My grandson, Caalab Royce; his dad, Travis; as well as my Dad, Allen Spencer and Uncle Bill Spencer; brother-in-law, Chris Hadlock; and nephew, Ryan Hadlock all play the guitar. There may be others in the family too, but they haven’t made it public knowledge. Any time I come across a some information, on guitars or their makers, I am interested, because of these people.
Adolph Rickenbacker was born on April 1, 1886 in Basel, Switzerland as Adolph Rickenbacher. Following the death of his parents, he immigrated to the United States in 1891 with relatives. He settled in Columbus Ohio and later moved to southern California. Rickenbacher was a distant cousin to America’s top Flying Ace Eddie Rickenbacker. Rickenbacher decided that the name association would be helpful to him in his chosen career, so he Anglicized both his own name and that of his company, to Rickenbacker Manufacturing Company. His company made metal bodies for the National String Instrument Corporation. These metal bodies were used to make electric guitars. Through this connection, he met George Beauchamp and Paul Barth, and in 1931 they founded the Ro-Pat-In Company.
The three men produced the first cast aluminum versions of the lap steel guitar in 1932. In 1934, they renamed their company to the Electro String Instrument Corporation. Still, this was not to be a long term business. Music instruments tend to evolve and the resulting instrument looks little like the original. Production ceased in 1939, after approximately 2,700 Frying Pan guitars had been produced. Rickenbacker, who was not convinced of the guitar business’s potential, continued manufacturing until 1953. Then he sold his company to Francis Cary Hall, a forerunner of the Southern California electric guitar boom. I wonder what might have been if the Electro String Instrument Corporation had continued on. While the signature “Frying Pan Guitar” might not have held it’s popularity, many other looks have followed.
Nevertheless, the “Frying Pan Guitar” had been a wonderful career for Rickenbacker. When he finally sold the business, Adolph Rickenbacker was 67 years old. He went on to live a over 20 more years before he died from cancer in Orange County, California on March 21, 1976 at the age of 89.
For Corporal Charles Joseph Berry, March 3, 1945 was just another day in the trenches…at least that was how it began. By days end, the war would be all over for Corporal Berry…as would his life. At this point, many people would expect that Corporal Berry would be “just another war statistic,” and they would be right, to a small degree. Corporal Berry was a war statistic, but it was the way he died that changed everything…that made him a hero!!
Charles Joseph Berry was born on July 10, 1923 in Lorain, Ohio, and graduated from Clearview High School in Lorain in 1941. After graduation he went to work as a truck driver for a moving company. When World War II broke out, Corporal Berry enlisted in the Marine Corps in Cleveland, Ohio, on October 1, 1941. He was 18 years old. He was sent to Parris Island, South Carolina for basic training. Following his basic training, he was stationed to the Marine Barracks at Quantico, Virginia, but shortly afterwards was ordered to the Marine Barracks, New River, North Carolina, for parachute training. He was promoted to private first class on June 2, 1942, after qualifying as a parachutist.
On March 11, 1943, PFC Berry sailed from San Diego, California, arriving later that month in New Caledonia with the 1st Parachute Battalion. He left New Caledonia in September 1943, arriving in the Solomon Islands a few weeks after his departure. Then, in October 1943, he went to Vella La Vella, where he remained for one month. In November 1943, he landed at Bougainville, and during that campaign, took part in the raid at Koairi Beach and in the Empress Augusta Bay action. Prior to returning to the United States in February 1944, he spent a short time at Guadalcanal. Following his arrival at Camp Elliott, San Diego, he joined the newly organized 5th Marine Division in early 1944. In July he departed for the Hawaiian Islands with that division. He was advanced to corporal on July 22, 1944. He landed on Iwo Jima on D-Day, February 19, 1945.
On March 3, 1945, Corporal Berry was killed during a battle that would win him the Medal of Honor. Corporal Berry while stationed in the front lines, manned his weapon with alert readiness as he maintained a constant vigil with other members of his guncrew during the hazardous night hours of March 2nd. Infiltrating Japanese soldiers launched a surprise attack shortly after midnight in an attempt to overrun his position. Corporal Berry engaged in a pitched hand-grenade duel, returning the dangerous weapons with prompt and deadly accuracy until an enemy grenade landed in the foxhole. Corporal Berry gave no thought to his own safety, but determined to save his comrades, he unhesitatingly chose to sacrifice himself and immediately dived on the deadly grenade. His body absorbed the shattering violence of the exploding charge, and protected the others from serious injury. Corporal Berry had never given it another thought. He just did it, and then it was all over. He gave his life so that his fellow marines might carry on the relentless battle against a ruthless enemy, and “his superb valor and unfaltering devotion to duty in the face of certain death reflect the highest credit upon himself and upon the United States Naval Service.”
