Archive for September, 2007

Associate Editor

MANISTEE — “There she is, that’s the old girl,” said Manistee WWII veteran Carl Carlstrom as he stood on the tarmac at Manistee’s Blacker Airport watching the B-17 bomber, “Yankee Lady,” land on Friday afternoon.
With a bit of a late arrival, a crowd of more than 150 people — some veterans who flew aboard the B-17 or other planes such as the B-24 Liberator or B-26 Marauder — had built up a heightened sense of anticipation of the legendary aircraft’s arrival.
Carlstrom, garbed in his B-17 hat and T-shirt, had probably been anticipating this moment more than the rest, as he was about to once again fly aboard the plane that had taken him to the brink and brought him home again more than 16 times during the second world war in the Meditterranean Theater of Operations.
“Many times I feel that the Almighty had His hand around my shoulder, or I wouldn’t be here,” said Carlstrom, who served as a flight engineer aboard a B-17(G) Flying Fortress stationed in Fogia, Italy.
As an enlistee in the Army Air Corps at the age of 19, in 1942, Carlstrom said “…that’s what I wanted — I wanted to fly.”
But Carlstrom hasn’t flown in a B-17 for more than 60 years, since October of 1945, by his recollection.
“I never thought I’d get to fly in that plane again,” he told his wife, Norma, after he received a call telling him that Martin Marietta of Manistee was going to host a flight for him aboard the Yankee Lady as part of the festivities for the opening of Blacker’s new airport terminal.
Along with nine other lucky passengers, Carlstrom was able to fly in “the old girl” one more time, earning him the envy of some of his old flight crew when he rejoins them in Indiana next month for a reunion. Three other members of his 10-man crew are still alive.
“We were lucky that only one of our original crew didn’t make it back,” said Carlstrom. “They split us up on our first mission — they never let an entirely green crew fly together — and our navigator’s plane got hit.”
Carlstrom saw his navigator’s plane get hit and spin it’s way down in three pieces. “You always watched for chutes, but we didn’t see anything.” Two men did manage to make it off of that plane, however.
Seeing the Yankee Lady touch down and taxi up to the assembled crowd, Carlstrom reflected on those who had been lost.
“It makes you realize how brittle a thread life really is,” he said, as he periodically reached into his back pocket for a handkerchief to wipe his moistened eyes.
Carlstrom, nicknamed “Swede” by his fellow crewmembers, still remembers how much fuel the B-17 took, oil levels, RPM’s during various parts of the flight, air pressure and other readings. “These things were hammered into us every day. We had to know every last nut, bolt, and wire on that ship,” said Carlstrom. “The crew depended on the flight engineer to know everything — their lives depended on it.”
“You’re a flying mechanic, you do what maintenance you can in flight,” said Carlstrom. “You’re responsible for the welfare of that airplane.”
While the historic airship was on the ground before take off, Carlstrom was able to walk around the entire plane, and through the interior, from the rear hatch to the cockpit, and even sat in the pilot’s seat for a while — a position he’d been in before.
During the war, Carlstrom would run up the engines to test them, and even get to fly the plane, or get “stick time,” as the pilots called it, during training missions or when they were “out in the open,” he said.
“Hirsch, our pilot, told the crew that every one of us would get some ‘stick time,’” said Carlstrom. “He said the Swede will get the most stick time, because he knows the ship the best. If a round gets both the pilots, he’s the logical man to bring her back.”
Some of the targets his group bombed were in Vienna, as well as other Austrian targets, and some in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, northern Italy, and southern France. Over the course of 16 official missions aboard the “Miss Enid” and other B-17’s, the flight engineer worked to hold his aircraft together while bombing targets such as bridges, airfields, aircraft factories, ball bearing factories, and refineries.
Out of all those missions, living in tents and taking off from pre-fab airstrips in Foggia, Italy, Carlstrom said that the men he flew with became a tightly knit group.
“Your crew was like family. They were close,” he said. “You didn’t allow yourself to get close to any of the other crews. You didn’t want to get to know them. Then, if another ship blew up, you were just glad it wasn’t you.”
Watching Carlstrom, it was easy to see that at times his thoughts turned to that era, when he was so young and taxed with such an important job. And he surely must have thought about those he served with, the ones who came back — and the ones who didn’t — and how he was one of the lucky ones.
Years later, someone asked Carlstrom, “weren’t you worried?”
“Don’t pay to worry,” said Carlstrom. “Either they’re gonna get you, or they’re not. We had ships come back with their whole vertical stabilizer shot away, so they had no rudder and the pilot was steering with his engines. They were a rough airplane — they took an awful lot of punishment. We came back one day with 200 and some odd holes in one ship, and not a man scratched.”
His survival against unfavorable odds is why Carlstrom, now 85-years-old, feels he had the arm of the Almighty around his shoulder, and why he is so modest about his time in the service.
Several people came up to Carlstrom on Friday, thanked him for his service to our country, and shook his hand. He simply nodded, and told them, “we did what we had to do,” and proceeded to answer their questions about what it was like to fly during the war.
Carlstrom had the same answer for those who tried to label him and the other men of his generation as “heroes.”
“Some say we’re heroes, but I say ‘no.’ We were just a bunch of highly trained kids trying to get a job done and trying to stay alive doing it,” he said.
With WWII veterans dying at the rate of 1,200-1,500 per day, it was a chance for a couple of old vets to have one last look at a piece of their past, for a whole new generation to be exposed to a working historical monument, and meet the men who lived to tell about it.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at:


Associate Editor

MANISTEE — Country artist Jo Dee Messina, who came to fame in the mid-1990s, and is best-known for her kiss-off songs, like 1997’s “Bye Bye,” 1999’s “Lesson in Leavin,” and 2005’s “My Give-a-Damn’s Busted,” is coming to Little River Casino Resort’s new event stage Sept. 23 at 7 p.m.
“We’re excited to start elevating the level of acts we can bring to the area,” said casino general manager Jim LaPorte. “We have a beautiful facility that we look forward to sharing with the community and our customers.”
Based in Nashville, Messina will make her way to Michigan as part of a week long road trip which will bring her to Ohio, then up to Manistee. She says that the way she combats the stress of the road is to maintain a set schedule.
“There’s definitely a system,” says Messina. “If you don’t get a system down, forget it. Each day has a schedule to it that’s pretty consistent. I get up, get something to eat, have some coffee, go for a run, come back, go to the gym, go back to the venue, get some food, get a shower, do sound check, take a nap.”
An avid runner, Messina is doing the Chicago Marathon Oct. 7. “This is my second full one, I’ve done a couple of half (marathons),” she said.
This isn’t her first trip to perform in Michigan. “I’ve got a great fan base up there,” she says. She likes northern Michigan, despite the fact that it always seems that she ends up performing here when it’s cold out, and hasn’t had much of a chance to enjoy this part of the state during the summer months.
This time, the weather may work to her advantage. It’s so warm in Nashville, she thinks she’ll do some of her long runs to prepare for the marathon in our more mild climate. “We’ll run at some point up there,” she said.
Her drive on the running course is matched only by her passion for performing and producing music. With the release of her most recent album, “Unmistakable,” Messina steps firmly into the front ranks of country singers. An album that displays both her songwriting prowess and her abilities as a co-producer, “Unmistakable” is above all a showcase for one of the genre’s most remarkable and distinctive voices.
Messina describes herself as “a girl next door,” and prides herself on the fact that she has been able to maintain a level of success in her career. “People say, ‘oh, that’s Jo Dee, she’s consistent, she’ll be around, she’s been around, of course she’s going to do good work,’ Messina says of her fan appeal. “A lot of people have said that to me. A lot of the press, too.”
“She is a great singer,” says Chris Ferren, one of four co-producers who worked with her on the project, “but I guess I didn’t know how great until I worked with her.” It was a sentiment echoed across the board. Dann Huff, who co-produced several cuts along with Jay Demarcus of Rascal Flatts, calls her “obviously, a great singer” as well, and Jerry Flowers terms her “the best vocalist I’ve ever worked with. No matter what you ask her to do, she can do it, and do it better than what you wanted. She sings from her heart and it’s just amazing every single time.”
Unmistakable is the sixth album in a career that has brought the Massachusetts-born singer to the heights of the genre she has loved since she was a little girl. She’s sold five million albums, had nine #1 singles, earned two Grammy nominations, in addition to awards by the CMA and ACM, and seen her albums go platinum (Burn) and double platinum (I’m Alright). The latter made history, as three consecutive singles reached the #1 spot for multiple weeks on the Billboard singles chart, making her the first female artist ever to earn that distinction.
Messina promises that she’ll bring a nice mix of her old and new material to the Little River Stage on Sunday. “I’ll do a lot of the hits for everybody, and we trickle in the new stuff,” she said. “The new stuff’s been getting a great response. It’s been really rewarding. Usually, I’m afraid to play new songs, but people are hooking onto them by the first chorus, so it’s like ‘wow, we’ve got some catchy material, here.’”
   “I believe in my heart this album is going to be the biggest yet,” she says, “because so much of my creativity is in it, and in the midst of your creativity is when you’re most in tune with God. There’s so much of it on this record and it came so effortlessly. I can’t wait to see what people think.”
Tickets for the show are available now in the Odawa Trading Post gift shop or online at Star Tickets Plus:
Messina wants everyone to know that her performance is what she calls “a show for everybody. There’s definitely something in there for everybody — whether you’re having a good day, bad day, falling in love or out of it.”
Cean Burgeson can be reached at:


Manistee’s Karl Wagner remembers his days as a WWII Seabee
Associate Editor

“The Seabee recruiter came through Manistee and said, ‘you better sign up with me before the army catches you,’” said 92-year-old Karl Wagner. “That’s how I happened to get in the Seabees.”
It turned out to be a fortuitous move on his part. “I had a second class rating right off the bat, which was twice the pay of a private in the army.” Wagner entered the service in September of 1943.
The history of the United States Navy Seabees in World War II begins with the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. After the attack and the United States’ entry into the war, the use of civilian labor in war zones became impractical. The Navy therefore created Construction Battalions (from which the abbreviation C.B. became Seabees).
The official motto of the Seabees is “Construimus, Batuimus” – translated into English as “We Build, We Fight.” The Seabees have several unofficial mottos as well. Their best known unofficial motto is the simple phrase “Can Do!”, featured on much of their promotional material, including the well-known recruitment posters of the era.
After training, Wagner was shipped via troop train to Pleasanton, Calif., then to a port city called Hueneme. “That was the port where they say 90 percent of war material went from overseas,” said Wagner. “The Seabees had a big camp there.”
Here, Wagner’s battalion was divided in half, with his half eventually finding themselves on a tiny island 100 miles from the southmost tip of Japan. “They took us in on LST’s (landing ship, tank) to Ioshima, where Ernie Pyle got killed.”
Wagner was on the island the day that the famous war journalist died. “They said that he was in a jeep with an army officer, and they were shot at, so they got into a ditch there, and Ernie Pyle, after a while, he looked up over the ditch, and a sharpshooter killed him.”
Ioshima had other claims to fame as well. “The island was only about two and a half by five miles wide, and maybe six miles from Okinawa,” said Wagner. “Ioshima was a pretty important island, that’s where the Japanese surrender plane came. They came to Ioshima in a little Betty bomber (Japanese G4M airplane). It wasn’t very big. MacArthur had a big C-54 plane to take him over to the peace talks. We saw all of that.”
While on the island, the main job of Wagner’s Seabee unit was to construct buildings, roads, and airstrips, all while living out of tents. Seabees in the Pacific Theater of Operations earned the gratitude of all Allied fighting men who served with them or followed in their wake. Their deeds were unparalleled in the history of wartime construction. With eighty percent of the Naval Construction Force concentrated in the Pacific, they literally built and fought their way to victory.
“We saw a lot of suicide planes. I remember once, a Jap plane hit these two ships, and put them in flames. It was sad,” says Wagner. “There were Jap suicide planes that demolished ships, and a couple of days later, they would come back and hit ‘em again. One anti-aircraft gun,” he remembers, “shot the engine right out of the fuselage of one.”
Wagner only remembers one man from his unit being seriously wounded. “I’ll tell you, those Japanese planes would come over the island with their bombs, sometimes pretty low. There was one chief standing in the doorway of the sickbay, and they said he got his leg shot off, so he was shipped off.”
Although Seabees were only supposed to fight to defend what they built, such acts of heroism were numerous. In all, Seabees earned 33 Silver Stars and 5 Navy Crosses during World War II. But they also paid a price: 272 enlisted men and 18 officers killed in action. In addition to deaths sustained as a result of enemy action, more than 500 Seabees died in accidents, as construction is essentially a hazardous business.
In the North, Central, South and Southwest Pacific areas, the Seabees built 111 major airstrips, 441 piers, 2,558 ammunition magazines, 700 square blocks of warehouses, hospitals to serve 70,000 patients, tanks for the storage of 100,000,000 gallons of gasoline, and housing for 1,500,000 men. In construction and fighting operations, the Pacific Seabees suffered more than 200 combat deaths and earned more than 2,000 Purple Hearts. They served on four continents and on more than 300 islands.
Towards the end of the war, Wagner’s unit moved to the slightly larger island of Okinawa. The Seabees’ task on Okinawa was truly immense. “They said there were 49 or 50 battalions of Seabees on Okinawa,” Wagner recalled. “We put up roads on that little island. They had coral pits — it was kind of whitish coral — and they’d put that on the road, and go over it with big V-8’s and heavy rollers, and when they got done, it was just like blacktop, only it was white.”
While on Okinawa, Wagner’s unit also survived a typhoon. “They told us to secure our tents. The next day, ninety percent of the tents were blown down,” he said. “But not mine.” Each 16 foot by 16 foot tent housed four men. “Three of the fellas didn’t want to stay in that tent during the night.” But Wagner had used his construction skills to reinforce his tent during the storm, and came out of it unscathed. “That typhoon was something else,” he said.
On the agrarian island of Okinawa, whose physical facilities a fierce bombardment had all but destroyed, Seabees built ocean ports, a grid of roads, bomber and fighter fields, a seaplane base, quonset villages, Air Force ready rooms, tank farms, storage dumps, hospitals, and ship repair facilities.
Nearly 55,000 Seabees, organized into four brigades, participated in Okinawa construction operations. By the beginning of August 1945, sufficient facilities, supplies, and manpower were at hand to mount an invasion of the Japanese home islands.
It was an invasion that, fortunately, would never come. On Aug. 10, 1945, after the invasion of Manchuria by the Soviet Union and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan’s leaders at the Imperial conference decided, in principle, to accept the uncompromising terms the Allies had set down for ending the war in the Potsdam Declaration.
Wagner returned to Manistee in December of 1945 and resumed his normal life, reunited with his wife after a two-year hiatus, and raised his four children.
When asked whether he enjoyed his service, he says jokingly what many other fighting men of the era say, “Did I like it? I had to like it.” Like 16 million other American men and women, he simply did what he had to do.

