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Unique ExperienceI Am 91 Years Old - Back for AMA #4 - Ask Me Anything!

Feb 28th 2017 by dcretiree • 14 Questions • 367 Points

I was quite sure my AMA from 6 months ago would be my last for two reasons. First, at my age, you never know when the Grim Reaper might appear. But, more likely, I felt that after answering 1,000 questions, there would be no more. Yet the young people of Reddit truly surprised me with 1,000 more. I had the time of my life – really – responding to all manner of queries: so thoughtful, relevant, studious and often meaningful to me and (hopefully, my answers) to the questioners. And so (as jazz artist Count Basie said with his classic ending of “April in Paris,” One more once! PROOF

My life in brief:

  • Born lower middle class in San Antonio in 1925

  • Public school grades 1-11

  • Joined Marine V-12 program in 1943, but was spared deployment to Japan by the atomic bomb

  • After the war earned three degrees in Illinois and Michigan through the G.I. Bill

  • Spent my working years in education, teaching from kindergarten to university level - but the most meaningful work as as a junior high school principal in an inner city school for 15 years

  • Moved to Washington, DC for retirement after my wife passed away

And I'll preempt two of the most frequent (and interesting) questions I get:

On my attitude towards DEATH: I was amazed that people felt so deeply about it. Yet my honest response was that it's a subject that I've given almost no thought to it – and never have. It's something that I can do nothing – or little – about so why worry? And I generally added that I that see my life as a (beautiful?) flower that remains that way for some time, and then, when life no longer has meaning, returns to the earth.

How I've maintained my health: 1. Lifelong support of a caring family and friends. 2. Continued interaction with young people throughout my life. 3. Enough income to satisfy my somewhat simple wants and needs but not so much that I worry about the accumulation of wealth. 4. The help of a supportive, caring government. 5. A positive outlook on life, and 6. Satisfying and meaningful employment.

I will do my best to answer every single question! Should there be another deluge of questions, it could take me the full six months, as it did previously, to answers them all. I use a weekly blog to share some of my thoughts so I'd encourage you to "tune into my (usually) weekly blog at

http://www.ronlehkersrants.blogspot.com

You'll not only find the status of my responding, but also to learn more of my attempts to reflect on 90+ years of living.

Q:

Hi Grandpa! It's Jake. Here's a question for you: What was the biggest challenge you and Regina faced raising a family?

A:

Oh my, is there nothing sacred in my family? Must I disclose all of my – and my wife's – peccadilloes? My first thought (and safest answer) was the difficulty in leaving an idyllic lifestyle in Ann Arbor with children loving their elementary, junior high and to a lesser degree, high school and moving to Washington DC (where we only stayed a year). But since I am pledged to honesty, further deeper thought reminds me of several aspects of the cultural change in lifestyle – particularly having our offsprings cohabitating before they were married. But how utterly wonderful has been the result. One is never too old to learn!


Q:

What do you regret doing and not doing in life?

A:

I hope you been able to read between the lines of my introduction enough to see that I feel extremely fortunate in virtually everything I've been able to do in my 91 years. I do regret that I never traveled to what we used to call the Orient or Australia and New Zealand. And on a more personal note I regret that I did not have more confidence when in my early professional life I was placed in some rather esoteric leader ship positions that I could have made more of a contribution had I had more confidence and experience. Thanks for the opportunity to reminisce.


Q:

What DO you regret doing in life?

A:

My, you really want to push me on this. I really have few regrets, but there is one aspect that I truly deeply regret but it is complicated to explain. But here goes. The mainline, liberal Christian church has been one of the cornerstones in the building of my life. And I recognize that these churches and the more fundamental African-American churches have been a vital force in my lifetime in espousing change and improvement in American society. Yet it was only in the last 10 years or so that I realized how much this institution because of its continued focus on doctrine that I believe most thoughtful members do not believe has been the cause of its decline in membership. My solution has been membership in the Unitarian/Universalist church. The institution that Jefferson felt all Americans would be a part of within 100 years and reflects much of the thinking of the transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emerson. But that only scratches the surface of my feeling. Thanks for asking


Q:

How did you arrive at satisfying and meaningful employment? How long have you been in the same industry? Any advice for millennials heading into a job market that doesn't seem to value longevity in employees?

A:

The world is so much different now than the one I entered right after WWII, that I am reluctant to give advice. Since I enjoyed children in school the teaching profession was a natural for me when I realized that there was no way I wanted to be a Christian minister. Making the progression from teacher to principal to assistant superintendent to university work and back to my first love, a junior high school principal, gave me variety, challenges and adequate income (though honestly with a fair inheritance along the way.) Education at any level provides adequate vacation time. The state of Michigan has provided an adequate retirement program, and I think this is extremely important for one to think about. There are a great many things to balance in choosing one's employment and the complexity of today's world has made it much more difficult I know. Good luck to you.


Q:

How has the riverwalk changed over the years?

A:

I remember the river before there was a Riverwalk. And I recall that there was a very progressive mayor named Maury Maverick who initiated the program. Further I proudly claim to have been one of the oarsmen for the first parade on the river – we were polers pushing from the rear of the barge with long poles.

How beautiful it was to see the beautiful plantings and restaurants joining the magnificent cypress trees. I could wax for a long time about my love of San Antonio and I was there with relatives a year ago and I'll be back in April to welcome some of my German relatives. One of the beauties at that time was that all of the restaurants and stores were local.

You might also be interested in the slogan that was given San Antonio at that time, "One of America's four unique cities". You have to supply the other three, but San Antonio must be one. I add Santa Fe, New Orleans, San Francisco. How about you?


