(Use Google Translate to see an approximate translation into another relevant language)
Áëıøù ← UTF-8 check (vowels with accents)


For Peter and Amy
Last update: Sun Feb 18 12:07:16 2024 (NY time)
IMPORTANT: Don't click on any links until this page is fully loaded, which might take several minutes.
THANKS to da Cruz cousins Danny, Lina, Rif, Raimundo, Luzia, Helena, and Fafita; to Lund cousins Sandy and Betty Rae and to Minnesota historian Dana Yost, and the nice people of Minneota, Minnesota; to ex-sisters-in-law Christine and Lori and ex-mother-in-law Consuelo. And to Army buddy Roger Anderson. For Virginia, to George Gilmer, Russell Hill (son of Harry), and Jimmie Walker. And more recently to Pam Ives and her Mom Ruth, to my stepsister Shawn Maxwell for several hair-raising stories about my father, and (again) to Army buddy Roger for his photos of Germany 1963-65.

For faster loading you can access individual chapters here.

Family tree [Skip]


Note to posterity: The online tree referenced just above was built at familyecho.com, a site which will surely disappear one day. The public read-only version is stored in my Columbia University "personal Web" space (columbia.edu/~fdc/), which also won't last forever. If I distribute this history on some kind of removeable media like memory card or DVD, the formats and encodings (HTML5, UTF-8), and the media themseles, will eventually become obsolete, like 8-inch floppy disks. But whatever digital form this history is distributed in, it will also include a plain-text "dump" of the tree in GEDCOM format HERE. GEDCOM format itself is documented HERE and HERE. When the Family Echo tree has stablized, I will see if I can also put a copy of it on Ancestry.com.

View the history online

The family history is online so family members can see it and help with it. Here is an index to the online material, which also includes an explanation about how the family tree works:

Read Me First [Skip]

The history is best viewed on a screen at least 740 pixels wide. It can also be viewed on smaller screens, cell phones even, but although the layout is "fluid" it looks best at full width. The text does not expand for wider screens because then the lines would be too long to read. I don't apologize for this. The optimum size for reading matter was settled centuries ago — there's no reason to think cell-phone or "phablet" or smart-watch screens (or 12-foot wide TVs) are an improvement over the printed page. Nevertheless, wider screens are better because some images, if you click on them, bring up bigger copies of themselves that can be wider than the text.

Anyway, for this document to survive for many generations I'll probably have to have it printed because no digital media or encoding or markup language will last that long. This, however, is still a digital edition with hyperlinks that you can follow, and where you can click on images to see larger versions or expanded info, something that is not possible in a book.

It occurs to me that mine is the last generation that will be able to compile a history like this. The reason I can do it is that until about 1995 (ubiquitous Internet, email, cell phones, digital cameras), people took pictures — snapshots that were printed on paper and often mounted in family albums. They wrote letters to each other and kept them. They had files of important papers. Now everything is digital and ephemeral and the newer generations are increasingly nomadic, shedding all belongings as they move from place to place.


This document is written by hand using no "authoring tools" whatsoever and is completely self-contained, not relying on any external libraries or stylesheets or software; only a web browser. The "source code" for this document is in the file family.html, file which, in case Web browsers cease to exist, consists mainly of plain-text prose intermixed with HTML markup and links to photos and other material. This is straightforward HTML5, a mature and stable standard that should last for some time, but no guarantees. As of 16 October 2019 the character encoding is Unicode UTF-8, the universal character set, to allow text in all languages (including German, Norwegian, Portuguese, Arabic, and Russian) to be mixed in the same document. Images that you see here are in JPG format and are all local and mostly in the same directory ("folder") with the HTML. Each one can be clicked on to see a nonscaled (usually larger) version. There are also some external pages such as photo galleries, linked to from this page, that are stored in the same directory or in subdirectories of it. There is no Javascript anywhere except in the Search dialog, the Validate link on the bottom, and the family tree. In short, this work is designed for maximum portability and longevity but, again, there can be no guarantees. I have tried to keep offsite links to a minimum, but there are still quite a few. Naturally, any of them can (and eventually will) stop working.

Introduction [Skip]

After my father and mother died I started to wonder about all kinds of things and had questions only they could answer, but it was too late. Since the same thing could happen to you guys, I thought I'd write some things down in advance.
I started his around 2000 as a big plain-text file and had been adding stuff ever since to the point it was pretty disorganized and repetitious. This is the new improved version begun in 2017. First I wrote a program to convert the plain text to HTML and now I'm editing the HTML version directly, adding images and links, etc, but mainly reorganizing and consolidating, and writing programs to do that too; for example, extracting chapters.

WWII Steelcase Desk tag
Desk tag
I write this, by the way, at my big grey Steelcase desk that was originally at the Manhattan Project at Columbia, and still has the original Physics Department property plate from the 1940s. I don't know whose desk it was, but it was at the Thomas J. Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory at Columbia University (originally located in the Physics building, Pupin Hall), founded in 1945 by IBM and the War Department to do the final computations for the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I tell the story in the 1939-45 section of my Columbia University Computing History:
When I was laid off from Columbia they let me keep the desk (which I had been sitting at since 1974) because Columbia has absolutely zero interest in history; the corporate management that arrived in 2005 spares no effort to wipe out everything that is old (including people) and to be on the "cutting edge" of "scholarly entrepreneurship". Fine, I love this desk.
In my life I have been a military brat (my Dad was still in the Navy for my first 13 months of life, and worked for the Navy for the next four years); I lived on Army bases as a teenager, have been in the Army myself, had Secret and then Top Secret security clearances and then had them revoked. I lived 5 years in Germany. I was "military" for 13 years out of my first 24 (Dad in the Navy; Dad working for the Navy; living on an Army base in Germany; being in the Army on active duty and then reserve).

I've been in jail three times. I have a bachelors and a masters degree from Columbia U and was also suspended for a semester. I'm an engineer! I developed (with others in my group) a communications protocol and software that was used all over the world and I wrote and published several books about it. I've authored Internet RFCs and am responsible for 18 of the characters in Unicode. I was an Instructor at Columbia for about five years. I crossed the ocean four times on ships. I've lived in the country, the suburbs, and in cities. I've been in 20 or 30 countries of North America, the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, and Asia, but so far not South America. I have been in Fascist countries (Franco Spain several times) and Communist ones (East Germany and the Soviet Union). I was a disk jockey on the Armed Forces Network. I was a taxi driver, and in the Army I drove jeeps and trucks and armored vehicles. I played the guitar in lots of bands and was a full-time musician for about six months in Washington DC after the Army. I was a long-distance runner for 40 years and ran the NYC Marathon in 1985. Due to my life's experiences, especially in the first 21 years, I'm one of the few people able to read Gravity's Rainbow and understand most of it.

I have been competent in Latin, German, Russian, and Spanish but lost most of the Latin and Russian over the years. My Latin was good enough that I read Caesar's Gallic Wars and Virgil's Aeneid; I read tons of books in German including Faust, Der Zauberberg, etc, and I read a play of Pushkin in Russian (when I was in the USSR about 30 years later some of it came back temporarily). I can still understand German pretty well but if I try to speak it, Spanish comes out. I taught myself Spanish starting in the 1990s by watching telenovelas and reading books; now I can read and write 98% fluently, but conversation is more of a challenge. Can also read Portuguese, Italian, and even French somewhat because of Spanish and Latin. (In the late Sixties I wanted to learn Spanish and signed up for it in GS, but the professor was such a racist elitist asshole I boycotted the class and took an F… That showed him! Later he became Dean of the whole school...) Since moving to the Bronx in 2012, I use Spanish frequently because of the large Dominican and Puerto Rican populations.

In 2019 I wondered if I could still read a German after about fifty years of not using it. I picked up a book, Nach Mitternacht by Irmgard Keun, and stared at the first page for about an hour until I felt the long-buried German section of my brain bubbling up to the surface and within a day or two I was reading it with almost total comprehension. Since then I've been reading other German novels and histories, mostly about the postwar period: Hildegard Knef's autobiography, Der Geschenkte Gaul, Peter Ortmann's Berlin epic, Berlin Mitte und die Welt - Wie sie einmal war, Horst Bosetzky's Kalte Engel... Speaking or writing German, of course, is a whole other thing!

I'm So Old That... [Skip]

Franklin D. Roosevelt
Rosie the Riveter
Rosie the Riveter
B-17 Bombers WWII
B-17 Bombers in WWII
Hitler and Stalin
Hitler and Stalin

I was 3 days old on election day 1944, when FDR won his fourth term. I was born when the Rosies were still riveting, turning out bombers and tanks and ships by the thousands; the songs on the radio were about men going off to war and women working hard in defense plants so they could come home soon. I was alive during the Battle of the Bulge, the Soviet liberation of eastern Europe and the concentration camps, the Yalta convention, the surrender of Germany, and the dropping of A-bombs on Japan, and for the next 20 years of atmospheric A- and H-bomb testing.

Atomic bomb mushroom cloud
Atomic bomb
They used to show the blasts live on the Today show. Years later, in the mid-1960s at Columbia when I worked in the Engineering School and Physics Department, I knew physicists who had worked on the A-Bombs in WWII, including Bill Havens and Chien-Shung Wu, and also met I.I. Rabi, James Rainwater, Luis Alvarez, I forget who else. Also Herbert Goldstein who was one of the developers of radar. And later I was close friends with a 1930s-40s computer pioneer, Herb Grosch, who was in charge of the last-minute A-bomb calculations. They were done at Watson Lab on 116th Street (the Casa Hispanica building), which had the most powerful computing capacity on earth in 1945. He didn't know what the calculations were for until afterwards, he just programmed them:
The population of the USA when I was born was 184 million; in 2018 it's 326 million, about double. Of the world, about 2.5 billion in 1944 and over 7.7 billion as I write this.

All my grandparents were born in the 1800s, the oldest one in 1869 if you can believe that. My father was born during World War I. The flag had 48 stars until I was 14. Africa, the mideast, and South Asia were still mainly European colonies. Major League baseball was still segregated. I remember when the last Civil War veteran died, somewhere around 1960. I remember the Berlin Airlift, the Korean War, the trial and execution of the Rosenbergs, the Army-McCarthy hearings (when we first got our TV, my dad made my mom take notes in shorthand and then transcribe them), the assasination attempts on Truman, the Puerto Rican nationalists shooting up the US congress, and of course the assassinations of JFK (who I met once), RFK, MLK, and Malcolm X. I saw RFK and his family all the time because I passed his house in McLean VA on the way work in my 1962 summer job. I should have seen MLK when he gave his Beyond Vietnam speech at Riverside Church in 1967, but I was working and/or had classes that day.

Admiral Bill Halsey
Admiral William Halsey
During WWII (I actually remember this) my parents were bringing me in the baby carriage up Constitution Avenue to the Navy Department, where my father worked (and my mother had also worked until 1944), when Admiral William "Bull" Halsey came over to admire me. He bent down to take a look and I remember a lot of white hair, a gigantic red face, and gold braid all over the place, blotting out the sky. The Navy Department building where both my parents worked in the Signal Intelligence Service [a.k.a. Signal Security Agency] where they first met and throughout the war was on the National Mall between the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument (see photo); it was torn down in the 1960s. It and the adjoining Munitions Building were the Pentagon before there was a Pentagon (the War Department moved to the Pentagon in 1942, leaving it entirely to the Navy). I remember the Navy Building very clearly, I went there lots of times until 1946.

The Good War

WWII book
There's a fair amount of World War II nostalgia in this story. I was born in it, all the adult family members that I knew in person — Mom, Dad, Uncle Pete, and my grandmother Gus — were in it, as were the parents of all my friends — combat veterans, land, sea, and air; nurses, Rosie-the-Riveters... The small community where we lived (Chesterbrook, Virginia) sprang up in 1946 to meet the demand for cheap GI-Bill financed homes for the flood of new postwar families. Every house was full of WWII memorabilia. Overhead, the thunder of WWII piston-engine military aircraft (we lived near the Bolling and Andrews Air Force Bases). Was World War II the "Good War"? In many ways (the well-known ones) it was, but in many others it wasn't: the carpet-bombing of civilian populations centers, the Japanese internment, the A-bombs, racism in the Armed Forces, the failure to deal with Holocaust, etc. Nevertheless, it pulled the people of the country together like nothing else before or since. American soldiers saw themselves as the good guys, were welcomed as liberators all over Europe and were welcomed back home after the war with unprecedented goodwill and rewards for their service: GI home loans, GI-bill college educations, free medical care... In the USA, the early postwar years were like a paradise compared to what came before and, for that matter, what was to come starting about 1980.
  1. Life's Picture History of World War II, LIFE Magazine (1950) (pictured above). This was the only coffee-table in our house from when I was five years old until I left home in 1963; it weighs almost six pounds.
  2. Studs Terkel, The Good War, Pantheon Books (1984). An oral history of World War; the title is not without irony.
  3. David Swanson, Leaving World War II Behind, Ingram (2020): "If you, like me, thought that WWII was the exceptional ‘good war,’ think again. David Swanson brilliantly cuts through the myths surrounding WWII, and in the process cuts through the fog of all wars." —Medea Benjamin (CODEPINK).
  4. Film: The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), multiple-Oscar winner directed by William Wyler, who was deeply involved in the War, about three returning combat veterans and their adjustment back to civilian life.
  5. Film: Let There Be Light [US Army PMF 5019] (1946), John Huston's remarkable documentary about the treatment received by returning veterans with PTSD in Army hospitals, a level of care that is inconceivable today, when veterans returning from our neverending forever wars are left to drink and drug themselves to death. Suppressed until 1981.

Then vs now...

I had a long long section here about how much things have changed in my lifetime but I moved it out, you can see it here if you want.

Me... [Skip]


Me as a baby
Baby me 1944
I was born Francis da Cruz Jr on November 10, 1944, at the height of World War II, in Georgetown University Hospital, Washington DC, which makes me a War Baby, not a Boomer. And a military brat. This was just five months after D-Day, about six months before VE Day, and nine months before VJ Day and the end of the war. Unfortunately I missed the New Deal by 16 months, strictly speaking — it ended in mid-1943 — but not really: the era of massive federal spending to achieve full employment carried through to the end of the war, and beyond.

Mom and Dad wedding portrait 1944
Mom & Dad wedding
portrait March 1944
My mom & dad, both in the Navy, were married March 14, 1944, at the Naval Receiving Station Anacostia, Washington DC, both in uniform, both still in the Navy. Mom was 100% Norwegian; Dad's father was Portuguese and his mother descended (on both sides) from German immigrants in Maryland. Dad, Mom, and Uncle Pete all served in WWII, as well as many of Mom's brothers and in-laws (and her oldest brother-in-law served in WWI). My dad was a Radioman Petty Officer First Class (PO1, E6, 3 stripes) and my mother a WAVES Radioman Third Class PO3 (E4, one stripe). WAVES = Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service but it looks like a plural noun, so it's OK to say "My mother was a WAVE". (Uncle Pete, by the way, was an enlisted man in the Marines who rose to Platoon Sergeant (E6, equivalent to my dad). In the Army I was a Specialist 4 (E4)... No officers in this family!) (Except cousin Danny.)

My mom: Vivian Maxine Lund, born Minneota MN, March 5, 1922, died July 26, 2002. Minneota is a tiny town where most people were (and are) Norwegian or Icelandic. My Mom's family was Norwegian and Norwegian was spoken as well as English; she still used some Norwegian words and phrases when I was a kid. Diseases: lymphoma, polycythemia, strokes, embolisms, staph infections. She was a heavy smoker most of her life. Cause of death: strokes, hundreds of them. On the death certificate it says Cardiorespiratory Arrest due to Atrial Fibrillation.

