The Grandpa Bucket List

This photo is not a bird in the sky. It’s an inexpensive kite purchased with the intent of showing my grandson how to make it fly.

It’s not a bird, not a plane, and certainly not Superman. Photo: Steve Newvine

It’s not a bird, not a plane, and certainly not Superman. Photo: Steve Newvine

As you can see, I was successful. The kite flew proudly over one of the City of Merced’s public parks shortly after the beginning of the new year.

But the safe launch, flight, and return of the kite were more than an achievement to start 2019.

It was also about crossing out something from what I call my grandpa bucket list.

My grandson and me, moments before our kite went in the air. Photo: Steve Newvine

My grandson and me, moments before our kite went in the air. Photo: Steve Newvine

From the time when I was a dad raising two daughters, kite flying was one of many activities we would do as a family.

At the time, we lived in upstate New York in a small community that had a large open park. The park had playground equipment, a small hill for winter sledding, an open air pavilion, and a giant oak tree.
In the summer, we’d go there to use the playground. In the winter, we’d go to use the hill for sledding. But in the spring and fall, we’d go there to fly a kite.

So it was no surprise to anyone when I declared after my grandson was born four years ago that someday, I would show him how to fly a kite.

Two kids, with about 55 years separating us, enjoying a day kite-flying. Photo: Steve Newvine

Two kids, with about 55 years separating us, enjoying a day kite-flying. Photo: Steve Newvine

The beauty of those cheap kites is just how easy it is to get it airborne.

We made it happen within minutes and enjoyed about twenty minutes of flight time. Kite flying was one thing I wanted to experience with my grandson.

But it got me thinking about other things I’d like to do with him.

Here is my grandpa bucket list.

  • Hold him as a newborn
  • Fly a kite
  • Take him to church with me
  • Watch him perform in a school play
  • Enjoy an adventure that ends with the two of us at a real diner (my grandfather did this with me and I never forgot it)
  • Visit a cemetery on Memorial Day
  • Tell him why I feel Johnny Carson was the best ever on TV
  • Attend his high school graduation
  • Attend his college graduation
  • Play some Sinatra and Elvis and explain to him why these artists were so important to me
  • Have a cup of coffee with him paid for from his paycheck at a job he enjoys
  • Attend his wedding
  • Take his phone call he makes just to say hello and see how I’m doing
  • Be nearby when his first child is born

So far, the first two items have been checked off the list. I’m sure I could add a few more if I wanted to.

The important thing for me is that I cherish every opportunity I have to share my time with my grandson.

That’s my grandpa bucket list.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.

He has published Stand-By, Camera One-Love, Friendship, & TV News in 1980. All his books are available at Lulu.com

Many Sad Days in Newman

Marquee at Westside Theater in Newman pays tribute to Police Corporal Ronil Singh, killed in the line of duty during a traffic stop on the day after Christmas. Photo: Steve Newvine

Marquee at Westside Theater in Newman pays tribute to Police Corporal Ronil Singh, killed in the line of duty during a traffic stop on the day after Christmas. Photo: Steve Newvine

Newman is a city in mourning following the shooting death of Police Corporal Ronil Singh.

All over this community, there are tributes to the fallen policeman.

The Christmas holiday brought joy and warmth to homes throughout the Central Valley. But to our neighbors just north of the Merced County line in Stanislaus County, the day after Christmas was marked by tragedy, sadness, and the early stages of the grieving process.

 
Police Corporal Ronil Singh. Photo- Newman Police Department

Police Corporal Ronil Singh. Photo- Newman Police Department

 

Corporal Singh was shot and killed during a traffic stop in the early morning of December 26.

Law enforcement throughout California tracked the man who is now charged with that death.

Gustavo Perez Arriaga was arrested in Kern County two days later. Officials say Arriaga was in the country illegally. He has been charged with murder and could face the death penalty.

St. Joachim Catholic Church on Main Street in Newman, Stanislaus County. Like many properties displaying American flags in Newman, the flag in front of the Church is flying at half-staff in honor of Police Corporal Ronil Singh. Photo- Steve Newvine

St. Joachim Catholic Church on Main Street in Newman, Stanislaus County. Like many properties displaying American flags in Newman, the flag in front of the Church is flying at half-staff in honor of Police Corporal Ronil Singh. Photo- Steve Newvine

In this city of eleven-thousand people, there is now a sense of true loss. Corporal Singh came to America and pursued citizenship so that he could become a police officer.

