Category Archives: Travels

Postcards from Pannonia – a book review & trip report

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(From the book)

“A freedom fighter of the 1956 Hungarian revolution, after over 40 years in the US, and his California-born wife, decide to return to his native land to live. What’s more, they decide to purchase a dilapidated country house-with about 7 acres of land-perched atop a hill in the foothills of the Bakony Mountains, nestled in the middle of an ancient area the Romans called Pannonia. The house sits alone, set apart from the neighboring village of 1,200 souls. The couple is idealistic, brave and – some might say – idiotic to undertake such a task. Of course, the house needs to be renovated and made fit for habitation. Craftsmen and workers need to be found. The work needs supervision. As our hero and heroine are “absentee owners” (living mostly in California), they are people who could easily be taken advantage of by unscrupulous and greedy locals. Country folk often focus on strangers as exotic and wealthy – true or not – and this is especially the case when the “strangers” are viewed as “rich Americans”.

The situation calls for caution and careful planning. Fortunately, a local “good Samaritan”, in the form of a native and pillar of the community, befriends them, comes to their aid time and again, and becomes their guardian angel. Amid seeming chaos and very real trepidation, restoration and refurbishment begins. While progress is far from smooth and continuous, no major disasters occur. Local craftsmen are found who are ably kept in check by Anti, the guardian angel. The skirmishes are numerous and colorful, but the locals (who for some reason concoct the story that the house has been bought by a “famous American film producer”), gradually accept the interlopers.

As time passes and the owners spend more and more time on the property, boundaries come down and friendships are forged. There are invitations and counter-invitations issued and accepted. People offer their generous help with problems otherwise unsolvable. The house is completed. With the assistance of these new-found friends, the adventuresome newcomers plant a vineyard, and now spend over seven months a year in their new paradise. Life is good…  “

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My review …

But first meet the authors – Adam and Aliz

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This review will be a bit different than most. First of all, I had previously read Adam’s memoir Bridging Two Worlds in which he chronicles his Hungarian life from age 7 to about age 18 – World War II through the 1956 Revolution — and then his life in the United States as a non-English speaking refugee, US Navy officer, Stanford graduate and attorney for 35 years.

Secondly, and as a result of discovering this old Navy shipmate through his book, Diana and I visited with the von Dioszeghys’ recently (May 2017). And this visit prompted us to read Postcards when we returned home.

After I finished reading “Postcards … .” I had the same reaction as Diana when she finished the book. I was sad. Saddened  at the loss of your dear friend Lajcsi, and saddened that the book ended.

I must say, the book – their life in Hungary – brought out the multiple personality disorder part of me, and of me as well. Let me explain, and I think Diana will agree.

Reading the many stories after having been there with Adam & Aliz and seeing for ourselves, brought memories flooding back. Memories of so many details that we just weren’t able to appreciate at the time. Details that we simply took for granted such as the awnings over the patio – the stairway up to ‘our room’ and more. At the time, these details were noted, but no more so than had we been in anyone else’s nice home. In other words, expected niceties,  but not unusual.

But then these same memories, illuminated by the many captivating stories, took on an entirely wonderful light in recalling sitting on the terrace sipping wine, enjoying each other’s company and good food. Looking out over the countryside and now imagining the many visits to that same home and terrace by many Sur friends and neighbors such as Anti, Hajni, Kalman and others. 

So the one personality of mine has been enriched greatly by both the experience of being there with them, and now knowing ‘The Rest of the Story.’  And yet  another personality wishes that I would have read the stories before going there. But alas … that would have robbed me of the mystery and magic of the sequence as it actually unfolded. And yet another personality hopes it is possible for a return some day.  

A splendid job — congratulations to Adam & Aliz in capturing so much of life and love. The love shared with each other – the love drawn out in those new friends and neighbors – and the love of life itself they both show, in the small things and in the large.

Once more – thank you so much. Thanks for your hospitality, the fine company – and most of all thanks for drawing us into your lives as dear friends.

