Monthly Archives: November 2017
When one side of a war takes control of an area or a fort belonging to the other side, they often change the name of the area or fort to reflect the name of the hero who laid siege on it. Lieutenant General Wilhelm von Knyphausen became a British hero in 1776, when he and a force of 3,000 Hessian mercenaries and 5,000 Redcoats laid siege to Fort Washington at the northern end and highest point of Manhattan Island on November 16, 1776.
Throughout that morning, Knyphausen met stiff resistance from the Patriot riflemen inside, but by afternoon, the Patriots were overwhelmed, and the garrison commander, Colonel Robert Magaw, surrendered. Nearly 3,000 Patriots were taken prisoner, and valuable ammunition and supplies were lost to the Hessians. The prisoners faced a particularly grim fate, because many later died aboard British prison ships anchored in New York Harbor. Among the 53 dead and 96 wounded Patriots were John and Margaret Corbin of Virginia. When John died in action, his wife Margaret took over his cannon, cleaning, loading, and firing the gun until she too was severely wounded. The first woman known to have fought for the Continental Army, Margaret survived, but lost the use of her left arm. Margaret Cochran (Corbin) was born in Western Pennsylvania on November 12, 1751 in what is now Franklin County. Her parents were Robert Cochran, a Scots-Irish immigrant, and his wife, Sarah. In 1756, when Margaret was five years old, her parents were attacked by Native Americans. Her father was killed, and her mother was kidnapped, never to be seen again. Margaret and her brother, John escaped the raid because they were not at home. They lived with their uncle for the rest of their childhood. Margaret became a survivor…not a victim, and I’m sure that was why she picked up where her husband left off and fought as well as any man there.
While Margaret, her husband, John, and many others showed great heroics in the attack, not everyone involved in Magaw’s army, were heroes. Two weeks earlier, one of Magaw’s officers, William Demont, had deserted the Fifth Pennsylvania Battalion and given British intelligence agents information about the Patriot defense of New York, including details about the location and defense of Fort Washington. Demont was the first traitor to the Patriot cause, and his treason contributed significantly to Knyphausen’s victory. What a vast difference there was between this horrible, traitorous man and the very brave Margaret Corbin!!
After the siege, and in honor of Lieutenant General Wilhelm von Knyphausen, who had stormed the post five days earlier, British Commander in Chief General William Howe renamed Fort Washington, “Fort Knyphausen” on November 17, 1776. It was a devastating loss to the patriots. Today, the site of Fort Washington is Bennett Park on Fort Washington Avenue, between West 183rd and West 185th streets in the neighborhood of the Washington Heights section of New York City. The locations of the fort’s walls are marked in the park by stones, along with a tablet commemorating the location of Fort Washington, and the brave troops who took back the fort on their triumphal entry into the city of New York on November 25, 1783. Nearby is a tablet indicating that the schist outcropping is the highest natural point on Manhattan Island, one of the reasons for the fort’s location. Bennett Park is located a few blocks north of the George Washington Bridge. Along the banks of the Hudson River below the Henry Hudson Parkway is Fort Washington Park and the small point of land alternately called Jeffrey’s Hook or Fort Washington Point, which is the site of the Little Red Lighthouse.
Most people have an idea in their head about what the continental United States looks like, but it was almost slightly different than it is now. The United States acquired the bulk of the southwestern corner of the nation from Mexico in 1848 as victors’ spoil after the Mexican War. However, congressional leaders who were eager to begin construction of a southern railroad, wanted to push the border farther to the south. The government directed James Gadsden, the American minister to Mexico, to negotiate the purchase of an additional 29,000 square miles. If you’re like me, you might be wondering what was so important about those 29,000 square miles. It’s a very small section, compared to other land purchases made by the United States, after all. Yet, this little piece of land was very important to the government. The purchase included lands south of the Gila River and west of the Rio Grande which the United States acquired so that it could construct a transcontinental railroad along a deep southern route, which the Southern Pacific Railroad completed in 1881/1883.
The purchase might not have been possible, were it not for the fact that the Mexican ruler, Santa Ana was eager to do business with the United States…despite having been badly beaten in war only five years earlier and forced to cede huge tracts of land to the victorious Americans. Santa Ana had only recently regained power, and he was in danger of losing office, unless he could quickly find funds to replenish his nearly bankrupt nation. Gadsden and Santa Ana agreed that the narrow strip of southwestern desert land was worth $10 million. When the treaty was signed on December 30, 1853, it became the last addition of territory…other than the purchase of Alaska in 1867…to the continental United States. The purchase also completed the boundaries of the American West.
