Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Karate Chops and Hoof Clops.

On the domestic front, the kids began to dominate much of our lives. They had reached an age when joining a wealth of activities were available and generally they had their own talents to pursue, but all three did desire signing up for Karate.
Darryl, the youngest, was the first. I am not certain what attracted him to this at the time. I think he knew someone who was doing it. My wife says we put him n karate because kids were picking on him and she wanted him to be able to defend himself. Anyway, in December 1989 we enrolled him at Gentle Palm Karate Academy. Darryl was 7 years old at the time. It was only a couple of weeks later when Laurel also decided she wanted to learn martial arts as well and she signed on right around Christmas. She was 11.

Gentle Palm was fairly new in the area. It was down in a strip mall along Philadelphia Pike to
the east of Claymont. There use to be a Subway in the same strip where sometimes I bought subs. (I won't call them Hoagies, Subway is too second rate to be so honored.) I stopped in one night and spent some time talking to the man who owned the dojo and did almost all the training at that time, Master Crawley Berry. What a fascinating personally. A dignified looking African-American of about my height and stature, but far superior in physical fitness. At that time he held a 3rd degree Black Belt from the World Tang Soo Do Association, where he had trained under Master Young K. Kwon and Grand Master Jae C. Shin. (He would become a 5th Degree Master Instructor in 1998. His current rank of 6th Dan was obtained in 2007.) 
What amazed me was his story. He had retired fairly recently from working as a maintenance
man on the railroad. He was 55 years old and pursued his life time dream of owning his own dojo. This was in 1989 when my kids began joining his program 28 years ago. That would put his age today somewhere around 83, yet except for his thinning hair, he looks little changed by the years and remains as flexible and energetic as when I first met him. (Right: Master Crawley Berry at the 2014 Claymont Green Day.)
Master Berry continues to run Gentle Palm and to train students there. His dojo has expanded and is now located in its own building on the opposite side of Philadelphia Pike. He has several instructors working for him, one of whom actually began his training in the same classes as my children. He has also expanded his scope of training. Although Tong Soo Do remains at the core, there is training in Haidong Gumdo, a Korean Sword Art and Tai Chi.

Noelle was the last to decide to join her siblings in this endeavor, somewhat surprising since she was the most athletic of my offspring. She was 9 when she started. She decided to take it up more than a month after her brother and sister. This was no big deal to her, but it made a difficulty for us because it put her into a different belt level of trainees. There would even be times when each child was in a separate belt level and boy did that keep us hopping.
Let me explain, best as I can remember, this belt level business. Each person began the training as a white belt, like being a buck private. You had no stripe, you are at the bottom. You did receive a free dogi (or karategi), what we outsiders call a uniform. Nothing really exiotic about dogi or karategi, the words mean clothes. This dogi was all white, except for an American Flag patch on the upper right sleeve and a Gentle Palm patch on the left breast. After several weeks of training and a qualifying test, a new deshi; that is, student, earns a stripe, which is affixed near the end of the belt. That first belt is, of course, white.
After earning a first stripe, the deshi begin working their way up the belt ranks. Each rank,
orange, green, blue, up until red also must earn a stripe to move on. It takes several weeks of training with a test afterward to earn a new rank. The photo of Noelle (Above left) was taken three years into her training. She is wearing a red belt with one stripe two ranks below black. Also after each belt is earned the deshi is also given new uniform trim of the same color. In the photo on the right, Darryl and Laurel have just obtained their Orange Belts, one step up from white; they still have their whte trim. Darryl is carrying both halfs of the board he was required to break. When the red belt is obtained, the deshi must train and test for two stripes rather than one before continuing toward the black belt.
All three of my children earned their black belts. It was not easy. There were no participation belts given in karate. Every belt one got was earned. Mr. Berry was strict and demanding, but always fair. He had the students respect, but much of that was because he respected them. He encouraged, never talked down, but never gave reward without full effort. Putting my children in karate was the best investment I ever made. It taught them discipline, respect, confidence and so very important, perseverance. It taught them to stick with something and you will achieve. (Photo left is Noelle during part of her Black Belt testing, breaking one board with her kick, then breaking the second with a chop.)
Training classes were an hour three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Sometimes there was an additional class on a Saturday morning if a test or demonstration was coming soon. There was no summer vacation, no spring break. They got Christmas off and that was about it. The training was 52 weeks of the year. Testing was often done on a non-training day.  It took nearly 4 years to reach Black Belt.
It wasn’t easy on parents either. Classes fell at 5:00, 6:00 and 7:00 depending on the belt level. This meant that Lois had to fit supper in their somehow while I delivered the kids to their class. Because of how the kids had started out staggered, this often meant they were at a different level. I would drop off Darryl, come home and get Laurel. Drop off Laurel and pick up Darryl, then come home, drop off Darryl and pick up Noelle. I would go back to drop off Noelle and fetch home Laurel, and then finally return to get Noelle. Whew!
My kids eventually got on the Karate Demonstration Team, performing at malls, schools and special events around the area. Laurel, facing on the right, and Noelle, the blond to the back, taking part in a routine during a Karate Demonstration.

My kids took part in a big Karate Tournament on February 20, 1993.  It was a disappointing outing for Darryl and his emotions show on his face in this photograph.  Laurel took 2nd place overall and Noelle took 3rd place overall. Darryl didn’t win a thing, but as I said, there were no participation trophies in Karate. You got what you earned, or in this case, what you won.
Well, I say that, but maybe this plaque I was given was a participation award. What did I do
as a parent, except be at many a practice, go to every test, root and encourage them, get them to their classes and make sure they did their exercises…Now that I think of it, I probably did deserve a trophy.
Finally, in 1994 they each received their Black Belts.
They had all excelled at the discipline, especially Noelle, who I noted was the most athletic of them. She did so well that Mr. Berry offered her a job as an instructor, which he decided to turn down. After all that would have been a big commitment for a 13 year-old.

Of course she was only 4 years away from joining the Army, so maybe she could have handled it.
Now it might look like plenty of agravation running those kids back and forth to the Karate dojo, but that wasn’t the end of things. Oh, no, they had other activities as well. You see those bumper stickers saying, “Mom’s Taxi,’ or “Dad’s Shuttle Service”. Well, it ain’t really a joke, and the kids never tipped very good.
Oh, if you’re wondering about that Proverbs 31:27 reference. It’s:
    She looks well to the ways of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness. (ESV)

When you have three kids getting involved with what is available for kids to get involved in, you not only don’t eat the bread of idleness, you’re lucky if you find time to eat at all.
Laurel was still going for her weekly horseback lessons and to regular horseshows in 1990.  She had started lessons in 1986 when she was eight years old. We found a wonderful place out on Old Kenneth Pike called Gateway Stables. It was at the top of a drive with a storybook name, Merrybell Lane. The owner and chief instructor was Marie Jakubauskas. She really connected with her young students, but she was cut from the same material as Crawley Berry at Gentle Palm, a no-nonsense and demanding guide.  Laurel continued riding weekly until sometime after she graduated high school.
 The photo on the right was at a 1996 horseshow and Laurel was 18. She is the young lady standing on the right next to the fence wearing a Pisces sweatshirt.

She misses going ridingeven today, but her jobs have interfered. Occasionally, she has managed to get on a horse and ride with a friend. The photo on the left was taken on one of these rides in 2011 when Laurel was 33.

Laurel posing with a display of
the ribbons she won at horse shows.

My parents were down on May 11 to see Darryl go through the routines.  Throughout these years of the early ‘90s, my parents came down to see the kids in many of their activities.
My mom had a big domestic goose, named Goosie. I am not sure where this bird came from, but she had her for several years. This year Goodie laid an egg out back and got it in her head she would be a mother. She would not leave the spot in the yard and stayed sitting on the egg hoping it would hatch. After sitting faithfully on her egg for four days Goosie got killed in the night by a fix. My mother found her in the morning and cried. She had lost another pet she loved. I called her up and we talked for a long time.
In June I and my dad went over to Bishop’s Pond with the kids. Bishop had built the pond
several years earlier. A little stream fed into it. Where the pond was then had just been part of the fields when I was a teenager living nxt door. I use to cut across that field to walk to my hgh school. Laurel caught a tadpole and a frog. She was very much into animals. She did let them go later.
On Saturday, June 23, we celebrated my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary at Yodor’s Restaurant north of Pottstown. 198 people attended. I was the MC and read a speech I had written. It was in this speech I finally confessed about the failed brakes in the Studebaker back when I was 15 and Rich Wilson and I were taking people cars on joyrides. I had never had the nerve to tell them before. I figured after 35 years they wouldn’t ground me.

On June 29 my parents were down to watch Laurel test of a stripe in Karate. See, as I said, they came down to a lot of the kid’s activities.

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