Pennsylvania Memories: Childhood Playmates

 Mar 04, 2020    0    
We would play baking by making mud pies or sift sand. To sift sand, you needed an old window sc ...

Guardian Angels

 Mar 01, 2020    0    
In 1989, while asleep, Milton J. Long, LTC AUS RET, received this message from his guardian an ...


 Oct 16, 2019    0    
Growing up on the Railway in the 1920's

A Family of Florida Sharecroppers

 May 01, 2016    0    
When we moved to Pedro, we lived in a sharecropper's house, and Dad sharecropped for a Florida ...

Washing Clothes Recipe

 Jan 03, 2007    0    
Washing Clothes Recipe (Given a Young Bride By Her Grandmother)

Time Moves On

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We had a Moon Car and my sister used to make Dad so mad because when there was trouble with the ...

Paul Revere and His Son

 Jul 04, 2019    0    
The sound of his father's words excited Paul Jr. He wanted to help his patriotic father, so he ...

Legacy of Andrew J. Riley

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Dad was with the OSS the forerunner of the CIA. We did not really believe him until at his fun ...

Thelma Wenzel A Life Dedicated to Medical Science

 Mar 02, 2005    0    
a tornado hitting St. Louis in 1896. "It was on Dolman Street," she said. "Mama knew that the t ...

Julia Flanagan

 Jan 12, 2005    0    
Photo: Julia and Edward Flanagan

Marion's Plants

 Jul 25, 2021    0    
This is a story about Marion Hostetter and her love for plants.

Pearl Harbor Remembered

 Dec 07, 2019    0    
my sister, Mickey McNulty still remembers the news broadcast blaring from the radio on that fat ...

The Stranger

 Mar 05, 2015    0    
As my father was driving down the highway, he passed a soldier in uniform hitchhiking home to h ...

Liberation of Stalag VIIA

 Feb 05, 2009    0    
During WWII, I had a personal interest in the Liberation of Stalag VIIA, both times. I had a lo ...

Excused Boots

 Apr 07, 2005    0    
It was the winter of his discontent. On the first weekend he couldn't wait to get away from the ...
Thursday 05 February 2009
05 Feb 2009 Posted by RAW Comments: 0 Views: 
During WWII, I had a personal interest in the Liberation of Stalag VIIA, both times. I had a lot of contact with the former POW's as a member of Service Company 25th Tank BN. 14th Armored Division.
VIIA Main Gate #1 and Watchtower


Liberation of Stalag VIIA

Editors Note: This article was originally published in the April 2005 issue U.S. Legacies Magazine. However, since the author of this story Milton J. Long passed away February 5, 2009, we are republishing this article in his honer and memory.

I had a personal interest in the Liberation of Stalag VIIA, both times. I had a lot of contact with the former POW's as a member of Service Company 25th Tank BN. 14th Armored Division.

The date of the first Liberation of Stalag VIIA was April 29, 1945, and the former POW's will never forget it.

Each tank battalion had four companies of tanks and one service company. My company was the service company for the 25th Tank Battalion. We had the job of servicing all the vehicles and to supply the entire unit with gas, ammo and water. My job was to take the loaded trucks up to where the tanks were located and resupply them with ammo and gas.

I would then take the empty trucks back to the supply points in the read and reload them with gas and ammo and then return to the unit. This was a daily function. Most resupply was done at night so the enemy wouldn't try to stop us.

The vehicles all had names. A company names started with "A" and B companies names started with "B", etc. Service companies vehicles names started with "S." Thus the name of my jeep became "Some Junk." A name it got from the fact that the day I received it, was a day when it didn't want to run. So they towed it back to our maintenance section and corrected the problem. I was upset over the fact that it didn't want to run, so I gave it the name "Some Junk." This became a code word in the tank companies when they needed to be resupplied. They would radio back that they would need "Some Junk." Tonight. The Germans never did figure this out.

This story starts in the Nurnburg area, about April 20th, 1945. My diary isn't exact on this date as we were moving very fast. I remember my service company was providing roving patrols and outpost guard duty, which wasn't any fun. We had two men badly wounded and I almost got blown up by shelling. I had 5 flat tires on my jeep as a result of the fighting.

A Service company was not used for patrols unless there was a special situation requiring it. The reason we were doing this was that they had pulled out our tanks and left a hole in the lines where the enemy could get through if they learned about it. So we placed trucks where the tanks had been and tried to make them look like tanks. Lucky for us, the enemy never learned what we had done.

While on a billeting party, I parked my jeep in front of a building that I wanted to check out to see if it was suitable for the company command post, (CP).

When I came out, I was surprised to find two Germans looking over my jeep. They were just as surprised to see me and for a moment it was a stalemate. I didn't like coming face to face with armed enemy soldiers but since I had been trained to react, that is what I did. I pulled my Tommy Gun up at waist height, took it off of safe and stood my ground. The enemy soldiers had their rifles hung over their shoulders and it did not appear that they were ready to fight.

I put my finger on the trigger and waited. The Germans said something to each other that I couldn't understand. They started to take their rifles off their shoulders and I thought, "This was it." The one German could speak English and he said, "You in 14th Panzer Division?"

To that, I replied, "Yes."

"Do you always feed German Prisoners before they are locked up?" the German asked.

I replied, "We try to feed them if it is possible." The German said, "We surrender, the war is over." With that comment, they took off their steel helmets and tossed them to the ground. This was always a signal to us that they didn't want to fight anymore. They unloaded their rifles and leaned them against the jeep. They put their hands behind their head.

Milt Long Stalag1c

PFC. Milton J. Long, a jeep driver with service company 25th, is pictured with two German Soldiers that he captured. They are aitting on the hood of his jeep, which he named "Some Junk."

I was surprised but I ordered them to empty their pockets onto the hood of the jeep, which they did. I put a bandage on the arm of one of the soldiers because he had been wounded. Then I drove them back to the company where they received a hot meal prior to the time the MP'S picked them up.

The problem was that the MP'S would pick them up at about 1730 hours (5:30 PM) and by the time they were processed and arrived at the POW compound, it was late and they wouldn't get fed until the next morning. So, the 14th Division had a policy that if the enemy soldier would surrender without a fight, we would feed them prior to their being taken to the rear. This saved a lot of lives. Sometimes our men played games with them, however, not wanting to guard the Germans, they at times would not let them surrender until late in the day. When the Germans would wave a white flag, there were times that our troops would shoot off the staff that held the flag.

April 23rd, we were transferred to Patton's 3rd Army and we met him on the road. He didn't like the sand bags on our tanks and ordered them removed, which made the tankers unhappy.

My part in the Liberation of VIIA started on the 27th of April. We were sent back to the Quartermaster to draw rations to feed the POW's. We unloaded several trucks and filled them with 10 in 1 rations. These were better than C or K rations. Designed for use by tankers, they contained two meals for five (5) men (tank crew). We also picked up some white bread that was supposed to be for a general officers mess.

Back at Moosburg, we were in the city and not sure if we would get to the camp that day. T/4 Charles Brix and I found out that the twin church steeples could be seen from the camp.

We decided to replace a German flag on one of the steeples with an American flag. Keep in mind the flag pole had been placed there by the Germans and to make the job rough, they had cut the rope off and tied it to the pole about 10 feet from the bottom. Well, I didn't want to die by falling off the steeple so Brix said he would shinny up the pole and do the job. Keep in mind he was about half drunk from drinking Schnapps.

