December 2023
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Saigon Kid’s Gift: Leaves Me Speechless And On The Verge Of Tears

On one of my other web sites (an inspirational and motivational site) I frequently emphasis the importance to “Expect the Unexpected” in life. This really hit home for me a few days ago while I was opening my mail. My incoming mail pile is generally on the large size, as years ago I started practicing Napoleon’s method of opening incoming mail. He had a practice of only opening his mail every 3 weeks. Logic being that by that time most matters had either taken care of themselves or others had taken care of them. Hence fewer matters required his attention. I digress.

So as I looked at the pile of incoming mail for me to go through, I noticed a large package. I didn’t recognize the sender on the return address. Since I receive a lot of mail that I don’t know where it came from or who sent it, I sorted this piece to the “look at later” pile. Yes, I have what some might view as a strange mail sorting and review practice too. I have 4 categories I sort the mail into … must read now … need to read … look at later … and junk mail which goes directly to the trash can.

Eventually, I worked my way through to the “look at later” pile. I picked up the mysterious package. Looked at the return address again. Hmmm … came from what appears to be a Vision company of some kind in Iowa. Hmm … I don’t know anyone at a Vision company in Iowa, nor did I order glasses. Hmmm … by the size and weight of it, it sure doesn’t appear to be glasses. Hmm … I wonder what it is and who sent it to me. So I carefully cut the end of the padded UPS envelope open … then slide the contents out. Hmmm … it is a book about woodworking. What the heck?! Who in Iowa would be sending me a woodworking book?! I looked inside the envelope to see if there was a note or something that would reveal the sender. Nope … nothing. Hmm?! I looked at the book on the desk in front of me. “Modern Woodworking” by Willis H. Wagner and Clois E. Kicklighter. Hmm … nobody I know. But, this is a large book and by the cover looks interesting. So, I open the cover … AHHHAA! I find a letter that has been placed inside. My eyes go directly to the signature line … Hmm?! I don’t recall knowing anyone by this name. Hmmm?! So I begin to read …

“Bob, it looks like you are a master craftsman. I admire you for your fantastic woodworking skills. I thought you would like a copy of the book “Modern Woodworking“. It is one of three books my dad authored. He was an Industrial Technology professor during his life. Dad recently passed away, but his books will live on.

In 1961, our family moved to Saigon, and we spent two years there. My dad was assigned to Pu-Tau Poly-technical School located about 15 clicks North West of Saigon.

Bob, thanks to you, I’ve been watching the riveting series of video presentations on the streets of Saigon. In fact the most recent one showing Tu-Do Street was amazing. I was on the 1961-62 ACS softball team. And I remember vividly getting fitted for a uniform on Tu-Do Street. I still have that uniform somewhere in the attic.

In 1971-72 I went back to Viet-Nam as a Navy Pilot. Not quit what I envisioned I would be doing after leaving Saigon as a teenager.

I had one occasion to R and R in Saigon. The city had changed so much. I felt like a stranger in the city I grew up in. But that all changed when I walked down Tu-Do Street. I walked into that tailor shop on Tu-Do Street … the same one where we got our softball uniforms made. And out of the back room came the old Vietnamese shop owner. We looked at each other for a long time, and then he said, “I know you”.

Bob, our experiences as teenagers growing up in a land far away changed our life’s forever. If there was one small part of my life I would recapture it would be that time … that marvelous time when all of us kids were together in a place called Saigon.”

I read the letter over several times, as I was overwhelmed with emotions. As I put the letter down tears were welling up in my eyes.

Then I picked up the book and slowly started turning the pages, scanning the knowledge it held within each page … all 644 pages.

Quite some time later I put the book down, laying it on my desk. As I looked at it there, still somewhat overwhelmed with emotions … I thought to myself “before me is the knowledge and wisdom of one man’s lifetime … the father of a Saigon Kid. What a legacy! What a treasure his son has blessed me with by the gift of his father’s book containing a lifetime of wisdom and knowledge about woodworking … preserved in this book for present and future generations!”

Later that evening as I again looked though the book and read the accompanying letter … I thought to myself, “This is what it is all about … this is what being a Saigon Kid is all about … the legacy of our very special bond.”

There simply are no words which can express my appreciation and gratitude to Bill Wagner for blessing me with this treasured gift of this father’s book.

