Genre

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

"Dear Dad" (Reminiscence)

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1
Dear Dad

I wanted to tell you what I've been doing lately.  I know you'd be interested. 

First, we in the family have always known that when you were young, you were able to go on a world cruise for college students.  You borrowed the money for the ticket and wrote articles from abroad to 23 different American newspapers, and when you returned, you were able to pay back the loan from the proceeds of these articles.  You didn't talk as much about all this as Mother did.

You met an Austrian man who later carved for you a model of a Viking ship that we kept on our mantle all the years I was growing up at our home in Austin.  The man named Largent Price who came from Dallas to visit you from time to time had been on the cruise too.

When I was about 12, I think it was, you gave me a box full of coins from many of the countries you had visited during the cruise.  I think I was the one who divided the coins into little stacks from each country and then put each group into a separate little box: Bayer Aspirin, rolled gauze, Sucrets... That kind of little boxes.

One piece that seemed like a coin was in fact a chip from the Monte Carlo Casino.  You told us how you and a young woman friend on the cruise had played against each other at the roulette table, one of you betting Red and the other Black or one Odd and the other Even.  You played for hours because one of you would win every time.

We had a few photos in the kitchen closet that Mother would show us from time to time.  Not of you, but of sites you saw on the trip: people riding elephants or looking up at a big statue of Buddha, things like that.  Mother said there were other photos like that too.

Mother often mentioned that during this trip, you were able to interview Mussolini and the King of Siam, who incidentally had been Prince Chulalongkorn in "The King and I" or rather, in the real life version of that story.  Most impressive for a 22 year old, I'd say.

2

A few years ago, my wife and I went to the university archives to see what materials they had of yours.  Well, they have a lot, of course.  You did teach there for about 50 years after all.  They have a lot of stuff, including notes you made during the cruise and some photos, copies of newspaper articles you wrote about your experiences abroad.  It's interesting to compare the reports you wrote for yourself with the articles published; they differ quite a lot.

Later, I was using Ancestry.com - a genealogy research resource - looking for passenger lists that might contain names of family ancestors immigrating to America from Ireland or Germany, when I came across your name on a page from the S. S. Ryndam's passenger list of May 5, 1927.  This was the day when you and the others returned from the eight-months' voyage.

How exciting that was, to find that real world confirmation of the stories I'd heard my whole life about that wonderful educational opportunity you had had way back then.

3

I hadn't thought about your Ryndam experience then for several more years when I came across a photo I'd posted on your Ancestry page, a photo of the 1926-27 ship, in the Holland-America Line.  I must have found it when I found the passenger list. 
So I looked up the Ryndam itself and made a remarkable discovery!  Your trip around the world - the World University in 1926-27 - was the first ship voyage for college credit ever made.  For generations now, that has become such a routine thing, it was exciting to learn that you had been in on this first historical cruise.  And it's famous.

There are encyclopedia articles on World University, created and organized at NYU by Dr. James E. Lough, a psychology professor.  I was astounded to learn that altogether there were 504 students!  I'd never dreamed it was more than 100, if that many.

They came from 143 colleges from 40 states, and there were a few students from Canada, Cuba, and Hawaii.  The voyage eventually covered 41,000 miles, and students visited 90 cities in 35 countries, including Honolulu, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Manila, Bangkok, Colombo (Sri Lanka), Bombay, Haifa, Venice, Gibraltar, Lisbon, Oslo, Paris, and London.

4

But encyclopedia articles weren't the best things I found.  Lo and behold, there were references too to two books published in 1928 about the First World University.  One of them was a collection of photographs by the Holland-America Line's official photographer, over 200 photographs; and the other was the diary of one of the students.

Well, I found on the international catalog of books, Worldcat, that several libraries have copies of the photographs book in their circulating collections.  Yes, I was able to order it through my local county library via interlibrary loan.

Just consider how thrilled I was to find in this big, scrapbook sized volume, seven - SEVEN - pictures of you, my father, from 1926 and 1927.

Two of them are pictures of you in a large group, the first at a museum in Hawaii -

The second large-group photo is from a university in Hamburg, Germany:


I cannot pick you out of the crowd in the photo with the King and Queen of Siam:

But the other five - I say FIVE - photos of you are of smaller groups.  I have pulled your image out.

