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160620 June 20, 2016


Wax On Wax Off

My Wax-On, Wax Off Moment
by Tommy Towery
LHS '64

        The Karate Kid is a 1984 American martial arts drama film starring Ralph Macchio, Noriyuki "Pat" Morita and Elisabeth Shue. Daniel LaRusso and his mother Lucille move from Newark, New Jersey to Reseda, Los Angeles, California. Their apartment complex's repairman is an eccentric but kind and humble Okinawan immigrant named Kesuke Miyagi.  It is an underdog story where Daniel's training starts with menial chores that he believes only makes him Miyagi's slave. When he becomes frustrated, it is explained that these actions have helped him to learn defensive blocks through muscle memory. 

        Although the movie was released well after our high school days, I made a mental comparison to it and one of the skills I learned, almost unconsciously, when I attended Lee.

        The other day I was working on a hobby project which required numerous steps to be repeated in order to complete the venture. It made me wonder exactly where I had acquired the talent to set up an assembly line operation efficiently to accomplish the task. My thoughts took me back to the first time I remember doing so, and that was when I first started working on Lee’s Traveller in the 10th grade. My fellow journalists and I not only had to collect and write the articles for the paper, we also had to print and assemble it for distribution during those early days, before we finally had the finances to send it off to a commercial printer. Henry Ford may take credit for inventing the assembly line, but we felt we discovered it for ourselves.

        After laying out the paper by cutting and pasting the stories onto a template, Bob Walker, LHS ’64, would type them onto a stencil which we attached to the mimeograph machine to print. The machine printed only one page (and one side) at a time so we had to turn the pages over and run them through the machine again to print the back side. Once all the pages were finished we then created our assembly line. We walked down in a line picking up one page at a time and assembling the paper until all the pages were stacked together. We then stapled the copy together, put it in a stack, and then marched around to get back at the end of the line to do it all over again. Working in a constant stream, it was an easy task for a group of us to assemble the hundreds of copies to sell.

        I never thought much about the organization skills I was learning at the time, much like Daniel never thought about what he was really learning during his “wax-on, wax-off” exercises. The physical task actually took a back seat to the mental process we were both learning without thinking.

        A few years later in my life, those learning skills became essential to me when I was preparing bombing mission packages for the B-52 bombing missions in Vietnam. We needed to construct a package for each of the aircraft's six aircrew members. Each mission normally included three B-52 aircraft in a “cell.” When the bombing of Hanoi began in 1972, each target was attacked by a mission involving multiple cells. All the packages had to be done without hesitation and completed on time, which required doing some tasks almost mechanically and without having the time or luxury to stop and think about what you were doing.

        In a way, the skill set I learned working on Lee’s Traveller in high school became an instrument for helping put an end to the fighting in Vietnam and freeing the prisoners of war being held by the North Vietnamese.

        The same demand for such organizational skills was later put to use in 1986 when I was stationed in England and helped prepare the mission materials for Operation El Dorado Canyon, the strike against Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi in retaliation of the 1986 Berlin discotheque bombing. The concept of setting up an assembly line in an orderly and logical fashion was instrumental in the completion of the paperwork required to successfully complete the operation.

        Today, those skills are used for more humane purposes. Sue and I belong to a Sunday school class which helps out feeding the homeless by providing meals for them. Once again I called upon those principals I learned in school to help organize an efficient assembly line and we can fill and box close to 100 meals in less than 15 minutes. If you were to observe the operation, you would find a close correlation of the actions of the Lee’s Traveller staff walking through the construction of the school papers and the Sunday school class filling the Styrofoam boxes with meals to feed the unfortunate.

        So, like the Karate Kid, my life was changed as I learned skills which I never thought about at the time. I find myself wondering if any of you might have made similar observations you might be willing to share.

        Memphis, TN -  Last weekend I saw a few of you as I attended the Rock and Roll Reunion in Huntsville. I was surprised at the number of people who attended and was happy to see some old friends from all the high schools in Huntsville. It was nice to see Jerry Brewer, LHS '64, sitting at his common position behind his drum set most of the evening, still doing what he loves to do. While the music was good and the memories came back, there were a few things which disappointed me this year. There was no printed schedule of which bands would be playing when. During one set I walked up to Jerry and asked him which band was playing, he said he didn't know, it was just a bunch of musicians. The poor sound system for announcements made it impossible to hear which band was supposed to be playing even when an announcement was made.

        I like and enjoyed most of the music played, but I soon decided the concept of the whole evening has been lost over the years. The music played reminded me of the scene in The Blues Brothers where the band showed up at a country bar and started playing "Good Lovin'" and the owner came out and said "That ain't no Hank Williams song." Only this was reverse. our rock and roll garage bands played country music. One set featured Prince's Purple Rain followed by Folsom Prision Blues. Throughout the night whichever band was playing would go into a series of country music or more contemporary songs, and ignore the songs we danced to back in the Sixties. I fully expected to hear "Talk to Me" and "Charlina" and all the other songs we danced to at Bradley's and the Armory, but was disappointed to hear them replaced with songs we never would have danced to back then.

        There are times for all those other songs, but a venue touted as a Rock and Roll reunion of the bands of our times is not one of them. I hope, but I doubt if it will happen, that should there be another Rock and Roll reunion next year, they return to the roots of the original thought behind the get together - the rock and roll music of our times, and leave the more contemporary and other styles of much for another venue.

        And by the way, I am not the only one who felt this way. I heard several others say the same thing Saturday night.

My brother Don (back), my mother, and me and our TV on East Clinton Street.

The Vintage Television
Tommy Towery
LHS '64

Tom Corbett - Space Cadet

        Set during the middle of the 24th Century at the Space Academy (a training school for the Solar Guards) and aboard the 'Polaris', a Solar Guard training ship, this hugely-popular science-fiction series was one of the very few programs to air on all four major networks, including a brief period in 1951 when it ran on two networks simultaneously (NBC and ABC). It was seen three times weekly over CBS and ABC in fifteen-minute format, and in half-hour episodes on Saturdays over DuMont and NBC. (From

Tom Corbett Space Cadet



        Hello, classmates, this is your invitation to join your friends in the class of 1966 in celebrating our 50th year since graduating from good ole Lee High School.

Here are the details:
Party down at the FURNITURE FACTORY -
619 Meridian St. - 6 p.m.

Food & drinks are available for purchase and the music will be 50's & 60's played by a deejay.

        Would you like to request a certain song to be played?  Or maybe you would like to dedicate a song to someone.  Do you remember how it's done? 

        Here's an example:  "This song is dedicated to Esther from John.  Thanks for a fun prom night and a wonderful memory in the back of my pick up." ....or something like that.

        Send all song requests and dedications to this email address and we will get them to the deejay.   

        Looking forward to a fun time celebrating our youth!

        If you would like to added to the email list, drop an email to:

        Let us know you are coming so that we can have a head count. More info coming your way later.

Click on Poster to get a larger view.



From Our Mailbox 


Subject:    Whistle Song

Dwight Jones

LHS '64.    

        One song I recall that had someone whistling in it was "Love Letters In The Sand" done by Pat Boone. I didn't know if you were referring to that kind of whistle or maybe some train whistle. Guess we'll find out in time.

(Editor's Note: Yes Dwight, I was looking for songs featuring a mechanical whistle, but that was a good one.)



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