I always knew that my uncle, George Hushman served in the United States Navy during World War II, but like many of the men who fight in wars, discussing what happened during their deployment is something that few want to talk about. My family spent quite a bit of time with Uncle George and Aunt Evelyn, who was my mom’s sister, and their family, but in all those visits, I never heard my dad, Allen Spencer, or my Uncle George ever talk about their time in the war. In fact, had it not been for an old picture of the two couples going to the Military Ball, I don’t think I would have even known what branch of the military Uncle George was in.
Recently, while researching my family history, I came across some Muster Rolls for the United States Navy, for one USS Gurke. The USS Gurke was a DD Type destroyer whose mission was to provide anti-submarine and anti-surface defense to other surface forces. The Gurke is one of 103 Gearing Class destroyers that were built at 8 different shipyards. It was originally laid down as USS John A. Bole in October of 1944, but was renamed USS Henry Gurke (DD-783) prior to her launching on February 15, 1945 at the Todd-Pacific Shipyards, Inc, in Tacoma, Washington. The ship’s sponsor was Mrs. Julius Gurke, mother of Private Gurke, for whom the ship was named. The destroyer was commissioned 12 May 1945, under the command of Commander Kenneth Loveland. It was to this ship that my Uncle George was assigned beginning May 12, 1945. Prior to that he had been a S2c V6 on the USS LCI (G) 23, which was a transport ship.
On the Gurke, Uncle George had a rating of S1c V6. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I’m sure that any navy veteran would know. A V6 is a person who volunteered in World War II. As a V6 they had to be discharged by six months after the war was over. An S1c was a seamen first class. So now I knew what my uncle did during the war. Seaman first class was the rank right below a Petty Officer. The Seaman did a variety of jobs onboard the ship and could have worked anywhere on the ship. I suppose it would be a rank similar to the private, or in non-military verbiage, a laborer. That was the rank that many men went into the navy with, but a seaman first class was no longer a trainee. He had been trained to do his duties, and didn’t have to be told.
After a shakedown along the West Coast, the Gurke sailed for the Western Pacific August 27, 1945, reaching Pearl Harbor on September 2nd. From there she continued west to participate in the occupation of Japan and former Japanese possessions. Returning to home port of San Diego, in February 1946, the Gurke participated in training operations until September 4, 1947, when she sailed for another WestPac cruise. Two further WestPac cruises, alternating with operations out of San Diego, and a cruise to Alaska in 1948 aiding the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Yukon gold rush, filled Gurke’s schedule until the outbreak of the Korean War. Of course, I assume that upon Gurke’s return to her home port of San Diego, my uncle was either assigned to another ship, was at home port, or discharged. I am very proud of his service. Today is Uncle George’s 93rd birthday. Happy birthday Uncle George!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
When the colonists came over to the new world, they really didn’t know how they were going to make a living. They were most likely planning to raise their own crops, along with hunting and fishing, but the reality is that those things were only going to take them so far. They were going to need other things. In 1620, Plymouth Colony was founded in present-day Massachusetts. The settlers there had planned to make a living with cod fishing, but that wasn’t going very well. So, within a few years of their first fur export, the Plymouth colonists began concentrating entirely on the fur trade. They developed an economic system in which their chief crop, Indian corn, was traded with Native Americans to the north for highly valued beaver skins, which were then sold in England to pay the Plymouth Colony’s debts and buy necessary supplies.
In November 9, 1621, Robert Cushman a deacon and captain of the Fortune arrived with 35 new settlers for Plymouth Colony…the first new colonists since the settlement was founded over a year earlier. The plan was to drop off the settlers, and then a month later, head back to England with a cargo of furs to pay for supplies and to pay debts the colony owed to England. On December 13, 1621, Robert Cushman and the Fortune set sail back to England, but theirs was not to be a good voyage. During Cushman’s return to England, the Fortune was captured by the French, and its valuable cargo of furs was taken. Cushman was detained on the Ile d’Dieu before being returned to England. The capture was due to a navigation error. About January 19, 1622, Fortune was overtaken and seized by a French warship, with those on board being held under guard in France for about a month and with its cargo taken. Fortune finally arrived back in the Thames on February 17, 1622.