Love to you both,

don

Before we get to the many pictures below, here are other articles I have posted:

https://ayearningforpublius.wordpress.com/2017/04/08/bridging-two-worlds-a-book-review-2/

https://ayearningforpublius.wordpress.com/2017/07/05/reunion/

https://ayearningforpublius.wordpress.com/2017/07/06/i-first-visited-hungary/

https://ayearningforpublius.wordpress.com/2017/06/05/a-navy-reunion-and-more-a-personal-walk-through-history/

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countryHouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Szolohegy”  the name of their home:
About 1 1/2 – 2 hour drive West from Budapest sur_map

Gulyas

And now just a few (well OK … a lot) pictures. There are many pictures here, but to Diana and I they will hopefully help connect; the two books, our trip there, and our feeble memories (well at least mine.)  

 

Not all our time was spent at the country home. Here are some pictures from Budapest. Adam has an incredible memory and knowledge of Budapest and Hungarian history, and showed us much.

 

We would sure love to go back some day.

 

REUNION

REUNION

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by Adam von Dioszeghy

Reunion. The word conjures up school gatherings 10, 20, 50 years after graduation. Old schoolmates getting together to talk about old times….the times of youth; the girl everybody pined for, who eventually ended up marrying a loser; the sporting event that was almost won, but for the demonic referee’s outrageous ruling. After all that’s been discussed, the topic turns to present ailments: this week THIS hurts, last week THAT hurt. After the reunion weekend is over, everybody goes home thinking, “Gee, I don’t look near as bad as some of them do..” [self-foolery is still the best medicine]. And five years later, this charade is repeated all over again…at least by those still around.

Not all reunions are school reunions. Some are for sport clubs or teams, remembering and discussing the great victories and mourning those close losses…and now, making notes of the big bellies some other mates have acquired. There are all sorts of other reunions, not very different.

And – lest we forget – there are military reunions: members of companies, battalions, units, ships, squadrons, whatever. These can have extra significance if war times were shared by the participants; the reunions of those who managed to dodge death, who managed to survive through skill, luck and the
grace of God. Often, the ties in these groups are stronger than those in other groups. This story is about one of these reunions, which is yet to come, but is already casting a long shadow.

The participants of this reunion – just two – have to look back over 50 years to the time when fate brought them together: they fought in the Vietnam War in the 1960s. They were young titans then, and now they are in their 70s. But let us approach the subject gingerly and with due care.

Fate brought these two people together on a United States Navy warship, a destroyer, the USS Porterfield (DD682). One of them was an enlisted man – a fire control technician (FT) – while the other was an officer, a Lieutenant junior  grade. The FT was 21 years old, the officer was 27. Lets’ give them names: the FT was called Don Johnson, the Ltjg. was called Adam von Dioszeghy…to all those on board the ship he was known as “Mr. vonD”. They served together from 1965 through 1966. Then their ways parted and neither heard from the  other for decades.

I – the erstwhile “Mr. vonD” – after leaving the Porterfiled and the Vietnam War, went to Stanford Law School, graduated, passed the bar exam, taught law, dabbled in prosecuting, and ended up practicing law in the San Francisco Bay Area for 40 years. Then, in 2000, my wife, Aliz, and I moved to Hungary to begin a new life there. Though I spent a lot of time thinking and talking about my ship, the Navy and the War, I basically left all that behind.
With the exception of a couple of my fellow officers – with whom I kept in touch very occasionally – the Porterfield and all it meant, faded from my memory. That all changed when Aliz received an e-mail, in January, 2016, as follows:

“Hello Mrs. von Dioszeghy, I hope you get this message, and I hope I have the right people to send this to. I was in the Navy back in 1965-66, on board the USS Porterfield (DD682) and at one of my General Quarters stations in a place called IC-Plot was this crazy guy, LTJG Adam von Dioszeghy, who was the officer in charge in that space and the guy that actually pulled the gun triggers. I was an FT Seaman at the time and made FT3rd class on the Porterfiled. If he is the guy, it would be great to say hello once more after all these years.

                                  Don Johnson”

The memories came rushing back: the Navy, the Porterfield, the Vietnam War, IC-Plot….

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….the sharp lines of the graceful grey lady – the Porterfiled – come crystallyzing out of the misty fog of fifty-odd-years memory in my mind.
Commands and acknowledgements are flying back and forth on the bridge:

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“Now secure the Special Sea and Anchor Detail…set regular watch section four ………………… Mr. vonD has the Deck and the Conn…

“Aye, aye, I have the Deck and the Conn…All engines ahead standard, indicate 15 knots…Aye, aye Sir, all engines are ahead standard, indicating 15  knots…Very well…

“Right full rudder, come right to 052 degrees….Aye, aye Sir, the rudder is right full, coming right to 052 degrees….Very well.” 

