Trailing vowel.

September 9th, 2019 by John Morris

“Trailing vowel”: the vowel at the end of your Italian family’s name.

I spent my first seven years living in a neighborhood where Italian people settled. It was the most exciting section in Downingtown; it is called Johnsontown.

My friends were from the Italian families. Their names included Viscichini, Talucci, Carlone and Mento. We could see our homes without leaving ours. I ran with them even though my family’s name ends with a “s”, but it’s not DeAnglis. I was accepted because my Mom was Italian. None the less, I always felt a tiny bit incomplete.

Our little crew were steps away from getting small treats or well meaning scolding for the cadre of Italian women who were always on watch. Many times we just hung around waiting for the others to clear their home assignments. Then we’d play in empty lots, back alleys and river banks. We’d often find castoffs and then fashion a game using our imaginations. We played with the boys living on other streets, but our parents didn’t like it much. We needed to tell our Moms the names of the guys we played with. If I mentioned the wrong family’s name, I got the “stay away from him; his family’s bad” speech. No more explanations were ever offered. Our Moms would insist on our blood oath promises to avoid them. I reasoned my parents (my Mom) didn’t get along with their parents. I guess this was an early lesson on “good people V. bad people”.

Time would pass and our circle grew and shrank when folks moved in and on. The time came for my family to move less than a mile away to the other side of the tracks. It may have been to the next town. To play with my former running mates, I’d now navigate street crossings and a nasty railroad tunnel/urinal. I did this for a while but stopped after I found new friends at my new location.

We will always have our times together. We will always be from Johnsontown.

Note: 2019 is the centennial celebration for Saint Anthony’s Lodge in Johnsontown. They seek any writings you have about the time its denizens spent there from 1919 to 1970. I’m sure they’d be pleased to hear from you.

Musical moment

September 2nd, 2019 by John Morris

Can a song be both “revered and under-appreciated”?* Perhaps, if it’s Good Vibrations, the rock masterpiece by the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson. When discussing rock’s most celebrated efforts, it is mentioned with the likes of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “A Day in the Life“. The excellence of the work is still discussed by rock historians in fawning tones. They struggle not to go too far.

I remember the first time I heard Good Vibrations. It was in an outpost in the Mekong Delta named Ben Luc. Night was growing, and the squad’s only radio was set to the Saigon station. During the introduction, the DeeJay laid out some bits about the upcoming song. He talked about how many studio hours it took to record. He told us how the people in the States couldn’t get enough of it. He called it the finest music he’s ever heard. My mind was in some form of suspension. He let the music roll out without saying who would sing it or even its name.

The Beach Boys’ distinctive sound made it clear who was singing. The words lifted from the radio, and the song’s simple title was reveled, “I’m picking up good vibrations.” Wow, what a great line! The song kept up its flowing lines. The matching music combined hard driving rock with orchestral tendernesses.

All too soon it was over. I wanted to hear it again, but I’m sure a foot hygiene spot played instead.

The music played by Armed Forces Viet Nam was usually months behind what played in the “Land of the All Night Generator”. In the following weeks, Good Vibrations seemed to play about once an hour on the radio. I guess the censors in Saigon enjoyed this tune as much as I did. Soon enough some guys received their copies from home. The magical way to listen was with headphones.

It has been fifty-three years since the launch of Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson. He is often called a musical genius. I’ll add my name to the list of those who honor him.



The old boy writing this blog wears many hats: Vietnam Veteran, husband & father, salesman and techno-dude. After my service with the Army Security Agency, I operated a sign company for nineteen years, The sign industry changed after CAD/CAM machines made the task easy enough for the non-talented. I sold my company and never looked back.

Life has granted me a life partner better than I deserve. My wife, Lyn is a transplanted Kansas gal. Her bliss is teaching kindergarten and first grade.

I am the most proud of my children. My son, Adam lives an international life teaching English and living in Sozhou, China. He is married to one of life's truly lovely women, Yuri Kim. My daughter, Beth grew up in a small town and found her way in life means working and living in major cities like Chicago and New York. She and her life partner, Julie Sterling married in LaJolla, California in 2010.

I like getting the newest gadgets, but also I like to use things until they are useless, i.e., my last personal car was an 88 Honda Prelude Si.

I wrote a Vietnam Veteran newsletter for nine years. During this journey, I learned I like to write. It is a harmless exercise that rewards honest effort while tolerating failure gracefully. I been away from it for too long. My son gave me the blog, and it was a lifeline back to writing.

My best advice is to show the world what you can do but to accept only your opinion of who and what you are.

Update: In August 2008, my job became one of the half-million jobs that went away that month. I took the following year getting the home ready for my official retirement.

In October 2009, I took a part-time job as a saleman at the vaulted Maxwell's Hardware.

On November 29, 2011, I reached my 66th birthday, and I officially started Social Security. I intend to stay with Maxwell's as long as I can contribute.