Well, I had a flag that my folks had sent me to put up in Berlin, so Brix took the flag and worked his way up the pole. He lowered the Nazi flag and replaced it with the American flag and slid back down the pole. He asked me how that looked, and I told him it looked ok except it was upside down. He said a few words and back up the pole he went. He corrected the error and slid back down.

VIIA Tank1c

Exuberant Ex-Kriegies join the 14th Atmored Liberators on the tank to crash through the front gate on April 29, 1945. The Krigies, next to the soldier is A.P. Clark, R.M. Stillman, and E.F. Schupp. In the back row 2nd from left is PFC Milton Long. This is the proudest day of WWII for the men of the 14th armored division and General George S. Patton, Jr.

He asked me if I heard the bees while he was up on the pole, and I said that I didn't think there were any bees around. About that time a bullet hit the pole and tore a hole in the blue area of the flag. We both knew the bees he had heard were Germans shooting at him. We made record time getting down out of the steeple, I want you to know, and Brix was stone sober.

As a note about the flag, I mentioned this at our reunion a few years back and wouldn't you know I received a package in the mail that contained that flag. The soldier that ended up taking it down sent it to me. It is now a part of my Moosburg display.

Back at the camp I was told that they saw the flag and a dry eye was hard to be found. A cheer had gone up when the POW's saw the flag.

On Liberation Day, the tank that went thru the gate was swarmed over by the POW's. When I got inside the compound I found the former POW's were hungry for news from back home. I received copies of the Wooster Daily Record, my hometown in Ohio, and they came through in bundles. I had several bundles that I had not read so I gave them to the POW's.

One copy ended up in a tent and the soldier reading it said to his buddy, "You're from Ohio, I have an Ohio paper for you to read. "

This soldier was Harold Mahler. He looked at the paper and started to cry. He looked at the address stamped on the paper and said, "That is my hometown and the fellow that it was sent to was a friend of mine. My girlfriend Midge Blough and I double dated with his Milton's sister Jean Long and her boyfriend Ohmer Calhoun. What do you think the chances are that you would get a hometown paper on Liberation Day in Germany?"


VIIA POW'S waiting to depart at Landshute Air Base

As a passing note, Harold Mauler returned home and went to the Defense Plant where my dad worked and told him the story of the Wooster Daily Record he had received on Liberation Day.

Some didn't realize that General Patton wasn't there on the 29th of April and that's ok. We in the 14th Armored know the truth about this. Patton was down in Bavaria looking for the Nazi Redoubt on Ike's orders and thus he was not present for the Liberation of VIIA. He told our general not to wait for his return to liberate the POW compound. His fear was that the Nazi guards might kill the POW's as Hitler had ordered.

He arrived at Moosburg on April 30th, and was unhappy that he wasn't present for the Liberation. So he had us pull the gate back up and they got some Germans to stand outside the gate with empty rifles, and he proceeded to liberate the POW compound again. The signal corp. photographers took the pictures on May 1st and spliced the film on to the one they took on the 29th so it looked like Patton was present on Liberation Day. The POW's were so happy to see the General that it didn't matter to them that they were liberated again. General Patton took a tour of VIIA and the conditions under which they had lived. There were 110,000 happy former POW's that day.

The trucks that I had with me that were loaded with food were parked just outside the compound. We were told not to give the POW's any rations because it might make them sick. Well I told a captain that I was going to chow and asked him if he would guard the trucks that were loaded with rations. He agreed to do his best. When I came back, the captain and the rations were gone.

VIIA Air1c

VIIA POW'S departing from Landshute Air Base

We raised several flags that day and you could see the flags of a lot of nations flying. The one I had put up on the 29th, on the gate, one guard tower was replaced by a much larger one provided by General Patton.

Among the former POW's we met that day were the ones Patton had lost on his failed trip to Hammelburg. Task Force Braum left the American lines on March 26th, to liberate the POW camp at Hammelburg, with 53 vehicles and 294 men. All the vehicles were destroyed or captured. All the men were either killed or captured. In the Liberation try, LTC John Waters, Patton's son-in-law, was wounded. Patton always said he didn't know that LTC Waters was in the camp. We had the chance to meet the men of this task force and to talk to them about their experience.

Over the next few days we hauled the former POW's to the Landshute Airfield. They flew hundreds of C-47's in to fly out the former POW's on their first leg of the trip back home. As a side note, I wish to say this was the proudest moment for the 14th Armored Division in WWII. Our men gave the POW's guns, cameras and pistols so they could take them home. They gave them anything they had that was of interest to them.

While I was sitting in my jeep, an Aircorp Captain came up and shook my hand and thanked me for being a part of the Liberation. He said the only thing that would make this a perfect day would be to have a bottle of Coke to drink. I told him "Captain, this is your lucky day cause I have here a package from home that contains a bottle of Coke." My folks sent me two bottles of Coke every week while I was overseas. I opened it and he drank it very slowly. He looked on the bottom and it read Wooster, Ohio. He told me he was from Barberton, just 30 miles from Wooster. So I told him I wanted him to take the Coke bottle back home with him and when he had a chance to take it to the Coke factory in Wooster and tell them where he had gotten it. He did this and for a long time they had it on display along with a picture of the Captain.

They took all the trucks they could find and used them to haul the POW's to the airport. One morning when we were lined up, a British officer saw all the trucks and said "the bloody Americans are fighting the bluming war with loories."

You don't know how precious your freedom is until you don't have it any more. The former POW's help me appreciate the fact that freedom isn't free. This was a great day for the 14th Armored Division and the former POW's.

The Liberation of Stalag VIIA

by Milton J. Long

Originaly published in the April 2005 issue U.S. Legacies Magazine
Thursday 06 January 2005
06 Jan 2005 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
After landing in Normandy, I saw men die in brutal ways. Some were instantly killed by mortar blasts. Others were shot. Some lingered for a last few moments of life before slipping away. One killed himself with morphine that was left untended.

After Landing in Normandy
The Don McKee Story

By Christopher Gosier

This photo of Don McKee was taken at a veterans' cemetery in the mid 1990s, while delivering a speech during the dedication of a memorial plaza in Frederick County, MD.

The men died in various brutal ways. Some were instantly killed by mortar blasts. Others were shot. Some lingered for a last few moments of life before slipping away. One killed himself with morphine that was left untended a mistake that might have brought a serious reprimand in a place less filled with random, ubiquitous death.

Don McKee left the University of Michigan for this French farmland where the dead were carried off by day and the living slept at night in shallow pits that they dug like graves. He bandaged the wounded and sometimes retrieved them from the wide-open fields where they lay punctured by enemy bullets. He would walk carefully into the fields, an unarmed medic, hoping the enemy soldiers on the other side would decide to heed the rules of war and hold their fire. Sometimes they didn’t.
Sunday 25 July 2021
25 Jul 2021 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
This is a story about Marion Hostetter and her love for plants.
This is a story about Marion Hostetter and her love for plants.

I don't know where her love for plants came from, but I have photographs of her as a young girl/woman from back in the early 1900's somewhere close to the Hershey Chocolate Pant or their theme park.

In the background of that photo, are lots of plants, so I don't know if she worked at caring for those plants or if her love for them came later in life, but I do know that as pre-teens, my brother and I would travel around 600 miles "alone" on a train so that we could spend the summer with my grandparents.

