Ordinary Men, Unforgettable Women
"Ordinary Men, Unforgettable Women" is Melvin E. Giles' third book and it tells of friends, lovers, mothers, brothers, and others in appealing slices of life told in the form of vignettes or literary sketches. The vignettes relate the experiences of men and women the author has known, or that he heard first hand or were experienced by the author himself. While some of the vignettes unfold recent events, others visit times past and a few may grant the reader a glimpse of a moment in history. Regardless of subject matter each of the stories will cause readers to smile, be moved, or remember similar experiences. To learn more, read a sample from the excerpts listed below.
Have you read these other books by Melvin E. Giles?
"Bits and Pieces" began as a catharsis, with emotions scribbled onto bits and pieces of paper that evolved into a splendid compilation of 25 years of evocative poetry recording life's joys, mirages, and disappointments. A "must read" book of rhyme and free verse it will stir the emotions of all readers who love poetic verse.
"George Street, Our Street" is a nostalgic novel set on Chicago's North Side in the 40's and 50's. Climb aboard this time machine and enjoy a trip back into that bygone era of hard times and sweet times known by a humble but honest family from Texas, as they coped with the wiles and pitfalls of life in the big city. A limited number of first edition copies are still available.Return to the top
Excerpts from the book
Marty Flynn first heard Betty's name during the hubbub of his church's annual congregational meeting, when she was mentioned as another candidate for the church council in opposition to him. The year was 1974, early in the beginning of the women's movement, yet it seemed that the nomination was not open to her. Instead of being forthright and telling Betty Kirsch that women weren't welcome on the council, the nominating committee had disqualified Betty, claiming her length of membership was insufficient, a technicality.
By splitting hairs the election committee had declared Betty Kirsch to be ineligible for nomination to a seat on the council. Unopposed, Marty Flynn was elected to the church council. Yet, he was troubled and couldn't help wondering if in fact, the best person had truly won.
Why hadn't the committee wanted Betty Kirsch on the council? Well for starters, she was a woman. Not just any woman, but an assertive, intelligent, and independent woman of the 70's; one who spoke up on issues and defended her position with fervor. Marty wondered why that wasn't considered as an asset in her favor, but apparently the male-dominated council wasn't yet ready to contend with an independent woman.
As the monthly council meetings resumed according to schedule, the issue fell by the wayside until one night nearly a year later, when the council had received the resignation of a long-time council member. The council members then debated reasons for nominating another church member to fill the vacancy, when Marty caused the raising of several eyebrows by nominating Betty Kirsch. His personal reason, which he didn't share with the other members, was that rightfully Betty should have been elected instead of him.
Stammer! Sput! Harumph! Reasons were quickly offered referring to her lack of eligibility for the council, primarily that she hadn't been a member of the congregation long enough. When that smoke screen was finally blown away, the old-guard opposition offered no further debate and reluctantly accepted Betty as the appointee. Marty heard that Betty had been excited by the offer of a council position and to the chagrin of some members, accepted immediately, thus becoming the first woman council member in the congregation's history.
Since she didn't possess skin-deep beauty, some might not have considered Betty a woman of beauty, but she was attractive, with a gift of understanding, and a very strong, abiding persuasiveness that often swayed her detractors. In Marty's mind she was a capable woman who juggled a marriage, children, home, charity work, and a job. Often Betty, Marty, and a few other younger members of the council, like Steve Patterson, worked closely together, and were able to move progressive issues through the council. She, Steve, and Marty were usually on the same side of an issue.
Betty and Marty had slowly become friends but once while she reviewed previous council meeting minutes, Betty learned that Marty Flynn had nominated her. She then offered her thanks to Marty because it appeared to her that he had been the first to believe in her. He protested that it wasn't so much a matter of believing in her, but simply believing in her having an equal right to hold a council position.