Q:

How do you feel about the way food has evolved over the years? It seems like you've gone from very unprocessed to very processed foods over your lifetime.

A:

Perhaps it's a carryover from the depression years when we were happy to have any food, but I enjoy eating most anything and am not particular about its source. Certainly our eating habits and the proliferation of restaurants is one of the most dramatic changes I have seen in my lifetime. Most important to me I think continues to be getting good value for the money I spent and I really don't enjoy food and extremely fancy/expensive restaurants when I don't really know what I'm eating.


Q:

My grandpa died 2 years ago. He also joined in 1943.. the air force. He had no flying experience, and his training was literally getting in the plane, and told what the joystick does. His instructor flew with him the first few rounds, and then he practiced on his own... always flying around flag poles. He told me the instructor never thought he was any good at it.

But he also was spared deployment because of the bomb. He ended up getting a job as an artist for soup cans and buying a house, getting married and had a few kids.

I know all of this because I stayed with him the last few years of his life due to his failing health. It was rough, but I got to know him better than I ever had.

So, my question to you is, can you believe how much the world has changed since then? And, how do you view today's wars going forward, in comparison? I am asking this in the context that it must have been scary to not know which way the entire world was going to end up in 1943... and I feel that way today where it seems like the world is going to change significantly in the next 50 years, and I am not sure it's for the better.

A:

Yours is indeed a heartwarming message. Thanks. How fortunate your grandfather had you around to help. I feel the same way with a grandson now living here in DC who has helped me with my "blog problems". I'm curious, where did your grandfather get his flight training? San Antonio?

Indeed the world is tremendously different from the much more simple, slow-paced confident "small" world in which he and I grew up. While there were dire times during the war (I particularly felt this when Hitler and Stalin join forces in an alliance), I never really recall being scared. There was a confidence that good would win over evil.

I believe that this resulted in our truly believing in the truth of American exceptionalism! In spite of our slow progress toward justice for all I've always felt this way – until now. I am dismayed that Trump was able to find at least 40% of Americans ready to follow his type of leadership that renounces so much of what I believe it.

However I am heartened. I believe that young people and women are finding their voice and that with patience and determination the next 50 years can even be better.

Interesting that your grandfather and I shared so much of the same – including being spared by the bomb. I was getting ready to invade Japan.


Q:

As a San Antonian... which city is better, Dallas or Houston, and why is the answer Houston?

A:

Because it's near Galveston because it is near Galveston, but nothing holds a candle to the Alamo city.


Q:

If you could re-do one thing, make a different decision in your past - do you have something that you would change?

A:

Given the marvelous opportunities I have been given and the fullness of my life I have few regrets. As I explained however in a previous similar question I do wish I had had more confidence earlier in my life when I was "too early placed in prestigious position" to advocate changes in education I now believe in so very strongly.


Q:

Did you ever see Elvis live?

Where is your favourite overseas holiday destination?

Are you a whiskey drinker?

A:

Why would I want to see Elvis? When I was stationed at Camp Pendleton in California I had many weekends in Hollywood seeing radio shows that ranged from Sinatra to Duffy's Tavern to Dinah Shore to Stan Kenton's band at the Hollywood Palladium and the Duke Ellington at an outdoor venue in San Antonio. How's that for name dropping. I used to think Hawaii was my favorite overseas destination, but having visited the small town in Germany where my grandfather came from I've really enjoyed the beauties of Germany and Austria.

Raised as a teetotaler, I still have great difficulty mixing drinks so I'll take my bourbon straight on the rocks.


Q:

How did it feel living thru the cold war? Were you scared at any level by events such as the cuban missle crisis?

A:

I find it interesting that I really had no great sense of fear during any of those periods. I'm not sure if it was living in the Midwest at that time rather than living in DC as I do now or if it is my general respect and feeling of confidence in leaders that good decisions would be made.

I'm sorry that that same confidence and leadership is not exist now.


Q:

Why are you a bot that just asks what people's favorite films are?

A:

OMG! I just had to answer this one right now because it's gotten such a following. I'm so unsophisticated in answering questions I'm not sure the best way to follow up with so many of you who seem to somewhat ridicule a logical question. First my answer – this is hard for me to answer because there are so many that I have enjoyed many go back to the past like gaslight,Spellbound, Maltese falcon, rear window, and one of my more recent all-time favorites, Anatomy of a Murder. And of course I truly enjoy any good Broadway musical brought to the screen because of my affection for the American musical from The Music Man to Sweeney Todd. And most recently I did enjoy Fences and I and Lion. I know I've left out many because my moods change as well as does my memory ability. And for the record I personally like it when people recommend movies to me because there are so many great ones – as well as very bad ones there often highly recommended.


Q:

In that case, good luck bud.

A:

OMG! I just had to answer this one right now because it's gotten such a following. I'm so unsophisticated in answering questions I'm not sure the best way to follow up with so many of you who seem to somewhat ridicule a logical question. First my answer – this is hard for me to answer because there are so many that I have enjoyed many go back to the past like gaslight,Spellbound, Maltese falcon, rear window, and one of my more recent all-time favorites, Anatomy of a Murder. And of course I truly enjoy any good Broadway musical brought to the screen because of my affection for the American musical from The Music Man to Sweeney Todd. And most recently I did enjoy Fences and I and Lion. I know I've left out many because my moods change as well as does my memory ability. And for the record I personally like it when people recommend movies to me because there are so many great ones – as well as very bad ones there often highly recommended.


Q:

hahaha 'America first' 'keep American culture alive' 'working with Russia to keep peace between our nations' 'America is a christian nation'

god, what a joke.

A:

I hope you saw my response – I truly feel it important that we have meaningful dialogue rather than deprecating a person with a different idea than ours