This is my grandfather. He knows a lot about history, but probably in a different way thanyou do. We read what happened in our history books and imagined what it was like. He saw it up close and personal. I sat down with him and asked him to share his experience. This presentation is his story.
Courtesy of James Gee Library “ A lot of our history has bells and whistles on it.”I’m sure most of you aren’t naïve enough to believe that the history we’ve been taught has been glossed over by iconic images and photographs. Sure, we remember the famouspicture of the flag raising in Iwo Jima, as well as the picture above, but what about the rest of the country? Indeed, part of our history remains untold.
CourtesyLATimes “Today, World War II is glorified like everyone has fond memories from it. When I was a teenager, it was just family members coming home in a casket.”My grandfather grew up during the war. He understood why the fighting needed to occur,but at the time, all he knew was that his family was coming home dead, or sometimes not at all.
Courtesy of James Gee Library “College most certainly existed back then, but not as a realistic option to most of us.” As time passed, my grandfather graduated high school and our country began to haveproblems with Russia. College was too expensive, but he needed to make a living somehow. So, with no where else to go, he signed up for the Air Force. If you think signing up for the armed forces today is honorable, it was 10 times as much back then.
Courtesy of James Gee Library“When I joined the Air Force, I was under the impression that you fixed them or flew them. Boy… I was wrong.” As relations between the USA and Russia worsened, the demand for message decoders went through the roof. My grandfather had barely seen a radio before he joined the Air Force, so he was hardly qualified to do the job. However, times were desperate and his training began.
Courtesy of James Gee Library “They told me if I failed my courses, they’d put me on food duty. After proceeding to fail anyways, they told me I didn’t fail bad enough… so off to message decoding I went.”Kind of made me think a little bit when he said this. I wonder if they still do things like thistoday? It doesn’t make me feel very safe with the fact that people who failed their training are helping protect our country. Once again, just a part of history that was glossed over.
“The country doesn’t have time to care about you once you’re no longer in the service. In the end, you just become another face in the crowd.”After years of service and getting to see an enemy nuclear bomb up close and personal, my grandfather returned home. While he wasn’t a foot soldier, he was still in danger a fairamount. In hindsight, he wonders if it was all worth it with only a couple of pieces of metal (seen above) to show for his work. Time stops for no one though, so his new life began.
“We argue a whole lot, but its out of love.” He met my grandmother not long after returning home from the service and they were married months later. The local factory was hiring and my grandfather got the job. Usingthese exact tools, he worked 60 hours a week for $150 a month. The budget was a little bit tight.
“These days, people want some sort of reward for working hard. My reward was keeping food on my family’s table and I was damn proud of it.”As time progressed, so did the demand money. My aunt was born in 1960 and my father in1964. My grandfather quit his job at the factory and sought to gain employment at a place that paid more. He became a plumber and a fire fighter, two jobs he would hold down together for 20 years. After both kids moved out, he received a promotion to fire chief atthe fire department, so he dropped his plumbing business. This picture is of all his awards and certifications he received for his career.
Courtesy of James Gee Library “If the world ended, the world ended. I didn’t let The Cold War get to me, because I couldn’t do anything about it. If they launched a nuke, there wasn’t much I could do.Instead, I focused on things I could do something about, like raising my kids. The communist scare was merely background noise that we tuned out.”
Today, he has 7 grandkids (including myself). Retired from the fire department, he currentlyresides in Rockwall, Texas making well over $150 dollars a month from his retirement plan.He has been married for over 50 years and they still argue over the same things they did all those years ago. I merely told a fraction of his story, simply because it would be ridiculous to fit it all in a single place. However, ask him to tell you some of his tales and he will give you a different take, a view from the other side.