My dad: Francis Fuller da Cruz, born Lawrence KS, April 1, 1918, died 1991. I have no idea where the Fuller came from. The only association it has for me is the "Fuller Brush man" (door-to-door brush salesmen). He had lung cancer several times, colon cancer, and multiple heart attacks from 50-some years of super-heavy smoking and drinking, but wound up dying from gangrene.

My brother, Dennis da Cruz, born Washington DC April 10, 1949, died July 22, 1978 (lymphoma). Dennis was named after Dennis the Menace (really).

Francis the Talking Mule
The Talking Mule
Dennis the Menace
The Menace
My dad named me after himself (except for the Fuller part, thank goodness). His dad named him, ironically, after St. Francis of Assisi. I never liked my name, not only because it sounds like a girl, but also because when I was a kid there was a series of dumb movies called "Francis the Talking Mule", which, of course, became my name in elementary school too. Not until Pope Francis did I start feeling a little better about it. (When we moved to Arlington and I met Ludwig, he was the one who decided I should be called Frank.)

Although the New Deal ended just before I was born, nevertheless I grew up in it. The GI Bill (Servicemen's Readjustment Act) was signed into law by FDR June 22, 1944 (while I was in utero) and it allowed my impoverished father to buy a house in 1947, and it even helped me through college, 1966-70. Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson continued and sometimes even strengthened or added to New Deal programs, for example Medicare and Medicaid. This was the era of the greatest security that working people of the USA had ever known. From the end of WWII until somewhere in the 1970s, most people had secure employment, the necessities of life were affordable, and the stress level was low. For most people it was possible to enjoy life.

Denny Neier with WWII relics
Next-door neighbor Denny Neier, 1958, with Japanese and German souvenirs.
I was raised in a World War II culture since both my parents and my uncle were veterans, my grandmother had been a Navy Reserve nurse, and all the families around me were also veterans, much like you guys were raised in a 1960s culture even though it was already the 80s. When I was growing up there were WWII artifacts around the house like, for example, toilet paper with the Fuehrer's face on each sheet, LIFE Magazine issues from the 1940s, assorted Morse code equipment. Neighbors' attics were full of Japanese and German battle flags, helmets, rifles, bayonets, belt buckles, etc. I went to school in military-surplus Quonset huts; we had a Victory Garden; my parents spoke in nautical jargon: overhead = ceiling, deck = floor, head = bathroom, below = downstairs, rack or sack = bed, hit the deck = get out of bed, chow = food, skivvies = underwear, swab = mop, shove off = leave, etc. Navy meat meant "the more you chew it, the bigger it gets".

Religion… My father's father was a Catholic priest who left the priesthood and my grandmother was a Catholic convert, so they were both nominally Catholic. I don't know if my father or uncle were ever baptised, but my dad constantly made anti-Catholic remarks. He never told me that both of his parents were Catholic and that, therefore (by birth at least) he was too. His brother, on the other hand, chose a Jesuit university (Georgetown) to finish his long-delayed bachelor's degree. But none of them were particularly religious. And my own brother was baptised as Catholic at the end of his life.

Both my family and Uncle Pete's family believed that my grandfather had been excommunicated, but it turns out he wasn't. Raimundo says, "Daniel não foi excomungado mas foi muito hostilizado pela Igreja Católica porque nos seus estudos e escritos substituía a fé em Deus pela ciência e passou a ser muito hostilizado pelos meios católicos que até aí frequentava. Não é tanto para escapar ao regímen de Portugal mas da Igreja e ambientes católicos fanáticos. Penso eu. (That´s what I think)". In English: he was harassed by the Church because in his studies and writings he replaced faith in God by science, reason, and logic... so just walked away.

Gandfather as priest
Grandad 1910
In any case, not too many people can say their grandfather was a Catholic priest! Going further back, super-Christian Portuguese and Spanish names such as da Cruz and dos Santos were given to Jewish and Moorish families who were forcibly converted during the Inquisition (but of course these are not the only ones with such names); my Portuguese relatives all believe they are descended from Jews. However, the da Cruz name did not appear in the family tree until 1842, so I don't think we can thank the Inquisition for it. Anyway, my DNA test showed 1% "North African" genes and nothing Jewish. My mother's side is, of course, 100% Lutheran (Protestant) as were almost all Norwegians, since Norway was forcibly converted in 1536 when it was conquered by Christian III of newly Lutheran Denmark (before that many or most Norwegians had been Catholic since about the year 1000). Mom wanted us to go to church (and we did for a few weeks) but more as a continuation of a Lund family tradition than anything else; she never talked about the religious part at all.

Washington DC 1944-45

Mom and me in DC 1945
19th Street 1945
Dad and me in DC 1945
19th Street 1945
My dad was in the Navy when I was born. He had been living with his mom in Arlington, but in June 1944 (while Mom was still pregnant with me) he got an apartment at 312 19th Street NE Apartment C in DC, between C and D Streets, way over by the Anacostia River, 4 miles along Constitution Avenue from his job at the Navy Department — the same distance but in the opposite direction from my grandmother's house where he lived before. Our apartment was in a small building, like a townhouse, in an area that in later years was 100% Black, but now it's all yuppified (the only people you see in Google Street View are yuppies).

Me and Spencer 1945
Me and Spencer 1945
Light switch
Light switch
Even though we lived there only seven months when I was very little, I still I have memories of the place. One of them is of the light switches, which were composed of big fat cylindrical buttons, arranged vertically. When you push one, the other one pops out. The button for "on" had a pearlish face, the "off" button was black. Operating the switch made a very distinctive noise. I remember my Mom turning the light off after putting me to bed in the crib. The other memory is of another baby my age, named Spencer Hawkins. We lived on the second floor and there was a back door with a big stairs to a back yard. They would put my playpen right up against Spencer's so we could "play" together. He would reach in and grab the little bit of hair that I had and pull my head up against the bars with all his might. This happened every time. I never wanted to go down there but didn't know how to talk so couldn't explain it.

312 19th St NE in 2017
312 19th St NE in 2017
I looked in Google Street View (Oct 2017), and I see 312 is a 2-story row house. It's painted a pale yellow now but if you look closely you can see it's made of brick, and the house where I lived then was definitely brick as you can see from the other pictures. The last time I saw it in person was in 1988 (it was not yellow then) and the house I'm seeing in Google now certainly was not built since then. It's only 2 blocks from Anacostia Park, on the river of the same name, so probably my Mom took me there to play as an infant.

Gus's House Arlington VA 1945-47

Gus's house in 2012
Gus's house in 2012 (Google)
At Gus's house
Mom and me at Gus's house 1946
After her marriage with my grandfather failed, my grandmother Gus moved back to the Washington DC area and lived in a series of apart­ments until in 1940 she married somebody called Jake (Benjamin L. Jacobs) and they bought the house in Arlington VA on the NW corner of Glebe Road and North 23rd Street, where she lived out her life and where I was conceived — my dad showed me the exact spot in 1988, an upstairs bedroom under the gabled roof — and where I lived as a toddler. Gus and Jake were together a couple years, he took off, and they divorced. According to her death certificate Gus was Mrs. Jacobs until her divorce (1946) and then took back the name da Cruz.

In any case, Dad moved back in with Gus (and presumably Jake) in 1941 when, in his second Navy hitch, he was assigned to Navy Department headquarters in DC. Pete also lived there for about a year in 1940-41 when he was going to George Washington University, then went off to the war, then moved back in with her in the mid-1950s when he resumed his college education at Georgetown University on the GI Bill. About Jake... Dad writes in a 1941 letter to Gus after spending a week's shore leave with her, "I was surprised, in a way, at what a nice old guy Jake is. I don't hardly know what I expected, but whatever it was, he certainly surpassed all my expectations."

When Dad, Mom, and I lived with Gus in 1945-47, Glebe Road was lined with substantial 1920s-vintage white frame houses then; I remember going trick-or-treating along there as a child. I used to play with the little girl two houses over in her backyard, Laura Schmidt.

In Gus's house
Inside Gus's house 1946
Windup console Victrola
Windup Victrola
The house was mail order from Sears, a Sears Modern Home (something like a Westly which cost $941.00) (see other images). Being in Gus's house was like traveling back in time. Ornate upholstered furniture, piano (she could play it), art-deco lamps, Persian rugs, heavy velvet draperies, and a gigantic hand-cranked wooden victrola similar to the one in the picture, with a tinny little speaker built into the tone arm, which used bamboo needles. As noted elsewhere in here, Gus had thousands and thousands of 78rpm records of 1920s pop music in her attic. Many of these old records could only be played with bamboo needles; a metal one would ruin them.

Rocking chair
Gus bought me a rocking chair
Dad and me 1946
Dad and me at Gus's house 1946
The house is still there as of 2020 but consider­ably reno­vated. The huge backyard was sold off in two pieces; the farthest half in 1956; a new brick house was built there, and later the rest so now there's barely room for a lawn table in back. You can still see the back porch where I used to sing Zipidee Doo Dah in 1946, my favorite song when I was 2. I'm not kidding, I remember this clearly. The original backyard was full of all kinds of things… gourds (another quirk of Gus and her sisters, collecting gourds), a plum tree, all kinds of ceramic pots and shards, a gang of ducks, her cat Tiger (who lived outside with the ducks and ate mice), various other pets, twisting vines, huge flowering bushes, a vegetable garden, various ornate settees… It was like being in a Gaugin painting.

Gus's backyard
Gus's scandalously lush back yard
Gus's backyard
Gus and me in back yard


Gus had a tenant living the base­ment. The radiator in the kitchen had a big hole for the water pipe and I could look through to see the tenant's apartment. One time I dropped all my Tinker Toy sticks down the hole. This was when I was one year old; I remember it clearly.

Another memory… Once when we were there she had mice under the front porch. So she filled one of those old fashioned metal flit guns (yes, I have a picture of it) with DDT and put on her grey WWI gas mask and went under the porch on hands and knees to "fumigate" it. I was so impressed by the gas mask she gave it to me. It was very antique-looking, with a long canister that stuck out in front. Of course it never occurred to me to ask her about her experiences in WWI (my Dad was born to her during that war), but she was indeed a Red Cross nurse during both World War I and the 1918 flu. And World War II.

As you came down Gus's stairs there was a Mona Lisa reproduction on the facing wall, and the bathroom to the right that had an etched-glass window so people couldn't see inside. On the sink was her tube of Ipana toothpaste, a top brand then, now long forgotten except in crossword puzzles.

For years I used to have a dream about my grandmother's house; I was very little, crawling up the narrow red-carpeted stairs (as a baby) towards a room at the top of the stairs and coming into a bright light with some kind of intense feeling. This was long before my dad ever told me I was conceived up there; I always pictured the act taking place on the grass next to the Reflecting Pool in DC, between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, where my Mom's barracks were in 1944 (WAVE Quarters B, West Potomac Park) (but now that I think about it, that would have been in February, a bit chilly for frolicking in the grass).

The area around Gus's house in the 1940s was like small-town America in a Frank Capra movie. There was a small cluster of old-fashioned stores two blocks away at "the corner" (intersection of Lee Highway and Glebe Road, Lee as in Robert E) — hardware, barber, drug store, a small Safeway supermarket, a very small movie theater (the Glebe Theater), Peoples Drug Store (soda fountain), and best of all the "Dime Store" — Libby's 5 and 10 Cent Store (actually Robertson's) — that sold toys, candy, comic books, "notions", and other cheap things like a mini-Woolworth's owned by a lady named Libby who was very nice to children (or, it turns out, at least to white children). When I was 9 and 10 years old, whenever we went to visit my grandmother, she'd give me a whole dollar and I'd go to the Dime Store on my own and come back with a load of toys and comics (which in those days included the comic book called Mad, which later became Mad Magazine).

As noted elsewhere, after Gus died we moved to a brick house directly behind her house but three short blocks away. It didn't occur to me before, but the house we moved into in 1956 didn't exist when we lived with her in 1945-47. I wonder what was back there then! (Later... know we know; see the 1943 Franklin Survey plat maps.)

After a gap of some 22 years, I visited my Dad in 1988, and he took me on a nostalgia tour in his car… The 19th Street SE apartment in DC, Gus's house.... He walked up to the door and knocked on it, a youngish prosperous-looking man answered, dad explained he used to live there in the 1940s and his mother was the original owner; the man invited us in to look around. This was when dad showed me where I was created. The place didn't look very familiar inside, the man said they had done a lot of renovating. Dad mentioned that he and Pete had remodeled the basement so Gus could take in boarders. The man said, "So YOU were the ones! That was the worst wiring job I ever saw!" (Dad blamed Pete for it.)

From an email to George Gilmer, December 2015, about how I happened to have grown up in Virginia:

Your family goes back pretty far in the area. Mine all came from other places. The "anchor" was my father's mother (Gus) who lived in Arlington on Glebe Road at N.23rd Street. She was born in Maryland but after she got married she moved to Kansas with my Portuguese grandfather, and that's where my Dad was born. But when she and my grandfather broke up she moved back to the Washington area to work at Georgetown University Hospital as a nurse. My Dad joined the Navy in 1937 and sailed the seas until the USA got in the War and was assigned to Navy Dept HQ in DC and lived with his mother in the Glebe Road house, met my Mom at work, I was born, etc. Anyway it seems like he always wanted to live somewhere close to his Mom, so sometimes we lived in her house, we lived in an apartment in NE DC for a while, moved back to her house, then to Chesterbrook. When she died in 1955 we moved to a house that was only 2 blocks from her house (we would have moved to her house but my father and my uncle couldn't agree who would get it so they sold it). My Mom, as you know, came from Minnesota. The only American side of the family was my father's mother, a family that had been in Maryland since the 1700s; everybody else was recent immigrants.
So in short, Gus was the anchor. Even if she and my dad didn't get along and he thought she was crazy, he always wanted to be around where she was. Danny (my cousin who grew up in Lebanon) says, "It's a real shame we didn't get to know Gus directly, although Dad [Uncle Pete] talked to us about her with fondness (and also left us the impression she was a quirky force field around which they gravitated)". His sister Lina (also my cousin, of course) says, "Dad loooooved Teita Lenore and made us love her ... by talking to us about [her]". He loved her so much that Lina's middle name is Lenore! Danny and Lina's cousin Rif (Rifa'at Haffar, son of the sister, Najwa, of Gus's daughter-in-law Leila), upon reading this, commented "What a wonderfully disruptive creature she must have been!".

Chesterbrook VA 1947-56

House on Kirby Road 1947
House on Kirby Road 1947
Chesterbrook GI Bill houses
Map of the area
In 1947 my dad bought a small house on a quarter-acre of land just two miles from Gus's house in Arlington. The house was on Kirby Road in Fairfax County in a place that everybody called Chesterbrook but that wasn't on any map. Our mailing address was RFD 2, Falls Church, Virginia. The area was totally rural except for this brand-new small development of cheap houses built for returning veterans, plus a small number of older and larger houses along the short stretch of Kirby Road between our house and Old Dominion Drive. My dad got a GI Bill loan for $7000 to buy the house and paid back something like $90 a month. The closest "town" was McLean (in those days just a crossroads with a few stores).

View down the hill
View down the hill - GI-bill cinderblock cubes, late 1940s
There was a dense forest in front of our house and another forest down the hill, behind the cluster of GI Bill houses. Up and down Kirby Road were old family farms, pastures, animals, and more forests. All gone since the 1960s. I have a whole website about this place with photos and stories; click here to see it. It pains me to say it, but our little working-class GI-Bill housing development was the beginning of the process that gentrified the whole area out of existence.

Tyson's Corner
Tyson's Corner 1950s
Bond Bread screen door
Bond Bread door
McLean (pronounced "mclane"), which is now a metropolis, was just an intersection with a feed store, a Safeway, a gas station, and a junk store; Tyson's Corner had a rickety old wooden diner with a Bond Bread screen door (a fixture of rural Virginia in the mid-1900s) and cows grazing on the land around it. I'd go there on my bike, five miles there and five miles back, just to get an ice cream soda. All of these places are now glass-and-steel metropolises complete with highways and cloverleafs.

Back yard
Our back yard (and the Walkers')
At first we had the house but no car, no TV, no phone, no toaster, no washing machine. We saved scraps of soap, grew our own vegetables, got milk and eggs from the farmers. When milk ran low, my Mom would cut it with water. The milk came straight from the cows up the road; it had a layer of cream on top.

The road our house was on was a dirt road until about 1955. When the road needed work and when it was finally paved, the work was done by chain gangs of Black prisoners.

Manassas battlefield
Manassas battlefield - Click to enlarge
Our house was only 3 miles from Washington DC, years before the postwar suburban explosion wiped out the Civil-War era farms and expanses of forest and open fields. The area was originally settled by newly freed slaves in the 1860s. Of course Indians lived there before that; the tribes in that area were Manticore and Powhatan, but I don't recall anybody ever finding any trace of them. Not too far away is the well-preserved Manassas battlefield, where the farmhouses and fields are unchanged and the look (aside from added statues and historical markers) is pretty much the same as the farming area community in which the GI-Bill houses were embedded in 1946-47. Apropos of Manassas, I was with Russel Hill when, plowing with his tractor, he turned up a Confederate belt with brass CSA buckle.

Harry and Avis 1960s
Harry and Avis 1960s
Harry Hill 1950s
Harry Hill mid-1950s
The Hill farm 1950s
The Hill farm 1950s, barn at right

The Hill Farm

Just up the road a couple hundred feet was the Hill farm: Russell and Avis Hill and their son Harry, who was one my major childhood friends, and Avis's mother Helen Walker; Avis grew up on this farm, Russel grew up on another farm down the road. Harry was like Huck Finn, always getting into trouble. The farm was 40 acres, usually fallow but sometimes Russell would plant a crop of tobacco or rye on the least-recently-used quarter of land. I remember tobacco drying in the barn, of which you can see a piece in the photo; it was bigger than it looks. There were other outbuildings too, and all kinds of rusty old plows and harrows and rakes and rusted hulks of 1920s pickup trucks and old school buses scattered over the land. But he did have a working tractor; I used to ride on it with him. I spent a lot of my time there. Avis would often give me lunch (invariably Campbell's tomato soup and piece of toast). One day when we were sitting around the kitchen table at lunch, Russel sees something in a tree out the window, grabs his shotgun (which is leaning up in the corner right next to him) and shoots it...BOOM!!! "Goddamn crows!" It happened in a second and I could hardly hear anything for the rest of the day. He was always playing tricks on me, like getting me shocked on electric fences, giving me whisky to drink, etc. But on the positive side he showed me how to make apple cider, how to get walnuts out of their husks, how to use a plow, how to play Edison cylinders, how to castrate a horse (he had a special tool for that), how to painlessly kill a litter of unwanted kittens... (Not that I ever did the last two!)

The Hill farm by our house belonged to Avis's family, it's where she grew up; her mother (Harry's grandmother) Helen Walker still lived there. Russel grew up on a much larger Hill farm down the road. After we moved away he and Avis sold the farm to real estate developers for a lot of money, enough replace the farmhouse (on the corner he kept) with a much larger new house, and also to buy a much larger farm in Warren County VA. Russell died in a car accident 1966 and Avis died in 1995.

The Walkers

nolanwalker 1950s
Nolan Walker
marywalker 1950s
Mary Walker, Mom
Jimmie Walker 1950s
Jimmie Walker 1956
Our next-door neighbor on the other side was the Walker family: Nolan, Mary, and their son Jimmie. Nolan was a Navy WWII veteran who had a janitorial business and Mary had been a Rosie the Riveter. Jimmie (like Harry) was a couple years younger than me. Jimmie and I made contact by email after 60 years and he turned out to have a nearly perfect memory, plus he had a lot of knowledge of the history of the area. Mary is the one who rescued my mom from the washing machine, and also probably saved Mom's life one of the times when she tried to kill herself.

Farms in the area
Farms in the area about 1890 (Salona Farm)
To the southwest, Kirby Road was lined with farms. These were much bigger than the Hill farm, maybe 80-100 acres, and they had barns and other outbuildings, livestock, live-in farmhands, grazing land, fields for corn, rye, or tobacco; pigsties, chickens, goats, ducks, and geese. Many of these farming families were related to the Hills. I would estimate that those farmhouses dated from the 1860s to about 1900; they were wooden, painted white, with a big front porch. Some had outhouses rather than bathrooms with plumbing. I remember being at one of the farms when they were digging a well — the old-fashioned way: with a shovel. The farmer with his shirt off about 20 feet down in the red clay and still no sign of water.

Farm animals roamed free (no confining them into tiny boxes for their whole life, as is done now) — cows went out to pasture in the morning and "came home" to the barn at night, where they were milked the next morning, usually by the children. The farm ladies used the expression, "til the cows come home". They didn't actually come home by themselves; the kids would go out bring them in, so the expression actually meant either "never" or "forever", depending on context. There was always a big shade tree where the cows could lay around in the shade on hot summer days, when the temperature could go to 105, and there were electric fences to keep the cows in the pasture, and within it big well-worn salt licks for their enjoyment. For us kids, the cows were fun to play wish but also a little scary when they chased us.

Chickens lived in a big airy coop where they could run around and it didn't get all stinky. Rabbits lived in hutches that they chewed their way out of. Pigs had their own big area for wallowing. Geese, ducks, dogs, and cats ran free and the roosters crowed at sunup (and a course of dogs chimed in). The main meal was served at noon, all the family and the hands around a long table heaped with fried chicken, mashed potatoes, greens cooked in hamhocks, and home-baked biscuits, with fresh-made lemonade to drink. The farmers — Black and White alike — helped each other out, shared equipment, and socialized.

When I was about ten I bought a bicycle for $40 that I had saved up from my 25¢/week allowance and 75¢/hour wages digging postholes and I went all over the place on it by myself, on the country roads, past farms and fields, along forest paths, to distant towns just to get some little treat. When Little League started in 1956, sometimes the practices or games were miles and miles away and I'd bike there. It was a good bike, it was like an "English racer" (i.e. thin tires and frame) but instead of handbrakes, which I thought were stupid, it had pedal brakes. There were big hills where I could go down at 40mph (I had a speedometer). I never wore a bike helmet, never even heard of such a thing. Ditto later in life when I had bicycles in NY, you guys had helmets for when Mommie and I took you on long rides sitting in baby seats on the backs of the bikes… around Central Park, over the GW Bridge to NJ, etc. Sometimes we'd go with Howard and Lita and Sarabecca.

Howard was my friend (and boss) from work, our families were very close from before you guys were born until 1984, when they moved away. Howard died in October 2022, I wrote a eulogy for him HERE.

Aside from the bike, the other thing I used money for as a kid was buying plastic models of WWII airplanes and gluing them together. No, I wasn't a glue sniffer. Later on, after we moved to Arlington, Ludwig and I blew them all up with cherry bombs.

C&O Canal
C&O Canal
Hopfenmaier Rendering Plant
Hopfenmaier Rendering Plant
My father commuted to DC every day to work, there was a WV&M bus that stopped about a half mile away on Old Dominion Drive. I remember some things about DC in those days, the most interesting was a canal (the Chesapeake and Ohio [C&O] Canal) near Key Bridge, built about 1825, which was still in operation when I was little. It is just wide enough for a barge. The barge was pulled by mules on the tow-path alongside, the mules driven by Black men, like a scene from the antebellum South. (Just downstream of Key Bridge was the uninhabited Roosevelt Island, where my dad said he used to take women for sex in the woods during the War.) (Hmmm… perhaps including my Mom!) Also on the Potomac at K Street was the Hopfenmaier Rendering Plant that converted dead animals into fertilizer and put out a horrific stench (a holdover from the days before cars; it's where all the dead cart horses ended up). Cars traveling along the freeway had to roll up their windows, it was a DC ritual. Gus had a lot of jokes about this place but I can't remember them.

Postware margarine
Postwar margarine
My mom baked bread because we couldn't afford to buy it at the store, and we made toast in the stove's broiler because we coudn't afford a toaster. If we had meat, it was usually Spam. More often we'd have beans... Navy beans of course. Sometimes we didn't have anything for dinner except toast and milk. Mom would put a slice of toast in a bowl and pour hot milk over it; she called it Graveyard Stew. To me it was a wonderful treat. It also had a pat of margarine (I never even heard of real butter until after I left home). Margarine came in a plastic bag. It was white and there was a little red pill; you had to squeeze and massage the bag to make the margarine turn yellow.

Mom always gave us a hot breakfast because it was "the most important meal of the day": eggs, bacon, toast, applesauce, and milk. She saved the bacon fat in cans and jars and used it for cooking instead of oil. Sometimes we had oatmeal, and on special occasions pancakes or waffles. One of the main compulsions I still have from those days is to never to waste food (or soap... we used to save the tiniest slivers of soap and combined them into new bars, a habit left over from wartime rationing). Sometimes they couldn't afford coffee (or it was still scarce) and drank Postum.

Mom made our clothes (and her own) herself and washed them in a tub a with a washboard and brown soap. If she needed to make a phone call she used the neighbors' phone. We didn't go anywhere. This existence made my mom pretty depressed. But at the time I didn't think any of this was unusual because it was all I knew. Little by little my dad earned more money; I remember the big milestones: a real toaster, a Maytag cast-iron washing machine (with a power ringer), in 1950 a new Ford, and finally about 1953 or -54, a TV (so I lived the first 9 or 10 years of my life without television, and then another five years while in Germany, and another 2 years after the Army, so about 17 out of my first 24 years with no TV).

For health care there was a dentist, Dr. Cooksie (I barely remember him) and a husband-and-wife medical practice, Dr. Willard and Dr. White, in Arlington close to my grandmother's house. If I got sick with measles or mumps or chicken pox (I had all those) my Mom would call from the neighbor's house and Dr. Willard would come in his car. For measles they had to make the house dark inside for a week. When I was five, evidently Dr. Willard told my parents that I needed to have my tonsils and adenoids out, and to be circumcised. Standard practice in those days except circumcision was normally done a birth, not at age 5... Ouch! (in a 1949 letter from Dad to Pete announcing the birth of Dennis, he says "We had this boy circumsized, and I curse the Navy doctor who was too bored to perform the same assistance to Bubba" [me]). A visit to or from Drs. Willard and White was $5.00. I had to go every six months to have the wax removed from my ears... it built up until I was just about deaf. But after I was 10 or so it didn't happen any more.

Mom used Norwegian words in everyday speech but I didn't know they weren't English. The main ones I remember are "takk skal du ha" (pronounced tuks-guh-duh-HA) meaning thanks very much, "skærk" (not sure of the spelling), meaning crust of bread (as in "eat your skærks!"), "hutfeduma!" meaning "Damn it!". She also called a head scarf a "babushka", I don't know where she got that! My dad, on the other hand, never showed any sign that his father was Portuguese.

Radio/phonograph console
Radio/phonograph console 1946
Before TV we'd do different things at night. Often, just read. Or play checkers. In summer we'd go out in the yard and watch the sun go down, or wait for the big storm to come. In winter, we'd listen to radio shows… Dragnet, Gangbusters, The Whistler, The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet, The Shadow, The Great Gildersleeve, Death Valley Days, Duffy's Tavern, Our Miss Brooks, Fibber McGee and Molly, Grand Central Station, Inner Sanctum, Captain Midnight, Tom Corbett Space Cadet… I remember all of these from the late 40s and early 50s. We had a big wooden radio and record player console with cloth over the speakers; Dennis and I would lay on the rug next to it to listen, picturing the action in our heads.

Movies in those days were creative, made with live actors, original scripts, original ideas, usually based on real life, not comic books. There were hardly ever sequels (with some exceptions like the Thin Man and Tarzan series). Going to movies was fun, not painful. Admission was a dollar or less, there were no ads, theaters were lushly decorated, clean, and comfortable, there were ushers, and there was a huge velvet curtain that opened when the show was about to start. The show consisted of a newsreel, previews, sometimes a travelogue, on Saturday afternoons a serial ending with a cliffhanger, a Disney or Warner Brothers cartoon, and then the feature. After we moved to Arlington when I was 11, the Glebe theater was just a couple blocks away and kids got in for a quarter. I saw all the famous monster and science fiction movies there: Creature from the Black Lagoon, This Island Earth, Forbidden Planet, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Godzilla, some of them about space, others about about monsters created or awakened by atomic testing.

Reading the Sunday Comics 1952
Reading the Sunday Comics 1952
Another source of entertainment were the comics in the daily newspaper, which was delivered to our door… L'il Abner, Steve Canyon, Terry and the Pirates, Superman, Little Lulu, Moon Mullins, Mighty Mouse, Gasoline Alley, Beetle Baily, Archie, Batman, Popeye, Red Ryder, Lone Ranger, Tarzan, The Phantom, Tom and Jerry, Hi and Lois, Nancy, Dick Tracy, Pogo, Prince Valiant, Smilin' Jack, Dagwood and Blondie, Joe Palooka, Little Orphan Annie, Micky Mouse, Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge, Snuffy Smith, The Katzenjammer Kids (which was set in German West Africa), Flash Gordon, Captain Midnight…

Our TV arrived about 1954. Early TV included (evening) the variety shows of Sid Caesar, Ernie Kovacs, Milton Berle, Martha Raye, Ed Sullivan… Late at night were old movies and also the Tonight Show with Steve Allen, which was a tremendous improvement over its successors. Kid shows on Saturday morning were Froggy the Gremlin (Andy's Gang), Sky King, Cisco Kid, Watch Mr. Wizard… And of course cartoons, mostly from the 1930s. We also had some Confederate-themed TV shows in Virginia like The Gray Ghost and Mosby's Raiders. There were a few kid shows in the evening too, just before dinnertime: the Lone Ranger, Zorro, Robin Hood, and Superman. And later, the Wonderful World of Disney, which almost caused the extinction of the racoon when they showed Davy Crockett in four episodes in 1955 ("Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee, kilt him a bar when he was only three...")

Maytag wringer washer
Maytag washer
ANYWAY… Mom wasn't totally alone in the house all day because I didn't start school until 1950, and Dennis not until about 1955. But I think it must have been during the brief time that Dennis and I were both in school, before we moved to Arlington, that she was alone in the house doing the wash, feeding the wet clothes through the power ringer, when somehow her arm was pulled into the ringer up to the shoulder and there was no way she could get it out. Finally our next-door neighbor Mary Walker heard her calling for help and freed her. Her whole arm was black and blue after that but eventually it healed OK.

Pressure cooker
Pressure cooker
Another awful accident was a pressure-cooker exploding in her face. I only remember that it happened, but not the details. Anyway, no permanent damage. (Pressure cookers were the 1940s-50s version of the Slow Cooker, but much more dangerous; she would buy cheap tough meat and put it in the pressure cooker with potatoes and cabbage for a long time and it would come out tender.)

There was no kindergarten, let alone pre-K, where we lived. But my Mom wanted me to learn to read and write and do arithmetic starting when I was 4 or 5, so while Dad was at work she'd spend a few hours with me each day reading from books. For arithmetic she made flashcards, and for handwriting… When she was a girl penmanship was very important, and she did have beautiful handwriting. As a child she had to spend hours every day practicing overlapping curliques on lined paper, so I did some of that. Thanks to all these lessons, I was pretty advanced when I started school and usually did well. (My Mom was so quiet and self-effacing that as a child I never appreciated how many technical skills she had; I knew her as "just a Mom".)

Chesterbrook Elementary School and the churches

Chesterbrook Methodist church
The Methodist church early 1950s
Chesterbrook School 1954
Chesterbrook School with Quonset hut (demolished in 1978)
I went to Chesterbrook ele­men­tary school on Kirby Road grades 1-6. The first three years it was a small schoolhouse with some WWII surplus Quonset huts added in back. Because of the postwar baby boom and the mushrooming DC suburbs, there were two grades to a room, and there were two shifts, morning and afternoon, so there were four classes in each room each day. One year my class was in the basement of the whites-only Methodist church. Mostly farm kids went to Chesterbook school then; probably half the kids were in the 4-H Club, which in those days was mainly about raising farm animals, growing vegetables, canning and preserving, etc. Once a year there would be a fair at the school where the 4-H kids would bring the calfs or pumpkins or jam in hopes of a blue ribbon. The photo on the right, taken on the bridge over Old Dominion Drive, shows the Methodist church (1920) and to its left, the house of county Sheriff Carl McIntosh, who was married to Russell Hill's sister Jesse. Harry and Jimmie and I used to hang out there sometimes and Jesse would put us to work shucking corn or shelling peas on the back porch while Carl entertained us setting off firecrackers he'd confiscated from juvenile delinquents.

View from Chesterbrook School
View from Chesterbrook School in 1952
The photo at left shows the view across Kirby Road from the school about 1952. At left in the photo, the Black First Baptist Church of Chesterbrook; built in 1866, it is almost certainly the oldest building in the area. Far right, the single-story building with green roof is the old abandoned Stalcup's Chesterbrook market that closed some time between 1920 and 1940. You could look inside and still see the ancient merchandise among the dust and cobwebs), and I think I even remember rocking chairs still on the creaky porch front porch. Left of the market, a white frame house, which might have been the Odd Fellows Hall at one time, which also served as a school for the Black children until about 1940. Both of these buildings are gone today. Down the hill, the houses and farms of African-American community, descendents of freed slaves. At least one white family lived there too in the early 1950s, the family of a classmate.

The First Baptist Church was founded in 1866 by Reverend Cyrus F. Carter to serve newly freed African slaves in the area. Reverend Carter was born a slave in Port au Prince, Haiti, in 1815 and he had been enslaved for some time in Lancaster County, Virginia. He was emancipated before the end of the war and served as an ambulance corpsman for the Union Army [Source: African American Historic Resources in Fairfax County, Mary Ruffin Hanbury and David W. Lewes, 16 December 2022].

Both churches are still there but the simple frame houses beyond the Methodist church have been replaced by mansions and condo complexes — the same that happened to Hall's Hill, the Black community in nearby Arlington — as have the houses down the hill and, for that matter, along the entire length of Kirby Road. Chesterbook is no longer a modest community of slave descendents and returning veterans.

Left of First Church (not visible in the photo), the house of an old guy who kept a cow tethered by the front porch (but apparently not when this photo was taken). The cow was a source of fascination to all the schoolkids because its horns were growing downwards, curving around towards its big eyeballs, closer every year. When I moved away in 1956, the points of the horns were a quarter inch from the eyeballs. This still worries me.

Fourth grade at Chesterbrook school 1954
4th grade at Chesterbrook School 1954
1940s Virginia Map
Virginia witch face
One of my most enduring memories of Chesterbrook School comes from the huge maps in each classroom that could be pulled down, like windowshades, to cover the blackboard — a USA map, a world map, and a map of Virginia. Usually the Virginia one was showing and all I could see when I looked at it was a big scary witch face! Every day, year after year. And speaking of windowshades, the classrooms also had blackout shades left over from WWII that could make the room totally dark, perfect for showing movies, which happened from time to time; they'd wheel in an old movie projector and show some US Department of Agriculture or Health educational film. The best part was when it was over we'd all scream to show it backwards in fast motion instead of rewinding it directly reel-to-reel, so that way we'd see people running around backwards, taking food out of their mouths with a spoon, even a slimy baby calf being sucked up into its mother's butt.

Chesterbrook School 1954
Chesterbrook School 1953 annex, Quonset huts, incinerator
In 1953 to accommodate the growing population, they added a new wing with lots of classrooms and a cafeteria. The first few years I brought lunch but started eating in the cafeteria in 4th or 5th grade; I think it cost a quarter. Good southern home-style farm cooking, cooked by ladies from the nearby farms… Mashed potatos, fried chicken, fresh string beans or greens…
Corn fritters
Corn fritters
One day they made corn fritters (kind of like zeppolis but made with cornmeal and with corn kernels mixed in, served with powdered sugar or syrup, crunchy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside); they were so good I pestered my mom for weeks to make them, and finally I guess she found the lady who cooked them and got the recipe. Another thing about school cafeterias in those days was they never served meat on Fridays; either it was no meat at all, or else fish. I don't think that happens any more but it used to be universal.

Smithfield ham
Smithfield hams
When I brought lunch it was always the same: a Smithfield Ham salad sandwich on homemade bread (we couldn't afford store-bought). Fresh farm milk in the thermos with some Bosco syrup. Smithfield Ham Spread came in a tall thin jar, like an olive jar but flattened (they stopped selling this decades ago). It had a very strong taste; Mom mixed it with mayo and chopped pickles. It was so good I wouldn't trade with anybody. (We never bought a real Smithfield ham, the big one that comes in cloth bag, that would cost way too much, but I remember Russell Hill had one hanging in one of the outbuildings; however, I did buy one myself decades later as present for Granpa; best gift I ever gave him.)

Scrapple, eggs, and syrup
Which reminds me, another treat we had at home sometimes (because it was so cheap) was scrapple, which is pig scraps mixed with cornmeal and peppery spices, fried in an iron skillet so it gets a crunchy crust; I didn't think it was known anywhere north of Maryland but one day I found it in C-Town on 125th Street and made it for Amy (there's a Law & Order episode where Lt. Van Buren is sending some detectives to Baltimore for some reason and asks them to bring her back some scrapple). It's the perfect accompaniment for grits and fried eggs with soft yolks, and you can pour syrup on it.

A 17-year locust
A 17-year locust
Dead locusts
A pile of dead locusts
Also in 1953… A plague of locusts! 17-year locusts (cicadas). For about a week, they were so thick you could barely see across the street. They were big and fat, about 2 inches long, with big bulging red eyes and they crashed into you constantly whenever you went outside. And they were loud! Walking to school through a dense cloud of locusts was like bumper cars. As they died off, there were insect corpses piled up everywhere giving off a putrid stench. I imagine this had been going on for thousands of years, but that was the last time. After that, all the forests were leveled to make way for suburbs, and those had been the trees where they deposited their eggs. (I can't believe nobody took pictures of this.)

I used to get horrible cases of poison ivy, I can't even describe how bad. For example my fingers would fuse together, my eyelids would swell shut, it would be all over my body… Anyway, once I had a case so bad in second grade I was out of school for two weeks, and when I came back I was so far behind that they just put me in 3rd grade and that's how I skipped a grade.

Rural Chesterbrook
Me, Jimmie, Harry at a nearby farm
Rural Chesterbrook - back of Hill Farm
Back of Hill farm
Chesterbrook was totally rural when we moved there, except for our little clump of postwar GI-Bill houses. The school was about a half mile's walk from our house down Kirby road, which wasn't even paved when we first moved in and of course had no sidewalks. Beyond the school and the First Baptist Church, the Kirby Road bridge over Old Dominion Drive, then the Methodist church and down the hill from it, the "new" Chesterbrook market and Bray's Esso, the gas station that sponsored my little league team (1956 was first year ever of little league in the area, a sign of creeping suburbanization).

Lappland knife
Sámi marking knife
The operational market was the old-time kind where the man behind the counter wore a white apron; you told him what you wanted and he got for you; no self-service. Sometimes a farmer would bring a pig to be butchered, or a hunter would bring a deer, and the market would sell the meat. Once he gave me fair-size piece of deerskin, with hair on one side and gooey bloody chunks on the other. I had the Sámi ("Lappland") knife Uncle Pete had given me, and George Gilmer and I spent many long days trying to clean and cure it before we gave up (these short knives were actually used for cutting notches into the ears of reindeer to serve as ownership marks, not for cleaning pelts).

In early years my mom shopped by calling up the market from the neighbor's phone and reading her shopping list; later a guy named Frank, who had several fingers missing, would drive up in an old rusty pickup truck with the order. After we had a car, we drove to McLean to shop at the Safeway supermarket (not very super), where a week's groceries for four cost $25.

My Little League game 1956
Little League game 1956
My Little League team 1956
Bray's Esso Little League team 1956


It was the seg­re­gated South, but the lines were not super-firm. For example, in the house behind ours was where my friend Ricky James lived. His dad was white but his mom was Jamaican and Ricky (second from left, back row) was somewhat brownish but went to the white school, as did a number of other kids (e.g. two rightmost kids in back row) who were not exactly white but were not black either. Also for part of one year I had a Black teacher in our segregated white school. Go figure. Also the stores weren't segregated; I never saw Colored and White signs on anything except when I went further south; for example, to Charlottesville.

While the school and churches were segregated, the farms were not. A prominent farmer, Lewis Hall, was black and his family and Hill family were good friends and frequent visitors. I went with Harry's family sometimes to the Hall farm on Cottonwood street about a mile and half northeast of us along Kirby Road, when they visited and Harry and I played with their children, who were a bit younger. It's solid suburbs now of course.

The Gilmer family

George Gilmer sixth grade
George Gilmer 1954
George Gilmer 1958
George Gilmer 1958
Beedee Gilmer
Beedee (center) 1952
John Gilmer 1945
John Gilmer 1945
One of my friends in Chesterbrook was George Gilmer. He and his sister Beedee (real name Virginia, like her mother) already lived there when we arrived in 1947, right down the hill behind our house. I had not yet reached my 3rd birthday.

Cinderblock cubes a few months later
Gilmer house and car
Gilmer house and car January 1947
At first I was more friends with Beedee (George was a year older, Beedee a year younger). Beedee had only one eye but so many there had missing parts this didn't seem odd to me. She usually wore a patch over the missing eye, but sometimes she took it off. There was a partially formed eyeball in there somewhere but it was covered with skin. She had numerous operations but it couldn't be fixed. I thought she was cute. Anyway I played with both her and George and their mom used to drive us to school on rainy days, at first in her 1939 Chevy then later in her new 1952 one. She was one of the few working mothers in the area, a social worker. George's father had been commander of a Coast Guard cutter during WWII in the Pacific Aleutian Islands and in the Atlantic on the Murmansk run; after the war he worked for the USDA.

Down the hill
Gilmers' house, top center, 1955.
What's interesting about George is that, with only some relatively minor gaps, we have been friends all this time and he helped me a lot with the Chesterbrook part of this history, and he and his wife Connie also photographed New Deal sites around Hampton Roads for me in 2017. Plus in the 1990s George did C-Kermit builds for me on some oddball computers at his job.

Gilmers 1950
Virginia, Beedee, George 1950
We are different in every way: he's right-wing, I'm left; he's religious, I'm not. He's a bluegrass fanatic and I... well, as Stan Freburg would say, "too piercing!" (he also likes Black country blues and both Black and white gospel music). But we get along fine and discuss things on a pretty calm and friendly level. He's married to his lifelong sweetheart, Connie, and after running an auto repair business for many years, and then working in IT for a decade or two after that, he and Connie retired to the Gilmer's ancestral lands (which George bought back from Coors) in Elkton, Virginia, where Patsy Cline came from, and they built a gigantic log house, which is surrounded by farmland. They are close to the Shanendoah River, Blue Ridge Mountains, and Skyline Drive. They have a large extended family of children, grandchildren, etc. They're active in the church, and perform country-music duos (voices, bass and guitar or mandolin) at church and local bluegrass get-togethers. Mrs. Gilmer died just weeks after her 100th birthday in 2017. Beedee moved to England decades ago and never came back. John Gilmer died in 1995.

Gilmers 2017
Gilmers 2017
George died Thursday, April 9, 2020, in the Coronavirus pandemic. He is survived by his wife Connie, and his children and grandchildren. As Connie said, "George left us to be with his Lord this afternoon. He put up a good fight but it was too much for him. I will miss him so much but I know he is with Jesus. But God is faithful and I have much support from our family." The 2017 photo shows a family gathering at George's and Connie's home in Elkton. George, his mom Virginia (age 99), and Connie are in the second row from the top. Click the image to enlarge it and to see George's caption for it.

Link: George Gilmer Obituary, Kyger Funeral Home, Harrisonburg VA.

Other families in the neighborhood

A lot of other families beside the Jameses lived in the house behind ours. Once there was a family of (what everybody called) hillbillies: man and wife with 10 ragged dirty snotnosed kids ranging in age from infancy to about 10. Every night in the summer the whole family would sit in a circle in the back yard, all of them smoking cigarettes except maybe the babies, while the dad sang and played guitar. That was the first time I ever saw a guitar. I'd go there sometimes and he'd show it to me. In retrospect, he reminds me of Hank Williams or Woody Guthrie.

Mona Joseph 1955
Mona Joseph 1955
Mona and Philip
Mona and son Philip
Another family was Nick and Mona Joseph and their little boy Philip. I don't know where Nick was from (he was not a southerner) but he hated fascism so much that he couldn't wait for the USA to get in the war, so (like about 9000 other Ameri­cans) he joined the RCAF in 1939 or -40 and flew combat missions throughout the war, starting in North Africa. While there, he met a French Algerian ("Pied-Noir") ballerina, Mona, and they got married. Eventually they settled in the house behind ours. Nick decorated the house with war and aviation souvenirs, like a real (wooden) fighter-plane propeller, and he was full of war stories. He worked at National Airport and took me there sometimes; he took me in the flight control room, let me sit in airliner cockpits like the big 4-engine DC-4s at night with all the lights glowing.

Mona was one of those people who knew how to do everything, you had to admire her. She spoke French, English, and Arabic and/or Berber. She showed my Mom how to make her Algerian dishes, so without knowing it I grew up eating Algerian food (when we could afford the ingredients): lamb cooked with "french style" string beans and tomatoes in sauces like the Lubee in Samad's with Magreb spices like cinnamon, cumin, coriander, and nutmeg. I always remember Mona in the backyard swinging wet lettuce around in a wire basket to dry it for salad, the droplets shooting out in great arcs and catching the setting sun.

Country life

Chesterbrook being rural, kids' lives were pretty rough compared to most kids today. I got in fights with other kids all the time. Bullies always picked on smaller kids, they'd take my hat or my lunchbox and I'd have to fight them to get it back. Once in a fight at school, I knocked a kid down and his head hit a rock; he got a concussion and had to go to the hospital. I was in big trouble for a long time.

I was stung by bees and wasps almost daily, bitten by dogs, shot with BBs and once by an exploding shotgun shell. One time some older kids jumped me when I was taking a shortcut through the woods and tried to rob me at knifepoint but somehow I fought them off without getting cut. They wanted the $10 Timex watch my grandmother Gus had given me (they didn't get it). Anyway it was such a common occurrence that I came home bruised and bloody, my parents barely even remarked on it. I broke my nose lots of times, which is why it is so lumpy and misshapen now; fights, football… And once at Fort Knox I dived off a high board and smashed my face onto the pool bottom; I was unconscious underwater for some unknown number of seconds, I woke up and everything was red, swam to the surface.

