Sunday, February 03, 2008

World War II USA, Blogengeezer

This is another long one so don't even try it if your'e in a hurry. The Juke Box will help you 'not' concentrate so turn it on before you start, that way the time will pass faster..and if you are still awake, this other 'linked' website is really long and about a little US military history.


As a young 'Buck',
I recall Dad and Grandpa building our house. I couldn't really walk yet, so crawled up the newly built wooden stairs only to fall down from the loft which was to become my bedroom. I still remember the smell of fresh cut pine. Our first stove was Kerosene fueled. For a few years we took turns bathing in the water heated on that stove. The dirtiest person was the last in the big metal pan on the floor, with an additional couple of gallons of clean hot water added.

Our bath and non-potable water was collected in big concrete cisterns filled by rainwater from the intricate gutter systems that my Grandfather and Dad installed on our houses. First we used a little, sink mounted hand pump. As money became available Dad installed a little electric pump under the kitchen. Now that was class. Dad then added an indoor toilet, sink and a real tub, no more big metal pan on the floor. What will these people think of next? A real hot water heater came only after the end of the 2nd world war. Now that was 'Hot'. We had to conserve everything. The water in the tub was only 2 inches deep and a yellow color because of the cistern rainwater system.

Dad was also a State Game Warden. His nickle plated 38 S&W revolver, along with his 410 ga, long barrel, Winchester pump shotgun and Moms Marlin pump action 22, hung over the wide passage from the house to the kitchen. The kitchen had once been Grandpa's tool shed and was then built onto the main house. It was important that Dad was a State Game Warden. We regularly ate tasty Pheasants and rabbits that he hunted, surveyed, counted, shot, and had to check, to make sure they were healthy,... for his reports of course....Yeah right! Yummm!

Dad worked two other jobs to have the cash to buy the materials to build the house, as he could afford them. One was as school teacher/principle. The other was shoveling coal at night in the city electrical generating power plant. Oh Yeah! there was no such thing as a home loan unless you had cash to cover it in the bank.

If you were 'sub prime' you didn't own 'squat'. The old cash receipts for supplies are still in a box in our closet. My oldest son found them while cleaning out Mom's last house he bought. Our son's are extremely 'Prime'. They don't believe in being 'sub prime'.

I recall Walt Disney's Fantasia as my first theater movie, felt really sorry for the dinosaurs, but liked the dancing flowers and flying horses. The brooms were scary. I remember the big thrill of the traveling 'Yo-Yo Man'. Movies for us were very rare, we wore hand me downs. I was very fortunate to have an older, bigger cousin with generous parents and the few store bought clothes came by mail order from Sears and Roebuck, J.C. Penney and Montgomery Wards.

Chickens, chickens and more chickens were the order of business at our little farm. My first job was chicken chasing. Next job was chicken catching. Dragging them to Grandma to chop off their heads with her old bloody axe on a big tree stump. She would fling em aside and they would run around, "like a chicken with it's head cut off", chasing us kids while 'pumpin out'. Great excitement for us kids.
I had to grow into that job later when I could swing the axe. For now I got to do some feather 'pluckin', after the hot scalding water dip. A little 'butcherin' was good for anxiety relaxation.

Grandma had, at one time, driven a school bus. That was when only men drove vehicles because of the strength required to steer (no power steering) shift the big gears (no automatic transmission) and push the heavily sprung clutch on those big trucks. One more thing, the brakes were just massive shoes with mechanical rods to press them against the drums. With no 'power assist', if you were weak, you could not stop the truck. She was very strong and could go the distance with any man on any job. Grandpa, who at the time was a chauffer, (previous story) critisized her driving. Grandma got angry and told him that from now forward, he could do all driving in their life. She never drove, ever again. Grandpa now had one other duty to handle in his busy day. I'll bet he regretted his words many times after that.

One of the pastimes, was walking with my Grandmother along the endless hedgerows between fields. Not only did the wildlife hide there, the asparagus and wild rasberrys grew plentiful in them. My Grandmother knew the best thickets and just when each harvest was the easiest to gather. She wore a big apron and carried a small bag made from one of the flour sacks. She handmade all of her accessories and kitchen towels from those blue patterned sacks. She always had flour sacks, she baked all of our bread. We never tasted 'store bought' (yuk) until after the war.

As we walked through the maze of bushes, she picked and gathered. I helped somewhat but ate almost everything I picked. I guess the only reason she let me come along, was to let me enjoy the outing. The only thing my Grandmother was afraid of was snakes. She would get all upset, stomp her feet and carry on about them. I just reached down and caught them, to carry along for a few minutes, then release them away from her pickin' area. I liked them and the feel of their squirming between my fingers. Still do.

After the bag was filled to the top with berries, we returned across the fields with the booty. Grandma washed and prepared the berries and then made numerous pies. The appples and berries and cherries from her trees were all put to good use. She had built grape arbors and planted red rasberry, currant, gooseberry, blackberry and black raspberry bushes as well as peach, cherry, plum, pear, mulberry, apricot and apple trees. She sold produce from the orchard as well as from her large garden. Tomatoes, carrots, squash, radishes, peppers, cabbage, peas, Lots of corn and a lot of various flowers which she had planted over the years. Grandma loved Flowers.

