32°42’38.8″N 96°59’49.3″W

Lakeview Drive

Late 1950’s

 For the majority of my life, a peculiar memory has remained a mystery…

Our family had moved to the southernmost part of town…very rural.

 West of Beltline Rd_ North of Lakeview Drive. 

The acreage just south of our neighborhood was farmland. 

Cotton grew in those fields.

 Vivid images…people of color picking cotton. 

…a crop duster spraying the field as I looked on, from likely…a less than safe distance. 

I can’t imagine that being a healthy choice.

Regardless…this mysterious memory took place between 1957 and 1960. 

In the middle of the night our mother took us children outdoors. We stood on the porch looking at the night sky.  

An oddly greenish hue…very bright

Highly unusual…

…for our mother to take us outside to witness this event was clearly seared into my less than adequate biological database.

That event remains a mystery. 

Fast forward to the present…

I am a fan of SYSK: Stuff You Should Know, a podcast hosted by Josh Clark and Charles W. “Chuck” Bryant. While bingeing past episodes during the Covid-19 lockdown, I stumbled upon SYSK (Season 17 Episode 38 “How the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis Work”). That might explain the phenomenon I witnessed as a child. 

Of course I have been aware of this phenomenon and actually witnessed the aurora borealis years ago while on a trip to Iowa of all places…but this episode sparked my interest and set me on a path to research the possibility that perhaps this was the answer to the mystery.    

On November 28, 1959, the Aurora Borealis was seen as far South as Houston, Texas. 

SYSK’s story brought great comfort to me while I listened. It was a perfect explanation for what I had witnessed. The greenish hue lighting up the night sky…well documented. 

Below I have listed all of the Aurora Borealis phenomena that took place between 1957 and 1960. 

This wasn’t a vague memory of some alien abduction scenario. Whew!!!

Thanks Josh & Chuck…  

In the immortal words of “Invader Zim’s Garbage-issue Information Retrieval Unit, GIR”…

 “I Love This Show”


January 25, 1957 – Uranium and aurora blamed in plane crash. [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 25, 1957, p. 7].

March 4, 1957 – New awesome lights hang in north skies [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 4, 1957, p. 11].

April 17, 1957 – World radio signals fade [New York Times, April 18, 1956 p. 25]

September 5, 1957 – Aurora borealis stages sky show in Chicago area [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 5, 1957, p. 1].

September 13, 1957 – Rare northern lights display in southland [Los Angeles Times, September 13, 1957, p. 1].

September 23, 1957 – Aurora lights northern sky in city region [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 23, 1957, p. 2].

November 6, 1957 – Radio and TV, Sunspots in high gear. Sound of BBC video fills US homes [New York Times, November 6, 1957 p. 71]

February 11, 1958 – Radio blackout cuts US off from the rest of the world. Aurora visible in Los Angeles, Tulsa, Boston, Seattle, Canada and Newfoundland. Voltages in electrical telegraph circuits exceeded 320 volts in Newfoundland. Intense red glow gave way to curtains and shimmering draperies. [New York Times, February 11, 1958, p. 62]. Although not seen over New York, it was so intense over Europe that people wondered about fires and warfare. [New York Times, February 12, 1958, p. 16]. Aurora puts on display in northern skies [Chicago Daily Tribune, February 11, 1958, p. 4]. Skies brilliant in northern lights display [Los Angeles Times, February 11, 1958, p.1]. Aurora borealis again seen here [The Washington Post, February 11, 1958, p. A1].

March 29, 1959 – Aurora seen on Long island, 2 hour display observed, radio disruption goes on [New York Times, March 29, 1959, p. 33]

July 16, 1959 – Radio upset by magnetic disturbance [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 16, 1959, p. C9]

November 29, 1959 – Aurora borealis seen in Houston [Los Angeles Times, November 29, 1959, p. A4].

April 1, 1960 – Aurora borealis viewed here [The Washington Post, April 1, 1960, p. A1].

October 7, 1960 – Sky in area is colered by northern lights [New York Times, October 7, 1960, p. 68].

November 13, 1960 – Type 3 solar flare gives North America a rare auroral display. [New York Times, November 14, 1960 p. 14]. Display of northern lights here creates glow [New York Times, November 13, 1960, p. 3]. Solar explosion causes show of northern lights [Chicago Daily Tribune, November 14, 1960, p.1]. Blasts on sun roil earth’s radio waves [Chicago Daily Tribune, November 16, 1960, p. 16]. Aurora borealis proves thriller [The Washington Post, November 13, 1960, p. A1]. AUrora borealis lights up D.C. Area; Resultant calls light switchboards [The Washington Post, November 14, 1960, p. A3].

References: Solar Storms.org  


As a fledgling guitarist for the majority of my life, studying songs, scales and the fretboard are the norm…

Every guitarist who grew up in the days of Long Play analog records will recall the tedious task of placing the needle in just the right groove to listen to a particular part of a song that held their interest…until it became so tedious, impatience took over and you moved on…or…persevered, learned the lick and danced the happy dance.

YouTube came along and made a lot of dreams come true in providing a platform for guitarist from every “Walk of Life”1 teaching guitar lessons in a video format that allow the viewer to slow the playback speed. 


I recently heard about Vidami’s foot controller. Finally!!! 

Utility Design created the ultimate tool for guitar players to control… handsfree…the playback speed…capture a segment of video and loop it endlessly. 


I would say this is one of the best tools available for anyone interested in learning to play guitar. 

I will tell you this, in my humble opinion, the downside…up front. 

It is not compatible with IOS devices such as iPad. My music workstation, up until this device arrived a week ago, consist of IOS devices.

I purchased an inexpensive Chromebook, compatible with the Vidami software and set it up at my music workstation. 

Lightning-fast licks are now slowed to speeds that allow the user to better understand the mechanics…working up to and possibly achieving some of those trademark licks we’ve all dreamed of playing. There’s still a lot of work to do and scales to practice, but…we all know that.

And remember…Study a song, study scales or your fretboard and then just noodle along with your favorite playlist and have fun.

If you can’t have a little fun…why bother. 

  1. Mark Knopfler, famed guitarist for Dire Straits, teaches guitar lessons on YouTube and wrote the song “Walk of Life” if you didn’t already know that bit of trivia.

an open letter to the Medical Community…

Watching this evening’s news I was moved to tears…

An RN, assigned to a Covid unit and overwhelmed with grief, sobbing uncontrollably.

…my heart just broke.

The Medical Community is in need.

…and there is something we all can do to help them.


Last year, about this time, I reported to medical to take an annual hearing exam.

On my way out there were sounds coming from a nearby exam room…

”Anyone in that condition should never have reported to work.”, I thought to myself.

That was Wednesday.

It hit me Friday…the first day of the Christmas shutdown.

It was bad. I don’t know what this is…but it’s bad.

I self-quarantined.

There is no way I am going to expose anyone else to this.

Nancy and I cancelled our holiday plans.

My best friend’s Mother’s birthday party…not a chance. We RSVP’d our disappointment at not being able to attend.

The annual family Christmas eve gathering…no way.

Christmas dinner with family…out of the question.

Nancy and I spent a quiet Christmas together…just the two of us.

In mid-February I retired.

At that time cases of Covid-19 had just entered the U.S.

March 13th, 2020 was the last time I got a haircut from Monica, my longtime friend/stylist/mental therapist.

Nancy now cuts my hair…and she’s getting pretty good at it.

The medical experts suggested guidelines…those became our guidelines.

I do not care what political pundits opine.

Some of our friends believe that we are overreacting.

I do not care to see how socially active you are and braving this threat.

What I see…

Our Medical Community is overwhelmed.

WE have an obligation to listen to what they have to say.

Take their advice on what we need to do and what not to do.

At some point in our lives…

We WILL need the help, the care…the empathy of many healthcare professionals.

But…right now.

Right now…

They need our help.

Nancy and I will do our best to stay out of the way.

For as long as it takes…

And to all healthcare professionals out there…please know that you are very much appreciated and we wish you well.

You are our heroes.

Every one of you.

Nancy and I will share another beautiful, quiet Christmas celebration…together.

Just the two of us.

…and there is nothing left to say, but

Merry Christmas…

and hope.

Pandemic 2020 Movie Night after night…

I will start with this.

“I am a huge fan of Wikipedia”

…and serendipity

We recently watched the film “Downton Abbey”.

In years past, we had followed the PBS series faithfully until Anna, lady’s maid to Lady Mary, was assaulted.

Upset by the direction the story was taking…we discontinued watching the series.

After watching the movie, we realized there were too many unfilled blanks. So we started over.

