Legacy of Andrew J. RileyEditors 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.
By Polly Mazariegos
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.
I will move on to another facet of Dads life, and that is after the war he sold his store on Stratton Street and bought a big store in the country. The town was 4 miles West of downtown Gettysburg and called Seven Stars. He transformed part of the house into a small general store and he called it Rileys General Store. It had everything you could need from shoes, dresses, sock, undies, mens wear, shotguns, shells, nuts, bolts, and of course, food. Dad had put an item in the paper that he would reopen his store when Hitler was dead.
Next in Dads life were his wife and the kids that seemed to naturally come along every 2 years.That was fine with me, as I was second in line, and I enjoyed playing with the kids. I do remember though, that as a young person, Dad was a strict disciplinarian. This is really what the kids of today need. If we did not do what he told us, there were always weeds to pull from the garden after digging up the ground in the summer months. We had many fresh vegetables that Dad grew. We had potatoes, squash, lettuce, radishes, corn, watermelon, cantaloupe, rhubarb, and strawberries.
There was also brush to clear away from behind the barn in the summer months, snow to shovel in the winter months, or if the sun was out he wanted us out in the sun playing instead of watching TV. We were the last people to get a TV as we would go to our neighbors and watch TV with their daughter on Saturdays until Dad finally got us a TV.
There was a large pear tree behind the house/store where I would have little tea parties with my brothers and sisters. I would use my china tea set, or a plastic one later on, and we would have coffee (coca cola), potatoes (chips) and meat (Oreo cookies). There was also a peach tree in our back yard. The pear tree was the largest pear tree I had ever seen and it provided a lot of shade in the hot summer months. During one summer, a bad storm/tornado came and tore up the beautiful large pear tree and took it away. During that same storm our metal roof blew off.
Dad taught me many things. Mostly I remember to always put the things you get out back where they belong. Lord help you if you did not put it back and he went for it and he would come after you to get it and put it back. The same thing would happen if you did not put your bicycle back in the barn.
Another thing I liked to do, for whatever reason I do not know, I liked to take a pin and scratch my name on the dressers that I had my clothes in. Well, one night, he came into the room and saw where I had scratched my name on the dresser with a pin. Wow! He was mad. You see, this dresser had been an antique, but to me it was just an old painted over dresser. Yes, I got whipped for that.
He also taught me if you walk in and the door is open, and when you leave, it stays open and the same if it is closed and you open it, when you leave you close it.
He also taught me what responsibility is.He told me you get nothing for nothing. If you work 8 hours you should get 8 hours pay. He also told me never to volunteer to do anything.That was one rule I broke.
As more children arrived Dad discovered the store was not making enough to support all of us, so he went to work part time for a company called Dun and Bradstreet Credit Reporting and he would take me along. One of the things I remember is if it was raining and he would go up to the house and I would sit in the car and listen to the rain hitting the roof. Today I still love the sound of rain hitting the car roof, or a hard rain hitting the windows of the house. After he was finished, he always stopped by a small store and got both of us a Yoo-hoo chocolate drink.
He was also very protective about who we could socialize with. I was a junior in high school before I could stay over at anyones house. This family was not any different than ours. Their kids also went to Catholic School .They had an out house and it was up a big hill. They had no doors on their rooms, just curtains or sheets hanging in place of doors. I had many happy times there. The daughter and I have remained friends to this day. Now, we can communicate by e-mail instead of just letters. It has been a 45 year friendship.
I remember Dad taking me to see the director of the business school and we discussed what my subjects would be. Dad said I would need a place to stay as I had no car to come back and forth with. Dad made the arrangements with an elderly lady who was lonesome and wanted someone to stay with her. She was a nice lady and so I stayed in a room for $5 a week. This was the year 1962.
After I grew up and moved away from home, I felt responsible to help the family. When I was in business school, I came home on weekends to help my mother out with the kids, washing and ironing and general house cleaning.I always had fun with the kids.
My older sister remembers a time when we bathed the first two children in a big wash tub in the kitchen. We did have a pump in what was called a summer kitchen, and when it did not rain sufficient to fill the cistern with water, we at least had the pump water. This we would pump into pans and heat for the bath and then pour them into buckets to be carried either up the stairs to the bathroom or when the children were smaller, to a wash tub in the kitchen.
We also did this to do the laundry in the summer and hang the clothes outside. However, in the winter, that was another story. We had to heat the water to fill the washing machine and rinse in a silver tub and hang the clothes outside and if it did not dry, we took it down and put it up again in the dinning room, living room and even on the heater registers to dry. Can you imagine using the same water over and over to do laundry? Think you have it bad today?
The store/house had structural and plumbing problems as the other children came along. If you can imagine, with more children each year this old house was not meant for so many people. The inside plumbing came later to our house, later than most, as we had an out house which Dad felt was enough until they outlawed the use of out houses. For some reason, our inside plumbing never really worked well.
Dad figured with just him, his wife Teen, and her two girls, the water he had would be enough. You see, he had been told while in the Army that due to his injuries, he could not father any children. What a mistake that was! Either the Army lied, or it corrected itself over the years.
Easter time was a time for some of us getting colored peeps and then ducks. The peeps turned into adult chickens and so we had eggs to gather. This to me was fun. Then we even had duck eggs whose yolks were an extra dark orange. I did not notice any difference in the taste. Of course, these adult chickens also became an occasional Sunday dinner. So did the ducks, I think. I only remember the ducks swimming in any little puddle they would find after a rain.