Corporal Berry was buried in the 5th Marine Division Cemetery on Iwo Jima, but was later reinterred in Elmwood Cemetery, Lorain, Ohio, in 1948. He was honored for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty” as a member of a machine-gun crew, serving with the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines, 5th Marine.
Nurses are the cornerstone of medicine in many cases. Yes, we must have doctors, but nurses are the support system that allows doctors to do their jobs. One such example was a woman named Mary Ann Bickerdyke. She was born on July 19, 1817 in Knox County, Ohio, to Hiram and Annie (Rodgers) Ball. She was married in 1847 to Robert Bickerdyke. The couple and their family moved to Galesburg, Illinois. After her infant daughter died suddenly, she vowed to learn more about medicine, studying herbal medicine at Oberlin College. Mary Ann was widowed in 1859. She was alone and the mother of two sons, who were in their adolescent years.
Widowed just two years before the Civil War began, she supported herself and her sons by practicing as a “botanic physician” in Galesburg. When a young Union volunteer physician wrote home about the filthy, chaotic military hospitals at Cairo, Illinois, the citizens of Galesburg collected $500 worth of supplies and selected Bickerdyke to deliver them. She left her sons with a neighbor, and after seeing the horrible conditions for herself, Bickerdyke decided that she was needed there, so she stayed as an unofficial nurse. Her never ending energy, and her dedication made her just the heroine the Union soldiers needed in those awful war years. She organized the hospitals and cleaned up the filth that served only to breed germs, and in doing so, she gained the respect and appreciation of Ulysses S. Grant.
While there, she worked alongside another famed Civil War Nurse, Mary J. Stafford. When Grant’s army moved down the Mississippi River, Bickerdyke went too, becoming the Chief of Nursing and setting up hospitals where they were needed. Bickerdyke’s goal during the Civil War was to more efficiently care for wounded Union soldiers. She insisted on cleanliness, was dedicated to improving the level of care, and unafraid of stepping on male toes. That, in itself, was almost unheard of in that era. She was adamant about scrubbing every surface in sight, reported drunken physicians, and on one occasion ordered a staff member, who had illegally appropriated garments meant for the wounded, to strip. Though she antagonized male physicians, staff, and soldiers alike, in the name of better patient care, she won most of her battles…a good thing for the wounded soldiers.
Union General William T. Sherman was especially fond of the volunteer nurse who followed the western armies. It is said that she was the only woman he would allow in his camp. When his staff complained about the outspoken, insubordinate female nurse who constantly disregarded the army’s red tape and military procedures, Sherman threw up his hands and exclaimed, “Well, I can do nothing for you, she outranks me.” Running roughshod over anyone who stood in the way of her self-appointed duties, when a surgeon questioned her authority to take some action, she replied, “On the authority of Lord God Almighty, have you anything that outranks that?” I guess Sherman was right when he said that she outranked him.
To the wounded soldiers, Bickerdyke was an angel. They affectionately called her “Mother” Bickerdyke, and she called them her “boys.” The soldiers would cheer here when she appeared. She was more loved than the celebrities of our day are for some fans. During the war, she worked closely with Eliza Emily Chappell Porter of the Northwest Sanitary Commission, worked on the first hospital boat, helped build 300 hospitals and aided the wounded on 19 battlefields including the Battle of Shiloh, the Battle of Vicksburg, and Sherman’s March to the Sea. When the war was over, she rode at the head of the XV Corps in the Grand Review in Washington at General William T. Sherman’s request. Afterwards, she worked for the Salvation Army in San Francisco, and became an attorney, helping Union veterans with legal issues. Later, she ran a hotel in Salina, Kansas for a time before retiring to Bunker Hill, Kansas. She received a special pension of $25 a month from Congress in 1886. She died peacefully after a minor stroke November 8, 1901. Her remains were transported back to Galesburg, Illinois and she was interred next to her husband at the Linwood Cemetery. In memory of Bickerdyke’s selflessness, a statue of her was erected in Galesburg, Illinois. Two ships…a hospital boat, a liberty ship, and a cemetery in Kansas were named after her.
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson believed that a trans-Appalachian road was necessary to connect this young country. In 1806 Congress authorized construction of the road and President Jefferson signed the act establishing the National Road. It would connect Cumberland, Maryland to the Ohio River. Construction on the road, known in many places as Route 40, and in others as the Cumberland Road, began in 1811 and continued until 1834. It was designed to reach the western settlements, and was the first federally funded road in United States history.
