Rabid Fun

John Cowart's Daily Journal: A befuddled ordinary Christian looks for spiritual realities in day to day living.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Magic Twangers And Jacksonville Fire Rescue

The other night the temperature in Jacksonville dropped to a bone-chilling 46 degrees — We Floridians think of 46 as bone-chilling.

As Ginny and I darted from the library to our car through this artic blast, she held the car key remote door opener in her hand but she was slow in opening the car door as I stood there freezing.

To hurry her along I called out, “Pluck Your Magic Twanger, Froggy”.

Where did that come from? It’s a phrase I have neither spoken or even thought of for over 60 years. Ginny had never heard the expression before. She’s too young.

I remembered that the phrase came from a radio show I’d faithfully listened to as a kid. I remembered that I thought the show hilarious and that I loved Froggy, but I could not remember the name of the program.

When we got home out of the cold, I googled “Pluck Your Magic Twanger, Froggy” .Turns out that the kids radio show I listened to as a child in about 1948 was the Buster Brown Show, sponsored by Buster Brown Shoes.

The show ran for 23 years but it finally degenerated into a television show or real radio shows went off the air, or I out grew Froggy’s wit, or something. (Ginny says I have never out grown anything).

Froggy was a gremlin with a magic twanger which he used to confuse other characters and get them into all kinds of trouble. His character developed during World War II when pilots blamed all sorts of malfunctions on gremlins.

Smiling Ed, the human host, would invoke Froggy with the phrase, “Pluck your magic twanger”. I used to laugh so hard at Froggy’s radio antics that my mother would shout at me, “Turn That Damn Thing Down” but Froggy loved to confuse humans — like the time he substituted plaster of Parris for flour in a visiting cook’s cake recipe.

I’d cackle at Froggy’s jokes. He always won out over the adults of this world. He was a hero in my six-year-old perception.

There is a nostalgic website devoted to Froggy and the Buster Brown Show at http://michelesworld.net/dmm/frog/gremlin/gremlin.htm .

Even though the radio program delighted me as a kid, and although I now realize that Froggy contributed greatly to my adult sense of humor, I had not given the magic twanger a thought in over 60 years…

So, why did that phrase pop out of my mouth when I wanted Ginny to use her magic remoter door key opener to let me in out of the cold?

The Bible says something about training a child right to let him grow up right.

St. Paul told Timothy, “Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned… knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus”.

What we learn as kids sticks with us.

It may lie deep, deep, deep down under the surface only to pop up 60 years later on some dark freezing night. We may forget it’s there and not know the meaning of it when it does pop up, but it is there.

I’ve often wondered why I do some of the things I do. I can’t always fathom the reasons for my own behavior. I’m a mystery to me. And I’m a mystery to Ginny and to my children and hardly anybody understands my sense of humor or laughs at my jokes.

Lets face it.

Somewhere over the years, I’ve lost my magic twanger.

Now, for another subject:

At 5:58 a.m. yesterday a building in downtown Jacksonville, a parking garage for a luxury condo, Berkman Plaza II, a 23-story condominium, collapsed.

The building was under construction and workers were pouring concrete on an upper level. The disaster stuck right as workers were changing shifts so no one was sure how many people were trapped beneath the rubble.

Six stories of the structure fell in an instant, each floor compressing floors below. One witness described it as a stack of pancakes

Right now the Jacksonville Fire Rescue Division is still in the midst of search and recovery operations so the facts and figures are still sketchy

At least 23 people were hospitalized and many more injured were treated on site. No one know how many are trapped beneath the rubble or, indeed, if all the people inside made it out.

That Berkman place is on the river right across the street from police headquarters within two minutes of the collapse, police, fire, ambulance, rescue workers and volunteers responded

If nothing else, having spent a couple of years researching and writing our fire department’s history, I’ve gained a layman’s appreciation of what a great job they are doing right now this morning.

Every Jacksonville firefighter receives an extra 50 hours a year training in mass causality protocols and urban rescue techniques As I’ve listened to radio news and watched tv reports, I see this training show up in spades.

These guys are good.

In responding to the building collapse they are using everything from Halligan bars and search dogs to thermal imaging cameras and Hurst Extraction Tools (Jaws Of Life) to locate and rescue any victim.

It’s amazing to see in action tools and procedures I’ve only read about during my research. I come to a deeper appreciation of firefighters every day.

OHSA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration) officials are investigating. It’s too early to say for sure exactly why this building collapsed, but as an amature historian, I could hazard a guess.

Before the 1950s the St. Johns River was much wider with mud banks along the edges. Construction projects dumped fill dirt on top of the mud making the river narrower and narrower, then a crust of asphalt topped the fill dirt and buildings went up.

The water used to be right at Bay Street, now two city blocks of structures lie between Bay Street and the water. All these new things stand on a foundation of squishy river mud being constantly undercut by the river’s flow.

There was a day when a man standing on Bay Street could shoot alligators. It's a wonder to me that more buildings along the river bank haven't collapsed. What foundation can there be underneath? Already parts of the Riverwalk built just before the 2005 Superbowl have fallen into the river.

The wise man builds his house upon the rock, the foolish man builds his house in Florida.

But, who am I to criticize the foundation another man builds on?

After all, I'm the guy who build my entire adult personality on the foundation of Froggy and his magic twanger.

So, what spiritual lesson is there in all this for me?

First thing that comes to mind is that Jesus said, “Which of you intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost… lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it…”

But, He also warns me against crowing about other people’s flubs.

In speaking of a construction accident in His day, He said, “Those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwell in Jerusalem? I tell ye, Nay: but except ye repent, ye shall likewise perish”.

But I’m getting far afield here.

The main reason I’m mentioning this present disaster is that it brings me a deeper appreciation of Jacksonville Fire Rescue Division. Seeing them in this kind of action certainly motivates me to get back to work writing their history. Seeing them do their job makes me want to do mine better.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 6:46 AM


At 7:35 PM, Blogger jellyhead said...

From Froggy to firemen doing their jobs skilfully and courageously .... there's something for everyone in this post!

Hope you have a great weekend John.

At 2:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

FYI: If you google "Buster Brown Show" in quotes with the additional keyword of "radio", you get a list of old time radio sites where you can buy CDs of the radio program. With such an old program, its quite likely that any copyright has since expired.


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