On my recent visit, I came across several American flags being displayed at half-staff in honor of Corporal Singh. Among the people I saw on my visit was a young father who silently looked at the many flowers in front of the Police Department headquarters. Respecting his privacy, I did not ask him any questions.

I merely offered my acknowledgment of the display of flowers and spoke just three words. “A sad day.”

He looked me in the eye and nodded his head affirmatively. “It sure is,” he said. He then went to his car, and brought his young grade school aged son up to the display.

Flowers from all over California have been sent to the Newman Police Department. All the arrangements are on display in front of the Department headquarters on Main Street. Photo- Steve Newvine

Flowers from all over California have been sent to the Newman Police Department. All the arrangements are on display in front of the Department headquarters on Main Street. Photo- Steve Newvine

Based on the inscription on some of the arrangements, the flowers come from as far away as Redondo Beach in southern California.

Some had banners with short phrases helping the sender express their feelings about Corporal Singh. One in particular read “Hometown Hero”.

One of the posters taped to the wall honoring the Newman Police Department. Photo: Steve Newvine

One of the posters taped to the wall honoring the Newman Police Department. Photo: Steve Newvine

There were posters prepared by younger mourners taped to the front of the Police Department building. One read, “To the police, from Gavin. Thank you.”

Another poster read: “Our hearts are with you Newman P.D.”

A display of flowers, candles, an American flag, and a cross in front of a residence in Newman. Photo- Steve Newvine

A display of flowers, candles, an American flag, and a cross in front of a residence in Newman. Photo- Steve Newvine

The expression of grief extends beyond Main Street in the City of Newman. As I was leaving town heading west of highway 33, I spotted another display in front of a residence.

The display includes a cross made from ordinary PVC pipe. Written on the vertical length of pipe are these words: forever in our hearts, Ronil Singh.

Corporal Singh is remembered as a family man, a trusted colleague, and a loyal friend. His life is being honored by police officers and other first responders, along with family members and friends.

Nowhere is that love and respect more visible than in that small city in southwest Stanislaus County.

It will take time for the City of Newman to grieve the loss of Ronil Singh. He leaves a wife and children, along with extended family, friends, and those in law enforcement near and far who lost a dedicated servant.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.

His new book Stand By, Camera One is available on Lulu.com

Spelling Bee Begins with a Twang, Ends with Phyllophagous

Middle school spelling teams competed in the Merced County Junior High Spelling Bee final held at the Merced County Office of Education offices in Merced. Photo: Steve Newvine

Middle school spelling teams competed in the Merced County Junior High Spelling Bee final held at the Merced County Office of Education offices in Merced. Photo: Steve Newvine

One by one, thirty-four junior high school students from all over Merced County wrote down the words as they were read out loud by the wordmaster.

“Twang,” she pronounced in front of the students who had gathered at the Merced County Office of Education (MCOE) conference room on December 6.

The wordmaster then used the word in a sentence, read the word in front of a microphone again, and instructed the students to go to work.

Unlike the spelling bees we see on television, the students did not have to spell the word out loud.

These students wrote the words in legible pencil. A proctor was assigned to each table of spellers.

When time was up, the proctor would raise his or her pencil signaling their assigned table had completed the task.

A proctor was assigned to each table of spellers at the Merced County Junior High Spelling Bee. Photo: Steve Newvine

A proctor was assigned to each table of spellers at the Merced County Junior High Spelling Bee. Photo: Steve Newvine

As time ticked away, students were eliminated.

“I see many of the same students win year after year and even some from the same families,” says Stacey Arancibia who organizes the Bee as part of her role as Events Planner for MCOE.

“Our third place winner has won before and her brother earned second place in the Elementary Bee held December fifth.”

Some might think spelling is no longer a necessary skill in this day and age of computer spell checks, but that is not the case here.

Spelling is a big thing in Merced County, and an even bigger thing in the state of California.

The state competition allows two students from each county to attend the California State Junior High Spelling Bee in May.

The first and second place winners will represent the County at the statewide event to be held in San Rafael.

Trophies and certificates were awarded to the top finishers at the Merced County Junior High Spelling Bee. Photo: Steve Newvine

Trophies and certificates were awarded to the top finishers at the Merced County Junior High Spelling Bee. Photo: Steve Newvine

While this Junior High competition started out with relatively easy words such as twang, things started getting tight as the words became more complex.

Within one hour, the large group was pared down to about a dozen top spellers. Anxious parents sat in the audience with pride that their children had done their best.

Soon, it was down to just a handful of students.

When Nicole Nguyen correctly spelled phyllophagous, the competition was over. Nicole is the top Junior High speller in Merced County.

Junior High Spelling Bee Wordmaster Audry Garza, a coordinator at MCOE, poses with third place winner Samika Judge, first place winner Nicole Nguyen and second place winner Luke Almeada. Photo: Nate Gnomes, Merced County Office of Education

Junior High Spelling Bee Wordmaster Audry Garza, a coordinator at MCOE, poses with third place winner Samika Judge, first place winner Nicole Nguyen and second place winner Luke Almeada. Photo: Nate Gnomes, Merced County Office of Education

This year’s winners in the Junior-High Bee were:

  • 1st Nicole Nguyen, Cruickshank
  • 2nd Luke Almeada, Cruickshank
  • 3rd Samika Judge, Los Banos Jr High

Each winner received a certificate and a trophy.

The Elementary competition was held the day before at Atwater Valley Community School. Ninety-four spellers took part in that bee.

Just like the Junior High contest, the top two finishers will compete statewide in May.

The statewide event will be held in Stockton.

The winners in the Elementary Bee were:

  • 1st Harneet Sandhu, Los Banos
  • 2nd Arvin Judge, Los Banos
  • 3rd Mariah Dhillon, Winton

The state program these winners will be competing in is not affiliated with the Scripps National Spelling Bee that most people are familiar with.

“Our numbers are increasing,”Stacey says. “Which is always a great thing.”

Merced County Elementary Spelling Bee winners Mariah Dhillon took third place, Arvin Judge took second place and Harneet Sandhu took the top spot. Photo: Nate Gnomes, Merced County Office of Education

Merced County Elementary Spelling Bee winners Mariah Dhillon took third place, Arvin Judge took second place and Harneet Sandhu took the top spot. Photo: Nate Gnomes, Merced County Office of Education

In case you’re wondering, phyllophagous as defined by my family’s American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language as an adjective meaning “feeding on leaves”.

I looked it up.

And for whatever it’s worth, my computer incorrectly flags this spelling with a red line meaning it is either not in the computer’s dictionary or it is misspelled.

It is not misspelled.

Don’t ask me, ask Nicole. Her correct spelling of that word makes her Merced County’s top Junior High speller.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.

He has written Stand By, Camera One available from Lulu.com

Excerpt from Stand By, Camera One

From my college graduation in 1979 until the end of October in 1980, I was on an adventure that set the stage for my adult life.

My first job out of college was news reporter for station WICZ-TV in Binghamton, NY. Photo: Newvine Personal Collection

My first job out of college was news reporter for station WICZ-TV in Binghamton, NY. Photo: Newvine Personal Collection

My new book is called Stand By, Camera One- Love, Friendship, and Local TV News in 1980.

It’s the true story of my first job as a television news reporter for a station in Binghamton, New York.

But it’s also about getting engaged, getting married, meeting a special person who taught me the game of chess, and hopefully a slice of what life was like nearly forty years ago. Here’s an excerpt:

I walked into the lobby of WICZ-TV, channel forty, shortly before noon on May 21, 1979. I told the receptionist who I was and she called the newsroom. Two minutes later, Mark Williams greeted me. We walked through the studio and made our way to the small newsroom.

From there, Mark turned up the sound of a twelve-inch black and white television set that rested on top of a four-drawer filing cabinet. The noon newscast from competitor WBNG-TV channel twelve was just coming on the air.

Mark watched the first segment of the newscast with a pen and pad in his hands to jot down any story subjects that he felt might be worth following up on for that night’s six o’clock news.

I had seen this newsroom before during my job interview. It had three large metal desks with chairs, a four-by-six foot work table, the four-drawer filing cabinet, and a small typewriter stand behind the news director’s desk.