Speaking of insects, we used sit out in the back yard at night and the most amazing kinds of bugs would swarm around the single yellow lightbulb over the back door: gigantic moths, creepy monster mosquitos, ... and in the grass, big fat black beetles the size of a golf ball with pincers and lobster claws… Across the road, the woods was full of box turtles and snakes, stickbugs and praying mantises. And hummingbird moths... a moth that looks like and mimics a hummingbird. The creek in the woods had crawfish. The ditch in front of our house was full of frogs and tadpoles (and mosquito larvae of course).

Other common injuries in the country involved the shins. Geese on the farms always went for kids' shins, chomping down with their tiny sharp teeth. But even more annoying were the old rusty barrel hoops lying hidden in the grass… when you step on one, it flips up and whacks you with its sharp edge right in the shin. This was similar to stepping on a rusty nail, another common occurrence. You were supposed to get a tetanus shot when this happened so I didn't say anything about it.

And playing, we did things so dangerous I can't believe I didn't get killed. We totally ran wild, no such thing as adult supervision. One thing I remember was, when they started to clear the forest to build the new suburbs, they put all the trees in a huge pile, 30-40 feet high. On a day when nobody was working we went there, climbed up on it, and discovered we could slide down through the interior, zooming down through dark twisty passages. It's only blind luck that I didn't impale myself on some broken branch that was pointing in the wrong direction.

Sledding on the farms in the winter could be tricky too. Once there was a deep snow that buried the barbed wire fences and I crashed into one at full speed with my face; I could easily have lost an eye or two.

Another time, I climbed on a bulldozer that was left in place overnight in front of the house when they were paving the road and fiddled with the buttons and levers until it started and I was heading down the road but my dad noticed and caught up with me and turned the thing off. Good thing too, I had no idea how to steer it or to stop it.

Another time I fell out of a tree from about 30 feet up, but wasn't hurt too bad. But then another time I was swinging at the Hill farm on an ancient tire swing that hung from a big tree branch that was 30-40 feet up and the branch broke off and landed on my head. I was unconscious for a while and when I woke up I had lost all memory of recent times, I could only remember things from years before (this was after I had moved to Arlington, but I didn't remember that I had moved). Harry's Mom Avis very gently and patiently helped me recall everything.

Hill farm in 1900
Hill farm in 1900
Going to Harry Hill's house or to any of the other farms was like going back to 1900 or even to 1860... wooden Victorian houses with blown-glass window panes (when you look through them everything is wavy), kerosene lamps, and cast-iron hand pumps instead of faucets at the kitchen sink, to bring up water from the well. But aside from the old farms, the 1940s and early 50s seemed modern and solid to me. There was music on the radio in the daytime and dramatic shows at night and on special occasions we could go to the movies.

The first movie I saw was Song of the South in 1946, with Uncle Remus, Brer Rabbit, and Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah. This must have been at the Glebe theater in Arlington when we were living with my grandmother Gus, it was just a couple blocks away. It's never been released since then because it's full of stereotypes, but it's kind of sweet, not vicious. A lot of people thought it sugar-coated plantation life during slavery, but actually it's set during Reconstruction.

I remember going to another movie in 1949, after we had moved to Chesterbrook: an Esther Williams extravaganza in color. The whole family went in our brand-new 1950 Ford, purchased probably around October 1949, when Dennis was about six months old. The theater had a special glassed-in balcony for families with new babies (crying, breast-feeding, changing diapers...) — this was, after all, the post-war baby boom. It was the State Theater in Arlington; I read somewhere it was the first movie theater to have air conditioning. After the movie we went to the drug store next door and sat at the black marble soda-fountain counter on red leather revolving stools and had ice cream treats. It must have been a birthday.

Aside from that I remember seeing other movies with my parents and Dennis in the baby balcony at the State, mostly black and white — first-run movies with stars like Humphrey Bogart, Ida Lupino, Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan), Marilyn Monroe in her early noir roles…

The Chesterbrook community swimming pool

Chesterbrook pool site
Chesterbrook pool site about 1953
Chesterbrook pool
Opening ceremony 1954
Chesterbrook pool
Chesterbrook pool 1955
Chesterbrook pump houe
Chesterbrook pump house 1953
By 1954 several new middle-class housing devel­opments had sprung up, so there was enough money for everybody (i.e. all the white families) to chip in and buy an abandoned piece of land adjacent to the pump house on Kirby Road and across from the school and to build a community swimming pool. This was done almost entirely by volunteer labor, but children had to be paid; I dug postholes for 75¢ an hour — my first paying job at age 9. Once it opened, I'd go to the pool every summer day after school and on weekends. I learned how to swim there, and after a year or two I was on its competitive swimming team, along with George Gilmer, Brian Adams, and some other friends. After we moved to Arlington, I bicycled there for swim meets and practices.

Photos by my father. In the 1954 photo (infrared) you can see a band at the far end, with a big string bass. In the 1955 photo you can see the new wing of the school peeking through the trees at far right, above the car. It was a "swimming club", members-only, with a moderate annual membership fee. At some point after we moved away in 1956 it opened its membership to Black people. Click each photo to read more.

My mom and dad liked the pool too, but they weren't good swimmers. Mom swam with her face in the water, so could go only as far as she could hold her breath. My dad could do the crawl properly, and he'd do a lap or two but with no joy, as if only to show everyone how it was done. Whereas I did every kind of stroke including invented ones, swam on the surface and underwater, splashed, played, dived off the low and high boards, and always had great fun.

Arlington Ⅱ 1956-59

Arlington 23rd Street house 1957
4839 N. 23rd Street 1957
We moved from rural Chesterbrook back to suburban Arlington (4839 N.23rd Street, two blocks from my grandmother's house) in 1956. We moved because she left her house and all her stuff to her sons Dad and Pete, who couldn't agree how to divide it up, so they sold it and my dad used his half of the proceeds to put a down payment on a brick house built in 1948, which cost $22k. The house was small with a tiny yard (0.13 acre), a shady screen porch, and eventually a finished (by my dad with me helping, in knotty pine) basement. It had a cherry tree in the front yard; we'd get buckets of yellow cherries every Fall. Most of the families around there were military, but unlike in Chesterbrook they were officers rather than EMs, but they too had attics full of war souvenirs: Japanese battle flags, swords, bayonets, German and Japanese rifles and pistols, Nazi stuff, etc. Most them worked at Fort Myer or Fort Belvior in VA and they often took me to the bases with their kids to go swimming. Just a few blocks away was the house of the founder of the American Nazi Party, George Lincoln Rockwell. Sometimes his people would stuff flyers and leaflets in our mailbox. He was assassinated at an Arlington laundromat in 1967 by a disgruntled ex-party-member.

Renovated house in 2012
Enlarged house 1998
In 2012, according to Google Street View, the house and the entire neighborhood were exactly as I left them 50 years before, except our house had been considerably enlarged in 1998; the original house is intact except for the west wall, where a new wing was added. The white fence my dad and I built was gone and there was virtually no yard left. The house sold for $1,175,182.00 in 2016 and by 2020 it was valued at $1,327,182.00.

Air show 1957
Air show Andrews Air Force Base 1957
During the years before we went to Germany, my dad took us to air shows at Andrews AFB — lots of military planes to climb up into, as well as fly-bys, fly-overs, bombing demonstrations, and simulated dogfights. At first everything was WWII… piston-driven radial-engine propeller planes, fighers like the Thunderbolt, Hellcat, Corsair, Mustang — when those things fly right by right in front of you just above ground level at 500mph they are LOUD! — the PBY Catalina seaplane, and the B-17, B-24, B-25, and B-29 bombers. Living near DC, I would also see these planes flying overhead all the time. The air shows were an opportunity for the USA to intimidate the USSR with our military might, and I always saw a Soviet contingent there.

Ludwig 1959
Felix Ludwig Carrera 1959
My parents were friends with some of the people across Columbus Street, and I was friends with Ludwig Carrera (Felix Ludwig, named after Mendelssohn and Beethoven), who lived on our side of Columbus Street but across 23rd Street, two houses over (south); he and his brother and sisters had a big impact on me, they were kind of like the Glass family in JD Salinger. Ludwig was my best friend in junior high, and then again in senior year when I came back from Germany early, and we also went to UVA together, a disaster for both of us. Later he was in the Army in Vietnam, I saw him a couple times after that but we never talked about it; I have a feeling it wasn't good. We lost touch. I can't find him now. I searched for him in Google many times (how many Felix Ludwig Carreras can there be?) and all I ever found were some old police records. Update: In 2022 Ludwig found me, thanks to this family history; we're back in touch and I'll fill in the blanks later.

The Hall's Hill Segregation Wall

As on outsider, I am absolutely not qualified to write about Hall's Hill; the following is a brief sketch of the schizophrenia of North Arlington when I lived there 1956-59 and 1961-62, and the unease I experienced with a WALL between human beings just across the street from our house, especially in 1961-62 after returning from 2.5 years on an Army base in Germany among people of all races, religions, nationalities, cultures, and economic status and attending an integrated, diverse high school there. Information on Hall's Hill has been hard to find until recently but now we have some excellent sources; see the References section below.
Hall's Hill 1950s
Hall's Hill on Lee Highway near Glebe Road 1950s
Columbus Street 1956
Houses on N. Columbus Street 1956
Behind the houses along the other side of Colum­bus street was a high wall (not visible in the photo from my bedroom window but just behind the houses on the right). It separated the white neighborhood from Hall's Hill, an area settled by former slaves after the Civil War. Virginia was segre­gated from the first arrival of African slaves in 1619 until the mid-1960s. Black and white people had separate neighborhoods and separate schools and many other impediments to normal life. During and after World War II, the increase in government jobs in Washington resulted in new white suburban tracts throughout formerly rural North Arlington. New Black arrivals moved into enclaves like Hall's Hill, which was walled in to prevent any contact between white and black residents. It is the only Black enclave I know of that was completely surrounded by a wall.

Hall's Hill map
Hall's Hill 2020 (Google) - Click to enlarge
Hall's Hill wall segment
Wooden Hall's Hill wall segment
Hall's Hill wall segment
Hall's Hill Masonry wall segment
On the modern Google map at left, I traced the outline of Hall's Hill as best I can, given that I've never seen a proper map of it. Towards the upper center of the map, the circled A marks my grandmother Gus's house on the corner of N.23rd Street and Glebe Road, where I lived 1945-46, and the circled B marks the house on N.23rd Street and Columbus Street where we lived 1956-59 and 1961-62, which just is 200 feet from the Hall's Hill wall.

Hall's Hill wall exhibit
Hall's Hill Segregation Wall historical exhibit
Hall's Hill wall top
Crenellated top of Hall's Hill wall
I know the wall went along the backyards of the houses on Columbus Street from Lee Highway all the way to N.26th Street because I saw it. Other sources [4,5,6,12] confirm that it enclosed all of Hall's Hill. The wall was constructed between 1930 and 1940 by the white occupants of each house on the dividing line[4,5,12]. There were only two openings between Hall's Hill and the outside world: N. Edison Street and N. Dinwiddie Street, which both opened onto (Robert E.) Lee Highway, one of Arlington's main thoroughfares and shopping streets. In the heydey of segregation, the roads within Hall's Hill were all dead ends. Some of them still are, but since gentrification set in starting about 1979, some of the roads have been connected to the surrounding streets, as can be seen on the Google map.

Peoples Drug 1960
Peoples Drug sit-in 9 June 1960
Cherrydale Drug 1960
Cherrydale Drug Fair sit-in with Nazis
Hall's Hill residents had access to the shopping area at the intersection of Lee Highway and Glebe Road, and were welcome at the Safeway supermarket on the corner of Lee Highway and Columbus Street and (as I recall) also the High's Ice cream store next door to it as well as the nearby hardware store. They could shop at Robertson's 5&10 but if black children or teenagers showed up unaccompanied by an adult, the proprietor (Libby) would follow them around to make sure they didn't steal anything[1]. They could also shop at Peoples Drug Store but could not eat at the lunch counter; this sparked some sit-ins in 1960, plus "pushback" from the American Nazi Party and its Führer, George Lincoln Rockwell, who lived nearby[11]. I was in Germany during this period.

Evans Coffee Shop
Evans Coffee Shop about 1960
Glebe Theater
Glebe theater 1945
Hall's Hill residents were not welcome at the barber shop, nor Glebe theater (1945-72), nor Evans Coffee Shop[14,15] (1939-1980, "plantation-style menu") a snooty place decorated with animal heads and historical memorabilia and frequented by DAR and Daughters of the Confederacy families. Nevertheless, Arlington (which until the mid-1930s was home to a thriving KKK chapter[1,5,7,8]) fancied itself more genteel and "tolerant" than the deep south (including non-northern Virginia, e.g. Charlottesville), so we did not have "White" and "Colored" signs all over the place, people could sit anywhere they wanted on the WV&M buses (at least in the early 60s when I was riding them), and Blacks did not have to step off the sidewalk to make way for whites. There were, however, cross burnings over the years including at least one when I was living there in 1958[9].

Langston School 1942
John M. Langston School 1942
Hoffman-Boston High School
Hoffman-Boston High School
Hall's Hill residents were hardworking Arlington county taxpayers. Their local taxes were supposed to go towards the same things white people's taxes did: water and sewer service, paved streets and sidewalks, gutters, street lights, trash collection, police and fire department protection, and so on, plus (from 1954) Supreme-Court mandated separate-but-equal schools. But for decades water came from wells, bathrooms were outhouses, roads were dark and not paved until well after WWII, there were no sidewalks and no drainage, the police never came unless they were looking for somebody and the fire department would not come at all (so Hall's Hill formed its own volunteer fire department). As to education, Hall's Hill had its own Langston Elementary School[13] (at the center of the map where it says Langston-Brown Community Center). It was extremely convenient but, at least until 1953[2], had only four rooms. The closest high school for black teens was Hoffman-Boston: five miles away with no school bus or public transportation. Getting the Arlington County government to meet its responsibilities in all of these areas was a struggle over many decades of which I, who lived practically next door, was completely unaware. And all this is not even to speak of the decades-long struggle for school integration, in which, even after Brown-vs-Board-of-Education, Virginia was a notorious foot-dragger[1,2,5]. When I graduated from nearby Yorktown High School in 1962, it was still all white.

