April 2024
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Saigon Kids Stories: Past and Present — Spell Checkers, Rock’n Roll, Grammar Checkers, Foreign Languages, SHUT-IT, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Skunks, Possums and Coons, Raining Geckos …

Submitted by:
Ken Yeager – (ACS and Dalat School)
Frank Stoddard – (ACS)
Suellen (Oliver) Campbell – (ACS)
Admin – (ACS)

Ken Yeager: What happened to the spell checker?

Admin: The English spelling teacher took it, saying it was *cheating*! – lol – 🙂

Frank Stoddard: Spell Checker, I should have been hired.. Only people who know how to spell are hired… They need to hire people who do not know how to spell to develop the software. People that have no problem spelling have no clue about how to develop the software!!!

Do you folks that have no problem spelling words … do you really understand how some of us struggle (we are not less of a human being … O.K., maybe we are!!!). Some of us lived in the days that when you struggled at spelling words correctly you were considered stupid. Thank God, today it is just considered a decease! HeHe!!

By the way, I have never considered the “good old days” of being that good. Music however, being so much a part of my life is the “good old days” to me. When I visit the 50’s, but cannot (and do not want to) go back to, I think of “Young Love”, “Blue Berry Hill”, “Little Darlin’ ” and “It’s All In The Game”. Of course there are many more songs. AND the 60’s arrive with “Duke of Earl”, “Traveling Man” and “The Wanderer”… I do not know how many hours I went into a room, turned the lights out and turned the sounds up and just laid there listening to the sounds.

Oh yes, and the 60’s would bring on a whole new thought process. War, Peace, I know the answer, I am so confused, I want to help, I want to be a problem, I don’t know what I want! Help!

But we all survive! Our parents were the “greatest generation”, what are we? To be honest with you, I think many of us are more honest than what are parents were. I am not trying to take away from them, but I think that is what they wanted.

Ken Yeager: Bob, please add grammar checker as well…

I must confess, I am a two year college dropout. After my sophomore year I decided to quit going to university and save my dad some money because what he had spent up to that date had been wasted. I was never a good student, never particularly liked schooling of any sort although college was fun as was high school… no, not the school part, but the after school part.

I guess I am just basically and chronically lazy. I still don’t like the idea of going to any sort of schooling and my 32 years in the Foreign Service did have me attending various training classes (French and Czech languages, administrative training and other short courses of various subjects like area studies [classes on the country one is to be posted to]). No, I didn’t excel at any language and even now after spending almost 18 years in German speaking countries (Germany and Austria combined) I still speak only rudimentary Germany. Part of that is because professionally in the Foreign Service and in my type of work, fluency in a foreign language was not always necessary or required. English, of course, is the language used internally in embassies and consulates AND (this is a big AND), my German-born wife and I speak mostly English at home with the odd French, Czech or Chinese word thrown in when it will do.

I was a lousy speller and still am to a degree (you have probably already noticed in some of my boring essays), but I have overcome some of my educational shortcomings. I have an excellent spell checker at home sold under the brand name “Gisela.” Yes, my wife seems to be able to spot my mistakes a mile away, but then again, I think most wives can do that with their husbands (right, guys, and regardless of the subject ?).

Once I moved into administrative work (I started out in communications) and had to write notices, telegrams, contracts and other written communications I had no choice but to improve or exhibit my ignorance. Besides, in the days of typewriters, it was painful to have to retype documents over and over if one didn’t have a secretary and I didn’t very often. Computers saved the day on that account and spell checkers on another so life has improved but my problem now is that my fingers can fly over the keys faster than I can think properly. In my best days, I used to be able to type 100 words a minute but that was copying what someone else wrote… typing as one thinks about a subject is more difficult and slows one down and, of course, that is where the errors come from.

Actually spelling is rather easy in most cases if one just takes the time to pronounce a word and break it into syllables (had to look that word up) … sure, I know, it doesn’t always work but that is what dictionaries are for, assuming you cans spell enough of the word to find it in a dictionary.

BUT as we all slide into retirement, who cares anymore as long as it is between us SK’s (although I am sure some of you have found out that Googling a name will occasionally bring up things SK’s have written). But I don’t care anymore just like I don’t care if I speak lousy German …if folks can understand what I am trying to say, fine well and good. I understand more than I can speak but still it is, certainly to me, a very confusing language … Czech wasn’t easy either and my wife was able to get more of the language than me … has something to do with the sound of all the letters in the alphabet … I did better in French but even there I was far from fluent. Hey, if one can read a menu, what else do you need, right?