The Fortune was 1/3 the size of the Mayflower, displacing 55 tons. The arrival of the vessel sent by the English investors, who had funded the Mayflower colonists, should have been a cause for celebration. But for the Pilgrims, Fortune was poorly named. The ship brought 35 new settlers, but none of the expected supplies. With new mouths to feed, rations were reduced by half. Worse, the investors demanded that the ship return immediately to England, stocked with trade goods. The Pilgrims complied by loading Fortune with “good clapboard as full as she could stow” and two hogsheads of beaver and otter skins, only to have them lost to the French, which the English investors did not seem to care about.
After the Mayflower brought the Plymouth settlers, they struggled under the demands of their English investors for seven years. The investors also sent a letter criticizing the settlers because the Mayflower arrived back in England with an empty hold, and demanding that the Fortune return immediately filled with valuable goods. The colonists complied. For the next six years, they sent sizable shipments, especially of furs, back to England. But the goods yielded far less profit than the investors expected, and as the seven year mark approached, the colonists were still in debt. Finally, 27 of them pooled their personal resources and paid off the debt. Once free of the requirement to live communally and hold all property in common, the original settlers divided the land into private lots, and the era of the “Old Comers” was over.
For most people the holidays are all about tradition. Of course, for all Christians, Christmas is about Jesus, but it’s also about family time, family traditions, parties, and gifts…with the greatest gift being Jesus. But, one tradition concerning those parties, for me and my family anyway, is the traditional Byer Family Christmas party. My mom, Collene Byer Spencer’s parents George and Hattie Byer started the tradition years and years ago, when their house really got too small to handle their large and ever growing family. The party was moved to the Mills Fire Hall, and on the day of the party, we literally filled it up!! Grandma and Grandpa Byer were surrounded by their loving children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren…and they were so happy. With a family as large as ours, well over 300 now, of course, you might not get to talk with each and every one, but you saw them, and they saw you, and it kept the family close. Grandma and Grandpa wanted that tradition to continue, even after their passing, and so they charged their children with the task of keeping the tradition alive, and the family close. And they did a good job of it.
Now, there are several of those kids who have, themselves, gone on to Heaven, and sadly, our numbers are dwindling, because we…the grandchildren have failed to take the reigns, and keep Grandma and Grandpa Byer’s dream alive. It is so easy to look at the aunts and assume that this is their duty, and not ours, but is it…really? Aren’t we, the grandchildren old enough now to also take up the simple task and honor our grandparents, and our aunts and uncles, in such a way. There are, of course, a number of the grandchildren who still come to the party every year, and we find ourselves very blessed by the evening. It is fun, and if we take a few minutes to walk around the room and visit with our aunts, uncles and cousins, we will find that we have a pretty wonderful family, and that the traditional Byer Family Christmas Party is a blessing that continues to grow…needing really just the watering of more loved ones to join in. It saddens me to think that the day might come, when it no longer makes sense to rent the facilities, because so few have shown up in past years, but it could come to that I suppose. We all think there is a lot of time to visit with our aunts, uncles, and cousins, but every time one of them goes to Heaven, we find out that there was so little time, and we wasted it, by thinking that our presence didn’t really matter. They could do without us. And yes, the party did go on, and we all had a great time, but the family members who were not there…who could have been, because they didn’t have to work, or have anyplace else to be, the ones who simply stayed at home…believe me…yes, you were missed, very much.
Grandma Byer was a great cook, and she taught her children well, and they taught their children well, and I can tell you that we are a family of great cooks. The food last night was delicious, everyone enjoyed it very much. The children were able to run and play without being in the way, and their parents could relax, because no one was going to think they should make their children sit still. The party is one where everyone’s feeling are treated with care, and oh my…did the children have a great time. No one got hurt, and they got to get their wiggles out, and probably eat far too many sweets, but hey, what is a party for anyway? I loved seeing all the precious little ones, whose eyes danced with glee as they got to spend time with other children that they hadn’t seen in quite a while, and as you know, kids don’t need an introduction. The see another kid their size, and it’s an instant friendship. Oh, that we adults could make friends so easily. All too soon, the party was over, and for many of us, it will be the last time we will see each other until the summer picnic…the other family tradition. We all lead busy lives, and daily visits are hard, but Grandma and Grandpa Byer wanted us to continue the tradition. So to all of you who came, thank you. It was great to see you and I really enjoyed our time together. And to all who couldn’t be there, know that you were missed. Merry Christmas to all of you.
