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Recently while sitting at our dining area table, my wife and I were reminiscing about our years of growing up. As you get older, you tend to reflect back a lot to days gone by. I call them: Do you remember moments. We are both in our 70s and have a lot of years we can reflect on.
To set the stage a bit, my parents were married during the early days of WW 2, I appeared shortly there after. By 1946 they had separated. Fortunately for me, they were both from the same town on the Jersey side of Philadelphia. Ferry boats were still in use back then, transporting folks over the Delaware River. I would get to see my father every week as well as my fraternal grandparents. There were not a lot of large gatherings at their dinner table. The table was in the kitchen up against a wall and made of metal. Two meals each week never varied. Friday nights was always Oyster Stew or fish, (Yuk.) Saturday meals were always Hot Dogs and Baked Beans, (Toot-Toot.)
My parents were young when married. When the war started, my father was already in the Army. He spent time in the Philippines, and I’m thinking once he came home, the glowing flame of a youthful romance was no longer there. Neither parent ever spoke of negatives about the other. I was fortunate that I was equally shared and held accountable for my actions by both, neither parent would ever put down the other.
My mother and I would share a second-floor apartment in the home of my maternal Great-grandparents. My father would move back into the same bedroom he was raised in with his parents. We were separated by railroad tracks and less than a mile. I would spend a lot of time at both homes. Also, one block away was my maternal grandparents and an aunt. I was loved, spoiled, and watched over by caring relatives.
My wife grew up less than an hour away in Wilmington, Delaware, 36 miles as the crow flies. She was #4 of 5 children whose parents stayed together forever. She had three older brothers and a younger sister. Most of her family’s relatives were in NE Pennsylvania; the family would spend a lot of time visiting that neck of the woods. In her life also, the Dining Room Table would be the gathering place in Wilmington as well as Freeland, PA. Neighbors would constantly drop in at the Wilmington location. My wife remembers one family in particular that timed their visit at dinner time, quite frequently in fact. Not wanting to be rude, they were always invited to stay, and they did. Yes sir E. Bob, “back in the day,” I like to say.
There were not a whole lot of electronic diversions back in the late 40s, early 50s. TV was just getting going and we didn’t have one. I do remember going next door to see Howdy Doody at 5:00 pm. That show came on the air in 1947 and ran until 1960. The folks who allowed me to watch the show would ultimately be the parents of my step-father when my mother remarried. On occasion, I would carry my dinner over with me and watch the show at the dining room table. Looking back, this was a strange place to have a TV by today’s standards. I might add that this home was a strict Methodist facility. Once my mother married their son, Methodist standards took hold. No card playing or sports or rowdiness on Sundays, ever.
Here’s a look back at Granny W’s old-time dining table . This was the table at my maternal grandmother’s home. This home was a Lutheran home. That dining room table would host holiday meals for many years as well as other celebratory events. I can remember having to sit around and listen to whatever it was old people talked about back then. I vividly recall the Truman – Dewey presidential race being discussed. That was November 3,1948, and I was not yet six years of age. Truman won in an upset, by the way. All the newspapers reported Dewey the winner. Yep folks there was even fake news at the time. Many a card game, money on the table, cigar smoke in the air was the norm during a lot of get gatherings.
That Granny “W” could cook, and the aroma of the evening meal would hit you in the face the minute you walked into the house. She had a big part in raising me. Her dining room table was quite large. It had substantial sculpted legs with Gargoyles or something similer on them. Over the table was a chandelier encircled with gold-threaded fringe. Our children still remember being scolded for flicking that fringe. So I’m thinking, does that mean children were always on the fringe while the adults conversed?
The atmosphere at this table was much more jovial than the Methodist table. Many Aunts and Uncles would be in attendance. My grandmother would always have some Mogen David wine in the cupboard. For the men, it was Schmidt’s of Philadelphia beer. What a contrast between the two tables. I’m thinking about the difference between Lutherans and Methodists. I’m sure that’s politically incorrect in this day and age. I’ll call this the happy table and the other the stuffy table.
I would spend many hours at this table listening, trying to picture places and events that were talked about. When I was sent off to bed, I would listen to more stories at the keyhole in the door. Often talk would center around my great-grandfather, and the time he traveled with a Wild West show in the early 1900s. He was a Gun-Smith and kept the show’s weapons functioning. I could really close my eyes and place myself in those days of old. High-O-Siver, away! My grandmothers brother was often in attendance and would tell stories about his life as an Engineer on the Pennsylvania Railroad. I often would dream of riding the rails in the Caboose.
Yes, back in the day there were many things other than electronics to keep a boys mind imagining. I sure did like playing Cowboys and Indians. Thanks to that dining room table, I could place myself in the moment.
