Sunday, March 1, 2015

Got Yer Ears On, Good Buddy?

Old Lessons Still Ring True
by "Dad" Thomas R. Labagh

"Breaker 1-9 to the eastbound Buster Brown. What's yer 20? Got yer ears on? This is the westbound Cheshire Cat shoutin’ at ya— come back, good buddy! Did you see any rolling gumball machines behind you?"

"Breaker 1-9 to that there Cheshire Cat. You'd better cool yer jets or you'll be bear bait fer shure!"

"That's a big 10-4, Buster Brown.”

In the “old days” when I was active as a State Officer in NJ DeMolay, we didn't have cell phones, but the thing that every teenage driver HAD to have was a Citizen’s Band (CB) radio. We could travel as a convoy, and talk to each other while driving, if within a range of a couple of miles, and if nobody else was on the same channel with a stronger signal. 

Every interstate trucker had one, of course, and they communicated with one another for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was to alert fellow truckers to the locations of “Smokey Bear” and “PYT’s” (pretty young things.) 

Some popular movies of that time made lots of money off the CB craze including “Convoy,” “Every Which Way But Loose,” “White Line Fever” and “Smokey and the Bandit” (parts 1, 2 and 3.)

Everyone had a nickname, called a “CB handle,” and mine was "The Cheshire Cat." (I can’t really remember why, but this was at a time when I was very content to melt into the wall or remain in the background, listening intently, saying nothing, and covering my awkwardness with just a smirk on my face.) But I liked it at the time and had personal letterhead made with the Disney cartoon image, and used it for letters to friends. 

My Dad’s CB handle was interesting to me— he was dubbed “Old Reliable” and I can only guess why, but I think my guesses are pretty good. In his work-life, he was an Electrical Engineer, and at some time in his career he was given the title of Reliability Engineer, either for the Bendix Corp, or the Conrac Corp., or Lear Siegler, Inc., or Smith Industries.

For the longest time, he couldn't tell me what he did for a living, because he worked on government contracts for the military and for NASA. He finally was able to tell me that one project his team worked on was the auto-pilot for the Gemini spacecraft. I remember asking him what a Reliability Engineer was, and he told me it was his job to break things… to test their limits… specifically to push aircraft instrumentation to the breaking point so that there would be zero chance of a failure when in flight. At that moment, my Dad became pretty cool, to me and I delighted in telling people he got paid to break things! But I also understood that he took his work very seriously, because his reputation, his company’s reputation and the lives of pilots and others relied on his work every day.

In his personal life, he also had a reputation for being reliable.

If Everett Labagh said he would get something done, it got done. If he said he was going to be somewhere, he was there. If he said he would complete a project, or learn a ritual part, or chair a DeMolay Advisory Council meeting, or drive us on a visitation, he did it, without fail. His word was as good as his bond. He was organized, detailed, and methodical. He kept an appointment calendar with him always, so he would never miss a commitment, and would be able to answer requests to help others on future dates. He kept careful notes on what was said at meetings and who promised to complete which tasks. He kept file folders on every activity and updated them frequently, so that nothing was left to his memory. To everyone he knew, he truly was “Old Reliable.”  

He seldom sat me down to specifically teach me a lesson or talk to me about what I should do, or how I should do it. He just set a great example for me, and for his peers, and every time I gave the first DeMolay ritual part I ever learned, the Fifth Preceptor, Fidelity, I thought of my Dad.

As DeMolays and as leaders, we should ALL be worthy of being called “Old Reliable.”

"This is the Cheshire Cat, KAMT1459, I'm 10-10 on the side."

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