Strains of "Moritat" waft from the stereo; its haunting, whistled melody fills the room and flags down Tom Arwood's train of thought. Once again, Tom begins to recall the tune's alter ego, "Mack the Knife", a tune from an old play, "The Three-Penny Opera". He remembers the classic up-tempo version by Louis Armstrong that he heard so many times, played on a jukebox in Germany years before. Once more, keeping an old promise that he had made with all his aching heart, Tom revisits an old reverie; he remembers Lorelei.
Years ago while stationed in Germany, he had first heard "Mack the Knife" during a noisy, fun-filled, evening at one of the German bars which catered to American GI's in Hanau, a city near Frankfurt on Main. Like the ancient Teutonic legend of "die Lorelei", the beautiful water maidens who diverted sailors off-course to their doom, some of the women one met in bars were reputed to have a similar, less tragic effect on GI's.
Tom's unit had recently been transferred from a remote airstrip on the western edge of West Germany to a hub of military activity in the central area of this beautiful country. This night, a pleasant and warm September evening he and a few of his friends had driven into Hanau to explore the "big city" which lay five miles away. They had heard that this one club, known as the "Jolly Bar" was one of the liveliest places in town to enjoy a few beers and listen or dance to a lot of good music.
A big-city boy, Tom had been checking out the girls to see which ones were the good dancers and when the band began a fast number he went over to a comely red-haired girl whom he rated as one of the best dancers. He asked her if she would like to dance and was taken aback when she said no. Maintaining his poise he then tried again and asked another girl who said yes. Having never been a slouch on the dance floor, Tom had a great time for the next few numbers dancing with several girls.
Suddenly a hush fell over the bar - an overwhelming silence that made his ears ring. The band, in desperate need of a respite had left the bandstand for a well-deserved break. Surprisingly the jukebox came to life as someone plugged it in and a great up-tempo song for dancing blasted out of the booming speakers.
Tom once again looked around for a dance partner and saw that the red-haired girl was looking directly at him and she had a warm, glowing smile on her face. Tom was never one to hold a grudge and strolled coolly over to her table,
Mustion Creek Bridge
A late November drizzle dappled the windshield and obscured Milly's view just enough that she had to leave the wipers on. The wipers' rhythmic slow cadence of CA-CHUNK, CA-CHUNK, was half a beat off from the tempo of the music emanating from the car radio. She hadn't had this car, a crimson and white Ford Fairlane, for more than a year and it was a source of immense pride to her. She was in it so much, that at times she and her car seemed to be inseparable.
The worrisome morning fog that had shrouded the Missouri Ozarks valley around the town of Thayer was beginning to lift by the time Milly got home from church. Leaving her car running in the carport she hurriedly put away the groceries that she had picked up at Wallace & Owens on her way home, because she wanted to quickly get back on the road again.
Keeping very busy as a retiree she was on the road quite a bit of the time. In fact, I once jokingly remarked that her favorite song ought to be "On the Road Again."
Early Sunday afternoon was "Bingo Time" at the lodge hall up in West Plains, about thirty miles away and with the asphalt roads being wet, Milly wanted to leave in plenty of time so she wouldn't have to rush. Five minutes later she was heading due north on U.S. Highway 63 toward West Plains, and could already hear Bingo calling out to her.
She missed the presence of her sister's son, Lee, who usually accompanied her and drove her car even though he sometimes annoyed her by not starting the car until she complied with his persistent request to buckle her seat belt. She held the opinion that the danged things weren't comfortable and besides, she never needed them new-fangled contraptions all those other years.
About this same time, rolling along Porter Wagoner Boulevard in West Plains was a log truck driver, angrily trying to make up for the time he had lost by probably stopping too long in a place he ought not to have been in the first place. He probably hadn't been thinking too clearly and he might have missed the US 63 bypass route and doubled back to pick it up, which could have added to his impatience. Deadheading it, hauling air on an empty log rig, he was running dangerously without sleep, and without caution.
Slowing down while skirting the edge of West Plains, he was leery of being pulled over by the local police but he couldn't wait to clear the city limits. His main concerns might have been to get back home, grab some shut-eye and get on the road early Monday.
About two miles south of Highway 17 in West Plains on southbound U. S. Highway 63, there is a creek that crosses under U. S. 63. Dry nearly all year 'round it's just a bed of iron-stained rock called Mustion Creek. For years now, highway traffic passing over the creek used a narrow bridge that had been just wide enough for two passenger cars to pass each other.
Having left early enough Milly expected that she would arrive at the lodge hall with time to spare for the first bingo game at half past noon. She was very familiar with this road that took her straight into West Plains as she knew all of the area's roads, having traveled them so often. For a moment she thought of the Thanksgiving holiday coming up that week which she would be spending at her sister's place. Now she was rolling along at a good speed on a straight path toward Mustion Creek Bridge.
Watching West Plains receding in his rear-view mirror, the overtired gear-jammer had resumed his efforts to make up for lost time. Up ahead was Mustion Creek. Now moving as fast and loud as a freight train the truck roared past a farm where two men were taking advantage of the balmy weather to dig post-holes. The noise of the log rig had startled them into looking up as it rolled through.
Freedom at Last!
It was one of those rare times when American's Big Three networks got it right and were unanimous in their competing coverage on a night in 1989, when they all beamed telecasts of glorious events occurring in Europe made possible by the miracle of satellite transmission. While the events were taking place during November, to someone just tuning in the occasion could have easily been mistaken for a high-spirited, celebration of late-winter Carnival in Europe.
The object of all this attention was a wall. Not just any wall but the infamous monstrosity that had stood as a shameful barrier to freedom since its construction thirty-eight pain-filled years earlier. The despised, somber gray, Berlin Wall was finally coming down.
For the German people their long-stifled dream was at last to be fulfilled, when East Germany and West Germany would be reunited as one country, Germany. Now freedom - that very precious, most elusive commodity, was nearly in the grasp of East German citizens.
Just an ordinary guy, Eddie Maher watched the exhilarating news and deep inside he felt a spontaneous, warm fraternity with the Germans, having once served 18 months in West Germany with the U. S. Army. While stationed there he had developed a high regard for the German people of the West and had sympathized with their faded, nearly hopeless, half-century old dream of "Wieder Vereinigung", the reunification with their long-separated countrymen in East Germany.
Tuned-in viewers were heartened by word that a newfound freedom might soon be spreading across the Baltic countries of Northern Europe and the Slavic nations of Eastern Europe. The curtain of iron, which the Soviet Union had slammed shut across Eastern Europe during the late 1940's, was finally crumbling under the weight of its own corruption, human rights oppression, and economic disasters.
Yet as Eddie watched the crowd surging toward the barrier, together and of one mind, holding freedom as their one common thought, he couldn't help but remember back to another time. A time when other crowds, intent on freedom had surged toward barricades only to be forced to retreat by Soviet tanks during another autumn many years before.
Returning were memories of those violent, turbulent days, which occurred during October of 1956, when he was an idealistic, twenty-one-year-old soldier. At that very time, young PFC Maher's Army outfit had been dug in for several days on bivouac. They were camped deep within the wooded hills atop a mountain a few miles from Wurzburg, Germany and were engaged in tactical field maneuvers.
Being one of two supply clerks he had been ordered by his Commanding Officer to fill in as company clerk. It was an order made necessary since the real company clerk, Cpl. Akens, a short-timer waiting to rotate home was back in the warm confines of their barracks near Hanau.
Eddie was obliged to work in the command post or CP tent where the CO, exec officer, and other brass carried out their strategy and communications. Working from morning into the night Eddie found that the hours were long but the tent was kept warm by a field stove and the radio set was always on.
Keeping the radio tuned in had been a timely and welcome source of news, since it appeared that cracks were forming in the Communist Bloc's wall of control and unrest was spreading across Eastern Europe. During that past week widespread dissatisfaction with communism had been demonstrated by riots breaking out in Poland, Czechoslovakia, East Germany and most seriously, in the form of a rebellion in Hungary.
Reports were coming in of rebels calling themselves "Freedom Fighters" battling against Soviet heavy tanks in the streets of Buda and Pest with clubs and "Molotov Cocktails".