…. It is now 1966, and the Porterfield is “on station”, engaged with the enemy. Presently, we are supporting US Marine ground troops with our naval guns. We are lying close to shore and firing our guns inland to help the Marines who have no artillery support close enough to fight off the onrushing VC (Viet Cong) and RNV (Regular North-Vietnamese Army). We are in modified General Quarters condition, which means that personnel have to stand “6 hours on, 6 hours off” watches in  their wartime positions. My position is officer-in- charge in the IC-Plot.

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What is IC-Plot? It is a space amidships, full of equipment and communication devices. There are 8-10 people at this station, all working together, with one officer in charge. The main piece of equipment is the “computer”. Those of you in Generations X or Y (that is, born after 1965), will have a gross misconception when you read the word, “computer”. The Porterfield was built in 1943 (essentially to fight in WWII), and its equipment is of that vintage. Thus, when we speak of computers on it, we mean something entirely different than an IBM piece or something more modern.

This computer is a huge, heavy item, taking up most of IC-Plot, sitting in the middle, with 6-7 people standing around it. It has cranks and dials; it’s main function is to regulate the position of the guns….the elevation and the direction. It also functions to keep the guns properly aimed regardless of the roll or pitch of the ship. The act of firing a gun takes place here and not in the gun mounts. The IC-Plot crew is in communication with the Marine spotter on the ground, who gives direction as to where to put the next high explosive shell. The communication goes something like this:

Marine spotter (MS): “Porterfield, add a 100” (meaning the shell should go 100 yards further), or  MS: “Porterfiled, right 50” (meaning the shell should go 50 yards to the right).

Then, the enlisted man dials in the change, and the guns respond accordingly….
One hopes! This goes on for 6 hours until the watch is changed and another crew takes over. Seems simple, doesn’t it, you say as you suppress a yawn.

Before we decide whether or not to agree with that supposition, a few things need to  be considered. The first is that the ship is in full wartime mode, meaning that all watertight doors are “dogged down” (meaning, locked). In practicality this means no outside air. Secondly, since it’s summer time in Vietnam, the temperature outside is about 100 degrees F (41C) in the shade, and in the enclosed space of IC-Plot it is 122F (50C). Thirdly, the ship is firing 5″38cal shells (which can reach 9 miles), and which land sometimes within 30-50 yards of our own troops. Any mistake in the aiming will cost several lives through what is euphemistically called “friendly fire”.  To a loved one it makes precious little difference whether a husband/father/son was killed by the enemy or your own kind. Any mistake can be deadly.

To sum up, standing in 122F heat, in a closed space for 6 hours and firing high explosive shells into close proximity of your comrades requires total concentration, and it is very taxing, if not totally exhausting. Therefore, perhaps, it’s not quite like a walk in the park on a Sunday afternoon.

So here we were, Don Johnson, myself and the others, day in and day out, standing our 6 hour watches together. The thirst was killing everybody in that heat. We played a little game to see how long it took for the water that one drank to turn into perspiration and spring out of the skin on the arm; it  was something like 18 seconds. Finally, one of the “old salts” – a Navy Chief – on watch with us taught us a trick. He said, “Don’t drink water, it just comes right out of you! Drink hot coffee and it will cool you down”, he said. We were incredulous, but we tried it. And, sure enough, he was right: the hot coffee DID cool us down. I have practiced this piece of knowledge on hot days ever since,
and it has worked.

Our unit in IC-Plot melded together, and we functioned as a well-oiled machine. We destroyed a lot of enemy troops and never had a mishap of firing onto our own Marines. God was looking out for us. And – eventually – the war ended for each of us, and civilian life beckoned. Decades passed, until the email I wrote about above.

Don Johnson and I corresponded for the next year and a half with some frequency. Don wrote me that there are reunions for the Porterfield from time to time. The last one was in the Fall of 2016, in San Diego. He attended it, and met up with some old shipmates, including one Jack Hix, who was also a member of the IC-Plot crew. Sadly, I was unable to attend the reunion, but was fully briefed on it by Don, including pictures and even a video.

Mr vonD

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Part of our IC-Plot team

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And us 50 some years later

The Porterfield is, alas!, no more. It lies at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, having been used as a target for torpedo practice by submarines. As a former anti-submarine officer, it pains me to think about the role reversal. But, perhaps, it is more fitting for it to have been sunk, doing its “duty”, than to have been cut up and sold for scrap-metal or transferred to some foreign
country.

But, back to the subject of the reunion. Some months ago, Don and his wife, Diana, decided that, included in their next European trip, would be a visit to Hungary, and the renewal of the old friendship. Or, perhaps, “old  friendship” is the wrong phrase: officers and enlisted men were not allowed to fraternize” … so, our relationship on the Porterfield was “comradeship”. Plans were made and put into place: the Johnsons would arrive into Budapest by plane on May 25, and would spend about a week with us, in Budapest and at our country house.

Today, I received an email that they left their home in New Haven, Connecticut for the first leg of their trip, which would take them to
Scandinavia where Don’s roots are. Excitement is high on both sides. The reunion is coming!

It was all against Navy regulations. First, both sailors saluted simultaneously, instead of the enlisted man saluting the officer first. Secondly, neither had covers on their heads, a gross violation. In their defense, they were very excited (not having seen each other for over 50 years), but most importantly, they were no longer the property of the US Navy … they was free!
They was right-proper civilians. And, of course, the hug that followed would have surely resulted in a court-martial: fraternizing between an officer and an enlisted man!?! No matter, the reunion had begun!!

When an event is upcoming, and you really have no idea how it will go, it always gives a challenge to your mind. You can have great expectations – based  on nothing – or you can worry that it will be a disaster. In our case, here were the knowns: Don and I have not seen each other for over 50 years; neither Aliz nor I have ever met Diana; Don and Diana have never met Aliz. What can you truly expect? I – being a closet optimist – thought it would go “OK”. To eliminate any further suspense, let me tell you that the get-together was FABULOUS. Beyond all expectations. Now, let’s get into the meat- and- potatoes of it.

The Johnsons arrived by plane, late in the evening, and checked into their hotel. We picked them up at ten-ish the next morning. We traveled to our country house by our car, had a fantastic lunch there, drank everything that was alcoholic, and started to get to know one another. We were blessed with fabulous weather throughout the visit. The skies were clear and blue, the winds were only wafting about, and the temperature was around 75F (25C). At the country house, I cooked my signature Hungarian gulyas – in a kettle over an open fire – and we talked about the last 50 years. The wives got along famously…which is no mean thing, considering that the only thing initially in common between them was the fact that they were both married to “Navy men”. It was fascinating to learn that Don and Diana had been married for over 53 years (!); in fact, they were married before Don joined the crew of the Porterfiled in 1965.

After a couple of days, we went back to Budapest to show the Johnsons “our” city. We covered a lot of ground in the next four days. Aliz and I showed them everything that would fit into this tight schedule: items of historical interest, places of particular beauty, and things uniquely “Hungarian”. We also ate and drank excellent Hungarian meals and drinks, especially good Hungarian wines. One day, Aliz took the Johnsons to the famous Gellert Baths, an experience worth having by any standard. But the integral part of our daily
routine was the laughter, the stories, the jokes and the camaraderie which – by then – came completely naturally to us all. It was as if we had not only known each other for decades, but saw each other with some frequency over that time.

The last night we had dinner at a lovely place built atop a man-made lake in the City Park. To set the tone, the restaurant was called “Robinson” (after Robinson Crusoe, the shipwrecked sailor). We watched the ducks on the lake, enjoyed the refreshing sight of the fountains shooting water up into the air, and saw the sun set on our final day. As we took our guests back to their hotel to say our farewells, Diana expressed all our feelings when she said – with tears in her eyes – “This is the hard part.”

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Porterfield warriors with the ship’s official plaque

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Old shipmates sharing a drink and a few sea stories

She was right. The four strangers of a week earlier had molded into a unit, a unit one could sincerely call, “FRIENDS”. This was no longer just a reunion of two long-separated shipmates, but a gathering of four people who
very much grew to be intimate in many things: values, beliefs, interests. We all regretted that we lived so far from one another. And the two aged warriors (no longer aging but aged), while still finding common ground of their long – passed experiences on the old Porterfield, found that they have both learned
much about life through hardship, understanding, perseverance, wonderful mates, love and God. How can you do all that in one week? And still have time for fun? A tall order, you say? Just ask the Johnsons and the von Dioszeghys.

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The long-suffering wives get to have at least a little fun

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One could say they have aged gracefully

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Here’s to friendship & camaraderie – no matter the miles or years between!

