This fighter pilot flew the last mission over Japan in WWII. Then he learned to love his enemy.

By Marwa Eltagouri | Washington Post

It was Aug. 13, 1945, four days after the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Japan had suffered unimaginable destruction, but Emperor Hirohito refused to surrender.

Capt. Jerry Yellin, an American fighter pilot, was ordered to fly a combat mission the next day over the Japanese city of Nagoya, where his 16-plane squadron would strike targets from the air. As his military unit was briefed on its assignment, Yellin’s wing man, a 19-year-old named Phil Schlamberg, leaned over and told Yellin he had an inexplicable feeling he was going to die.

“If we go on this mission, I’m not coming back,” Yellin recalls his friend saying.

Despite those doubts — and no matter how close the end of war seemed — Schlamberg refused to abandon the mission. He packed his clothes, paid his debts and wrote to his family, Yellin said.

The next morning, on Aug. 14, 1945, Yellin told Schlamberg to fly alongside the wing of his P-51 Mustang fighter plane. He gave Schlamberg a thumbs-up. Schlamberg returned the gesture. Together they entered the blustery clouds.

It wasn’t until eight hours later, after Yellin landed back on Iwo Jima and exited his cockpit, that he learned he had just flown the final combat mission of World War II. The news was a bitter relief: Japan had surrendered and the war was over. But the surrender was announced three hours before the planes would descend over Japanese land and begin striking targets. Word that the war was won had not reached the pilots, who had listened for the code word “Utah” to abort their mission. The command never came.

Schlamberg, Yellin said, would be the last man killed in combat in World War II. All Yellin knows is that Schlamberg’s plane disappeared into a cloud bank. There was no radio call, no visual fire, no sighting of Japanese planes.

Now, at age 93, Yellin recalls those moments of the final combat mission with vivid clarity. The sounds and sights of war never leave you, he says.

He is among the few World War II veterans still alive to recount their stories, a sign that a world without them is approaching. As of 2014, only 1 million veterans witnessed the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings at Normandy. That’s a fraction of the 10.7 million alive for the anniversary in 1984.

Yellin was a 17-year-old in Hillside, New Jersey, working at a steel mill in December 1941. He had graduated high school that year with a scholarship to college but postponed his entrance to the spring so he could save up some money. His plans for the coming years took a sharp detour when news broke that a Japanese fleet of almost 200 aircraft waged a surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, destroying the U.S. Navy battleship USS Arizona within 30 minutes.

“When I heard about Pearl Harbor, I had made up my mind,” he said. “I was gonna fly fighter planes against the Japanese. I had made up my mind.”

Yellin spent his childhood building model airplanes, but never considered flying for the military. He was shaken by the attack on Pearl Harbor, however, and enlisted two months later on his 18th birthday, Feb. 15, 1942.

Upon enlisting, Yellin recalls being asked if he was smart. “Why do I have to be smart?” he remembers saying. He took a mental test aimed for applicants with at least two years of college experience and passed.

It was the physical test that proved tricky — particularly the eye exam. He had 20/30 vision in one eye and failed as a result, he said. The doctor told him to go home, stay in a dark room, eat a lot of carbs, avoid reading anything and come back to retake the exam. Yellin found a loophole instead. He asked his mother, who worked for the draft board, to bring him home an eye chart and spent the next three days memorizing it. He passed.

He spent the next 18 months training. His Jewish faith, he discovered, meant he had to work especially hard to prove his worth as a fighter pilot. It wasn’t an unfamiliar predicament. Yellin said he suffered discrimination throughout his childhood and recalled how, during his freshman year of high school, boys he played football and basketball with on the street saw him leave a synagogue. A few days later, his family’s home was vandalized with swastikas.

“You know the black guys, they had to do three times as much work just to be accepted because they were black,” Yellin said. “And I had to be three times as good just to be accepted.”

Two weeks before his graduation as a fighter pilot from Luke Air Field in August 1943, Yellin was asked to take another eye exam. This time, he was given a different eye chart, he said. He failed.

“We’ll put you in transport,” Yellin recalls being told. Air Transport Command was a unit charged with delivering supplies to overseas forces and transporting personnel. “I said, ‘I’m a fighter.’”

He was told to go through the chain of command, and so he did. He eventually met with a high-ranking official.

