Seventy-Six Years After

Thursday was the seventy-sixth anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. On the day following the attack, President Franklin Roosevelt called December 7, 1941 “a date which will live in infamy” and it does, even though public events marking the day are decreasing. That’s to be expected as the number of people with personal memories of the day gets a little smaller each year and other horrible events occupy the memories of following generations.

The town of New Richmond, Ohio, holds a Pearl Harbor Remembrance event each year on the Sunday preceding December 7. When it began, about thirty years ago, approximately twenty-five Pearl Harbor survivors attended from the surrounding area. For my first time there, in 2011, just three remained and only one, Joe Whitt, was healthy enough to be there. The others have since passed on while Joe, at 94, continues to attend the event and share his memories.

This year I also attended an event on the actual anniversary of the bombing. The VFW Post 7696 event at West Chester Township’s Brookside Cemetery was the only one that turned up in an online search. Things began with a recounting of key events surrounding the attack.

A Soldier’s Cross ceremony followed. A bayoneted rifle is thrust into the ground then “dog tags” are hung from it. Boots are then placed in front of the rifle and the cross completed with a helmet placed atop the rifle. The event concluded with a rifle volley and the playing of Taps.

This year’s Pearl Harbor Remem-brance Day was  a little bit different for me by virtue of having visited Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial for the first time in the spring. The opening photo of the Arizona’s anchor is from that visit as are the three on the right. My journal for the visit is here..

The singing of a familiar medley of service songs was part of Sunday’s activities in New Richmond. As the songs associated with each of the five US military branches was performed, veterans of the branch stood. It seemed to me that close to half of the crowd stood at some point. Later, one of the speakers asked all WW II veterans to raise their hands. I counted three including Joe Whitt.

Competitive Cardboard

New Richmond did it again. On Saturday, folks from near and far were happily “Creating corrugated chaos on the Ohio” at the twenty-fifth Cardboard Boat Regatta. There weren’t quite as many entries as last year but I think last year’s field of 60+ was a record breaker. About five minutes of light rain fell an hour or so ahead of the start but it instantly forgotten and the skies stayed clear for all of the races. That does not mean that competitors stayed dry.

There were twelve heats for the various classes plus the free-for-all “Cardboard Cup” race. Not all of the races started with perfectly formed lines though many did. But cardboard craft clusters were just as likely to form from those perfect lines as from the less perfect ones.

Some of the racing was really serious but many, in fact most, of the competition seemed to involve more creativity than speed.

Construction materials — cardboard, tape, and paint only — remain the same but construction skills have improved considerably and there aren’t a lot of “dissolving” boats anymore. Crews can still end up in the water, however, and that’s when not losing your head is most important.

Posts on previous Cardboard Boat Regattas are here (2010), here (2011), here (2013), here (2015), and here (2016).

Let’s Race Some Cardboard

cbr24_00New Richmond’s 24th Annual Cardboard Board Regatta took place on Saturday. It would have made a great Sunday morning blog post but that slot was already taken by the Beatles concert anniversary (It Was Fifty Years Ago Today). I have done two posts on a single day before and it would have worked as a Sunday evening post but I just didn’t have the time to get it together. When I realized that wouldn’t be possible, I considered not doing any post at all but decided that photos of what the organizers describe as “corrugated chaos” deserve to be seen. With time available, a Monday evening post came together. I’ve posted previous regattas (tag = Cardboard Boat Regatta) so won’t say much about the event beyond reminding readers that all of these wonderful watercraft are made of nothing but cardboard, duct tape, paint, and creativity. More information can be found at the Cardboard Boat Museum website.

I won’t say much about the pictures, which I’m posting as a gallery, either. I will just draw attention to a couple of interest. Each year the pros at the museum build a boat that is raffled off as part of a turnkey race entry. Water Wars was this year’s raffle boat. The last photo shows the start of the race for the prestigious “Cardboard Cup”. Any boat that raced earlier and still survives may enter.