In order to secure the area, the government established Fort Buchanan. It was also set up to protect emigrants traveling through the new territory from the Apache Indians, who were strongly resisting Anglo incursions, which they considered to be intrusive. With the outbreak of the Civil War four years later, northern politicians abandoned the idea of a southern line in favor of a northern route that eventually became the Union Pacific line, but the idea of a southern line remained…under the surface, but there nevertheless. It would take a number of years for that idea to become a reality, but since it did happen, I guess the original purpose for the purchase was honored after all.
On this day November 17, 1856, the United States founded Fort Buchanan, named after President James Buchanan three miles southwest of present-day Sonoita in Santa Cruz County, Arizona on the east slope of what is now called Hog Canyon. At the time, the area was under constant threat from hostile Apaches. Full-scale war with the local Chiricahua Apache was initiated by the Bascom affair in early 1861, during which Lieutenant George Nicholas Bascom and his patrol were based at Fort Buchanan. The fort was officially abandoned in 1861, though troops of the California Column occasionally manned the post during the American Civil War. In February 1865, Apaches attacked and burned the fort in the Battle of Fort Buchanan, forcing the small garrison to retreat. It was then abandoned for good and Fort Crittenden was established half a mile east on the flats in 1867. Sadly, Fort Buchanan was never rebuilt.
Arthur Duperrault dreamed of sailing the high seas. He was a World War II veteran from Green Bay, Wisconsin and he wanted to give his family a sailing adventure. The winter of 1960 was rough, but now the winter of 1961, would be one of sunlight and warmth. Arthur, Jean, Brian, Terry Jo, and Renee, were heading for the Bahamas to soak up some sun. Arthur and his family headed to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where their boat, Bluebelle was waiting for them. It was a sixty foot two-masted sailboat.
With no real sailing experience, Arthur hired a man named Julian Harvey, who was a decorated Air Force bomber pilot who had served in World War II and the Korean War, to captain for him. Harvey brought along his wife of four months, Mary Dene. On Wednesday, November 8, 1961, Arthur, Julian, and their respective families began their journey. Soon, the occupants of Bluebelle would be in the Bahamas. First, Harvey steered Bluebelle toward Bimini, a miniature island chain. Then headed east, to Sandy Point, a village located on the southwest point of the Great Abaco Island. Here, the vacationers filled their days with snorkeling and picking up shells on the beautiful beaches.
On Sunday, November 12, 1961, Arthur and Julian went to the office of Roderick Pinder, who was Sandy Point’s commissioner, to fill out the forms that they needed to properly leave the Bahamas. Arthur told Roderick. “We’ll be back before Christmas.” Little did Arthur, his wife, or three children know, they would not be coming back for Christmas. Sunday would be Arthur’s last night alive. It would also be last night alive for Jean, Brian, Renee, and Julian Harvey’s wife, Mary Dene. Sunday dinner was cooked by Mary Dene, who made a chicken cacciatore and salad for the two families. At 9:00 pm that night, Terry Jo went to bed. Her room was in a small cabin in the back of the boat. Usually, Renee, her young sister, slept there too, but tonight, she was with her mom, dad, and brother in the cockpit. In the middle of the night, Terry Jo heard her brother scream, “Help, daddy, help!” The screams were followed by running and stamping noises. Terry Jo was terrified. After the running, the stamping, and the screams stopped, there was an eerie silence.
Terry Jo was terrified, but found the courage to leave her cabin. The main cabin, a kitchen and dining room during the day, transformed into a bedroom at night. There she saw her mom and big brother, in a pool of blood…dead. Cautiously, she went to check the other areas of the boat. Near the cockpit, she saw more blood and a knife. She made her way to the front of the boat. As Terry Jo was viewing the horror in front of her, somebody lunged at her. It wasn’t a stranger…it was the captain, Julian Harvey. “Get back down there!” he screamed. With her heart pounding, Terry Jo went back to her cabin. She crawled into her bunk. Soon, water coming into the cabin told her that Bluebelle was sinking. She was too afraid to move. However, Harvey was moving all over the place. Soon, she saw Harvey in the doorway holding her big brother’s rifle. Then Harvey turned and walked out of the cabin, and she heard him climb the stairs back to the upper deck.