“Anybody who has the guts to see me is a fighter pilot,” he recalls being told.

“A lot of us, we were a country at war, we were dedicated, patriotic young Americans,” Yellin said.

Yellin spent the rest of the war flying P-40, P-47 and P-51 combat missions in the Pacific with the 78th Fighter Squadron. He said he felt tremendous relief when the war was won. But he also felt a bit lost.

“I didn’t have any buddies to speak to, any airplanes to fly,” he said. “It was a very high, very private experience that nobody discussed, but we all felt it.”

His abrupt return to civilian life had challenges. He met his wife on a blind date, and while their marriage would last 65 years — until her death in 2016 — Yellin said she married a “screwed-up guy.” He suffered post-traumatic stress disorder for 30 years after the war ended and couldn’t hold the same job for very long. Those jobs ranged from consulting to flying commercial planes, but none led to a stable career.

For a long time, he was unaware of the severity of his condition, and the effect it had on his wife and four sons.

“Well, it’s never over. When you’ve been in combat, it’s just plain never over,” he said of the war. “You can emulate the sights, the sounds of war. You can never, ever emulate the smell of 28,000 bodies in the sun in Iwo Jima.”

“The feeling that one has when a buddy dies? You just can’t emulate that. We have a burden civilians will never understand.”

Around 1975, Yellin began to overcome his PTSD through transcendental meditation, by closing his eyes for 20 minutes a day, twice a day, in order to remove the stress from his body. He’s traveled the country in recent years to teach the method to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans through Operation Warrior Shield, an organization he co-founded that aims to help veterans and first responders overcome PTSD.

Actress Scarlett Johansson, whose great-uncle was Yellin’s wingman Schlamberg, has been a vocal supporter of the campaign.

Yellin understands no combat experience is the same: Research shows soldiers returning from Iraq appear to have higher levels of PTSD than those returning from Afghanistan. A possible explanation could be that those service members were exposed to more combat, and the traumas that come with it.

In 1988, Yellin’s perspective on the war further transformed.

His youngest son, who moved to Japan in 1984 to teach English for a year but loved the country so much that he never returned, told his father he wanted to marry the daughter of a Japanese fighter pilot, Yellin said. The woman’s father, having fought Americans, hated them and for seven months refused to meet Yellin.

The father eventually began to ask questions about Yellin — about the type of plane he flew in the war, and where he flew it. When he found out Yellin flew a P-51, he was impressed, and said he would be proud to have his daughter marry someone with the blood of a P-51 pilot, even if he was American.

Now, Yellin visits Japan frequently, and said he has been warmly received at Japanese war commemoration ceremonies in Iwo Jima. In the span of a lifetime, he went from a soldier sworn to hate the enemy to the loving grandfather of three Japanese children.

“We have to understand that killing for what you believe is the heart of evil. And it still goes on,” he said. “We’re all human beings together. I’m representing hopefully, humbly, honestly, the 16 million I served with in World War II.”

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Milford Pearl Harbor survivor recalls planes, waffles

MILFORD – On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, the Davey household on Ford Island in Hawaii smelled of fresh waffles accompanied by the light laughter of Thomas and his brother playing innocently in their bedroom before breakfast.

The islet in the center of Pearl Harbor, Oahu, was always quiet on Sunday mornings, so when the sound of low-flying airplanes caught the attention of the young Davey brothers, they rushed outside to see what the commotion was.

“When the planes came in to drop the torpedoes, they had to come right over my house,” said Thomas Davey, 85, of Milford. “A couple came close to the trees they were flying so low.”

Sitting on his couch in a Milford apartment, surrounded by photos and model airplanes, Davey recalled the day he witnessed the Pearl Harbor attacks from his own backyard with the same intense clarity of the tragedy 76 years ago.

When the boys saw the planes, they knew they weren’t American.

“I ran inside and told my mother, ‘those are Japanese planes, wake daddy up,”’ he said.

Davey’s father, Thomas Davey Sr., was a Public Works Officer in the Civil Engineer Corps who was stationed on the island two years prior, in 1939.

The younger Thomas then ran back outside and the brothers watched while the first bombs were dropped; the attack had begun. American forces soon fired back, woken by explosions and gunfire.