Cardboard on the Ohio

cbr2015-01The weather was perfect for yesterday’s Cardboard Boat Regatta in New Richmond, Ohio. I missed the actual start of the first heat but I did see its conclusion and plenty of the racing that followed. Lego Joe was a crowd favorite. It is kind of hard to believe but both the water-skiing Joe and his wave runner style tow vehicle are both made of cardboard.

cbr2015-02cbr2015-03Unfortunately, Joe’s maneuverability was not a match for his good looks. He never really reached race speed as what I’m guessing was a small leak in his skis led to an early finish. Joe began to plow into the water then eventually tipped over. The increased drag slowed the rig even more and it appeared as if the tow vehicle started to take on water which make it even slower and less stable. When the driver eventually fell off of the increasingly wobbly craft, I think he was ready for a rest.

cbr2015-06cbr2015-05cbr2015-04Of course, Lego Joe was not the only beautiful but not quite race-worthy craft in the field. The submarine did eventually reach the finish line under power from its two man crew. The raft, piloted by a young girl also made it but it took a while and required some assistance from a friend or family member. The shoe had directional difficulties and, after an excursion into the line of spectator boats (that may or may not have included soliciting a cold adult beverage) pulled ashore near the course mid-point.

cbr2015-07cbr2015-08If this ten member crew wasn’t a record, it had to be close. It’s certainly the most people I’ve ever seen in a cardboard boat. It took quite a while to get everyone into  the boat and ready to paddle but disembarking went a lot quicker.

cbr2015-11cbr2015-10cbr2015-09Here are shots of one of the entrants before, during, and after the race. Some boats return to compete year after year. Others make just one glorious appearance. I’m thinking this one might be in the latter category.

fbl1fbl2fbl3I finished the day at the Festival by the Lake in Alexandria, Kentucky. The draw for me was SIMO, who I last saw close to a year ago at the Southgate House Revival. This is a high energy and high volume act and, at least for me, the great outdoors suited this better than the smallish upstairs room at tSGHR. I also think a bass player change helped. Wonderful stuff.

Trip Peek #24
Trip #44
Labor Day Loop

pv29This picture is from my 2006 Labor Day Loop trip through southern Ohio. I started out tracing the Ohio River eastward to meet some friends in Portsmouth. From there, we visited a couple of blast furnace sites from the Ohio Valley’s heyday as an iron producer. The photo is of the completely restored Buckeye Furnace. Little remains at most sites beyond a stone chimney if that.

Trip Pic Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the trip journal it is from.

What a Regatta!

New Richmond River DaysSaturday’s cardboard boat race at New Richmond would have made a perfect topic for this week’s Sunday morning post except that the big tennis match already had the spot filled. But the mixture of creativity and calamity at the big race is too good to ignore so the blog gets two posts today. This year, for the first time ever, I made it in time for the parade.

New Richmond River DaysNew Richmond River DaysNew Richmond River DaysThere were quite a few “normal” classic cars but I really liked the old Jeep. Then there was a large number of decorated golf carts, several horses, the New Richmond Marching Lions, and miscellaneous.

New Richmond River DaysFollowing the parade, I strolled through town looking over some of this year’s racers. I did not get an entry count but there was clearly no shortage of people ready to go floating down the Ohio on various cardboard based contrivances for the Twenty-First International Cardboard Boat Regatta. For many, me included, this is the center piece of New Richmond’s River Days.

New Richmond River DaysNew Richmond River DaysNew Richmond River DaysI did, of course, intend to go down to the river’s edge at some point but these two beauties, which turned out to be the only entries in the “Mechanical Advantage” class really tugged on me. The business end of the “Row Man Chariot” looks like this.

New Richmond River DaysNew Richmond River DaysNew Richmond River DaysI’m hoping these pre-race photos provide some sense of the variety of watercraft taking part in the race. The picture of the “Moon Shiner’s Express” next to “R.R.2” illustrates that there are sometimes differing opinions as to how much effort should go into racer construction.

Some in-race photos:

New Richmond River DaysNew Richmond River DaysTo close things out, here’s a picture of the Log Ness Monster, which I captured in progress a couple of weeks ago, and a parting shot of the “Moon Shiner’s Express”.

My posts on the 2010 and 2011 Cardboard Boat Regattas might also be of interest. I was out of town in 2012.

Remembering Infamy

A TV commercial has been running for the last several weeks that begins by urging viewers to mark December 7 on their calendars. It grabbed my attention the first time I saw it because I knew the significance of December 7 or thought I did. It is the date of one of the most important events in our country’s history. I anticipated some news about a Pearl Harbor Day observance or maybe just a PSA about the attack’s upcoming 70th anniversary. But the spot went on to explain that December 7 marks the end of open enrollment for Medicare.

Medicare enrollment is certainly important and I’m not faulting the ad in any way. It stresses the need to do something by a certain date and stresses what that date is. Although I’m sure it’s entirely accidental, the fact that the date is December 7 may really increase the ad’s effectiveness. The majority of people who need to be concerned with Medicare are exactly the same people for who December 7 is a date which continues to live in infamy. The full date is December 7, 1941 but just December 7 is enough. To my generation and one or two on either side of it, December 7 means just one thing.

New Richmond Pearl Harbor RemembranceI wasn’t around in 1941 but I showed up just as soon as I could after the war. December 7 and June 6 were two of the very first dates I learned about. However, despite an almost instinctive connection between December 7 and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, I don’t believe I’ve ever attended any sort of commemorative service for the day. I don’t recall even seriously considering it until a few years ago when I became aware of a ceremony conducted in New Richmond, Ohio. New Richmond is an Ohio River town that I tend to visit fairly often. Just about everything I learn about the town, which is home to that cardboard boat race I wrote about here, makes me like it more. So I’ve thought about going for a couple of years but this is the first time I actually made it. This year’s New Richmond Pearl Harbor Remembrance was held on Sunday, December 4.

New Richmond Pearl Harbor RemembranceNew Richmond Pearl Harbor RemembranceNew Richmond has been doing this for twenty-plus years. In the past, it has been held at the park near the river and may still be on dry days. Today wasn’t one of them. Things began with the entrance of a sizable color guard followed by the singing of the national anthem and the pledge of allegiance to the flag. The anthem was sung solo by a fellow who I know nothing about beyond his name. John Hale‘s a cappella performance of The Star Spangled Banner was right up there with many big-name auto-tuned renditions I’ve heard. A very nice job. There were speeches, of course, but all were brief and pertinent. More nice jobs. Then we came to a point in the program labeled “Introduction of Pearl Harbor Survivors”.

Pearl Harbor Survivor Joe WhittWhen New Richmond began holding this remembrance, it was attended by approximately twenty-five area residents who had survived that horrible day in Hawaii. Just three remain. Two are in nursing homes and unable to attend. Joe Whitt stood alone. Joe enlisted when he was seventeen and turned eighteen just a couple of months before the attack. People familiar with pictures of Joe from that time say that he looked fourteen. The math is fairly simple. This is the seventieth anniversary. Joe is eighty-eight. He stood straight and recounted events of that day with frightening clarity. He and others fired at the planes with rifles. Because his ship, the USS San Francisco, was stripped for maintenance, these were the only weapons available to them. One of his shots, which he doesn’t believe did any real damage, was at a pilot whose face was clearly visible at “about the height of the ceiling” of the high school gymnasium. Even though Joe went on to fight in seventeen battles and do a lot more shooting with much bigger guns and a lot more impact, there is no doubt that his memory of that pilot’s face is vivid and crystal clear.

New Richmond Pearl Harbor RemembranceNew Richmond Pearl Harbor MonumentThe left hand picture shows local Buckeye Boys State representatives presenting a wreath to Joe Whitt as Ralph Shepherd of the American Legion looks on. Today, the actual anniversary of the attack, it will be placed at the riverside monument and another will be cast into the Ohio River.