I also remember my astonishment at how my grandmother would surround the entire border of her "city" property with plants of all types, plus she had a fish pond that was also surrounded by plants of different types.

As a boy, I was not very interested in plants, however my grandparents also had a farm in the country where they grew blueberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, string beans, cucumbers, peas, sweet corn, and many other types of vegetables.

But vegetables, were not the only things they grew. They also raised chickens and beef for their kitchen table and of course my grandmother has a special place on the farm where she grew all types of plants.

I have no idea what any of those plants were, but later in life when I was living with my grandparents as a teenage, I discovered that she would get down on her knees while wearing a long dress and dig up every plant that she had surrounding her city property and put them in clay pots, then set them on benches in the sun room, that she had on the back of her home.

Of all the plants that she had, the only one I can really remember were the coleus and one special type of plant that would only bloom one “night” a year, however I forgot the name of it.

I have tried to research this plant but so far have not found the name of it. The only comments I remember about it, was that since my grandmother had a very strong Christian beliefs, there was supposed to be some type of religious lore about this plant and a symbolic relationship to Christ’s tomb.

As I stated, I did not get involved with her plants as a child, but as an adult, I find myself having a large sun room in my home and it is filled with all types of plants that I propagate. I also have a number of acres of land around my home where I grow a variety of shrubs, flowers, and trees.

So, I guess that simply by watching my grandmother and how her love of plants sustained her smiles, I have inherited that trait and find myself looking forward to my time alone caring for, raising and constantly learning more about plants.

I feel confident that she is in Heaven smiling down as she watches me care for and about my plants, including my coleus.
Wednesday 04 March 2020
04 Mar 2020 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
We would play baking by making mud pies or sift sand. To sift sand, you needed an old window screen that was broken but perfect for making soft dirt. You just put regular dirt on top of the screen and shake it back and forth a number of times,
Pennsylvania Memories: Childhood Playmates

Photo of Aunt Louise Wike

This article was originally published by U.S. Legacies in March 2005, however due to the passing of the author Polly Mazariegos nee Wagaman, we are re-publishing this article to help keep her memories alive.

How many people can say they are older than their Aunt? I can. This aunt and I played together as children. We also had two other people to play with. My sister, Shirley Wagaman, and my cousin, Ruthy Leeper. You see, Shirley and Ruthy were only a year apart and my Aunt Louise Wike and I were only a year apart. However, I was the older of the two of us and Ruthy was the older between my sister Shirley and her.
Sunday 01 March 2020
01 Mar 2020 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
In 1989, while asleep, Milton J. Long, LTC AUS RET, received this message from his guardian angel. "You have wished for a WWII jeep, and this would be fulfilled.
Ohio Memories: Guardian Angels

Originally published by U.S. Legacies: March 2005

(Editors Note: Milton J. Long, the author of this story has passed away since this article was originally published by U.S. Legacies in March of 2005. While we are sorry to discover that he passed away ten years ago, we are pleased that his legacy will live on and are republishing this story in his honor and memory.)

In 1989, while asleep, Milton J. Long, LTC AUS RET, received this message from his guardian angel. "You have wished for a WWII jeep, and this would be fulfilled. You must restore it and show it. You are to tell the story of its use in WWII, and show it in parades and events." The angel also advised that he would receive financial help with the project.
Wednesday 01 January 2020
01 Jan 2020 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
We had a Moon Car and my sister used to make Dad so mad because when there was trouble with the car and he would crawl under the car to do something to it, my sister would sing an old song to aggravate him called `Get Out and Get Under the Moon'
Good Ole Days: Time Moves On

As we prepare to begin the New Year, I cannot think of a better way to start than to share a story with you about combining the quality of craftsmanship and family togetherness from the past with the best that modern technology has to offer.

About an hour's drive from Oklahoma City there is a little town that is small enough to use a 4-way stop sign in the center of town instead of a traffic light.
Saturday 07 December 2019
07 Dec 2019 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
my sister, Mickey McNulty still remembers the news broadcast blaring from the radio on that fateful Sunday afternoon, December 7, 1941. It was two pm in the small Brooklyn apartment but only 8 am at Pear Harbor, Hawaii.
Wartime Memories: Pearl Harbor Remembered

Originally Published by U.S. Legacies: April 2005

Image of Mickey McNulty age 4

Although only three years old at the time, my sister, Mickey McNulty still remembers the news broadcast blaring from the radio on that fateful Sunday afternoon, December 7, 1941. It was two pm in the small Brooklyn apartment but only 8 am at Pear Harbor, Hawaii.

"We interrupt this broadcast to bring you this important bulletin from the United Press," the newsman said.

"Flash! Washington! The White House announces Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor."
Wednesday 16 October 2019
16 Oct 2019 Posted by RAW Comments: 0 Views: 
Growing up on the Railway in the 1920's


The Story of Marjorie Hughes

By Jo Anne Grammond

To Marjorie Hughes, there's nothing unusual about waking up every morning in a different city. Not a thing different about being schooled by her mother - who could barely read and write English - because the family never stayed in one place more than a month. And it certainly didn't seem odd to call a passenger car home.

Living on the railway was the only life Marjorie had ever known - she was even born on a train, on January 17, 1923 somewhere between Denver and Salt Lake City.
Thursday 04 July 2019
04 Jul 2019 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
The sound of his father's words excited Paul Jr. He wanted to help his patriotic father, so he ran back to the house where the girl had called out to him.
Paul Revere and His Son

The Revolutionary War started on April 19, 1775 in Lexington, Massachusetts (the day after Paul Revere made his famous ride) and did not officially end until September 3, 1783. I had ancestors living in this country during that time and although I do not know if they participated in the war directly, I am sure certain aspects of the war affected their life. For as in any war, there were many people that helped our war effort, without actually picking up a gun.

We have all heard about Paul Revere making his famous ride, but this story goes a little deeper into the man, and how his actions affected his family. It also helps to lay a background as to WHY our country went to war and the lifestyles of our ancestors.
Sunday 01 May 2016
01 May 2016 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
When we moved to Pedro, we lived in a sharecropper's house, and Dad sharecropped for a Florida Sharecroppers friend of his named John L. Remmington.

A Family of Florida Sharecroppers

I was born William Alvis Proctor in High Springs, Florida, on October 26, 1927, and as a boy I was known as "Billy." When I reached adulthood, I became known as "Bill," but many of my relatives still referred to me as Billy.

I was a boy when my father, Oscar 0. Proctor, and my mother, Minnie Bell Camp, moved to Clearwater, Florida. Dad worked for the Atlantic Coastline railroad and was transferred to Clearwater. I was their third child, with my brother Oscar Eugene being the oldest, and Laura Katherine, the second. While in Clearwater, my twin sisters, Juanita Nell and Lorita Bell were born in 1931

I think it was 1933 when we all moved to Pedro (pronounced Peed-row), Florida, to take care of my elderly and sickly paternal grandparents, John R. and Laura Proctor. Incidentally, the community was named by Mexican sharecroppers and migrants, after Peter Perry. The name Peter, meaning "Pedro" (pronounced Paid-row) in the Mexican language, was adapted by the predominately white population, but with a slightly southern pronunciation. Peter Perry's grandson, who was also named Peter, married one of my dad's sisters, Lorena Proctor.

When we moved to Pedro, we lived in a sharecropper's house, and Dad sharecropped for a Florida Sharecroppers friend of his named John L. Remmington. From that location, my Dad could farm and look after my grandparents, who lived only a few miles away. In 1935,we had to move in with them because their health began to worsen. While living there, we grew tomatoes, cotton, field peas, tobacco, green beans, corn, peanuts, velvet beans and pea vine hay. They both died the next year in 1936.

John R. and Laura Proctor owned an eighty acre farm in Pedro, and the farm became Dad's after their death. We lived there until 1944, and it became a period in my life that will forever remain sacred to me because of the wonderful memories that were born there. Those memories are the basis for this story, in hopes that the good Old days" will remain forever in the minds and hearts of my children and grandchildren.

In 1943, while still on the farm, Dad went back to work for the railroad in Wildwood, Florida, which was about ten miles from Pedro. I was sixteen years old at the time, and I farmed our last year there growing corn and pea vine hay for the cows. Dad sold the eighty acre farm for $2,500 in 1945, and we moved to Summerfield, Florida, about five miles away.

I remember one time on the farm, however, when I was just fourteen years old. I was out plowing the field with our mule and mare horse, when I heard an airplane flying overhead. Back then, it wasn't a common sight to see an airplane, and they were always very interesting to me.

While slowly plowing the furrows, I looked up at the plane, and noticed that its motor had suddenly cut off. I immediately stopped the team just in time to see the plane begin to fall from the sky. It began failing end over end, and I just knew that it was going to crash right on top of me!

I left the team standing there, and ran as hard and fast as l could to get out of the middle of that field! Then to my surprise, I heard the plane motor start up again, as it pulled up and regained control I went back and started plowing, and the same thing happened again!

This time I only ran a few yards, and looked up as the motor cranked up again! Later, I found out that it was just a stunt plane practicing, but it sure scared me half to death! I had never seen anything like that before.

I recall a time when Dad sold "0l' Henry," one of our mules, and bought a work horse named Delia. Since she was just a work horse, he didn't know if she had been broken to ride. One day, Dad put our old 'McClellon' army saddle on her back, and proceeded to ease up on her.

I think that they were both surprised at what took place next! Like an explosion, Della bolted and bucked with every ounce of fire that she could muster up, and Dad flew one way, and the saddle the other!

The old belly girth that held the saddle on had come apart, and that's why Della bucked the saddle off, too! That didn't stop my Dad, however. He then put a tight rope around her belly so he would have something to hold on to, and took her out in the middle of a freshly plowed field. Being in that plowed field would tire her out if she started bucking again, not to mention bein' a whole lot softer to land on!

By putting a "twist" rope on her nose, it sort of paralyzed her and took her mind off of what he was about to do. Dad said, "Billy, go get the cow whip! When I get on her and she tries to stop bucking, you take that cow whip and pop her on the rear!" We did this until old Della couldn't take it anymore, and decided that lettin' Dad ride was a heck of a lot easier than bucking! My Dad was only five foot seven and weighed about 165 pounds, but to me he was a giant of a man!
The Heroes, The '2 Holer', & The Sugar Cubes

Life in Florida was much different back then. When I look back at those good old days, I now realize that we were very poor, but we never knew it. We were Florida 'Crackers,' and we had everything but money. Everyone else that we knew were just the same as us. My brother, sisters, and I were happy children, and we just knew that we had the best parents in the world. Life was hard like the work that we had to do, because we were just poor dirt farmers.

Mom and Dad showed both discipline and love, and since I was "all boy," I got to experience a little of both from them! I remember once when Mother saved my hide when I got caught for drinking some cheap wine, and broke my glasses in a fight! I think that my Dad's tongue-lashing, however, was worse than getting a "whippin!"

Our farm house was very old. It was made of wood, and had wood shingles for a roof. We had a front porch across the front of the house, and the back of the house had an "L" shaped porch. Dad built a wooden walkway from the back porch out to the water pump. Just off of the back porch was a room that had a fireplace.

On one Saturday morning, Mother, Dad, and my sisters went to Ocala to shop, and Gene and I stayed home. Gene was then twelve years old, and I was nine.

We were sitting on the front porch around mid-morning, and for some unknown reason, we decided to go around to the back porch. As we walked around to the back and on to the porch, we heard the crackling sound of fire.

Looking up, we saw that the roof on that back room had caught fire from sparks from the fireplace! We grabbed two buckets, and Gene climbed up the ladder and on to the roof with a bucket full of water. He threw the bucket of water on the fire, and then ordered me to fill the other bucket from the pump. I brought the bucket of water to the corner of the house, climbed up and handed it to him! We repeated this as fast as our little legs could go. until the fire was finally out and smoldering! Needless to say, we were hero's when Mother and Dad got home!

The first few years of our farm life as I recall, were without electricity and plumbing. We had kerosene lamps for light, and a "Number 2" pitcher pump on our well for water. I'm not sure why they called it a "Number 2" pump, but I guess it must have been because of the size of the pipe coming out of the well. Then there was the other necessity in life, the "2 Holer" outhouse.

The two things that stand out in my mind the most, were getting those wonderful electric lights into our home, and the joy of getting a brand new "2 Holer" outhouse with a real concrete floor! My, did that cypress wood and new concrete floor smell good! When those electric lights first came on in the dark, it a seemed to me like the heavens had opened up and shown down on us! I heard that it was President Franklin D. Roosevelt that had made all of this possible in the late 1930's.

During the week we worked very hard, but on Saturdays, Dad and Mother took my sisters to Nelson's Grocery Store in Summerfield. Sometimes, however. they would go to Ocala to shop. Dad would buy hog and cow feed in sacks that had flower designs, and Mother would make my sisters clothes out of them.

Our family came from a generation that was known as the "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or just do without" people! If we wore a hole in our shoes, we would put a piece of cardboard in them. As time went by, and the hole got too big, Dad would glue rubber soles on our shoes. If our clothes got holes in them, Mother would sew patches over them. If our farm plow or wagon broke down, we would fix it with hay baling wire.

Mother, with all of the family's help, canned our corn, tomatoes, beans, and peas, but on Sunday mornings and evenings, we went to church. If it was summertime, we would make homemade ice cream in a wooden, one gallon churn during the afternoon. Our "Ice Man" delivered ice to us twice a week, and we kept it in an icebox since there weren't any refrigerators. The icebox was where we kept our meat, butter, and milk.

Mother cooked on a wood stove, and later advanced to a five burner kerosene stove, where two of the burners were under the oven. She had a "safe cabinet," or Pie Safe, that had a screen on the doors and sides. This is where left-over food that would keep without refrigeration was kept until the next day.

Once when I was about ten years old, I remember standing on a chair looking into one of Mother's kitchen cabinets looking for something good to eat I found a box of sugar cubes, and thought to myself, "She'll never miss just one!" I put that sugar cube in my pocket and walked innocently away. Later, I ate it and it was so good! Next week, I went back for another, and continued until that whole box was empty! When I realized what I had done, I knew that Mother was going to find out and immediately know it was me!

I knew that l had to get that box of sugar cubes replaced, and soon! I wrote down the exact name of the brand, and saved up my money. One day while at school and during my lunch period, I went down to Nelson's Store and bought the right box. While riding home on the school bus, I hid that box of sugar cubes under my coat. When I got home, I slipped into the kitchen and replaced those sugar cubes. Mother never knew what had happened!

Sunday Afternoons, Open-Range, & Chicken Thieves

On Sunday afternoons, kids on the farm spent much of their time playing games, since there was no television. Some of the games that we played were called Sand-lot Football, Cans, Hide and Seek, and Hailey Over.