The first contract was awarded in 1811, and included the first 10 miles of road. These days that seems like such a short distance, but in the early 1800s, I’m sure it was considered a big job. By 1818 the road was completed to Wheeling, West Virginia. It was at this point that mail coaches began using the road. By the 1830s the federal government turned over part of the road’s maintenance responsibility to the states through which it ran. In order to help pay for the road’s upkeep, tollgates and tollhouses were built by the states. As work on the road progressed a settlement pattern developed that is still visible. Original towns and villages that were found along the National Road, remain barely touched by the passing of time. The road, also called the Cumberland Road, National Pike and other names, became Main Street in these early settlements, earning the nickname “The Main Street of America.” The height of the National Road’s popularity came in 1825 when it was celebrated in song, story, painting and poetry, but hard times hit in 1834, and construction on the road was tabled. During the 1840s popularity soared again. Travelers and drovers, westward bound, crowded the inns and taverns along the route. Huge Conestoga wagons hauled produce from farms on the frontier to the East Coast, and then returned with staples such as coffee and sugar for the western settlements. Thousands of people moved west in covered wagons and stagecoaches that traveled the road keeping to regular schedules.
In the 1870s, however, the railroads came and some of the excitement of the national road faded. In 1912 the road became part of the National Old Trails Road and its popularity returned in the 1920s with the automobile. Federal Aid became available for improvements in the road to accommodate the automobile. In 1926 the road became part of US 40 as a coast-to-coast highway. As the interstate system has grown throughout America, interest in the National Road again waned. However, now when we want to have a relaxing journey with some history thrown in, we again travel the National Road. Cameras capture old buildings, bridges and old stone mile markers. Old brick schoolhouses from early years sporadically dot the countryside and some are found in the small towns on the National Road. Many are still used, some are converted to a private residence and others stand abandoned.
Historic stone bridges dot their way along the National Road, and they have their own stories to tell. The craftsmanship of the early engineers was amazing. The S Bridge, was so named because of its design and it stands 4 miles east of Old Washington, Ohio. It was built in 1828 as part of the National Road. It is a single arch stone structure. This one of four in the state is deteriorated and is now used for only pedestrian traffic. However the owners of the bridge are attempting to obtain funding for its restoration. The stone Casselman River Bridge still stands east of Grantsville, Maryland. It is a product of the early 19th century federal government improvements program along the National Road, the Casselman River Bridge was constructed in 1813-1814. Its 80-foot span, is the largest of its type in America, and it connected Cumberland to the Ohio River. In 1933 a new steel bridge joined the banks of the Casselman River. The old stone bridge, partially restored by the State of Maryland in the 1950s is now the center of Casselman River Bridge State Park. Mile markers have been used in Europe for more than 2,000 years and our European ancestors continued that tradition here in America. These markers tell travelers how far they are from their destination and were an important icon in early National Road travel. Kids ask what they are fr, and adults nostalgically seek them out for photographing. A drive through National Road towns usually reveals one of these markers, such as the one standing by the historic Red Brick Tavern in Lafayette, Ohio.
In the 1960s Interstate 70, bypassed Route 40 and much of the National Road, leaving many businesses by the wayside. People were looking for faster cars and quicker arrival times. Life runs at a much faster pace these days. These old roads are a great way to relax, take your time and see some sights. Traveling the National Road, you can see the timeless little villages with small restaurants where you can get a home cooked meal and a trip back in time. The Interstate often parallels the National Road, but we leave behind the old inns and farmhouses in our rush to arrive about destination.
On October 20, 1944, in the city of Cleveland, Ohio, workers at the East Ohio Gas Company spotted a white vapor leaking from the large natural gas tank at the company plant near Lake Erie. It was 2:30 pm on that Friday afternoon, and a leak is never a good thing, but this one would prove to be disastrous. The circular tank had a diameter of 57 feet and could hold 90 million cubic feet of the highly flammable gas. Ten minutes later, a massive and violent explosion rocked the entire area. Flames went as high as 2,500 feet in the air. Everything in a half-mile vicinity of the explosion was completely destroyed. In the ensuing explosion, a smaller tank also exploded. The out-of-control fire that followed the explosion necessitated the evacuation of 10,000 people from the surrounding area.
