Planes and Polkas

Okay. Okay. It seems like I’ve abandoned this blog. Perhaps it’s safe to say I have, but give me a chance to explain. The blame lies squarely on two things: the Flying Aces Club and Instagram. Instagram makes it so easy to “insta”ntly update friends, family and followers on what’s happening. So call me lazy, that’s usually my “go to” place for posting what I’m up to.

Two years ago I was up to a whole lot of different things: woodworking, woodcarving, automata, musical machines and such. Ever since I started building rubber powered balsa wood and tissue paper airplanes – I’ve been obsessed. Building planes has been my focus. I suppose I should be posting photos and videos of my planes on this blog, but again Instagram makes it so darn easy.

Alongside the planes I’ve been immersing myself in a nostalgic cocoon cranking my earbuds full of accordion shredders Frankie Yankovic and Jimmy Sturr, sometimes taking it down a notch with aviation enthusiast John Denver. Never of fan of kicking back with a book – I’ve been devouring Jean Shepherd books like candy. His short stories are easy to read, fun and a delightful time machine to a different time in history.

Polkas? Give me a break! Yeah, that was my sentiment as a child growing up in a very Polish influenced area of Northeastern Pennsylvania. I suppose I understand the genre as an adult – again, it’s fun, silly and cheerful. I say the same regarding the old fashioned nostalgic hobby of balsa and tissue airplanes.

For the better part of a century people have been enjoying the mystery of “Who Stole The Kishka?”. To summarize, the butcher turned his back and the fat, round and firmly packed kishka, hanging on the rack, disappeared. Someone called the cops to report this nefarious heist! After a moment of panic Yusef found the kishka, brought it back and returned it to the rack. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

Both planes and polkas bring people together to celebrate, reminisce and have fun. What I didn’t understand as a “know-it-all” kid was the HARD WORK, passion and devotion behind the celebration. Planes, polkas, and pierogies don’t make themselves. Contests and concerts are the culmination of culture, tradition, and passion passed through generations of families and devoted enthusiasts.

Ninety One Suns – My Dad’s US Marine Corps Experience

Jack Chismar swearing into the US Marine Corps in 1955.
Jack “Short Round” Chismar enlisting into the US Marine Corps in 1955.

In 1955 my father dropped out of high school and enlisted the US Marine Corps at the age of sixteen.  Sixteen? How is that possible? Federal law regulates seventeen years the minimum age to enlistment in the United States military, and that’s with parent’s consent!  Turns out my father conquered several obstacles throughout his life, the US Marine Corps serving as one chapter in his story.

He’s proud of his service and he’s proud of the US Military. My jack-of-all-trades father got the urge to write a book about his experiences. The catch? He types with one finger and writing pen to paper doesn’t go much faster. The solution? He recruited his jack-of-all-trades son to lend a helping hand.

We spent a road trip weekend together and I brought along my trusty digital audio recorder. My father recounted tales during our adventure and I returned home with hours of audio to transcribe. I’ve been busy organizing the text and working with my father to organize the story as chronologically as possible.

The tale starts in his hometown Swoyersville, PA and follows him to Camp Lejeune NC, Yemassee SC, Parris Island, Camp Geiger and the Boston Navy Yard. My father shares many anecdotes painting a vivid picture of what it was like to be a Marine in the 1950’s. He was one of the last recruits to complete boot camp at Parris Island before the tragic Ribbon Creek Incident took the lives of six recruits resulting with several changes in Marine Corps recruit training.

I started to post his stories online at Ninety ones suns being a reference to the thirteen weeks, or ninety one days of boot camp. Please read this work in progress and pass it to your friends. We’d love to hear your thoughts.