“It got very scary,” Davey said. “My father came out and grabbed ahold of my brother and I followed. As soon as we got in the house, the (U.S.S.) Arizona blew up. There was this huge explosion that shook the house and broke some windows.”

His mother put a halt to breakfast, unplugging the waffle iron, while his father gathered the family in one room and stacked mattresses onto his loved ones, telling them not to move until he returned.

After the first bombing was over, Davey’s father gathered the family into a car and drove to the admiral’s house, where the children took refuge in a WWI gun turret, they called “The Dungeon.”

“In the gun turret area there were sailors lined up against the wall,” he said. “They were all oily and some were bleeding.”

The sailors swam through the wreckage of the capsized ships, and now stood with the children looking onto them while they dripped with oil.

“We watched the second attack through the gun slots in the turret,” he said. “We could see everything that was going on out there, PT boats, some strafing going on.”

He said in the turret, there were other children from the neighborhood. He said at one point a soldier came in and handed out oranges telling them not to eat them all at once because they didn’t know when the next meal would be.

The days following the attack, Davey, then 9, said he helped military officers load machine gun belts, something he now laughs about.

His father wrote him a note about the day he saw Davey and his brother helping out the men.

“Helping Marines to reload machine gun belts, what guts and innocence,” Davey read, choking up a bit. “Thank goodness for you kids.”

He said they stayed in Hawaii for a short time, where he was required to carry a gas mask everywhere he went. The family then moved to the mainland, where Davey later served four years in the Navy in the 1950s, before eventually finding himself in Massachusetts.

In 1966, he went to help his mother move into a smaller home, 25 years after the Pearl Harbor attack.

“I picked up this iron, and said, ‘mother what’s this?’’ he said. “She said, ‘Oh my god, I haven’t seen that since Pearl Harbor.’ I went to open it and I couldn’t. So I got a screwdriver and popped it open, and there sat the waffle. I touched it and it was soft, like it was just cooked today.”

Davey grabbed a piece of the perfectly preserved waffle and ate it.

“I said, the only thing missing is butter and maple syrup,” he laughed.

Scott Calzolaio can be reached by email at, by phone at 508-734-0389, or on Twitter @ScottCaz.

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Paramount’s AHRLAC ramps up production | defenceWeb

On a wall of the AHRLAC production facility at Wonderboom Airport in Pretoria, there is a quote from Albert Einstein. “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” reads the quote.

A lot of imagination and daring have gone into the AHRLAC project since it was initially conceived nearly ten years ago. AHRLAC (Advanced, High Performance, Reconnaissance Light Aircraft) has an unusual design with a high two person cockpit and a pusher propeller but the company’s manufacturing strategy for the aircraft is also unusual with plans to build a high degree of self-reliance on the manufacturing of parts from the start.

AHRLAC was conceived as a multi-purpose single propeller driven reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft. There is now also a militarised version, the MWARI, which is able to take on weapons. Roles include anti-poaching, offshore patrols, and border and general domestic security. Its military role is focused on asymmetric threats.

Paramount Group and its partners in AHRLAC Holdings are gradually ramping up production of the AHRLAC. The new state of the art aircraft factory is designed to produce two AHRLAC aircraft per month when it reaches full capacity. However the modular design of the factory allows for the scaling up of production to meet according to customer demand. The company will not talk about its customers.

The Wonderboom facility opened in March this year and the first production model of the AHRLAC flew in June. Recently the company took those attending the Aeronautical Society of South Africa’s annual conference on a tour of the facility.

The AHRLAC self-sufficiency strategy has a strong provenance in the SA defence industry from the era of arms sanctions. Although in-house or local production can be an expensive route, the engineers have found a way of making this work.

Paul Potgieter Jr, AHRLAC’s programme manager, says the major drive for the push for self-sufficiency in parts was because much of the aerospace parts manufacturing industry in SA simply no longer exists. The alternative would be to rely on parts from overseas, which often means long waiting times.

While US sourced aluminium is used for the airframe, and the engine is a Pratt and Whitney PT6 built in Canada, the manufacturing and production of around 80 percent, in weight, and over 50 percent in value, is done in house. Potgieter says that 98 percent of the approximately 6 000 non-engine parts are locally produced.