Wall with tourists
Present-day Wall tourists
Historical marker
Marker (click to read)
By the time Hall's Hill finally had paved roads, running water, and all the other services it had fought so long and hard for, white people started to move in and today they are in the large majority. Many of the streets are reconnected and the wall is mostly gone except for some sections that serve as tourist attractions. And now, as a New Yorker since 1966, I watch in stunned disbelief as the same thing happens here to Harlem....   Harlem!!!
...to Cathy Hix, Annette Benbow, and Jessica Kaplan of the Arlington Historical Society (AHS) and to Frank O'Leary, former Arlington County Treasurer and even more former high-school buddy at the Army high school in Frankfurt, Germany, for connecting me with the folks at AHS. And to Wilma Jones for writing the book that so badly needed writing!
  1. Book: Wilma Jones, My Halls Hill Family: More Than a Neighborhood, self-published (2018).
  2. Article: Sophie B. Vogel, The Integration of Reed Elementary School, Arlington Historical Magazine, Vol.11 No.1, October 1997, pp. 32-41, accessed at the Arlington Historical Society website 15 January 2021. This is a PDF file that starts with a 1963-64 map that, on the mid-to-lower extreme right, shows bits of Hall's Hill where the dead-ending of the streets is clearly visible. It notes that in 1925 the John Langston School at 4864 Lee Highway was established to provide separate but equal education for the children living on either side of Lee Highway. It also says that additions were added in 1953, 59, and 64. It also notes that the process of integration of Arlington schools began on February 2, 1959, when four Afro-American students were enrolled at Stratford Junior High by Court order. Four years later, in 1963-64 [the year after I graduated from nearby all-white Yorktown High School], all secondary schools in the county were integrated. No action was taken to desegregate at the elementary level until 1966 — twelve years after Brown-vs-Board-of-Ed; I came back to Yorktown that year, after the Army, to pick up a transcript and found an integrated school.
  3. PhD Dissertation: Nancy Perry, The Influence of Geography on the Lives of African American Residents of Arlington County, Virginia, During Segregation (PDF), George Mason University (2013).
  4. PhD Dissertation: Lindsey Bestebreurtje, Built by the People Themselves – African American Community Developments in Arlington, Virginia, from the Civil War through Civil Rights (PDF), George Mason University (2017): pp.63-75 (history); 208-209 (about the Wall); 213-214 (street lights); 223-224 (KKK); 289-29 (overcrowding); 319-349, 373-377 (schools and integration); 351-353 (infrastructure improvements); 377-393 (gentrification).
  5. Book: Plat Book of Arlington County, Virginia, Franklin Survey Company, 2006 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia PA (1943).
  6. Article: Hall's Hill Area Due for Renewal, Northern Virginia Sun, 23 February 1965: "...Negro community of 1650 persons, 322 houses, three churches, and a school... The community is cut off from Glebe Road by dead-end streets and from any entry on the south side by four blocks of solid fences and walls running along North 17th Street." (Thanks to Cassandra Ellison of the VCU Center on Society and Health for sending me the article as a PDF.)
  7. Article: Janet Wamsley, The K.K.K. in Arlington in the 1920s, Arlington Historical Society, Arlington Historical Magazine, Vol.10 No.1, October 1993, pp.55-59.
  8. Masters Thesis: James Lamb, The Ku Klux Klan in early twentieth Century Virginia, James Madison University, Summer 2018.
  9. Article: "Fiery Cross Set Up in Arlington", The Washington Post and Times Herald, 23 June 1958, p.B2: "A burning cross was found yesterday in a cemetery adjoining a Negro church in the 5000 block of Lee Highway, Arlington County Police reported ... made with 7- and 5-foot building timbers ... Reported by the Rev. John F. Monroe of the Calloway Methodist Church." Thanks to Jessica Kaplan of AHS for this, who also said "Saundra Green, a long time resident and historian of the area, had one burned on her front lawn during this period as well."
  10. Report: A Guide to the African American Heritage of Arlington County Virginia, Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development Historic Preservation Program, Second Edition (2016). Covers Hall's Hill on pages 12-22 and the Peoples Drug Store lunch counter sit-in on p.57.
  11. Article: Mark Jones, Sit-ins Come to Arlington, Boundary Stones (WETA history site), 22 June 2014. The first photo shows Gwendolyn Greene at the counter of the Peoples Drug at Lee Highway and Old Dominion Drive, which is about 500 feet from Hall's Hill. The Cherrydale Drug Fair was about a mile to the east on Lee Highway.
  12. Article: Lindsey Bestebreurtje, A View from Hall's Hill: African American Community Development in Arlington, Virginia from the Civil War to the Turn of the Century Arlington Historical Magazine, Vol.15 No.3 (2015), pp.19-34: "(the) wall construction was executed on an individual home-owner level, however, it was planned out enough that by the early 1940s the entirety of Hall's Hill was quartered off ... the wall meant that the community could not expand..."
  13. Article: Nellie C. Stewart, History of Langston School (origin unknown, written some time after 1960; Wilma Jones found it among her mother's papers) [audio]
  14. A Guide to the Bayard D. Evans Collection, Fairfax County Public Library.
  15. Obituary: Bayard Evans, Restaurateur, Washington Post, September 8, 1980: "Its furnishings included a much-admired array of historical memorabilia, including weapons, portraits and tools that predated the Revolution, as well as a collection of items that related to Robert E. Lee."
  16. There are examples of segregation walls that do not totally enclose the Black enclave; for example, the wall erected in Detroit when a new white subdivision was constructed on empty land next to an existing Black community, the The Detroit Eight Mile Wall (Wikipedia, accessed 26 January 2021). Another example is the Liberty City wall in Miami.
  17. Book: Arlington Historical Society, Arlington, Images of America series, Arcadia Publishing (2000). Has a few photographs of and words about Hall's Hill.

Junior High School

Our part of Arlington (except for the stores) is one of the only areas were I lived as a kid that is still mostly intact. Another is 19th Street SE in DC, the first place I ever lived (1944-45). But Chesterbrook and all of rural Northern Virginia is gone, and so is Frankfurt, Germany, as I knew it.

Williamsburg JHS
Williamsburg Junior High School
Williamsburg JHS jacket 1957
Williamsburg JHS jacket 1957
Worms for sale
Anyway, in Arlington I went to Williams­burg Junior HS, very suburban, a big shock for a country boy. I was an 11-year-old hick, and the suburban boys my age were already partying and dancing and dating, some of them even having sex. I was extremely shy. It was not a happy time, but Ludwig and I and some other kids hung out, listened to R&B, played ball, etc. Some of our friends were hoods who wound up in reformatories. One summer I was on a softball team that traveled around northern Virginia on buses; I was good at baseball but I could never get used to softball. The "worms" in the color picture... I made them at home and sold them in school; I must have sold 100 of them. I forget what I charged; something between 10 cents and a dollar. Speaking of school and to show how times have changed, every year we had a shop class (wood, metal, plastic), a music class, and an art class.

Jamestown church
Jamestown church 1957
Williamsburg Governor's Palace
Williamsburg VA 1957
In 7th grade we had a big class trip to Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown, we stayed there several days. Williamsburg is kind of like a theme park but Jamestown was more interesting even though it was just old ruins in the woods by the river; it wasn't all corporate.

By the way, from elementary school through my Masters Degree I did very well in school. Except in Arlington. The culture there was toxic; only sissies got good grades. All my friends had total contempt for school and I went along with them through junior high, and then senior year after Germany, and got pretty bad grades too. But in Frankfurt there was no stigma at all attached to doing well in school, you could be cool and get good grades at the same time, and I did.

And of course Arlington schools were strictly segregated, much more so than rural Chesterbrook, which was kind of loose. The small-minded cliquishness was oppressive. One day after school a classmate invited me to his house. There I saw some books with funny writing on the spines, I said "what's that?", he said "It's Hebrew, we're Jewish... Pleeeease don't tell anybody!"

Anyway, fast forward to 2020. The area is mostly the same except for the businesses along Lee Highway and Glebe Road. Ludwig's house (2243 N. Columbus St) is still there, exactly the same. Ludwig's family was one of the few non-military ones; his dad was an Italian barber who rarely spoke. His mother was Austrian, about a head taller than his father and highly cultured. An Odd Couple, united by their mutual love of classical music. Also odd (it only now occurs to me) because they both came from Fascist countries, fleeing most likely; I never thought to ask them about it. There was a big piano in the living room with busts of Beethoven and Mozart. Ludwig's dad played violin in an orchestra. As traditional in Italian families, Ludwig's dad made a pasta dinner every Wednesday. There was always a huge tin of olive oil on the kitchen floor by the door, probably something like 10 gallons.

Science fiction and space travel were a big part of popular culture when I lived in Arlington, and in 1957 when Sputnik (the first earth satellite) was launched I saw it cross the night sky. By contrast, the nineteen-teens and twenties always seemed quaint and flimsy and long ago to me, even as a child. The 1930s were not that long ago then; it was when my parents were teenagers and young adults. For me, "modern times" begins in 1936; you can see it in the movies — suddenly they are sharp and clear; cars and airplanes are sleek and solid, not rickety old boxlike contraptions; people look and talk normal, and the jazz and swing music is not that tinny cutesy stuff from before.

Up until about the mid-1960s, there was constant fear of nuclear war stoked by the government, school, news, and movies (most horror films were about monsters that were mutations from fallout from A-bomb testing). Every town had an air raid siren. For kids there were constant air-raid and "duck and cover" drills in school. Everybody was expected to believe that the missiles would come at any moment and only a strong military could save us. The greatest threat actually came from the USA, which came close to launching nuclear strikes several times since WWII, e.g. to wipe out the Soviet Union after VJ Day, and in Korea when the war started there in 1950, and even after Eisenhower became President.

Nike missile in northern VA
Nike missile 1957
In the early 50s, anti-aircraft guided missile batteries started popping up all around Washington DC area: the new Nike surface-to-air missiles [video], you could see them all over the place; the picture at left is by me. Guided missiles were a new thing. The USA was using its German scientists to show us how to make them. There's a 1954 John Wayne movie, High and Mighty (the very first disaster movie, I think) that has a brief scene of American scientists experimenting with guided missiles and the missile they were experimenting with was a Nazi V-1 "buzz bomb" painted bright yellow.

Speaking of rockets, I read a lot of science fiction as kid in the 1950s, books as well as those paperback-book size like magazines Fantasy and Science Fiction, Analog, If, and Galaxy (the first "adult" book I read was The Martian Chronicals by Ray Bradbury around age 10). But never, not once, not even in their most wild imaginings, did any of these imaginative writers ever foresee that space exploration would be outsourced to private for-profit companies! (Recent headline from corporate media: "2021 could be a huge year for space; what's to come from Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos!" Hurray for selfish, greedy, arrogant billionaires!)

Aside from science fiction, I read a lot of adult books as a kid. You could buy paperback books ("pocket books") at the drugstore for 35 cents. I read books by Steinbeck (Grapes of Wrath, Travels with Charlie), Remarque (All Quiet on the Western Front), James Jones (From Here to Eternity), Graham Greene (The Quiet American), D.H. Lawrence (Fathers and Sons), Mark Twain (Letters from the Earth), McKinley Kantor (Andersonville), Leslie Charteris ("The Saint" mysteries from the 1920s that Uncle Pete was addicted to), and other authors including John O'Hara, Leon Uris, Irving Stone, Herman Wouk, Evelyn Waugh, Pearl S. Buck, Somerset Maugham, Daphne du Maurier, John Hersey, Nevil Shute, Robert Ruark… either I bought them at random or they were laying around the house.

My father...


Francis F. da Cruz
Frank da Cruz 1940s
My dad: Francis Fuller da Cruz, born Lawrence KS, April 1, 1918, died January 31, 1990. Six feet tall. Called Frank or (by Pete) Fran or (by Gus and Mom) Roach. I have no idea where the Fuller came from. The only association it has for me is the "Fuller Brush man" (door-to-door brush salesmen). He had lung cancer several times, colon cancer, and multiple heart attacks from 50-some years of super-heavy smoking and drinking. Cause of death: Metastatic Carcinoma of Lung, Gangrene, Cardio-Pulmonary Arrest.

Dad's home 1925-27
Dad's home in Bozman MD 1925-27
With his brother Pete (Daniel), my dad had a chaotic childhood, shuttling back and forth between his mother, father, and assorted relatives in Ohio, Kansas, DC, Maryland, and who knows where else. He said his father had little time for him, even when he was staying with him; they barely spoke. The places I heard about most were Frederick MD, which is north of Virginia on the mainland, and Bozman MD on the Eastern Shore (i.e. the peninsula on the other side of Chesapeake Bay), which we visited once in 1951... a big farm house full of crazy people, including an old toothless "retired sea captain" (Captain Dave) who looked and talked exactly like Popeye and sat on a stump and whittled, cursed, and spat all day. I don't know if these were blood relatives or what, but if they were, it was on my dad's mother's side. The place was a chicken farm with a huge stinky shambles of a henhouse about a mile long. In the town itself, such as it was, he showed us the old gray-painted wooden schoolhouse he attended in the 1920s.
On the other hand I have a photo taken in 1977 of some nice suburban-looking brick houses near the water labeled "Visit to our former home Safety Beach, Bozman, Md. Home of Sarah & Lockwood Hardcastle" (Edmund Lockwood Hardcastle 1911-1985, Sarah Richards Edmond 1915-1992). Lockwood was a farmer and sailing enthusiast; he died at 73 in 1985; that would make him only 13-14 when Dad and Pete were there. There is no apparent blood relation between Gus and Sarah or Lockwood going back 3-4 generations. They were not school friends either because Sarah was only one year old when Gus was in nursing school. Bozman is nowhere near Frederick (124 miles today, but in those days there was no Chesapeake Bay bridge). Nobody on either side of the Hardcastle tree going back to 1820 ever lived anywhere but Talbot County MD, which is where Bozman is (across the bay from Frederick), nor can I find records of any Ragers in Bozman. So I have no idea how or why Gus chose to bring the kids there.
Dad in DC 1928
Dad in DC 1928
I see from one of his photo albums that he moved from Lawrence to a white 2-story house in Oxford OH in 1918 when he was 4 months old. Later he lived a small bungalow at 15 West Withrow Ave in Oxford. The latter is still there, at least as of a Google Street View in 2013. In 1924 Gus left Daniel and (I believe) took the children with her. So back on east coast, Dad went to elementary school in Bozman MD, which is on a peninsula of a peninsula of a peninsula of the Eastern Shore on the far side of Chesapeake Bay; this was in at least the 3rd and 4th grade (1925-27). He took us there once in 1951, that's how I recognized the photo. I guess he was living with some of Gus's relatives and maybe with Gus herself. By 1928 he was living at 1705 Kenyon and 1649 Irving Streets NW, "My mother sublet from Mary McKenna" (who was Gus's Godmother). He told me once that this was a Black neighborhood and all his friends then were Black kids; they used to play together in vacant lots and alleys, but it doesn't look very urban to me. Anyway, he and Pete went back to his Dad in Oxford, Ohio, around 1928.
According to Audrey, at one point when he was living with his father and stepmother Louise (neé Burk) in Oxford — he hated Louise.. One day he tried to kill her with an axe because she told him to wash the dishes; Pete had to fight him to keep him from doing it. Then they sent him away (and presumably Pete too). But to where? And when was this? There's no way to tell from the information I have (some of which is contradictory; on his CIA application he claims to have gone through all 12 grades of school in Oxford, but he has report cards from Bozman, Talbot County, Maryland, for 3rd and 4th grade (1925-27).
Dad went to William H. McGuffey High School in Oxford 1931-35 and graduated in 1935 (and I have the report cards). Oxford is where Miami University is, where his father taught. There are newspaper articles (the Hamilton, Ohio, Journal News) showing him acting in various school plays, 1931-33. He has the 1935 class picture, and then pictures from the 50th reunion in 1985. He played varsity football in high school; his coach was Weeb Eubank, who called him Bidge; Eubank later became a famous college football coach and then an even more famous NFL one (Browns, Colts, Jets); he and dad corresponded during the late 1970s. That summer he worked as a farm hand in College Corner, Ohio. He said it was the hardest work he ever had in his life and the best food. He claimed to have grown six inches. Maybe I should have done that! Id've been six feet like him (Pete was 6'2"... even Dennis was taller than me).

Follow the Fleet
Follow the Fleet 1936

Navy 1937-1946

After two years of post-high school drifting around, his father got him admitted to the University of Maryland and made him go there in Fall 1936. Dad hated it, so in his own words: "One cold winter night a friend and I caught a movie in Hyattsville, Md. 'Follow the Fleet' persuaded me that the Navy would be more interesting than deciphering Chaucer. On 5 August 1937, I signed up for four years". In fact, he was close to flunking out, his first-semester grades were CEFFBB; I suspect he didn't want to face his dad, to whom intellectual pursuits were paramount.

What did he do for the months between deciding to join the Navy and actually doing it? Checking his government job applicion I see he worked as a "blanket laundryman" in a warehouse in 1936… Waiter and boat tender at a summer resort on the Eastern Shore in 1936. Office assistant in an air conditioning company in 1937… In another album I find that he lived at 505 18th Street NW in DC, Sept 1935-early 1936. Then he lived at 1807 California St NW, 3rd floor, right front, in 1936 and 37.

And THEN in August 1937 he joined the Navy. But in any case, without the movie he might have done something else, so in that sense I owe my existence to Fred and Ginger, and so do you guys.

USS Omaha in Havana Bay
USS Omaha in Havana Bay 1938
Dad on USS Omaha 1938
Dad on the Omaha
USS Omaha radio crew
Radio crew - Dad top row center
From 1937 to early 1940 he was a radioman on the USS Omaha, a cruiser built in 1916 that could launch a biplane from a catapault, docking in Villefranche (France, near Nice on the Riviera) and in Naples.

Bombs exploding
Fascist bombing of Caldetas, Spain, January 1939
When the Omaha was sent on a rescue mission to the south coast of Spain towards the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, he took photos of Fascist aircraft bombing the village of Caldetas. CLICK HERE to see a photo gallery. Coincidentally, I passed through Caldetas in 1964 but wasn't aware of the connection.

Mussolini Forum in Rome
Mussolini Forum
We had an oil painting of the Omaha with Naples and Mount Vesuvius in the background in our living room. Besides ports in Fascist Italy (where dad took the photos at right), the Omaha put in at Villefranche, Marseilles, Tangiers, Algiers, Casablanca, and other Mediterranean ports, as well as Havana and who knows where else. And (I didn't know this until 2016 when I came across a note in one of his scrapbooks) he was also on the USS Denebola, a destroyer tender built in 1919, from April 1940 to August 1941: Norfolk to Chesapeake Bay to Halifax NS escorting Lend-Lease destroyers partway to England; then Guantánamo, Norfolk, Bermuda. None of this was combat but there were U-Boats in the Atlantic sinking American ships even though the USA was not in the war yet. All of this was in his first hitch. According to a 1941 letter to his Mom, Gus, he couldn't wait to get out.

He was released from the Navy in October 1941, about 9 weeks before Pearl Harbor, and worked in Kann's department store in DC for $120 a month in the "heavy toys" department as Christmas help.

World War II

WWII Navy Radiotelegraph console
WWII Navy Radiotelegraph console
WWII Navy Radiotelegraph operator from Navy Radioman Manual
WWII Navy Radioman
No sooner had Dad begun to adjust to civilian life Pearl Harbor was bombed. I don't know if he was called up or reenlisted, but he was back in the Navy in January 1942 (just weeks after Pearl Harbor) and was not discharged until December 2, 1945, when I was about 13 months old. In both hitches he was a radioman (Morse-code operator), which means sending messages on a code key, and receiving incoming code messages on headphones and simultaneously transcribing them onto paper using a manual typewriter; he and my Mom could both do this at 120wpm (more about this in the Mom chapter). When I was kid, sometimes they talked to each other in Morse code.

National Mall 1942
National Mall 1943 with barracks (L)
and Navy Department building (R)
During the War, his second hitch, he worked at Department of the Navy headquarters at 18th and Constitution in DC (seen from the Washington Monument in the photo; Navy building at right, now long gone). He lived with his mother on Glebe Road in Arlington and commuted by WV&M bus. My Mom worked at Navy HQ too, also as a radioman, which is how they met. The Navy HQ building was right alongside the National Mall, which goes between Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument; my Mom lived right there in temporary barracks. When the CIA was created after the war, some of these barracks became their offices and my Dad worked in them. I went there with him sometimes. On one occasion he and his pals were shooting into the ceiling because they heard rats scurrying around.

My dad claimed to be the one who received General MacArthur's "I shall return" message from Corregidor. He was never in actual WWII combat as far as I know, except for sailing through U-boat infested waters on the Denebola prior to Pearl Harbor. The Omaha rescue mission at Caldetas counts as combat, but it wasn't WWII.

Dad's brother, Uncle Pete, on the other hand, was a Marine who saw action on land, sea, and/or air in the Atlantic and Pacific. Gus wrote on May 2, 1941:

Another war is raging, god how scared I am ... I hate war today as I did when I was a Red Cross nurse [in WWI]. It is so futile and unprofitable. & yet one must fight for freedom or become a slave [i.e. to Nazis]. Today I am a Senior Nurse in the Navy Reserve Corps ... Francis is in love & engaged to a lovely child named Olive Whittle [of Baltimore]. Became engaged last nite. Tomorrow [illegible] see her [illegible]...
Mom and Dad March 14, 1944
Mom and Dad 1944
WWII medal and dogtag
WWII medal and Navy dogtag
Dad Navy Department ID
Navy Dept ID
DC postmark 1945
Zeke letter postmark
This was the first and last I ever heard of Olive, but before the War was over, my dad and mom were married and I was born, somewhat short of 9 months later, so when he was released from the Navy December 2, 1945, he had a family to support and couldn't go back to school like (he said) he wanted to, and always had a chip on his shoulder about it since he thought he was smarter than everybody else. My Mom didn't go to college either. Shortly before his discharge, while we were living on 19th Street in DC, he wrote to Mom's brother Zeke in Los Angeles asking for a job in his beer and wine distribution company. But that didn't work out so he stayed on at his Navy job at the Naval Communications Section of Navy Department headquarters in a civilian capacity until 1949. He had also considered staying in the Navy but Mom said no; she didn't want to be left alone for years at a time when he shipped out. Apparently he listened to her in those early days. Incidentally, the only medal he received was the World War II Victory medal, which was given automatically to everyone who served during the war; he didn't even get a Good Conduct Medal (perhaps because by getting Mom pregnant, he removed her from service about two years prematurely). I'm not aware of him ever attending any reunions with his Navy mates.

Fairfax County, Virginia, 1947-1956

Dad plowing 1947
..Plow that Broke the Plains
Kirby Road House
Our new house 1947 and The.....
While he was still at the Navy Department, he got a VA home loan and bought the house in Chesterbrook, Fairfax County, Virginia, and we moved from Gus's house to the new one. I think his annual salary was in the $2000 range, so after house payments and tax there was virtually nothing left. Dad borrowed a hand plow from Russell Hill and turned the back yard into a vegetable garden so we could grow our own food, and in the house Mom did the work of a frontier wife: scrubbing, sewing, baking... At least she didn't have to make her own soap.

In late 1949 he started applying for other jobs. He applied at both the FBI and the State Department and didn't hear back from either. Then he applied to the newly formed Central Intelligence Agency and was accepted due both to his Navy experience and skills, and also because at first they were (according to him) desperately short-staffed. He was hired in 1949 and worked there until they pushed him out in 1973 at age 55. He never talked about what he did there. The highest rank he achieved was GS-13 (like a major or lieutenant colonel in the Army, i.e. a mid-level officer). His first job was processing new employees (photos, fingerprints, etc) and disposing of classified trash (a job I also had some years later… two or three times!)

Tiny Morton salt shakers
1-inch high Morton salt shakers
After Dad's income improved, the Victory Garden (that's what we called it) shrunk to just a corner of the backyard and I was in charge of it. I grew tomatoes, onions, and some other things, I forget. When the seeds were planted in the Spring I had to scare the crows away for a few days. When the tomatoes were ripe they were so good, so juicy, so perfect. Sometimes I'd just go out and pick one and eat it like an apple, hot from the sun, with a little salt, the juice running down my bare chest. Kids didn't wear much clothes in the summer, usually just underpants with dead elastic, held up by a clothes pin. The salt was from the tiny Morton Salt shakers they used to make for school kids to carry in their lunch boxes. The main thing I regret about living in the city instead of the country is that I can't grow my own tomatoes.

During the 1950s the CIA sent my dad all over the place; I pieced together some of it from his scrapbooks; almost all these places places had coups or other turmoil in that timeframe:

Belem, Para, Brasil: 2 June 1957
Recife, Pernambuco, Brasil: 3-4 June 1957
Rio de Janeiro - 5 June 1957
Aunción, Paraguay - 6-9 June 1957
La Paz, Bolivia - 9-12 June 1957
Guayaquil, Ecuador - 12-15 June 1957
Quito 15-18 June 1957
Bogatá Colombia 19-21 June 1957
Mexico City 23-27 June 1957
Monterrey (date not given)
Beirut, Lebanon, February 1958 (just prior to the US invasion)
Amman, Jordan: 14-15 February 1958 (short-lived federation with Iraq)
Jerusalem 15 Feb 1958
Baghdad 18-19 Feb 1958 (US Embassy)
Kuwait: 19-21 Feb 1958
Nicosia, Cyprus: 22-25 Feb 1958
I don't think he was a covert agent or assassin though; I think he just provided "logistical" support to those who were — agents in the embassies and consulates posing as diplomats: wiring, bugs, surveillance, sweeps, secure lines, etc. Although he certainly was mean enough to be an assassin.

Frankfurt, Germany, 1959-61

IG Farben Building Frankfurt
IG Farben Building Frankfurt 1955
The whole family was sent to Frankfurt, Germany, in February 1959. Dad worked in the I.G. Hochhaus (I.G. Farben building; before the Pentagon, the world's largest office building) on the 7th or what Pam's Mom Ruth calls "the spook floor"; at least part of his work was scanning for bugs and tracing all the wires left over from Nazi times — we arrived less than 14 years after the war and there were still plenty of Nazis looking to make a comeback. The IG Farben company played a key role in the war and is heavily featured in Gravity's Rainbow; the building was returned to Germany about 1995 and is now Campus-Westend of Goethe University.

A note in one of his albums says that he and another CIA friend installed an alarm system in the house of Allen Dulles (founder of the CIA) and then they watched a football game with him. In another note he left behind, he says he spent two weeks in 1950 bugging every room in Ashford Farm in Easton MD, a mansion used by the CIA until 1979 to hide people. And in another, he did "audio countermeasures" for Camille Chamoun, the Lebanese president, in February 1958, shortly before the US invasion (after many years of Maronite Christian rule, there was a Muslim uprising and Chamoun asked the USA to come and crush it). Dad was exactly the kind of guy that Richard Nixon would have used to install an illegal recording setup in the White House. I don't know that he did, but his scrapbooks are full of Watergate newspaper clippings.

While we were in Germany dad got in trouble for having an office affair and we were sent back in summer 1961, a year early, after which they gave him mostly scut work like security-clearance background checks (where he goes to visit family and friends and neighbors of job applicants) and they also loaned him to the TSA as an air marshall. He had a badge and sometimes carried a gun. At one point they assigned a highly-publicized Soviet defector to him, who was in his custody — illegally — for months. Eventually they pushed him out, maybe for being a drunk, maybe for his temper, maybe for the affair, I don't know (later it turned out there was a specific reason they fired him, having to do with the Russian, see below).

After I left home

I left home in 1962 for UVA, dropped out after one semester, spent a few horrible days at home and walked out and joined the Army. Shortly after that Mom left Dad and took Dennis with her to California. Within 2 or 3 years she and Dad were divorced. A few weeks after I returned from Germany in early 1966 I saw dad in his new apartment, it was a nightmarish episode, not to be repeated for decades. When he moved to the apartment all the stuff I had left behind and all of Uncle Pete's stuff that were in the attic of the Chesterbrook house disappeared — 1950s baseball cards that would probably be worth big money today, my big acoustic f-hole guitar, my Framus electric guitar from Frankfurt, Uncle Pete's travel notebooks and WWII combat drawings...

Dad and Audrey wedding photo
Dad and Audrey 1967
In 1967 dad married Audrey Elsie Doney (Audie), a 1940s beauty queen and (G-rated) pin-up girl who, after marrying Dad, became a successful attorney. I was invited to the wedding but didn't intend to go; though I remember joking with Peter Marsh and some other friends who had motorcycles that we could go down as a motorcycle gang. They lived in her house at 5927 Oakdale Road in Chesterbrook Woods, Virginia, by then a very posh suburb of DC, until he died in 1991. I got to know Audrey in the 1990s and she is the source for a lot of the information (and some of the scrapbooks) that I have. He was nice to her at first but wound up heaping abuse on her, beating her, and in the end, planning to kill her.

Audrey's daughter Shawn writes in February 2020 of several incidents from the 1960s:

I went to my Mom's after moving from NJ to Maryland... it was the first time in a long time I was close enough to my Mom to go over and spend her birthday with her.... I wanted it to be a surprise so my children and I went over with a cake that was lit on the front porch.... I was hoping she would open the door..... but it was the housekeeper, Mrs. Brown. She pointed me to the back screened porch where mom and your Dad were sitting. He was not happy I just stopped by without calling and at one point he had my mom in the kitchen yelling at her while she was backing up until she couldn’t back up any further. I walked towards the kitchen sharply calling his name about 3 or 4 times..... he finally stopped terrorizing my mother and he came towards me at which time I told him to come on... I will call a cop in a heartbeat... he stopped and went to the bedroom and returned yelling about the kids being back there and they could have gotten his gun as he was waving it around... he was not pointing it at us but I thought it best we leave.

I met your brother and we hung out one weekend. He was very nice but as a 14 year old, I had no filter. So when your Dad asked me how I liked him the day after he left, I said "he was very nice and he is gay"..... from that day on.... your Dad hated me!! Dennis was sweet and I thought he may have had a hard time dealing with your Dad but I was 14 and didn’t really know and didn’t ask.

One evening I was sitting at home when I get a call from your Dad. He had NEVER called me before so I was instantly suspicious. He asked if I had spoken to or seen my mother. I said no, why? He said they had a little tiff and she walked out and he was just looking for her. Well, now I was extremely worried so I left home and went out looking. I went to her office in Fairfax and when she wasn’t there, I went to her house..... all was quiet and she wasn't there either. I waited until 11:30 and drove home. I couldn’t sleep and continued to worry until she finally called me. She said they had argued and he shoved her hard into the kitchen counter and she thought her rib was broken. It turns out that she had the two bottom ribs broken on one side. She did not want me to make a big deal of it as she felt she could do nothing about it at that time.

(this one is probably from about 1990...) She also told me that his boss at the CIA called her and said that he needed to let her know that Frank was telling people in the office that he was going to kill her. He told her he couldn’t do anything about it until he actually acted on it. I thought how insane was that comment!! For me it goes to show how crooked they were way back then. They take care of their own no matter at whose expense.

The next time I saw Dad was in 1988 when I spent a few days with him (Audrey was away somewhere, I didn't meet her then). He had stopped drinking and smoking, was calmer and more philosophical. We also saw Uncle Pete, who had moved from Beirut because it wasn't safe for Americans there any more, to an apartment in Alexandria. Three years later when dad was dying I went there again and stayed with Audie for a week. We'd visit him in the hospital each day and then do other stuff, driving all over northern VA. During this visit she was in high spirits because Dad was gone from the house and was never going to come back.

Dad's personality

I normally think of my dad as a monster: bitter, violent, cruel, brutal, and he was BIG, six feet tall with big muscles, huge hands like John Wayne. And the classic authoritarian who sucked up to his superiors and bullied and insulted everyone else. We were all scared to death of him. But he had some good points too. For one thing, he was very handy, he could fix anything, he could build things, and he taught me all of that. He spent endless hours in the back yard teaching me how to play baseball when I was 10 and 11. We did a lot of work together, which I enjoyed… building the community pool, building the addition on the Chesterbrook house, putting a wood fence around the Arlington house and converting its basement into a kind of man cave with knotty pine walls, tile floor, and bar. (By the way, he never did any of these things with Dennis.) Also I seem to have inherited his mania for taking pictures and keeping records. Without his scrapbooks I never could have put this thing together.

Dad's father Daniel was not a warm person and not especially involved with raising his children, even though he and Pete lived with him in Oxford for most of their young lives. Dad's mother Gus was warm, gentle, loving, jolly, and funloving. But she raised them only until 1928, when Dad was 10. After that Dad and Pete lived with their father and second wife Louise, by all accounts the classic evil stepmother. But I believe their father let them spend some summers with Gus and/or her relatives(?) on the Eastern Shore. There was a sepia photo (now lost) that used to be on our wall of him and Pete on the beach when they were in their teens.

The way I recall things, dad was a fairly nice guy up until some point in the early 1950s, when he turned mean and abusive and alcoholic. In 1976 my brother told me that that dad had told him that he was one of the unwitting subjects in the CIA's experiments with mind-altering drugs (Project MKultra) in the early 1950s. If true, this would explain a lot (Peter points out that the Unabomber was an MKultra victim too; Whitey Bulger was another), but not everything because he is known to have had quite a temper even as a teenager (see story). Also, a fellow student at McGuffey High School in Oxford OH had this to say about him to investigators during his 1949 CIA employment background check:

[He] was ironic at times, appeared rather antogonistic towards the other students ... expressed his point of view very strongly and, at times, a little too strongly.
Happy family 1949
Happy family 1949
Happy Mom 1950
Happy Mom 1950
MKUltra was launched in 1953, and that's just about when things turned ugly around our house. The Wikipedia article mentions "Substances which will promote illogical thinking and impulsiveness; materials which will promote the intoxicating effect of alcohol; materials which will cause temporary/permanent brain damage; substances which alter personality structure ... They also administered LSD to CIA employees, military personnel, doctors, other government agents, and members of the general public to study their reactions. LSD and other drugs were often administered without the subject's knowledge or informed consent, a violation of the Nuremberg Code the U.S. had agreed to follow after World War II. The aim of this was to find drugs which would bring out deep confessions or wipe a subject's mind clean and program him or her as 'a robot agent.' ... Long-term debilitation and several deaths resulted from this." And he was always a racist, as can be seen from some of the commentary in his 1930s scrapbooks and his 1930s Navy journal. Nevertheless, in our family photos from the late 1940s and early 50s, we look like a genuinely happy family. Even Mom looks happy.

But from the mid-1950s on, he was prone to bouts of rage and violence — especially scary in a man of his size and strength — and drank enormous amounts of alcohol. Once I saw him drink two cases (48 cans) of beer on a hot summer day while mowing the lawn (with a push mower, of course). In later years he would routinely guzzle two fifths of gin every night (a fifth is 4/5 of a quart, so two of them is bit over a quart and half). While growing up I saw him throw up, pass out, smash things, bellow like a bull, cry uncontrollably, beg for forgiveness, it never ended. He beat us all the time, with huge hands, fists, knuckles, sticks, belts (my Mom never did). Where he got this idea of disciplining children escapes me, I can't conceive of either of his parents inflicting physical punishment, or Uncle Pete either for that matter. By the same token I don't understand how he came to be such a racist; his father was not only not a racist, he was a member of the NAACP. And his mother was the nicest person in the world; I never heard her say a bad word about anybody.

A junior high school classmate of mine, Frank Dodd Jr., and his little brother James (ages 13 and 11), had a father very much like mine, a drunk who beat them every night. On January 24, 1957, they killed him with his own gun while he was passed out in his easy chair. It was a big item in the news that resulted in Dad being nice to us for a couple weeks.

In his sixties my dad had numerous heart attacks and all kinds of cancer — lung, bowel, you name it, lots of times, until only small pieces of his original organs were left. Finally he took the hint and stopped drinking and smoking, joined a church of all things (he had always ridiculed religion) as well as the Masons (another longtime butt of his jokes), and tried to make himself into an all-American suburban nice guy, and some people say he had his moments of kindness. But he still believed "the niggers" would come swarming over the hill one day to burn, rape, pillage, and kill, and he had the guns he would use to drive them off (like a kind of George Blessing in reverse).

Arlington Hospital
Arlington Hospital where Dad died in 1991
Also both before and after he stopped drinking, he frequently beat Audie senseless, once even breaking her back. By chance, the woman he had fallen for in Germany decades earlier, who he wrecked his career over, happened to live a couple blocks away, now happily married. He would sneak over to spy on her, Audie would catch him out, confront him, and he'd go ballistic and come after her. Every time Audie would get ready to leave him, he'd get cancer or have a heart attack, and she would stay on until he recovered, a sequence repeated until he finally realized he would die, and then he let her know that he was going to kill her first so she would not have to face living without him. But he collapsed before he could do it, and was on his deathbed at Arlington Hospital. That's when I went down and stayed with her until we knew he would never leave the hospital where I saw him and said goodbye. What finally killed him was gangrene. Everybody was relieved; he had seemed like Rasputin, horrible and unkillable.

It's hard to believe that dad and Pete were brothers; Pete was always so calm, relaxed, good humored, patient, open, tolerant, caring, inquisitive, enthusiastic, empathetic... And dad was just a big boiling cauldron of anger and hatred and cruelty. Looking back I realize he had extreme, intense emotions that swung wildly back and forth and that he couldn't control. I suppose today he might be diagnosed as bipolar and there would be a pill for him.



Audrey Doney da Cruz
Audrey Doney da Cruz
Audrey Doney and my father married in 1967. She was born in 1927 in Beaver Meadows, PA. I never met her until dad was dying in 1991. I spent a week with her and she was very nice. He courted and married her under false pretenses; she was a lawyer and he barely got out of high school, but he claimed to have tons of education. Their marriage deteriorated pretty fast but she stuck with him to the end. After dad died she retired, sold the house, lived alone in a trailer on a beach for a while, then married a guy named Johnny Lipes (Wheeler Bryson Lipes) who she was happy with; they moved to Corpus Christi TX, then to North Carolina. He had been her boyfriend when they were students at George Washington University 40 years earlier.

Johnny Lipes
Johnny Lipes
Johnny Lipes died in 2005. He was famous for having performed an appendectomy as a 22-year-old high-school dropout pharmacist's mate — definitely not a doctor — in 1942 on a submarine (the USS Seadragon) in WWII. Although he saved the guy's life, the Navy was going to court-martial him but he became an instant celebrity and the Navy backed off and then just two months before his death in 2005, Lipes finally received the US Navy Commendation Medal. The appendectomy is dramatized in the movie Destination Tokyo with Cary Grant; the character Pills (played by William Prince) is Johnny Lipes.

Audie sent me some of the material about my father's side of the family, baptismal certificates, death notices, etc. She had tons of my dad's stuff (tools, for example) but I didn't feel like taking it; he did not die gracefully. In later years, she sent me his photo albums and papers by mail.

After Johnny Lipes died in 2006, she moved back to northern Virginia, to an assisted-living place:

Goodwin House
Bailey's Crossroads
3440 South Jefferson Street Apt 1036
Falls Church VA 22040-3129
We had a long phone conversations once or twice a year about family history and many other topics. In a talk we had in 2006 she told me the following (I've also filled in some of the blanks myself):
Daniel da Cruz [Dad and Pete's Portuguese father] was "given to the church" at age 14. He got malaria in Mozambique and went to Georgetown University hospital for treatment, where he met Gus, fell in love, etc. Anyway, the marriage didn't work out and somewhere between 1928 and 1934 he married Louise Burk, a teacher. My dad hated Louise and one day tried to kill her with an axe because she told him to wash the dishes; Pete had to fight him to keep him from doing it.
As Audrey said, "That's when they sent him away." When? To where??? This can't have been in 1925 when he arrived in Bozman; he was only seven years old! (I should have asked... too late now.)
Gus hated Louise too; once she went there and threw a brick through the window. I asked Audrey why dad always said Gus was demented, and that was the example she gave.

The way Pete met Leila was that her father was a professor at the American University of Beirut [where Pete was teaching].

Then in 2007:
Audrey told me that Gus killed herself because she had terminal cancer. Now I know why she had the dogs euthanized and killed the ducks. She also told me Dennis was crawling out of his bedroom window to meet a guy 15 years older (?) starting at age 9 (I find this hard to believe). Dad took Dennis to a movie (in Times Square) the night we were in NYC in 1959 and had to physically rescue him from a bunch of men who were trying to get their hands on him (Audie says, but I suppose it's plausible, Times Square was like that then). When Dennis was staying with Dad and Audie he had an affair with an American University professor, who came to dinner one night with disastrous results. Audie's daughter, Shawn Elizabeth Hall (the surname of Audie's first husband), born in 1950, had a Puerto Rican [or Mexican?] boyfriend and had some babies with him. One night they came to surprise Audie on her birthday, with a cake, etc. Dad (drunk), chased them away with a loaded pistol. Later Shawn broke with Audie and they hadn't spoken in 19 years (as of 2007). [Shawn herself has a slightly different version of this story; see above]

I haven't heard from Audie since 2007. Her daughter Shawn tells me that as of early 2020 she is still living at Goodwin house but suffers from Lewy Body dementia, is weak and is unable to carry on a coherent conversation, but happy and pleasant to be with.

Dad "retired" from the CIA at age 55 in 1973. Audie said he was actually fired by the Director, James Schlesinger, in the wake of the "family jewels" episode. According to my dad (in a scrapbook he kept about this) about 1000 were fired in all. A letter from James A Wilderotter, Associate Deputy Attorney General, dated Jan 3, 1975, subject "CIA Matters", lists some CIA transgressions, and the very first one is unlawful detention of a Russian defector for 2 years in the mid-1960s; this was dad's assignment. As of September 2016, the Family Jewels are online in a 702-page searchable PDF:


In which I find this on p.23:

MORI DocID 1451843

SUBJECT: Yuriy Ivanovich Nosenko

Yuriy Ivanovich Nosenko, an officer of the KGB, defected to a representative of this Agency in Geneva, Switzerland, on 4 February 1964. The responsibility for his exploitation was assigned to the then SR Division of the Clandestine Service and he was brought to this country on 12 February 1964. After initial interrogation by representatives of the SR Division, he was moved to a safehouse in Clinton, Maryland, from 4 April 1964 where he was confined and interrogated until 13 August 1965 when he was moved to specially constructed "jail" in a remote wooded area at XXXXX. The SR Division was convinced that he was a dispatched agent but even after a long period of hostile interrogation was unable to prove their contention and he was confined at XXXXX in an effort to convince him to "confess."

This Office together with the Office of General Counsel became increasingly concerned with the illegality of the Agency's position in handling a defector under these conditions for such a long period of time. Strong representations were made to the Director (Mr. Helms) by this Office, the Office of General Counsel, and the Legislative Liaison Counsel, and on 27 October 1967, the responsibility for Nosenko's further handling was transferred to the Office of Security under the direction of the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, then Admiral Rufus Taylor.

Nosenko was moved to a comfortable safehouse in the Washington area and was interviewed under friendly, sympatheic conditions by his Security Case Officer, Mr. Bruce Solie, for more than a year. It soon became apparent that Nosenko was bona fide and he was moved to more comfortable surroundings with considerable freedom of independent movement and has continued to cooperate fully with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and this Office since that time. He has proven to be the most valuable and economical defector this Agency has ever had and leads which were ignored by the SR Division were explored and have resulted in the arrest and prosecution XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX He currently is living under an alias; secured a divorce from his Russian wife and remarried an American citizen. He is happy, relaxed, and appreciative of the treatment accorded him and states "while I regret my three years of incarceration, I have no bitterness and now understand how it could happen."

My dad's name isn't mentioned anywhere in the Family Jewels but given his brutal temperament it's not unlikely that he was the hostile interrogator (although he himself says, "I was this fellow's original jailer. Stuck with him, off and on, for several years. Always treated him correctly; some did not."). In May 1973, David H. Bree, Chief, Soviet Bloc Division, writes of Nosenko that "Although his present attitude toward the Agency is quite satisfactory, the possibility exists that the press could cause undesireable publicity if it were to uncover the story."

The reason this was such a big deal was the connection to the JFK assassination. A classified (SECRET//NOFORN) article, "DCI John McCone and the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy" by Davide Robarge, in Studies in Intelligence (an internal CIA magazine), Vol.57, No.3 (September 2013), pp.13-18:

No Counterintelligence matter of McCone's tenure was so fraught with potential for conflict as the defection of KGB officer Yuri Nosenko in early 1964 and the ensuing controversy over his bona fides. By claiming to know about the KGB's dealings with Oswald, and by extension a Soviet role in the Kennedy assassination, Nosenko became potentially the most important defector in history. The conclusions of several senior operations officers that Nosenko was a disinformation agent led McCone to approve Nosenko's detention and hostile interrogation, beginning a protracted, much debated, and ultimately futile three-and-a-half-year effort to "break" him.

This goes on and on but does not mention my dad by name. In the end everybody agreed the USSR had nothing to do with assassination; on the contrary, we now know that JFK had opened up a "back channel" (through Pope John XXIII) with Khrushchev for making peace and backing off on the arms race.

For what it's worth, one of my dad's photo albums contain some photos from a "farewell luncheon" May 25th, 1973, for a bunch of people, including himself, presumably all fired from the CIA: Linda Bender, Tom Carroll, Charles Diller, David Glass, Newt Sprow, Michael Sydorko, Charlie Waskey. His scrapbooks also contain a lot of newspaper clippings about Watergate, as if he knew or was involved with those guys too.

My mother...


Acknowledgments to Cousin Sandy (Lund) Stout (my Mom's brother Zeke's daughter) for countless photos and stories, "1940" author Dana Yost, Cherri Schmig at the Minneota Mascot for sending numerous clippings, and Allyson Breyfogle and Jeremy Frie at the Minneota public school.

Carl Lund and Mom
Carl Lund and
Baby Vivian 1922*
Mom in 1946
Mom in 1946
Vivian Maxine Lund, born (at home) Minneota, Minnesota, March 5, 1922; died July 26, 2002, in Indio, California, at age 80, stroke. Height: 5'4".

Her father: Carl Nicolai Lund, born September 8, 1869, in Winchester, Wisconsin. Deserted the family somewhere between 1924 and 1930. Died in 1936 of cirrhosis of the liver in Long Beach CA. Mom's parents were both pretty old when she was born.

Mom's mother: Hannah Engeborg Johnson, born July 4th, 1883, Nordland Township, Minnesota; died Sept 30, 1954 in Minneota, Minnesota. Her Norwegian name Johanna Ingeborg Jansen is listed on her death certificate. I never met her, but my mother went to see her shortly before she died when I was 9 or 10. Hannah and Carl were married in Wisconsin on April 12th, 1902, lived in Minneota until 1905, then in Streeter, North Dakota (where Carl's parents lived), and returned to Minnesota, living in several towns until settling in in Minneota about 1920.

* There is some doubt about this identification. My Mom told me that the man in this picture was her father. Below you will see another man identified by other family members as Carl Lund. At this writing (September 2018), it remains a mystery.

Lund family residences

Within any given town, they might also have moved from house to house. For the most part we don't have addresses, but I know from my mother that she lived in at least two different houses in Minneota after she was born in 1922. Here's a map of the main places, click the image to enlarge it:

Lunds Map
Where the Lunds lived 1869-1954 (Carl came from Winchester WI; my Mom lived only in Minneota)

Years Town Authority
1869 Winchester, Winnebago County, Wisconsin 1870 census; marriage of Carl's parents, birth of Carl
1877-1899 Minneota[1], Lyon County, Minnesota Birth of Hannah in 1883[2] and all her brothers and sisters.
1900-1904 Minneota, Minnesota 1900 census, birth of Polly and Mabel, Polly marriage record, Hannah obituary
1905-1912 Streeter, North Dakota[3] 1910 census, births of Clarence and Marvin, Hannah obituary
1913-1920 Underwood[4], Otter Tail County, Minnesota 1920 census; Births of Ella, Raymond, and Gislie; Hannah obituary
1920-1954 Minneota, