was born at an interesting time, June 1918 to be exact. At the time my
father was in Brittany, France, serving as Commandant of Training at a
field near Issoudon. There they were teaching artillary officers to
trust aerial observers. His Commanding Officer was Maj. Carl Spaatz.
The field Adjutant was Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, whom I grew up knowing
as “Uncle Rick”.
the war, The surviving Pilots, so few that they all knew each other,
would visit in our home whenever they happened to pass through Chicago.
Mother and Dad entertained such people as Spaatz, Uncle Rick, Maj. Hap
Arnold, and Billy Mitchel. There were others, but I was a boy of 8 or
10, who didn’t pay much attention, I do remember that Uncle Rick showed
up unexpectedly one time for Sunday dinner with his friend, Jimmy
Doolittle in tow.
I was born and
raised in Winnetka, 18 miles north of Chicago. Anyone north of Madison
Street, Chicago’s base line, was surely a loyal Cub fan. Those south of
Madison rooted for the White Sox. If this seems nutty to my readers,
you're just not with it. You may be right, but this is Chicago we're
I am old enough to remember winning teams. While
not yet a teenager, in the 1920s, I was faithful to such players as
Charley Root, Hack Wilson, Rogers Hornsby, CuyCuy Cuyler, and Gabby
Hartnet. Teams built around these heroes won games' and someday,
perhaps, even seasons. Again, after the War, there were Santo,
Kessinger, Banks, Beckert, Williams, Hundley, Fergie Jenkins. On
and on, a truly great team, playing a great game. But then, the Cubs
could break your heart.
In most years they would start with a rush in April, scoring in the top
ranks of the league, By July and the All Star game break in the
season, they were cooling off. It was heartbreaking; start off
with a rush, leading in the fifth, then commit errors and lose the
game. Finally end the season in last place. And all the time we could
remember glory days. We were sure our Cubs could win it all- -
someday. It requires a strong character to continue as a Cub
fan . .
As a teenager I spent several summers working on a ranch.
After graduating from school, i worked in a munitions plant. Later, I decided to become a pilot in the 15th Air Force during WWII, in which Spaatz was commanding the 8th Air Force in England and Arnold commanding the U S Army Air Corps.
has been spoken of as the greatest generation. If we were, perhaps it
was the strengthening effect of the Great Depression that may have
as an old man, I have compiled my reminiscences of an interesting life.
Growing up in America during that Depression and before WWII was unlike
anything since. This story, “GRANDFATHER STORIES” is broken into several parts, because this life has seen so very much.
Other readers have enjoyed my stories. I hope you will, too.
Travelling in Mexico
twice did we visit Mexico, but that was more than most of our
Mid-Western friends did. Mostly they played in Florida or the
Caribbean. But now that I'm in Southern California, so many are
speaking of the wonders of Mexico. In spite of the awful stories
of what the drug lords are doing to their Country, it seems Mexico is
But in 1955 and '57, Mothers, hide your
Children! What we saw was prehistoric! We had been advise
by the tourist agency of the Consulate to go to Puerta Vallarta, But
when we spoke to TWA, they couldn't even find it. Pan Am could,
and did serve it through Mexican Americana, a subsidiary of TWA!
Traveling in Mexico was pretty iffy then. We must first fly to
Mexico City, then to Guadalajara. Only then could we fly to Puerta
Vallarta. The aircraft involved was a Douglas DC3. Not new,
it may have been a converted C-47, which flew soldiers and paratroopers
all over during WWII. At least it looked like it. The pilot
may have learned somewhere in the military. Whatever. FAA
officials would have called for his arrest.
The flight from Guadalajara to the coast was over untracked
jungle. It was the only connection between Vallarta and the rest
of Mexico. Even more isolated were Ameca and Carro Desmonado.
These were a cluster of huts, hiding under grass-thatched roofs, and
served by a flight strip that should have been a foot path.
I had a window seat, and could see the ground. As a pretty
seasoned pilot myself, when I realized he was going to land there,
my stomach siezed up. I closed my eyes and prayed.
Somehow he got over that hill and still got to the ground with enough
runway left to stop the plane before it hit the huts. They
conducted whatever business had brought them here. Then a bunch
of natives took hold of the tail assembly and pushed and pulled until
the plane had turned around.
Good God. If he had landed against the
wind, now he was going to take off with the wind. Oh
Boy! Maybe the Co-Pilot will overpower him and stop this
nonsense. Golly, was there a Co_Pilot?
But no. He raced his engines, lifted off after a short run, made
a climbing bank away from that hill and climbed out of the valley and
headed for the coast. I headed for the rest room.
More jungle. Guadalajara is only about 100 miles from the
coast. This should be quick. But then he began circling and
I could see Carro Desmonando. No hills this time, rather a
generally circular clearing in the jungle with a silly little strip of
cleared land that he was going to try to land on. And that's what
he did. He continued circling until about 100 feet up, then
straightened out and just throttled back. When the wheels touched
down he was barely moving forward.
Take off was much like the last one. I was relieved to see that
Vallarta had a no-nonsense runway that seemed to be several hundred
feet long, and this guy may have trained as a carrier pilot. I
didn't even close my eyes.
Burglars in the Daylight
have been inviting me to speak publicly on my favorite subject; “you,
too, should be writing your memoirs” Some complain that they
haven't done anything interesting. My response is that “ you'd be
surprised. And don't forget that you are still
living. Your story goes on and on as long as you live.”
story did not begin nor end with the War. I keep on remembering
incidents that I'd forgotten, such as that burglary back in the 1960s,
before the rise in popularity of home security systems. As an
Insurance Agent, it was obvious that none of my clients or prospects
would welcome a visit on the day after New Year's day. Might as
well make use of an open day. We had been wanting to look at new
laundry equipment. The nearest Sears store was in Elgin, 30 miles
away. So right after lunch we took off for Elgin..
We left our dog in the house, locked the doors, all of which constituted our home security system,
and drove off. We arrived at Sears about 2:00, and spent
over an hour deciding which washer and which dryer would meet our needs
and fit our budget. We stopped for coffee, then headed
As we turned in the drive we were greeted by our dog,
happy to see us back. Then we noticed that the garage door was
open. Strange. We must not have been as careful as we
January 2nd, it was about 4:00 and the sun was setting. We went
in and resumed normal activities. Rosie was straightening up
stuff neglected before we left.. I brought in some logs and laid
a fire. Then I poured a drink and went to turn on the T V.
Strange; it wasn't there. Then I saw that our 3-piece stereo
system wasn't there, either.
Rosie stopped what she was doing and joined me, We looked
around. The typewriter was missing. I had had an old
comptometer. I'd been using it before we left. No, I had
not put it away; I looked.. For Christmas, Scott had gotten a
nice 12-sting guitar. On his bed were several sweaters he hadn't
put away. But we could see the indentation where the guitar
had lain on them.
We supposed several things but finally decided we had had
intruders. Burglars. They let the dog out when they
left. We called the Sheriff, and started looking around.
Yep we found evidence of intrusion. Some one had opened each
dresser drawer, each desk drawer and rummaged to the bottom. A
tin of Christmas cookies had been disturbed. [ someone looking for
jewels, or cash ?] Only the appliances, all of them. TV, stereo,
toaster, waffle iron, typewriter, comptometer, and the guitar were
missing. Highly focused burglars, There must have
been $60 worth of new sweaters still on Scott's bed.
The Sheriff came, took our report, looked about, then questioned us
again for forgotten facts. Before he left he commented “ I
suppose now you'll get one of these home security systems”.
The Sheriff never found a thing. We did get insurance money,
which meant a newer TV, stereo and typewriter. Funny thing,
living in that rural neighborhood, with such nice, caring neighbors, we
seldom locked our doors. This time we did. This time we
were burgled. We never did buy a home security system. We were never burgled again.