Originally built in 1902, the East Ohio Gas Company plant, spanned from East 55th to East 63rd Streets taking up a full ten acres. It provided natural gas to most of Cleveland, including many businesses in the neighborhood in which it was located. By 1940, part of the plant was converted to a liquefaction, storage, and regasification facility, which was one of the most modern gas plants in the country, safely storing large quantities of liquefied gas in four separate holding tanks. These days, we would not have these types of volatile substances stored in a residential area, but back then, before transportation became much more affordable, laborers in those early industrial cities had to be close to their places of employment. A gas storage facility was just one among many industrial operations that were located in a typical working-class neighborhood of that era. However, because the plant was modernized and had many safety features, people living in the area felt they had no reason to fear. That is, until a fateful day in October when “fire fell from the sky.”
The call went out to every firefighting unit in the Cleveland area. It took all of the city’s firefighters to bring the horrific industrial fire under control. In the end, the fire killed 130 people, destroyed two entire factories, 79 homes in the surrounding area and more than 200 vehicles. The total bill for damages exceeded $10 million. When the fire was out, rescue workers found that of the 130 people, killed by the blast, nearly half of the bodies were so badly burned that they could not be identified and in fact, 21 of them were never identified. Two hundred and fifteen people were injured and required hospitalization. The cause of the explosion had to do with the contraction of the metal tanks. The gas was stored at temperatures below negative 250 degrees and the resulting contraction of the metal had caused a steel plate to rupture. The East Ohio Gas Explosion has since been calculated to be equal to a 2.43 kiloton TNT explosion or 1/6 of the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb. In the aftermath of the fire, everyone knew that changes had to be made to protect laborers, and the people in the neighborhoods. Newer and far safer techniques for storing gas and building tanks were developed in the wake of this disaster.
On September 26, 1774, a man named John Chapman, who is my 6th cousin 6 times removed, was born in Leominster, Massachusetts. John was the second child, after his sister Elizabeth, of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Chapman. While Nathaniel was in military service, his wife died on July 18, 1776, shortly after giving birth to a second son, Nathaniel. The baby died about two weeks after his mother. Nathaniel Chapman ended his military service and returned home in 1780 to Longmeadow, Massachusetts. In the summer of 1780 he married Lucy Cooley of Longmeadow, Massachusetts, and they had 10 children. So in the end, John Chapman came from a large family. You might wonder what all this has to do with anything, and I suppose you would be justified in asking, but I think when you hear John Chapman’s nickname, you might know who I am talking about. For most of his life, John Chapman was called, Johnny Appleseed. Most people will remember him from the history books, as an American pioneer nurseryman who introduced apple trees to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ontario, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, as well as the northern counties of present-day West Virginia. He became an American legend while he was still alive, due to his kind, generous ways, his leadership in conservation, and the symbolic importance he attributed to apples. These days plant nurseries are often named after Johnny Appleseed, including on in my city of Casper, Wyoming.
According to some accounts, an 18 year old John persuaded his 11 year old half-brother Nathaniel to go west with him in 1792. The boys lived a nomadic life until their father brought his large family west in 1805 and met up with them in Ohio. Nathaniel decided to stay and help their father farm the land. A short time later, John began his apprenticeship as an orchardist under a Mr. Crawford, who had apple orchards, and so began his life’s journey of planting apple trees. There are stories of Johnny Appleseed practicing his nurseryman craft in the area of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and of picking seeds from the pomace at Potomac cider mills in the late 1790s. Another story has Chapman living in Pittsburgh on Grant’s Hill in 1794 at the time of the Whiskey Rebellion.
The most popular image is of Johnny Appleseed spreading apple seeds randomly everywhere he went. In reality, he planted nurseries rather than orchards, and then built fences around them to protect them from livestock. Then he left the nurseries in the care of a neighbor who sold trees on shares, and returned every year or two to tend the nursery. His first nursery was planted on the bank of Brokenstraw Creek, south of Warren, Pennsylvania. Next, he seems to have moved to Venango County along the shore of French Creek, but many of his nurseries were in the Mohican area of north-central Ohio. This area included the towns of Mansfield, Lisbon, Lucas, Perrysville, and Loudonville.
Johnny Appleseed was a bit of a missionary too. He would tell stories to children and spread The New Church gospel to the adults, receiving a floor to sleep on for the night, and sometimes supper, in return. “We can hear him read now, just as he did that summer day, when we were busy quilting upstairs, and he lay near the door, his voice rising denunciatory and thrillin—strong and loud as the roar of wind and waves, then soft and soothing as the balmy airs that quivered the morning-glory leaves about his gray beard. His was a strange eloquence at times, and he was undoubtedly a man of genius,” reported a lady who knew him in his later years. He made several trips back east, both to visit his sister and to replenish his supply of Swedenborgian literature. Swedenborgian was also known as Swedenborgianism and the General Church of the New Jerusalem. Several historically related Christian denominations were developed as a new religious movement, by the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. Johnny preached the gospel as he traveled, and converted many Native Americans. The Native Americans regarded him as someone who had been touched by the Great Spirit, and even hostile tribes left him strictly alone. Johnny passed away about 1845, with several dates being given. I guess no one really knew the date for sure. I think my cousin might have been a very interesting man.
