Memorial Day In A Small Town

Monday, 27 May 2013, 20:35 | Category : Life
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Memorial Day has, for many, become a reason for a family or group picnic, or maybe an extended time on the water, or one of a myriad of activities with family and friends. But there are still many places where the original reason for the day is still revered. One of those places is St. Simon’s Island, Georgia. We happened to be there this evening for their 22nd annual Taps Ceremony. It was small town American patriotism at its best, with a band playing Sousa marches and other patriotic music, a speech by a retired Marine Corps general, a multitude of local officials, the singing of the National Anthem, and the presentation of the colors by a high school ROTC unit. But there was more than that. There were veterans by the score, some young, many quite old, male, female, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard. And there was quite a crowd, although given the location and a beautiful evening by the ocean, maybe that isn’t surprising:

But what made this such a special occasion was the feel of the crowd. It could have been in a small American town in 1963. And it didn’t feel corny, or fake. It just felt patriotic. And when the ROTC unit advanced the colors, watching graying old men suddenly straighten and snap out a salute was more than a little poignant. For a brief time in an oceanside park, they were bound together once again by evident memories of a time long ago, or maybe not so long ago, and of fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who had given their ultimate for this idea we call the United States of America. The speaker, a former Marine Corps general, called on the crowd to give our servicemen and servicewomen our support. But he also called on us to give them our understanding. We owe them much more, but those things we can do.

Still Underground: Abandoned Subway Stations

Wednesday, 8 May 2013, 9:15 | Category : Architecture, Underground, Urban Exploration
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Subways fascinate me. I’d never ridden on a subway until the early 90s, when I had to travel frequently to Washington for my job, and I got very familiar with the Metro, since I averaged being in DC about once a month for 3-4 years. Later I had the chance to ride the “L” in Chicago (I know, it’s mostly elevated, but it’s underground in some places), and New York’s subway. And somewhere along the way, I heard about abandoned stations underground. Maybe the most famous is New York’s City Hall Station:

This station was opened in 1904, and was supposed to be the crown jewel of the subway system, but was closed in 1945 when new, longer cars made the curved platform dangerous because of the gap between the platform and the new cars (You can read more here). But it really was a beautiful bit of architecture:

City Hall Station

What, More Underground Stuff?

Monday, 6 May 2013, 20:59 | Category : Underground, Urban Exploration
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Well, yes. I’m not sure what’s got me going on the underground stuff this week. But now that it’s started, I’m blogging my way through it. So, for the third installment…..

Korean Infiltration Tunnels!

I’ve heard claims about tunnels under the DMZ almost as long as I’ve heard about the Korean War, which is most of my life (my dad was called back to active duty in the summer of 1950, although he never actually got sent to Korea). The suspicion was that Kim Il Sung, and later Kim Jong Il, had ordered the construction of tunnels to provide a path for massive infiltration behind the front lines in the event of a second Korean conflict. Sometimes these were rumored to be relatively small, just big enough to allow units of soldiers to pass in single file; sometimes wide enough to allow tanks to go through. Sometimes there were only a couple of tunnels, sometimes there were dozens or even hundreds. The one consistent thing was that everything I ever read agreed that tunnels were definitely there.

Staying With The Underground Theme

Sunday, 5 May 2013, 20:41 | Category : Architecture, Underground, Urban Exploration
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Some sort of ancient temple, maybe? Or the set of a science-fiction movie? Actually, it’s part of a massive underground stormwater system in Tokyo. And when I say massive, that’s exactly what I mean: “five 32m diameter, 65m deep concrete containment silos, connected by 64 kilometers of tunnels 50 meters deep underground”. In times of heavy rains and swollen rivers (Tokyo has several), the city can pump 200 tons of water every second with huge turbines like this:


Going Underground

Saturday, 4 May 2013, 21:12 | Category : Life, Underground
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My dad once told me I was alive because of the atomic bomb. He was slated to be in the first wave of the invasion of Japan, as commander of an artillery battery; his unit would have been put ashore on landing craft that would be beached, with one 8″ howitzer per craft, with orders to fire until killed. There was no other way, the planners thought, to get close artillery support on the beach during the initial wave. So, when the atomic bomb caused Japan to surrender and the invasion was cancelled, he came home, alive and well and ready to start a family.

Nine years later I was born (after three older sisters). I grew up in the height of the Cold War, with the threat of nuclear bombs and missiles just over the horizon. Somewhere around the age of 7 or 8, I became aware that one of our neighbors had something called a “fallout shelter”. I didn’t really know what it was – these weren’t people I knew, they had no kids my age, so I never went to their house, and I never saw the shelter. This being the early 1960s, however, most of the houses in my neighborhood had carports instead of garages, and we could see through the carport into the backyard. And there, behind their patio, we could see the brick structure that was the entrance, with a ladder descending into the ground. I have no idea what it was like inside. We thought these people were “rich”, because their house was bigger than most on the street, but I now know that it was just another solidly middle-class home. No houses in our area had basements – basements were, and still are, essentially unknown in Mississippi. So this was separate from the house, and probably not large at all – something like this: