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191007 October 7, 2019


John Schmitz
LHS '64
1946 (?) - October 1, 2019

    John Schmitz passed away on Tuesday October 1, 2019 at the age of 73 in Panama City Beach FL. He is survived by his wife, Sue Schmitz, his three sons, Davis (Shawna), Jonathan (Cyndi), and Matthew (Amy) and his two sisters, Cindy Schmitz and Becky McKenzie. John is also remembered by his eight precious grandchildren, Carter (18), Olivia (18), John Michael (15), Anderson (14), Laurel (12), Wilson (11), Hollis (4), and Hughes (4). All of his grandchildren are incredibly smart and good-looking just like their Papa. 

    John was the son of Methodist missionaries, John Sr. and Wanda, and spent his early years in Christian service until he moved to Huntsville in 1961. He was a 1964 graduate of Lee High School. He met his wife, Sue, at First United Methodist Church in Huntsville where he was a member for over 50 years until he and Sue moved to Florida where they joined Point Washington United Methodist Church in Santa Rosa Beach, FL. 

    John served four and half years in the United States Navy and twenty-five years in the US Navy Reserves. He retired in 1995 as a Sr. Chief Petty Officer. John worked over 25 years as a Unit Operator for the Tennessee Valley Authority at Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant where he was the third Unit Operator ever hired at Browns Ferry. John dedicated his life to many endeavors. He volunteered his time to the American Legion, the Veteran of Foreign Wars (VFW), the National Association of Retired Federal Employees (NARFE), and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). John was also a devoted Amateur Radio Operator, call sign WB4JDN. He was a former Scoutmaster for Troop 86 of the Boy Scouts of America where he was proud to say he earned his Eagle Scout badge three times, once each with his sons. 

    John's newest passion was the Point Washington Medical Clinic in Santa Rosa Beach, FL. The clinic is a volunteer driven medical clinic providing the highest-quality healthcare to the community regardless of their ability to pay. He began to serve as a volunteer translator for the Spanish speaking patients but quickly grew into more where he served as translator, greeter, hospitality sharer, storyteller, and friend to all. John was always willing to lend a helping hand to any and all that needed him. He never met a political campaign that he couldn't help or a conversation he couldn't join. With a cup of coffee in hand he was a friend to all. As he always said when he signed off the radio… "W-B-4-J-D-N World's Best 4 Just Doin' Nothin'." 

    In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family requests that donations be made in his honor to the John Schmitz Memorial Fund at the Point Washington Medical Clinic. PWMC 1290 N. County Highway 395 Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459 or online at . 

Looking Back at The Madison County Fair
Tommy Towery
LHS '64

    (Editor's Note: One of my favorite Fall activities when I was growing up in Huntsville was a trip to the fair. It was always in those days when it was either beginning or had already transitioned from the hot muggy days of late summer into the cooler evening temperatures. Sometimes it was downright cold. About 10 years ago I ran this story about my memories of the fair, but we have enough new readers (or old senior ones who can't remember what they ate for lunch) that I hope it will be alright to run the story again.I hope you enjoy it and it brings back some fond memories.)

    I carefully looked at the table full of brown paper sacks, letting my hand be guided by the one that called my name the loudest.  Actually, it was a barker that called my name, or called me “Hey boy”.  I thought he starred on “Have Gun, Will Travel”. Anyway, the barker enticed me to the “Grab Bag” table, and for only twenty-five cents I could find a treasure in one of the bags.  I had done this ritual almost every year I had previously attended the fair, and this year I would do it again, but he didn’t know that. I played the hard sell.  My past luck was so bad, that I did not even remember the previous years’ treasures, but there was always a first time to really win big. Finally my hand settled onto one of the bags as if guided by a Ouiji Board. I lifted it, and slowly opened it. What treasure lay inside? To my great surprise that night, it was a treasure. It was a watch. A wonderful watch with a brown plastic watchband. Now these were the days before dollar store watches, and a time when Timex “They take a lickin’ but keep on tickin’” watches rode the top of the watch world.  These were the days before a 10-year old boy could afford his own watch. The watch in the grab bag was not a Timex, but it was a real working, ticking, silver watch with a brown plastic watchband.  I was just a kid, but I had picked up a bag with a real watch. The barker started yelling, “Hey folks, come see what the kid just won, hurr-ree, hurr-ree, hurr-ree”. A crowd gathered and he prodded me into holding the watch high above my head as he enticed the others to follow my path to fortune. Ah, the wonder of that night at the Madison County Fair.