Semper Fi theRooster
Not long after my retirement from the CT State Police in the late eighties, my wife and I relocated to the Eastern Shore of Maryland and settled in the Village of Allen.
The home we purchased was originally owned Beverly and Laura Hitch, parents of Richard Beverly Hitch. Richard would be one of the missing crew aboard the USS Greyback, lost at sea off Okinawa on February 27th, 1944.
Richards mother, Laura Hitch would at one time turn this home into a Boarding House. It’s been said on Sundays past, you could smell the fried chicken cooking on the stove as you passed by on Allen Rd. Laura Hitch was often seen on the overhanging roof sweeping Sycamore tree bark as it shed each year. I would soon do the same after we moved in. We, like Laura, would entertain the public a year after moving in, turning our home into a Bed & Breakfast.
It is my and other family members belief, along with guests, who have felt the presence of others in the home. We have always thought that presence was Laura Hitch herself. Now that the resting place of Richard has been located, I can only wonder, was he there with us also? Ghosts, Spirits? Stay tuned, sometime soon I’ll expound on these super natural meetings.
Just last week after the Grayback was located, our town Scribe, Melissa Bright sent out the following email to the Village Mailing list. With her permission I attach that email. Melissa, you need to start a Blogging life.
Dear Allen Family – because Allen IS FAMILY –
Today we honor all veterans, but on this day there is news about a specific Allen veteran. Richard Beverly Hitch, son of Beverly and Laura Hitch, and brother to Thornton Hitch, was lost at sea during WWII aboard the submarine U.S.S. Grayback, where he served as an Electrician’s Mate 1st Class.
Today there is a report that the Grayback has been located. All these years, it was unknown where it lay. Recently, a Japanese amateur researcher discovered a single-digit error in the latitude and longitude of where it was believed the Grayback went down. Using this information, the Lost 52 Project, which hunts for missing ships, found the Grayback in June off the coast of Okinawa, where it went down on February 27th, 1944. The Grayback was on its 10th mission, and was among the 20 most successful subs in the U.S. Navy in terms of enemy ships destroyed. It is reported that her career was ended that day in February when a 500 pound bomb made a direct hit on her conning tower.
When these lost ships are found, they are usually considered hallowed ground, the final resting place of the sailors who went down with them. There has been no mention of any attempt to recover remains.
If I can get away from work for a few minutes, the church bell will ring at 11:11 a.m. this morning. There are markers in Richard’s memory, Punchbowl, the National Cemetery for the Pacific in Hawaii, and also here in Allen with his family, under the cedar tree in the Eastern end. At At 5:30 this evening, we will lay flowers at Richard’s marker in the Allen cemetery. Anyone who is interested is invited to come.
Richard was 28 years old when the Grayback went down. Here is his photo from Findagrave.com:
Here is a story on the finding of the sub: https://www.whio.com/news/national/submarine-missing-years-discovered-off-japanese-coast/od5azFCGi1dfhCismb7N3L/
There are two Find a Grave pages for Richard, one for each memorial site: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/35050802/richard-beverly-hitch
A blogging friend’s husband from down Carolina way, sent me a condensed version of a great undertaking by the folks in North Platte, Nebraska this past summer. I looked around as I often do and found this old article from the Wall Street Journal. All credit goes to Bob Greene, and the WSJ and, North Platte Telegraph for this content. Be you Red or Blue, here’s a feel-good story for you.
A Soldier Never Forgets North Platte
When service members pass through this small town in Nebraska, the community comes together to thank them.
293 Comments By Bob Greene July 22, 2018 4:01 p.m. ET
Community and service members in North Platte, Nebraska. Photo: Stephen Barkley/The North Platte Telegraph
‘We were overwhelmed,” said Lt. Col. Nick Jaskolski. “I don’t really have words to describe how surprised and moved we all were. I had never even heard of the town before.”
Col. Jaskolski, a veteran of the Iraq war, is commander of the 142nd Field Artillery Brigade of the Arkansas Army National Guard. For three weeks earlier this summer, the 142nd had been conducting an emergency deployment readiness exercise in Wyoming, training and sleeping outdoors, subsisting on field rations. Now it was time for the 700 soldiers to return to their base.
A charter bus company had been hired for the 18-hour drive back to Arkansas. The Army had budgeted for a stop to get snacks. The bus company determined that the soldiers would reach North Platte, in western Nebraska, around the time they would likely be hungry. The company placed a call to the visitors’ bureau: Was there anywhere in town that could handle a succession of 21 buses, and get 700 soldiers in and out for a quick snack?
North Platte said yes. North Platte has always said yes.