Sand-Lot Football was basically the game of football as we know it, but was played on a lot with mostly sand and weeds. The game of Cans was similar to Hide-And -Seek, but each player had a stick called a "stick 'n can:' There were three cans stacked up on top of the other, and everyone hid from the person appointed as "it" The hidden players then tried to sneak back and knock over the cans with his stick before being caught by "it."

Hailey Over was a game where the players were divided up on each side of the house. The ball was then thrown over the house. If someone on the other side caught it, that person would sneak around to the other side of the house with the ball, and try to hit the other player without them knowing it. If a person was hit, he then had to go over to the other side's team until no one was left on one side of the house.

Gene and I made slingshots, kites, and softballs, and we used tin cans or gourds as a football. We made Lorita and Juanita play sand-lot football with us! Our kites were make of newspapers, and we used a mix of flour and water as paste to hold it together. Palmetto limbs (short, scrub palms) were used to make the cross braces, and strips of old bed sheets were used to make the "tails."

When Sundays were over, we went back to farming and taking care of the livestock. We had two milk cows from which we had milk, butter, buttermilk, and clabber. Buttermilk came from the milk after the butter was churned, and clabber was thickly curdled milk that had "gone sour." Clabber was used to make bread, or to stir it up with syrup to drink. Mother always made plenty of biscuits and cornbread. I remember making a meal out of biscuits, or cornbread and milk! We always had a large garden with all kind of vegetables.

In the wintertime, when it seemed to be the coldest, we had what we called "hog butcherin' time." The cold weather would always keep the meat from going bad too soon. We had pork shoulders, ribs, liver, ham, fat-back, bacon, sausage, pigs-feet, and hogshead cheese! The fat-back and belly were cut up into pieces about 2" by 2", and Mother would cook it down in the big iron kettle outside in the yard to use as lard. Lard, or the fat from hogs, was grease that we used to fry everything. We smoked ham, sausage, and shoulders in the smoke house, but had white, unsmoked bacon, too. This was salted down and preserved and later used for frying or for cooking in black-eyed peas, mustards, or collard greens for flavor.

We had no heat in the wintertime except for our fireplace. We sat in front of the fireplace to shell peanuts to be used as seed for the next year's crop. Dad used to get a little irritated with me, because he said that I would eat about half of what I shelled! Keeping warm with just a fireplace was a little tough, so later on Dad closed it and installed a pot-bellied wood stove in its place. The wood stove would put more heat into the house. On one cold night, while I was taking a bath in a Number 3 galvanized tub, I can remember trying to get warm by standing close to that stove. I stood so close, however, that I burned my stomach pretty bad. Boy, was that ever a close call!

Our old cane mill was used to grind the sugar cane that we grew. Our mule, Old Tobe, did a lot of the work for us, however. The cane was placed between the two large steel rollers, with Tobe walking around and around squeezing the juice into a fifty-five gallon drum. The 'juice" was then placed in a one hundred gallon kettle with a wood furnace beneath it. The juice was then cooked until it got thick and turned into cane syrup. Boy, that was especially good when mixed with peanut butter!

Back in those days, the country side was still open range with few fences to keep the cows in or out. Cows roamed freely, but had their owners brand, or special "cut mark" on their ears. The brands or marks were registered in the county courthouse, and were the legal identification of the cows.

We always had chickens as well, and the young roosters were used for our meat. The pullets or young female chickens, were usually allowed to grow into hens, and therefore we had plenty of eggs. When we had more than we needed, and since money was always in short supply, we would trade our eggs at Nelson's Grocery Store. In exchange, we would get the other necessities of life such as rice, grits,and flour.

I recall that we occasionally had chicken thieves, hog thieves, and cow thieves back in those days. One night, as l remember, our chickens began cackling and creating such a ruckus that I woke up in the middle of the night. I pulled on my pants, grabbed my shotgun, and took off to the chicken coup as fast as I could run. It wasn't chicken thieves that time, but only an opossum, or "possum" as we called them. Possums like to steal chickens, too, but this one got shot while he was trying to enjoy his last meal!

Farmers used Number 8 birdshot in our shotgun shells to shoot thieves in their backsides in those days. They weren't trying to kill them, but just make them regret being in the wrong place, at the wrong time! If they were shot on your property stealing your possessions, in those days the law would allow it.
The moss man, the peanut boys, & my rich relatives

Being open-range with few fences, we gathered firewood from everywhere. Loading it into our two-horse wagon, we brought it home for use in the wood stoves. We used my Dad's two-man crosscut saw and axes to cut the wood to fit the fireplace or pot-bellied stove.

Cutting wood for the cook stove was different, however. We had to cut down a pine tree into approximately eighteen inches in length, and then split the eighteen inch sections into smaller pieces about the size of the middle of a baseball bat.

Aside from splitting the wood for Mom's cookstove, Gene and I would go out at night in the moonlight and cut wood to sell for "spendin' money." I remember that it took about three or four hours for the two of us to cut and split a "strand" of firewood. A strand, as I recall, was wood stacked about four feet high, and about ten to twelve feet long. We loaded it up in the wagon, sold it, and delivered it for the grand sum of $. 75 cents to $125 per strand!

In the late 30's or perhaps 1940 or 1941, Gene and I would collect scrap metal, aluminum, and copper from around the farm, or everywhere else we could find it. We sold it to the "Scrap Metal Man" who came around every so often. He sold it to the Government to be melted down into guns, ammo, and tanks. We were at war with Germany and Japan at that time, which was known as World War II. The war with Germany ended on May 8th, 1945, and Japan on September 2, 1945.

There was another way that we made spending money, and that was by gathering Spanish Moss out of the trees, and hanging it on a fence to dry out When it dried out, we picked all of the small sticks out of it' and sold it to the "Moss Man." In those days, moss was used to stuff furniture, cushions, car seats, and mattresses. I can't remember exactly what we got paid for the moss, but judging from what we made from selling firewood, we probably had to pay the Moss Man to haul it off for us!

When I was six or seven, and Gene was nine or ten years old, I can remember Mother boiling and parching peanuts for us, which she put in little bags, and then in a low cut box. On the box, she wrote what was in it. She then took us to Ocala and dropped us off at the downtown square stayed close to Gene as I yelled out "Fresh boiled peanuts, ten cents a bag!" It seemed that most of the people bought their peanuts from me, because I was younger. Gene got mad at me and always tried to lose me, but he never did! Through the years, I was always there to aggravate him!

At our school in Summerfield, we played six-man football basketball, and softball. At home, we had peanut boiling parties and pound parties, where everyone brought a pound of something good to eat, and we had the parties around a big bonfire. Most of the kids in our rural community would be there, and we played games. Life was much simpler then, and everyone knew each other and their families. We had great times together, and to us life was good.

Sometimes when I think back, I think that maybe we had it a little easier than most. I say this because I remember that Mother had a "gas" washing machine with a wringer. Most people had to wash their clothes by hand using a washboard. Saturdays were always wash day, and you could hear that motor running all day long! It sounded like a lawn mower does today.

Television, of course, wasn't around back then, and we didn't see one until the 1950's. We did have a battery powered radio, however, and we listened to programs such as Fibber McGee & Molly, Amos & Andy, The Shadow Knows, and many more. One of our favorite times was listening to the Grand Ole Opry every Saturday night!