When our girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce were little, we used to go to visit my husband, Bob’s aunt and uncle, Linda and Bobby Cole every year, right before school started. It was the final trip of the summer…Labor Day weekend. Soon after, they would be back in school, and they lazy days of summer would be over. We all looked forward to going, and it was always a lot of fun.
Linda and Bobby lived in the small South Dakota town of Kennebec. It was one of those towns that you could miss if you blinked on the way by. Back then there was a grocery store, a school, and one hotel…Linda and Bobby’s hotel. We never had to find a place to stay, because we always had a room in the hotel. Their hotel was an old building, filled with antiques that I’m sure were there in the days of the Old West. Well, ok, maybe not, but they were old enough to be from that era.
Kennebec operated at a very slow pace, because there wasn’t much to do there, besides visiting and a good card game. Linda and Bobby loved to play cards, when they weren’t square dancing that is. They belonged to a square dance club and they went to lots of dances during the year. They loved dancing and the costumes.
Our girls always loved to go for visits too. They got to hang out with their cousins Sheila and Pat Cole, and while they were older than our girls, they all still had a great time. The kids all played together with minimal fighting, and there was little they could do to get into trouble. We always enjoyed our visits to see Linda and Bobby and their family, and now that both Linda and Bobby are in Heaven, the memories are even more precious than they were before. Today would have been Linda’s 71st birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Linda. We love and miss you very much.
All of my life, Thanksgiving was a time to spend the day with family, overeat Thanksgiving dinner, and relish the fact that I had the perfect family life. In my young years, everyone in my family was alive and well. The family was growing in one way or another, but until my grandfather, George Byer passed away in 1980, when I was 24 years old, I had never faced death in any way…never lost a loved one. I think it was then that I realized that things were never going to be the same again. Life would go forward, but there was no guarantee that each new year would find us celebrating with the same loved ones every year. Changes are inevitable, and loved ones going to heaven…it’s all a part of what is known as the circle of life. Still, it leaves me feeling more than a little bit lonely as the holidays, and life in general embark upon irreversible changes time after time.
The first years without your parents are always among the hardest. I never considered the possibility that I could one day be an orphan, and yet, I am. An orphan is, after all, someone whose parents have passed away. We usually think of an orphan as a child, but in reality, most people will become orphaned at some point in their lifetime…unless their parents outlive them. Anyway, I found myself an orphan, and the holidays…every day, in fact…have never been the same. The holiday gatherings are much smaller affairs, as my sisters and I have redefined our holidays around our own families, as opposed to a large gathering of six families. While that is ok, and as it should be, there is still a small feeling of loneliness, because we don’t always see each other on the holidays now. Yes, we try to get together at least once before Christmas and a yearly picnic, just like my mom’s family has done, but the other holidays seem to have drifted into the category of small family gatherings, rather that large family gatherings. And, I have learned that in this life, you have no guarantee that your holidays will be the same from year to year, even if there is no loss in the family, because people also move away, and that changes the face of the holidays.
Still, Thanksgiving is a day to reflect on the things we have to be thankful for, and for me there are many. My daughters and their families are happy and well, and like my parents families did in the past, mine is growing, as my grandson, Chris Petersen and his fiancé, Karen Cruickshank are starting their own little family. We have wonderful friends, my daughter Corrie Petersen’s in-laws, Becky and Duane Skelton, who have graciously included Bob and me into their Thanksgiving holiday, and we can go to my daughter, Amy Royce’s house for gatherings too, or they can come here, so the core of my perfect family is still in there, it’s just different now. While the years have changed the face of our family gatherings, I still have a great family life, and while I can’t call it the perfect family life anymore, because my parents are in Heaven, I can still call it a very blessed family life, and for that I am very thankful.
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!!
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.
As my Aunt Evelyn Hushman’s birthday approaches, I wanted to look back to the years when she was growing up. She was the oldest of nine children, and so in many ways she became like a second mom to the younger kids…but, not exactly, in that my grandmother, Hattie Byer was a stay at home wife and mom all the years of her marriage. That was pretty much how it was in those days. I don’t know if shyness or being outgoing is something that a person is born with or not, but as the oldest child, with eight siblings, I seriously doubt if my Aunt Evelyn had the opportunity to be shy. And whatever the case on heredity might be, she certainly was not shy, but grew up to be a very outgoing person who had a wonderful circle of friends.