While we were in Saigon during different time periods and have never met … each time I read or refer to his father’s book “Modern Woodworking” I’ll be reminded of Saigon and the very very special bond shared by all Saigon Kids.

Thank you, Bill for the gift of your father’s legacy and the constant reminder of how special Saigon Kids are …


Click here to view a list of books Bill’s father authored

19 comments to Saigon Kid’s Gift: Leaves Me Speechless And On The Verge Of Tears

  • Ken

    Bob, I remember Bill Wagner, a rather tall, slender good looking fellow. Of course, my memory is boosted by my Gecko.
    I think his thoughtfulness is wonderful. and I agree that all of us Saigon Kids (SKs) do have a bond that is unique to some degree. It was a great time to be a kid in Saigon and I have to say I loved my time there (surrounded by all of the beautiful young ladies (American, French, Vietnames, Indonesian, etc.). My time in Saigon influenced me in volunteering for tours in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and Guangzhou, China, although the latter was a great disappointment.
    I wonder if there is anyway more information can be made available via the Internet for folks who are old SKs, so they could find about this site and Roys. Of course, I suppose some of us just don’t spend a lot of time on line…I do and my quest for old friends is the cause of me finding Roy’s site in the first place. I do hope more and more folks find the sites and link up with the rest of us….it just increases the fun.
    All the best and Hi, Bill. Ken

  • Randy Seely

    Hi Bob and Ken: I, too, remember Bill Wagner and, at one time several years ago, sent him a brief email just to say ‘hi’ (thanks to the directory on the Kids’ website..) It’s very nice he took the time to send you the book, Bob…his letter to you pretty much summarizes what all of us feel — having that incredible experience of having shared what turned out to be a foundation for how we all ended up living our lives. Other places in my life pale in comparison to the vivid memories that still are tucked away in my head. The memory of ACS friendships, boy/girl friends, school parties, kids’ parties, parents’ parties,blue & white taxis, the smells, the sounds…they’re all still there, waiting to be called up at a moment’s notice…bringing a smile to our faces and the knowledge we all shared very special times in a very special place. My best to you…and Bill…and to all Saigon Kids, before, during, and after my experience in that very memorable country! Best wishes…Randy

  • Admin

    Hi Ken and Randy! Great comments! 🙂

    Ahhhh yes, memories from the back pages of our minds … our ‘time machine’ back to the past in Saigon 🙂

    Ken, regarding your mention of making more information available on the Internet about our Saigon Kids sites: That is the main reason, when I set this site up, I decided to make it a public site vs. a private site … so people would be able to find it and join in with the rest of us. It is listed in all the search engines and major directories. Also, I’ve installed a number of SEO (search engine optimisation) features. As well as, RSS feeds and some other social networking features/methods I’m still working on, etc. But, the BEST way still remains the old ‘personal invite’ method … such as sending an email to folks who have not joined the site inviting them to sign up and join in the fun, etc. … word of mouth .. sometimes better known as ‘gossip’ … ha ha ha 🙂

    Randy, how was your trip? Didn’t you mention awhile back you had plans to sail the 7 seas during late Summer?

    Again, thanks to both of you for your great comments!


  • RandySeely

    Hi, Bob…yes, we just got back from an Alaskan 7-day cruise out of Seattle; went with some friends and had a great time..Juneau,Skagway, Prince Rupert BC, sailed into a fjord with a glacier. As soon as we got back, my wife and I booked another one for next September, but this time taking our 3 sons and their wives, sailing out of San Diego. I’m still trying to plan a 28-day freighter trip, but can’t seem to solidify a good time frame — may have to wait til I’m retired again! Best wishes…Randy

  • Alice Ahlgren Blackburn

    I remember Bill Wagner well. Tall and quite good looking. He and Robbie Adams and Mike Cooper (Coop) were quite the trio. From the ’63 Gecko, “the ball team has kept Bill on the go and his superior pitching has driven the Teenagers to glory on numerous occasions. His fabulous sense of humor and his unforgettable antics will be missed by all.” The pages are starting to fall out of my yearbook from going back and looking everyone up. Randy Seely’s great bowtie! Love hearing about everyone.

