A Travellerspoint blog

Day 25

Chicago

semi-overcast 10 °C

What can one say and how can you encompass so many emotions into one day? We started a little late to miss the peak hour traffic and Daryl gave me a tour of Chicago South side which has fallen on hard times, we saw a lot of houses for sale and drove past Daryl’s childhood home which is in an area that is covered with Chicago Bungalow’s and all look the same and the owners have done their best to try and stand out in some way. I was struck by the number of churches that line nearly all the strip malls in the area. Some are regular churches but many just shop fronts called MB’s or Mission Baptist with some very strange names reflecting some very strange beliefs and even more strange people hanging around outside.
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We then drove into Chicago proper; one of the things that we saw was the monument that has been erected above the place where the atom was split for the first time launching the world into the Nuclear Age, with all its ramifications. This is one of the oldest universities in the States and was created by an endowment from the Rockefeller’s. Although it is winter it has a ghostly magnificence with all the trees laid bare waiting for the spring to arrive.
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We had lunch with Bridget, one of Daryl’s friends at ‘Nookies Too’ in North Halsted Street where the food and the service was excellent. Bridget is a part time comedienne and also works as a special needs teacher which is really tough. I have met many people on this trip and I am more tha ever convinced that people are good and I have found quite a number who simply make me proud to be around them. It was a good lunch but the company, as always, made it better.
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In this Gay sector of the Chicago Community is also found the Salvation Army Officers Training College, which in past eras has caused some concern but has now, I understand come to terms with its situation and is very supportive to the local ethos, perhaps guardedly but has a strong presence there. As we walked past we saw an officer, Major Lori Meyer walking her dog. Of course we stopped to say hello and explained who we were and were invited in to see the Training College. This was really very generous and we spent nearly two hours looking at all the parts of this great complex. We toured the Old Building ‘Booth Manor’ and saw the Sessional Flags in the Lecture Hall, but could not find the ‘Undaunted Flag’, we even saw the ‘Attic’ where all the sessions have become graffiti artists and left their mark, I found the undaunted scribble and it did not appear that they were blessed with creativity.
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Daryl is also a very good writer and writes for Sally publications but he also has this prodigious memory and he has an immense knowledge of Salvation Army History on a global scale but also within his home Territory and he asked Major Lori about her birth name and when she responded, Daryl knew all about her family and that she had 4 sisters and they were all Salvation Army Officers. As we walked through the Salvation Army Cemetery the evening before we had also seen the graves of her parents. Daryl asked if he could tell their story in an upcoming publication, and I witnessed one of those tender moments when emotion promised to spill over when Daryl explained how he wanted to tell their families poignant story for the encouragement of his readers. It was a beautiful moment outside the lift in the basement that I will never need a photograph to remember.

We also met her Husband Major Tim Mayer who is the Flugal Horn Player in the Chicago Staff Band, and we had seen him on the video the night before. We saw a whole lot of memorabilia and it was a great time that we spent with Lori in the Chicago Training College. It also brought back great memories of my time within the hallowed walls of ‘My College’.

We then visited some famous landmarks around Chicago and saw the spot where the Valentine’s Day Massacre took place and Daryl was able to tell me all about it and where John Dillinger was shot outside the 'Biorama', and also we went to the place, Mrs O’Leary’s Barn, where the great Chicago fire started on October the 8th 1871, its now the site of the Chicago Fire Departments Training facility, which is appropriate.
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Then it was off to the freeways to return to Romeoville. We watched a couple more hours of the ISB’s 120th Celebration Concert at the Royal Albert Hall and there was a break from the Bands when the International Songsters sang, and who should sing the solo part in one of their numbers and there was Kerry Sampson, the daughter of Brian and Shirley (PtG) Sampson, singing the solo. She is now I understand the Songster Leader of the Regent Hall Corps and of course she sang well, I had a moment of bursting pride for Brian and Shirley.

It really was a great day and I saw so many things that a regular tourist would not see. I cemented a friendship with a new friend and although the body clock was still a little unsure of itself I felt as if this had been a great day.