The aim of building what Potgieter calls “a silo of self-sufficiency” extends from design to component manufacture and assembly and flights tests. “We are aiming to do everything ourselves,” says Potgieter.

To pursue maximum self-sufficiency, Paramount and its partners in AHRLAC Holdings have heavily invested in high-end machine tools for milling, forming, pressing, and 3D printing. There are a number of state of the art large five axis milling machines for the production of core parts on the factory floor. In partnership with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), AHRLAC Holdings is developing a 3D printer for the production of titanium parts. So far over 60 parts are printed, but Potgieter says the aim is to print a lot more in time. To reduce weight and cost the company is looking into greater use of composite parts to replace those made out of metal.

Potgieter says that the high accuracy of machining and 3D printing allow for greater precision in parts production. This higher precision means that unusually for an aircraft factory, no jigs are used. A jig holds parts and acts as a guiding tool for assembly. AHRLAC does have a few fixtures for parts, but these are only used at points where there is a critical join.

Jigless manufacture reduces costs and makes the assembly line less cluttered. To further streamline production and reduce costs the company uses Just In Time parts supply in the assembly process, something that its heavy investment in machine tools permits.

AHRLAC employs about 120 people and there are plans to hire more engineers to develop the special mission roles of the aircraft.

Potgieter says having the engine in the rear is a distinct advantage in the intelligence and reconnaissance roles as interference with sensors in the nose is substantially reduced. To cater for additional sensors the aircraft’s nose has been enlarged and to improve the aerodynamic properties, retractable wheels will be introduced.

Paramount has a cooperation agreement with Boeing for the integration of weapons systems and avionics as well as maintenance, repair, and overhaul.

For the past few months flight tests have focused on proving the aircraft’s operational ability in remote areas. Week-long “bush camps” have taken place in Botswana and near Port Nolloth in the Northern Cape to prove the aircraft’s operational ability in areas where spare parts and high end service cannot readily be obtained.

An active imagination was needed to conceive and manufacture AHRLAC, and now the wait is on for the big step of seeing it in operational use with customers.

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Bombardier hopes to deepen Airbus relationship by making parts for its planes at Belfast plant

Bombardier Inc.’s plant in Belfast, Northern Ireland, aims to become a supplier to Airbus SE following the European giant’s investment in the Canadian company’s C Series plane.

The U.K. aero-structures factory, which employs more than 4,000 people, currently makes carbon-fiber wings for the single-aisle jet, giving it the expertise to work for Airbus itself, Fred Cromer, Bombardier’s commercial aircraft chief, told Bloomberg TV at the Dubai Air Show on Monday.

“There is a real opportunity for Airbus to come in and create opportunities at that facility,” Cromer said, adding that the Belfast site, formerly known as Short Brothers and acquired by Bombardier in 1989, has significant experience as a third-party supplier to other top-rank aerospace manufacturers.

Airbus’s plan to take a majority stake in the C Series already promises to cut Bombardier’s costs, help win new orders and sidestep U.S. tariffs on the jet by moving some manufacturing to Alabama. Making parts for Airbus would further deepen the relationship and reinforce the possibility of the Canadian company’s technology featuring strongly in its new ally’s future models.

Employment at the Belfast plant has become a major issue for U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, whose Conservatives rely on Ulster’s Democratic Unionists for their majority in Parliament. May had lobbied U.S. President Donald Trump to reconsider the C Series tariffs — imposed after Boeing Co. claimed Bombardier had received illegal state aid — as they appeared to put the future of the model in jeopardy before the Airbus deal provided a lifeline.

Rolls-Royce, GE

In addition to its work for Bombardier planes, the factory currently makes engine housings for Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc and General Electric Co. and supplies cowls direct to Airbus for installation on current-generation A320-family turbines. A deal to make more parts for Airbus would safeguard Northern Ireland’s largest manufacturer after it eliminated more than 1,000 jobs as part of wider cuts at Bombardier linked to sluggish C Series sales.

The composite wings made in Belfast are among the most advanced C Series features. Airbus’s A320 and the 737 from Boeing, with which the 108-to-160-seat model overlaps, have an all-metal construction, even in their new upgraded forms. The A350 wide-body is the only aircraft in the European company’s lineup with a mainly carbon-fiber construction, including the wings made in Broughton, Wales.