Even the bushes surrounding the place were huge Lilacs. Peoople from miles around stopped in for flowers which Grandma gave away to all. As I have mentioned before, nothing was wasted in those days. She made the most wonderful pies. Donuts were a special treat made with leftover dough from her 'bread baking' day. Kids that smelled the baking, would hang around until they each got one. We never ate 'store bought' unless it was absolutely neccessary. We absolutely never ever went to a restaurant or 'ate out'. What a difference between then and now.

Her first kitchen had 'linoleum' counter tops and floor coverings like our house had, and Iron pots and pans. After the war ended, Grandpa built her all new stainless steel countertops with then new, stainless steel pans. Grandma was in heaven, her kitchen was her workshop. She kept the big iron frying pan though, and used it as long as I remember.

When the older men (younger ones were away, fighting for our freedom) all teamed up for Threshin' at the different farms, a big machine driven by a long flat belt with a twist in it, was powered by the power take off pulley on one big old powerful, iron wheeled tractor placed a good distance away from the flying chaff. They used horse drawn hay racks, mowers, and almost every other farm implement during the war years, due to Gas rationing.

Kids drove the tractors or horses while the old men forked the mowed and dried oats or wheat onto the rack for delivery to the threshin' machine. Kids also drove the horses or tractors pulling the racks back to the big barn for 'straw stackin' in the loft. A big pulley mounted high in the peak above the loft door, had a long rope fastened to a team of horses.

By loading the big hooks with either hay or straw, then driving the horses forward, the load was brought up to the open loft door where men would swing it inside on a track that ran the length of the loft, then send it back down to repeat the process. The grain was sacked right from the threshin' machine, then loaded onto another rack for transport to the grainery on the farm. Most of the harvested crop was destined on going straight to the mill as a cash crop along with the excess hay and straw.

Egg gathering was on going. Cleaning out the hen house, feeding and carrying water never stopped, as well as my favorite job, 'Rat Killin'. They were big and the cats were afraid of em'. Grandpa's little dog 'Tojo' could catch em' and loved his job. They were fast, so I had to grab 'em and throw em' on the concrete floor to stun em' or sometimes just sit up on the henhouse roof and pick 'em off in the moonlight with Mom's, Marlin 22, pump action rifle. There were lot's of em'.

Weasels sometimes got in and killed a few chickens just for sport. Walking the 100yards (91m) out back to the hen house and closin' the doors after dark was my job. Sometimes Skunks were prowling around at night. After spending a few minutes studying them, I turned around and never picked a fight with a Skunk. During the war, we heard about chicken poachers. I carried the 22 rifle but never caught one...sigh!

Mom also was an excellent shot by the way. She also was an excellent horsewoman, and owned a 'Paint horse' by the name of Boots. I often walked the country roads with that 22 rifle. The County Sheriff would stop and ask if we had been shooting the insulators off the power and telephone lines. We said nope, of course, and never did...any more.

We grew up with guns. What in the world has gotten into peoples brains today? We never felt the need to shoot other people, even if they whupped us in a fight. Meds must be putting some weird thoughts in peoples brains today. Or they don't have any common sense to begin with.

One other thing we heard a lot, was the word NO! If it didn't register the first time, we got a whackin' in school and a real whuppin' again at home. Also the thought that anything bad that happened to us, was someone elses fault, never entered our mind. Everything was our own fault because of Choices we had made. People of today must make a lot of bad choices.

Every early Spring time, brought in the first load of hundreds of baby chicks. They quickly grew up to become 'fryers'. During WWII those chickens fed many people. During her lifetime, Grandma butcher'd them by the thousands and sold eggs by the countless thousands.

The brooder was set up in the better insulated chicken house. The kerosene oil drip burner was adjusted and lit. I stayed in a pile of blankets in the corner overnight to make sure that the unpredictable flame stayed lit so that we didn't loose all of the new chicks to the cold night.

The 2 hogs and 1 beef each year, just added more to our food stores during the War. The local freezer kept our stock labled and frozen for when needed. The cellar was filled with canned goods my Grandmother and Mom put up after harvest. Back then if a person didn't plan ahead, starvation could and did occur. My family survived during a period of no welfare system like today. Clothes were washed in the cellar and hung out side on long lines to dry. Winter cold, fast froze them dry.

We always had a pet crow that just hung around our little farm. His name was always 'Pete' for some reason, even though he was a different crow each year. My young uncle always brought one home from a hunting trip. Pete became tame quickly and hung around until late fall, when he was seduced away by his other "Birds of a Feather".