>A fly on the wall (MNA Sept. 07)

Posted: September 17, 2007 in Hockey

Associate Editor

I shook hands with President Clinton once, met movie and TV stars when I worked in Los Angeles, and have interviewed celebrities and politicians alike.
But last Friday, I felt a little out of my league.
Through a good friend, I was able to squeak my way into the top booth at Centre Ice during the second day of Red Wings training camp in Traverse City. In that lone suite the arena boasts, I stood with some of professional hockey’s elite.
On my left was Ken Holland, the Red Wings general manager, and arguably one of the best GM’s in professional sports. To my direct right, stood Red Berenson, former Stanley Cup winning professional hockey player, professional hockey coach of the year, and current coach for the University of Michigan hockey team, who’s brought his team to the NCAA tournament in each of his last 17 seasons.
To my right was Bob McNamara, former Notre Dame goaltender, and championship-winning general manager of Detroit’s AHL affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins. Next to him was Mike Babcock, Detroit’s head coach — enough said. In front of me was Jimmy Paek, assistant coach for the Griffs, the first Korean to play in the NHL and have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup, and who also holds the honor of listing both Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky as teammates. The rest of the group was made up of scouts and other notable Wings’ staff.
The true kicker was this; as I made my way from the inner suite — where a breakfast of eggs, ham, and pancakes was lovingly cooked up for guests to enjoy — to the outside rink viewing area, a quiet, unassuming man with a baseball cap, held the door open for me. He’d been looking out the window of the suite at the veteran players and prospects as they ran their drills below.
When he turned away from looking out of the window, only then did I realize who he was. “Played much golf lately, Mr. Howe?” asked my friend. “No, my shoulder’s been bothering me,” he said.
As we passed by, I said “hello, Mr. Howe,” and he held the door for me. GORDIE HOWE held the door for ME.
As I occassionally glanced at the hockey legend, separated from me by only a thin pane of glass, I wondered what he was thinking as he watched Holmstrom, Datsyuk, Lebda, Chelios, Draper, Zetterberg, and the others glide effortlessly on the ice, putting perfect passes on the tape, and shooting the puck for the corners along with the rookies and prospects who were desperately trying to make the last few spots on this year’s roster.
Did he wax nostalgic? Did he wonder how they would have stacked up in his day? Was he imagining what it would be like for him to play the game today, with shoot-outs, trapezoids, and collective bargaining agreements?
Oh, how I wanted to ask him these questions — but my sensibilities took control of me, and I left him alone. Just being able to say my hushed “hello” was fine with me.
I want to emphatically thank my friend, who allowed me a tiny glimpse at the inner workings of the Red Wings’ front office, but I won’t mention his name — so he isn’t inundated with requests by other die-hard hockey fans.
Because, last year when I went to training camp, or Hockey Town North as they call it, I went on a press pass. I had a good time, got to talk with staff and players, and felt that I had a fine experience.
But it in no way compared to being in the booth with the company I had found myself in on Friday.
Even though I was a guest of the management staff that day, I still went down to the main level to pick up my press pass, in case I needed it later. It was then that I realized how well-off I had it.
While I was down there, some self-important twenty-something with a “press relations” badge scoffed at me when I asked where the press kits are. “I don’t know,” he told me.
I walked around and looked for someone else who might know, and they directed me back to “Mr. P.R.” again, so I went back and this time asked him for my press credentials.
He said, “oh, I didn’t know that’s what you were looking for.”
Why the hell did he think I was asking for a press kit, then?
At that point, Mr. P.R. started to grill me on sports reporting etiquette like I had just fallen off the turnip truck. “You know that you can’t go certain places right?”
“Yeah, I’ve been here before, I think I can handle it,” I said.
“And you can’t just walk into meetings.”
I started to imagine my hands tightening around Mr. P.R.’s neck.
“I think I can handle it,” I told him as I yanked my media credential out of his hand. Then I quickly tucked it into my pocket so nobody could see, walked out of the door, and up the hill to the back of the building, where I slipped in through the emergency exit and back to the suite with Ken, Mike, Red, Bob, Jimmy and Gordie.
As I looked out over the sheet of ice where the Wings were running drills, I saw all the other media guys milling around with their tape recorders, reporter’s tablets, and their video and digital cameras. All I could think was how that could have been me — and I was truly thankful once again for the opportunity, and the access, I had been given.
For a hockey fan, and as a journalist, it was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I relished every minute of it as I listened, speaking very little, and merely took it all in. I was a fly on the wall, enjoying every nuance of the discussions between the coaches, management, and other staff about the players and prospects, golf, food, fly-fishing — but mostly pure hockey talk — that went on in that inner-sanctum.
When it was over, it all seemed like a dream. A very good dream. One that I will re-visit again and again.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at:

>Making the team (MNA Sept. 07)

Posted: September 17, 2007 in Interviews


An interview with Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland
Associate Editor

There are two rituals each September for the Detroit Red Wings — training camp in Traverse City, and golf.
Golf has become one of the preferred off-season activities for many hockey players, and the boys who wear the winged wheel, along with management and staff for the team, are no different.
I had the opportunity to talk with Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland Wednesday at Arcadia Bluffs over a bowl of soup and a Sprite while he waited for his tee time, and he let me in on why golf and hockey have a connection, and why he and other Red Wings players and staff make the trip down to Manistee County.
“I love golf, and Arcadia Bluffs is as good a golf experience as anyone can have,” said Holland. “Between the setting of the golf course on the lake, and the people, that’s why we come here. We know (course manager) Bill Shriver, and all the people, all the staff here, are incredible hosts and hostesses and treat us beyond incredible.
Holland enters his 11th season as general manager and his 25th year with the Red Wings’ organization. He is arguably the most successful general manager in all of professional sports over the last ten years. He was at Arcadia Bluffs enjoyed a day off between the prospect camp which ended Tuesday, and the general camp, which begins today.
Holland explained why players are drawn from the ice to the links. “The motion of shooting the puck is a similar motion, and professional athletes are competitors, that’s how they get where they are. You compete with yourself, you compete with your opponent, you compete with the golf course, so there’s a lot of competitive aspects to golf that hockey players like.
“It’s also an opportunity to build relationships,” said Holland. “You spend four hours on the course. Whether it’s just a friendship, or sometimes you come out and it’s a working environment.”
According to Holland, about half to three quarters of the Wings’ roster play golf, depending on who is currently on the team. And some of them apparently play as well on turf as they do on the ice.
“Who would be the best really depends on the year,” Holland said. “On the current team, we have a lot of guys who are probably nine, ten, eleven handicaps — Osgood, Draper. Brett Hull was a plus one. Ray Whitney was a scratch golfer. Manny Legace was a one or a two handicap. There’s been some good players.
And of course, I couldn’t sit down with the Wings’ GM without asking him about his expectations for training camp, which I’m sure is on his mind as he plays his rounds of golf in Arcadia each September.
“Our record in the prospect (games) was one win and three losses,” he said. “You like to win, but the most important thing at the prospect tournament is to evaluate, and we had four real good games to evaluate. We lost 3-2 to Atlanta, 3-2 to the Rangers, we lost 5-3 at the end, basically 4-3 to St. Louis, and we beat Tampa Bay 3-1. So, all the games were close and competitive.”
Training camp is about looking for new talent, and this year is no different, said Holland. “We were very happy with some of our young defensemen, Jonathan Ericsson played really well, and Jakub Kindl. I think it was a positive first week, with some nice surprises.”
Main camp focuses more on some of the veteran players, so Holland is really looking for a few of the guys to step up and help fill some of the gaps left from the exit of a few big names after last season. “We pretty well know 20 guys on our team,” Holland said. “We know 12 NHL forwards, we know 6 NHL defensemen, we know our two goalies. With Robert Lang and Todd Bertuzzi and Kyle Calder gone, there’s some opportunities for our players who are competing for ice time — what’s their role? Are they going to be a top-six forward, are they going to be in the second power play?
“There’s some opportunities. We’re going to carry 22 players, and we’re anxious to see, how close is Jimmy Howard in goal? How close are some of our young defensemen? Like Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl, Derek Meech, Kyle Quincey.
“We’re bringing in some veteran defensemen on tryouts. Brent Sopel played in the NHL a number of years, Jassen Cullimore, Brad Ference. One of those guys is probably going to make our team on defense.”
Up front, Holland said they’ll look at Igor Grigorenko of Russia, Matt Ellis, from their Grand Rapids affiliate team, the Griffins, and Aaron Downey from Montreal. “They’re going to be fighting for the last forward spot,” he said.
The rest of camp is about finding some new talent, and cultivating some old, according to Holland. “Everybody knows the Datsyuks, and Zetterbergs. We know those guys are going to be on the team, we know what they can do.” A big question is how the existing players will size up this season, he said. “Can Val Fillipula take a step forward this year? Can Jiri Hudler take a step forward this year? We need some of the younger players to step forward.”
He also said that changes in the collective bargaining agreement have changed the way they put their team together. “You used to go out and have a good team, and add to your team. That doesn’t happen anymore. If you’ve got a good team, you’re hoping just to hang onto it,” said Holland.
“We had a good year, we lost some of our players. Now we need internally for some people to step up, and that’s what we’re looking for. Can Mikael Samuelsson, Dan Cleary, Johan Franzen, can they build off the great playoffs they had for us last year and take a step forward in their career? The opportunity’s there for somebody.”
Wing’s front office staff will spend the next week trying to answer many of these questions — and it won’t be easy. It never is. But Holland actually hopes that it’s a hard decision, because that means he’ll have a lot of talent to pick from.
“There’s two ways to look at a hard decision: one, nobody steps up and we don’t know what to do, and two, we have a lot of people playing well, and it’s a hard decision because everybody’s playing well. Hopefully it’s the latter.”
And with that, I let the Red Wing’s front office mastermind finish eating his chicken soup so that he could make his tee time.
There are nine exhibition games in the general training portion of camp, and Holland said that all nine of them will be used to evaluate who will be rostered for the 2007-2008 season. For some players who already have cemented their spot on the team, it’ll be a good way to work out the kinks and rustiness that the off-season layoff brings. For others, it’ll be the chance to prove themselves worthy of playing for one of the best franchises in the game.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at:

Associate Editor

In this drive-through, online, wireless, digital, surround sound, super-sized, high speed, direct billed, no-interest, instant messenger, instant gratification lifestyle we’ve developed, it’s easy to fast forward through life, and to gauge ourselves strictly by our accomplishments.
But life — real life — is lived in the day to day, nine to five existence.
It’s lived in the little moments in-between, the footnotes to greater things. Gratification doesn’t come from punching the clock on another day, week, or month. It comes in unique moments, like seeing your newborn child’s face for the first time, a smile from your wife after the pain of labor has subsided, and the look on people’s faces when they renew their relationship with the miracle of life.
These little moments, or side excursions, make life livable – as long as we remember to live in those moments, those golden instances that fade too quickly if we let them.
How easy is it to forget what’s important? Family, friends, having a little fun once in a while…
It’s pretty damn easy.
Until something comes along to remind us why we enjoy living. Why we try. Why we find the reason to smile, or laugh, or enjoy ourselves.
And we once again renew our faith in the value of life, re-evaluate what’s important, and try to set out once again to live like we once promised ourselves we would.
I’ve experienced moments like this several times. Most notably on Wednesday, March 24, at 10:30 a.m., Friday, April 13, at 3:15 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 1 at a time that is now unremembered. On each of those days, a miracle occurred. A miracle that occurs every day in every corner of the world – hell, in every corner of the universe for all we know.
On each one of those days, I met my children for the first time. Two through the miracle of birth, and one through the miracle of sacrifice that comes from adoption. Those moments are about new life, the continuation of life, the perseverance of humankind.
They’re a lot bigger — and a whole lot heavier — in the scheme of things, than worrying about the little things, like a promotion at work, bills, or rush hour traffic.
For these children, five months, three years, and eight years old, the whole world lies ahead. Anything can happen. They can live to do anything they want to do. The possibilities are endless.
You can’t put a price on that.
It’s easy to take these life changing moments for granted, but we do ourselves a great injustice if we do. Those who are truly happy, are the ones who seize the moment, seize the feeling, and revel in it. This sounds corny, and cliché, and that’s why we refuse to realize it.
Because too often in life, we fast forward through the new beginnings, the fresh starts, the arcs in the story line.
We rush through the little moments to get to the next great part of our existence, but the living of the little moments suffers, and is forgotten, or the significance of these little slices of real life are lost.
When I was eight, I only wanted to be 10 — so I’d be in the double digits. When I was a teenager, I just wanted to be 16 so I could drive a car. Then I counted down the days until I was able to go to college, then marked the calendar until graduation, getting married, having kids, buying a house…until there was no living in the now, just marking time until the next level was achieved.
At every step, I’ve been working to make it to the next step, because every next step, I thought, would finally make me the happiest. All the while, I should have realized that I was already happy, and I should have appreciated what I already had.
Life isn’t in the next step. It isn’t necessarily what’s around the corner. Life has to be lived in the here and now, in the daily grind, in the evening meal, the little league game, helping the kids with homework, sharing a movie with a spouse, even cleaning the house or doing yard work.
These little moments “in between” are what we’ll wish for years from now, and what we’ll miss when it’s too late. Not the promotions, the monetary windfalls, the toys and houses we buy, or the prizes we win as we travel along in this plane of existence.
Because the joy in life is the new birth, the laugh shared with children, the shared experience with a best friend, a birthday party, a hockey game, or a half hour in the park throwing the frisbee to the dog.
And once these moments are gone, these little “life vignettes,” they can’t be recaptured with videotape, film, or on a digital hard drive.
They’re gone before you know it.
That’s why we have to live for today, and recognize what’s important.
It’s the journey, not the destination that counts.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at:

Little River opens new entertainment venue
Associate Editor

MANISTEE — In a starched white shirt — cuffs unbuttoned — and jeans, he strode onto the stage to cheers and applause from a grateful sold-out crowd Saturday night at Little River Casino Resort. Many call him “The Gambler,” but it was no gamble when the resort decided to make Kenny Rogers the first act to grace the stage in their brand new state-of-the-art 1,700 seat entertainment venue.
It also wasn’t a gamble to invest in the newest expansion project for the resort, if Saturday’s attendance was any indication. The parking lot was full, and cars leaked onto the manicured lawns of the casino property. Also alive with the buzz of the evening were the busy gambling floor, hotel, and restaurant venues.
With increased competition from a newly remodeled casino to the north in Petoskey, the Odawa, and another brand new casino to the south in New Buffalo, Four Winds, Little River has stepped it up another notch in the type of all-around entertainment they can offer with their own newest construction project.
“It’s absolutely beautiful, it’s exceeded our expectations,” said Larry Romanelli, the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians’ Ogema, who was in attendance at the concert, along with members of the tribal council.
Little River has always had a reputation for customer service, and the Ogema said that this was part of the success of the continually growing property for the past eight years.
“What we want to do is keep our friendly atmosphere, our hospitality,” he said. Romanelli also spoke of the way growth at the casino ties into the rest of the area. “We want to grow along with the community, and I think we’re going to do that with this (latest expansion).”
Some at the casino and tribal government level may have had some reservations about putting more money into the newest phase of construction at the casino, but some minds have been changed now that the project is completed, and they can actually see the results.
“There’s always those questions in the beginning, whether we should do this or should not,” said Romanelli. “I think obviously, it was the right thing to do, not just for tribal members and the casino, but also for the community.
Offering more than just a gaming floor is part of the strategy to compete in what is now becoming a more saturated casino market in the state of Michigan. “We knew there was competition coming,” said Romanelli. According to the directors of the casino, that’s why the winter garden, with a flowing river and real plants and trees was also added, in addition to the performance stage. “We not only have that now, we have this expanded place for people to enjoy themselves. It’s not just the gambling, it’s the atmosphere. It’s the whole ambiance — trying to keep people happy, in an enjoyable place — and I think we’ve accomplished all of that.”
Feedback for the inaugural show from the public was good, according to Little River Casino Resort Marketing Director, Tiana Burgeson, who was pleased with how the evening turned out. “Everybody loved the new facility,” she said. “We sold several tickets afterwards for the upcoming Jo Dee Messina and Clint Black concerts, and we had a lot positive comments — I couldn’t have asked for a better opening night.”
Cean Burgeson can be reached at:

Associate Editor

“Many times I feel that the Almighty had his hand around my shoulder, or I wouldn’t be here,” says Carl Carlstrom, who served as a flight engineer aboard a B-17(G) Flying Fortress over the skies of Europe during the second world war.
As an enlistee in the Army Air Corps at the age of 19 in 1942, Carlstrom said “that’s what I wanted — I wanted to fly.”
He had no idea that this choice would eventually find him 30,000 feet in the air, amid 1,000 pound bombs — one of them “hot” or armed — while he manually cranked open the airship’s malfunctioning bomb bay doors.
“I had gone back through the ship to check everything over, and went back through the bomb bay. There was an air leak in the bomb bay, and one of the propellors (on the bomb) had backed itself off. I immediately got back to the flight deck and called the pilot and bombardier and said, ‘we’ve got a hot one aboard.’ If nobody touches it, everything’s okay, if anyone touches that fuse, it’s bye-bye blackbird,” said Carlstrom.
“We hit the IP, that’s the initial point where you begin your bomb run, and the bombardier called and said, ‘bomb bay doors coming open.’ I said bomb bay? They’re not opening. He said, ‘the indicators say they’re open.’ I told him, ‘I don’t give a so-and-so what the indicator says, they’re not opening. I’ll have to get out and crank ‘em open.’”
So, Carlstrom stood, one foot on either side of the slowly opening bomb bay doors, the bombs behind him, a hot fuse less than two feet from his back, while he cranked open the doors by hand — with nothing but clouds between him and the ground, 30,000 feet below.
“All I could think is that if the ship lunges and I come back and hit that fuse, we’re all history.”
Carlstrom, nicknamed “Swede” by his fellow crewmembers, performed this death defying feat without a parachute — he was too big to fit into the cramped space while wearing one — and with a thick carpet of enemy flak blanketing the skies around him. He described what the flak was like at times.
“Going over Vienna, that was one of the toughest targets in Europe, Vienna had 1,100 and some odd 88’s settin’ there, and they could bring them all to bear at one time. They put up a wall of flak that looked like you could walk on it. You’d see that formation in front of you going into that wall of flak and you’d know that’s where you’re going — because you gotta get through there to drop those eggs.”
The flak wasn’t the only problem to contend with as Carlstrom labored with the malfunctioning bomb doors.
“So the bombardier called ‘bombs away’ and he said ‘bomb bay doors coming closed.’ I looked back and said, ‘they’re not coming closed.’ So, I got back out there and started cranking them shut, and I felt something hit my arm. I paid no attention and kept cranking, and something else hit me again. I turned and looked back and the radio operator was throwing spent 50 caliber brass at me and motioning for me to get back.”
While Carlstrom labored to close the doors, he had expelled hot breath from the discharge port of his oxygen mask. Mixed with the cold, thin air at bombing altitude, a beard of hoar frost had formed on Carlstrom from his chin to his waist. “The radio operator was afraid I was freezing up. The average temperature at that altitude is 70-80 degrees below zero,” explained Carlstrom.
Once the doors were cranked shut, and he returned to his station on the flight deck, the crew of the B-17 still wasn’t in the clear. “I looked, and four of the (oxygen) indicators had dropped to zero. I called the pilot and said, ‘Hirsch, you and I are the only two that have got oxygen, we just took a hit in the junction box.”
The crew now concentrated on getting back home alive and in one piece.
“Once the bomb run was over, the pilot would say, ‘we’re done working for Uncle Sam, now we’re working for ourselves.’ So he dropped down to 17,000, where you can live a long time without any oxygen. We had no more than leveled off, than our gunner called, ‘two unidentified fighters at nine o’clock.’”
Besides being briefed that there would be heavy flak on the mission, his air group — the 15th Air Force, 301st Bomb Group, 352nd Bomb Squadron — had been told there would be heavy fighter opposition. “I picked up the glasses off the flight deck and looked out, and said, ‘well fellas, its a couple of P-51’s, but keep your eyes on ‘em.’
Carlstrom knew that the Germans had taken Allied planes which had been forced down, rebuilt them, and used them to sneak into formations and shoot down bombers before. To their relief, this time, the P-51’s were friendlies who had heard about the B-17’s problems and came to escort her home.
“It’s a wonderful feeling when those ‘little friends’ come out to help you,” said Carlstrom.
He was recommended for the distinguished flying cross (DFC) for his efforts that day.
“You’re a flying mechanic, you do what maintenance you can in flight,” said Carlstrom. “You’re responsible for the welfare of that airplane.”
More than 60 years later, Carlstrom can still tell you how many gallons of fuel or oil the old girl took, how many RPM’s (revolutions per minute) the props would spin up to on take-off and in flight, and what the mercury readings, or atmospheric pressure was on the aircraft during different portions of the flight. “When you’ve done something 1,000 times, you remember it,” he says.
Some of the targets his group bombed were in Vienna, as well as other Austrian targets, and some in Hungary, Checkoslavakia, Yugoslavia, northern Italy, and southern France. Over the course of 16 official missions aboard the “Miss Enid” and other B-17’s, the flight engineer worked to hold his aircraft together while bombing targets such as bridges, airfields, aircraft factories, ball bearing factories, and refineries.
Out of all those missions, living in tents and taking off from pre-fab airstrips in Foggia, Italy, Carlstrom only had an ominous feeling about one.
“I got up in the morning with the feeling I didn’t want to fly, there was something wrong,” he says. “It’s the only time it ever happened. We were going to hit a railroad bridge in Austria, and we got up a little over 10,000 feet, and one by one, three of our turbos — thats our superchargers — started to malfunction, so we had three engines that weren’t puttin’ out what they should.”
They fell out of formation in an attempt to jettison their bombs in the snow-covered Alps, but decided to keep their payload and continue, since they were only 45 minutes away from their bombing run.
“By then we were a mile behind the formation,” Carlstrom says. ”And we had been briefed on heavy fighters and flak. On that mission we didn’t have a bombardier, we had a togglier aboard. And that togglier was good. He laid five of ‘em right right down the length of that bridge — five 1,000 pounders.”
“We were also camera ship that day, so we got a good picture of where those bombs hit.” Coming in alone, and after the rest of the formation had already made their bomb run, Carlstrom’s plane didn’t have the protection of the rest of the air group or any fighter escort.
“The rest of the formation got the devil shot out of them, and we never saw one puff of flak, because as soon as the formation was gone, the gunners packed up and went home. We were so far behind, we had no opposition. They hit it — but they didn’t get the hits that we did.”
“Being camera ship, just before we hit the Adriatic Sea, we broke formation and started dogging it for home to get those films in. A couple of 38’s (P-38’s) came in to follow us in. They had been hearing about our problems. All of the sudden they rolled, and I could see a freight train. They strafed that train, and here and there another car would blow up. When they got to the engine, it was one big puff of steam — and that’s all she wrote. Twenty minutes later they were sitting back up on our wing, giving us the sign — scratch one freight train.”
Years later, someone asked Carlstrom, “weren’t you worried?”
“Don’t pay to worry,” said Carlstrom. “Either they’re gonna get you or they’re not. We had ships come back with their whole vertical stabilizer shot away, so they had no rudder and the pilot was steering with his engines. They were a rough airplane — they took an awful lot of punishment. We came back one day with 200 and some odd holes in one ship, and not a man scratched.”
His survival against unfavorable odds is why Carlstrom, now 85-years-old, feels he had the arm of the Almighty around his shoulder, and why he is so modest about his time in the service.
“Some say we’re heroes, but I say ‘no.’ We were just a bunch of highly trained kids trying to get a job done and trying to stay alive doing it.”