Anyone in my family will tell you that my 2nd favorite holiday is Thanksgiving- I love the food, in fact I could eat a turkey dinner every week. My 1st favorite holiday, however, is the Memorial Day weekend. Sure, we take that time to honor our veterans and service members and those who gave their lives for our liberty. I give plenty of thought to that every year. However, to me, this weekend means some other things as well. From deep in my childhood, every Memorial Day, my dad would BBQ chicken on the grill while the Indy 500 blasted out over the radio (yes- in those days you could not get the race live on TV, but there were 3 local AM radio stations that carried it). Then- when the chicken was eaten and the race was won, there were the old war movies on TV. As the weekend expired, summer began. Those reasons alone make up my favorite holiday.
Over the years, in my own household, I have tried to keep the tradition going. Of course now the Indy 500 is a 4 and one half hour live TV event- not to mention the only time all year that I actually tune in ABC (or any of the three once-great networks). I have two kids of my own- who could care less about the race, but at least one of them does like the chicken. And considering daddy duty I only get to watch bits and pieces of the old war movies, my favorite of which is "Midway."
Of course I watch "Midway" whenever I can- not because it is a classic, but because it has so many cool aircraft in it. Who cares if some of the clips are out of context, or that you have a guy taking off in a Wildcat and coming back to crash in a Hellcat. Who cares that a lot of the Jap Zeros are actually T6s with a rising sun painted on the side- they're radial engine aircraft for crying out loud! I'll sit and watch "Midway" over and over again as if was a first-run feature, just for the airplanes. And if my wife asks me why I'm watching it "again?" I'll reply that it's (in the words of double ace Carl Brown, whose Aviation History class I attended in my freshman year at Embry-Riddle) "I love to watch the planes fly and the Japs die." Which does not go over well with my wife... because she's Japanese.
One afternoon while sittin' and watching "Midway"... again... my wife and my sister-in-law (who is equally Japanese) were getting ready for us to all take a trip to the mall. My wife shouted "Let's go!" My sister-in-law leaned over the couch and said, "Turn the TV off- let's get going." Without looking over at her I replied that I could not turn off "Midway" because, "I wanna see who wins." She said, "We won." I gave a hurumph and said "If that was true, then at this very moment I'd be surrounded by..." I looked at over toward two unimpressed oriental ladies standing in our living room which was decorated with Japanese nick-knacks and screamed "JAPS!!!!" They took my remote away and dragged me to the mall. I guess she was right- they won.
While at Embry-Riddle as a student, the showing of "Midway" was a huge attraction. This was mostly because the majority of us students spent most of our time sitting in our rooms building models of WWII aircraft. Sure- we were airplane nuts, but the most important aspect to our free time activity was that at the time there were 5,000 students on campus and less than 2 dozen were females; there wasn't much else to do. When they showed "Midway" in the University Center in 1978 it was standing room only. Although the movie had come out in 1976 it was a box office flop- there was still a lot of anti-war mind-set running around the nation. So, just a year or so later the film could be had for on-campus showing. What self respecting university would have the nerve to show a "War Movie" on campus? Embry-Riddle would- hell, what other university would have a double ace teaching Aviation History! Poor Carl Brown often had to field questions about TV's latest twist on WWII... "Baa Baa Blacksheep." I recall one student asking him how real it was- Brown replied "Have ya' ever seen Hogan's Heros? It's about that real." Of course, later, when "Midway" finally came to network TV, we combined it with model building and had the best of both worlds. Today, although Embry-Riddle has far more girls on campus, my bet is that the dorm room have the same scores of WWII airplane models.
So it was that this Memorial Day weekend my wife took the kids to have a "girl's adventure" at a friend's house and they left daddy alone at home... to cook chicken, watch the Indy 500 and all sorts of old war movies in peace. Although I did spend some time gazing out the window toward the stars and stripes waving out on my flag pole and respectfully considering all of those who served under those colors, I also caught the "Midway" marathon on TV. The United States won- every time.
Now... summer has started.