I remember when the big Zenith 'black dial' floor radio told about WWII starting. The women were all crying. As soon as he heard the news about Pearl Harbor, My young uncle quit High School at 17 and joined the Navy, 'Sea Bee's (construction battalion). A little flag with gold fringe and one star hung in Grandma's front window after that. We drove the 12 year old car to Great Lakes Naval training Center when he got out of Boot Camp.

He was happy to get to eat some of Grandma's home cooked chicken out of a big basket with a blue checkered towel over it. Grandma liked blue checkered feed and flour bags. She made lots of things out of them. She also made all of our rugs out of wool rags that she aquired from friends and braided at night, sitting in the living room while Grandpa read the daily news paper about the war. During her spare time as weather was cold, she then braided and sewed the big rugs together for our families.

We took my very young uncle to the train where he climbed aboard with lot's of other soldiers, sailors and duffel bags. Grandma and Grandpa were crying and hugging that young boy they raised, as he went off to fight for our country and many others that would not be free if the enemy won. At that young age, he knew what was expected of him.

He, as well as our other military family members, all knew what to do, and volunteered willingly to go out into the anti-US world, and 'get it on' with our foes at places called TARAWA, IWO JIMA and GUADALCANAL. That young man was there during those invasions. As a Bos'n, he piloted landing craft, putting his Marines ashore. On more than one time, he was hit and sinking, was rescued and went back and got himself another landing craft to run ashore with his load of Marines again and again.

Every night after dark when the big Zenith 'shortwave' worked best, We would listen to Walter Winchell and Gabriel Heater tell when we won or lost a battle. When our family members that were all in the Army, Navy and Air
Corps were in the area of the battles, all of the women would cry. That same radio was a source of 'Stories' told in the evenings, about Hero's and villians. In those days, our Hero's always won. This convinced us to be Hero's in our adult life. Simple concept, was it not?

One thing totally different back then was that the news casters and news papers, never said anything bad about our country or our troops or our President. I guess there were more 'Prime' citizens back in those days, than 'Sub Prime'. Too bad for this generation.

The big steam locomotive pulled the green and brown railway cars that took Grandpa and Dad into the city to work. When I got to ride along to pick them up, my memory was etched forever. The hot steam blowing from the piston relief valves, swirled around the train station platform in the cold night air. The porters ran along pulling high wheeled carts that carried the freight, mail bags and luggage from the baggage cars.

Dozens of Soldiers and their duffle bags were always boarding. The big milk cans and boxes of frozen chicken, were then loaded to take to the city. The big 'driver wheels' of the steam locomotive would throw a shower of sparks while trying to gain traction to pull away from the station.

The heavy, steam powered engine would rock and shudder from the wheel spin. Sand would be dropped from a pipe in front of the wheels for traction. The engineer would slowly push or pull the long levered valve handle to control the steam.

Slowly the huge steam engine would move forward and a long blast from it's steam whistle would moan across the countryside. The great big light on the front, illuminated the tracks far into the black night ahead. In my memories, I can still hear that long moaning and shrieking sound as it carried to my loft bedroom at night when the big heavy freight trains went by our little farm. Another comforting sound from my childhood.

At times the sound of Propeller driven military planes flying low overhead made my girl cousins and I run the 400 yards (.40km) to the field where the big wooden slatted, red and white striped, pyramid shaped pylon, formed the navigation turning point for the training of pilots from Great Lakes Naval Air Station. When the young pilots noticed the waving, leggy, young, pretty girls, atop the pilon, they became ever more daring and flew within yards of us, waving as they banked hard and went around again. Now that was exciting.

The huge waves of thousands of planes flying in formation across the continent, sometimes portrayed in old posters, were real. It started slowly. A few planes flying over, then a dozen, then many dozens, then hundreds. the factories that had built machines for a nation at peace, began to change gears to produce, Warships, Tanks, Planes and Guns. The sound was an endless, heavy drone beyond description. Bombers built in factories across the country, would gather above airfields such as 'Orchard Depoe' now called ORD or O'Hare, and form into group formations extending from horizon to horizon.

That sound is in flashback memory to me, whenever I hear the vintage, propellor driven 'air tankers' flying over, to drop their loads on a fire in the mountains of New Mexico. The unique, synchronous sound of four radial piston, 'Wright Cyclones' or 'Pratt and Whitneys', swinging those big four bladed props, is never to be forgotten. This nation, faced with a similiar threat, would have to react with a much more sophisticated 'force' in order to survive today. Heavy Manufacturing is long gone in the USA.

Grandma and Mom had made black, light blocking cloth curtains for every window so as to not aid any enemy planes in navigation. Sometimes at night, the big '12 O Clock noon' siren in the village over three miles (4.8km) away, would begin it's deep throated moan rising to a howl, building to a crescendo, then falling, only to begin another rise. Hear that repeated cycle sound and you will never forget it's ominous warning of an impending calamity.

We turned off all lights in our house. It was easy because we had one light bulb hanging down on its own wire, over the kitchen table. The other small rooms had one dim table lamp each and a pair of dim wall lamps, which were never on unless we needed them. As we left a room, the light was immediately turned off. To this day I still turn off lights in unused areas of our home. Electricity, among everything else, was never wasted back then, as it is today.

