In 1938 to 1939, my dad moved from the family farm, into town so he could attend vocational school. He studied sheet metal fabrication. After he graduated, he moved to Santa Monica, California, at the very young age of just 17 years, and went to work for Douglas Aircraft. Uncle Bill, dad’s brother, let him take his 1934 Plymouth, which broke down on the way there, and Dad had to wire his dad for the money to fix it. It’s pretty had to fix a broken down car, when you are on the way to a new job. Most of us don’t have a lot of money at that point, and after the Great Depression, the country was just starting to come back. This job would begin to move my dad into a position for some of his future jobs, later in life, beginning with his military placement as a Flight Engineer. The Flight Engineer had to know everything about the plane, because it was his job to try to get them back to the base safely…even if something went wrong with the plane. There was no place to pull over when you are flying at 25,000 to 30,000 feet. There was at least one time I know of that Dad was the only reason they came back safely, because the landing gear would not go down. He had to hang upside down in the open bomb bay and crank it down by hand.
My dad was very good at the work he did for Douglas Aircraft, but on December 7, 1941, everything changed. Dad left California, in the 1936 Plymouth he had bought, and came home just as the United States was entering World War II. His plan, of course, was to join the Army Air Forces. He was a perfect match for the Army Air Forces, because of his knowledge of air craft, and they saw that right away. He was put into training, and placed on a B-17G crew, as the Flight Engineer, and stationed at Great Ashfield, Suffolk, England. His crew left Texas, and flew to New York City, on April 1, 1944, where they refueled and went on to England.
Most crews on B-17G planes had to fly 35 missions before they could come home, but at Great Ashfield, because of how dangerous that area was, they only had to fly 25. My dad ended up flying 26 before he came home. I don’t think his family knew how dangerous that base was, because my dad would not have told them. “The average life of a B-17 bomber at Great Ashfield was just over 4 months. Very few B-17 bombers that were transferred to the base lasted a complete tour of duty. The average Airman lasted 15 combat missions and few completed an entire tour of 25 missions. Much less 35 !!!! The average LIFE of a Ball Turret Gunner in combat was 12 MINUTES.” Knowing that my dad somehow beat those odds, reminds me of the many miracles in his life. His crew did lose at least one Ball Turret Gunner, and my dad tried everything he could to save his life, but it was no use…he was gone.
In later years, Dad would work for Fred Dewell, as a welder and sheet metal fabricator. His training at vocational school and Douglas Aircraft made him an asset to that company. Then Dad went to work for WATCO, building the boxes for Caterpillar trucks. He was one of their best welders, and was remembered by the people who worked there for many years after his retirement. His training as a young man of only 16 years, served him well all of his life, and I have always been very proud of the things he did in his lifetime.
Kelli is my nephew’s wife, and has been a part of our family for almost 10 years now. She has always liked the idea of living in the country and raising donkeys, but lately she is focusing her interests on country music and traveling to concerts. Kelli has a blog, called Thoughts From A Gypsy Soul, and she writes about her travels, and her latest favorite songs. Check it out if you get a chance.
I think Kelli is right when she calls herself a Gypsy Soul, because she really wants to live somewhere in the South, probably Texas. Some people just don’t like the cold weather of the north, and Kelli is one of those people. I don’t know if her dreams will ever be realized, because, somehow we seem to end up where we are supposed to in life, I think, but time will tell how this turns out for Kelli.
Kelli is a kind soul too. During my sister-in-law, Brenda’s recent hospitalization, that lasted about a month, Kelli was a regular visitor. Her smiling face brightened Brenda’s days, and mine too. Whenever we were there together, we shared many laughs, and it was a lot of fun. Kelli has a great laugh…it’s fun to be around her when she is laughing a lot.
Kelli has a fascination with celebrities, and the royal family in particular. She would love to be related to them, and recently with the connection I made to the Schulenberg family to the Spencer family, she can now say that she is a cousin of Princess Diana and the rest of the current royal family, so that dream has finally been realized. I am still looking for a connection from her own side of the family, but haven’t found one as yet. Maybe, I will soon. Kelli hails from Reading, Michigan, and my family came from the Great Lakes area too, so you just never know. Today is Kelli’s birthday. Happy birthday Kelli!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!