Thanks to my Mother, we always had a good Christmas. There were always five little piles around our tree from "Santa." I remember one Christmas when I was around eleven years old and Gene was fourteen, we got one 26" inch bicycle to be shared by both of us. I didn't know how to ride it' so I insisted that Gene tow me on the handlebars. After all, half of that bike was mine!

He reluctantly agreed, and we rode down our hard rock & slag-graveled road. We had ridden only a few hundred feet when my foot slipped off of the front fender, and into the spokes! We flipped over, and Gene and I and-our new hike were scratched up pretty bad! Now if that wasn't enough, Gene really told me off big time!

We had alot of fun in the summer after the crops were harvested and the canning was done. The hogs were butchered now, and it was time to play! I went to visit my first cousin, Marion Camp,who lived in Mulberry Florida. His parents, Ernest and Bessie Camp, ran a dry cleaning business, and to me they lived in "the city!" I thought that they must be rich, because they lived in the city and owned a dry cleaning business! As most everyone in Florida knows, Mulberry was a small place, but my little eyes saw it differently. At a later time, Lorita and Juanita would go there to visit Uncle Ernest and Aunt Bessie's two daughters, Betty Rae and Patricia. Then later, they would come to visit us on the farm.

What great times we had! As I said in the beginning, we were poor and had little money. We had the greatest thing of all, however. We had love.
Monday 20 April 2015
20 Apr 2015 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
Dad was with the OSS the forerunner of the CIA. We did not really believe him until at his funeral and Charlie was standing next to his wife Marva, and this old guy came up and told me that Dad was responsible for getting him a position within the OSS.

Legacy of Andrew J. Riley
By Polly Mazariegos

Editors Note: This story was originally published in the January 2006 issue of U.S. Legacies magazine. Since the author Pauline K. Mazariegos nee Wagaman passed away in April 20, 2015, we are republishing this article in her memory.

Here is Polly's story, in her own words.

I thought I would start with Andrew J. Rileys military career and how I became his daughter.

My biological father, Merle Wagaman, died during World War II. My Mother remarried Andrew J. Riley after 7 year of being a widow with 2 girls. I called my stepfather Andy. He fathered 7 children with my mother. When they are added, with my sister and I, from my biological father, this makes a nice group of 9 children.

When my other brothers and sisters arrived, I began calling Andy Dad. If I would have continued to call him Andy, then they would have also called him Andy instead of Dad, and it would be too confusing for them.He was the only Dad I knew, as I was only 9 months old when my biological father died in WWII. Andy was now my Dad.

Dad enlisted April 9, 1934, in the National Guard of PA. He first served in the 105th MRSec. 28th Div. QM TN. from April 9, 1934, through April 16, 1936. He was reassigned to Co. E 103 Quartermaster Regiment of the National Guard from April17, 1936, thru 1940, when he was honorably discharged on April 8, 1940.

He was granted the rank of Corporal on June 12, 1940. He joined the regular Army on December 1, 1942. His entry into active service was December 8, 1942. His occupation specialty was Radio Mechanic 862. He was honorably discharged from the Army on September 28, 1945, and held the rank of Corporal.

His enlisted campaigns are: Rome Mao per letter MPOUSA on November 10, 1944; N Apennines & Po Valley Campaigns. He received an EAME Campaign ribbon with three bronze stars, plus the good conduct medal. He also received one gold star for service from 1935-1939, while in Company E.

He later received a purple heart and obtained a certificate of disability for his many shrapnel wounds. These wounds stayed with him all his life as it continued to come out of his feet and neck until he passed away in 1988. In addition to his military service, he was a life time member of the Loyal Order of Moose in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Dad also had nightmares from his military service. Once Dad told my mother, don't move Teen (his name for her), there's a snake on the ceiling. He would also cry out orders to other soldiers in his sleep.

Dad would also tell us his numerous Army stories. If only we had recorded them then and paid more attention to them, we could list them here, but I will have to rely on my brothers and sisters for any stories they remember. The only story I remember is when Dad was in Africa and pigmies were paddling the boat, and a big sea serpent came out of the water and threw all of them into the water. Since they were not far from the bank, they all swam to safety.

Another story was where Dad was on a mission with a guy they called Machine Gun Kelly. We think he called him that because he carried the machine gun and his name was Kelly. Any how, their mission was to blow up this bridge and Dad was there as a radio operator. They set the charges and, as Charlie recalls, Machine Gun Kelly got killed with most of the guys on the mission. The bridge was blown, and it was off to the next mission.

Just to show Dad did have a sense of humor, here is another story. It goes like this. There was an air raid and they were in the mess hall. He jumped behind a trash can and cut his finger. The Army wanted to award him the purple heart for that. Dad said it is ridiculous and when the General came by walking his dog to give Dad his purple heart, Dad refused it. The General turned and put it on the dog collar and off they went.

Another story, as he had many, Dad was with the OSS the forerunner of the CIA. We did not really believe him until at his funeral and Charlie was standing next to his wife Marva, and this old guy came up and told me that Dad was responsible for getting him a position within the OSS. Charlie never did get his name.

I remember a time at the supper table when Dad would tell one of his Army War stories and my husband, who had been in the Army at Ft. Belvoir, VA, so Dad felt at ease telling him his stories. My husband would kick my foot if he thought what Dad was telling him was true, or not. We will never know for sure .I sure did have a sore foot though.
Thursday 05 March 2015
05 Mar 2015 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
As my father was driving down the highway, he passed a soldier in uniform hitchhiking home to his family. Deep in grief, my father had no inclination at that moment to do a good deed. Yet it was almost as if something outside himself pulled him to a stop,
Wartime Memories: The Stranger
By Chaplain Robinson

U.S. Legacies: March 2005

In 1949, my father had just returned home from the war. On every American highway you could see soldiers in uniform hitchhiking home to their families, as was the custom at that time in America. Sadly, the thrill of his reunion with his family was soon overshadowed. My grandmother became very ill and had to be hospitalized. It was her kidneys, and the doctors told my father that she needed a blood transfusion immediately or she would not live through the night.
Thursday 03 January 2008
03 Jan 2008 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
Remember when ... Not stepping on a crack or you'll break our mothers back ... paper chains at Christmas,
Remember When?

Remember when ... Not stepping on a crack or you'll break our mothers back ... paper chains at Christmas, silhouettes of Lincoln and Washington ... the smell of paste in school and Evening in Paris?

What about the girl who dotted her letter I with hearts? The Stroll, popcorn balls, & sock hops?

Remember when ... there were two types of sneakers for girls and boys (Keds & PF Flyer) and the only time you wore them at school was for gym class. And the girls had those ugly gym uniforms?

Remember when it took five minutes for the TV to warm up and nearly everyones Mom was at home when the kids got home from school?

Remember when nobody owned a purebred dog, when a quarter was a decent allowance and when you'd reach into a muddy gutter for a penny?

Remember when ... your Mom wore nylons that came in two pieces, when all of your male teachers wore neckties and female teachers had their hair done everyday and wore high heels?

Remember when ... you got your windshield cleaned, oil checked, and gas pumped, without asking, all for free, every time, and, you didn't pay for air and, you got trading stamps to boot!

Remember when ... laundry detergent had free glasses, dishes or towels hidden inside the box.

Remember when ... it was considered a great privilege to be taken out to dinner at a real restaurant with your parents. When they threatened to keep kids back a grade in school if they failed ... and did!