The entire series…

Then watched the movie…again

Through all of this, Wiki provided side notes from actor’s backgrounds to the Grantham/Crawley Family tree.

After watching all of that, we began to explore the filmography of individual actors from the series.

First up….

Dame Maggie Smith, who provided comic relief during the series and…our personal favorite.

Julienne Fellow’s contribution prompted us to revisit the film “Gosford Park”.

A film full of British Cinematic Royalty…including Dame Maggie Smith as well as Jeremy Swift, who played Septimus Spratt, the butler of the Dowager Countess (Dame Maggie Smith).

This led to “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”…more Cinematic Royalty.

Bill Nighy led us to the film “Emma”.

Taking a break from Cinematic Royalty, I queued up a movie on Amazon Prime that caught my attention, called “Fast Colors”. Serendipity…

This movie stars the beautiful young actress Gugu Mbatha Raw.

We soon realized why she looked so familiar. She played in Apple TV’s “The Morning Show”.

This serendipitous discovery led us to the film called “Belle”.

This young lady “Is” British Cinematic Royalty.

“Belle” led us to “Summerland”…co-starring Penelope Wilton (Downton Abbey’s Mrs. Crawley)

Full Circle

Taking a break from endless movie night after night we watched PBS Grammy’s Lifetime Achievement Awards.

It featured Cynthia Erivo, singing a tribute to Roberta Flack.

Unbelievable talent!


Oh my Gosh!!!! This young lady is Cinematic Royalty as well, starring in the 2019 film “Harriet”.

I suppose you know what’s on for “Movie Night” tonight…


Life in Istanbul

Life in Istanbul

Several years ago, our daughter and family were given the opportunity to study abroad in Istanbul and away they went…on an adventure that continues to this day.

From our distant view, it has been an adventure encompassing all of the imaginable ups and downs associated with raising two small children. That, in itself is an adventure. But, imagine living that “learning curve”…in a new world.

They have done an amazing job. The children are completely immersed in the culture and learning the language as they go. As Grandparents around the world know…FaceTime video conversations are treasures that only a few years ago were non-existent.

And yes, they are dealing with the Covid-19 Pandemic just as we are here in America.

This is a worldwide event.

Recovery Mode

It was just before Christmas of 2018. 

…the final week before we shut down for a long and well deserved holiday. 

A delayed project or a lower than usual volume in the workload allowed me to break away from the shop to wish some of my colleagues a safe and Merry Christmas. 

The campus is quite large and a brisk mid-morning walk on a beautiful December morning is just what I need.

To the far side of the campus I go…to visit the tool design group…some of the brightest and best in the industry.

Well-wishes delivered, its time to head back. 

On the way back I passed through the machine shop, continuing my mission to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, exiting the door at he opposite end of the shop to complete my mission.

Making my way along the road…I continue my brisk pace. 

Along the way, I noticed an employee struggling to replace a propane bottle on his forklift. I cross over the road to offer a helping hand…

I was startled… 

He should not be here…

I have ever seen anyone so close to death. 

I had been thrust into a scenario I could never have imagined.

Concentrating on the task at hand we finished the task.

 At odds about what I need to do…I wished him a Merry Christmas and continued my walk, now tasked with a new mission. 

My responsibility moving forward is becoming apparent. 

I’m brought to tears

I have to get involved

Upon returning to my workstation, I made the call.

“Medical”, answered the nurse. After a brief conversation, she promised to have the Nurse Practitioner call as soon as he was available. 

A short while later…

“Hello Mitchell, this is James, how can I help you”

I replied “James, thank you for getting back with me.”

“I’m sure this is probably the strangest request you may ever have, but…could you do a Wellness Check on an employee?”, I asked

A slew of questions followed…regarding my relationship with this employee. 

“No, I am not his supervisor. No I am not his lead man. I do not work with him. I merely encountered him and have to get him some help”

Later, through co-workers, who worked with this employee,

I learned of his health issues. 

He did get the help he needed…

His life was saved.

Surely, I was not the first person to see that he was in need.

His immediate supervisor allowed him to get on a forklift in his impaired condition putting, not just himself…but, others at risk.

Everyone in my chain of command received and e-mail from me asking, “How did this happen?”

Everyone in this employees chain of command should have been admonished for allowing this to happen. 

