Johnny-on-the-Spot … by John Foster …
Over the years, I’ve been able to call 4 different states and a big island home.
To more clearly define, these were all places that I lived in for at least a year.
Now, over the years, I figured I spent about one-half year total, a week at a time, vacationing on Pelee Island, the largest island in Lake Erie and the southernmost port of entry into Canada./
But, I’ve spent most of my life in Ohio.
That’s where I was born, in the north central Ohio community of Mansfield.
Ohio claims about 40 years of my residency.
It became a state in 1803.
It’s the “Buckeye state” due to the number of horse chestnut (buckeye) trees found there.
Ohio has a pennant-shaped state flag, the only non-rectangular state flag in America.
The name of the state probably comes from the Seneca word, “ohi;yo” which means “good river, great river or large creek” and it’s the Ohio River which forms the southern boundary with Lake Erie to the north.
“Hang on Sloopy” by the McCoys became the official state song in 1985.
Ohio is often called the “Mother of Presidents” since 7 were born there; Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William Howard Taft and Warren G. Harding.
Garfield and McKinley were both assassinated and Taft was the largest President (may have weighed over 330 pounds).]
From 1969-1973, I was in the United States Air Force.
My wife and I lived for a time in Wichita Falls, Texas, above Homer Adams 8th Street Pharmacy.
Then I was sent to Selma, Alabama where we set up housekeeping for about 2 years.
Selma was a focal point for the 60’s civil rights movement.
We used to almost daily cross the Edmund G. Pettus bridge which became famous for the voting rights march in 1965 when demonstrators were beaten by horse-mounted law officers as they headed for Montgomery.
\The event became known as “Bloody Sunday”.
Alabama is known as the “Yellowhammer state” the state bird.
It’s also called “The Heart of Dixie”, the “Cotton State” and is often referred to being in the nation’s Bible belt.
Alabama became the nation’s 22nd state.
It’s capital is Montgomery, which also served as the first capital for the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Alabama has the most inland waterways of any U.S. state.
The name is believed to come from the Choctaw words “alba” (plants or weeds” and “amo” (to cut, to trim or to gather).
There’s a 5 mile wide meteorite impact crater just north of Montgomery. the Wetumpka crater, which is often referred to as the site of Alabama’s greatest natural disaster.
From Alabama, I was sent by the Air Force for one year to Sondrestromfjord, Greenland.
We were there to service radar installations on the ice cap that were there to keep an eye on the Soviet Union and the possibility of a nuclear missile attack.
This was before satellites took over that responsibility.
Greenland is the world’s largest island and is technically a part of North America although it is politically and culturally associated with Denmark and Norway..
The island’s ice-covered interior is nearly 1,000 feet below sea level due to the weight of the ice cap which covers 81 percent of the island.
Eric the Red, upon his exile from Iceland, wound up on the island and named it Greenland, hoping the pleasant name would attract settlers.
It never really worked.
Even today, Greenland has less than 60,000 year-round residents.
Because it’s often cold.
Minus 93.3 degrees in 1991.
The U.S. occupied the island (1941-1945) to defend it from a possible German invasion.
Two U.S. Air Force bases were established there; Thule, way to the north and Sondrestrom, just inland from the southwest coast and slightly above the Arctic Circle.
“Sondrestromfjord” is Danish for “big fjord” and the base, where I was stationed was abandoned by the U.S. in 1992.
It is still the site of Greenland’s largest commercial airport with a year-round population of about 500.
From there I returned stateside and my wife and I ended up where we are now…in Indiana.
Columbus to be specific, home to the Cummins Engine Company.
It’s nickname is the “Athens of the Prairie” due to all the world-famous architecture located here.
This has been home for us since 1994.
Indiana is the “Hoosier State” which has a disputed meaning.
The leading theory advanced by the Indiana Historical Bureau and the Indiana Historical Society says “hoosier” originated in Virginia, the Carolinas or Tennessee.
It is a term for a “backwoodsman, a rough countryman or a country bumpkin”.
Others claim it’s from river boatsmen years ago calling out, “Who’s there?”
Indiana became a state in 1816 and it’s also referred to as the “Crossroads of America”.
The name actually means “land of the Indians” or “Indian land”.
It became a state in 1816 and the state food is sugar cream pie.
It’s where the Indianapolis 500 race is run every Memorial Day weekend, attracting up to a quarter of a million fans to the city.
Being born in Ohio, I was a Cleveland Indians baseball fan, followed the Cleveland Browns and rooted for Ohio State football.
But the Browns moved to Baltimore and while they were relocating, I latched on to the Indianapolis Colts and while the Indians became the “politically-correct” Guardians, I still root for them.
And despite the fact that we have two grandchildren performing with the Indiana University Marching Hundred, my “Buckeye” loyalties still run deep.
I have to admit to getting chills when the “Marching Hundred” plays “Indiana, My Indiana”.
But it’s still nothing like the OSU “skull session” and “Script Ohio”.