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A few final notes from Don:

On old long syne — 2015

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(click on the image above)

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne*?
CHORUS:
For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup!
and surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
CHORUS
We twa hae run about the braes,
and pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin’ auld lang syne.
CHORUS
We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin’ auld lang syne.
CHORUS
And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught,
for auld lang syne.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auld_Lang_Syne

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=to1xT93IlUI

Should auld acquaintance be forgot  … ?

Pushing on to 72 years means many “auld acquaintance’s” there behind me, but with fewer coming along with me.

It’s been a good life!  … Easy?  Well in a very broad sense yes it has been easy, but there are those times, in the midst of it all, when it has seemed hard and troublesome.

But then I think on the many “auld acquaintance’s” and I am indeed a very grateful and blessed man. Blessed by God with much family — parents who loved me and raised me with love … a wonderful woman, a wife, as a lifelong companion, lover  and friend  … a wonderful son and wonderful daughter (I love you both!) … three wonderful grandchildren … and two brothers.

And the other family spread out all over this amazing nation and across the world. Father in law, mother in lay, brothers and sisters in law, aunts & uncles – cousins aplenty, both mine and Diana’s. I love and have loved them all.

Friends – some lifelong and some new. Friends across this fruited land and far away places like The Czech Republic, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Hungary, Fiji, Zambia, Italy, South Africa.

In 2015 I was amazingly able to renew some truly “auld acquaintance’s.” Old meaning from the days of my youth and  early adulthood:

Here are a few:

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Coach Sam Jankovich.

Coach SamCoachSam now 

You can read about Coach Sam’s storied career at the link above, but let me tell you the story of how he and I are connected and how we became reconnected this past year. 

Sam and I are Butte Montana natives, and after having gone our separate ways following high school, I didn’t give much thought to Sam, and I’m sure he could not have remembered me as an undistinguished skinny high school kid.

But then a few years ago Sam’s son Sam bought the iconic M&M bar in Butte and set out to reestablish it a watering hole in uptown Butte.

Young Sam

A few years ago while visiting Butte we met young Sam in the M&M, had a beer and exchanged pleasantries. Sam brought us to the back of the bar where he had a “Sam Jankovich Hall of Fame” display with many mementos of his father.

While looking at all of this stuff I mentioned to Sam that I remembered his dad from Butte High. Sam, expecting I was perhaps a football jock, was surprised and laughed when I told him that his dad taught me typing.  That’s right … Coach Sam, football legend,  also taught typing, and I am forever grateful for that skill.

Sam gave me his dad’s phone number in Haydon Lake Idaho and said “give him a call. So I tucked the number in my wallet for a couple of years.

Then in August 2015, while walking a trail in Idaho not far from Sam’s place in Haydon Lake, I took that number from my wallet and called:

Coach: Hello …
Me: Hello Mr. Jankovich (you should always address a teacher as Mr. Miss or Mrs.)  This is Don Johnson, you may remember me from your days at Butte High.
Coach: Well the name sounds familiar … (he’s thinking football.)
Me: You’re perhaps thinking I’m one of your players, but actually Mr. Jankovich I remember you as my typing teacher.
Coach: “ … laughter … ”
Me: “ … laughter … ” I’m in your neighborhood for awhile, and it would sure be nice to see you again.
Sam: Well what a surprise. Tell ya what, I’m going to Butte this weekend, and if you are still around next week when I get back why don’t you come on over and we’ll have a drink and talk Butte.
Me: Sounds like a plan, I’ll call next week.
Sam: Ya know I hear from my players now and then, and sometimes we get together. But you are the very first of my typing students to ever give me a call … laughter … laughter.

So the next week I visited Sam at his house and we had a cup of coffee and talked Butte. And as I was leaving he said “next time bring your wife … I’d like to meet her.”

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Major Mark (Foxy) Foxwell

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Mark Foxwell was the Air Force Officer in Charge at Tyndall AFB Florida in 1977 when we installed the ACMI range there. We worked with him on an almost daily basis back then and he was one class act and fun to be around, to say nothing about how helpful he was in coordination things we both needed.  The following is the e-mail I sent to him recently, followed by his reply.

Hi “Foxy” It’s been many a year, but we worked together at the ACMI at Tyndall. I was part of the Cubic crew that installed the range back in 1977.
I think of those days every now and then, and they were good times … and I remember working with you with your dedication and good hummer.
Your name came up last night in one of those strange “small world” events. My daughter’s friend Krissy was at our house baking Christmas cookies and they took a break to make some Red Beans & Rice. It smelled really good and I made the remark that it reminded me of my days in Panama City with my old friend Ed Burdik. Krissy perked up and said “you were in Panama City? That’s where I was born … my dad was a F-106 pilot stationed at Tyndall.” And as it turned out we were all there together at the same time.
I don’t know her dad’s name, but when I find out I will send it to you per chance you may know one another.
Another name that came up was Skip Sanders. I knew Skip over the years as I continued working Cubic Air Ranges and we would run into one another on occasion.
I don’t know what you did following Tyndall, but you may be interested in knowing a bit about what happened to ACMI in the subsequent years. You can take a look at http://www.cubic.com and see the latest. The last project I worked, in 2009, was what is called P-5 and handles 72 aircraft and the pretty much the entire battle space (computer technology is wonderful).
And I put together my own remembrances and history of the system and its people at: https://ayearningforpublius.wordpress.com/2015/03/08/interesting-people-i-have-met-cubic-defense-systems/
It’s good to see your face once more.
Regards,
Don Johnson

Mark’s reply:

Wow, Don, what a pleasant surprise to hear from you. Working with you and Cubic on the ACMI helped really propel my career; I got promoted early after that stint at Tyndall, later became IWS Commander, then on to Europe and F-16s. I retired as the Tyndall Base Commander in late 1992. I do not recognize Krissy; but certainly I relished knowing and working with Skip Sanders. Thank You for contacting me. Let’s keep in touch.

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Jack Hix

JackHix2JackHix3Jack Hix FT SeamanJackHix4

Jack and I were Fire Control Technicians (FTG) who operated and maintained the equipment associated with controlling the five 5” guns we had on board. We served together on the USS Porterfield (DD-682) in 1965-66 and then did our active reserve duty from 1966-69 on board the USS Shields (DD-596) also  a Fletcher class tin can.

We were both married, and had apartments off base and were quite good friends during those years. But as time moved on we went our separate ways and lost contact with one another.

Then in recent weeks I was able to contact Jack via Facebook. Not much conversation yet, but hopefully that will change and I hope to see Jack at the 2016 ship reunion in San Diego where he still lives.

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LTJG Adam von Dioszeghy (Mr. vonD)

VonD NavyMrvonD3

Adam von Dioszeghy was the ASW (Anti-Submarine-Warfare) Officer during the time I was on the USS Porterfield (DD-682) in 1965-66. Mr. vonD was also the Officer in Charge of IC-Plot during General Quarters, and we spent a good deal of time together side by side, along with Jack Hix,  running the Fire Control Computer. Mr. vonD, being the officer also had the responsibility for actually pulling the triggers which shot our matched set of 5 –  5”/38 Caliber guns.

My normal underway watch station was the Bridge watch where I actually took my turn as helmsman and steered the ship as well as phone talker, look-out and Lee Helmsman where I relayed ship speed to the engine rooms via an Engine Order Telegraph. Mr. vonD was one of the Officers of the Deck, and and we worked together there as well.

The following is the e-mail message where we hooked up again after almost 50 years:

Hello Mrs. Von Dioszeghy,
I hope you get this message, and I hope I have the right people to send this to.
I was in the Navy back in 1965-66 on board the USS Porterfield (DD-682) and at one of my General Quarters stations in a place called IC-Plot was this crazy guy LTJG Adam von Dioszeghy who was the officer in charge in that space and the guy that actually pulled the gun triggers. I was an FT Seaman at the time and made FT 3’rd class on the Porterfield.
If he is the guy, it would b e great to say hello once more after all these years.
My wife and I and another couple from Ridgecrest CA visited Hungary several years ago and enjoyed it very much. We spent a week at Keszthely, and then a week at Budapest. We enjoyed our time in both places very much, and at Keszthely met a couple of Americans that snow bird between Tucson and Keszthely.
Looking at your pictures, it looks like you have a lovely place and a good life.
In recent years, I have rekindled a passionate interest in things Navy and have published a book and put together a video of life at sea. You can see them at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sloZqBsalZc
and
http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/6608466-i-didn-t-want-to-worry-you-mom?class=book-title
The Porterfield has had reunions for 40 years now, and my wife and I have attended the last three and have met and re-met sailors and family going back to 1943 through 1969 — it’s been an amazing experience for me.
I am in charge of organizing the 2016 reunion in San Diego next September, and if ya’ll are the Von Dioszeghys I think you are, we would love to see you there. I know it’s a long shot, but hey if the question is never asked, the answer is always no. Short of that, a greeting from Adam would be most welcomed by the group.