More excitement of an impending 'air raid', came when we went out to check the night sky for enemy bombers. Big searchlights on the horizon near the city, waved across the sky. After the drill was over, the big rotating beacon from another airfield many miles away, would again resume it's slow rythmic rotation across the night landscape, illuminating the mist on it's sweep through our sector. A strangely eerie spector, but always extremely comforting nonetheless, I loved it.

Because of our troops ultimate sacrifice overseas, those enemy bombers never materialised over the continental United States. As a small child, I had nightmares of a bomber, crash landing in the field across the road from our house. It was re-curring throughout the war years and very vivid. Rare times the crew was enemy, most times it was our pilots and I didn't know what to do for them. Thankfully, because of the training and skill of our young pilots and mechanics, my dreamed scenario never happened near our home. Maybe that is what prompted me to eventually join the Air Force.

During WWII, store String from the wrapped packages after shopping, was saved in a big ball. Precious Aluminum foil was saved likewise, or flat to be reused later. Tin cans were saved as were all pieces of scrap metal. The recycling junkyard was an interesting trip. Old cars were not left to rust away in the fields, streets or yards. They were completely dismantled for usable parts, then crushed and melted down quickly for material to continue the war effort. A cleaner America was evident.
Mason Jars were never thrown away, Grandma refilled them with whatever produce we harvested, for our future needs.

We always walked the rails as kids. The train tracks were our playground and the 'Hobos' were our reluctant playmates. The 'Gandy Dancers' never stopped working on the rails. They lived in rolling boxcars on the sidings. We layed down on the rails to listen to the approaching train in the distance. Slingshots were the weapon of neccesity while walking the rails. It was a 'target rich' environment as they say in the military.

My best friend 'Freddy' was the son of Fred, the section foreman. That gave us even more access to the switchyard. The 'Switchman' at leithton, taught us Morse Code while he communicated with other towers. We got to tap out messages, listen for the response and then counting the dots and dashes, figure out what the guy on the other end said. Just like a 'decoder ring' from the cereal boxes but more serious.

The tower man also gave us lessons in target practice. He could easily shoot bottles in mid air with his 22 rifle. He loaded a forked stick with the trains 'orders'. As it roared past the tower, he held it out for the train crew to grab. I held it one time. Fun stuff, much better than a video game.

There was a 3 wheeled greasing cart, like a big heavy wooden bicycle with a sidecar. It had a pump handle like an 'Irish Mail', to make it go on the rails. Freddy and I had great fun riding that thing, as the tower man pushed us along to get it started. It took both of us to pump it because of the weight of the three iron wheels. We envisioned ourselves as Engineers of our own 'train wreck', as it jumped the track at times.

The Tower control man, manually switched the many seperate pairs of rails on that two line crossing intersection with 'sidings'. He switched the rails from inside the high, windowed tower, using many big floor mounted iron handles with detents. We were just little kids and could not even begin to squeaze the handles, let alone move the levers. That guy had big hands and arms. He jumped up at the handles and grabbed hold of them, pulling them down while pushing against the other handles with his feet. He reminded me of 'Quasimodo', ringing the Bells of Notre Dame Cathedral.

At night, the big red and green, section signal lights along side of the tracks, lighted my way while walking the miles toward home. The light reflecting off the rails made the miles pass faster. My family never knew where I was after school. Most of the time, they got a little upset about it. Kids today sure missed those great times. Thank the lawyers for making all of that great life illegal. Aren't the rest of you happy that you are so safe today?...I didn't think so.

After school we used long poles and sticks to push little, old, wooden, carnival ride boats from an abandoned amusement ride near the overflowing lake. The boats were small and for little kids to ride in a round tank. We traveled, two in each boat, until dark every day after school, then left them for the next day, to resume our exploration of the, spring flooded, fields and streams. It ended days later, many miles from home, quite dramatically, at a flood swollen, raging river where our little boats got pinned by the current to a big fence. We abandoned the little boats and had to slowly crawl to safety along the fence wire. Another walk home in the dark, soaked and cold but alive and searching for another adventure the following day.

A surplus store sold small 'drogue' parachutes cheap. Bought one, climbed up on a neighbors big barn, wrapped the numerous shroud lines around my hand and wrist, ran along the crest of the barn and jumped off into the wild blue yonder so I could float down like I had seen in the movies. Woke up later on the ground with admiring friends around me saying "WOW, that was great". "you came down way too fast but it looked great".

For heat in my Grandparents home, a monster furnace in the basement burned 'Redheart' (little paper red hearts) coal used a gravity feed system for heating the house upstairs with a big grate in the middle of the house. It also was the water heater with a big iron ball in the top of the firebox area. Immediately after the War, a 'stoker' was added that kept it burning all night. That was hii tech stuff back then. The stoker had to be filled about once a day from the basement 'coal bin'. 'Jake' lived near the tracks with his family (Valerie was in my class) and had the coal yard. He delivered the coal with an old truck and long chute inserted through the basement window. The clouds of coal dust kept Jake pretty black. In the winter, after getting soaked in the snow, while sledding along the shore of frozen 'Diamond' lake, then walking the miles home in the cold frozen night, I layed on that big floor grate. I got burned more than once.

