The “Greatest Generation”… One Old Girl’s Opinion
Jeannie Peck, 2013
Prologue I expect that there may be some disagreement with some of these observations. But let me state at the outset that I have no desire to enter into a debate. We have been asked for our thoughts on what made the “Greatest Generation” great. These are mine. *** From my perspective the American “Personality”, if you will, of today is far different from that of the generation that grew to adulthood during the 1930s and 40s. It would take a book to contrast the differences between “the then” and “the now”. And there have been many written – some are reportedly quite good. But for the sake of brevity, and without going into detail, I shall touch on only a few of what I consider to be the pertinent background reasons that led to the sobriquet “The Greatest Generation”. 1. Faith America was founded on the Judeo-Christian ethic. Up to, and including the 30s, 40s and even the 50s, religion and/or faith were considered to be part of the “American Way”. Churches, synagogues, mosques or meeting houses were part of the family life of the majority of citizens. Partly because of religious belief, and partly because man I s asocial being and is most comfortable being and is most comfortable belonging to a group – a family – a pack – a tribe. In the early days of our country’s history there were few opportunities, outside of churches, for congregations to gather for the comfort and support afforded by an “extended family”. All houses of worship set forth a remarkably similar ethical and moral code – a standard by which the congregants were measured, and upon which they modeled their own behavior. 2. Education Schools used to teach students to strive for excellence. Academic achievement was honored and hard work was rewarded. Students were made aware that not everyone can win every time, but that winning is important, and worth the effort. The lesson was “life is not easy and that’s the way it is. Work as hard as you can and do your best all the time. That’s all you can do.” 3. Media Stage, screen and song writers gave us role models of decent people to emulate and gave us goals to strive to attain. News media promoted our country and were great flag-wavers. Although they may have disagreed with political decisions made by our leaders, they did not question their motives. Although there have always been scandals, reporters did not ferret out, nor publish, the salacious details of personal lives. Newspapers did, quite frequently, report stories of heroism and bravery. Hard news was reported, and opinion left for the editorial pages. 4. Patriotism There was not a doubt in the minds of most citizens up through the 50’s, that America was the greatest country – that we were lucky to be Americans – and we would fight for our liberty and freedom. After Pearl Harbor, men and women, whether enlisted or drafter, proudly went off to fight a war. They came back home to housing shortages, job shortages and financial difficulties. There was no talk of PTSD, or were there any job retraining programs. What there was was a GI Bill, so they could work hard to get an education. Many took advantage of that benefit and were grateful for it. Those returning veterans were the product of every previous generation throughout the history of America. They were the progeny of the pioneers, the patriots and the immigrants who built this country. So, the generation that had experienced the meanness of a depression, the brutality of a war and the cold indifference to the emptiness of its aftermath, once again worked hard to surmount a host of difficulties and went on to contribute to the growth of the country – and eventually became known as “The Greatest Generation”. Why? What was it that made that generation “great”? I think it was courage, pure and simple. Bona-fide, against-all-odds, no-kiddin’-around John Wayne grit. Good old-fashioned American guts. *** Epilogue Yes, there are good and bad, brave and weak people in every generation. And each generation feels that the succeeding one is going to hell in a hand basket. But can we all at least agree that courage, reason and civility have become more difficult to find in today’s culture, and that good taste, class and couth are gasping for air and going down for the third time? I for one, am afraid that the “LCD Theory” is fast becoming the norm. But… I hasten to add, thankfully and with gratitude in my heart, that there is still a small segment of our populace that believes in the old-fashioned philosophy of “I am my brother’s keeper”, and who feel that we who are living in a powerful America have a responsibility to those who are not as strong nor as free. And I pray that these brave young men and women of this new “Greatest Generation” will be safe and back home soon. May they live long and prosper.
The Greatest Generation
Elsie Johnson, 2013
The years I have experienced is called the “Greatest Generation”. When I was a child the Depression was upon us. My family was hit like so many – they were very careful with their money, “If you didn’t have money to buy something – you didn’t buy it!” Credit was a “no – no”. The banks failed. I remember going to the local bank with my father to collect what little he had there. So, we all remember those “tough times”. My father worked on the Milwaukee R.R. Work was very irregular. My parents kept a big garden and even a few chickens. Our neighbor sold eggs 12¢ dozen! At least we always had plenty of food even though many went hungry. As I reached high school age things were a little better but we were always careful with finances. Then World War II was declared. I had planned to join the Navy Nursing Corps on completion of my training. My sister joined the “Waves”. A younger sister went to Washington, D.C. to work in the F.B.I. office. My father was very patriotic and so proud of his girls. My brother was too young to serve. I had almost completed my training when I met a young cadet from N.J. who was stationed in Hutchinson, KS. As the story goes, we fell in love (my mother had made me promise to complete my R.N. before I married). After my graduation, Harry sent me money to come to Florida where he was stationed and we were married and lived in St. Augustine, FL. Many of our friends were from different parts of our country. We enjoyed being a part of the military life and lived for each day. Fortunately, the war ended and the return of many wasn’t always “back home”. Many wanted to start their own business or live in some other places they experienced during the service years. The G.I. Bill was offered and many wanted to complete their education. We took advantage of this opportunity, but it meant another move. This time it was to Indiana in a trailer camp provided by the University. Again we met wonderful new friends and lived on $90 a month plus all the kerosene you could use. Graduation led us to another part of the country and a chance to settle down and start a family. By this time, we were almost 30 years old – at a new location and ready to become good citizens and contribute our talents to society. Fortunately, the economy was better and we all became steady citizens. I’m glad I lived in this generation and experienced a good life. Now, I’m in another part of this generation. We have been fortunate to experience wonderful discoveries in medicine – electronics – outer space, etc. There is no end to foresee what will be in our future. However, I must admit as I look back over our history that the people who bravely settled our under-developed country were perhaps the Greatest Generation. Elsie Johnson Southbury, CT ©2013
Blueberry Hill – My First Love
Elsie Johnson, 2012
“I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill On Blueberry Hill when I found you.” I met Bill the summer of ’39. His family was spending the summer in Perry. “The moon stayed still and lingered until My dreams came true. The wind in the willow Tree sang a sweet melody.” We were parked on a nearby country road and would watch the moon come up. We made plans for our future together. Yes, there was some “necking” as we used to call it. “But all of those vows we made were never to be.” Soon summer was over and Bill returned to California with his family and I went into my nursing program. “Though we’re apart – you’re part of me still.” The years went by – we kept up a full correspondence – then the war went into full swing. He enlisted in the Coast Guard and I finished my nursing course. We eventually married other people. We did see each other once in California with our spouses. It was a little awkward. “But he’ll always be my thrill on Blueberry Hill.” Epilogue: Fate takes care of our lives – married a wonderful man and had a very good life for 64 years. But I guess we’ll all remember our “First Love”.
How “The War” Affected Our Family
Elsie Johnson, 2016
There were always two brass shells from World War I that decorated our dining room buffet. These were brought from France by my father as a souvenir from my father’s service in World War I. I went into nurses training hoping to join the Navy on completion. I still remember spending a day with friends in Chicago when we heard the announcement of the attack on Pearl Harbor. We couldn’t believe it!! Another memorable day was the day I graduated from nurses training on V.J. Day! My sister Ruth, joined the Waves while I was in Nurses Training. She was inducted in New York City — then sent to Seattle, Washington, where she spent her service time. However she met and married another sailor which turned out to be a disaster. My younger sister, Lorraine, left our small Iowa town and went to Washington, D.C., where she worked for the F.B.I. for three years. My only brother, the youngest of us, was too young for any service time during the war but did enlist at Korean War time. My father was very proud of all his children serving our country and let people know!!! I married Harry Johnson in 1944. He was a Navy Pilot — again pleasing my father by being a part of the Service!
Edwin Kolsby, 2015
On Sunday, December 7th, 1941, I was walking with a friend on East 17th Street in Brooklyn, NY, when a neighbor sitting on his stoop, intently listening to his portable radio shouted, “Pearl Harbor has been bombed!” That’s how I first heard the news that the Japanese had attacked our naval base in Hawaii and that a large part of our fleet had been damaged or sunk! We sat on the stoop with him as the news reports continued to come in, fragment upon fragment, and we knew, each of us, that our futures would not be as we had previously planned. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was scheduled to speak to the nation on the radio the next day. And how robust and unifying it was when he did. “A day that will live in Infamy!” I had been working for the Navy Department, Bureau of Ships as a research engineer. We were then located at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, tasked with improving the air flow so fundamental to the survival of the crews in the crammed quarters of our naval vessels, both in living quarters and fighting areas. The need for maximum ventilation and air conditioning in a turret, firing 16 inch shells, enclosed in a steel cell with hardly enough space to load and reload the 16 inch guns whose shells could hit targets 24 miles away…The noise and the fumes and the heat could, within minutes, overcome any crew, all voluntary in this branch of the service at the time. And ventilation was a primary problem because of the close quarters in general and an intricate network of ducts, turns, plenum and the equipment to move the air had to be crowded into the limited space provided, the first priority being the ability to engage in combat. The “yard” was located along a stretch of the East River just east of the bridge that connected Brooklyn with Manhattan. I had worked in Washington, D.C and Pittsburgh before being assigned to the yard, and during previous years, while a student at The Brooklyn Branch of City College, had often walked along the docks fronting the East River, viewing, with total innocence, the many freighters with “Naru” on their bows, loading scrap iron and steel for transport to Japan. On Monday morning following the Sunday attack, I reported to the yard as usual and found a dramatic increase in security, armed marines at the gates and on the roofs of the surrounding buildings, some marines with World War I helmets, manning machine gun emplacements, constantly searching the skies. No one knew where or how the next attack would occur. Across from the laboratory where I worked were the marine barracks, and newly minted marines, all so young, were lined up in full battle regalia as they climbed into the open trucks which would bring them to stations covering the extensive acreage of the yard. In the yard at the time in the dry-dock nearest to our building was a British destroyer which had been badly damaged in it’s war with the German Navy. We had not as yet entered the war when she was floated in but the feeling was that we would, soon, and while the building of new ships was at full throttle, the repair of damaged British vessels was also current priority. As I was with the group that had worked on her ventilation systems, I and my family were invited to the launching of the Missouri, then still dry, out of the water, on the ramp on which she was being built. It was a festive occasion. Flags and the Navy Band. Miss Margaret Truman the Vice-President’s daughter, broke the champagne bottle to christen her “Missouri”, the chocks holding her were removed and the massive battleship started sliding down the “ways” into the tidal East River. She was dragging heavy chains that would drop to the bottom of the river as she slid further into the water, slowing her advance and allowing greater maneuverability as she was led, by tugs, into a now water-filled dry-dock, where the water would later be removed and the finishing work done. I stayed with the Bureau of Ships till well after the war, when the staffs were cut or reassigned to the many naval stations both here and abroad. By that time I was married with our first child well on the way, and I decided to take the chance at a new career in the art field, but that’s another entirely separate story.