There was a chicken that chased my one sister around the barn.She opened the door to the Brooder House (where we kept the peeps and chickens) and the rooster flew up and out the window and proceeded to chase and peck her. After this happened he soon lost his head and appeared on the supper table.
My brother recalls the time he found a huge strawberry in a quart Mom brought home from the fruit stand. He took the strawberry and placed it conspicuously in the little strawberry patch that he was cultivating, and patiently waited for someone to notice. Well in about two or three days Dad noticed the strawberry, and picked it. Anyway, he proceeded to show off the huge strawberry from the garden, and then he showed it to a customer who quickly snatched it out of Dads hand and ate it. Dad was furious at the guy for eating that strawberry!
Another story was when my brother was learning to work with electricity. He had run a wire from the summer kitchen to the Brooder House, and he thought he did a noteworthy job of it. When Dad went to check out his handiwork, he grabbed the metal handle to the Brooder House, and interestingly got knocked on his behind! Not understanding why, my brother quickly went and turned off the switch, and prompted Dad to try again. Again, Dad yelled out... Turn it off! Well, this time my brother had to go un-plug the connection, and he was told it was his turn to open the door, so they could look inside. Upon inspection, they noticed my brothers mistake of winding the cable around the circular (metal) cap before dropping the cable down the center for the light fixture. Apparently, he made the perfect grounding device out of the entire Brooder House! After re-working and insulating every contact point with wood blocks, it worked much better.
One of the things I remember is Dad, Mom, and me sitting on our front porch watching the cars go by and counting how many red ones we saw or how many from which state, or how many Fords we saw. What did you do on a typical Sunday afternoon? Our typical Sunday was always going to church and coming home and smelling Moms roast beef dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy and corn.I still to this day miss that roast beef.
One of the things Dad liked to do was play Yatzee. He even played by himself. When his sons-in-law stopped by, he always challenged them to a game of Yatzee. It did not matter that he took too many rolls of the dice while playing. It was all in fun.
Dad did have a few idiosyncrasies! In the summer we would have lunches consisting of either: all corn, all tomatoes, all squash and only fish when fishing was in season. Sometimes we would have spaghetti and potato chips. Any vegetables were from the garden.That means we only got grown lettuce to eat when lettuce came from the garden. The one and only thing I thought Dad could not cook right was sunny side up eggs. Get my drift.
Here is a humorous story, as told to me by my brother Charlie. It was a Sunday and he and his brother were going fishing. Mother had reminded them to be back for dinner. Then they drove up to the entrance of the Girl Scout Camp, along Route 30 West, and began fishing in a little stream.They were catching all kinds of trout and kept fishing and fishing and, finally, ended up at Sam Dixon Reservoir, although we did not know it yet.
Andy said, WOW! Its like discovering America! We stupidly thought we were the first to ever fish in it. They then decided to walk out to the road which was another bright idea. They walked and walked and walked. Charlie was getting tired, and the sense of adventure had long worn off. When they finally made it back to Route 30 to a garage called Tick Tock, they called Dad. Andy made the mistake of telling Dad, We are lost and need a ride. I never saw Dad laugh so hard. He laughed all the way from Tick Tock, where he picked us up, to where he parked the car. We even tried to tell him we misspoke, but Dad just kept laughing. I remember on numerous occasions hearing him tell the story to people in the store and still laughing. I guess it is funny and even now I get a big grin on my face thinking of Dad, and the pleasure it gave him to think of his outdoorsmen sons getting lost.Oh, by the way, we never did make it for dinner (lunch).
Here is another incident of Dads humor. We were having a picnic and I do not know what year it was. Anyway, we always had our large picnics in a huge lot behind the store and house. This particular picnic everyone was outside listening to a Boom Box and my son was showing a new dance called Break Dancing, in which a person goes down and spins on his back like a turtle. Anyway, my son Juan, and his two cousins were working on their break dancing. Dad came over to us and told us he could do it. We did not think, as old as he was, he could (I believe he was about 75 years old). He got down on his back and twirled just like the boys. He said he could do it and he did. He cracked all of us up.
I remember picking cherries in the hottest part of July and being covered with spray, and Dad would give us a bar of Ivory soap and down to the local swimming hole we would walk. It was down Route 30, only East instead of West. Swimming also helped when water was low in the house and it was summer. We went to several swimming places. One I remember very vividly, because I was afraid of cows. This particular swimming hole was a back road (the road next to our neighbors), and we had to crawl over a wire fence to get to it. Anyway, every one would run faster than me, and I had to walk across the cow pasture by myself. Cows would be near and I was very afraid. Nothing ever happened to me, and while I am no longer afraid of cows, I do not like to be near them.
One thing I must not fail to mention is that Dad was a great Civil War historian. Every time some relative came to visit, Dad would take them across the Gettysburg Battlefield and tell them what all the monuments stood for and the Regiments they fought in. He was a proud man. He would have made an excellent battlefield tour guide.
Dad did have a kind heart to those in need.He was always a strong person around us, but there were times when he was a softy. My sister Shirley remembered when she went to see him in the VA hospital when he had his ulcer problem and she brought him cigarettes and some diabetic cookies and he started to cry when he asked her how the kids were doing. I think he missed all of us.
Most of our young life we thought he was a hard person because he was so strict with us, but we are the people we are today because of that up-bringing. He didn't seem to like our friends, and found faults about them, but maybe he didn't want us to be hurt. Overall, he taught us the values that he was raised to follow. He taught us all about honor, integrity and standing for our convictions.
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