Our first heater in our house, was a wood and coal burning iron stove below my upstairs room. Dad and Grandpa carried coal from the basement in my Grandparents house in a 'scuttle bucket'. An iron grill with a little wheel and damper plates, was in the floor near my bed, kept my room in the loft warm. As soon as the War ended and oil was available, our house got a large metal box in the center called a 'garbage burner'. It used an oil drip to provide heat. It ran away with dripping one night, started rumbling loudly and turned red hot. The volunteer fire department was called to extinguish it. We almost lost our house that night.

We owned two wire handled, one gallon aluminum containers with lids, for carrying milk. The dairy farm was about 1/4th mile (.40km) across the fields from our house. Dairy cows we left to the specialists. They had far more cats and dogs than we did, The cats and dogs gathered around as the farmer squirted them with milk from the tit. They loved it and washed each others faces as fast as they were soaked.

We walked for our milk supply and carried the valuable cans carefully back home, transfered the milk to glass bottles to be placed next to the big block of ice in our wooden, steel lined, 'Ice Box', no electric refrigerator back then. The bottles were removed after the cream rose to the top. Grandma then scooped it off to be made into butter or just used on berries or whatever. Grass, Cows, Milk, Cream, Butter, Cheese, meat. What a system God has given.

The Ice Man was another interesting aspect to the War Years. With his leather shoulder pad and big hooks, he carried in the ice block and rearranged the remaining pieces around the new block in our Ice Box. After the War drew to a close, a white milk truck came to the house on a schedule. The milkman brought in the milk and put it in the new electric refrigerator. We never locked any doors. Things were definetly geeting better. Even the 'Fuller Brush' man started coming around again. He was also 'The Watkins Products' man.

Our old, brick lined, hand dug well, went bad. (we were downgrade from the ancient cemetary) The nearest community well, 2 miles (3.2km) away, was one of our only source's for potable water. We, each family, owned one big glass bottle in a wooden crate frame. The trip was only when we were out of potable water. The big iron pump's handle was long and geared to the 'sucker rod'. I could not pull it down, but was hung on it to ride it down, while my Grandfather pumped. We didn't have to go to the gym for our workouts. After the war, they put an electric motor on it.

After the war ended, Grandpa was able to have a real 'deep well' driven. I learned a great lesson in 'well drivin' while watching the 'Driller' and his rig, work for days. After completion, the well had a concrete box set in the ground below the frostline. The presure tank and big electric piston pump was set in place and access to the little room for service, was through a square metal lid.

I spent many hours down in 'the well pit' because I was small enough to change it's oil and replace the leather washers on the upper piston when it got a little sick. At first we used a bucket every now and then, to bail out the leakage water, I dipped the bucket then handed it up to Grandpa. Needless to say, I got soaked. Years later we had a sump pump to drain any water before it flooded the machinery and shorted out the electric power. See, life just keeps on improving.

During the war, a U.S. Army bivouac was set up in the old Indian burial ground and abandoned cemetary behind our farm. As a little kid, I penetrated it's perimeter, only to get caught by the soldiers and carried back over our fence. I never got to see them fire the cannon or even shoot their guns.

The best trip to the train station, was when my young uncle returned in Victory, from the Second World War. Everyone was there watching eagerly as the troops climbed down from the steps of the passenger cars. We were all so excited and the women were crying, while watching for him to get off the train among the other soldiers and sailors.

Later we watched him march down the main street in the town, appropriatly named 'Libertyville'. He marched with the other soldiers, proudly carrying the United States Flag. I still remember his white dress 'putees' as he told me about them. He carried a rifle on his shoulder and they did a close order drill to show us their discipline and parade skill with the rifle and marching.

He married his H.S. sweetheart, then Grandpa with some other men helped him assemble a new home that arrived on a big truck. I saw the first Pre-fab house in that neighborhood built within a week. They lived there for many years and raised a nice family that are successfull in every way. He died a few years ago, just one of the many of 'The Greatest Generation'.

Went to 'the city' now and then. Stayed at Mom's sisters apartment with cousins. A bar was downstairs and the sound of the bass drum came up through the floor. Thumped me to sleep. Walked around on paved sidewalks, rode streetcars with sparks falling from the overhead wires, as they reversed the 'pick up' rods to go the other direction. Walked to a big carpet factory where a waterfall with statue Indians was set up and lighted at night. I liked that a lot. Ate my first Pizza at my aunt and uncles. Still like Pizza a lot.

Grandpa had an old 1929 2 cylinder John Deere. I heard it start 'poppin' in the early morning, I dressed fast, ran out to the fields, climbed aboard sitting on one fender holding on tight while he plowed, mowed, disc harrowed or whatever needed doin'.