Cromer said that the C Series has good order prospects in the Middle East, where Bombardier has yet to win an order for the plane, while declining to comment on whether a customer might be announced at the Dubai expo. EgytpAir said last year it was looking at the C Series, with Daily Egypt News reporting last month that it is ready to buy 12 of the largest C300 variant.

Bombardier said last week that it had won the first major C Series order in 18 months, with a commitment from an unidentified European customer to buy 31 planes worth US$2.4 billion at list prices.

Cromer said in an interview on Sunday in Dubai that that it will be about two years before the planned C Series assembly line in Mobile is opened, adding that the US$300 million facility will be funded by Bombardier but maintained by the enlarged C Series venture to be controlled by Airbus.

The lag and continued U.S. processing of Boeing’s complaint means that 75 planes ordered by Delta Air Lines Inc. that would be subject to the U.S. tariff if exported from Canada may need to be pushed back from planned delivery starting next year, and Bombardier is working with other customers that may now be able to take their planes earlier, the executive said.

Bombardier is meanwhile open to partnerships on other commercial-aircraft programs, he said. In addition to the C Series the Montreal-based company makes the CRJ regional jet and the Q400 regional turboprop, as well as a range of business aircraft.

Colin Bole, senior vice president at Bombardier’s commercial aircraft unit, said separately that the announcement of the Airbus deal has generally boosted C Series interest and may bring some orders to fruition more quickly. Other potential buyers may hold back to see if they can get more attractive terms for deals packaging the C Series with Airbus’s own models, he added.

–With assistance from Anurag Kotoky

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Bob Seidemann, who shot iconic images of Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead, dies at 75

He photographed Janis Joplin wearing nothing but beads. He also once captured the members of the Grateful Dead looking jaunty in black as they stood in front of a row of cookie-cutter houses in a Bay Area suburb.

Bob Seidemann, a photographer and art director known for his iconic images of ‘60s era rock stars, and for producing a controversial album cover featuring a partially nude pubescent girl for the band Blind Faith, died at his Bay Area home on Mare Island on Nov. 27. He was 75.

The cause was Parkinson’s disease, according to Belinda Seidemann, his wife of more than 30 years.

“The graphics of the era were framed by the photos Bob took,” says Douglas Brian Martin, a photographer and longtime friend of Seidermann’s who has shot album covers for record labels including Virgin and AM Records. “He gave a regal purity to hippies like the Grateful Dead. He made it look natural. They weren’t posing.”

Janis Joplin, seated, with Big Brother and the Holding Company in the 1960s — as photographed by Bob Seidemann. Bob Seidemann / Michael Ochs Archives

The natural quality of Seidermann’s images could be attributed to the bond with his subjects — he was simply photographing his friends.

Drawn to San Francisco from his native New York in the 1960s by the burgeoning beatnik scene, Seidemann befriended the poets, artists, writers and musicians of the city’s North Beach neighborhood. Those acquaintances included David Getz, the drummer for Big Brother and the Holding Company, the group fronted by Joplin.

“He just fell in with these people — it was just the crowd,” says Belinda Seidermann. “So he began taking some pictures, and those were some of his very early pictures, of Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead.”

Photography led him to shoot and art direct album covers for The Grateful Dead, Randy Newman and Cheap Trick. But one of his most memorable and contentious covers was his first: the 1969 self-titled album for Blind Faith, a supergroup composed of Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Ric Grech and Ginger Baker.

Clapton asked Seidemann to devise the cover art, and he responded with an image that featured a shirtless 11-year-old girl holding a model airplane. (The girl, Mariora Goschen, was photographed with her parents’ consent.) The image caused a sensation — with some critics describing the plane as a phallic symbol — and it was banned in the United States, where Goschen was replaced with a photo of the band.

The members of Blind Faith are photographed by Bob Seidemann in 1969. From left: Steve Winwood, Ric Grech, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton. Bob Seidemann / Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Seidemann insisted that the Blind Faith cover was not intended to be sexually interpreted.

“To symbolize the achievement of human creativity and its expression through technology, a space ship was the material object,” he once wrote of the cover. “To carry this new spore into the universe, innocence would be the ideal bearer, a young girl as young as Shakespeare’s Juliet. The space ship would be the fruit of the tree of knowledge and the girl, the fruit of the tree of life.”