Then it was packing again

Posted by Fletch1 08:34 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day 24

To Chicago

overcast 6 °C

I arrived at the airport a good two hours before the flight to Newark the pre check even before I got to the check in counter was a replay of some of my trips before; “ and where are you travelling too today?” I explained and then “...and where have you come from?” I told her that, “ and before that?” and then again “...and before that?” and the check in person had a wry smile on her face “and what is the purpose of your visit?” So I had to explain again why I am doing this. There were the raised eyebrows, which I have seen before, and it seems that everyone wants to know why I am doing this and I am getting to the point of not really being sure myself.
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However I found that when I presented my boarding pass I did not have an ESTA permit in my passport for entry into the USA. I was sure that all I needed was to have an address where I was staying and as I had been before; they would have my details recorded. But it is not a problem you can get on line and so off upstairs to the ‘pay computers’ to log on and get a permit. I was getting a little nervous but I finally answered all the questions put in my credit card numbers and down to the booking hall. With about 20 minutes to spare before they closed the gate. But alas the system did not recognise my payment which possibly had not been processed. So over to the service desk and they helped me sort it out and with just a few minutes to spare I was booked on the flight. Up the stairs to do the Belt, Buckle and Belongings trick again and almost as I got onto the plane they closed the door.

The seven and a half hour flight was good but at about 9.30 am, refreshments arrived and it was Roast Beef and Mash with Salad and a slice of Apple Pie. Not what I would call normal breakfast fare but I was on the lane and it does appear that there are times in the middle of an adventure when one has to just simply ‘go with the flow’. I did and Newark was just a few hours away.
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Daryl, who has been an email friend for a couple of years, picked me up at the airport. He is a “Barmy Army’, character. Not the England Cricket supporter’s style, but a Salvation Army Barmy Army fan. So we talked Sally talk and he is a mine of information not just about the Army in the States but round the world and it was great to talk and celebrate our common heritage. On the way back to his house we passed some large Salvation Army Corps and Daryl was keen to show me the Glen Owen Cemetery. It has a Sally section and in it is the grave of Eliza Shirley. Now Eliza Shirley was part of the contingent of seven Salvationist Lassies from Coventry, who accompanied George Scott Railton on the initial ‘invasion’ of the Army into America. As we went down the rows of Salvationists who have been Promoted to Glory, we found many well known names, some of I had read about and some have met from a distance and thought about the impact that many of these people have had in the world and who are now just a memory.
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However I was very surprised to find the headstone of Lt Colonel Sherrill Benson. When I served at Howard Institute in the late 70’s Sherrill was a teacher there and we had quite a bit to do with each other, she was one of the more ‘switched on’ ex pats and I had no idea that she had been Promoted to Glory. The epitaph reads simply “Gods Will; Nothing More, Nothing Less, Nothing Else’. I was moved by this revelation and reminded of my shared heritage with Sherrill. Daryl also knew her and gave me a little information on her career after she left Howard and I was struck again on the importance of leaving a good legacy for future generations.
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We had tea and then watched some of the International Staff Bands 120th Celebration Concert on the DVD. We both share a love of Sally Bands and it was great to hear some of the other brass bands from Japan, Germany, The Netherlands, the ISB, Chicago and of course Melbourne. I have no doubt that tomorrow we will also catch up with New York and hear some more great music.

Posted by Fletch1 06:35 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day 23

Birmingham

semi-overcast 9 °C

Today was going to be an easy day and it turned out to be a very significant an emotional one for me. We caught the 'Green Bus' to the Hospital and the first place on the agenda was back to the hospital to meet the current staff of the Charities. It was really good to see that things are doing well. The current team are doing a great job and it was a pleasure to see them in their own element, We chatted for a while and then Derek and I went for a coffee.
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In the main foyer of the new hospital, the Atrium, is a Costa Coffee shop and so we had a coffee and on the way out I saw a woman with a scarf that I recognized. I had to go back and say hello because it was a Port Power football club scarf from Adelaide. What a surprise here in Brum so I had to go and have a chat and so I asked her what was a 'good Adelaide girl' doing in her in the England winter. I think that she was surprised as I and told me that everyone here thinks that the scarf is from Portsmouth, because the word on the scarf is simply 'Port'. So I asked if I could take a picture (see below). She was proud to pose for me as told her my wife's good friend was a great supporter of 'Port'. When I pushed her on why she was here she told me that her son was in hospital here and had been repatriated from a theatre of operations and had lost a leg and was in an induced Coma. I was stunned at this revelation. I gave her my card and asked her to contact me and was again blown away by the affect that war has and how it affects all of us.
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We caught the bus back to get the car and had a trip to Touchwood at Solihull and again more memories of our time here in Brum and although there is so much that has changed there is so much that is the same. I did a little shopping to replenish some of the toiletries and it was time to move on.
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The last stop for the day is something that we had never seen while we were here and that is a place called 'Akamba'. It is an African themed Garden Centre with a gift shop and a Restaurant. It was really interesting and we had lunch and soaked up the ambiance of an African village albeit a little damp and cold underfoot. Then it was back to the Waller's and tea and packing for tomorrow.
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It has been interesting to be back here in Brum and there were a lot of really good memories and I felt that it was one of the highlights of my experience, but it is not home anymore and my life has moved in different directions and there is so much more to experience. the good memories have been tempered by the Trauma of Maxine the Port supporter, and reminded again of the fragility o the lives that we have and the importance of not wasting a moment of any day.

Thanks Derek and Anne for looking after me and giving me a great couple of days in Brum

And so tomorrow; America!

Posted by Fletch1 12:01 Archived in England Comments (0)

Day 22

Birmingham and the New Hospital

overcast 9 °C

The day started with a dusting of snow and possibly the best breakfast of the trip and Derek wields the cooking tools very well and needs to be on 'My Kitchen Rules'. Then we set off for the City to have a look around and we did a tour much like those Judy and I used to do when we had visitors come to stay, and it was great. On the way in we passed the New Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB) and it is really an imposing site; set on a hill it really dominates the landscape of Edgbaston.
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We started in the Mail Box walked along the canal to the Gas Street Basin and saw all the canal boats walked through the ICC and had a look at all the new development of the spectacular Library. We also saw the 'Gold Statue' of some of the founding forefathers which we were told would fade to be a nice copper colour in years to come but has not started the process yet and then through to have a coffee in Colmore Row Starbucks. There is always new street Art in Brum and this is one of a series of art in the new Cube building.
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Then we walked the whole of New Street and saw the development of the new Birmingham Station and had a look at all the new Restaurants at the Bull Ring we did some of the shops and had a look at all of the strange things that 'Selfridge's' sell; it is a very upmarket store that has some interesting things for sale at what I would call exorbitant prices but always good for a giggle.
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From the city we went back out to the QEHB and had a look around and particularly at the new Faith Centre. It was not as it was planned all those years ago but it is far better than what it could have been. It is on the first floor above the main entrance and faces then old hospital and backing on to the Atrium. There was a lot of heartache went into the planning and support for it and when I left to return to Australia it did seem to have been a lost cause and I felt quite a failure about the whole thing. But in the fullness of time better minds were involved and a better outcome achieved. I was tremendously encouraged.
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Great Hospital, some great memories of some good people, and it was an honour to work with them.

Posted by Fletch1 08:25 Archived in England Comments (0)

Day 21

To Birmingham

semi-overcast 8 °C

The day started with another ride on the 'Hotel Hoppa' to get to Heathrow and a coffee to start the day. It became a bit of a challenge when the Barrista and I could not agree on what I wanted; A Latte with no froth sounds like a simple ask but as someone behind me commented "it should not be this difficult - it's coffee". Then it was back to the Tube to get to Marylebone Station for a Chiltern train to Birmingham Snow Hill. I had forgotten how crowded the trains could become but I had a seat and kept a close eye on my luggage.
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The trip was good and it went through a few places that We had visited when we were here in the UK. It also went through my home town of Royal Leamington Spa. We passed right at the back of the place where I used to live in Waverley Road but shame on me I was to slow to get the camera out and get a picture, not like me at all.
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On th approaches to Birmingham there were all the usual landmarks that I was so familiar with but what stands out from all the rest is The bullring. What used to be just a market is now one of the premier shopping precincts in Europe and where many retail centre's are struggling, the Bullring seems to be going from strength to strength.

We arrived at the station and there were Derek and Anne to meet me. we had a few hours to get sorted and catch up on all the news from about 4 years then we went to 'The Plough' an old haunt from when we lived in the UK. It is the place where comfort food takes on a new meaning, their Irish Stew is something to experience and one of the only places in the world where you can order 'Fish Finger Sandwiches'. It was a saturday night crowd but a table had been ordered and we had a great time. I had a 'British Beef and Ale Pie' with mash and peas, and a 'Portagaph'; life was almost complete.
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Posted by Fletch1 07:50 Archived in England Comments (0)

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