    I have a vivid memory of the Madison County Fair that is a sensory image of a brisk fall night.  I know there were nights when it was downright chilly and sometime when it was hot, but I put the weather of The Fair into the same category as those of the first football games. The Fair had a look and a feel and a smell that made many lasting sensory impressions.  Where else could you get the wonderful aroma of cotton candy being spun and then turn the corner and a whiff of steaming manure filled your nostrils?  The barkers with their chants and the rides with their magical music were accompanied by the spinning neon and flashing lights that made you bug eyed and ears ring as you walked through the sawdust or straw lined aisles between the booths and the colorful tents. Remember the excitement felt when you were first allowed to go to the Fair, without your parents?

    I can’t recall when I first started going to the Madison County Fair, but I always looked forward to that yearly event.  In the early days, I had about three dollars to spend and would carefully decide where that money would find its best use.  Later, as I got older, I saved my lunch money and upped my pot to five dollars, and I seem to remember having about ten dollars the last time I went, while I was a senior at Lee.  Back in the three-dollar days, games were about 10 cents each, and most of the rides went for 10 or 15 cents, with the newest ones going for 25 cents.  Food was not that expensive either, but the fare of the food of the fair escapes me now. My favorite treat of all was the cotton candy, because that was the only time of the year that I can remember getting it.

    Other things I remember are the prizes you could win.  Of course we all remember how we tried to win Teddy Bears for those early girl friends, but how about the bronze horses with the chains around their necks and the clocks in their stomachs?  Remember how many of them without the clocks ended up as hood ornaments?  Today I wish I had all those 78-RPM records that fell prey to the softballs of the prize seeking pitchers. How many thousands of old early Rock-And-Roll records met their fate in that manner? My early favorite games included the pick-up-ducks because you always won something. We all spent money with the throwing rings of one sort or the other. At least two years I went home with a goldfish after I had successfully targeted the fish bowl with a ping-pong ball that bounced almost endlessly until it came to rest floating in one of the small fishbowls.  I think my most favorite game of skill was the little cranes that you had to turn the wheels on the front of the glass case to position them and then let the bucket down and try to pick up the prizes that seemed to be glued to the bottom.  In the midst of the gravel and glue there were cigarette lighters, key chains, whistles, rabbit feet, and little statuettes. The offspring of these mechanical marvels are still around in the pizza parlors and bowling alleys where people try to get stuffed animals out of them, but now they pay one dollar, instead of the 10 cents it used to cost in the brisk September evenings.

    Although they were not considered prizes, there were other things that seemed to only be available at the Fair.  How about the cheap metal costume necklaces and bracelets that you could have engraved with your name and the name of your best guy or gal?  Remember the little double hearts ones? We can never forget the hats that you could also have customized with you name, usually in yellow or red stitches from the magical hands of the lady working the sewing machine as she twisted and turned the hat under the rat-tat-tat chant of the industrial sewing machine.

    But the true magic of the Fair was the rides.  The Bumper Cars, The Bullet, the Tilt-A-Whirl, The Roundup, The Scrambler, and the Ferris Wheel, and all the others that seemed to be that much more violent when you rode them after putting down a hot dog and candy apple.  Bumper cars were great back then.  With the sparks falling from the electric screens at the top of the track and the pounding of the cars as you dared make that turn that put you going the wrong direction and smacked into someone before the voice over the PA could tell you to turn around. I also remember the Caterpillar that was like a roller coaster on a circular track going around in a circle with bumps that bounced you up and down.  The main attraction was a cover, usually of green canvas, that would roll over you as the ride got going and block you off from the safety of the outside world. The Bullet was the biggest challenge of manhood, and it took me several years before I got the nerve to ride it. I remember it being red and white, and the seats were always hard and the thing seemed to be made out of heavy sheet metal with a steel mesh cage that looked like it came off of a NASCAR racer. And what is it that makes a person want to spit from the top of the Ferris Wheel? Tell me.  There was the glass house, where you worked your way through the maze of mirrors and glass.  I remember one night walking head first into a glass wall, thinking it was an open passage, and hitting it hard enough to put a big red bump on my forehead that lasted the rest of the night. And who could forget the thrills of “The Scary House”?  More than one teenager got a fright, and maybe a free feel and a kiss in the darkness of the black lighted-track into the depths of hell. Remember the things that hung from the ceilings that brushed across your head as you went under them?

