Flies in the Window

When I was working at The Gastonia Gazette in North Carolina, I was a member of the rescue squad.

One of the dreaded calls was “Welfare check: neighbor reports flies on the window next door.” Too often, that meant someone was dead. Long, liquefied dead.

That was brought to mind when my Cape kitchen was suddenly full of houseflies the first time the weather turned cold. I found this sticky thing got rid of most of them in a few days before my neighbors dialed 9-1-1.

My days on the squad

I don’t want to exaggerate my contribution to the Gastonia Rescue and First Aid Squad, which was made up of volunteers, many of whom were “lintheads” who were looked down upon by the community’s movers and shakers – until they had a heart attack or piled up their car.

I got on because John Stepp, a Gastonia fire captain, and captain of the rescue squad, saw that I had PR value. He gave me permission to buy an ancient two-way radio to put in my car so I could know what they were working. They went on enough “good” calls that pictures of them made the paper almost every week.

Even though I had taken basic first aid training, my utility and level of expertise soon became clear. Because I was roaming all over the area, I was often first on the scene. I would radio in a situation report, then provide aid and comfort to the injured by hollering, “I hear ’em comin.’ I hear ’em comin.'”

John was a rough-and-tumble firefighter who was a natural leader of men. He was also like a second father to me.

Capt. Stepp explained Southern life to me

The crew was a United Way agency, so we had to appear before a board of suits to get our budget approved. Red King, a textile worker, was treasurer, if I remember correctly. I had been elected secretary, so the two of us, along with Stepp had to appear before the board.

The UW group asked poor Red all kinds of detailed questions that were designed to get him flustered – “Why do you need a telephone in the dormitory area?” for example.

Finally, I had enough. I told the suits that Red wasn’t the guy you would want doing your income taxes, but he’s definitely the one you wanted next to you if you suddenly clutched your chest and collapsed of a heart attack.

I turned to Stepp and suggested that our group go out into the hall for a conference.

“Let’s walk”

Gaston Life Saving Crew sign 08-09-2012

I told my fellow crewmen that we were the most popular agency under the UW umbrella. We could go alone, and probably make more money than what UW would give us.

Stepp calmed me down. “You don’t understand how things work down here. Those guys jerk us around to show who runs this county. They’re going to give us everything we ask for, like always. If we pull out, it’s going to hurt a lot of agencies that don’t have the public support we do. We’re going to go back in, let them strut and bluster, then they’ll approve our budget request.”

It happened just like he predicted, but I never supported United Way again.

They trusted me with a dead man

When things were slow at  the paper, I’d hang around the crew hall answering the phones and playing dispatcher.

An unknown emergency at a construction site north of town came in, and two rigs went to check it out. I volunteered to stick around. I called the office and had Kermit Hull, another photographer, drift that way in case it turned out to be something newsworthy.

As soon as the crew arrived, they told me to jump in the rescue truck that had all the heavy equipment in it and come fast because a trench had collapsed, burying several men.

This was my first Code 3 (lights and siren) run. When I got about a quarter mile from the scene, I hit a traffic backup. Driving on the wrong side of the road was a new – and scary – experience for me. Fortunately, an 18-wheeler in the oncoming lane flashed his lights to let me know he was going to hold back the traffic.

As soon as I rolled up, they told me to hop in the back of an ambulance to feed oxygen to the first man they had recovered. In retrospect, I realize they had already determined that the man was dead, and there wasn’t much I could do to make his condition worse.

I was given the Goodbye to a Yankee Award

Ken Steinhoff Sparkplug Award 12-1972

At the end of the year, after I had given notice to The Gazette that I was headed to The Palm Beach Post, the rescue squad held its annual banquet with lots of good-humored banter, and awards given to members for outstanding performance.

Much to my surprise, I was called forward to receive The Sparkplug Award, for my efforts at the trench cave-in.

I turned to Lila, who had only heard snatches of my exploits that day, and said, “They didn’t give me that for my heroics, it was their way of saying, ‘Thank goodness, we’re going to have one less Yankee in town.'”




Before Glenn Beck: Carl McIntire

Glenn Beck and his “Restoring Honor” rally, held on the same stage where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech 47 years to the day, takes me back to an earlier conservative firebrand, Carl McIntire.

[Editor’s note: in case the search engines bring in some folks who don’t normally hang out here, this is a non-political blog dealing with coming of age in a small town in the Midwest in the 60s. Freedom of the Press belongs to he who has one, so I reserve the right to close out comments that produce more heat than light. I’m departing from normal Cape content just because I like some of these pictures and they’re topical.]

How we ended up at a Pro-Viet Nam War march

I was working as chief photographer for The Gastonia (N.C.) Gazette in the early 70s. When I took the job, I was in my early 20s (VERY early 20s) and wasn’t sure how I was going to deal with a inheriting a staff that had a photographer on it who was more than twice my age and had had no formal training.