Hot air balloons have been around for a long time, and there have been multiple uses for them. Hot air balloons have been used for everything from travel, recreation, escape, war, and even spying. It was the latter reason that brought President Abraham Lincoln to a field outside Washington DC on October 4, 1861. Those were tumultuous years, with the Civil War in full swing, and both the Confederate and the Union armies were experimenting with the idea of using hot air balloons to gather military intelligence. It was probably a good idea, but there was enough danger involved with this idea, that it proved to be impractical in most situations.
I don’t think most people who were presented with the idea of using hot air balloons in a war situation, were very sold on it. Several firms had been talking to the War Department about balloons, but Thaddeus SC Lowe, who had been working with hydrogen balloons for several years, and was convinced that they could be a useful tool for collecting intelligence, was the primary figure in that quest. He had conducted trials in April 1861 near Cincinnati, Ohio, with the support of the Smithsonian Institution. On April 19, 1861, he took flight for a trip that would take him to Unionville, South Carolina, where he was immediately jailed by the Confederates, who were convinced that he was a Union spy.
In the end, Lowe had it right. The hot air balloon could be instrumental in winning a war. He became the head of the Union’s Balloon Corpsin 1861 and served effectively during the Peninsular campaign of 1862. With the views provided from his balloon, Lowe discovered that the Confederates had evacuated Yorktown, Virginia, and he provided important intelligence during the Battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia. He had a good working relationship with George McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac, but had difficulties with McClellan’s successors. Generals Ambrose Burnside and Joseph Hooker were sadly not convinced that balloon observations provided accurate information. I guess they just didn’t have the same vision as Lowe had. Lowe became increasingly frustrated with the army, particularly after his pay was slashed in 1863. Feeling that army commanders did not take his service seriously, Lowe resigned in the spring of 1863. The Balloon Corps was disbanded in August of that year. Lowe later became involved in building a railway in California. He died there in 1913 at age 80.
My niece, Dustie Masterson reminds me a little bit of Ruth in the Bible. Her family is from Ohio, and for a time, she and my nephew, Rob moved back there, but after a short time, they returned to Wyoming. I know that she loves her family in Ohio, but like Ruth, she has chosen to live where his family lives. She has chosen to embrace her Masterson/Spencer side of the family, and we are all pleased. Over the past few years, she has been such a help to her mother-in-law, my sister, Cheryl Masterson, and her grandma, my mom, Collene Spencer. She would often go to the store for them, as well as running other errands.
It isn’t all about what Dustie has done for Cheryl either, but also about how she feels about Cheryl. She considers Cheryl to be a second mom. It isn’t that she doesn’t love her own mom, but she also shares a closeness with her mother-in-law. And it is really more than a closeness. You don’t help someone through some of the worst moments of their life and no feel very close to them. You don’t share the hardest situations, and not develop a closeness from it. I have seen that in several family members over the years.
There are many things about Dustie that are obviously very different from the person Ruth was, but when I was deciding what to write about her for her birthday, a picture of Ruth and Naomi came to mind. I thought, “That is a lot like Dustie and Cheryl.” Dustie is Cheryl’s only daughter-in-law, and often that person feels a little alienated, but that has not been the case between these two. Dustie comes to Cheryl for advise, and even when she just needs a hug. They are as close as a mother and daughter could be. I think that Cheryl considers Dustie to be her daughter, not daughter-in-law.
Dustie has been such a soulmate for my nephew, Rob. They have been in love since they first met. She has been a great step-mom to Rob’s daughter, Christina, and the two of them have three wonderful children together. Theirs is a life full of blessings, and they are counting those blessings every day. Theirs is a busy life, with activities that the kids are into, but that is a blessing too, because as we all know, children grow up far to quickly, and then they are out on their own.
Dustie has worked at Albertson’s now for a number of years. She seems to love her job, and they like her. She is a fresh cut specialist and supervisor, and really enjoys what she is doing. Of course, her first priority is her family. She is so proud of all the things her children have accomplished, and they, in turn, are very proud of her. Dustie is a sweetheart, and a lot of fun to be around. Her smile lights up a room. Today is Dustie’s birthday. Happy birthday Dustie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!