    We all walked around and looked at the big cloth signs for the “freak shows”.  There were snake pits and dancing girls, and midgets and giants. Oh, they knew how to sucker in us small town hicks. I have to admit that I finally got up enough courage to go into one of the “girly shows” and was red-faced the entire time I was there.  The truth was, I could see more skin at the swimming pool than I did there, only the parts moved differently.

    I remember that the centerpiece of the Madison County Fairgrounds was a wooden grandstand, and I want to remember some type of races that they had there at least once during the fair.  Beneath the grandstand were some of the booths that gave out free yardsticks and other necessities of home life, like calendars, and of course pencils with the companies’ names on them.  Sometimes you could even get one of those pop-open coin purses that you squeezed to open. The agricultural and craft exhibits didn’t mean much to us city folks, but there were always displays of things with big colorful ribbons for first, second, and third place awards that many were proud to take home. 

    I remember it cost something to get in, but with a little maneuvering around the midway to the darker side of the grounds; there were ways in that avoided the required ticket. The great thing about the Fair was that it didn’t matter if you went with a date, or your best friends, it was always fun.  I also remember watching my money as it got closer to zero.  I became picky about what I wanted to do, eat, or see as I neared the end of my bankroll.  Finally, when time or money or both ran out, the night was over.  But the Fair didn’t die in a whisper; it called to you as you walked away and left the shimmering light and the haunting music behind you in the distance.

    Somehow the magic of the fair disappeared as places like Six Flags and Disneyland became permanent, year-round attractions.  Rides and food and attractions got more expensive and were not that rare anymore. When you only got that thrill once a year, you waited for it with great anticipation. It was something special.


        Memphis, TN -Most of my Memphis friends missed my appearance in last week's "Bluff City Law" but I was there. In episode 2, "You Don't Need a Weatherman" I was fairly identifiable  in the opening courtroom scene and more of a blur but still recognizable in the second interview on the courthouse steps scene. I could find myself in the later courtroom scenes as well, but even I missed me the first time I viewed the episode. I hear it is available on Hulu and also "on demand" if your cable provides the service for NBC shows.

    I earned enough money working on these shows to take Sue on a cruise later this year.

Last Week's Name That Tune

Name These Tunes

Linda Collinsworth Provost, LHS '66, "Unfortunately I am not fluent in “Native American” or”indigenous people”. The only song I am certain of is “half breed” by Cher. But other words or lyrics did pop in to my mind when listening to the song clips:Gee mr Custer, On the banks of the .......? River, Indian nation. Can’t really contribute much this week but it was fun listening.  Can’t wait to hear how everyone else did."

(Editor's Note: This week's group topic was suggested by Linda.)

Jeffrey Fussell, LHS '66, This week’s theme was immediately obvious with the Ventures version of a great Hank Marvin tune:  Educated guess on  2 and 3 -  these were done by multiple artists. These are the ones I remember.

Apache – The Ventures
Mr. Custer – Ray Stevens (?)
Running Bear – Sonny James (?)
Half Breed – Cher
Indian Reservation – Paul Revere & the Raiders

Max Kull, LHS '67 "I've been off the reservation for a few weeks.. For this week's collection, I'm going with:

1) Apache (not sure whose version)
2) Mr. Custer - Larry Verne
3) Running Bear - Johnny Preston
4) Half-Breed - Cher
5) Indian Reservation - Paul Revere and the Raiders

Jimmy Johnson LHS '67 "I hope you are doing well and I wish to thank you for all you do for us generals. NTT responses:
1.  Apache
2. Please Mr. Custer
3. Hooked on a Feeling
4. Half Breed
5. Indian Nation ( The Whole Indian Nation)
(Editor's Note: Jimmy missed number three, but it was a very educated guess, since there is quite a similarity between the two songs.) 

YouTube Video

YouTube Video

This Week's Name That Tune

Name That Tune

    Okay Classmates, you'll get a feather in your cap if you can name these five songs from their introductions.