David T. Daniels, 2013
A SNAKEY ENDING I began my second year of college in September 1942. With mandatory infantry ROTC in place my first semester was shortened with a complete transfer of our class to an army camp nearby. Here we would have 17 weeks of basic training. In early spring, near the end of basic, we went on maneuvers into lower South Carolina. This was hiking for 25 to 30 miles and bivouac at night. In the army your backpack consisted of a blanket wrapped by canvass of one half of a pup tent, meaning you pitch a tent with a bed mate. In a short training period one is moved around and rarely forms pals or even acquaintances. On the second night I was paired with a large, dark skinned, mean looking man, probably in his thirties. In broken English he said he was from Sicily and was a new citizen of this country. In curse words I have never heard, he debased our country for drafting him, the army and especially this maneuver. In my sheltered youth of only 19, I never met this type of guy. In fact, I had never met a foreigner. I decided to be a little cautious. It was a cool moonlit night, so we decided not to pitch a tent. We shoveled a clean area, gathered tree branches and twigs to make a mattress. The two tent halves and one blanket were placed on top, leaving one blanket for our cover. After a short walk for a hot meal we immediately retired. It seemed we had hardly gone to sleep when reveille tooted. Jumping up, of course the first thing we did was to grab blankets and tent halves to pack up. Lo and behold, partially hidden under the twigs was a large Black Snake measuring 3 to 4 feet long, which is normal size for an adult Black Snake. He had crawled under us for warmth. This tough guy turned white as a sheet. I had never witnessed this fear. He didn’t know which way to run. I thought he was jumping into my arms! I shook the twigs with my foot and the snake quickly slid into the woods. No doubt this man had never seen any kind of snake. To me a Black Snake is old hat. He is harmless, never bites, and certainly is not poisonous. Every summer our mother sent us kids into the blackberry patches to pick gallons upon gallons for her pies and jams. Invariably we would run into a Black Snake because he likes those juicy ones that fall to the ground. We would joke and dare one of us to run. The Black Snake will chase one. He wants a little fun. Also, the Black Snake is sometimes referred to as a “racer”. We kids called him a “chaser”.
NO GOLD BARS FOR ME
David T. Daniels, 2013
At the end of 17 weeks of basic training, those of us that were pulled from college ROTC were given two choices. One was an immediate transfer to Fort Benning, Georgia, for officer training. In about 13 weeks one would be a second lieutenant. The other choice was to go to a special engineering school. This program was so new I had to wait for a couple of weeks for them to determine where to send me. I ended up in a small college north of Richmond, Virginia. Why did I make this choice? I just loved being a student and I was very good at it. More importantly, I had no ambition to become an officer. The simulated battles in ROTC convinced me that second lieutenants were the first line of offense. I could just visualize my dead body washing up on the shore of a Pacific Island with gold bars glistening in the sunshine. ASTP was wonderful with all advanced math courses, but the ax fell after 5 months. The War Department canceled the whole program. We were dispersed across the country into various infantry divisions. I was sent to the 95th Infantry Division located in Indiantown, PA. There was only one student I knew who joined me in a platoon. His name was Ken T. from Wisconsin. After about 4 months and after mountain climbing school in West Virginia, Ken and I were told to report to Captain N’s offices. He said that candidates were needed back at Fort Benning for officer training. Our division had chosen us. We could leave tomorrow and probably on the way have a week at home. Ken and I looked at each other and in unison said, “Do we want this? No!” The captain was all smiles. He wanted to keep good soldiers. This was a good decision. We were definitely headed for Europe. Even if I had gold bars they wouldn’t be glistening in the Pacific sunshine. My division landed in Normandy (via England) in July, approximately one month after D-Day and entered combat in later July. I was promoted to Staff Sergeant with 16 men (2 mobile squads) under my command. We had very heavy combat and terrible casualties. Just prior to our attack on Fortress Metz I was called back to company headquarters and received the same invitation to go back to the States for officer training. Ken was not with me, as he was wounded earlier. What a decision!! I wasn’t even old enough to vote. Now I must risk possible death now or maybe two years later. My quick decision was to stay. We had very limited information but I figured Hitler could not last much longer, but the Pacific War could go on for years. I almost lost my bet. In December, I was seriously wounded but completely recovered.