Remember when ... the worst thing you could do at school was smoke in the bathrooms, flunk a test or chew gum. And the prom was in the auditorium and you danced to an orchestra.

Remember when ... a 57 Chevy was everyones dream car ... to cruise, peel out, lay rubber or watch races, and people went steady and girls wore a class ring with an inch of wrapped medical tape, dental floss or yarn coated with pastel frostnail polish so it would fit her finger. And no one ever asked where the car keys were because they were always in the car, in the ignition, and the doors were never locked.

Remember lying on your back on the grass with your friends and saying things like That cloud looks like a................... And playing baseball with no adults to help kids with the rules of the game.

Remember when stuff from the store came without safety caps and hermetic seals because no one had yet tried to poison a perfect stranger. And with all our progress ... don't you just wish, just once, you could slip back in time and savor the slower pace ... and share it with the children of today ... When being sent to the principals office was nothing compared to the fate that awaited the student at home.

Basically, we were in fear for our lives, but it wasn't because of drive-by shootings, drugs, gangs, etc. Our parents and grandparents were a much bigger threat! But we survived because their love was greater than the threat.

So pass this on to someone who can still remember Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, Laurel & Hardy, Howdy Doody and The Peanut Gallery, The Lone Ranger, The Shadow Knows, Nellie Belle, Roy and Dale, Trigger and Buttermilk ... as well as the sound of a real mower on Saturday morning, and summers filled with bike rides, baseball games, bowling and visits to the pool ... and eating Kool-Aid powder with sugar.

Didn't that feel good, just to go back and say, Yeah, I remember that...?
I am sharing this with you today because it ended with a double dog dare to pass it on.

And remember that the perfect age is somewhere between old enough to know better and young enough not to care.
03 Jan 2007 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
Washing Clothes Recipe (Given a Young Bride By Her Grandmother)
Washing Clothes Recipe (Given a Young Bride By Her Grandmother)

Years ago an Alabama grandmother gave the new bride the following recipe:

This is an exact copy as written and found in an old scrapbook - with spelling errors and all.


Build fire in backyard to heat kettle of rain water.
Set tubs so smoke wont blow in eyes if wind is pert.
Shave one hole cake of lie soap in boilin water.
Thursday 05 January 2006
05 Jan 2006 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
Did you ever shoot a slingshot when you were a kid? Have you forgotten how much fun they would bring? Usually around the age of eight or nine most boys learn how to make, and shoot, a slingshot.
By: Joe Mayfield

Did you ever shoot a slingshot when you were a kid? Have you forgotten how much fun they would bring? Usually around the age of eight or nine most boys learn how to make, and shoot, a slingshot.

My first slingshot was made from a forked limb, hickory I believe, and used strips of rubber from an automobile tire inner tube for the power source. (About 18 inch's long, and one half inch wide) One end of the rubber strip was placed over one of the two wood forks, and while holding in place with one hand, use the other hand to wrap a strong cord type string around that fork, tie the string into a knot, then do the same with the other fork.
Thursday 07 April 2005
07 Apr 2005 Posted by RAW Comments: 0 Views: 
It was the winter of his discontent. On the first weekend he couldn't wait to get away from the camp and decided to investigate the town. He had no appreciation for the old magnificent architecture and was totally unimpressed with his new surroundings. To

Excused Boots

By Bill Hawksford

U.S. Legacies: April 2005

Out of genuine respect for the hardworking friendly, warm people of Yorkshire, Billy sincerely hopes that his observations of Halifax will not be offensive.

The Halifax RASC camp was located at Ovenden Park which was a few miles north of the town. In 1947, the scene was like a really old black and white movie, completely devoid of color. (The scene at the Halifax RASC camp in 1947, which was located at Ovenden Park a few miles north of the town, was like a really old black and white movie, completely devoid of colour.) The soot from the nearby industry blanketed the whole area, and everything including the hills overlooking the camp and the grass in the park, were the same muddy gray color. The dark stonewalls separating the fields contributed to the stark scene, and the dampness from the fine misty drizzle penetrated his bones.
Tuesday 05 April 2005
05 Apr 2005 Posted by RAW Comments: 0 Views: 
I asked myself why are you writing this story of your life. I really do not have a definite answer to that question. The only justification I can think of is to give my grandchildren an idea of what life was like in


By William H Gieske

Pennsylvania Memories
U.S. Legacies: April 2005


I asked myself why are you writing this story of your life. I really do not have a definite answer to that question. The only justification I can think of is to give my grandchildren an idea of what life was like in the old days.

Have you ever tried to picture your parents as young people, much younger than you are now? Its difficult or impossible to get a clear picture of your mother or father as a young person let alone as a small child. If you can't picture someone you are as close to as your parents how could you ever imagine what it was like for your grandparents. Perhaps that is what I am trying to shed some light on.
Wednesday 09 March 2005
09 Mar 2005 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
mountaineer's type relationship with the sport and man's love of his dogs, and more times than not, he could have purchased a pick-up truck for what he paid for just one really good dog.
Alabama Memories: Coon on a Log

U.S. Legacies: March 2005

Photograph of Mr. Black and his dog, from Garden City, Alabama

People that live on a farm, or in rural areas, understand the fun of hunting in the great outdoors, once said to be the "Sport of kings," it's a sport that's hard to explain to a city dweller, they lack the ability to comprehend what the sound of a full throated "Bay" of a good Black and Tan coon dog sounds like. A hunter knows the sound of his dog's "Bay," even though that dog is miles away, it's like the drama and music of an opera, and that sound carries over hills and mountains as the hunter rushes to his dog's location.
Wednesday 02 March 2005
02 Mar 2005 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
a tornado hitting St. Louis in 1896. "It was on Dolman Street," she said. "Mama knew that the tornado was upon us. She had a lamp in one arm and me, an infant at the time, in the other. Our servant girl had my brother, Frank, and my sister, Sophie. Everyb
Good Old Days: Life of Thelma Wenzel

Published by U.S. Legacies: March 2005

"You know, when you look under the microscope like I did, everything was magnified 2,000 times. I never knew what I was going to find."

What Thelma Wenzel seems to have found is a life full of richness and surprises, not unlike those she found under the lens of her microscope during her 50 years in medical technology. Like the microorganisms she studied over the years, Miss Wenzel has always had a love for life and beauty. At 88, she still paints, gardens, attends religious meetings, and entertains at her home in Park Hill in North Little Rock.

Born in St. Louis in 1896, she is the daughter of the late Frank Herman Wenzel (of Wenzel camping equipment) and Louisa Meyer Wenzel.

"I didn't know at the time," she said during a recent interview, "but I was a teacher's pet in school. They always wanted me to perform in the recitals and plays." Miss Wenzel suddenly remembered a poem and stood up eagerly to recite,

"I love the name of Washington,

I love my country, too,

I love the flag,

The dear old flag,

Of red and white and blue."

She also recalls a tornado hitting St. Louis in 1896. "It was on Dolman Street," she said. "Mama knew that the tornado was upon us. She had a lamp in one arm and me, an infant at the time, in the other. Our servant girl had my brother, Frank, and my sister, Sophie. Everybody was trying to get out of the house.

"Each room we entered, the way through would be blown away as soon as we left it. We would just barely get through a room before it was gone. Mama was trying to keep me against her chest because of the vacuum being created by the tornado. She was afraid that I would smother."

