The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Little Stones Rant

Oh, a storm is threat'ning

My very life today
If I don't get some shelter
Oh yeah, I'm gonna fade away

War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away
War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away

A storm is threatening. Most probably a s--t storm. Gimme some shelter.

Rolling stones gather no moss. That's what uncle Adam and Uncle Jamie say. They proved it.

And I'm a stone. A Stones fan anyway. I guess I ain't been rollin' enough lately.

Moss is building up on my shoes. Or is it something else sticking to my soles, some other kind of crud building up on my soul?

What I read in the news these days is making me sick, physically and existentially. I know I'm on about the Stones here but I'm sorta like the guy in the Beatles' song too, you know? The one who blew his mind out in a car.

Jumping from one allusion to another like this is probably a symptom of what that guy had.

Like I said, there's this stuff on my shoes. And it stinks.

The failure of the President to protect our diplomats in Benghazi (I know, I know, what difference does it make now), the President's corruption of the IRS (I can't believe the audacity of these people expecting any rational person to believe their lies and distortions), the President's complete (and insane) withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, the resulting emergence of the latest crop of Muslim terrorists, the more recent failure of the President to deal with the border crisis of his own making...and above it all, over it all, under it all, Main Stream media's total abandonment of its responsibility.

I think I need to scrape that shit right off my shoes.

Wading through the waste stormy winter

And there's not a friend to help you through
Trying to stop the waves behind your eyeballs
Drop your reds drop your greens and blues

Thank you for your wine, california
Thank you for your sweet and bitter fruits
Yes, Ive got the desert in my toenail
And hid the speed inside my shoe

But come on come on down sweet virginia
Come on honey child I beg of you

Come on come on down you got it in you
Got to scrape that shit right off your shoes.

Going West for awhile. See you guys next week..

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Bluegrass Post With a Little Side of EP

I've enjoyed bluegrass music for most of my life. I can remember sitting on the floor in our living room listening to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio in the late '40s before Dad bought a TV. Even then I liked the bright tinkling banjo, the dobro, the fiddle, and the guitar flat picking.

Commemorative Plaque Outside the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN

My interest in this music increased when Joyce bought me a Silvertone in the '60s. On the surface, it appears simple, easy to play. But it's not. I've never gone beyond the three basic chords, but I still love bluegrass to this day. And that means that I enjoy the music of Bill Monroe, sometimes referred to as the "Father of Bluegrass." I'm never quite sure what to make of all those "Father of This" and "Father of That" claims, but the genre did acquire its name from his group, the Bluegrass Boys.

I think I've mentioned before on this blog, that I've lived on a dead end road in southern Sumner County since 1973 and that Monroe had a farm at the end of our road until his death in 1996. He was a good neighbor, always waved when we passed him on the road, and once when we had a deep snow, he came along on his tractor and offered to plow off our driveway and several others who live along our stretch. On our trip to England in '87, we were eating lunch in a Pub and struck up a conversation with our waiter who was a Bluegrass Bill Monroe fanatic. When we told him Monroe was our neighbor, I don't think he believed us.

As the plaque above indicates, besides Monroe with his mandolin and vocals, the members of the original group included Chubby Wise on fiddle, Howard Watts on bass, Lester Flatt, vocals and guitar, and Earl Scruggs on the five string banjo. This is the original group with Monroe's famous waltz "Blue Moon of Kentucky."
The story of how a Rock and Roll version of the song in 4/4 time became the "B" side of Elvis' first Sun Records single is on Wiki. Wiki says Monroe liked Presley's version and gave it his blessing.

Lester and Earl left Monroe's Bluegrass Boys in 1948 to form their own bluegrass group. One important, make that very important, thing they did was to add Uncle Josh and his dobro. Here's that old raunchy classic "Salty Dog." Look for Josh's fantastic break.
Sometimes you just feel like an old "Salty Dog." Ain't that the ever lovin' Bluegrass truth?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sexy Fins

Sometime in 1954, my friend Doug and his father invited me to go with them to the GM Motorama show which was making a stop in Nashville. It was a memorable and important experience. The show itself was spectacular with its focus on new GM models and concept cars like the new Corvette.