MILITARY - A SHORT STAY AT HOME
David T. Daniels, 2013
I arrived from Europe at home in later June, 1945. My mother, a very stern person, never commented to me by letter, anything she heard about me. My sister, who lived nearby my folks, gave me a story which was all new to me. My folks received, in mid-December, a War Department telegram stating that I was “Missing in Action”. A few days later they received another War Department wire stating, I “was seriously ill, not expected to live.” My sister said my mother was not hurt but angry and threw the two wires into the fire. She said the next communication was a letter from me arriving in about 10 to 12 days where I described being in England in an army hospital. She said I was all ”chippy” talking about these beautiful English nurses. They all knew with this letter that I was not at the point of death. I do not remember writing the letter. The “Missing in Action” did confirm that I had not been hallucinating back in that small truck. In the infantry, if you are missing you are usually either dead or captured. I was not captured, but I believe 2 enemy soldiers picked up an unconscious American soldier and dropped him off at an advantageous place. This will forever be a mystery. Also I figured out one other event which prompted the second wire. While lying on that hard table in Metz hospital for hours and hours, the doctors had written me off until one got the bright idea to puncture my spine.
MY COMBAT EXPERIENCE Author: David T. Daniels
David T. Daniels, 2013
It was December 15, 1944 (I figured out this date many years later) when a mortar shell blast sent me into a wall where my neck and right shoulder took the blunt force. Having been in in combat for 5 months, I knew it was a mortar shell, not an artillery one. In the latter case one hears a coming whistle. I was stunned but not made unconscious. It was dusk and a couple of squad members pulled me into a basement for the night. During the night I developed a fever and a tremendous headache which lingered into the morning. We attacked at daybreak and right in the midst of combat I fell into a coma. My first “wake up” of a couple of minutes had me riding flat on my back, head to rear, in a small truck. Looking aside, I could see wooded sidings such as ones on a wagon. I knew this was not an all metal Jeep, and looking forward I saw two big German helmets on the driver and rider, who were talking loudly. In my weak mind I didn’t think I was with friends, yet I wasn’t sure or not if this was hallucinations. In my next “wake up” I was lying on the ground on my back in a large tent. I could see a large number of wounded soldiers on cots. In my weak mind I assumed nothing. But in the middle of the night I was literally tossed into a truck. It appeared that trucks after trucks arrived and in minutes tossed everyone, cots and all into them. The place was abandoned. In my next “wake up” I was again lying on my back on a hard wooden table in a room with windows. It seemed I was in this position for many, many hours during which time I heard someone say, “Why don’t we puncture his spine?” It seemed so much later that my mind did improve and I found myself in pajamas in a soft bed when arrived a doctor wearing a mask, introduced himself, and said, “We almost lost you but discovered you had Meningitis. We have shot a sulfa drug up your spine, and will do so again. You will be quarantined.” During the next 3 or so days, the doctor reappeared and told me that the diagnosis was Cerebral Spinal Meningitis and that it was bacterial, not contagious. I was given white sulfa pills to take with water. There were no showers, but I did wash up a bit. My mind seemed to be improving. Late one afternoon an aide walked me to a small train car. There were about 20 of us with several on litters. We choo-chooed across France and in the middle of the night the train stopped in a large lighted area. A voice shouted, “This is Paris. If you can walk, get out and take a shower.” It must have been a public spa which had a large circular room with 12 to 15 shower heads all in the open. I couldn’t believe my dress which would be removed for a shower. I still had on my old combat boots without socks, pajamas, an army overcoat and a wool cap. The air temperature had to be around 40 degrees but to get a hot shower for the first time in 6 months, I could endure any cold weather. By morning, we were loaded into a ship in Cherbourg. We were met by pretty nurses telling us that we were on an English hospital ship. They explained that it was Boxing Day, which was the day after Christmas. This day was an important day in England. Those pretty nurses must have done something to me because my memory completely disappeared. In my next “wake up” I was told I was in an Army hospital in Axminster, England. I assume there were several days of travel before this. This memory loss endured almost 2 months. I do not remember a nurse, doctor or any buddies. At this point I will refer to write up entitled, “Tea Time”. Don’t have “Tea Time”.
Back to Action
David T. Daniels, 2013
Around the beginning of March, I got into a small van along with 3 or 4 and drove away from the hospital in Axminster. I wasn’t really cured. We drove to a processing center in Birmingham, England. After an overnight here we consolidated into a large busload and went to Southampton Port. Here approximately 30 of us sailed in a small English boat to Le Havre, France. I really do not remember how I got to my outfit, now in the Ruhr Valley. During my absence, it had moved from way down in the Saar up to this area. I stopped along supply room and got re-armed and then joined old friends and many new ones. A couple of old ones were very upset that I had not written. I couldn’t tell them that 2 months ago I had no idea who they were. Add map of Battle of the Bulge area During the first month back, there were some small pockets of resistance but gradually the whole valley was filled with escaping Eastern Europeans who had been enslaved, and with thousands of German soldiers fleeing from the Russians and surrendering to us. The War ended May 20, 1945. Without delay we were loaded into trucks headed for the French coast. We heard that there were 3 divisions headed home and of course, as usual, we were in the dark. Of course, we speculated that our fighting may continue in the Pacific. After a 30 day leave at home, I reported to Camp Shelby in Mississippi. We were immediately placed into combat mode and were told we would be going to the West Coast in September. The popular song on the juke box was “Sentimental Journey”, by the Andrew sisters. Add audio In some ways President Roosevelt was a tyrant, forgetting at times the name of his Vice President. However, in April 1945, on his deathbed, he called Truman into his office and revealed to him for the first time all about the Manhattan Project and the making of the atomic bomb. The proposed invasion of Japan was beyond belief. The invasion was to take place from San Francisco with troops being loaded onto landing crafts. The estimated casualties, paling that of D-Day, were enormous. Unfortunately for the Japanese civilians, Truman made the decision to drop atomic bombs and the war ended. Afterwards there was a complete account of the proposed invitation. My division was to spearhead the invasion of the largest island. Oh, thank you Harry, I made it! I was 21 years of age and ready to be discharged in Mississippi. I thought about my grandfather at age 13 being discharged in Mississippi 80 years earlier from the Confederate Army. He walked all the way home to South Carolina. During these 80 years there was an industrial revolution, so I was able to get a bus home.
