So often, we take many of the people in our lives for granted. We just assume that they will always be there, and never consider the events in their past that…were it not for the grace of God, would have taken their lives, possibly before we even knew them. That is the case with my Uncle George. Were it not for the grace of God, he would have been killed in action in World War II, before he ever had the chance to meet and marry my Aunt Evelyn, becoming father of my cousins, and an uncle to me and the rest of the cousins. Uncle George, like my dad, my Uncle Larry, Uncle Wayne, and many other young men of that era, served his country during World War II. Many people serve in the wars our country has been involved in, and many people are injured and killed every day as a result of their service in our wars. In that way, Uncle George is not an unusual statistic, but what is unusual is that Uncle George survived…a head injury!!! He has had a plate in his head since that injury, but in every other way, he has lead a normal life.
People who don’t know about a situation, which was me concerning my Uncle George…until recently when I came across the Wyoming Wounded List where his name appears, usually assume that the person they know, and have known all their lives, was never wounded. Little did I know how very wrong I was. I knew that Uncle George has been in the Navy in World War II, but that was all I knew about his war history, and I only knew that because of a picture of my Aunt Evelyn, Uncle George, and my parents attending the Military Ball. You see, like most of the men who fought in World War II and probably many other wars too, Uncle George never spoke of those days. It was like he either wanted to forget, or more likely that he thought he had simply done his duty and it was no big thing, because he came home after all. Many military men feel that way. They think the heroes are the ones who died for their country, but that is not the only way to be a hero. Just going into battle, makes them a hero!!
After learning about my Uncle George’s injuries from World War II, I feel so much more blessed to have Uncle George in my life. Thinking that, but for the grace of God, he would never have been my uncle, makes that blessing very clear to me, and I thank God for his life and for making him my uncle. I can’t imagine our family without him in it, and I know everyone else agrees with me too. Today is Uncle George’s birthday. Happy birthday Uncle George!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Sometimes we do things for no real reason…we just feel a need somehow. When my dad’s family was living in Holyoke, Minnesota, the family liked to go down to Oak Lake to fish. The lake is located about 15 miles southwest of Holyoke. The lake was a family favorite location. In fact, the whole area was beautiful. The kids, my Aunt Laura, Uncle Bill, my dad, Aunt Ruth, and their friends, went fishing at the lake as often without their parents as they did with them. The lake became an escape from the boredom of everyday life in a small town.
At some point the kids came across the Fire Warden’s house. You see, the area was very wooded, and there was enough fire danger to warrant not only a fire warden, but a fire watch tower in the area. Of course, the summer season in any wooded area presents a high fire danger, as the summer heat dries out the area. Over time, in their hikes through the area, the kids became friends with the fire warden, and were eventually invited to climb up in the fire tower to check out the view from far above the forest floor. It soon became a tradition. When the kids and their friends went fishing at Oak Lake, they also stopped by the tower, and climbed it every time.
Yes, they loved visiting with the person in the tower, but they also climbed the tower when it was unmanned. I suppose it was partly the challenge of climbing up the high tower. Or it could have been the beauty of the view from the top of the tower. Maybe it was the visit with the watchman in the tower. Somehow, I don’t really think that any of those were the real reason the kids and their friends climbed the tower, every time they went by it. I think they had a very simple reason that they did it…because it was there. And sometimes that is all the reason you need.
All too often, in this day and age, we don’t think about the modern conveniences that we have. Things like electricity, indoor plumbing, gas (both for cars and houses), cars, television, and telephone are the normal everyday items we count on, but think very little about.
When you consider that not so very many years ago, people had to either get out of bed, practically get dressed, and go outside…even in the bitter cold of winter, to go to the outhouse, you know the outdoor toilet which was a little building out back of the house, or have a pot in the bedroom to use, and then emptied in the morning. Neither choice was perfect, but I suppose the pot in the house would have been better than going outside in the bitter cold of winter. These days we abhor the thought of stopping at a rest stop on a trip and finding out that all it has is an outhouse, because we expect that every place has modern indoor plumbing, whether it is a fact or not.