“It wasn’t meant to be the titillating piece that everybody read,” says Belinda. “He described the airplane as science and the future, and he wanted an innocent to be carrying that into the future.”

Seidemann’s portrait of Rick Griffin, an artist known for his underground comics and psychedelic music posters. RB / Redferns

Seidemann was born Robert Seidemann in New York City in 1941. He was raised in Woodside, Queens, near LaGuardia Airport, and as a boy, was fascinated with planes.

An undiagnosed learning disability made it difficult for him to read, so he attended a vocational high school, the Manhattan High School of Aviation Trades. After graduation, he got a job delivering film for a laboratory, a gig that turned him on to the possibilities of photography.

“He always described being on the street in New York, walking over to some studio, and delivering the film,” says Belinda. “He’d get in the elevator and the elevator would open up and he’d see this glamorous scene — it was the late ’50s, early ’60s — this beautiful photo shoot. He’d deliver the film, get right back on the elevator and then be back on the street.”

He soon landed a job as a photo assistant for Tom Caravaglia, who was then a commercial photographer, but would ultimately become known for his documentation of modern dance. One of Seidemann’s assignments for Caravaglia was staging shoots for kitsch calendars featuring baby chickens and hay bales.

But even as Seidemann wrangled baby birds, his passion was beatnik culture and jazz. He moved in the 1960s to San Francisco, because, as Belinda says, “he started hearing that all the beatniks were going to the coast.” (It was in San Francisco where he met the young Belinda Bryant, whom he would marry in 1983.)

His commanding presence — “he was 6’2” and his mouth was as big as he was,” says Belinda — made him a natural to shoot unruly rock bands: “He could walk into a room and he could get their attention. They all liked him, and he liked them.”

The graphics of the era were framed by the photos Bob took. He gave a regal purity to hippies like the Grateful Dead.

Douglas Brian Martin, photographer

Bob Seidemann as a young man in 1967. Stanley Mouse

In the 1970s, the Seidemanns relocated to Los Angeles — where Bob would create work for the record labels and where Belinda would ultimately become an Emmy-nominated make-up artist.

Seidemann’s album covers for Warner Bros., Columbia Records and AM Records often included wry references to culture, both high and low. His design for Jackson Browne’s 1974 album “Late for the Sky” contained a stark image of a single burning light underneath a cloud-filled sky and was inspired by a painting by Belgian surrealist René Magritte.

In the 1990s, he returned to one of his youthful passions — airplanes — in a series titled “Airplane as Art.” The collection consisted of artfully framed black and white images capturing the sculptural aspects of aircraft, as well as their designers and pilots. Photos from the series are now part of the permanent collection at the Getty Museum.

Martin says Seidemann never lost his ability to craft an artful image.

“About 15 years ago, I did an installation in Marina del Rey,” he recalls. “I wanted to take pictures of it. Bob said, ‘I’ll take the pictures.’ He showed up with a Hasselblad and no light meter. I thought, ‘Seidemann has lost his mind!’ He said, ‘I don’t need a light meter.’ And every shot was perfect. He knew what he was doing.”

Seidmann was diagnosed with Parkinson’s roughly half a dozen years ago, after which he and Belinda retired, and left Los Angeles for Mare Island.

The photographer is survived by his younger brother, Donald Seidemann, who lives in Seattle, and Belinda. The couple had no children.

Twitter: @cmonstah


Johnny Hallyday, Gallic rocker worshiped as the ‘French Elvis,’ dies at 74

Jerome Crowe, the FBI agent who delivered the ransom money in the Frank Sinatra Jr. kidnapping, dies at 93

More unreleased Jimi Hendrix studio recordings coming via ‘Both Sides of the Sky’

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Close to Home: A new kind of light this year

For more than 20 years, a small group of families from our synagogue has gathered to light the Hanukkah candles. My family hosted the celebration for many of these years, which included a latke-fry, playing dreidel and a heated gift exchange. A couple of years ago, we reluctantly dropped the kids’ craft activities when most of the “kids” were legally drinking with the adults.

This year, it’s hard to imagine celebrating much of anything — particularly a holiday that is flame-centric. On the eight nights of Hanukkah you light candles, using a nine-branched candle holder called a menorah. On the first night, one candle is lit, on the second night, two candles are lit. Finally, on the eighth night all the candles are lit, along with the extra “helper” candle. When our group of friends gathered, everyone brought at least one menorah, creating a blaze that was intimidating even in normal times.