As it turned out, Kermit not only didn’t resent some young Yankee whippersnapper coming in, he welcomed the chance to learn new skills. As a reward, I took him with me to a photojournalism conference in Washington, D.C. I don’t think either of us had been to D.C. before, so we were pretty much the tourists.

I spotted a newspaper story that said that some preacher named Carl McIntire was going to lead a Pro-Viet Nam “Victory March” down to the Capitol. I had covered plenty of anti-war protests, so I thought this would be a change, and definitely a new experience for Kermit.

The Washington March started in the rain

October 24, 1971, was a chilly, rainy, miserable day for a demonstration, but a fair number of people showed up to march. McIntire organized about half of dozen of these marches in the early 70s. One account said that as many as 14,000 people showed up for one of them. This one might have attracted a couple thousand, at most.

Harry Britton, Husband’s Lib advocate

To be fair, Harry Britton of Erie, PA, wasn’t actually part of the march; he was just along the route. New York Magazine wrote that he was a fixture who had been supporting himself wearing placards, carrying signs and selling his leaflets for 25 cents each for several years. “Harry makes only $2,000 a year. He’s not in this for the money, though; he says his only goal is reconciliation with his wife, from whom he is, not surprisingly, separated.”

Another account said he was the “president (and probably sole member) of the National Association of Dissatisfied Husbands subsisting on sales of publications extolling ‘Husband Lib.(‘It’s not men’s lib,it’s Husband Lib. The Bachelors are not oppressed yet’).”

Civility in Protest

I was surprised to see the reaction of the boy carrying the flag next to the man in the wheelchair. When he passed the local hippie contingent, dressed in the standard uniform of army surplus clothing, he answered their peace sign with one of his own. Yep, BOTH fingers are showing.

McIntire: “Fundamentalist with a flair”

Mr. President DO NOT GO or Sell Us Out to RED CHINA or MOSCOW Against Liberty!Many of the marchers were protesting President Nixon’s overtures to the Chinese.

Christianity Today described Carl McIntire as a “fundamentalist with a flair.”

The story continued, “Throughout his career, McIntire was a tireless crusader against communists, whom he suspected of lurking everywhere, from mainline Protestantism to the Public Broadcasting System (PBS); he cooperated with the staff of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Over the years, McIntire expanded his list of enemies to include Billy Graham, Oral Roberts, Martin Luther King Jr., antiwar protesters, feminists, the U.S. Postal Service, and the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, among many others.”

McIntire challenged Fairness Doctrine

Never one to run from a fight, McIntire ran afoul of the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine when he refused to allow dissenting views to run on his radio show, The Twentieth Century Reformation Hour. The program was heard on as many as 600 stations (depending on your source).

When the FCC refused to renew McIntire’s radio station license in 1973, he came up with Plan B. He fitted a wooden World War II era mine sweeper with a radio transmitter and sailed it out beyond the three-mile limit near Cape May.

Radio Free America

“Radio Free America” broadcast for just ten hours. He was shut down because he was interfering with a commercial radio station on an adjacent frequency. (A more interesting version has the broadcast coming to end end because the overheated antenna feed line started to catch the wooden vessel on fire.)

This is a man who doesn’t Tweet

Shooting photos of strange-looking people at demonstrations is like shooting fish in a barrel. I would rather photograph someone with substance, like this man. (That’s not to say that I didn’t include some rather odd-looking folks in the gallery.)

I’ve always liked the quiet dignity projected by this man. I don’t know what his beliefs were, and I am not sure if I’d agree with them, but I respected the calm way he returned my gaze.

Blacks marching for prayer in school

Most of the participants were white, older folks, but a number of blacks marched to support prayer and Bible reading in school.

Whites oppose “bussing”

McIntire opposed the civil rights movement. His supporters carried signs opposing “bussing.” That’s a little confusing, because “busing” is when you put students on a bus to take them to school. “Bussing” is kissing, according to the AP Stylebook.

So, I’m not sure if they are opposing kissing (likely) or a transportation system (also likely).

Capitol makes picture-perfect background

These folks were prepared for bad weather. I like the friendly wave from the woman in the middle.

Then, the Victory March was over

McIntire continued to hold his Victory Marches until 1972.

On April 30, 1975, at 8:35 a.m., the last Americans, ten Marines from the embassy, departed Saigon, concluding the U.S. presence in Vietnam.

King to McIntire to Beck

What do Martin Luther King, Carl McIntire and Glenn Beck have in common?

They all have the right to say their piece in the shadow of Abraham Lincoln.

Washington Memorial

Victory March Photo Gallery

I tried to treat everyone with respect, even if I found their views repugnant. I hope that comes across in this photo gallery. Click on any image to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.