In times past, people went to bed and got up with the sun, because it was too expensive to light candles or lanterns. The work had to be done by daylight anyway, so they might just as well be up at dawn. of course, most teenagers these days consider anything before noon to be pure torture, and might even whine a little if they have to be up before that hour. Still, there wasn’t really any shift work back then, and families were together in the evening, unless the father was working in another state or town.
Letters were used to communicate, and unfortunately that often meant that if your loved ones didn’t live in the same place you did, you might hear of their passing months after the fact. It took a long time for letters to arrive, especially if they were coming from back east. Today, we can inform people of events that happen in our lives, almost the second they happen. In fact, it’s almost like they are there with you, and if it is an event you know about ahead of time, you can Skype with them, and they can watch it happen. Sometimes, even with all of our modern conveniences, we still think life is really hard, but if we think back to days gone by, we will know that we really have no idea what a hard life is.
For those of us who have worn glasses, it is easy to look back at those old pictures with those old funky glasses and think to ourselves, “What was I thinking when I picked those out??” It doesn’t matter how old we are now, the glasses we picked out a few years ago, are totally outdated by the time we think to look back on the pictures taken with them on. I know that styles change, and at the time we got the glasses, they were probably very much in style, but years later, we can only laugh at how funny they looked on us.
When we look back on the really old pictures, like when our parents and grandparents were young, we have the opportunity to have a pretty good laugh at their expense, because those glasses were really old fashioned. Of course, we do need to be a little bit careful, because just remember that our children and grandchildren will someday be looking at our old pictures with those funky glasses, and having a good laugh at our expense. I suppose we just have to be good natured about it, because it is a fact of life that we will all be considered old fashioned at some point in our lives.
When I was a kid in 4th grade, I got my first pair of glasses. While they were not the cat eye type, they were a royal blue color. I thought they were so cool at the time, but imagine how much they clashed with a lot of the clothes I wore. It didn’t matter to me, they were the coolest glasses ever in my 9 year old mind. I think my mom even tried to talk me into something else, but I would have none of it. I wore those glasses much longer than I would have liked, but you can’t just switch back and forth, especially as a little kid. Buying several pairs of glasses for a kid who might just as easily lose them, simply makes no sense.
Then, there was my let’s make those glasses as small as you can stage…never mind the fact that they were black, so you weren’t hiding the glasses at all. I really wanted contact lenses by that time, but my eye doctor didn’t think they would work for me. They probably would have, because they did just a few years later, but that was how it went. So there I was wearing another funky pair of glasses for far longer than I wanted to, and more often than not, removing them before any pictures could be taken.
Travel these days is so common that we really don’t give it much thought at all, but travel or moving in days gone by, was a very different matter, or perhaps it is just that some things worry people of different ages more that other people, or shall we say older people. I was reading a story written by my cousin Raymon Dunahee, who is my Grandpa Spencer’s sister, Alice’s son. The story begins, “I slept soundly (I guess we all did) all night and woke up the next morning to find that I was still all there. If anything had carried us off during the night they brought us back before morning.” When I read that, it reminded me of some of the camping trips my family took when we were kids, and my sisters and I kept waking my dad up so he could put another log on the fire to keep the bears away…like that would have made any difference. As I read through the thoughts of a little boy as he embarked of an unknown, and maybe a little scary future, my thoughts turned to how different travel was back then.