With water reaching the top of her mattress, Terry Jo knew she had to get out. Wading through the water, she climbed to the deck again. On deck she saw that the ship’s dinghy and rubber life raft were floating beside the boat. “Is the ship sinking?” she called out. “Yes!” Harvey shouted, coming up from behind her. He pushed the line to the dinghy into her hands. “Hold this!” he shouted. Numb from shock, Terry Jo let the line slip through her fingers. The dinghy slowly drifted away from the sinking Bluebelle. Harvey jumped overboard to catch it, and Terry Jo watched him swim after the dinghy and disappear into the night. She remembered the cork life float that was kept lashed to the top right side of the main cabin, which was now just barely above-water. She scrambled to the small, oblong float and quickly untied it. Just as the float came free, the boat deck sank beneath her feet. She pushed the float into the open water, and climbed onto the float. One of its lines snagged on the sinking ship. For a moment, she and the float were pulled underwater as the Bluebelle went down. Then the line came free, and they popped back to the surface. She huddled low on the float, afraid that the captain might be coming back. She had no water, no food, and nothing to protect her from the cold. The night was so dark that she couldn’t see anything.
For three days Terry Jo was battered by the salt water, and scorched by the sun…her only companions, a pod of porpoises. She had no food or water. Each day brought her closer to death. On Tuesday, a small red plane circled overhead. She waved at it for a long time with her blouse. The plane passed directly over her, but at an angle that made it impossible for the pilots to see her. When the sun rose on Thursday, she did not feel its burning rays. She was in a deep sleep close to death. Only the faintest spark of life was left. About midmorning she emerged from her stupor and opened her eyes. A huge shadow loomed above her like a great beast. Its rumble was so deep that she could feel its pounding rhythm in her chest. It seemed like a dream, until she looked up to the top of that great wall, and saw heads and waving arms. She could hear voices shouting. Finally, she felt herself lifted from the water. She passed out again. Terry Jo spent 11 days in a Miami hospital but had no permanent injuries
The day after the Bluebelle went down, an oil tanker spotted Harvey. When the captain pulled the tanker closer, he yelled, “My name is Julian Harvey. I am master of the Bluebelle.” In the days that followed, Harvey told the Coast Guard in Miami that he was the sole survivor of a grave accident. In the middle of the previous night, he said that a sudden squall damaged the sailboat. His wife, Mary Dene, and the Duperraults were injured when the masts and rigging collapsed. Gas lines in the engine room ruptured, and the ship caught fire as it sank. Harvey said he had managed to get in the dinghy, but tangled rigging trapped everyone else on board. A few days later, staying at the Sandman Hotel, Harvey heard that Terry Jo had survived. The next day, a maid at the hotel found Harvey’s bloody, lifeless body on the floor. He had killed himself.
A week after her rescue, officials questioned Terry Jo in her hospital bed. Her story, disproved Harvey’s account. Her father, mother, brother, and younger sister, along with Mary Dene Harvey, had been slaughtered aboard the Bluebelle, at the hands of Julian Harvey. The police suspect that Harvey killed his wife to collect money from her life insurance, and one theory suggests that Duperrault caught Harvey in the act, prompting the other murders. Terry Jo returned to Green Bay to live with her father’s sister and three cousins. When she was 12, she changed her name to Tere. Nearly 50 years later, in 2010, Tere finally revealed the details of the night her family was killed and her days spent drifting in open water in her book, Alone: Orphaned on the Ocean.
The Louisiana Purchase was the acquisition of the Louisiana territory, which was 828,000 square miles, by the United States from France in 1803. The purchase treaty was signed on April 30, 1803. There were a number of explorers who were anxious to explore the new territory…among them, Lieutenant Zebulon Pike. Pike’s explorations of the newly acquired Louisiana Territory of the United States began before the nation’s first western explorers, Lewis and Clark, had returned from their own expedition up the Missouri River. Pike was more of a professional military man than either Lewis or Clark, and he was a smart man who had taught himself Spanish, French, mathematics, and elementary science. When the governor of Louisiana Territory requested a military expedition to explore the headwaters of the Mississippi, General James Wilkinson picked Pike to lead it.