One of the things we did at the show was join the Fisher Body Craftsman's Guild, which sponsored a nationwide auto design contest for teenagers. We received a packet of literature with information on the contest's junior and senior divisions and specs for models that could be entered (types of cars that could be entered, suggested construction materials, scale 1 inch equals 1 foot, etc.).

Doug and I both began designing and building models to enter in the contest and we both won several state awards over the next few years. My first junior entry was a carved wooden model of a convertible sports car based on my own design. I won an honorable mention and $25. My last year in the junior division ('55-'56) I built a big Buick looking sedan that was lucky enough to win the First State Tennessee and Regional award. The prize was $150 and a trip by train to Detroit that summer.

 Besides the cash prizes, I received a small personal trophy and my high school (Isaac Litton) was given a trophy as well. The principal presented the school trophy during an assembly that fall. The trip was fantastic for a 16 year old.

All the winners stayed in the Sheraton Cadillac Hotel and we visited the new GM Tech Center, talked to real stylists, and saw the futuristic GM concept cars up close.

I was so inspired I came home in the fall of 1956 and began work on two models to enter in my first year in the senior division (the rules allowed more than one entry per person).

One of these designs was a radical front entry car carved out of a big block of balsa. I only have one pic of it from those days and it's unfortunately a double exposure. I'm posting it anyway so you can get an idea of what it looked like.
This car is in bad shape today so I can't at this point take a newer picture of it. (As an over indulgent grandfather, I had unfortunately let my grandsons play with the big models during the 80s. None of the models held up to well in that kind of play but the fragile balsa is in especially bad shape. I'm slowly restoring the models today and when they're ready I'll take some new pics and post them here on the Cumberland Post.)

The other car I built that year was carved out of a solid block of poplar wood my grandfather (a master carpenter) had found for me. This model, about 18 inches long, was also pretty radical looking and had super high fins.

If you remember, the fall of '56, all of the Exner inspired Chrysler Corp's cars were beginning to have sexy looking fins. They went all out for fins in '57 - '59 but the fins on their '56 models were still relatively restrained, as you can see from this pic of a '56 Dodge (the La Femme model).
I was slightly ahead of the fin curve with my design as you can see in this current pic of the model being restored.

I selected this model to restore first because it's in the best shape. I plan to get around to the others in time. Actually, this high finned design is a bit radical too in the sense of its impracticality. I think the fins looked pretty cool and sexy, but rear vision would have been considerably reduced. Looking at the car now, I see several other design features that were just beginning to show up: stacked quad headlights, a wrap over and wrap around windshield, a huge amount of glass in the rear window, and painted and integrated bumpers (those parts haven't been reattached to the model yet).

If I remember right, I received a $50 3rd state award for this model, but it and the other front entry one were both scored extremely low on practicality.
My work on these models and my limited success in the Fisher Body Craftsman's Guild gave me more self confidence, something I sorely needed. And I learned other things as well. I learned a bit about organizing large, long term projects and how such projects can be accomplished ahead of deadlines with steady and routine work on a daily basis. I did not pursue my high school dream of becoming an auto stylist, but what I learned from the Guild has stood me in good stead in my education career and my life over the years.

It's too bad that GM discontinued this program in the late '60s. It's also too bad that education which synthesizes work on "fun" projects with valuable concepts is not a part of our educational system today.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Royal (Auto) Affair, Part 2

I used my family's 1954 Dodge Royal for dates, errands, and cruising throughout my sophomore, junior, and senior years of HS. At one point in my junior year, I asked Dad to let me remove the hubs and paint the wheels like it was some kind of hot racing vehicle. He agreed as long as I put the hubcaps back on when I finished using the car.

I'd seen other cars at the drag strip with visibly striking painted wheels and I followed their design -- the wheel was divided into quarters like slicing a pie into four parts. Two opposite quarters were painted red and the other two opposite quarters were painted white. When the wheel rolled slowly the moving colors would flip around and be very visible.