And his response:

Hi Don…yes indeed, I am the one and only crazy guy in IC-plot. As you may recall, everyone called me Mr. vonD. I’d like to keep in touch with you, so here is my e-mail (better than Facebook): xxxxxxxxx@yyyy.com. I also have written a book, which contains a number of Porterfield stories: the link to it has already been sent to you. I will order your book right now….can’t wait to read it. I loved your video about life at sea (and the story of the Murphy which I didn’t know). I have just looked through my 1965 cruise book and found the picture of second division, but I don’t know where you are in it…please tell me the row and the number (I’m sure you have the cruise book). I’m looking forward to hearing from you VERY SOON! Happy New Year! Adam von Dioszeghy

It turns out that Adam was a Hungarian refugee who escaped in 1956 during the Hungarian Revolution. Years later in 2005 he and his wife bought a small farm outside of Budapest and now live there.  Someday I’m hoping they will invite us over to sip a bit of their home made wine and chat a bit.

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So there you have it from the end of 2015. I enjoy life, and I enjoy learning the life stories of others. I hope you have enjoyed my time travel with a few of my auld acquaintance’s

Don Johnson – December 2015

 

 

Europe 2015–An Overview

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A glance at the map above will give you an overview of our very ambitious and extensive travels in and around the Mediterranean area. We were gone about seven weeks and subsequent posts will give you a glimpse of the places we visited.

Even though we took zillions of pictures, my intention is to be rather selective with our own pictures and rely more on internet web sites to capture the beauty, the culture and history of the places we have visited. 

We traveled with good friends Dean and Jill Elliott from our old home town of Ridgecrest CA and have traveled many times with this fine couple in the past.

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Dean & Jill Elliot

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Don & Diana Johnson

When I joined the Navy back in 1964 I had visions of taking a “Med Cruise.” Finally we raised anchor and set sail on this old sailor’s Med cruise.

Vermont: Fast Becoming A Favorite State

EDIT: We just received an e-mail response from State Senator Joe Benning. See comment # 2 for his remarks.

DISCLAIMER:  The pictures below are not my own, but we have seen many such beautiful scenes with our own eyes and have even taken our own pictures.
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The past two years we have made the grand tour of New England; in 2013 we drove from Hershey PA to New Haven CT, then North through central Connecticut, Massachusetts, and then Vermont where we spent a night close to the Canadian border. We then drove NE to Quebec City where we spent a week in a Beaupre, a town about 30 miles east of Quebec City on the St. Lawrence Seaway. We then drove through central Maine and spent 5 days at a friends “barn” on the small island of Islesboro along the coast of Maine.

This year, 2014, we did the same thing except instead of Main we spent a week at Smugglers Notch in Vermont.

Both trips were in mid/late October and the famed New England fall colors were displayed in all their splendor.

Canada and <b>New</b> <b>England</b> <b>Fall</b> Foliage | Sept. 16 to 28, 2014

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Below is the Von Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe   …  remember The Sound of Music?

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Vermont state government in Montpelier

Vermont State Capital building in Montpelier, Vermont.

I was raining all day so we decided this would be a good time to visit the state capital … this was indeed a highlight of the trip, at least for me, and here is why:

Our first stop was the visitors center across the street from the capital building. A friendly staff met us and was available for questions and conversation. As I wandered about I noticed a very prominent Vermont veterans display with pictures and bios of Vermont military who had recently given their lives in service in Afghanistan and Iraq. Accompanying this display was a very nice book showing the various military units from the state. I talked to one of the staff about this display and complemented him on it. He was a bit younger than me, but one of the Vietnam War generation of eligible draftees. He received his draft notice along with a high draft number which made him a likely candidate for serving in Vietnam. He told his parents that he would get a job and wait to see what happened regarding his call-up. He also told his mom that if called he would serve and would not go to Canada as so many did in those days. It turns out he wasn’t called.

This fellow also told me that Vermont sent more soldiers to Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq than any other state on a per-capita basis.