Although Pike’s first western expedition had little success, Wilkinson again picked him to lead a second mission in July 1806 to explore the headwaters of the Red and Arkansas Rivers. This route took Pike across present-day Kansas and into the high plains region that would later become the state of Colorado. As Pike approached the Colorado foothills of the Rocky Mountains during his second exploratory expedition, Lieutenant Zebulon Pike spots a distant mountain peak that looks “like a small blue cloud.” The mountain was later named Pike’s Peak in his honor, but Pike had vastly underestimated the mountain, and the distance to it. He told his men they should be able to walk to the peak, climb it, and return before dinner. Pike and his men struggled through snow and sub-zero temperatures before finally taking shelter in a cave for the night, without even having reached the base of the towering mountain. Pike later pronounced the peak impossible to scale. Little did he know what the future would bring for Pike’s Peak, especially tourism.
The remainder of Pike’s expedition was as bad as the first part. After attempting for several months to locate the Red River, Pike and his men became hopelessly lost. Were it not for a troop of Spanish soldiers who arrested Pike and his men, they would have most likely died. The soldiers escorted them to Santa Fe, thus providing Pike with an tour of that important region, courtesy of the Spanish military. After returning to the United States, Pike wrote an account of his expedition that won him some fame, but little money. In recognition of his bravery and leadership during the western expeditions, the army appointed him a brigadier general during the War of 1812. He was killed in an explosion during the April 1813 assault on Toronto.
In the days leading up to America’s entrance into World War II, Hitler was becoming more and more volatile. It didn’t take much to set him off. On November 8, he had to move up his scheduled speech in Munich on the anniversary of his 1923 attempted coup in Bavaria because British bombers were on their way to take out a railway yard. Hitler was determined to avenge this daring offensive. The Fuhrer let his bomber pilots know that he was not “willing to let an attack on the capital of the Nazi movement go unpunished.” He immediately set about creating a plan to exact his revenge on Britain. Hitler didn’t wait very long. The chosen city would be Coventry, which is a city in the West Midlands, England…historically part of Warwickshire. The raid was scheduled for November 14, 1940, so Hitler had only 6 days to prepare for what would become the single most concentrated attack on a British city in World War II. Codenamed Moonlight Sonata, the raid lasted for 11 hours and involved nearly 500 Luftwaffe bombers, gathered from airfields all over occupied Europe. It was a brilliant moonlit night, so bright that the traffic could move around on the road without light. The Luftwaffe dropped 500 tons of high explosive, 30,000 incendiaries and 50 landmines. It was also trying out a new weapon, the exploding incendiary. The aim was to knock out Coventry as a major center for war production, but it was more than that. Hitler ordered the raid as revenge for the RAF attack on Munich.
On the appointed day, almost 500 German bombers unleashed Hitler’s fury on the British industrial city, taking out 27 war factories. Of the 568 people killed, more than 400 were burned so badly they could not be identified. Among the more than 60,000 buildings destroyed or severely damaged was the historic Saint Michael’s Cathedral. Coventry lost not only its great mediaeval church of Saint Michael’s, but it was the only English Cathedral to be destroyed in the Second World War. The city also lost its central library and market hall, hundreds of shops and public buildings, and 16th century Palace Yard, where James II had once held court. It is said that the smell and heat of the burning city reached into the cockpits of the German bombers, 6,000 feet above. More than 43,000 homes, just over half the city’s housing stock, were damaged or destroyed in the raid. The fire at the city’s huge Daimler works was one of the biggest of the war in Britain. Up to 150 high explosive bombs and 3,000 incendiaries turned 15 acres of factory buildings into a raging inferno. The people of the city were so traumatized, that hundreds wandered the streets in a daze and little children were seen trying to burrow their way through solid brick walls to escape the terrifying noise.