  • Admin

    Yeah, Alice … I bet you remember ALL the ‘tall good looking” guys …. lol … *wink 🙂


  • Alice Ahlgren Blackburn

    Yes I do, Bob. And I also remember vividly the 62-63 ACHS softball team. Bill Wagner was captain and pitcher, Robbie Adams was co-captain and second base (those two ran everything!), Fred Bonner was co-captain and shortstop, Mike Cooper was catcher, R.E. Johnston was center field, John Jackson on third, and Bill Benson on first. Great team. And, yes, we had cheerleaders with uniforms that were probably made at the same tailor shop where the guys got their uniforms. The 63-64 cheerleaders were myself (rah!), my sister Lynn, Mary Adams, and I think Mary Ellen Greene, Robin Ross, Marilyn ? (tall, blonde, very pretty), Katie Craig (?), and one other face I can’t place. Can anybody help me out with that? Anyway, the softball games were the heart of our school.

  • Admin

    LOL .. Alice .. I figured you’d remember all the “studs” … ha ha ha 🙂

    Wait until you see the pictures of the VERY FIRST ball team (1959) when Larry, Frank and myself first got it going. Big difference from 1963. There were only a total of about 600 advisors and American personnel in all of Vietnam in 1959. Many did not have families there with them. So, the ACS was very small. In the 8th – 12th grades I doubt there were more then 40 or 50 of us total. Maybe not even that many. I remember we only used 3 classrooms at the back of the school compound. In looking at the 61 and 62 Gecko’s that Burt Parker sent to me, I can see the school and American community in Saigon grew very rapidly after I left in early 61.

    Hmmm.. I think we need to have a contest to see who remembers the name of the tailor shop on Tu Do Street that made the baseball uniforms and cheerleader uniforms … I wonder if anyone remembers … LOL 🙂


  • Sondra Shankey-Ewell

    Comment #8
    Bob, thanks for including this comment. Until I got to it I felt totally out of the loop because my time in
    saigon was from 1958. I remember Frank Stoddart and Larry Smith working to get the team going! So now I feel ‘with-it’ again. Thanks

  • Admin

    You’re most welcome ma’am *tips hat* 🙂

    I know the feeling … lol


  • Jo (Brown) Strasburg

    I, too, knew Bill and his family quite well. His sister, Janet, was my closest friend while I lived in Saigon. We had many fun times exploring the Vietnamese culture…. In fact I visited with the Wagner family shortly after I married (1964). They lived in Cedar Falls, Iowa where Willis was a professor. Also visited Janet in England twice. We have lost track of each other in more recent years. Hope Bill reads this and can give me her whereabouts. So sorry to hear about their Dad, an exceptionally nice man as was their Mother.

  • Admin

    Jo … I sent Bill and email letting him know you are looking to reconnect with him, etc. 🙂


  • Kathy Connor Dobronyi

    Can anyone tell me where Pershing Field was located or why it was named after Pershing?

  • Admin

    Kathy, I believe, but I’m not certain on this … it was named Pershing Field after General Pershing, a noted Army general … WWII I think.

    I’m not sure of the exact location. Still researching it. Everything has changed so much in Saigon area now. As I recall, it was located on part of the MACV (MAAG) compound. Not certain though. I remember it was kinda near the school … I think?! It is strange, but I have a picture in my mind of how to get to it … by turning off this main street onto a smaller road/lane then going to the end of it to arrive at the back side of the ball field behind the bleachers, etc. … a bit fuzzy though … lol … 🙂

  • Admin

    Kathy, Pershing Field was located at Ton Son Nhut Airbase in Saigon. Pershing Field was the Military Police base during the early to late 1960s. In the late 1960s it was relocated to Long Binh and Bien Hoa Air Base.

    The baseball field we played our games at was located on Pershing Field compound at Ton Son Nhut Airbase.

    Will post more info as I locate it 🙂

  • Ken

    What was the name of the baseball diamond that was across the intersection from the school? It was beside the soccer stadium. Wasn’t that Pershing field? Ken

  • Kathy Connor Dobronyi

    “Black Jack” Pershing was a famous American general in WWI.

    Thanks for the information about the field. I knew about the baseball team/games, but never knew where they practiced and played. Kathy

  • Admin

    Ken, that is what I seem to remember about the location of the baseball diamond. It was across the street from the school, then you turned down a narrow road/lane went to the end and where at the ball field.

    I’ve been trying to locate the old school on various current maps of Saigon, but it will not come up by the current street address … puzzling it is … it is … lol


  • Sarah Rogers

    Aloha Bill,
    please reconnect with all of us…it is so fun
    your best all around motorcycle gal..!!

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