Sometimes, cruising around with a couple of friends on a Saturday night I'd remove the oil bath air cleaner and carefully place it in the trunk on some newspaper. I never told Dad about this until much later. When you pressed the accelerator the engine noise sounded awesome (this is not a word I would have used then or like much now, but it seems appropriate in this context) as the hemi strained to suck in as much air as possible through the small two barrel carb.

From my red light experience with other teens, I knew the Dodge with its two speed powerflite automatic wasn't really that fast, but I liked the sound of that hemi when you got down on it. I knew it wasn't all that hot and I wasn't really a racer, but, what can I say, I enjoyed the idea of it. I didn't know this at the time and it may be an inaccurate observation now, but my fascination with drag racing and speed might have been a kind of compensation for the insecurities that most young males feel at that time in their lives.

Whatever. In the spring of '58 my friend and I popped the hubs, removed the air cleaner, and went out to the drag strip at Union Hill. Against all odds, I entered the car in the stock class under an assumed name, Wild Bill Cody.

The class I entered was dominated by the early hydramatic '50s Rocket Oldsmobiles. You remember those, I'm sure. They were very fast off the line. And, as luck would have it, the opponent I drew was driving one, a 1951 two door. It looked a lot like this one.

I should also note that this is the view I had of it as we got the signal to go. He was already two car lengths ahead of me by the time I'd gone 50 feet. So I just turned off the service road to the right and left the race. My ears still burn today as I remember the words of the announcer. "Looks like old Wild Bill has headed back to the corral."

Later that year, in the summer after graduation, my family moved to Texas. I had a good job driving a truck and I began saving money for college. But I did spend a little on some new cowboy boots and hat and some hot looking Moon hubs for the Dodge. Three weeks in TX and I was already a cowboy drag racer!

I had a friend in TX whose name was Red. He had a cool looking black '53
Ford two door. I remember helping him paint some slick looking flames over the head lights on the Ford.  One night we were eating a cheese burger in some diner and he nodded toward my Dodge parked outside. "How fast you think that thing'll go top end?" he asked. "Dunno," I said. "Let's find out," he said. "I know a safe place."

We drove out on a highway outside of town that leveled out for about three miles straight. It was a clear moon lit night and the concrete highway looked like a glowing ribbon of light. Red said, "Hit that sucker."

I mashed the accelerator to the floor and with one eye on the road and the other on the speedometer, I felt the car pick up speed. I pushed it up to 97 miles per hour. There was still a lot left, but I chickened out. Red was disappointed, but thinking back on it, not pressing my luck was probably wise. The car was four years old and the tires were bias plys and had some wear on them. A blowout would have been catastrophic.

That fall, I left for college and was "carless" for two years. Then in 1960 I got married and bought a Fiat. One out of those two decisions turned out great. Joyce and I have been happily married for 54 years this August. The Fiat however, is another story. A sad one.

Sorry, I just don't feel like talking about it here since I'm going on about the old Dodge Royal. But, there's another chapter to the Dodge Royal story which involves grad school. I'll be reporting on that in part 3 of this epistle.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Royal (Auto) Affair, Part I

In my adolescent years I was painfully shy, ignorant, naive, green as locust leaf in April, and probably much too aware of all these perceived shortcomings for my own good.

But somehow, someway, 1954 was a good year for me. At the age of 14, my education and experience of the world broadened considerably. The cause of this change in my personality was at least partially related to automobiles.

The family car in early 1954 was an old, gray '47 Plymouth 4-door Deluxe Sedan. (This isn't a photo of our car; ours had a big yellow plastic bug knocker mounted on the hood ornament, but, otherwise, it looked very similar. It even had those curb feelers like this one.)

I liked the way the '47 Plym looked, even though by '54 its "fastback" style had started to look dated. (I put that in quotation marks because it really was more of a "slowback" or "roundback" when compared to the '47 Chevy for example.)

The interior of the old Plymouth was IMHOP excellent bling, especially the metal wood grain dashboard which had about 67 lbs of chrome plating on various gratings, buttons, dials, etc. Today, such hard and shiny surfaces on a car dashboard would be considered a threat to human life as we know it and would lead to lawsuits and various government committees hell bent on making the manufacturer pay for creating such a death trap.