King George VI is said to have wept as he stood in the ruins of the burned out Cathedral, surveying the destruction. One man recalled being pursued down a street by a knee-high river of boiling butter from a blazing dairy. At one point during the night, an abandoned tram was blown over a house and into a garden. It landed with its windows still intact. At midday the next day in Coventry, it was as warm as spring and almost dark because of the effects of the firestorms. The official death toll from the night was 554, but the real figure could have been much higher with many people unaccounted for. As help poured in the next day, demolition crews had to be prevented from pulling down the Cathedral tower. They didn’t realize it had been leaning for at least 100 years. On the day of the mass funerals, fighter patrols were sent up into the skies above the city. It was thought that the Germans might try to bomb the cemetery. Following the raid, Nazi propagandists coined a new word in Germany…Koventrieren, meaning to raze a city to the ground…to Coventrate passed into the German language, meaning “to annihilate or reduce to rubble.” The raid was intended to bring complete hopelessness to Britain, but by 1947, Coventry had adopted Kiel, its first German twin city, and Dresden followed in 1956. The rebuilt Cathedral stands for international peace and reconciliation. Coventry is now the 9th largest city in England.
The Vietnam War…often thought of as the one America lost, was an unpopular war, as most people know. Protests were everywhere, and some young men ran away to Canada to avoid going to war. Our soldiers were hated, mocked, and protested…especially when they came home from the war. People didn’t line up at airports to welcome them home, they lined up to protest them…calling them “baby killers” and spitting on them. Although such incidents were rare, the stories were often repeated among US soldiers in Vietnam. These stories added to the soldiers’ resentment of the antiwar movement. Rather than being greeted with anger and hostility, however, most Vietnam veterans received very little reaction when they returned home. They mainly noticed that people seemed uncomfortable around them and did not want to talk about their wartime experiences. “Society as a whole was certainly unable and unwilling to receive these men with the support and understanding they needed,” Christian G Appy explains in his book Working-Class War: American Combat Soldiers and Vietnam, “The most common experiences of rejection were not explicit acts of hostility but quieter, sometimes more devastating forms of withdrawal, suspicion, and indifference.” There was no tickertape parade to welcome home the heroes…nothing!! The veterans, who were just following orders, doing their duty, were blamed for the decisions of the government to go to war. It doesn’t matter to me whether this war was unnecessary, a lost cause, or a war we should or should not have been in, the soldiers should never have been blames for it. For years after the war, the Vietnam Veterans were shunned, neglected, and ridiculed.
By the 1980s, however, many Americans began to change their views of Vietnam veterans. They began to see that even if the war was wrong, most of the men who fought it were just ordinary guys doing their jobs. Many people started to feel sympathy and even gratitude toward the veterans. Soldiers who had served in Vietnam finally began receiving recognition and were honored by marching in holiday parades across the country. In 1985, Newsweek reported that “America’s Vietnam veterans, once viewed with a mixture of indifference and outright hostility by their countrymen, are now widely regarded as national heroes.” People had finally begun to understand how wrong they had been to blame the veterans for the war. Many people felt remorse for the horrible way this returning heroes were treated. Those who had this change of heart, began to do what they could to make amends. Better late than never, I guess, but in reality, no veteran should ever be treated that way.
On November 13, 1982, near the end of a weeklong national salute to the American who fought in the Vietnam War, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in Washington after a march to its site by thousands of veterans of the conflict. The long-awaited memorial was a simple V-shaped black-granite wall inscribed with the names of the 57,939 Americans who died in the conflict, arranged in order of death, not rank, as was common in other memorials. The designer of the memorial was Maya Lin, a Yale University architecture student who entered a nationwide competition to create a design for the monument. Lin was born in Ohio in 1959, the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Many veterans’ groups were opposed to Lin’s winning design, which lacked a standard memorial’s heroic statues and stirring words. However, a remarkable shift in public opinion occurred in the months after the memorial’s dedication. Veterans and families of the dead walked the black reflective wall, seeking the names of their loved ones killed in the conflict. Once the name was located, visitors often made an etching or left a private offering, from notes and flowers to dog tags and cans of beer. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial soon became one of the most visited memorials in the nation’s capital. A Smithsonian Institution director called it “a community of feelings, almost a sacred precinct,” and a veteran declared that “it’s the parade we never got.” “The Wall” drew together both those who fought and those who marched against the war and served to promote national healing a decade after the division the conflict had caused.
The Dardanelles is a narrow strait running between the Black Sea in the east and the Mediterranean Sea in the west. In World War I it was a much contested area right from the start. It was the subject of a naval attack, spearheaded by Winston Churchill, who was at that time Britain’s young first lord of the Admiralty. On March 18, 1915, six English and four French battleships headed toward the strait. When they reached the area, Turkish mines blasted five of the ships, sinking three of them and forcing the Allied navy to draw back until land troops could be coordinated to begin an invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula. With troops from the Ottoman Empire and Germany mounting a spirited defense of the peninsula, however, the Gallipoli offensive turned into a significant setback for the Allies, with 205,000 casualties among British Empire troops and nearly 50,000 among the French.