As I read through the rest of his story, and the continuing mishaps they had, I could see why he felt a little apprehensive about things. The vehicle they were traveling in had a couple of “bum casings” and he was concerned that if the roads got bad at all they might end up stuck in a very desolate place. They were trying to make Kalispell, Montana that day, and they still had a hundred and twenty five miles to go. They were in the mountains when the rear tire blew. The spare was not good either, so they limped along the six miles to the next town and got a new tire. It was another forty miles to Kalispell, but they made it without further mishap and bought another tire there. The trip to Kalispell was a side trip to visit his grandparents before they went on to their final destination…Twin Falls, Idaho. During the visit with his grandparents, they decided to go on to Twin Falls, Idaho with them. The rest of the trip was filled with similar troubles and I’m sure that Raymon wondered if they would make it at all, and if he even wanted to go to this place when it seemed that everything was against their move as it was.
Then, to add to Raymon’s concerns, their trip started to become very slow going…not because of car problems, but because of fish problems. It’s hard to imagine that fish could cause such big problems, but they can for a boy who is really ready to get where they are going. It seems that over the next three days, they family only made twelve miles!! “How could that be?” you ask. Well, they were traveling in an area where there were lots of mountain streams, and every time they came upon another stream, the men wanted to stop and fish!! I don’t think they caught very many fish, but according to Raymon, there were plenty of mosquitoes, and he was really ready to be away from them. I’m sure he was thinking, “Let’s just go!!” And there was no reason to even ask, “Are we there yet?” because you have to be moving for that question to even make sense. In the end, they did make it to Twin Falls, Idaho, where they lived out their days.
As kids, my sisters and I all had long hair. My dad always loved long hair, and never wanted any of us to cut it. Today, my sister, Cheryl and I are the only ones with hair that is very long. Neither of us can bear to cut it. I don’t know if it is because Dad always liked it, or if we just can’t imagine ourselves in shorter hair. Maybe it is a little of both. I think that people tend to like hair styles that are similar to what they grew up with, but not always, I suppose…after all my three younger sisters no longer have long hair. I suppose all little girls want to be beautiful, and our hair is a big part of that. Whether our hair is long or short, curly or straight, it is like a crowning glory to our look. We hate bad hair days, because we just don’t feel like we look our best. And of course, wind is the worst enemy a great hair style can have. You can’t put enough hairspray in your hair to fight of a windy day and the wind can make long hair stand straight up if you don’t hold it down.
I think my dad may have liked long hair in the beginning, because his sister, Laura always had long hair as a child. their mother was so proud of her daughter’s long curls, and she worked very hard on getting them just right for her. That kind of care can make a little boy, who is twelve years younger than his big sister, think that hair is very important…even if he doesn’t realize it. Curls have gone in and out of style, and these days women wear their long hair both ways. Cheryl likes her hair curled, but my hair has a tendency to get frizzy and tangle easily, so I straighten mine. I have natural curl, but it isn’t beautiful, with great curls, but rather an errant wave here and there. Ugh!! But Aunt Laura’s long curls were beautiful, and more in style today than people would expect. They reminded me of a long haired Shirley Temple look. You could tell that Aunt Laura liked her long hair too. She always had pretty bows in it as a child, and in the picture where she was showing off her curls, she seemed very proud of them, and her mom was really proud of it too.
Another funny thing about long hair is how it acts when you flip it out of your way. My grandson, Josh and I were putting up my Christmas tree on Saturday. As I bent over to get another ornament for the tree, my hair got in my way, so I flipped it out of the way. Josh started laughing. I asked what was so funny, and he told me that my hair had landed on the tree, and it was still there. It wasn’t the first time my hair had landed somewhere it didn’t belong. Bob and I were at Mount Rushmore on the 4th of July one year. It was very crowded. I flipped my hair back, and got this…feeling. I turned around to see the woman behind me touching her nose, and saying, “She hit me with her hair!” I was horrified. I immediately apologized, saying that sometimes I didn’t realize how far my hair reached. She was gracious, and the situation passed, but it was not forgotten…by me. Long hair can be beautiful, but it can also be a little hard to control sometimes. And that can be comical too.
