Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans Day 2015

In honor and in thanks to all the people who served in the United States Armed Forces, I've decided to publish a few pictures of my family and describe the society as it existed for them back then.

John and Alma Roper
This is my uncle John and my aunt Alma (Mom's younger sister).  John served in the Army as a cryptographer and had a high security clearance.  The Army, in its infinite wisdom, moved John to France shortly after WWII.  John hated it there, and didn't like the Army much either.  When he mustered out he got a position with I.B.M. in their engineering department and did quite well for himself.

The only story about the service I remember John telling me involved a bazooka.  The men were curious to see just what would happen to something placed directly behind a bazooka when you cut loose with it, and so located a wooden crate from supply, borrowed someone's bazooka along with a single rocket, loaded her up and torched it off.  The crate was blown to smithereens.

Marion Emery holding Bill Emery, Jr.
My paternal grandfather, Marion, served as a radio operator during WWI.  When I was 8 or 10 years old I got a nice short wave radio for Christmas, and Marion was able to understand the Morse code transmissions I could pick up.  This was actually International code, Morse having been discarded some years earlier.

Marion's bed aboard ship was nothing more than a board and a blanket, but he told me it seemed pretty good to him.  He didn't talk much about the war or the Navy, but I still have his old Bluejacket's Manual which he gave me when I was a boy in grade school.  The story I remember best concerned life in the Navy.  Marion was stationed in San Francisco.  Streetcars were nothing new back then - it was a ubiquitous form of public transportation - and from time to time a few sailors would get together and put the streetcar conductor off, then drive the route and keep all the tolls for themselves.  I didn't ask Marion if he ever did this, but I imagine he might have.

Marion never went to college, although he'd have done well at it.  He was bright and hard-working, and was very successful in business.  He worked in the transportation department for the Kroger company, then went to work for the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). He retired from the ICC and went to work for Norwalk Truck Lines in Norwalk, OH.  I was about 12 years old, and he took me for a business trip to Chicago in the company plane, a luxurious twin engine Cessna.  I sat in the copilot's seat and enjoyed myself tremendously.  When Watergate was on TV, Marion knew some of the people involved and could tell who was on the take.

Bill Emery Sr. and his mother, Jess
The photo above was taken in the early 1950s.  Note the fashion, Dad is wearing a hat and his mother Jess is wearing a fur.  Wearing a hat was de rigueur during this period, and in fact going around bare headed marked the person as a low class undesirable.  Fur coats were in style, and had been for years.  This was before the fine folks at PETA told us that wearing fur was bad.  When I see some of these lunatic PETA demonstrators throwing blood on people, I can't help but think about what would happen if anyone did that to my father's mother or his wife.  Someone would have gotten shot.

These men were veterans of a world war, and they weren't in the habit of tolerating a lot of bad behavior from anyone, civil rights or no.

Bill and Jane Emery
Here's my mother (Jane, far left) and my father (Bill, seated next to her) at a dinner party hosted by his parents, Marion and Jess.  My mother made the cocktail dress she's wearing out of brocaded silk given to her by a close friend.  One of the guests who was knowledgeable about such things valued the dress at $1,250 if purchased in New York.  The value today, adjusted for inflation, is $11,000.  Note that the men are wearing suits, white shirts and neck ties.  The only time anyone wore blue jeans (or dungarees as they were often called) was if they were doing manual labor.  You never wore anything like that to dinner, and in fact many men wore a shirt and tie to do yard work.

Dad (center) and Mom (right)
Right after he got home from the war, my father completed his college education, got a job managing a small truckline in Woodville, Ohio, got married and bought a bulldog.  Violet had quite a personality and like people, but she was so fierce looking that most kids would back right off from her.

My father is holding his highball in his left hand.  He was left handed, you see, but when he was growing up the school officials insisted he write with his right hand.  As a result, he became ambidextrous and could write equally illegibly with either hand.  He could also perform dissimilar activities with both hands at the same time, such as stirring his coffee while eating his breakfast.  He did these things unconsciously, and wasn't aware of any special talent.

Back when my father was growing up the people were not enlightened as they are today.  Dad went to school in a one room school house in Loveland, Ohio.  Being insensitive to the emotional necessities of the children, order was kept in the classroom by the application of a board of education.

The schools (three schools in total) were segregated by race and religion.  The blacks had one room, the whites another, and the Catholic students went to a separate school.  The kids voluntarily divided the playground equipment, and there was an invisible line across the playground that you didn't cross.  If a ball or something crossed the line, the other kids would throw it back to you.  According to my father, there weren't any racial problems between the students, but the authorities let the Catholic children out of school an hour before the other kids got out.  This was done to keep the peace.

The only serious discipline problem they had at the Loveland public school involved one boy who cursed at the teacher, and purportedly slapped her when she dared to order him to bend over and grab his ankles.  The teacher left her classroom and summoned some help from a large male who happened to be passing by.  The student in question was removed from the classroom and paddled hard enough to make the floor shake, then returned to class with the promise a severe paddling if he ever tried anything like that again.  He never did.

I'd also like to mention that all the students started out each day by reciting the pledge of allegiance and the Lord's prayer.  They sat in alphabetical order, and they showed respect to each other and to the adults in the classroom.  Actually, they respected all the adults, classroom or no.  This was the environment that produced the soldiers who defeated Axis leaders: F├╝hrer Adolf Hitler, Emperor Hirohito, and Prime Minister Benito Mussolini.

Fighting in World Wars I and II wasn't a lot of fun.  In fact, it was pure misery, but if these men hadn't fought, hadn't stepped up and done their best, the United States would have fallen.  I, very likely, wouldn't be alive today, having succumbed to the rigors of a political reeducation camp or a common disease of some sort.  Conquerors, generally speaking, aren't too big on providing good medical care for their new subjects, and I had several severe illnesses as a child.

Mom on Henry
I'll close with a picture of my mother on Henry, one of the first successful Palomino horses my father trained.  Henry was part Quarter Horse and part American Saddlebred, and a registered Palomino.  He was a real handful to ride, being high strung and nervous.  This photo was probably taken in the late 1950s.  The saddle was loaned to my father by his employer; it's all sterling silver.

Happy Veterans Day, and my thanks to everyone who served.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Bill! Thanks for sharing your memories! And I also extend my thanks to all those who have given service!