Thelma Wenzel began her work in medical technology at the age of 17. Her family's physician, Dr. C.S. Pettus, had been named to find "girls" to work in the labs of a new hospital _ Vanderbilt University Medical School.

"I didn't see any future for myself as a teen-ager," Miss Wenzel said. "I knew I didn't want to be a clerk or a stenographer so I helped my mother at home. I was absolutely miserable. I got fatter and fatter on Mama's homemade brown bread. No young girl can be happy when she's fat. Well, Dr. Pettus helped me by putting me on a diet. Besides helping me with my personal problem, he also got me a job."

She spent four years training for her chosen career, three of which were to obtain her nursing degree, and an additional year of medical technology training at Watkins University.

"I was hired for my very first job at Vanderbilt University, and was in charge of the laboratory at the age of 21. Think of it!" she exclaimed.

And it was, indeed, something to think about, as subsequent years brought her professional recognition she had never thought possible.

Her findings were published, among other places in the Archives of Pathology, the American Journal of Medical Sciences, and the American Medical Association's Archives of Internal Medicine.

"Oh yes, I would discover things. It was so exciting. They were things that had never been reported before. It was a thrill!" she said.

One such discovery was made in 1929. "At Christmas one year, I came back to find a book on my desk. I thought `what a strange Christmas present - a textbook!' I opened it up and there was my method all printed up."

The "method" to which she referred to was named the Wenzel anaerobic method, and has been used for decades to culture specimens in the laboratory. The word "anaerobic" means "grown without air,"a very important element in clinical lab work of the time.

Miss Wenzel described her landmark discovery. "They used to use tall test tubes to grow specimens," Miss Wenzel continued. "It was hard to get to the bottom of them, so I just put the material on a Petrie dish. My secret was pouring melted petroleum jelly over the top so the bacteria had no air. I would chill the dish and then, when I checked the specimen underneath, the layer of petroleum jelly would slip right off." The Wenzel anaerobic method caught the attention of physicians, technicians and researchers all over the United States.

However, she was to go on to realize even more discoveries. "A little baby had become infected with a mysterious disease and died soon after," she said. "I was able to obtain some of the baby's blood, and kept it, using my anaerobic method and the incubator to test the blood samples. But, after two weeks in the incubator, nothing grew. I thought, `That baby had a high fever and I'm not going to throw this away.' There is more to this," she explained.

After this incident, she took the three previously tested petrie dishes out of the incubator, leaving them at room temperature. Her supervising physician, Dr. Roy Avery, came into the lab and asked her if she was working on anything interesting. She said, "Well, I do have something, but I don't know what it is. I never saw anything like it in my life." At room temperature, the samples had developed peculiar flower-like forms under the microscope.

"Old Dr. Avery was so excited," Miss Wenzel said. "My God, woman!" he said. "Where'd you get that stuff? This has never been isolated before from human blood! You have a very rare organism."

The organism came to be called histoplasma capsulatus, and those exposed to these air borne germs have what is now called histoplasmosis. That same organism was present in the feces of the dog with which the previously described baby had been playing shortly before getting sick.

Not long after her finding, Miss Wenzel visited her brother, who resided in Los Angeles, California, at the time. "While I was there, I was asked if I wanted to visit the Los Angeles County Hospital, which had just opened at the time," she explained.

"A doctor asked me if I was the Miss Wenzel who had made a discovery in Nashville, Tennessee. When he learned that I was indeed, the same one, he took the time to show me around the laboratories there and he even offered me a job. But, I just loved it so much at Vanderbilt that I turned him down."

"But just imagine," she continued, "A little ol'nothing like me discovering something like that!"

After that heyday, however, she saw her work go largely unappreciated. Her financial situation during the Depression years forced her to take two jobs.

Later years also proved disappointing. "One time," she said, "I came in to work and a young doctor who had a research job at Vanderbilt wanted to talk to me. He informed me that he was now going to be in charge of the laboratory that I had supervised. Because it was World War II, my regular supervisor, Dr. Morgan, was looking after all the VA hospitals and labs overseas.

"I said, `I think it will be a very good idea for a doctor to be the head of the lab, because they can talk all that medical stuff.' But then he said, "You don't understand, Miss Wenzel. You won't be here."

She decided to leave her long-time job right then, and in such haste that she even left her microscope behind.

Besides the hazards of politics during her years as a medical technologist, Miss Wenzel also was constantly exposed to serious diseases. "I worked with syphilis samples from patients a lot. It was a wonder that I didn't contract it," she said, "but, I was always very careful to wear gloves, and not prick myself with infected needles."

After resigning from Vanderbilt, she took a full-time job with the VA hospital. She devoted more of her time to her family, especially to her brother, Armand, and to her second love—painting, as well as to the Baha'i Faith, which she had become a member of in 1957.

Miss Wenzel had enrolled in her first art class at the age of 13 because she wanted a scholarship. "The teacher put a white lily in a clear vase and asked me to draw and paint it without making many pencil marks. I looked at this task thinking, `I have a white paper and that's a white flower. I don't know how to make that show up.'

"The teacher showed me how to use a little blue and gray for the shadows where the petals came together. So, I learned how to paint a white lily on white paper," Miss Wenzel laughed.

It was her first and only formal art lesson.

Since that time, this multi-talented woman has created dozens of original oils and acrylic paintings, most of them autobiographical. One of them depicts her as a little girl at the turn of the last century walking with her father down a fashionable St. Louis street. "I adored Papa," she said. "To me, he was just about perfect. He was the real head of the household."

Asked why her father had not gone into the famous Wenzel family tent and camping business, she simply said, "My father, Frank, had a chance to go into business, all right. His uncle, Herman Wenzel, was always trying to talk my papa into doing this. But Papa was an artist. He wasn't going to get into that kind of work and throw his life away just to make a lot of money. But he always managed to make a good salary from his job as a lithographer," she said.

Other autobiographical paintings include her interpretation of slave days in the old South, of which she considers herself a part, having been raised in Charleston, South Carolina. Still other renderings are of still life flowers, portraits, and landscapes.

One of the portraits is of her great-great grandfather, Baron Heinrich Karl Friedrich Von Stein, called the `Secret Kaiser' of Germany, and his wife, the Countess Wilhelmina. Among other accomplishments, Baron von Stein eliminated serfdom in Prussia shortly before the Napoleonic invasion. He also secretly opposed Napoleon during his reign, leading to his now well-known title.

Miss Wenzel followed her fascination with these ancestors by visiting two of the baron's castles at Nassau and Cappenburg, in western Germany, in 1962.

Through von Stein's wife, the Wenzel family can trace its roots to King George II of England. "My grandmother would tell us stories of Baron von Stein when I was a child. When I think of him and my family's connection, it seems like a fairy tale that the children tell," she said. " I think it is just thrilling."

She related another childhood experience: " I was learning long division in school. One day I was trying to reason out the way to do a particular problem. I finally got the answer, but my teacher came over and said, "Thelma Wenzel! You cheated! You must have turned to the back of the book and gotten the answer."

"Well, I had not cheated! It would never have occurred to me to do such a thing. My mother brought me up to be honorable," she said. "You weren't anything unless you were truthful and honest. That was one thing that I had to be," she concluded.

Lisa Armstrong, is a freelance writer from Arkansas. This article was originally printed in the Midweek section of the Arkansas Democrat, November 14, 1984.

A Life Dedicated to Medical Science

By Lisa Herndon Armstrong

Thelma Wenzel

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