But I liked chrome. Love the shiny. At least on cars. Still do. The more the merrier. What can I say, I'm a child of the '50s.

The old '47 Plym, although only seven years old, was, however, not very dependable. We'd bought it from a relative which is another story and one I'm not going to tell here. The car had started to smoke a lot which as we all now know can lead to cancer in people and cars. It was that bluish kind of smoke that smelled like burning oil and rubber with a slight metallic odor mixed in.

Mother fussed about the car a lot and one spring day, Dad came home from a trip (he was a long haul trucker) and said, "get ready, we're going NEW car shopping." They were wonderful words for a 14 year old to hear and totally unexpected since Dad was not known for buying NEW cars. In fact, we'd never had one. The car before the Plymouth was a dependable but ugly as sin '39 Dodge 4-door, and the one before that had been a disastrous '37 Ford coupe with no back seat and a weak, worn out V8 60 motor.

Dad had said we were "going shopping, but he must've already had his mind made up, because we didn't really shop. We went straight down to the Dodge Dealer on Murfreesboro Road. My memory tells me it was the Beaman Dodge dealership, but I'm not completely sure about that.

The car he picked out was a wine red with cream top 1954 Dodge Royal with the hemi V8 and the 2 speed powerflite transmission. The bench seats front and rear were covered in a classy gray and maroon cloth with fine detail stitching. The dash was austere by '50s standards, but clean and efficient. Dad saved $83 by not getting a radio and as  a result my high school dates were all music-less, a tragedy in the sense that without a radio I had to talk more to fill up the awkward dead air on a first date.

Virgil Exner led the Chrysler Corporation design team that created all the Chrysler models including the '53 and '54 Dodges. The '54 was a clean and responsible facelift of the 1953 model. (I didn't know it then but wiki tells me that '53 hemi powered car had set 100 land and speed records at the Bonnevile salt flats.)

By today's standards, the car would be considered small. But it didn't feel that way since comparable Cheyvs, Fords, and Mercs of that year were about the same size. The rear passenger window had a nice Jaguar sedan like curve to it and the chrome sweep spear down the side was in my mind a cleaner line than the Buick sweep spear. One other detail that I remember clearly was the very small (one inch high) chrome fins that were mounted on top of the little kick up on the rear fender. Those little dwarf fins were a harbinger of things to come -- I'm referring to the Exner inspired, gradually soaring tailfins on the '56, the '57, the '58, and the '59 Dodges. They were there in miniature on our '54.

When my brother and I got out of school for the summer in '54, the family decided to take a trip in our new Dodge to NYC. We visited my Aunt Jo (Dad's sister) and her family who lived on Long Island. The pic below shows yours truly outside my Aunt's home. You might notice the pencil thin white belt and the white mocassin loafers, which I seem to recall being very popular HS fashions of the time. You might also notice that my Aunt and her husband Leonard owned a new '54 Ford which is parked behind our Dodge.

While in NYC, we went to Coney Island and saw the statue of Liberty. But the thing that I remember most is the night uncle Leonard took us to see the Dodgers play the Cubs at Ebbets field. All those heroes I'd only heretofore read about in the newspaper were there on the field, live -- Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, and Jackie Robinson--not to mention the Cubs' great, Ernie Banks. I was amazed at how small Ebbets Field was compared to the other major league parks I'd read about. It wasn't that much bigger than Nashville's Sulphur Dell where I'd watched the Vols play many times. It even felt a little like the old Dell. But it held quite a few more fans. And it was Ebbets field and I watched a game there! Not many left who can say that today.

