Morris, and Mr. Baker, who served as Scoutmasters over Ben’s six-plus years in Troop 215, Mr. Rice, Mr. Shaffer, Ms. Homkes, Ms. Fryer, and Mr. Cleland for various Troop roles, Mr. Carruthers for his NYLT mentorship, and Ms. Hanes, for shepherding Ben through the Eagle process (the late Mr. Hanes also had an important part right after Ben crossed over). There were many others who did important work; please know Martha and I are appreciative of all of you. Any oversight in the list above is entirely on me.

We have hundreds of photos of Ben’s Scouting adventure from across the years. I’ll content myself with including just two here.  The first is obviously from Cub Scout days. Martha’s notes say it was taken on a day they went geocaching in Frankfort in the fall of 10. There were a couple other boys in his Pack, but most of the cohort is present here. Three of these pictured wound up staying through to Eagle rank—Ben (in the olive fleece) is the second to finish, but the third will be done very soon.


The second shows our boy working on the monument on the day of his Eagle project (plenty of others were there to pitch in—they’re just not shown in this picture). The view is of the same side you see in the 1920 photo—it’s such a different view! You can see the waterworks now present on the site of the spring behind it.


There will be a celebratory Court of Honor for Ben’s achievement in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, congratulations, son—may you continue to soar, and may what you do with your life be part of the solution.