Remember the last time you went to the movies? There might have been a line as you went in, but with the ability to get movies right at home on the television, the lines were probably not like they used to be. I remember going to the movies when we stood in line, outside…for over an hour to get inside. In the wintertime, that was brutal, but you did it, because you really wanted to see the movie. Of course, when I was a kid, and we went to the movies, the theater was packed with kids, planning to see the latest Disney film, and the minute the lights went out, the crowd could no longer contain their excitement, so they broke out in loud screaming. It was simply the excitement that could no longer be contained inside, coming out in the form of a scream.
Now, take a trip back in time with me to a time when movies were very new. The novelty had not worn off, as it has today. Not everyone had seen a moving picture show. Even as kids, filled with excitement at the latest movie, we would never have been able to understand the level of excitement that came from seeing those first moving picture shows. I suppose there were people that felt like this new form of entertainment was not a good thing, but most felt like it was something exciting that they wanted to be a part of. I seriously doubt that they could have had any idea what an enormous impact those first moving picture shows would have on mankind.
Today, we have much more than moving picture shows, and television…which exist in almost every home in America, brings us much more than entertainment. We can turn on our TV and we are instantly connected to weather warnings, breaking news, politics, and yes, even entertainment. We can tune into learning channels that teach us about everything from animals to languages to space, and we can even watch programs from our favorite religious leaders and in my case, even our church, which broadcasts its Sunday morning service all over Wyoming, for people who can’t get to church, or don’t have a church in their small town.
So much has changed in our world since that first moving picture show, and while, we still go to the movies, the lines are rarely that long. That is quite possibly because the show is often shown at several theaters, with several showings a day, including afternoon showings. Many people don’t even go to the movies at all, choosing instead to wait for the movie to come out on television or DVD. And these days, we have the even further choice of watching television or movies on our PC, laptop, tablet, or even our cell phone. Whatever way we choose to enjoy this type of entertainment, it all started with the moving picture show.
In the middle of the 18th century, Germany was a country that had been floundering due to European politics for more than a hundred years. At that time, France, England, and Spain largely had control of the continent because of their military might. The German states, on the other hand, were left to their own devices, and each leader was running his state for his own gain, without concern for the people or the nation as a whole. As a result of all the political greed, Germany was a nation that was going to quickly go under or eventually succumb to the greed around it and become an evil dictatorship, and no help was coming. It was in this Germany, at this time in history that my 6th Great Grandfather, Philipp Beyer (a name that would later be Americanized to Byer) and his wife, my 6th Great Grandmother Maria, were a young couple with a small son…my 5th Great Grandfather, Johann Beyer.
Germany was quickly becoming a place that was either going to fall apart or be controlled by it’s own evil leaders. Either way, Germany had become a place where my 6th Great Grandparents could no longer afford to raise their family, so they made the decision to immigrate to Russia, which at that time in history was a better choice. I can’t even imagine how they must have felt, as they were leaving the country they loved, and moving to an unknown situation in an unknown country. Russia must have ended up being a good decision, because the family would live there for the next five generations, before my Great Grandfather, Cornelius George Byer, would make the decision in 1874 to immigrate to America, once again in search of a better life and to get away from a government that was quickly becoming extremely evil.
It is a sad thing when a government becomes so evil that you feel like you must immigrate to another country in order to save your children from the tyranny of your own country. Like it or not, that is what many people had to do and still have to do in order to protect their children. The move to America would be the best thing my great grandfather ever did. Once here, they were able to get a homestead that belonged to them, and was not subject to confiscation by an evil government, and more importantly, their children could not be taken away by the government to be raised as it saw fit, and become as evil as it was. It does make me very thankful that my grandfathers were wise enough to know when it was time to simply cut your losses, and get out…before their evil government made it impossible to leave.