It was a great trip and the new '54 Dodge Royal got us there and back in comfort and high style.

more later on the Royal at the local drag strip, looking hot in Texas, and in its beater days when I was in grad school...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Spring Flowers @ the Circle J

The flowers in our yard have been exceptional this year. Our neighbor gave us these state flower Iris bulbs over ten years ago and they are just now beginning to reach their aesthetic peak.
And Joyce's rose garden, with a huge carpet bush in the foreground and knockouts in the back, has exploded after a nice pruning in the late winter.
Like Lynn Anderson's pop/country song says, "I never promised you a rose garden." But Joyce, being an industrious lady, got us one anyway!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Fathers' Day

My dad Mack B. Jewell, Jr. passed away in December of 2007 at the age of 90. He was quarterback on the Watertown Tigers team that went undefeated in 1937, beating both Wilson County powerhouses Mt. Juliet and Lebanon.  A true triple threat, he could run, pass, and kick. That would be kick as in drop-kick, a method of kicking extra points and field goals favored by many in those days when the shape of the football was more rounded and lacked the sharper ends of footballs in play today. In the pic, he's on the back row, far left, number 12.

In his 20s, 30s, and early 40s, he was a long haul truck driver. Here he is in his prime in 1957 at age 40. He put many, many blue highway miles on that big International V8 and his other truck, a cab-over White. In the pic you can see his ever present cigarette (Luckies or Camels) resting naturally between his fingers. At the age of 70, he got a warning from his doctor so he went cold turkey and stopped. As I said, he lived to be 90, so the cold turkey move was a good one.
And here he is in 1961, standing beside his dad, my Papa Jewell. That's Dad's sister and my aunt Imola who's holding my infant son Barry. They are laughing at something my Papa said; I can't remember what, but it must've been pretty funny.

Rest in peace, Dad.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Christmas Star Protocol

The following little SF piece was originally posted last Christmas when there was rampant speculation about Mayan Calendars and the End of Times. Since we made it through that nasty time, I've slightly revised the post.

The Dreamship moved along the outer band of the Mobius curve of the universe at one hundred times the speed of light. Reaching the point at which the outside became the inside, the ship slipped into time.

The Pilot was of necessity asleep and would remain so until the end of the mission when he brought the Dreamship back out of the universe and into eternity. His mission was simple: transport the Judges to the developing world in question and bring them out again. The Judges' mission was the difficult one; amongst themselves they frequently called these missions "End Times" missions.

As always, there were three of them. In current binary terms, they were 101, 111, and 000. In ancient nomenclature, they were two men and a woman. We'll call them Sam, John, and Ruby.

Most often their missions took them to the fourth planet from the local sun, but in this instance, it was the third planet out, a waterworld class planet which meant that at least 65% of the surface was covered with water.

The beings on this planet had reached a stage of development where it was necessary that the Judges make a determination regarding the beings' future existence. If the Judges judged wrong and allowed these beings or those on any "developmental" world who were following the wrong path to continue to live, the entire harmony of the universe would be destroyed and chaos and eventually total destruction would ensue.

The Boss would not be happy because that would mean starting the whole "universe" experiment over again from scratch, beginning at the point of the initial creative explosion. And that took an enormous amount of planning and engineering.

Only about one in ten worlds met the Judges' strict criteria for survival. The other nine were eliminated, swiftly and efficiently. The Dreamship was outfitted with a simple sonic device designed by the Boss which allowed the Judges to eliminate the world instantly if that was their decision.

A highly sophisticated and hidden monitoring system was in place and had been recording data since the beings on the planet had evolved to a certain level. That level included a strong and positive value system and organization into a cohesive society which permitted the maximum amount of individual freedom. There were several thousand other points of measure that the Judges considered too.

When the invisible Dreamship achieved an orbit around the world in question, the Judges moved to the observation room to examine the records available. It was clear that many of the societies on the planet were moving in the wrong direction, but there were a few which seemed promising.

On the first vote, John and Ruby were split. Ruby voted for elimination. John voted for continuation. Sam wavered. It was a most unusual situation. After a spirited discussion, Sam proposed that they use the rare and infrequently used "Star" stimulation to push the world's beings along the right path. This was in effect a spectacular event plus an extension which allowed the world in question a fixed amount of time to reach a level of satisfactory development.

Because they were split (which rarely happened), John and Ruby saw the logic of providing the extension. They were fully aware that they would have to fully explain and justify their decision to the Boss but felt confident in their reasoning.

All three immediately  touched their screens to implement the "Star" protocol.