Update: May of 2020

I retired in March of this year, but stay in touch with my friends from work…

I received a text yesterday.

I am saddened to hear of his passing.

I can’t tell you how many times I have passed along one of my go to mantras…

”It’s best not to get involved” 

So many times, in my career as a toolmaker, someone would ask about a project or a quagmire they found themselves in…“Recovery Mode”, I like to call it.

It happens. 

It is the nature of the beast

…I would look at them and say, “What is my inner being screaming?” and they would recite the mantra,

“It’s best not to get involved.” 

I will always get involved…

A love that’s lasted

by Patti Emmel

Special Edition of Charles City PressD1CC0CA1-25C7-475B-B940-54ADE4E45212_1_201_a

April 23, 1985

A love that’s lasted

Married 61 years 

Charles and Alethia Pettitt, Charles City, Iowa are an example that marriages can be happy successes.

By Patti Emmel

It was a cool October 31st in Iowa in 1919. The trees crackled as the Halloween wind whistled through their leafless branches.

Charles Pettitt, a fifteen year old boy, directed his horse named Tom, as he sat in the carriage behind. Out of the families drive and down the road the two traveled, moving quickly as the boy held the reigns tightly in shy anticipation.

Crossing the railroad tracks, the house came into sight. He held a few jitters in his stomach as he turned into the yard. 

Then he saw her.

He thought she was awfully pretty when she came out of the house, her brown hair blowing in the wind. She was 17, and Alethia Logan was her name. They had just met 15 days earlier at his first day spent at the Otranto, Iowa, consolidated school. 

His family had just moved into the area.

He didn’t like her at first. She had laughed at him in front of the whole class during that first day, when he got out his lunchbox but didn’t know where to sit and stood in the middle of the room looking at everyone else. But, she was his neighbor and she didn’t have a ride to the Halloween school dance, and he did live awfully close.

Now, 66 years and four later, Alethia and Charles Pettitt, 1002 21st Ave., Charles City, are still together. Married more than 61 years, the couple still laughs playfully at one another, and more importantly, laughs with each other. “He lived on the wrong side of the tracks back then,” Alethia joked. “No, you lived on the wrong side of the tracks,” Charles replied. “Anyway, it wasn’t love at first sight,” he said. However, love obviously entered the picture somewhere, and the couple claims it is something that has only increased as they have become older.

What are the secrets to have a good, lasting marriage?

“Well, we tried to follow our vows. So many people today don’t seem to follow them.” Alethia said.

“You’ve got to talk things out. Talk about everything,” Charles said.

“That’s right. Don’t keep secrets.” Alethia patted her palm on the couch. “We never kept secrets. And you have to kind of know each others business in expenditures.”

Charles continued. “Put it in one pocketbook. You both have to agree where the dollar will be spent.”

The couple also stressed much of the success of their marriage is due to their faith and relationship with God. They have attended the United Church of Christ at Colwell, located four miles northeast of the spot where they farmed, since the fall of ’49. They also attend Sunday school and read the Bible every morning. “I’m always learning something new from that,” Charles said.

The couple was honored last year for their 60th wedding anniversary, receiving greetings from President Reagan and Nancy, Alethia said.

Throughout their lengthy marriage, they became the parents of two children: a daughter, Anita Darrow, Charles City; and a son, James Pettitt, who died seven years ago of multiple sclerosis. The couple also has five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

“There’s been ups and downs,” Alethia said. We had hard times – the depression and when we first got married. There was a time when we got $5 for cream and thought we were rich. But we made it. We’re still here!”

“I wouldn’t start that way again, though,” said Charles. “I got married and took someone I loved and about starver her!.”

“Oh, it wasn’t that bad,” chirped Alethia, who often addresses her husband as ’honey.’

And what advise would they offer to newlyweds?

“When there’s a problem, a friend of mine used to put it, ‘lay it out on the table; let’s have it,’ ” Charles said.

“Well,” Alethia continued, “I think the whole family should go the same way. With so many, the wife goes her way, and the kids go theirs and the husband goes his. But, it works better if you all go the same way.”

Alethia held up a ceramic lamp at the end of the interview.

“See,” she said, “I painted this.” It featured an Iowa scene of a boy driving a buggy into a yard and a girl coming out of a house. 

Below, it said, “October 31, 1919. Our first date.”

The first of many good memories for Charles Pettitt and Alethia Logan Pettitt.