This went on for years until I could drive 'Johnny' by myself by stretching out under the steering wheel to press the clutch. As I grew taller and could pull the big mechanical handles to raise, lower and control the implements, the driving job was turned over to me. Grandpa just cranked it to start it up, then sent me on my way to work the fields. Many nights were spent in sleepovers at Grandparents house. The spare bedroom had a small Zenith shortwave-AM tube radio with a large lighted dial. The long antenna wire strung outside the window, late at night brought in Del Rio Texas along with Grand Ol Opry. I guess that's where I developed some of my taste's in music. My 'links' tend to show some inclination in that direction, if you haven't noticed.

My younger sister helped Mom around the house and attended school as I did. She worked with Grandma fixin' meals and helping with 'bean snappin' while sitting in the big old double seat, covered swing in the yard. She also played a full sized accordian she could barely lift, that 'dwarfed' her. As a little kid, She could really shake that monster, bringing out fast tunes one after another. I think she still owned it years later. We had a young neighbor named Manuel, he rattled those keys like the blazes. I guess he gave her inspiration. She also was a very good piano player. The world was now at peace and livin' got much easier. Stuff was no longer 'rationed' and unavailable. Gasoline was easy to get and tires were available for the car and tractor. No more tube patches and rubber 'boots' were needed to extend the life of a worn out bald, cotton corded, bias ply tire that had been 'coupon rationed' for years.

After the war ended, we went to a store for my first pair of new shoes. I stood and put my feet into a machine that looked through the new shoes with X rays. I wiggled my toes and watched with amazement. Man that was too. Threw away my old worn out hand me down pair. They had been wrapped with friction tape to hold the soles from flapping when I walked. (common occurence back then) First barber haircut by a retired US Navy sailor, was after the war as well. Boy life was getting good.

TV was at a restaurant/bar in 'Roundout'. Mom and Dad went to watch one night, I didn't like it, went outside, met some new kids. A big girl grabbed me and kissed me while choking me to death. Never wanted to go back there again, at least while I was a kid, might of gone back later lookin' for her though. Dad bought us our first TV, a DuMont with a little round screen, (black and white, no color yet) and all that was on, was a test pattern, or 'Kukla, Fran and Ollie', in the evening, 'Howdy Doody' came later. To get that, he was always on the roof, twisting the antenna around while Mom told him about the fuzzy picture. It was much more fun to be outside running around in the dark with the dogs. Come to think of it, it still is. :>)

Our Boy Scouts of America, local troop, now had leaders that had returned from the war. Real Soldiers that told us stories around the campfire. Real soldiers that taught us how to play 'Capture the Flag', after dusk, while running around in the dark of night. Real soldiers that taught us how to set up a bivouac weekend camp after a long hike, cook our own grub and work on merit badges. May the Boy Scouts always survive as a teaching organization with it's core belief being God and Country. Lord, those were great years of character building, give them your protection from their political enemies of today.

Tire tubes were now available as were bicycles, and of course sleds for playing in the snow. Grandpa and Dad bought new cars. We actually went on a little vacation. Grandpa and Grandma built a cabin far away in the forests. I got my first Daisy Red Rider BB gun. I spent many memorable summers, rowing Grandpa's new Sea Wolf, a green plywood boat that was handmade locally by Mr. Wolf, on Trump Lake near Wabeno Wisconsin.

Grandpa bought a new motor to replace his old worn out little Johnson 1/4 HP. He felt sorry for me spending hours, pulling that rope and fiddlin with the needle valve on the carburetor. One day he brought home a brand new beautiful dark green Scott-Atwater of 3.8 HP. It was the second fastest motor on the lake, which was ruled by a Johnson 5 HP. I was in heaven, thank you Grandpa and Grandma for an excellent childhood, during an extremely stressful time in our lives when we needed your love and encouragement. (chapter two)

An old, very large barn on another farm had several holes up near the top of the loft. As kids we played with the ropes in the rafters. No hay was stored there any longer due to the farmer, Mr simpson, being very old. If done right and carefully, it was possible to climb very high to the top using careful handgrips. A large box was up there, that we figured had 'squabs' (young pigeons) in it. We had our own pigeon lofts, but always were on the lookout for a new more colorful one. While holding on with one hand and reaching up to open the lid, I saw a set of eyes, hissing in the dusk light. I yelled down to the others, "theres Monkeys in the box".

Of course they said not possible. "Just reach in and grab whatever it is and fling it down". I reached in and immediately felt sharp pains in my hand. Jerking my hand back it contained a long string of something with sharp claws and biting me, that I flung off. It turned out to be young 'Barn Owls'. The old European farmer made them welcome, to rid the fields and farm yard of rats and mice. We took them home. Mom said the Little zoo in a town nearby is where they go. They were there, entertaining kids for years. Five of them, still looking like monkeys and hissing.