When I first met Bob’s cousin, Kim, she was a teeny little girl, just 4 years of age. She always went by Kimmie back then. Kim was the only girl of the three cousins that lived in Forsyth, Montana at that time. I can imagine that having a brother and a male cousin made life a little difficult for this little girl. After all, we all know how much boys pick on little girls. Since they lived in Forsyth, and we live in Casper, I can’t say for sure that Kim got picked on, but if she didn’t, she was probably the only girl on earth that wasn’t picked on by and older brother or cousin.
As the years went by, Kim grew into a beautiful young lady. It was at this point that it occurred to me that Kim might be a big city girl living in a small town. That happens sometimes, and it doesn’t mean that the girl doesn’t love her small town, because most do, it’s just not exactly where they want to be living. In Kim’s case there was another thing that factored in to her decision to move to Dallas, Texas…the weather. Kim had a really hard time with the Montana winters, and on that I can relate. I don’t like winter either, but for some reason, I guess I don’t hate it enough to leave Wyoming.
I think it takes a certain level of bravery to make such a big move all by herself. Yes, she has family in the Dallas area, but she still had to make the move by herself…and Dallas is a very big place. This is where the big city girl side of Kim kicked in. I have the feeling that once she got there, Kim felt the excitement of the big city coursing through her veins, and yet maybe a little bit of panic going on in there too.
That move took place a number of years ago now, and Kim is still living in Dallas, and loving every minute if it. I guess she knew what she wanted to do with her life. So many people move away from home and then just can’t make it on their own, so they head home again, but Kim…well, like I said, she was a big city girl, living in a small town, and now she is a big city girl, living in that big city. Today is Kim’s birthday. Happy birthday Kim!! Have a great day!! We love you!! I’m so glad that we hooked up on Facebook, because it had been way too long.
Ranger, Texas had been an agricultural center, becoming a wheat producing center for the north, until a drought in 1917 hit the town crops very hard. That was when a few residents encouraged William Knox Gordon (who could be relation to Bob’s family, but I have not confirmed it) who was vice president of the Texas Pacific Coal and Oil Company, to test for oil in the area. He found oil, but the first well drilled, the Nannie Walker No. 1, was somewhat of a disappointment, as it first produced gas and only later blew in oil. Then, in October 1917 the McClesky No. 1 came in, reached a daily production of 1,700 barrels, and began a mammoth oil boom that drastically changed Ranger and Eastland County.
In the summer of 1918, my grandparents sold their homestead in Minnesota and headed south, finally settling in the town of Ranger, Texas. Like so many people, the oil boom in Ranger had drawn them in search of better times, and oil meant better times. There were many oil wells near and even in the town of Ranger during those years, and that meant that the residents could never escape the smell of oil. That is something we here in Wyoming can understand…or at least any of us who have been through the town of Midwest. You know you are getting close to Midwest, because your proximity is announced by the pungent smell of oil. I suppose if you are an oil tycoon, that might just smell like money, but to me…it smells awful.
During those years, there was a danger that the people of Ranger lived with every day. With so much drilling going on, so close and within the town and with the drought continuing, the possibility of out of control fires when an oil well came in and caught fire was a daily concern. There were several such fires, including the one on April 6, 1919, which took out 2 city blocks in the town. It is hard for me to think about how my grandmother must have felt with those fires being a daily possibility…especially after the one that happened on April 6th. My Aunt Laura was just a little girl of 6 years when the April 6th fire hit the town. The worry of trying to get your little girl out of harms way, must have weighed heavy on my grandparents’ minds. She could be outside playing with friends, or sleeping, or any number of other reasons that could make a quick escape difficult. Nevertheless, the little family survived that constant threat of fires and after getting their fill of the Texas oil fields, returned to Wisconsin, at some point before my Uncle Bill was born in 1922, where they would remain for the rest of their lives.