POST WAR MILITARY REMINDERS
David T. Daniels, 2013
After discharge I closed my mind to everything that happened for three years. I never looked up an old army friend nor did I join any of the Veterans’ organizations. Things do pop up and bring about a stir in the past. Sometime, probably 10 years into civilian life when I was working a crossword puzzle, one question was “When did the Germans break through our lines and cause the Battle of the Bulge?” The answer was December 16, 1944. I now confirmed I was wounded on the 15th and in the hospital on the 16th. This field hospital was abandoned before it was overrun by the Germans. I checked an old atlas and was able to identify the hospital location and the breakthrough point. It was approximately 35 miles from my battle point. How could this be? How could I have been picked up and deposited 35 miles away? Another great mystery!! Here is another event which leads down the military lane. While taking my annual physical n 1961, I, for some reason was scanned with an x-ray machine. A dark spot was noted in my buttocks, so doctors decided to operate at Yale New Haven Hospital. I am in the recovery area near the nurses’ station when the assistant surgeon revealed that they removed an odd shaped piece of material about the size of a large marble, with string wrappings. It was sent to a laboratory and the diagnosis was it was a piece of metal. He asked, “How can a piece of metal get into your fanny?” I told him about my war experience in 1944. He said, “Oh my God, for 17 years you have been carrying round a chunk of shrapnel!” The senior doctor arrived and seeing that he had a nurse audience said, “Young man, you must have been running like hell, because you go shot in the arse.” My next post military experience is difficult to believe. Living in Rhode Island in 2000, I ran into an old pal who was associated with D.A.V. (Disabled American Veterans). He thought I should get some disability when I revealed my neck pains which had caused continuous treatments. Applying by mail to the Veterans Office in Providence, I received a letter stating that there was no record of my military service. My heart wasn’t in the application, but now my ire is erupting. I learned that in 1973 a large warehouse in St. Louis had burned and records of all World War II Army and half of the Air Force records were destroyed. I still have a copy of a letter to that fact. Of course, I had copies of my discharge papers, but all hospital records were gone. I had 6 medals but no Purple Heart. How could that be if I was wounded?? The answer to that question was really an interesting one. It was fox-hole gossip that each morning the Captain (Company Commander) would complete a daily report listing all killed and wounded and in doing so would recommend the Purple Heart awards, including those posthumously. I was missing, so I was omitted. I never gave this a thought. I reminded the Veterans Administration that shrapnel was removed from my body in 1961, but I didn’t apply for a Purple Heart. After numerous meetings, etc., I was awarded $102.00 per month and with inflation that is now $129.00. Here is by far the most interesting post war reminder. In early 2007, I received a letter from the D.A.V. of Connecticut. In addition to the letter, a brochure was enclosed which explained “The Legion of Honor Medal” which is the French highest military honor. Excerpts from the brochure are attached: Legion of Honor Medal U.S. veterans who helped in the liberation of France during WWII could be eligible to receive the French Legion of Honor Medal, previously issued only to WWI Vets. The French Government has asked the Secretary of VA for assistance in identifying qualified U.S. veterans for medal consideration, to be reviewed and approved by the Legion of Honor Committee in Paris, France. French consulates in the U.S. will distribute approximately 100 medals each year. I wondered how it is possible that maybe 2000 (100 x 20 years) could be chosen from a possible one million. It is probable, however, that now, 65 years later, at least half have passed away. I learned with amazement that this Paris Commission had complete histories of all battles with most of the information coming from war correspondents and historians. There was even mention of morning reports which had to be voluminous. The Commission obviously studied the major victories and the units involved and in so doing pared down the total to a small unit such as a platoon. In this way, individuals could be identified. The D.A.V. gathered from me all my discharge records and completed an application. I heard nothing for two years. READ Letter April 30, 2009 Letter of May 7, 2009 By phone I was invited to come in October 2009 to the French Consulate in New York City for the award. I, along with 6 permitted guests, witnessed a beautiful ceremony, with wine and goodies afterwards. Fifteen of us from the Northeast and mid-Atlantic out of the total 100 nationwide were here.
I Was a Mailman
David T. Daniels, November 2012
In 1905 my Dad, age 18, passed a civil service exam to become a mailman. My town had 3 rural routes. Dad’s route #1 was 95% in Polk County, North Carolina. He first started riding a horse on his route, and then proceeding to mule and buggy. In 1912 he got his first automobile. Forty years later in November, 1945 I appeared at home. Dad was still delivering the mail when I was discharged from the army, which was an early discharge because my infantry division was rushed from Europe to fight another war in the Pacific. Due to the atomic bomb, thank God, this for me, did not happen. Mr. Jackson, who had Route 2, had become ill and a substitute was needed. But there were just no men around, probably all still in the service. Having several weeks before heading back to college I agreed to be the substitute. With Mr. Jackson’s Model A Ford, I appeared at the Post Office in the early morning. I was given a rough map of the route and was aided in sorting several days’ worth of mail. Now, I am on my own. Sitting in the car, I began to realize what this adventure could be. I was going into the darkest of Dark Corners where I had never been. Ten to twelve years before 3 Scot families feuded over everything including liquor distilling rights. Lawmen were afraid to enter the area. I hoped this was all over with. In sorting the mail I recognized all three names were on the route. Mr. Jackson gave me chains to place on the tires, to be done at a garage. The raining season was near, and these red muddy roads would be a grind. The first couple of days were exploratory ones which was largely determining what roads to follow, etc. I saw two or three men working along the road. I circled a small mountain with several knolls. In most cases old mail boxes would be in groups, meaning houses were in the woods with a common path to the road. Few houses were visible. After a few days girls of all ages began to show up at the boxes, and just stare at me as if I was on display. They probably hadn’t seen a young man in some time. The “showing up” became pronounced with 15 to 20 girls probably aged 16 to 25. It appeared that 2 or 3 were married. All these little girls had dirty faces, dirty teeth and hassled hair, but they were so cute in many ways. There wasn’t a smidgen of cosmetics and for the most part they wore homemade clothing. I assumed their schooling, if any, was limited. The mail order catalogs were Sears, Monky Ward and Siegel, all located in Chicago. Soon I had to help in ordering, which was mostly clothing. A cute thing would point to a dress she desired. I had to be very discreet in helping to determine size. I would write a C.O.D/order and get 3 cents for a stamp. I became the “friend” of Dark Corner. We became a happy family. When a package arrived and the greenbacks paid, we would watch the opening and all would rejoice. On two occasions at these little parties I was given a pint size mason jar of clear liquor, which was of course, moonshine corn. I could not bring this to my home because my mother was undoubtedly an honorary member of the Temperance Union. The Postmaster was very happy to receive both jars. By the way, he wondered why I was always so late returning from my route. I explained that I was building business for the U.S. Post Office. As expected the roads were barely passable. Chains were installed; chains broke and had to be repaired. At one really bad mud hole I broke an axle and had to be towed. As I was nearing the end of this journey I was remorseful because my dirty face girls would miss me. Mr. Jackson was a scrooge. He wouldn’t give them the time of day. Let’s move 50 years forward and find that I am now visiting the same area in which I carried mail on Route 2. At my Florida golf course clubhouse I saw a magazine cover picturing a new prize winning course named “Glassy Mt.” Inside were pictures of greens on shaved off knolls and houses that adorned the mountainside. In the write-up the developer said he bought the mountain from an old lady by the name of “Plumley”. Oh my! That’s the name of one of the feuding families. In payment she only wanted a new house with an inside toilet. In further reading I was able to definitely determine that this was my mail carrying mountain. In 1995 on our way north we visited this fantastic beautiful gated community. In leaving I looked to both sides of the road and wondered what happened to my cute dirty face girls.
First Travel From Home
David T. Daniels, 2016
This took place in August 1941. At age 17 I had graduated from high school in May and in August I traveled to a small college about 50 miles away for football training. My coach, an alumnus, arranged for a full scholarship. For two weeks I labored in 90 degree weather, and in association with coaches and teachers I decided that they wanted me for football and not to give me an education. I went home. Being a good student I found it easy to enroll in another college, Wofford College, which was in commuting distance of home. My brother, one year ahead of me in school, was doing just that. So, I also became a commuter. After the first semester he left school to work for the Air Force. Then I became a resident in the dorm This college had a mandatory R.O.T.C. which meant that we enlisted in the Army Reserve which came active with war. In later years I realized I was not a very smart teenager. My sophomore year was hectic. The Air Force took over the college. The juniors and seniors were sent to officer training camps. Of course, no freshmen were enrolled. We sophomores were farmed out to a junior college and a girl’s school. That situation was short lived because we sophomores were sent to a nearby infantry camp for basic training in November. After 13 weeks we were assigned to various infantry divisions. I fought for 11 months in France and Germany. I reemphasize that I was not a smart older teenager. I believe I could have found a better path.
December 7, 1941 - Pearl Harbor
David T. Daniels, 2013
On Monday I, at the age of seventeen, was a freshman in college. At 8:00 AM I was in English class awaiting the arrival of our professor, Dr. Standsbury. He entered and announced that Japan had brazenly attacked Pearl Harbor with a huge air strike. Stunned but more confused I really did not understand why this happened. In my last two years in high school we had weekly class for an hour in current events and I was able to follow Hitler in every step he took in Europe. Added to this was the fact that as a family, at supper time my folks discussed the news in newspapers. We also listened to Lowell Thomas, the news commentator. Yet, throughout all of these events I seldom heard anything that was happening in the Pacific area. I had no knowledge as to why this sneak attack, which killed and wounded over 3600 of us, happened. This followed me to my enlistment in the army within a year. In my previous writing this Japanese mystique followed me throughout the war. I wanted no part of this Pacific War, and in fact, turned down promotions to avoid it. After the two wars ended I had no desire to read any of the dozens of books about our fighting. I personally had enough. I did note somewhere that in the thirties Franklin Roosevelt did place an oil embargo on Japan. Why, I did not know. Only four years ago I read a book entitled The Imperial Cruise, by James Bradley, whose Marine father was one of the men pictured raising the flag on Iwo Jima. Finally, finally, I got a full insight as to why we were attacked at Pearl Harbor. Historically, the Japs were war Mongers. They had a war with Russia, then fought the Koreans and invaded China. Teddy Roosevelt detested yellow skin and looked upon all Asians as uncivilized, just as the American Indians. He felt very strongly that we should rule the Asian nations on the Pacific Rim. He went about this by arranging the Imperial Cruise to the following places – Hawaii, Japan, The Philippines, China and Korea. This cruise in 1905 was the largest diplomatic mission in American history. When Howard Taft (future president) was chosen to be the leader, Taft, on Roosevelt’s behalf, negotiated a series of totally unconstitutional agreements that laid the ground-work for American Pacific engagement, and our war with Japan. These illicit pacts were eventually erased from the text books. Poor Franklin suffered from actions taken by Teddy, his kin.