A police scanner was picking up calls on the various radio frequencies tuned into the device. Each desk had a Smith-Corona electric typewriter.

Some of my classmates in college had similar models. The typewriter’s had removable cartridges for typewriter ribbon. The news director’s desk sat at the far end of the newsroom. My desk would be in the middle.

The last desk was for the part time reporter who was covering news in the morning. It would eventually become the desk for the next full time person hired to work in the news department. Missing from what looked like an ordinary television newsroom in the late 1970s small market station was the presence of a teletype machine.

The news budget was so small at WICZ, the station did not subscribe to a wire service like Associated Press or United Press International.

The “tick-tick” sound of a press wire was common in most broadcast stations. That would not be the case here.

This picture was taken shortly after I started my television news job in Binghamton. Photo: Newvine Personal Collection

This picture was taken shortly after I started my television news job in Binghamton. Photo: Newvine Personal Collection

WICZ programmed a half-hour of local news Monday-Friday at six and eleven PM. The station also did two five-minute newscasts that ran during the local breaks of NBC’s Today Show at 7:25 and 8:25 AM.

While we did not talk about it either in my job interview or even now on my first day, the station hoped to program news seven-days a week sometime in the future.

At about ten minutes after twelve o’clock, Mark turned the television set volume down, grabbed his keys, and tested the beeper attached to the side of his belt.

“Come on,” he said with a smile. “Let’s go to lunch.”

We headed to a nice restaurant in the Vestal Plaza and enjoyed a buffet lunch.

When he hired me, Mark said to plan on lunch with him on the first day.

It was his way of getting our working relationship off to a good start. When the check arrived, I reached for my wallet only to be told by Mark. “This one’s on me.”

My eleventh book is called Stand By, Camera One

My eleventh book is called Stand By, Camera One

I spent the rest of the afternoon meeting the staff at channel forty. I was shown my desk and given what amounted to an employee orientation. Mark reviewed the union contract.

My job was classified as an announcer in the union contract between WICZ-TV and the National Association of Broadcast Engineers and Technicians (NABET).

I would eventually get my union card. It was my second card as I had to join a meat-cutters union for a part-time grocery store job I held when I was going to college.

It came as no surprise that I would be going on the air that night. Orientation was nice, but baptism by fire was the only way to learn in a small market television station.

From my desk in the newsroom, I started preparing a three-minute sports report. With all the journalism training I had at Herkimer College and Syracuse University, I never did anything in the sports reporting arena.

This was the local news business, and we were ready to jump in and go to work. There’s a recording in my personal archives of my first broadcast on local television.

Mark Williams anchored the station’s newscast as well as served as news director. He introduced me to the viewers.

“We welcome Steve Newvine to the Eyewitness News team. Steve has lived upstate all his life and recently graduated from Syracuse. Steve, welcome to the Triple Cities.”

I thanked Mark, and began to read a short sports report and an even shorter weather forecast.

Behind the studio wall, the newscast director, Rich Krolak was working the six o’clock newscast. The director controls all the video and audio components that go into a television production.

He or she calls for a specific camera shot, a particular source of audio to be opened, or a video tape to be played. In bigger markets, the director would work with a technical director who would run the video switcher that allows takes from one camera to another.

At WICZ, both roles were handled by the director using dialogue that would sound a little like this: “Stand-by camera one. Take one, ready two. Take two, stand by tape, in three-two-one. Take tape.”

Veterans Memorial Signs Pay Tribute to Merced’s Heroes

Signs Along Veterans Boulevard Call Out 80 Military Killed in Action

Signs Along Veterans Boulevard Call Out 80 Military Killed in Action. Photo by Steve Newvine.

Signs Along Veterans Boulevard Call Out 80 Military Killed in Action. Photo by Steve Newvine.

Chances are family members of US Army Private Cornelius W. Tuyn are no longer in our community.

The same can be likely said for US Army Mechanic John R. Veary.

Both lived in Merced. Both lost their lives in World War I.

Thanks to the City of Merced, both are being remembered.

Chronologically, they are the first veterans to be honored in the City of Merced’s Memorial Plaque initiative.

*By Veterans Day on November 11, eighty signs will be lining a broad section of M Street in the City of Merced.