The first of these is a photo of the staff of the student newspaper, the Binnacle:

Next is the photo of the 20-25 students on the voyage from Texas:

One of your classes was apparently called just "Discussion."  Here you are from that photo:

And that interaction with Mussolini?  Well, you apparently had the opportunity to talk with him directly, but the picture in the book shows him (third from the left below) with a group:

And of course, there you are on the right side of the page:

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I had the book of photographs only two weeks.  There is no narrative, and there is only one individual named, the Captain, J. K. Lieuwen:

There are some photos of students' activities, such as the women's sketching class:

a large, somewhat mysterious event called "The Ducking" involving the ship's swimming pool:

There was a photo of hula dancing:

and, gulp, yes, a student Minstrel Show:

Elephants appear in two of the photos:
and

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There are a number of photos having to do with the voyage itself, including one of the ship, cruising in the Seto Inland Sea of Japan:

First, though, we find a picture of the New York/Hoboken pier as the ship is first setting out:

There are several shots of proceeding through the Panama Canal:

There's a dramatic picture shot from the air of the Ryndam steaming by Hawaii:

and an exotic photo in a Japanese harbor:

Finally, there is also a photo of a "tender" carrying Ryndam passengers from the ship to the pier in Naples:

7

 Three of my personal favorite photos are: (1) Diamond Head (Hawaii) as students saw it from the ship:

(2) the harbor at Kobe (Japan):

 and (3) a desalinization plant in Aden (Yemen):

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Among the many photos of great sites visited by the First World University are:  the giant Buddha - or Diabutsu - of Kawakara, Japan:

a Buddhist priest in Siam (Thailand, we say today):

the Taj Mahal in Agra, India:

There are no pictures of the Suez Canal.  Great sites include Egypt's Sphinx and Great Pyramid:

the Parthenon in Athens:

the Bridge of Sighs in Venice:

The Paris Opera ("l'Opera"):

and London's Westminster Abbey:

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Apparently, the Ryndam returned to port in New York harbor at night, passing a final great site - a great sight indeed, I'll bet; right, Dad?


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How I wish I could sit next to you, Dad, turning over the pages of the large old photo-book.  How I'd love to hear your reminiscences, your memories and your perspectives.  I can imagine it, at least.

1980, when you died, seems long, long ago.  1927 at this moment may seem closer.  Odd, isn't it?

So long!

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Around the World in 227 Days (Reminiscence)

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1

As I was growing up, it was well known in our household that my dad - many years before, when he was a very young man - had made an educational world tour on board ship.

Not that he talked about it a lot.  He didn't.  Mother reminded us about it from time to time.  Once in great while a man named Largent Parks, who apparently lived in Dallas 200 miles away, would show up at the front door and chat with Dad alone in the living room for a half-hour or so.  We knew that Mr. Parks flew in from Dallas, in his own plane.  Mr. Parks had been on the cruise with my father.

We had a model Viking ship on our mantelpiece carved and put together by an Austrian man whom Dad had met (somewhere, somehow) during his tour.  When I was 12 or so, Dad showed me a box of coins - from France, Siam, and many other countries - which he said were coins he'd ended up with as he had left each of the countries visited by the tour.  Each country's coins were in a different old pill box.
In our family scrapbook, Mother had posted two or three photos of Dad on a camel or in an exotic-looking port.  We knew too that, as Dad went from country to country - years ago - he sometimes sent news reports back to be published in American newspapers.  He had interviewed Mussolini back before anyone in the US had heard of him, for example... and King Chulalongkorn of Siam, son of the king (of The King and I), and others.

But we only heard little snippets like this, from time to time...

2

After Dad had been gone (that is, dead) for ten years or so, I began to wonder if the University of Texas archives had anything interesting among his papers.  Dad had taught there for almost 50 years.

My wife S----- and I made a visit and found much to be interested in, including a whole box of materials relating to the 1926-27 world tour.  We've had the coins since before Dad's death,

but lots of other things that we'd never seen were there in the UT archives.

3

At the end of our visit, we asked the archives to make us copies of quite a few of the materials related to the World University tour, including a small number (relative to the sum total of all there) of photos, the unfinished, or at least unedited manuscript on a book-length narrative of the whole 9 months, and materials related to the articles Dad had written that were published in a total of 23 newspapers back in 1926 and '27.  (The family legend was that Dad had borrowed the money to pay for the tour and that he was able to pay back the loan immediately upon his return to Austin with the money these newspapers had paid him.)

There was also a copy of the passenger list.
When I retired in 2008, I reviewed all these materials fairly carefully.  It was great, of course, and especially interesting to compare what had been published by a newspaper to what he had written for the longer narrative.  I could see why he had abandoned the book-length project, since it would have required a lot of work to re-organize it before it was ready for the public.  As I remember it, Dad had tried two or three different modes of organization.  I made quite a few notes, but finally felt it wasn't worth my time now to cobble it together.

The pictures might hold some independent interest, but I haven't dug them out from all the papers we moved with us from New York to Missouri a couple of years ago.

4


A few days ago, now, I was examining a photo of Dad at about age 4, which I had posted on my family tree some years back.
Next to this family photo on the same page was an old published photo of a cruise ship that I only vaguely recalled having posted, having found it on the Internet back then, when I was putting up visual material.  Sure enough, it was the S. S. Rijndam, ca. 1925.
With some time to kill that day last week, I suppose, I happened to look up the ship again on the Internet.  W[onder]O[f]Wonders], a whole bunch of stuff appeared for the first time, which included information specifically on the world tour on the Rijndam taken by my father in 1926-27.

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It turns out that the Rijndam's 1926-27 educational world tour ("The World University") was the very first college credit-bearing shipboard cruise.  500 students from all over the U. S. were involved.  I had thought it was maybe 50 or 60.

The whole experience was organized and sponsored by New York University.  It turns out that at least two books were published relating to the tour, one diary published in 1928 which has been recently republished as a historical facsimile and the other - apparently 200 photos - more recently published by the Holland-America Line, which ran the Rijndam.  The photo book is available by interlibrary loan and the diary can be bought via Amazon.

I have ordered the republished diary and have requested the photo book on interlibrary loan.

In the online notice of the photobook, two samples appear.  One is inconsequential.  The other shows a group of the Rijndam students posing behind Mussolini.

Despite the blur, the young man indicated below on El Duce's left is unmistakably ... my dad!




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Monday, January 4, 2016

Corporate Comparative

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1

Consider Corporation X in City A.  It is a publicly-traded, local aviation business, established to serve the sporting and recreational trade.

At first, it was a small, family business with fewer than 20 employees, all from the local area.  When a war in the Middle East began to seem likely, Corporation X re-adapted itself to produce military aircraft, and as war broke out, it grew rapidly, adding several hundred workers and relocating to a new, much larger building it constructed on the outskirts of City A. Some of Corporation X's leading engineers who were needed to make the needed adaptation were hired from larger cities in the region, but most of the workforce remained local, coming from families who had lived in the area for as long as the family who started the business.

To help make these necessary changes, Corporation X sold stock publicly.  A local chapter of a national union was formed, which was apparently considered a normal development.  The leaders of the local chapter were typical of the workers generally.  Contract negotiations usually went smoothly as the business prospered.

When the war ended, military contracts continued, but corporate executives (members of the family of original owners) considered them uncertain enough that they resumed some of the firm's original sporting and recreational manufacturing.  This kind of adaptability allowed the firm to continue to be profitable, though at a lower level.

At this time, just as the family members who had founded Corporation X were reaching retirement age, the world economy took a sudden, dramatic down-turn.  Some stockholders argued that the firm should move away from City A, seeking tax breaks and lower, non-union wages in a different region.  But the local stockholders, led by the remaining family members, decided to stay in City A.  The size of corporate earnings was reduced, thus lowering stock values. Hourly wages and professional salaries were curtailed from the highest to the lowest levels, in order for Corporation X to survive through the hard times.  Corporation X continues to do business, still in City A.

2

Now, consider Corporation Y in City B. 

Corporation Y was the answer to a prayer widely held in City B.  The small but prosperous city had suffered from continuing hard times for decades.  Small manufacturers had begun to go out of business in times of high inflation and rising labor costs.  The larger corporations had pulled up stakes to move to regions where workers were perhaps less skilled but also less organized and less expensive.

Led by an aggressive young County Executive, City B set out to recruit up-and-coming corporations from other states, even from other countries.  A pleasant lifestyle in an attractive region, welcoming churches and reasonably good schools, and - especially - alluring prospective tax breaks were City B's selling points.

And it worked!  After years of redeveloping a sparsely settled, flat area on the outskirts of town into an industrial park, city and county leaders were able to make a win-win deal with Corporation Y who was looking to expand and whose future business prospects looked good, both in the U. S. and abroad.  A favorable deal was brokered with the relevant union leaders, who considered dependable, lower-paying jobs as better than endemic unemployment.  So Corporation Y built a state-of-the-art, highly computerized new plant in City B's new industrial park.

Within a few months, Corporation Y's management team for City B had arrived and settled in new upper-middle class homes.  A team of accountants, corporate lawyers, personnel officers, and so on, was transferred in, and hourly workers were hired from the local community.  Unemployment went down, retail sales went up, population stabilized somewhat, just as planned.  Tax revenues increased, not dramatically but somewhat.

And then came a sudden economic downturn worldwide.  Things were not looking so good for Corporation B.  Anticipating that its global stockholders would start feeling antsy soon, corporate executives decided immediate action was necessary.  Had they over-expanded when the financial picture looked so rosy?  Well, don't look back; move on!

