Eighty

Hitler’s army invaded Poland. Nearly three years before, I was born in Sanish, ND, ten minutes after midnight on my doctor’s birthday. The year I was born had been the second coldest winter and hottest summer recorded in the United States up to that time. The worst winter I do remember was 1948-49 when Van Hook, ND, where we lived, was snowed in for a month during the time of Operation Haylift.

Mother told me we were in Kelso, WA, when Pearl Harbor happened. I do remember watching the Army convoys traveling on Highway 99 through Kalama, WA. We were in Los Angeles, CA, to experience air raid drills, then Alexandria, MN, when WWII ended. My father was only a few days over thirty-two when died the month before I was ten in 1946.

High school spring semester of 1953 ended and Korea was still a hot war. One of our former teachers was there, so several of us sixteen-year-olds thought it would be a good idea to join up. The local recruiter told us to get summer jobs and come back in two years. I joined the Cold War in 1955. Young Hungarians were instrumental in starting the revolution against Russia while I was in Army Security Agency training at the Pentagon. One of those young Hungarians would become the father of my daughter-in-law.

The Agency listened to signals from Sputnik the month I turned twenty-one. I’m sure the SPCA wasn’t happy when the Soviets launched the dog Laika into orbit that November. I trained on newly developed specialized equipment to track rocket launches and its value was proven when Russia launched the world’s first long range first ICBM in 1957.

I was permanently smitten at night school the fall of 1958; Shirley and I were married the spring of 1959 at the Presidio of Monterey. Our first son was born in California, and our second at Walter Reed while I was training at the Pentagon. Shirley and the boys joined me in Frankfurt, Germany, the September after the Berlin borders were closed, and construction on the infamous Berlin Wall was started. Our daughter was born in Frankfurt am Main. She was a year old, and we were at the post theater watching The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance when JFK was assassinated. I truncated my military career the next July.

After a nasty winter and spring flooding in Minnesota, with little chance for advancement in my job, I accepted a civilian job with the ASA. I left the government job a year later for higher pay in retail management.

George Lincoln Rockwell, leader of the American Nazi Party, was killed in Arlington, VA, in August of 1967. The man accused and later convicted of killing Rockwell, John Patsalos, was known to me as John Patler. I had hired him about a month before the incident as a part-time clerk at the drug store where I was an assistant manager.

We were living in Manassas, VA, just outside Washington, DC, during the 1968 riots which began after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Many employees of the retail drug store where I was an assistant manager and the store where I was a manager were significantly impacted by the riots.

To start another career change, I became a thirty-three-year-old freshman at Central Washington University the fall of 1969. Campus unrest wasn’t as intense at Central as on other campuses, but all of the elements of the protests across the country were there at some level.  Dan (DB) Cooper hijacked a commercial airliner. I was interviewed by an FBI Agent for an incident of my own while the hijacker’s demands were being processed. (See “Case Closed” on this blog.) The anti-war, anti-establishment, you-name-it rights movements were subtler, but still present when I started my first teaching assignment in 1974. At this writing, I’ve been on summer break from public education for three years.

We raised our three children, welcomed grandchild one through seven, Mt. St. Helens blew her top, the Berlin wall came down, etc. before September 11, 2001. I took a friend to the airport that morning. I watched the images on TV for only a short time before he called me to pick him up because the airport was closed. Mother was less than a month short of eighty-seven when she died in 2003.

Many events have impacted my thoughts and feelings during these eighty years, and I truly believe it was God’s plan to put Shirley in the seat behind me at Seattle’s Edison Tech. Because of His plan, my years have certainly been far more blessed than not.

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