Have You Ever Eaten Dandelion Greens?
Barbara Cooper, 2011
During WWII, I started my freshman year at an all girls high school in Baltimore, MD. With my father in the Army Engineers in the Aleutians, my grandfather doing his bit as an air raid warden, my mother playing piano at a USO (I was there, too, making sandwiches in the kitchen) and my brother collecting tin foil and scrap metal, we were all involved in the war effort. Except for our “Victory” garden where the peas and beans didn’t win. One morning at my new school we were all issued spoons and sent out to the lawns where we were told to dig up the dandelions. It seemed the landscapers had gone to war. We were extremely disappointed that the boys’ high school across the street had not been invited to join us. The up side of this educational exercise was that we were served the dandelion greens for lunch to show how we could contribute to the war effort and our health as well. Years later I was chastised by someone working for me for throwing out “those weeds,” poke salad and dandelions which were “good eatin’”. Lesson not learned.
Raising Boys vs. Girls
Lois Keating Learned, 2014
As the youngest of six children – four boys and two girls – I guess you’d say I’ve some experience in a ‘mixed’ family. Though my brothers were seven to fourteen years older than I, and were away at boarding school, college and World War II when I was young, I do remember some differences. My mother was the eldest of four – three girls and a boy, and my father, youngest of two sons, with an older and younger sister – I’m sure their upbringing was much like the way they treated us, their children. My brothers had chores appropriate to their age and ability. They’d take turns mowing the lawn, cleaning gutters, trimming the privet hedge and other such outdoor activities. My sister and I kept our rooms neat, made our beds – and our brothers’ beds. (We had live-in help to cook and do the heavy cleaning, plus wait on the table and wash the dishes.) When I questioned my mother about making my brothers’ beds, her answer was we’d need to know how to do that when we were married. I later discovered that my brothers learned how to do such things when they were away at school and in the service during the war. My sister, older than I and “Queen Bee” for the five years before I was born, liked to ‘push the envelope’ and set the limits to which I, too, could get away with ‘things’. My father was a big softie as far as we were concerned and referred to Mom and the two of us as his ‘three sweethearts’. I remember one incident when my sister Nancie and I had an altercation in the playroom over a doll and I threw an old small, metal clock at her, which hit her forehead and caused a gush of blood. I accompanied her to the kitchen where Mom dressed her wound and sent us to our father. I guess Mom didn’t quite know how to handle the situation. Dad was stretched out on his bed, perusing the paper, with his reading glasses half way down his nose. He gave each of us a stern look and then said, “Lo, go to your room.” As I left I heard him say, “Nan, what have you been doing to your little sister?” I don’t remember her punishment, but I learned never to judge an incident, especially involving children, when you haven’t been a witness to the occasion.
Lois Keating Learned, 2013
About 1943, my town got its first supermarket, the Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, forever known as the A & P. Before then there were small shops comprising of the green grocer for fresh fruits, vegetables and dry goods, such as cereals and canned soups; the bakery; the butcher’s shop; the fish market; any dairy products were delivered to the back door. Now they could all be bought in one convenient, large store on Seventh Avenue in Garden City. It was an immediate success and I now wonder what happened to all those independent food suppliers. Many, I’m sure, went to work at the A & P. During World War II rationing was in effect and sugar was one of the scarce items to be regulated. Besides the sugar one put in one’s coffee and tea or drizzled over one’s cereal, it was used in baking, especially in the days before boxed mixes. Birthday cakes, cookies, pies, brownies – all that good stuff – was in short supply. Corn syrup and maple syrup were often substituted for the real thing. Early one Friday morning we were awakened by the bleat of the fire alarm. It sounded much more incessant than usual. The radio, our only source for instant information (besides the telephone), interrupted a regular news program to announce that the Garden City’s A & P was on fire. Our first thought was about the sugar that had been delivered on Thursday and would be available today for the customers who had adequate ration stamps to buy it. All Thursday evening we planned what was to be baked with the sugar, what deserts to have that required a dash of sugar on top and which cereal to have for breakfast on Saturday. Saturday arrived, without the precious sugar. The fire department announced that the A & P was open for limited business. All of us, Mom, Dad, my sister and I, plus numerous neighbors arrived at the store and lined up like bees returning to the hive, to wend our way through the smoky-smelling and darkened interior to the bins where we sadly passed by the blacken lumps of burnt one-pound sugar bags, looking just like the used logs in our fireplace. And they were just as appetizing. Another month passed before the A & P had a sugar supply. By then we were thinking of those ‘sugar plums that danced in the air’.
Pat Broman, 2016
The subject for today is elections and after the 2016 Presidential election, I’m pretty well done with the whole thing. I will, however, try to recall past political experiences. I don’t remember too many great differences between the politics of the parties. My earliest remembrance of a political argument was as a child as I lay in bed listening to my mother and father with friends in the living room. These friends turned out to be pro-Hitler. These were the early days before the 2nd World War. There were people who thought Hitler was going to be a good thing for Germany. Well, the voices got more and more heated. My mother and father were so against the views of their friends. I only know that after that night we didn’t see those friends anymore. As I grew up, I remember that my family was Republican. I do remember that there were controversies in the country about Franklin Roosevelt but praise for his programs to ease the depression by putting people to work on various public works. I never was much of an activist until I was living in Florida. More recently, I remember the “hanging chads” situation and then I was really involved at the time of Obama’s election. I belonged to a Democratic Club and attended some dinners and rallies for State and Federal Representatives. I passed out information in front of the local library and then the night of the election a group of neighbors all got together to watch the returns. It was a tense night but fun when our guy won. However, whatever my memories, it all pales in comparison to the many weeks - or was it months and years - of the recent election. I will say that I have learned a great deal about how elections are run but I regret the time wasted in front of TV listening to the mud being slung and nasty words being said - not to mention the money being spent when it could have been used for good in the world. False promises were made which could never come true - many of them harmful and ridiculous. The hypocrisy of it all. Now they say that was just politics. A whole new tone is adopted. I don’t believe the words that are said and I know our children are confused. How can we teach them right and wrong when our so called leaders give them conflicting messages. I have one thing to say - be careful what you wish for and good luck to our wonderful country. It’s a beautiful place. We must treat it and our people with great care.
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Pat Broman, 2016
I was in college when the war ended. Gradually, the men came back to resume their education, some as soon as the war was over and some much later. One man’s schooling was so interrupted he was in his thirties when he appeared in our university. I was married in 1948. My husband had been in the Army, had graduated from college and was getting his master’s degree at another university. The GI Bill helped enormously and gave us a good start. Many of today’s young people, having grown up in affluent times, are used to having what it took us many years to acquire: a home and all the luxuries, both small and large. We started from the ground up in a career and in our living arrangements. When living in Newark, N.J. awaiting the birth of our daughter, my husband was getting started in his job with a big corporation which was to transfer us many times. In Newark at that time in the 1950s, we were temporarily living in one room, cooking on a hot plate, and washing dishes in the bathroom sink. I remember really enjoying that time in my life. Later we would have small apartments with one bedroom used by our little daughter while we slept on a pull-out couch in the living room. War historically often brings about a spurt in scientific and medical discoveries and this was true of the years following World War II. War is a terrible thing and the lives lost and men injured brought tragedy to many homes, but returning soldiers married, started families and life in America resumed. If only we could have learned the lessons of that war, how to treat each other on this small planet earth so that we could live in peace and avoid a third world war which would encompass the whole world. We can’t afford to lose precious lives by senseless killings either on the streets or by war. We are now in a very grave and serious election process. We could face possible race war and war with a twisted ideology which is not localized but has seeds everywhere. And what do our would be leaders talk about? Words against others that we would be shocked to hear in our own children. The rhetoric does not touch on the issues we face and the best for our country but is completely self-centered and fired with hatred. We seem to be in a war between ourselves. My own ancestors were patriots and worked to form our free country. It is a wonderful country and I hate to see it criticized and run down. We have flaws which can be corrected if, as our President [Obama] says, we all pull together and care about each other.
Biography of Veronica M. Berrill
Veronica M. Berrill, 2012
My mom told me that while she was nearing the end of her labor, the doctor went over to the window, opened it and said, “It feels like snow.” A few minutes later, I was born at home in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York, on January 9, 1926. I had one sibling, my dear sister Anne, who was three years older than I. A few years later, we moved to Flatbush in Brooklyn where my parents sought to provide my sister and me with many of the advantages they had so sorely lacked. Of course, I took them for granted then, only to feel immensely grateful when I became an adult. I attended the parish school, Bishop McDonnell Memorial High School and St. Joseph’s College. After my sophomore year, I became engaged to Jack Berrill, who had just returned from his service in WW2. While he returned to his job and adjusted to civilian life. I went to the Grail, a lay leadership school in Loveland, Ohio to prepare for what we hoped would be a life of joining with others to find a way of leading a Christian family life in a secular society. We were married in January, 1947. Our dreams and visions were indeed hard to live up to, so we were active in the Cana movement and worked with other couples to enhance family life. We had seven, wonderful children and, of course, many challenges. My husband Jack was a cartoonist who faced deadlines every week. So, like most other couples, we had many pressures and had to live a day at a time. I returned to night school to finish my degree which, of course, took many years. I was in my late forties when I began my teaching career which lasted 22 years. I retired at 70. Just as I retired, I lost my dear husband. I guess no one is ever prepared for that awful blow. I lived alone in our home for over 14 years when I decided to join the Pomperaug Woods community. My attentive and loving children are happy that I am in a supportive community.