At 4:20 p.m. the Friday after Thanksgiving, a notice appeared in all the mail-slots of all Corporation Y employees in City B, and a notice from the Public Relations Office also appeared on all local media's emails.

The notice to employees said: "Due to the plunging economy and unrest abroad, Corporation Y has had to decide to close down all operations in City B.  Individuals will receive personal instructions as to when they should stop coming in to work, but by December 31, all will be laid off."

The release to the media said: "From Corporation B headquarters in XXXXX has come word that by December 31, 20XX, the plant in City B will cease to operate.  Unstable economic conditions globally have forced the company to make this unfortunate decision.  Individual employees may expect the formal lay-off notices by the end of next week.  Corporation B's operations in all other locations, please rest assured, are proceeding normally."

3

Which story seems the more realistic?

Curtailing executive salaries in order to keep the plant running and the workers employed?

Risking a temporary decline of stock prices?

These seem idealistic fantasies, don't they?  Putting at risk the short-term profits of stock-holders and top executives, in order to prolong the life of the company and in order to serve the long-term good of the community?  You're dreaming!

Are Corporations expected to make rational decisions for the long-term, for the good of the many instead of the few?  Do we have the means of holding Corporations responsible for the social effects of their actions?  Don't be crazy! 

Note:
If you found this article interesting, you might also be interested in this other one
http://byronderrick.blogspot.com/2010/12/corporations-are-not-people-are-they.html

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Monday, December 14, 2015

DNA and Me

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In 2000 or so, my Executive Secretary stuck her head in my office.  "Someone on the 'phone says he is Giles Derrick, for you.  Do you know him?"

"No, but I'll take it," I said, bored with whatever I'd been working on.  Using my official's voice, I said: "Hello? This is Byron Derrick."

The voice on the other end of the line said: "Are you the Byron Derrick whose father was Walter George Derrick?"

I am indeed, but I didn't have time to decide whether I wanted to tell some stranger this fact.

"Because if you are, then I think I may be related to you."

I was still quiet.

"And I hope you will take a DNA test so we can tell, for sure!"


So we talked for a while, and Giles managed to convince me that he was doing genealogical research only.  He had a low-cost DNA test sent to me.  I paid $75, I believe, for the test and sure enough, the results showed that Giles and I were distantly related.

My dad had been an orphan, and his father had abandoned his mother in Savannah before Dad had even been born.  Dad didn't know anything at all about his father's parents or ancestors.  Giles Derrick and his other distant cousin Gale Reddick, on the other hand, had lots of information about our ancestors.  Perfect!

As I learned, Johann Darik and his family had arrived in Savannah from Germany on The Three Sisters in 1737.  Johann had three sons with him: Peter, Michael, and Johann II.

According to Giles, Gale, Giles himself, and I were all descended from Johann II's son Jacob, our g-g-g-grandfather.  Giles and Gale were descended from one of Jacob's sons, while I was descended from another.  

This DNA approach to ordinary family history obviously had some real advantages.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

My Peculiar Bloomers (Reminiscence)


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 Lower garden, April 4, 2015

1

In the spring and summer of 2013, our health was not good enough for my wife S----- and me to spend much time paying attention to what grows well in our new home climate and sun-and-soil conditions.  In 2014, however, I did pay attention.

We have basically four garden areas in our new home: one just outside the front door; another also inside the fence; the largest area outside the fence along the street to the right as you go out the front gate; and the last area, on the lower level in back of the house.

We discovered that deer love to feed on many flowers and shrubs and have easy access to the back of our house, and almost as easy access to all the rest of the big area outside the fence.  We also found that roses, geraniums, petunias, and marigolds can thrive in our beds.  The deer feasted on the petunias and geraniums in 2014 but left the marigolds and roses alone.

2

The most spectacular marigolds we had in 2014, however, were protected from any possible poaching critters by being inside the fence up close to our house.  For just a few dollars we had planted a couple of marigold plants in a prominent spot out our front window.  The flowers shot up, got as big as chrysanthemums, and were a dazzling gold color... for months.
Gold marigolds, June 2014

We also discovered after a very short time, however, that S----- didn't like the gold color.  She now knows she doesn't want yellow or orange or gold flowers in our beds again. ...But those were the hardiest, biggest, and showiest blooms we had anywhere in 2014.

3

So, in planning for 2015, I decided we would choose only flowers that were white or red, and that we would plant geraniums all around the beds inside the fence, petunias in the pots stationed at various places in the hardscape in that front area, reserving the outside area for marigolds and any other red and white flower plants I could discover.