As far as I know, this is the only Pearl Harbor observance in the area. Someone said that Addyston, on the west side of Cincinnati, may still have one but I could find nothing online. In some respects, having the horrible events of December 7, 1941 recede in our collective memory is a good thing. Unfortunately, they are not receding so much on their own as being pushed back by more recent and equally horrible events. Yes, we should never forget events such as the attack on Pearl Harbor but it would sure be nice if all such memories were really really old ones.

With the Remembrance scheduled for a Sunday, my first thought was to make it the subject of the blog post for that same day. As Sunday approached, I realized that I would not have a book review ready for Wednesday and that I had a small herd of electrified horses trotting about my brain. It would be better, I surmised, to post the horse parade stuff on Sunday, the Remembrance stuff on Wednesday, and hope to have a book review by next Wednesday. Sorry to disillusion anyone who thought this was all carefully planned weeks in advance.

Water Cardboarding

1992 must have been a fertile time along the big river in southwest Ohio. As noted in last Sunday’s post, the annual Cincinnati Blues Festival was just held for the 19th time. Yesterday, the 19th International Cardboard Boat Regatta took place just a few miles up river from Cincinnati. I don’t know what triggered that little rash of event birthing at Ohio’s southern edge. Maybe Iron City Brewing up in Pittsburgh had a big spill or something. Or it might just be lucky coincidence that got these two wonderful events going in the same summer.

RoadsideAmerica at Cardboard Boat Museum, New Richmond, OHIt was definitely a coincidence that I stopped by New Richmond’s Cardboard Boat Museum last month on the day before was to arrive for a photo shoot and interview. This is the world’s only cardboard boat museum and the driving force behind the annual regatta. Of course I eagerly returned the next day for a chance to see Doug Kirby & Ken Smith in action. I’d submitted a few photos to the site and exchanged some email with Doug but had never met either of these fellows. For me, it was kind of like meeting Tiger Woods would be for a golfer. The report produced from the visit is here.

Cardboard boats waiting for race, New Richmond, OH, 2011Cardboard boats with mechanical assist, New Richmond, OH, 2011Now that the name dropping is out of the way, I can move on to yesterday’s regatta. Even though I’ve heard of it for years and watched many after the fact reports on local news, this was only the second year I’ve attended. New Richmond is one of those river towns that, in recent years, I tend to end up in during semi-aimless weekend drives. I naturally started popping into the museum whenever I saw it open and last year actually knew of the race date in advance. I used the 2010 race as the starting point of my Blue Ridge Parkway drive. As I recall, there were about fifty boats last year. That record was shattered by this year’s fifty-five entrants. There are different heats for juveniles and adults and for single and multiple person crews. Boats with “mechanical assistance” make up their own distinct class.

Broken cardboard boat, New Richmond, OH, 2011By rule, the boats are constructed of nothing other than cardboard, tape, and paint. The paint is critical though there is nothing special about it. The same basic house paint that keeps water from soaking into your wooden siding keeps it from soaking into cardboard. Of course, should water somehow find its way in, the cardboard reacts even quicker than peeling wood siding. By using different crews, many boats run in more than one heat. Some run in less than one heat.

Cardboard Man finish, New Richmond, OH, 2011After all the various class competitions are finished, any surviving boat with any crew can compete in a wide open free-for-all with the winner taking home the prestigious Cardboard Cup. In previous years, the Cardboard Cup race was the last of the day but this year a new event was added. This double length race would seriously test the stamina of any individual with the nerve to try it. Rather than the single downstream pass of the 200 yard course that makes up every other event, this race required entrants to paddle the course in both directions. The picture shows Sam Richmond about to cross the start/finish line to become the first recipient of the Cardboard Man title.

The Cardboard Man title is clearly out of my reach. In fact, almost everyone in a boat expended a lot more energy than I’d ever consider. The lone exception was the fellow who played steel drums while his wife propelled their craft. Now that’s a gig I think I could handle.

Steel drum cardboard boat, New Richmond, OH, 2011