I was getting to the age when more was expected of me. I was being prepared for maturity and responsiblity by my family. They found more jobs that needed doin', for the area farmers and markets. Many other jobs would come and go in my life, farming was the root work ethic to all of them. Another old farm family close by, Mr and Mrs Prince, that still used draft horses, sold out to a couple of brothers. The Towner's built a small sub division with an old road grader and a WWII surplus Jeep, I was fortunate to get to drive both at times, what a 'power' trip for a kid.

In the 1950's, When a local Farmer bought the latest, 'one big wheel drive', 'try-cycle tractor' and hired a load of us teenagers to slowly climb up the center ladder and one at a time, starting from the center, crawl out to the farthest stand-in baskets, until all six to eight of us were aboard. Then, trying to keep it balanced, he drove through the maturing, tall corn rows with the tassles coming at us as fast as we could pull. Until then we did the running through the shorter cornfield thing, whacking off tassles. Ahh, modern corn neutering was never so easy. De-Tassling for fun and money.

That farmer, among many others in the country, grew 'Hybrid' corn ears that were over a foot long and really big in diameter. Two sided, three dimensional, Yellow and green, 'De Kalb' metal signs with a big ear of corn with wings, were placed all along the roadway to advertise and reference the rows for de-tasslin. That was a good job because we didn't have to run while getting 'corn cuts' on our arms. We still got the cuts but didn't have to run.

As far as the new machine was concerned, by waiting until the corn was really tall, the growth was maximised before the tassles were pulled. I guess the corn sorta gave up if you pulled them too soon? I guess I would do the same if my tassle had been pulled off while I was young.

We still played games of running and hiding in the fields by the moonlight. If you stopped and were real quiet, you could hear the corn 'squeak' as it grew during the hot summer nights. Firefly's lighting off and on over the fields were another interesting feature of farming. Of course the 'squeezins' dripping out the holes in the bottom of the big silo filled with fermenting silage was another treat. Smokin' a little corn silk in grandpa's corncob pipe was a rare treat? shared with friends.

Apple pickin' came in the fall, at our 50 tree place and for the big farmers nearby. Their families owned big orchards as well as field harvest crops. We picked all of our own stuff and theirs also. Our pickin' crew was diverse to say the least. What an education in other peoples behavior that was. Hayin' was a good job if you knew the crew. We were all friends and cousins so we worked well together.

The big barns lofts, were hotter than blazes while buckin' and stackin' bales. We took turns 'buckin' bales in the loft and on the 'Hay rack'. Driving the tractors, mowin' rakin' and balin'. Needless to say, we were 'buffed' out when school started.

We worked all year at something. Winter was endlessly shovelin' snow. The below zero cold kept our hand cranked 1929 John Deere from starting in the winter. Spring was plowin', disc harrowin', plantin', then cultivatin'. Each machine had to be bolted onto the old John Deere.

Three point hitch came too late for me. Mowin' was a money maker for me as well. Seemed like the party line phone was ringin' often when 'Poppin Johnny' was mowin'. Many neighbors heard it's unique 'stacato bark' and called Grandma to see if I could mow for them. The 'sickle bar', which was hand raised, would get a fence wire caught in it from time to time. Climb down and approach it carefully, pull out the wire or wad of grass, being sure to keep my fingers clear and oil the mechanism and adjust it for the next hours of mowin'.

I managed to keep all of my fingers, so I must have been fast and careful. One good friend lost a couple of his fingers, plus mangled a part of his arm in a 'corn harvester'. 'Slim' still did OK in life in spite of it. He never blamed anyone else for his mistake. Never sued anyone either. When he grew up some, he did look and act like the 'Slim' in the Jim Croce song/video "Don't mess around with Jim", in my top links.

Long days were common during harvest season. Grandma set up all of my 'contracts'. Everyone in the county knew Grandma and Grandpa, or so it seemed. When we did anything bad, they knew within minutes and punishment was quick and appropriate. One of our local police chiefs had gone to school with Mom, not a good thing.

Most years we had plenty of snow to keep us busy and earning money shoveling. One year in the early 1950's a record snowfall accompanied by a 'lake effect' blizzard, covered all but the tops of the telephone poles along our road. I had a picture Mom took with me sitting down on the pole top. Many winters we were stranded for up to a week without power or outside contact but it was always planned for and food was well stocked in my Grandparents cellar. At times we even slept down there near the iron stove when it got too cold upstairs.

I fed the horses from the mowin' along the roadway as well as our place. I always built a pretty good supply to last the winter. Filled the loft then built pasture stacks. There was no welfare, so we had very few illegal immigrants. They could stay home, be warm and eat, just as easy as come North, 'freeze' and starve. Come to think of it, that's why we all had to work.

Kids did all of the pickin' and gatherin' along with all of the other jobs that didn't require much intelligence or experience. We made a fair amount of cash and learned that we better get educated or we would have to do that for the rest of our lives.

Working the farm is a good way to learn what is important in life. "You don't work, You don't Eat". It teaches respect for the Elders, animals, mechanical abilities, responsibility, teamwork, cash management, profit and most of all Loss.

The sacrifice's demanded by a 'War for Survival' didn't hurt either. As a matter of fact it built character in that long gone, "Greatest Generation".
WWII The Last soldiers, Play 'Before You Go'

  • CHAPTER TWO; "It's a Wrap"

    As happens when life gets easy, things change. World War Two consumed about half or more, of the GDP of the USA. Contrast that amount with todays War on Terror, less than 10%. After WWII ended, the troops returned home to start families. The entire economy now had prosperity. The factories changed from manufacturing Warships, Tanks, Planes and Guns, back to Appliances, Cars, and Housing.

    Dad started his own new lucrative business in a segment of the housing market. He stayed away longer, finally to start a new family elsewhere. Mom, in her mid thirties, had to return to school. With nothing more than a midschool education, every day, riding in with Grandpa, she attended an accounting machine operators school in the city. I was about 11 years old.

    My grandmother basically raised my young sister and I, from that point on. Mom soon began work at a factory about one half hour away. She bought an old Chevy and drove to the office, where dozens of women sat at their desks and tapped out numbers on 'Comptometers' to account for the factories payroll, using little paper time cards from the employees.

    The factory soon found that it's product and obsolete methods were no longer competitive and Mom was out of work. Distress with her new twist in life, adding to the major one, suddenly being our head of household, must have caused her immense grief. Being a young kid, I sensed the problems, but dealt with it in withdrawal and denial. School problems, with me as the cause, added to her concerns. My school problems were nothing new.

    Being a school teacher, Dad had taught me math, reading and writing....before my even starting first grade. I became family entertainment as a small child, as I could recite entire readings like 'Casey at Bat' and the story of 'Casey Jones, dying at the throttle' Needless to say, I instantly became totally bored with the entire structured process of school.

    I had been reading National Geographic magazines, and knew all about the world. I could outspell and outread almost any kid all through school. I read through the entire new class lesson book within the first hour or two. That left me with no further interest in it. The fact that I had to sit through the painful attempts by the others, to even begin to read, set me up for educational disaster. I slept in class repeatedly and became disruptive, to put it mildly, which caused my parents to consider sending me away to boarding school. The administrator of the boarding school came to visit. I promised to do better. I did, a little, just enough to hold the threat at bay.

    'Deportment' was a major part of our report card. I failed miserably in Deportment all through school. Battling with other kids became a way to attract attention. Not doing homework was common. I stayed away from home most of the time, walkin' and runnin' 'the rails' that gave me an escape from reality. The world was my playground. I did return most nights to sleep and eat, I wasn't stupid. The money earned from odd jobs was enough to give me pocket cash. I required nothing more.

    Mom was soon hired to operate a then new, IBM payroll accounting machine known as a 'Cardpunch'. The days of dozens of women, tapping on machine keyboards in a big room, was finished. Her knowlege and experience of payroll accounting, learned in that Comptometer school, got her the interview. Many years later she retired as the supervisor of the payroll account division of that Goodyear Hose plant 1/2 hour from our home. When I left the area to seek my fortune 1200 miles (1900km) away, they sold the little farm that they could no longer maintain. After Grandma, who then lived with Mom, passed away, Mom then went on several tours with groups and moved to be near my family in NM. Her life involved working with senior citizens centers and social groups. She passed away a couple of years ago at the age of 92.

    Somehow in my early 20's, my life took a turn for the better. After a couple of HS years in the Air Nat. Guard and later USAF res, a couple of years with the 'Bell Telephone Co'. and a time as a machinist and truck driver, one evening an insurance man persuaded me (after selling me a policy) to apply for a job at the National Cash Register Company, NCR. Travel, endless technical training schools and a change of location as well as an early marriage and subsequent divorce, ended up in NM with a young son to raise. NM, a land of opportunity, now presented me with a new wife followed by a new job, involving more Data processing, with even more travel.

    Three great sons later, now raised and gone with families of their own, with the most forgiving, compassionate and intelligent wife a man could ever want, I retired from corporate life with her blessing, to become a free spirit again. Construction, some odd jobs and a five year fantastic fling in Car Sales, working with some really great people, 'My friend which just won the 5.6 million dollar Lottery' (2.4 cash out after taxes). All of this diverse life in the USA, prepared me for the latest fun profession as a 'Background Actor' in the NM film industry. Just when I thought the end was in sight, an entire fascinating future is ahead again.

    This United States of America, "One Nation Under God", is truly the land of opportunity. No wonder the worlds humanity in desperation, risk their lives to come here. No wonder millions try to raise their families here, even illegally it's hundreds of times better than the God forsaken contries of oppression they leave behind.

    There are those that are totally negative about their own choices in life and disparage this country. They desire what may I ask? I have utter contempt mixed with compassion for them. "They know not, of what they speak". This nation has given "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" just as it says it would. "God Bless the USA"..."USA BLESS GOD"

    Let's go Down to the Valley and Pray


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