But the marigolds could not be that familiar yellow variety we see every year all over the place, or orange, or gold.  I checked via internet research and - sure enough - I found that red marigolds and white marigolds do exist!

4

When the local stores started selling flowers for local gardens in April 2015, I eagerly searched for red and white marigolds but was not surprised to see only the familiar yellow little guys.  They were cheap and they were everywhere, but they just wouldn't do.  So I turned to online plant shopping.

Finding the whites and reds in botanical research and reference publications had been easy, but it took some doing to find these less common varieties for sale.  Finally, I came across some red marigolds and put them "in my cart."  But before "continuing to check-out," I noticed these were seeds!

Seeds for the yellow standard marigolds were available everywhere too, so I thought I just had to look in a few more sites before finding the flower plants I wanted in the white and the red varieties.  But after more searching, I found myself retracing my steps to the seeds catalog.  That was all I could get.

5

The yellow (orange, gold) marigolds one buys at Home Depot or Lowe's or elsewhere are about 4 inches tall in 4-inch wide plastic pots.  Each usually has a flower or two with a bud or two ready to open up soon.  The buyer can take them straight home, pop them out of their little containers, and stick them into the ground, adding a little water.  Place them about 4-6 inches apart because they get only a couple of inches wider, and only 2-4 inches taller.  As colorful, little plants (also cheap and plentiful), they are perfect to have just inside the edge of your flower beds running - say, for instance - along both sides of your front walk, or along the edge of the beds going out from the sides of your front steps going both ways.  They do best in sun or partial sun, but they do okay too in shade.

I was thinking, having to wait several days for the seeds to arrive and then having to allow them a week to germinate and - I didn't know, but say - 5 or 6 days more to grow enough for planting, I could have my specially colored marigolds in place by late May.  I had hoped for only a couple of weeks earlier, so... OK!

6

They sent me the minimum, 500 seeds in each packet.  I planted 10 or 12 of each in little starter trays.  They took several days to germinate, but almost every seed did come up.
                                                    Seedlings before first transplantation, May 17

After the seedlings were 2 inches high or thereabouts, I transferred them into larger pots, kept watering and watching.  They continued to grow and did assume the shape and stem-foliage color recognizable as marigolds, spidery and delicate.
A week after first transplantation, June 4

The new plants had reached 5 inches high or so, and I was wondering about transplanting them into the flower beds outside the fence... But there was no hint of blooms.  In the stores when you see marigold plants of 4 to 6 inches high, they have usually started to bloom.  I knew I had special varieties, so I waited.  And waited.  AND WAITED.

7

Finally, although there was still no hint of blooms, the hand-planted marigolds had reached 8 inches in height and were 5 or 6 inches or so in circumference.   They looked vigorous and healthy.  I couldn't wait anymore.  It was already July.

I had to decide whether or not to just strew the new marigolds along the border, spaced more or less evenly every 6 inches from one end to the other.  I had already put in a few petunias here and there.  I decided to put three or sometimes four of the new plants about 3 to 4 inches apart, in order to create a little massing of the new special blooms.

I quickly ran out of room along the edge of the bed and also created three or four massings 3 or 4 feet from the edge.  At only 6 to 8 inches high, they might be blocked from view from the street, but there just wasn't enough space.

8

Funny thing.  The marigold plants just kept growing and growing.  Finally they were getting to be about 3 feet tall!  So much for being hidden behind the little petunias.  Oh, and by the way, there was still no hint of flowers.
The white marigold plant is on the left; the red, on the right.  Photo from July 17.

Finally, some red blooms began to appear on the marigold... well, the marigold BUSH.  Still, there was little sign of bloom on the white bushes, but the reds were not the dainty little 8-inch bed edgers I had anticipated either. They were at last flowers, though... by August.
White marigolds on the left, red (orangey red) on the right.  August 6.

It was still a while before the whites started coming.  They seem to need more direct sun and have never been terrific bloomers, but they did produce a bit.
 The earliest white marigolds, August 13

9

I've still got lots of seeds.  In April next year, I will plant some of the red and white marigolds directly in the 4-inch plastic pots.  When they get 6 to 8 inches high, if they are robust enough, I will transplant them into that big side garden, but not along the edge.  I'll plant them all about halfway back from the front edge, arranging them with the hope that they will grow together to make the bushes we ended up with this year.  If I fuss with them enough, maybe I can have them all blooming by mid-June.... Oh, well, by mid-July anyway.

I've found some pretty good deer repellent (expensive, though), so I'll put some petunias and even some geraniums along the front edge.  Is that a plan, or what?

 October 23

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