Burned in the wildfire that destroyed our home (and the home of another family in our Hanukkah group) were the boxes of holiday items that evoke memories of past celebrations, family gatherings and loved ones who are no longer with us.

“It’s just stuff,” I say. But that doesn’t stop me from mourning the destruction of the dozens of Hanukkah ornaments that family and friends made using salt dough and cookie cutters. The baked and painted menorahs, Kiddush cups, candles and Stars of David were strung on bright ribbons and hung in the windows every Hanukkah. The oldest salt-dough ornaments were made by my husband when he was a child. A kid who was obsessed with model airplanes, his ornaments were distinctive for the precise lines and fine details — and easily recognizable by the 1970s palette of orange and avocado green. The newest ornaments were painted by our son, a gorgeous mix of vibrant purples, blues and greens.

Between Hanukkahs the ornaments were stored in an old pink and gold box from the long-defunct Rosenberg’s department store. The box was stored in a plastic bin that was carefully stacked in an antique armoire, along with the bins of Thanksgiving, New Year’s, Valentine, Passover and Halloween decorations. All the bins were filled with a mixture of holiday kitsch, art made by two generations of children, loose glitter, torn construction paper, stray popsicle sticks and bits of candle wax.

Truth be told, there were many post-holiday mornings, when tired and head-achey, I was tempted to dump the whole lot in the garbage. I never did, and I always experienced the same thrill the following year when opening a bin and re-discovering the magic that had been stored away.

This year, there is no armoire, no bins, no Rosenberg’s box — but, yes, there is still magic. A few weeks ago, as we sifted through the ashes of our home, we found three menorahs right in the spot where the Hanukkah box was stored. These three small, broken messengers of hope revived my spirit enough to start planning this year’s celebration.

It will definitely be low-key (I don’t think our rental house kitchen can withstand the frying of 20 pounds of potato latkes), but we will celebrate friendship and family, light the candles, say the blessings and revive the kid’s craft project — baking and painting salt-dough ornaments. Happy Hanukkah.

Ann DuBay is community and government affairs manager for the Sonoma County Water Agency. She and her family have found housing in Healdsburg while they rebuild the home that was lost in the Tubbs fire.

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NDA takes Makerspace on the road

TYNGSBORO — When the Academy of Notre Dame created a Makerspace area over the summer, officials knew demand was there from students. What they didn’t know was that the tech enthusiasts, tinkerers, hobbyists and future engineers would be able to take their show on the road so soon.

One recent weekend, several NDA students and families presented at the Mini Makers Faire at Barnes Noble Bookstore in Nashua, N.H. Now in their third year, Makers Faires are part of a nationwide weekend during which experts, groups and individuals come together to share ideas and creativity in the science, technology, arts and design, engineering and math fields — otherwise known as STEAM.

The academy students were one of nearly a dozen groups throughout the store.

Fifteen STEAM and Makerspace students participated by bringing their projects, which included compost columns, super-strong shelves made from paper-towel and toilet-paper rolls, handmade model airplanes with motorized propellers, games made with electronics and programmed by Scratch, jewelry boxes, such games as a ring toss, and 3-D aliens made from the school’s 3-D printer.

“The energy and enthusiasm of the students was radiant, as each member discussed his or her project,” Principal Elizabeth O’Connell said. “It reminded me of the quote once written by Emily Pilloton: ‘Let’s build the change we wish to see.'”

NDA offers a STEAM course to all students grades from K-2 through 8, as well as a Makerspace course once a week to grades 4 through 8 in the new Makerspace area.

Also, two days after school, students may sign up to continue their work in the Makerspace on any project they want as long as it is appropriate, and the tools and materials are available.

During the Mini Maker Faire, adults and children who visited the academy’s tables were fascinated by what each of the students put together.

“We plan to expand our tools and materials over time,” said Randall Adams, Academy of Notre Dame president. “We recognize that established and emerging companies are strongly encouraging schools to engage students in STEM and STEAM curriculum. There is a higher and higher demand for graduates of college who have learned to improve our nation’s technology and engineering abilities.”

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