An artificial "star" was instantly created outside the orbit of the planet's moon; the star would move along a pre ordained path for three years and would be visible to all beings on the planet. On a specified date, a human would be born with specially coded DNA from the Boss himself. This individual would be a teacher who would bring a new morality. The three judges hoped the beings on the planet would embrace the morality and use it to build a viable society that would endure. 

At the end of the designated time the "star" would disappear and the special individual would reach maturity. Judging from these beings' spiritual development (mostly primitive moral codes, but with some movement toward respect for one another and an acceptance of the heavier responsibilities of freedom), the appearance of such a star and a teacher with the necessary morality could possibly stimulate development along a positive path.

The Judges telepathically interacted with the Pilot; the invisible Dreamship quickly left orbit around the waterworld and almost instantaneously reached the outer band of the Mobius curve. It slipped seamlessly back into eternity.

Once they were outside time, John and Ruby maintained their objectivity about the world in question. But Sam was pulling for the little planet and its people. He liked their grit. And they made really good beer.

The Judges would return 2200 solar years later to make the final decision about the planet's survival.

The French Bread Burger Caper

We went out to lunch Thursday with our good friends Scooney and his wife Rae. Both Ed and I keep a pretty close watch on our fat intake because of heart issues, but sometimes "a man's gotta do," as they say in the old westerns, "what a man's gotta do."

We went to an old (it opened in 1945) place, Rotier's, just off West End on Elliston Place.

Rotier's has been praised in the USA Today newspaper and on the Food Network for their burgers. It's also been praised by Vanderbilt students and native Nashville burger hunters for decades. If you're ever in Nashville, give old Rotier's a try. You won't regret it.

Here's a link to their website and menu:

And this is what most people come for...the French Bread Cheeseburger. As you can tell from the pic, it's made of fresh, hand prepared ground beef.

Joyce, Ed, and I had the French Bread Burger while Rae opted for the delicious open faced Roast Beef sandwich.

I could go on and on about the burger but it would probably sound pornographic so I'll just use a line from Van Morrison's song... "It Stoned Me to my soul."

Later, we drove through downtown Nashville and on out Woodland through the Five Points area and on to Eastland Avenue where we had ice cream for desert at Jeni's, a place worthy of another post.

It was a peaceful and relaxing day with good friends and good food.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Some Things Are Cooler'n Hell

Christmas is coming and New Year's is in the air.

It's generally a happy time, especially for kids. Adults though, no matter their station or status in life, always go through the season with at least a touch of sadness. In my opinion that's partially because we remember our childhood and our Christmas innocence when the whole world depended on Santa Claus, a toy gun or an electric train, or some other dream. Each Christmas we realize once again that the innocence is gone forever and we can never get back to that time.

The holidays are also a time for taking stock...which can make you sad too.

Personally, I think about the past year--what's been lost, what's been found, who's been hurt, who's been helped, what I've failed at, and what I've accomplished. After weighing it and worrying with it, I generally try to put the bad stuff aside and move on with the good.

I'm 73. Old by most measures. But I like to think that I've still got prospects. A few anyway. Things I want to work on, things I want to do, places I want to go, people I want to love.

Besides that, being above ground instead of below it means you can still enjoy the "good stuff." And there are lots of things that are clearly good. Good stuff. Cool stuff.

Like Ray Wylie (no relation to L. Ron) Hubbard says, there's lots of things under heaven that are cooler'n hell.

One being a 68 Camaro (although the lead pic shows a '55 or '56 Corvette)...candy apple red.

That song itself is "cooler'n hell." And since we caught a glimpse of Bonnie Raitt in that video illustrating things "cooler'n hell," here's the "honky tonkin" blues woman with Norah Jones just killing the Tennessee Waltz..with some great slide work by Bonnie at the break. Cooler'n hell. Indeed.