I think most of her family knows a lot about Aunt Evelyn as an adult, but I wanted to find out some things about her as a teenager, so I went looking on Ancestry and I was not disappointed. Ancestry has recently started putting the yearbooks from the schools on the site, and I found just what I was looking for there. As a senior, Aunt Evelyn was a part of the Junior Follies, which is a play put on by the senior class. The Follies at Natrona County High School began in 1925, and in the years that have followed, numerous student, alum, and community productions have graced the stage. The money made from the Follies was used to fund the prom. I never knew that my Aunt Evelyn was an actress…and, even if it was only for a short time, I think it’s very cool, but not as cool as what I found next.
The second thing I found out about Aunt Evelyn…one that really doesn’t surprise me that much, because it is so very much in character for her, was that as a senior, she was a Big Sister. Now, I’m sure that you thought about her eight younger siblings, and thought, “Of course, she was! We knew that!” Her siblings are not the people I am talking about, however. In the late 1940s at Natrona County High School, there was a group of senior girls, all of whom were required to have a high three point grade average, and who possessed dependability and leadership skills. Being a part of a program like Big Brothers/Big Sisters, is something we have all heard about these days. It is a mentoring program. However, Big Sisters at Natrona County High School was a bit different than that. At the beginning of the school year, each of the Big Sisters were assigned three or four little sisters, who were sophomores. Basically the duties of a Big Sister were to give advise and help out in any way she can to make the transition from Junior High to High school a successful one for the little sisters. This aid might come in the form of helping with Latin translation…or it could be help to find a date for the Co-Ed Ball, which was later named Football Ball. Many people who went by the Girls’ League room might have noticed Big and Little Sisters leaving notes on the bulletin board in the room…especially in the fall of the year. Of course, those notes were to ask or offer help with this or that, but many people wondered if the room was the Pony Express station, the post office, or the general exchange. They couldn’t have been more wrong, it was just a group of girls who were blessed enough to have a helper, or to be one. And, it makes me proud to know that my Aunt Evelyn was one of those amazing Big Sisters. Today would have been Aunt Evelyn’s 89th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Aunt Evelyn. We love and miss you very much.
I originally met my husband’s uncle, Andrew “Butch” Schulenberg at a family reunion about 1980, but really began to feel close to him and Aunt Charlys after my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg, Butch’s half brother, passed away in 2013. Since that time, my husband, Bob and I have gone to Forsyth to spend time with them and kept in touch on Facebook. In those five years, I can honestly say that he has become a favorite uncle to me. He is very sweet man, and his kind, thoughtful ways have endeared him to me more than he could possibly know. I am so blessed that he is a part of my life.
Uncle Butch is the youngest child of his dad, Andrew Schulenberg, who was the sheriff of Rosebud County, Montana from 1955 to 1972. Growing up as the son of the County Sheriff, you would expect that Butch would be an expert in guns, and you would be right, but not for the reason you might think. You see, Butch’s dad was known as the sheriff without a gun. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop Butch from becoming an expert marksman. Butch graduated from high school in Forsyth, Montana, and then attended Northern Montana College in Havre, Montana before joining the Army on September 13, 1963. Part of his time in the Army was spent stationed at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, as a rifleman in Company A, 1st Battalion of the Division’s 35th Infantry. While there he took part in Exercise West Wind as a part of the assault team in a joint Army-Navy-Marine Corps amphibious operation on the Hawaiian Island of Molokai from April 15, 1964 to April 24, 1964. During his time in the Army, Butch became an Expert (Rifle M-14) and Marksman (Rifle).
Butch had learned to respect the dangers of guns early in his life, a result of the fact that his dad lost his left leg as a result of a hunting accident at the tender age of 14. I don’t believe that Grandpa Andy Schulenberg was afraid of guns, else how could he possibly be the Sheriff of Rosebud County for so many years, but I do believe that he was well aware of what can happen with guns and that he made sure that his children knew that they were not a toy. Nevertheless, he didn’t teach his children to fear guns either. While Butch was an excellent marksman, he was also a great driver, and that caught the attention of his superior officer who chose him to be his driver for much of his time in the service. Butch received an honorable discharge on August 23, 1965. I am very proud of Uncle Butch’s service to his country, and his abilities. Today is Uncle Butch’s 77th birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Butch!! Have a great day!! We love you!!