When the Allies got involved, the latter offensives in Mesopotamia and Palestine saw more success. By September 1917, the crucial cities of Jerusalem and Baghdad were both in British hands. As the war stretched into the following year, these defeats and an Arab revolt had combined to destroy the Ottoman economy and devastate its land. Some 6 million people were dead and millions more starving. In early October 1918, unable to bank on a German victory any longer, the Turkish government in Constantinople decided to cut its losses and approached the Allies about brokering a peace deal. On October 30, 1918, British and Turkish representatives signed the Treaty of Mudros, which ended Ottoman participation in World War I. According to the terms of the treaty, Turkey had to demobilize its army, release all prisoners of war, and evacuate its Arab provinces, the majority of which were already under Allied control…and open the Dardanelles and Bosporus to Allied warships.
This last condition was fulfilled on November 12, 1918, the day after the armistice, when a squadron of British warships steamed through the Dardanelles, past the ruins of the ancient city of Troy, toward Constantinople. By the post-war terms worked out by the Allies in the Treaty of Sevres in 1920, the waterways that were formerly under Ottoman rule…including the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmora and the Bosporus…were now placed under international control, with the designation that their “navigation…shall in future be open, both in peace and war, to every vessel of commerce or of war and to military and commercial aircraft, without distinction of flag.”
In a time when our nation is in such turmoil, I find myself appreciating our veterans even more than I did before. As a proud daughter of a World War II veteran, I always had a feeling of awe when it came to the members of our military. I never thought of a soldier without associating it with a hero, because that is what they are…each and every one of them. It takes the heart of a hero to set aside their own life, time with family, and their safety to protect the rights and lives of others…people they don’t know…who aren’t in their own country.
Soldiers are a special kind of hero. Like our first responders, they run into danger while others are running away, but a soldier does that in countries that aren’t their own. They have no stake in that country, but they know that without their help, the people of that nation are going to continue to live oppressed. The soldier fights for those who cannot fight for themselves. Evil dictators cringe when the soldiers are sent in, because there is a good possibility that the dictator’s days are numbered. War is never an easy journey for the soldier, but he or she knows that they are needed. They know that for every enemy death…a life is saved, and while that may be putting things a little bit simplistically, in a very real sense, it is true. In a war, the enemy must be beaten, in order to win the war, and thereby save the innocent.
Going off to war changes a person, and so does training to go to war. The minute a soldier joins up, there is a possibility of going to war, and the soldier has to face that fact. That’s where the heart of the hero kicks in. Deep down inside, the soldier has knows that what they are doing is important…it matters. Theirs is often a thankless job, and is sometimes treated with great disrespect, but when they are needed, they answer the call, nevertheless. It is our soldiers and their strength, that usually keeps our homeland free from attack. It’s not that we have never had attacks on our soil, but a strong, at the ready military force, makes our enemies think twice about trying to attack us here…and for that, I thank our military men and women. Our nation is very blessed to have our soldiers. To our active duty soldiers and our veterans of all wars, Happy Veterans Day!!
Years ago, when the telephone first came out, the only way to call someone, if they had a phone, that is, was to go through the operator. Basically, you picked up your phone, and often, cranked a ringer to get the attention of the operator, and then told them who you wanted to talk to. The operator would then connect you with the person you were calling by way of a switchboard. Of course, that meant that the operator could also stay on the line and listen to the whole conversation, if she chose to do so. The switchboard operator was needed to make any call except if two people had a party line.
Many people have no idea what a party line is, but my friend Gale Dugger Oskolkoff had one when her family lived in the Casper area, and her, her sisters, and I used to have a great time listening in on the calls that were made to a girl who had the unfortunate position of being a teenaged girl with a boyfriend and a party line. She use to get so mad at us. I don’t even know her name, but if she could have, I think she would have reached through the phone and choked us. Of course, I feel sorry for her now, because there was pretty much no privacy in her love life, but it was fun…for us anyway.