During the Depression years, many people were looking for work…any kind of work, because jobs were scarce, and money even more so. Many men were forced to leave their wives and young children to run the farms, so they could go out, sometimes several states away to look for work. It wasn’t just the husbands either. Many times, as in the case of my dad and my Uncle Bill, it was the sons who had to go find jobs too, because the family was simply not going to make ends meet if they didn’t. So it was that Dad and Uncle Bill set out for the Whitefish, Montana area to look for work. This trip would be quite an experience for the two brothers, who were in their teens at the time. It is my guess that my dad would have been around 15 years and Uncle Bill 17 years old at this time, but I could be off by a year or two. It doesn’t matter, because they were, nevertheless young.
They got to Fosston, Minnesota that first night…taking it easy on Uncle Bill’s old Plymouth, and arriving about 8:30pm. They tried to find a room to rent for the night, but there were none, and then someone said they could sleep at the jail, so they went to check it out. They were allowed to spend the night there, after showing identification, being searched, and leaving all their belongings except their clothes in the office. I’m sure they were really wondering if they would turn them loose the next morning, after such an ordeal, but while the beds were not the most comfortable, they had a place to sleep. Needless to say, they left Fosston the next morning, and headed to Osnabruck, North Dakota the next day, where they found work unloading bags of cement from a rail road box car. By the end of the day, they were exhausted and pretty certain that they couldn’t have lifted one more bag…no matter how much money was offered. They found a man and his son who had a threshing machine and several farms lined out to do threshing for, but not enough help, so they worked for him until continued rain ended the threshing for the year.
Then, they decided to get out of North Dakota, and headed for Whitefish, Montana where they worked in the lumber business for a company called Kinshella Lumber, in the beautiful mountains outside Whitefish. That area was one that they found to be a great place for adventure, and they spent a lot of time driving in the mountains when they were working. It was a time they would remember fondly, until October arrived, bringing with it some very cold weather. By this time, both boys were pretty much done with this trip, so they set out for home, with enough money to make another payment on the farm. They had an interesting adventure, to say the least, but I’m sure that grandma’s good cooking and their own beds were calling their names, and as Uncle Bill said, there was wood to be cut up for the stove.
Most of us today think very little about the place we were born, except the city and state, of course. That is because most of us are born in hospitals, these days, and while we may know about those, they carry little value, except the name itself. It isn’t a place we go to see out of curiosity, or a place that we generally have a picture of, because it just isn’t that big a part of our life history. I found this picture recently, and for me, it will now always carry a great value and significance in my life history. No, it isn’t the place where I was born. My own birth took place at Saint Joseph’s Hospital, in Superior, Wisconsin. That is all I know of the place, and it has never been something that carried any great importance to me to see. No, this is the house where my dad was born…a home birth.
Home births didn’t used to be such a novelty, in fact the very opposite was true. Women saw no need to rush off to the hospital to give birth to their children during the time when my dad was born. And yet, it is that relative novelty that exists today concerning home births, that made me look twice at the information my Uncle Bill had attached to this picture. While my dad was not the only one of my grandparents children to be born at home, he was the only one to be born in this house.
After I read that this house was where my dad was born, I just felt an immediate connection to it. I could picture my dad…the baby, crying for the first time and then being handed to his mother so he could eat his first meal. I could picture him learning to sit, stand, and walk in this house. I could picture his siblings, Laura and William taking turns holding the new baby, and Laura helping her mother to care for her new baby brother. Aunt Laura had been such a great held with my Uncle Bill’s care when he was little, and how much she liked that job, as told by Uncle Bill, so I can imagine that she cared for my dad in much the same way.
I don’t know how long they lived in this house for sure, but I do know that it carried many precious memories of happy times. It is a house that my Uncle Bill spoke of often, and there are a number of pictures taken at this house too. Stories of their times playing with the Zenith Coaster wagon that is pictured in front of the house, also graced the pages of the family history, as very important pictures for Uncle Bill, He and my dad had many great times in that old wagon, and as an added blessing, their sister, Laura was there to pull them around in it, so they didn’t have to do a thing but sit back and enjoy the ride. I think I can see exactly why the house meant so much to the family.