This old blog ain't necessarily "cooler'n hell," but it does give me some joy and a place to comment, explore, discover, rant, etc. It does that even though I sometimes ignore it for a long spell. But when I come back to it, the nice, inviting, white, and very blank space is waiting patiently for me to lay down some digital letters.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The C 141 Starlifter Project

First of all on Veterans Day 2013, I thank all veterans past and present, dead or still living, for their service. I especially thank my son Barry, my Dad, my brother Dave, my grandson Erich, my uncle Leonard, my uncle Sid, my uncle David, my uncle Will, and my great grandpa Hiram. 
I know Veterans Day is meant to honor people who've served in our country's military. This post is about a person who served his country, but it's also about a machine. The two veterans in question are (1) our 35th president, John F. Kennedy, a decorated veteran of WWII, and (2) a magnificent airplane which proceeded through development and many years of service after JFK approved its production.

Although the picture below of JFK with Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and General Maxwell Taylor is from 1963, it illustrates and underlines the point that John Kennedy, a navy hero in WWII, understood the importance of having a strong military to protect the United States. Throughout his congressional career he portrayed himself as "tough on communism" and in the 1960 campaign blasted the Eisenhower-Nixon administration for losing Cuba to the communists and for allowing the missile gap between the U. S. and the soviets to develop.
So, it was only natural that John Kennedy's first official act after he became president was to order the production of the aircraft that was eventually designated the Lockheed C-141 Starlifter. This important military carrier had a distinguished career that lasted over  forty years.

The C-141 was designed and built to replace our aging fleet of troop carriers and cargo planes -- planes such as the C-119 Flying Boxcar...
and a plane known as "old shaky," the Douglas C-124 Globemaster II...

Plans for the C-141 (initially given the factory designation Model 300) were developed by Lockheed and pieces of the plane were produced in plants around the country, including a wing part here in my home town, Nashville, TN...

And the first C-141 prototype rolled out of the plant in Marietta, GA, in August of 1963 and flew in December of that year. The first production run brought the first operational planes to the military in 1965...

The C-141 was huge; it was over 168 feet in length and had a wingspan of 160 feet...

Wiki gives the following stats concerning this important plane:
General characteristics
  • Crew: 5–7: 2 pilots, 2 flight engineers, 1 navigator, 1 loadmaster (a second loadmaster routinely used, in later years navigators were only carried on airdrop missions); 5 medical crew (2 nurse, 3 medical technician) on medevac flights
  • Length: 168 ft 4 in (51.3 m)
  • Wingspan: 160 ft 0 in (48.8 m)
  • Height: 39 ft 3 in (12 m)
  • Wing area: 3,228 ft² (300 m²)
  • Empty weight: 144,492 lb (65,542 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 342,100 lb (147,000 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-7 turbofans, 20,250 lbf (90.1 kN each) each

The famed "Hanoi Taxi" was a specific C 141, one of the earliest planes to become operational in the '60s. Besides other less glamorous assignments during its early service, this plane (not yet called the Hanoi Taxi) ferried Bob Hope to his USO shows in Vietnam. This C 141 also gained its famous name later when it was selected to ferry the just released POWs (airman and future senator John McCain was among them) from Hanoi to Clark Air Base in the Philippines. Some of the returning prisoners left their names on the flight panel and those names inspired the "Hanoi Taxi" nickname.

Sometimes the ordinary day to day actions and signings of U. S. presidents are forgotten by the general public because they don't have a lot of immediate impact on people's lives. President Kennedy's first act, approving production of the C-141, is not one of those actions. This plane has played an important role in American history with its contributions extending to Desert Storm and Desert Shield.  And in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina was approaching New Orleans, a C-141, actually the same C-141 "Hanoi Taxi" mentioned earlier, evacuated hundreds of people before the storm hit.

In the comments to a video on You Tube called the "Mighty C-141," a pilot who identifies himself as John Tompkins has this to say about the plane:
Greatest airplane ever, biggest adventure ever. I thought all airplanes flew like that. Little did I know that they did not. Absolutely the best.
President Kennedy made many important speeches and took several significant actions during his brief tenure in office. Many people, I'm sure, are glad he approved the significant C-141 Starlifter project, a plane that served the nation well during its forty+ year career.

In addition to JFK and the Starlifter, I salute all veterans of the U. S. Armed Forces on this Veterans Day in 2013.