Before long, party lines became a thing of the past, and while direct distance dialing came into being before party lines went out, direct distance dialing was a brand new technology on November 10, 1951, when it was first offered on trial basis at Englewood, New Jersey, to 11 selected major cities across the United States. This service grew rapidly across major cities during the 1950s. The first direct-dialed long-distance telephone calls were possible in the New Jersey communities of Englewood and Teaneck. Customers of the ENglewood 3, ENglewood 4 and TEaneck 7 exchanges, who could already dial New York City and area, were able to dial 11 cities across the United States, simply by dialing the three-digit area code and the seven-digit number, which at the time consisted of the first two letters of the central office name and five digits. On November 10, 1951, Englewood Mayor M. Leslie Denning made the first customer-dialed long distance call, to Mayor Frank Osborne of Alameda, California.
The eleven destinations at that time were:
617: Boston, Massachusetts
312: Chicago, Illinois
216: Cleveland, Ohio
313: Detroit, Michigan
414: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
415: Oakland, California
215: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
412: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
401: Providence, Rhode Island
916: Sacramento, California
318: San Francisco – San Francisco required the special code 318 for temporary routing requirements
Many other cities could not be included, as they did not yet have the necessary toll switching equipment to handle incoming calls automatically on their circuits. As with any technology, these changes take time to implement. Other cities still had either a mixture of local number lengths or were all still six-digit numbers. Montreal, Quebec and Toronto, Ontario in Canada, for example, had a mix of six and seven-digit numbers from 1951 to 1957, and did not have direct distance dialing until 1958. Whitehorse, Yukon, had seven-digit numbers from 1965, but the necessary switching equipment was not in place locally until 1972.
These days, all this seems completely archaic, considering the fact that even the phone lines that were installed on poles and underground are almost not necessary in today’s world. With the implementation of wireless…everything, we no longer need to have a phone line to have a phone, and in fact a home phone is not necessary for most people, because a cellular phone can be taken with us where ever we go, so we never need to miss a call, unless our work does not allow us to have the phone with us. Phones have come a long way since the days of switchboards, operators, and phone lines, and I think most of us would agree that it’s better now, although there are those who like to be disconnected.
My Aunt Ruth Wolfe was raised on a farm, around horses, and she loved them, as well as most other animals. She really thrived on the country life. She worked hard, alongside her mom and siblings, especially during World War II, when her brother, my dad, Allen Spencer was serving in the Army Air Forces. She helped at the farm and also as a welder at the shipyards…one of the women known as riveters. Later in her life, when she was married, she and my Uncle Jim Wolfe lived in the country outside Casper, Wyoming. They gardened, canned, and raised farm animals. Aunt Ruth was one tough lady. She could do just about anything she set her mind to. From that hard work of farming, to canning, to haying, to playing any instrument, to painting, my Aunt Ruth was simply a multi-talented woman.
I think one of the strangest moves Aunt Ruth and Uncle Jim made was the one to Vallejo, California. I couldn’t quite figure out why a person who loved the country so much, would move to a city. Vallejo is a suburb of San Francisco, California, and very different from Casper, Wyoming or Holyoke, Minnesota. I suppose they decided that they wanted a change of pace, and I can understand that, because my family and I lived in the country for a number of years before we moved into town in Casper. For us, the city life was more…us, at least the small city life. I don’t think I would want to live in a big city like New York or San Francisco. Still, I can understand why my aunt and uncle might be drawn to the big city life, and the warmer California weather.
After a time in California, the quiet country life again drew them from the big city to the mountains of Washington state. I can’t say that the move to the mountains surprised me much, because it seems like country life was like the blood that ran through my aunt and uncle’s veins. It was a part of who they were, as much as their DNA was who they were. Once they settled in eastern Washington, they never moved again. They bought the top of a mountain, and built three cabins there…one for them, one for their daughter, Shirley and her husband, Shorty Cameron; and one for their son Terry and his family. For Aunt Ruth and Uncle Jim, this would be their forever home. Having been on their mountain top, I can say that I understand why they thought it was so beautiful, but in the years since I moved back to town, I know that I would not want to live permanently in the country, or on a mountain top again. Nevertheless, that was their favorite place to be. Today would have been my Aunt Ruth’s 92nd birthday. It’s hard to believe she has been gone 26 years now. Happy birthday in Heaven Aunt Ruth. We love and miss you so very much, and can’t wait to see you again.