During the early years of my grandparents marriage, they lived in several places, as many people do. They spent time in Lisbon, North Dakota, and several areas of Minnesota, including Loman, Minnesota, where they had a homestead. My Aunt Laura was born in International Falls, Minnesota, which is 21 miles from Loman. These days, that is a 24 minute drive, but back then it was quite a bit more, especially since not everyone owned a car in those days. In 1918, 1 in 13 families owned a car. Then by 1929, 4 out of 5 families owned a car. A lot has changed in the years since then. Most families have at least 2 vehicles. Nevertheless, at the time my Aunt Laura was born in 1912, cars, or motor buggies as they were called, were a novelty item owned by the wealthy. That said, I would expect that my grandparents were living in International Falls at the time of my aunt’s birth, and then moved to Loman, Minnesota after that time.
At some point in the year 1918, my grandfather and grandmother decided to leave the life they had built in Minnesota, spread their wings, and head south to look for greener pastures, so to speak. They had gone as far as Kansas City, presumably by train, where they bought what I’m sure was their first automobile, and headed off to Mena, Arkansas. I’m not sure how long they were in Mena, Arkansas, but eventually they ended up in Ranger, Texas, where it would appear that he might have worked in the oil fields for a time.
I can imagine how exciting this trip must have been for my Aunt Laura, who was 7 years old at the time. Not only was she going on a whole new adventure, to a whole new place, but she was going the family’s first automobile. When you are used to going places in a horse drawn buggy this new mode of travel must have been very exciting. It had speed without the horses, and better control. She could feel the wind in her hair as they flew down the road. It was a huge new adventure, a fast paced adventure, for a girl who was used to life in a slow paced world.
I’m not sure just how long they lived in Texas, but I do know that by the time my Uncle Bill was born in 1922, the family was back in the north, living in Superior, Wisconsin. Maybe they didn’t like the heat or maybe they missed the Great Lakes region in general. I don’t know why for sure, but I do know that except for a few short years, my grandparents would live out their lives in Superior, Wisconsin. Aunt Laura, who didn’t like the cold much would spread her wings again later in her life and head out west, finally settling in Oregon, where she felt most at home.
A few days before my first two grandchildren were born, my nephew and his wife at the time, had their daughter, Christina. Maybe because of having their birthdays close together, and maybe not just because of that, Christina and my granddaughter, Shai have always been good friends. For a long time, Christina lived in Texas, and Shai was not able to see much of her, but when she moved back to Casper, it was as if they had never been apart. Cousins aren’t always good friends, but it is a little more common in our family, and since Christina and Shai are the only girls near their age, it made sense that they should be friends.
Christina has always been a bit flashy…not unlike most kids her age. Her favorite thing was to dye her hair is wild ways. Her aunt, my niece, Toni was that way. She dyed her hair just about every color in the book. It is Christina’s goal to dye her hair as many colors as her Aunt Toni. While I don’t dye my own hair, and have always liked my natural color, I know a lot of people like to spice it up a bit, and that is their right. Some of her colors have been wild and crazy, while others are fairly standard colors. Either way, you never know exactly what to expect with Christina.
Still, as spicy as she can be, Christina is a very sweet girl, and I love her very much. She lived in Texas for a number of years, and so we didn’t have as much chance to get to know her as she was growing up. When she came home for visits, she often told me that she missed the closeness to the rest of the family. It is something that goes along with living away from the rest of a close family, unfortunately, and it can be very hard on the kids. It’s no one’s fault…it just is. Now, while Christina misses her mom and little brothers, she is living in Casper again with her dad, step-mom, and little sisters and brother on her dad’s side. I know that there are times that she is torn because of missing the other half of her family, but we are very happy to have her here with us.
Today is Christina’s Sweet Sixteenth Birthday…that very special birthday in the life of a kid. Soon she will be driving and the next thing we know she will be graduating. Time goes by so fast. I remember well the day she was born…and it seems like only yesterday. Happy birthday Christina!! We love you!!