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A joke always helps

The Spirit of Tehachapi

Some years ago I was asked by The Friends of the Depot to speak at one of their meetings about my experiences in riding the passenger trains that came through our city regularly.

I can scarcely believe how long it has been. Some 50 or so years. I mentioned to one of my sons what I was going to do and he said when beginning a speech I should start with a joke to lighten the mood. The audience was made of friends and they were kind and cooperative. The evening went well and they laughed in all of the right places. People like trains.

Reverting back some years in my memory I recall my Public Speaking class at Tehachapi High School. I was a senior in 1946 and World War II had ended the August before. Our teacher was good and we had a pleasant rapport with her. But, she decided that some of us needed to speak to the American Legion Post 221. The subject of our talk was to be: how we thought our nation could handle our relations with other countries of the world to maintain better foreign relations. She chose four of us from the class. What I knew about that subject was nothing.

Our teacher realized that if we were going to have anything for us to talk about she'd better start throwing information our way. We took notes and whatever our instructor's political opinions were we probably had the same. I remember one word from my speech: coalition. We gave our speeches facing about 30 World War II veterans who, I am proud to say did not laugh or say anything in a critical manner. One person, Berniece Wilson, the local Postmaster, said kindly, "it's good to see you using your heads." If we could have just spoken from our hearts that we were happy the war had ended and we were glad they were home and sorry about those who did not come home. We hoped there would never need to be in another war. We did feel that. I, and all involved were happy when the speeches ended. We, the students, the Legion members and the principal of the High School as well!

The principal took us out for ice cream after the speeches. I guess things went as well as could be expected. It's too bad our 1946 solutions for lasting peace didn't work out as well.

Even today I occasionally need to give a little talk that has a meaningful point. It's nice to do that but I never discuss politics or religion. It always helps to start with a joke, also.