One of eighty memorial signs honoring veterans who lost their lives in US military service. Each sign names a service member from the City of Merced who was killed in action. Photo- Steve Newvine.

One of eighty memorial signs honoring veterans who lost their lives in US military service. Each sign names a service member from the City of Merced who was killed in action. Photo- Steve Newvine.

Among the men whose names appear on the signs is US Navy Corporal Robert M. Crowell who lost his life in World War II.

He was born in the same month that Private Tuyn was killed during World War I: October 1918. Crowell who served in the US Navy, died on July 2, 1944.

The signs are memorials to members of the armed services killed in action who were from the City of Merced. The memorials cover service members from World War I on up to the war in Afghanistan.

The signs have white lettering over a blue background. Individually, they recognize a soldier, his rank, branch of service, and years served.

Collectively, they make a very strong statement as to how our community shows respect to those who gave their lives defending our country.

“They are all from the City of Merced and all members who died in combat zones,” says Mike Conway, the City of Merced Information Officer.

These white on blue signs are on utility poles up and down M Street. Each one recognizes the service of a soldier from the City of Merced. Photo: Steve Newvine

These white on blue signs are on utility poles up and down M Street. Each one recognizes the service of a soldier from the City of Merced. Photo: Steve Newvine

Army Private Tuyn and Mechanic Veary are the only two Merced residents known to be killed in action during World War I.

Thirty-seven of the eighty soldiers memorialized on the signs served in World War II. The signs include the names of thirteen soldiers killed in the Korean War, twenty-one from the Vietnam War, and four from Operation Iraqi Freedom through the war in Afghanistan.

Among the Korean veterans is US Air Force Captain Ralph A. Ellis, Junior. Captain Ellis died on July 21, 1950.

The memorial to fallen veterans was a natural next step in the City of Merced’s journey to pay tribute for the contributions of all who have served in the military.

In recent years, Merced City Council renamed the bridge on M Street spanning Bear Creek to Veterans Memorial Bridge.

A section of M Street near the bridge now carries the name Veterans Boulevard.

In the most recent stage of renovation for the bridge, five flag poles were installed representing each of the five branches of the Armed Forces.

Flags from those branches of the military will now be flown on the bridge during special occasions and at other times to honor veterans.

Part of the list naming the eighty soldiers from Merced who were killed in action in our nation’s wars. Photo: Steve Newvine

Part of the list naming the eighty soldiers from Merced who were killed in action in our nation’s wars. Photo: Steve Newvine

The City’s Department of Public Works has been posting the new signs along M Street.

Of the twenty-one soldiers listed among the veterans who died in action in Vietnam, five were Marines.

That list includes Lance Corporal Juan B. Valtierra who was killed on January 5, 1966.

It’s an ambitious undertaking, and it will be an ongoing task to find, verify, and post memorials to other City of Merced veterans who may not be on the current list.

“We don’t believe it is a complete list,”Mike Conway says.“We are seeking the public’s help in making it complete.”

The city staff has started this project with the names of 80 military personnel from the City who have died while serving during combat.

One complication is limited records on World War I Veterans.

That is why Assistant City Manager Stephanie Dietz says her team needs help from the community.

“If your loved one was a City resident who died in battle and is not on this list, please let us know.”

The current list of the eighty City residents being memorialized is posted at www.cityofmerced.org/veterans.

The most recent death memorialized on the signs is US Army Private First Class Luca C. Hopper. Private Hopper died on October 30, 2009.

More names will be added as City staff, working with local veterans groups, verifies other City of Merced residents who were killed in action.

More names may be added if there are more deaths of City residents serving in the current war in Afghanistan. The names I chose to use in the column represent four branches of the armed services: Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines.

I selected one from each war America has fought since World War I, and I included two for World War I as there were only two in that category. Hopefully, when we see these signs we remember not only the soldier whose name appears, but all the men and women throughout the country who made the sacrifice.

Soldiers like Army Private Tuyn and Mechanic John R. Veary are remembered today, more than one-hundred years after they were killed in action thanks to this effort by the City of Merced.

We are grateful to these brave men for their service and proud of the sacrifice from all our veterans.**

Steve Newvine lives in Merced

He remembers his Uncle Bill Newvine who served in Vietnam in the book Finding Bill, available at Lulu.com