Category Archives: I REMEMBER

Looking back at things I remember from what seems like “not so long ago.”

I Remember: “Bruno!” “Bruno!” “Bruno!”

And now, I must write about Bruno Sammartino.

I once wrote that “Mickey Mantle … was … well … Mickey Mantle.”

Bruno Sammartino was … well … Bruno Sammartino.

To me, like so many of you, when you hear the name “Bruno,” there is only one man’s image who comes to mind.

Many times, I’ve been to Madison Square Garden, “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” and marveled at the large poster-displays of legends like Elvis Presley, Walt Frazier … and, Bruno Sammartino.

Bruno Sammartino.

If you are a baseball fan, you “just remember,” just know, Mickey Mantle’s lifetime batting average, how many home runs he had, what number he wore, etc.:

Please keep in mind that in these “I Remember” posts, I never research … I just write from memory, so here goes:
.298
536
Number 7
Etc.

I’m thinking that, in much the same way, you remember Bruno Sammartino:
Headlined at Madison Square Garden … and sold out Madison Square Garden … 188 times.
No one has even come close.
No one has even come close to coming close.
Set the World’s Bench Mark Record, “benching” 565 pounds. He held the weights for 2 seconds on his chest, before raising the weight. He did this without wrapping his wrists or elbows.
Known as “The World’s Strongest Man.”
Superman … “The Italian Superman.”
The Living Legend.
Wrestling 18 minutes with a broken neck.
A true gentleman.
Class personified.

Just last Summer, I was in Pittsburgh, in Bruno’s “hometown,” and spent time in Bruno’s old neighborhood, the “Oakland” section of Pittsburgh. A neighborhood where both Dan Marino and Andy Warhol were raised.

Yes … I know it was Professional Wrestling … but … Bruno held the World Championship longer than any man in history. He beat Buddy Rogers in 48 seconds (I still know that!) at Madison Square Garden, to win his first World Championship. That was in 1963.

Bruno would hold the World Championship (this first time) until January 18th, 1971. Think about how long a time that was. You guessed it:  No one has even come close. No one has even come close to coming close. I have to look this up to make sure: seven years, eight months, and one day (2,803 days). I think of those who grew up during the Great Depression. The only President of the United States they knew was Franklin Roosevelt. In much the same way, kids growing up during this time only knew Bruno Sammartino as Champion.
Bruno lost the title to Ivan Koloff, at Madison Square Garden, on January 18, 1971.
I mention that date to bring back the memory.

A couple of days ago, I watched that match on YouTube. At the end of the match, the announcer said, “You can hear a pin drop at Madison Square Garden.”
Grown men were seen weeping in the crowd.
Later, Bruno would say that he thought he had suffered ear damage, because he could not hear the crowd. His ears were fine. The sold-out crowd was just that stunned.

 Interestingly, one of our favorite shared videos, and most popular, features Ivan Koloff, sharing his testimony of how Jesus saved him, and brought him into the ministry.

Here’s a quick link to that story and video:

https://pastorappreciationblog.com/2013/07/26/special-video-testimony-ivan-koloff/

Yes, Bruno would re-gain the World Championship in 2 years, defeating Stan Stasiak. Remember that?

As I’ve gotten older, do you know what I remember most, think about most, when I think of Bruno Sammartino?
His story.
And … how it inspires me.
How much his family went through.
This is what I remember:

What a thrill it is to see those old videos of Bruno, and, in the introduction, “From Abruzzo, Italy” … I have a special connection to Italy … Yes, Bruno’s family would move to Pittsburgh, but, the way his story began …

There were seven children, and Bruno was the youngest. Four (yes, 4) of the children would die during Bruno’s childhood. Bruno’s father would go on ahead to Pittsburgh, but, before his children could follow … World War II broke out, and Germany invaded Italy … Bruno’s mother took her children, including a young, sickly Bruno, and hid out in the nearby mountains. They would hide all day in the mountains, and then, at night, Bruno’s mother, Amelia, would sneak into town, under cover of darkness, gather whatever food and supplies she could find, and bring them back to her children …

It was a miracle, but, Bruno, underweight, and sick, somehow survived. I’ve heard Bruno speak of this … how sick and weak he was … how he wished his mother “could see her little Bruno now … “

When Bruno arrived in Pittsburgh with his remaining family, he was little, weak, and sickly. He could speak no English. Want to imagine what a target he became to local bullies?

Accidents happen. Even in a well-planned event.
On April 26, 1976 (I did have to check the exact date), at Madison Square Garden, Bruno wrestled Stan Hansen (yes, we remember “the Lariat” and Borger, Texas). Something went wrong. Bruno suffered a “neck fracture.” Yes, a broken neck. Bruno literally, and I mean literally, for real, had his neck fractured during the match. A broken neck. In the middle of the match. I’ll never forget it … because of what happened next … and, next … and, next …

Bruno Sammartino wrestled for another 18 minutes … another 18 minutes … with a broken neck … a broken neck …
He wrestled for 18 minutes with a broken neck. Bruno would later say that his doctors advised him that he came within a millimeter of being paralyzed from the neck down. I remember the cover of the Wrestling magazines, with Bruno on a stretcher … with the neck brace on, and everything …

Keep in mind that I, like many of you, lived “way out in the boonies,” so we only got a couple of local TV channels, so we only got to “see” our heroes in magazines … which made them, somehow, even more of a hero …

Was this real? Yes, it was. I’ve written how, because of how honest my Father was, I never doubted the story of Abraham Lincoln walking 5 miles to return a book. In the same way, I never doubted how tough Bruno was. My dad was that tough, so I never doubted how tough Bruno was. 

By the way … remember? … the rematch with Stan Hansen had to be held at Shea Stadium … Madison Square Garden would have been too small to hold the crowd … Yes … Shea Stadium … I’ve seen that match, too …

I’ll probably watch that one again tonight …

Today, Saturday, as I do laundry, the grocery shopping, the bills, and, instead of going outside to enjoy the first “almost warm” sunny day in recent memory, I write … I remember … What a privilege it is, to be able to share my thoughts on the great Bruno Sammartino.
Not the wrestler.
The man.
The gentleman.

This week, once again, grown men, including myself, were “seen weeping” over a Bruno Sammartino loss … The Great Bruno Sammartino …

Here is a video announcement of Bruno’s death, from KDKA Television in Pittsburgh … where we hear Bruno speak of his Mother … Note the look in his eyes … the sound of his voice … as he says, “My Mom showed the courage of a lion … I don’t know if I’d been man enough to do what she did …”

 

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“The Little Girl:” John Michael Montgomery

It was one of those songs that, the first time you heard it, you wanted to hear it again. I first heard the song “The Little Girl,” sung by John Michael Montgomery, back in August, 2000. It was the first single to be released from the album “Brand New Me.”

It was written by Harley Allen, and reached number one on the Billboard Country Chart.

At that time I enjoyed putting together slide shows (with real “slides” and a real “click, click, click projector”) to songs, and this one was on the list to do, but I never got around to putting pictures together with the song. But, I have never forgotten the song, or wanting to feature it, in some format, some day.

As I think back, and listen to the song again, I am reminded of how, now, I see kids from rough, tough circumstances, and how my heart breaks from knowing, and just imagining, what some children go through.

I think of the parents in this song, and I think about choices we make … and, the choices we don’t make. I think of God’s love and grace, even in the midst of terrible circumstances, and it strikes me now … thinking about this song and the story with it … how these parents had the same opportunity to accept God’s love and forgiveness … yet … they made other choices …

I think of how God can give us a new beginning … even now, as a huge snowstorm is heading our way … I’m thinking of Spring … As I write these words, we are in the midst of a Winter Storm Warning … yet, the hope of Spring and a new beginning also surrounds us …

I think about how blessed I’ve been, how fortunate I’ve been, and, I think of this verse:
“When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.”
Psalm 27:10

Memories and Stats: An Old Christmas Card-Jim Reeves

Hi Friends:

Maybe it’s just me, but for some reason, I have this idea that people don’t send as many Christmas Cards as they used to. Maybe that truly is the case, especially with the introduction of those “e-cards” a few years ago. Don’t we all remember, for example, at work, there were some people who gave out Christmas Cards to almost everyone? Remember that? You did that, too?

How about that big stack of cards you sent out, every year, to everyone on “your list?”
Funny … as we get older … doesn’t that list get shorter?

Still, there is that one true horror in the “Christmas Card” biz, and it seems to happen every year, regardless of how many, or how few you send:
From out of nowhere … you get a Christmas Card … right before Christmas … from someone who wasn’t on “your list” … And … horror of horrors … it’s too late to send them one!

I think the reason I feel like people don’t send as many Christmas Cards these days is because, other than the fact that I don’t send as many … Ouch! … is that people, in general, just don’t write as many letters as they used to … Some people don’t write letters at all. Think about it. I may be one of the few guys who still writes letters … and, I don’t write very many at all. But, I still write them … occasionally. For me, I think it’s because I do so much writing through the year, in formats such as this. And, I will admit … even as a “writer,” I haven’t “penned/hand-written” a letter in a long, long time. I type them! But, admittedly, I don’t type as many as I used to, either.

Just as a final thought, think about this: Because of the way our society has changed, think of how many people there are, “out there,” who have never written a letter at all-in their entire lives. My Mom and Dad wrote letters. I wrote letters. If a Mom or Dad “out there” doesn’t write letters, what are the chances their children will? Sadly, the same equation applies for reading.

When I did the research of how many Christmas cards are sent each year, or just cards in general which are purchased, I was amazed. I couldn’t find a “now vs. then” comparison, but the number of Cards purchased each year was astounding:

According to the Greeting Card Association (GCA), 7 billion greeting cards (holiday cards, birthday cards, etc.) are sent every year in the United States.

Over 2 billion Christmas cards are sent in the United States each year. Keep in mind that the total US population is 326 Million.
Only 15% of Christmas cards sent are purchased by men.

If you’d like to read a history of Christmas cards, here is a link:
https://www.statisticbrain.com/hallmark-card-statistics/

Now, from the “Statistic Brain Research Institute,” are these numbers:

Holidays Ranked by Most Cards       Sent Number of Cards Sent
1. Christmas (including boxed and individual)              1.5 billion
2. Valentine’s Day (including boxed and individual)   144 million
3. Mother’s Day                                                                           133 million
4. Fathers Day                                                                               94 million
5. Easter                                                                                           57 million
6. Halloween                                                                                 20 million
7. Thanksgiving                                                                            10 million
8. St. Patrick’s day                                                                        8 million

We’ve been thinking about sharing this for a while, and after finding this video which features the words, we wanted to share this with you now. Here is Jim Reeves and “An Old Christmas Card.” Notice that, while it pays homage to all cards … it is really about a particular card … from long, long ago:

Me and Andy Rooney “Remember Thanksgiving”

Hi Friends:

Here on our Blog, we feature a category called, “I Remember.”
I thought that this post would be called, “I Remember Thanksgiving,” and speak of how we seem to have forgotten Thanksgiving, or perhaps, how Thanksgiving has been “down-trodden” by shoppers (meaning advertisers) rushing to get to Christmas …

As I think about it, perhaps, this post should be titled something like “I Can’t Remember” …
As in, “I can’t remember a time when Thanksgiving came so fast,” or,
“I can’t remember a time when Thanksgiving was so over-looked”
It seems like every year that passes, Thanksgiving gets more over-looked, or “brushed aside,” to make room for “The Holidays” …
To me, Thanksgiving is still a big Holiday, one that I look forward to all year.
Perhaps, dare I say, it’s still my favorite Holiday … those 4 days off … really seem like “4 days off”…

These days, it seems the only time I hear “Thanksgiving” is when the commercial says, “Black Friday … Open 6:00PM on Thanksgiving.” Just to give you an idea, it seems not so long ago that the “Early Open” for Black Friday was 6:00AM on Friday … Now, it’s 6:00 PM on Thursday … As we “progress,” does this mean that next, it’ll be “12:00 Noon on Thursday” or, maybe, even earlier …?

Just one: “I Remember” when you didn’t see any … that’s any … “Open Thanksgiving” signs …

As I pondered this, it suddenly hit me … How did Andy Rooney feel about this? I just knew there may be a “Why is that?” in there …
I found it, and I will share it with you now:
Here’s Andy Rooney, decorated Veteran, and his thoughts on Thanksgiving.
He really does echo what I wanted to say here.
Not just to “Remember Thanksgiving.”
But, also, “Remember Thanksgiving?”

 

The Price for Freedom-Video Seven

“I just served as best I could.”

For the freedoms we enjoy,
“Thank you.”

“The price for this freedom has been high …”

For all who served,
“Thank you for your service.”

For all of us who understand the great sacrifices made,
“Thank you for your support.”

Our seventh video in the series features this video from moments.org.
Here’s a direct link to their website:
http://moments.org/

When I worked for a large retail store, a young man who worked in the same department was a recent Veteran of the War in the Middle East. Without exception, when he realized that a customer was a Veteran, he would reach out his hand, and, simply say, “Thank you for your service.” This young man went on to pursue public office, and I’ll never forget that hand reaching out, the handshake, and those words:
“Thank you for your service.”

 

Breaking News/Breaking Heart: July 14, 2017: “Daddy’s Gone”

Hi Friends:

It is with great sadness that I convey the news that our beloved Father went to be with Jesus, yesterday, Friday, July 14, 2017.

Daddy had just turned 93 years old on June 29.

After an extended illness, Daddy passed on, very peacefully, at 11:30 yesterday.
Shortly after 3:30, yesterday, I held the pen as God gave me the words to “Daddy’s Gone.”

Today, I write to all of our friends, everywhere, who have experienced this same grief and sorrow … I can, now, truthfully say, I know exactly the pain and anguish you are going through. As I read the words from the first sentence, above … it begins to “hit me.”

I have written much, and often, about our beloved Mother, who passed away on Valentine’s Day, in 2013. Like so many of you, “writing” about Mama is easy … Writing about Daddy … well … it just isn’t. I think of all the songs about “Mama,” and the few songs written about “Daddy.”

I went to the pages of “Modern Day Psalms,” remembering that I had written about Daddy in those pages. First, I remembered something I wrote about Mama, and I can now say the exact same thing about Daddy:

“Please allow me to comfort and encourage you with these words:
As a parent, when it comes to your children, there are three things you most worry about when they are away from the house, gone with friends, etc. These would be:
1. Where they are.
2. Who they are with.
3. When will you see them again?

Now, as a loving son … when Daddy left us … so much of the pain and agony was taken away, because:
1. I knew where he was.
2. I knew who he was with.
3. I knew that I would see him again.”

I found the introduction to “The Bottomless Sea,” a poem I wrote from the passenger side of my father’s truck, during a trip from Georgia to Arkansas.

Please allow me to share this, from the Introduction:

“As he drove, 45 miles an hour the whole way, we hardly talked. Daddy didn’t talk much as a rule, so I just concentrated on the scenery, the continual stream of cars passing us, all the while hoping he would pick up enough speed to change into fourth gear. I remember thinking that at least we wouldn’t have to slow down if we had to take an exit off of the interstate.

It had been years since I had spent this much time with Daddy, and I will always remember this time of being together. Of thinking what a wonderful man he was, and among many other qualities, he was the most honest man I have ever known. He is the only person I have ever seen who, when finding money (that wasn’t his) in the change slot of a vending machine, puts the money back into the machine. Because of the way Daddy was, when I read the story of how Abraham Lincoln walked several miles to return a borrowed book, I never doubted the story.

How often we forget how blessed we are, just to have parents like I’ve had. To be raised in church, to have had a Godly upbringing, and then when I went off into deep water, God rescuing me, bringing me up out of the bottomless sea.

There is one thing, also, I’d like to mention about my father. It was advice he gave me, during the darkest point in my life. Daddy wasn’t the type of father that you could just “talk to” about problems. Frankly, I was afraid to talk to him for most of my pre-adult life. However, as I look back, at the time I needed it most, he gave me a sentence … one sentence of advice and wisdom … wisdom that I have shared often, in the pages of this volume.

Without going into too much detail, it was a Sunday, immediately after suffering the “Betrayal” of which such works as “It Took a Judas” was based upon.
Here’s what I wrote:

“I drove the 100 miles or so to my Mom and Dad’s house. There was never a time in my life when I needed to see my parents more.

I explained to my Mom … and then … the hard part. The hardest part, ever, was explaining anything to Daddy. I don’t mean that as negative as it may seem. It was just so hard to talk to Daddy, especially when it was an emotionally-charged issue. I knew I had to tell him, somehow. He left the house to go out back to take care of the animals. I joined him, and as we walked across the yard, I feebly attempted to explain to Daddy what was going on …  

He looked at me, and then, stopped. It seemed the world stopped, as well. The look he gave me was one I’ll never forget. It was a look of understanding and compassion. From Daddy! A man of so few words, he then spoke the words that will echo across the generations:

“Well, these things have a way of working out for the better.”

When I was at the very bottom, both my father and Jesus were there for me.”

God gave me the words to “Don’t Weep for Me” on the day my Father-in-Law (the “Vincent” in R.V.R.) was called Home. Now, just hours after Daddy (the “Richard” in R.V.R.) was taken to be with Jesus, I hold the pen as these words, and my tears, flow onto the pages:

Daddy’s Gone

He was the most honest man I ever knew
If you’d known him, you’d thought that, too

He’s always say, “I don’t know”
But you knew that he did
He was Charles Atlas, Jack Lalanne, and Superman
To a whole houseful of kids

Six kids he raised
With the sweat from his brow
You should see how those kids turned out
And where they are now

He didn’t say much, that’s for sure
But, the words he spoke, they will endure

He lived a long life, you see
You’ll never know what his life meant to me

He didn’t talk much
Especially to me
But, when he did
I carry that, as a special memory

The world he left; he didn’t mind
Life’s pain and suffering, he left behind
He’s now with Mama, and dear Sister Sue
And now, he’s waiting, to talk with you

He was rugged, and tough,
And he knew what it meant
When you said, “Life is rough”

He had a soft, tender side
Which only my sisters saw
My wife, Carol, saw that same side
He reminded her of her Grampa

No greater man there ever was
I wish I had told him … just because
Just because … we all need to hear
We all need to hear
That someone … somewhere …
Holds us dear

I was afraid of him
I really was
Like standing next to greatness
I really was

Now, he’s gone
And, now, I see
How great he really was
How great he was, to me

My eyes shed a tear
Because greatness stood so near
I wish that I had known him more
I wish that I had written this before

Daddy’s gone
But, not for long
I’ll see him yet again

Finally, he’s alive and well
He now has crossed that Golden Veil
We’ll talk and talk, and talk some more
As we stroll, with Mama, and Susan, on Heaven’s Golden Shore

Richard. Vincent. Rose.
Written the afternoon of July 14, 2017

Ivan Koloff: From Wrestler to Witness-From Title to Testimony

Hi Friends:

Today, I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Ivan Koloff.

Yet, there is an unexplainable joy I am feeling as I write this. A joy which comes from knowing about his life after wrestling, and the impact his testimony has made on me, and so many others. After growing up watching “The Russian Bear,” and then hearing, seeing, the sincerity of his testimony … I was so proud of him … Hearing his real voice, in his humble manner, talking about Jesus, and how Jesus changed his life … it’s just something I’ll never forget.

I was alerted to his passing by a friend, responding to a video of Ivan Koloff, which we featured quite a long time ago. The video is still one of my favorites, and among those I have been the most excited to share.

It was in July of 2013 that I first featured
“Special Video Testimony: Ivan Koloff.”

This will be the first time, ever, that I have repeated a video here. I just watched it again.
Here is part of what I wrote, as an introduction:

“Ivan Koloff, who accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord of his life in 1995, is now an ordained minister, and active in the ministry, traveling to share his testimony across the United States … how wonderful Jesus is, to take “bad guys”-like us, love them, save them, and deliver them. After all, we were all “bad guys” at one time. Funny how we forget that, sometimes … 
I just finished a story about someone at the end of their rope-and hope, calling out to Jesus, who answered their call, saved them … delivered them … and then, they answered His call …When I wrote the story, I thought about Ivan Koloff. How just listening to him, looking at him speak of Jesus, blessed me, and encouraged me so much.

I must be honest: I still sneak a peek at the old Wrestling Videos on YouTube … late one night, there was a video interview of Ivan Koloff, and It wasn’t the interview that grabbed my attention … it was the T-Shirt he was wearing. It said, “I Love Jesus.” WOW!

I checked it out, and, I am so proud of Ivan Koloff!
Here is Ivan Koloff’s personal testimony. I’ve seen it many times, and it still blesses me, still encourages me. He is able to reach many people that others can’t, and I hope this touches … blesses … encourages … and reaches you:”

That’s exactly the way I wrote it. I never had the privilege to meet Ivan Koloff … but, I will … one day. I can’t wait to hug him!
To look into those eyes. To hear his “real” voice.

For fans, I’m sure you’ve already gone to the news reports, detailing his real name, and his biography, including his battle with liver cancer. That’s why I didn’t include that here. I just wanted to share, again, what he would want you to remember

Here’s the link to the original post, which includes another video, and a link to the “Ivan Koloff” website, taking you directly to “My Testimony.”

“Special Video Testimony: Ivan Koloff”