The community welcomed more than 700 service men and women, North Platte , Nebraska, June 18-19. Photo: Stephen Barkley/The North Platte Telegraph
During World War II, North Platte was a geographically isolated town of 12,000. Soldiers, sailors and aviators on their way to fight the war rode troop trains across the nation, bound for Europe via the East Coast or the Pacific via the West Coast. The Union Pacific Railroad trains that transported the soldiers always made 10-minute stops in North Platte to take on water.
The townspeople made those 10 minutes count. Starting in December 1941, they met every train: up to 23 a day, beginning at 5 a.m. and ending after midnight. Those volunteers greeted between 3,000 and 5,000 soldiers a day. They presented them with sandwiches and gifts, played music for them, danced with them, baked birthday cakes for them. Every day of the year, every day of the war, they were there at the depot. They never missed a train, never missed a soldier. They fed six million soldiers by the end of the war. Not 1 cent of government money was asked for or spent, save for a $5 bill sent by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The soldiers never forgot the kindness. Most of them, and most of the townspeople who greeted them, are dead. And now, in 2018, those 21 busloads from the 142nd Field Artillery were on their way, expecting to stop at some fast-food joint.
Photo: Stephen Barkley/The North Platte Telegraph
“We couldn’t believe what we saw when we pulled up,” Col. Jaskolski said. As each bus arrived over a two-day period, the soldiers stepped out to be greeted by lines of cheering people holding signs of thanks. They weren’t at a fast-food restaurant: They were at North Platte’s events center, which had been opened and decorated especially for them.
“People just started calling our office when they heard the soldiers were on their way,” said Lisa Burke, the director of the visitors’ bureau. “Hundreds of people, who wanted to help.”
The soldiers entered the events center to the aroma of steaks grilling and the sound of recorded music: current songs by Luke Bryan, Justin Timberlake, Florida Georgia Line; World War II songs by Glenn Miller, the Andrews Sisters, Jimmy Dorsey. They were served steak sandwiches, ham sandwiches, turkey sandwiches, deviled eggs, salads and fruit; local church groups baked pies, brownies and cookies.
Mayor Dwight Livingston stood at the door for two days and shook every soldier’s hand. Mr. Livingston served in the Air Force in Vietnam and came home to no words of thanks. Now, he said, as he shook the hands and welcomed the soldiers, “I don’t know whether those moments were more important for them, or for me. I knew I had to be there.”
“It was one soldier’s 21st birthday,” Lisa Burke said. “When I gave him his cake, he told me it was the first birthday cake he’d ever had in his life.” Not wanting to pry, she didn’t ask him how that could possibly be. “I was able to hold my emotions together,” she said. “Until later.”
When it became time to settle up—the Army, after all, had that money budgeted for snacks—the 142nd Field Artillery was told: Nope. You’re not spending a penny here. This is on us.
This is on North Platte.
Mr. Greene’s books include “Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen.”
Just about this time last year I was sitting in a Starbucks enjoying a coffee and their Internet connection while waiting to meet my granddaughter, I got into a conversation with a Salisbury University Student. Herself has all kinds of words to describe my verbal engagement with others. She considers herself anonymous, me, I’m the opposite. My previous interaction in the Birmingham, Alabama car rental return line is a perfect example.
It was early December when I was in that Starbucks and 12/07/1941 always comes to mind this time of the year. I was not born until two years later, but the history of the events at Pearl Harbor are forever etched in my Cerebral Cortex. What happened at Pearl Harbor was taught in History class when I went to school. My father fought in the war that followed, ending in 1945. I was a war child and now there are few who fought in that war left to tell their story.
I don’t remember my exact words but I’m sure I said something like “any thought on what tomorrow is in our history?” He looked up at me with a blank look on his face, “Pearl Harbor Day” I say in a questioning tone. A no clue look on his face at my ice breaker. I’m sure he was not happy to be torn away from Twitter, Snap Chat or Instagram. I was later happy to learn he was studying for a Civil Rights History class, was from the western shore, that’s the other side of the Chesapeake Bay and was a Junior at SU.
The old who, what, why. where and when had kicked in. Sometimes I just amaze myself with what I remember. I’m pretty good at establishing place and time when I hear a song from the 50’s and 60’s also. Glenn Miller’s “Chattanooga Choo Choo” was the #1 song on this important day, I’m not that old that I remember that though.
My point as I seem to be rambling along is: this young college student told me he was not familiar with, nor was never taught anything about Pearl harbor in school. We spoke further about geography and there was a lot lacking on that front also. I’m just amazed where our education system has gone. I’m happy he elected a history class in Civil Rights, there is hope. The young man later admitted that he had heard of Pearl Harbor through the movie but had no idea of the date.
To all who lost their lives on that day, I remember and I Honor you.