New subject: Finally, weather is warming up so the motorcycle comes out of storage on the 29th, cleaned, oil changed, tuned up and ready to ride. Just hope the temps climb by then as I am NOT a cold-weather rider (age?). I like to think that riding a motorcycle keeps one alert, the mind clear and that one possesses the knowledge that bones are a lot more brittle at my age than with the kids on the crotch rockets so I ride carefully. Rumor has it that the summer will be a good one and so I am keeping my fingers and toes crossed.

I am also hoping that all of you have a good week, a good spring and a warm and enjoyable summer. Ciao or as we say in north German “Tschüß”.

Suellen (Oliver) Campbell: I always prided myself on being a good speller, but, gentlemen, it comes with an annoying price. I cannot read anything without an offending word jumping right out at me screaming, “I AM SPELLED INCORRECTLY!” Even when I am just scanning an article or reading over someone’s shoulder … there IT is!!! Very frustrating for sure. You just learn to ignore them, sometimes easier said than done.

One skill I wish I had had the time to master is typing. After returning from Saigon I had just enough basic credits to satisfy graduation requirements. There was not enough room in my schedule to take typing after I was forced to take the prerequisite P.E. classes for S.C. graduation. Even in college my schedule was packed with other major and minor requirements and prerequisites, so typing got the short shift again.

I am a master hunt and pecker, and I am pretty fast, too, but I must look at the keys. After typing a sentence I have to go back and add or subtract letters, change spelling etc. Why the “a” in parents is always a capital letter when I write Dear PArents is a mystery to me … see there it is!!! And I didn’t even try to make that happen. Guess I am so doggone speedy that my finger doesn’t move fast enough?

Anyway, we all have our gifts, right guys? Bob, Frank, Ken and Kevin … the gift of writing! and I thank you all for sharing it with the rest of us.

Our life in Houston is about the same ol’ same ol’. However, I don’t think I have mentioned that last year Charles and I have embarked on a new venture we call SHUT-IT. This stands for *Senior Humane Urban Trappers-In Texas*. After smelling a skunk and then spotting a few raccoons dancing on our back deck, we decided to attempt to trap them. Mind you, we live just outside the city of Houston, and in a very occupied subdivision with neighbors all around us … no acreage.

Anyway, we were immediately successful and before long we had captured and released a few critters. Then our business expanded to possums. They wanted in on the action, too.

Now after 16 months, we have trapped a total of 85 varmits! Yes, you read that right..85! Our official total is 28 skunks, 24 possums and 33 raccoons. All caught in 2 little traps (Dubbed the Critter Cafe) in our backyard using a menu of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on whole wheat bread.

We even became official trappers by the State of Texas after we found out that releasing skunks and possums is legal, but releasing raccoons is NOT! Our adventures of releasing skunks have been quite humorous in many instances, and, to the amusement of our friends I have written about each critter’s exploit of becoming trapped and then, in most cases, released.

In Feb. we trapped and released 4 skunks in 10 days. Almost a record, except for Dec.2011 when it was 5 in 14 days.

Just to let you know that life in Houston is never dull, and SHUT-IT stays busy ridding the neighborhood of unwanted critters, just in our yard, alone.

There is a story of how this all began, but I will save it for another time.

Ken Yeager: A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a terrible thing to waste … and on skunks no less !!!!!. I am a peanut butter lover (that sounds weird), and fortunately, one can buy good pure peanut butter in Germany. Have a good week, all.

Suellen (Oliver) Campbell: Good ol’ Jiffy works great for critters. They prefer the crunchy type, as do I. The great sacrifice is using my blackberry jam on the bread. They love it and so do I.

This all started when I noticed my hummingbird feeder was empty each morning for about a week. It hung from a low hanger on the porch. Soon after this discovery, I turned on the night light one evening and there was a raccoon, standing on its hind legs, chuc-a-lugging the hummingbird nectar. Ah-HA!

I ran to get the camera, but when I opened the back door to get a quick photo, there were now 4 of them and they came running to get in the door. I slammed the door and they just stood up and started scratching on the glass windows as if expecting me to open it for them.

At the same time I noticed another critter on the deck … a skunk.

That was it.

We started trapping and we have not reached the end of the critters to this day.

The only critters I recall from personal experience in Saigon days were the geckos (a humongous, angry purple and blue guy lived above our guest house porch roof) and the thousands of lizards that would congregate near the overhead light fixture on our porte-cochere. Getting into the car at night was always like running the gauntlet, as the lizards would fight each other for prominent position and the losers would fall onto this unsuspecting teenage girl.

Quite disconcerting the first few times it happened.

Then I learned to run fast and jump into the car quickly.

Share your memories, experiences and stories of your days in Saigon.

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