Walking across the street we entered the capital building. As you can see in the picture above, and counting the windows, it’s not a very large building.

As we waited for a tour, we wandered up and down the main hallway and I was immediately aware of the small scale of this building. To the left at the end of the hallway was the Lt. Governor’s office; the door was open revealing a single desk and an electrician doing some sort of maintenance. Next to that office was another one which was a state department of something or another – again, one desk and the room opened to the hallway. At the other end of the main floor the pattern was repeated – door opened to the hallway with only one desk … very minimalist, and that minimalism was noticeable.

The tour guide gathered us up and we went upstairs to the legislative rooms where she briefed us on the structure of the state government:

  • Senators and representatives are elected to two year terms.
  • The Governor and Lt. Governor are likewise elected to two year terms.
  • Senators and representatives are paid, as I recall, something less than $1,000 per session.
  • The legislative session runs, as I recall, from February to May.
  • The legislators have no offices – while in the capital building their storage space is limited to a school type lift-top desk about 3’ wide and maybe 10” deep.
  • The Governor is the only one having an office, and the only full time elected official.
  • Outside the Governors office is a large portrait of the previous governor. The guide asked a loaded question “do you notice anything unusual about the portrait?” She then pointed out that the governor, a politician, had his hand in a pocket … his own!

Back downstairs Steve and I were wandering around when I looked into what looked like a workroom. It was empty save for one individual who stood up and introduced himself and informed us that normally outsiders are not allowed in that room unless accompanied by a legislator … he then identified himself as a legislator – the Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning.  Senator Benning was very cordial and informative and pointed out a series of file folders prominently displayed in the hallway. These folders contained the bills that would be brought before the legislature in the next session. These bills were freely available to anyone who walked into the building and was interested in a legislative bill … nobody had to “pass the bill to find out what is in it.”

I commented to the Senator how impressed I was with the minimalist  flavor I was experiencing. He responded by saying  ‘yes, we like to keep government as close to the people as possible, and that began as you came in the portico – no guards and no metal detectors.’

This tour through a state capital like Vermont was exhilarating and inspirational – and a reminder of the direction from which we as a nation came … and a hope for a return to something akin to what Vermont appears to have:  “government of the people, by the people and for the people.”  This is the kind of hope and change I can sign up for.

Breaking news:

Gruber’s contract with Vermont ends after missteps on ObamaCare pile up

If you haven’t heard, or haven’t been paying attention, this Obamacare architect, MIT Professor Gruber, has been bragging on a number of occasions how the “Affordable Care Act (ACA)”  was constructed and passed based on lies and deception, and the “stupidity” of the American people.

So here is tiny Vermont, with its legislature not even in session, calling Professor Gruber to account:

A spokesman for Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said Wednesday that the state would no longer pay the ObamaCare architect.

“As the Governor and I have said, the comments by Mr. Gruber are offensive, inappropriate and do not reflect the thinking of this administration or how we do things in Vermont,” Lawrence Miller, said Wednesday in a statement. “As we have also said, we need solid economic modeling in order to move forward with health care reform.”

Miller continued that he told Gruber, “that I expect his team to complete the work that we need to provide the legislature and Vermonters with a public health care financing plan. I’ve informed Mr. McGruber that we will not be paying him any further for his part in completing that work.”

Gruber’s original contract with the state was worth more than $400,000. He’s already been paid $160,000.

The news about Gruber was made public at an informational session for Vermont’s legislators.

Last week, the state’s Senate Minority Leader, Joe Benning, called on Shumlin to terminate Gruber’s contract following the release of videos showing the MIT professor intentionally deceived the public in drafting the Affordable Care Act.

“I join with my Senate colleague, Sen. Kevin Mullin, in urging the governor to terminate his contract,” Benning, R-Caledonia, told Vermont Watchdog. “If the powers that be attempted to trick them like that, then those people should be immediately removed from positions of authority, be they elected officials or hired contractors.”

Benning is the second member of the Vermont Senate to call for Gruber’s termination. Last week, Mullin, R-Rutland, a member of the Health Care Oversight Committee, told Vermont Watchdog the governor should “terminate his contract immediately.”

Good for you Vermont … and Senator Joe Benning – proud to have met you.

“Joe Benning … is shaping up to be the best leader in modern state government.”
[Caledonian-Record, December 7, 2013]

Don Johnson – November 2014