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Narrow perspectives and low expectations, Part 1

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By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

In the valley where the old house stands on the Beaver Farm, radio reception was not very good. Lying in bed at night, listening to my Sears Silvertone 9 transistor radio (I still have it, it is in a bookcase in my office along with a lot of other “relics”), I could pick up WLW in Cincinnati but little else.

I don’t know what television reception was at that house, we didn’t have one. Dad had thrown that device out long ago in Troy. The final straw had been “Mr. Ed.” Dad couldn’t believe people would waste their time, watching a “talking horse in a plywood box.” His boys were not going to do that. So, we didn’t.

I longed to hear modern rock 'n' roll, but that was not the WLW format. Occasionally, I could pick up other “Clear Channel” late-night radio stations, but the weather had to be just right. Thus, I spent my teenage nights listening to Crosby, but not of Crosby, Stills and Nash fame and Sinatra, but not Nancy, and Deano – Amoré (When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie…).

Later, as I will explain in a future column, this lust for modern music was nearly my downfall.

I knew all those old standards by heart, which left a lot of time to think about other things. Why? Well, Dad like to go to bed at 8:30 p.m. (Years later, in Cincinnati, my parents’ house was actually burglarized about 9 p.m. because the crooks thought no one was home when they were merely in bed). So, we all went to bed at 8:30 p.m. This teenager had a lot of time to think in the dark as Bing Crosby crooned in the background.

From that perspective, I thought the world was a huge place. I imagined the distance to Cincinnati as being an unbelievably long journey, hence the rest of the world was so much further away. I so wanted to travel. I did not know how I was going to do it, but I was determined to find a way. I thought the path would be to be an engineer for John Deere, way off in Moline, Ill., but that was not to be.

There was another person in my neighborhood, a few years my senior, who had the same itch. The youngest of a large family, she had heard Mr. Lyman Wisecup, a famous educator in Marshall, say, in class one day, “You can be anything you want to be.”

She happened to be paying attention and caught the bug. On the bus, every day, she was studying. Her first perspective was to be a nurse, then later, a doctor, and then, later, a cancer surgeon. She has had a very successful career in a distant city.

As I write this, about 55 years later, I am sitting in the Sky Club at the Atlanta Airport, waiting for my flight this evening to Washington state. One of the projects which engages me now requires me to go to Longview, Wash. once per month for a day to review budgets, schedules and construction.

I have had many of these repetitive style assignments over the years, and I always work to make the travel as efficient as possible. I have succeeded in getting this one down to 44 hours, from my front door back to my front door. It would be correct to say my perspective from the old days has changed a bit. Think that is fast? While I am doing that, the International Space Station has orbited the Earth nearly 30 times. It all depends on one’s perspective.

In this series, my objective is to challenge you to think about your perspectives and your expectations. I think it is a tragedy, for people personally and for us as a nation, to be satisfied with the status quo, to not reach for the stars, to not be all we can be. I have watched in my lifetime, as we have become numb, satisfied with a limited view and non-existent to modest goals. (See my previous 10-part series and the concept of the useful idiots.)

Let me stop for a second and clarify matters a bit. I’ll not look down on any job or any modest wanderlust. That may be your thing. But I will challenge you to be the best at what you do at the stretch distance from home where you are most comfortable, whether it be Rainsboro, Bainbridge, Chillicothe or Istanbul, Turkey. What I want to do is knock in the head the ideas that “I am not good enough or I am not smart enough or I can’t go there because of whatever.” Nonsense.

Put your stake in the ground and go for it.

Harm can start at a very early age and be perpetuated throughout the formative years, by teachers, parents and other authority figures. (I think an ADHD diagnosis, and the drugs that may go with it, is a scourge on the psyche).

We are graduating people from high school who think the word “commencement” means the end not the beginning.

Years ago, a college fund organization ran commercials with the tag line, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” As recipients of that message, it seems to me we have not only not heeded it, we have adopted it as a (lack of) performance standards for all.

It is the crime of the century, the dumbing down and demotivation of America. Let’s see if we can do something about it here.

Adults, let’s resolve to all become Mr. Wisecups.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at

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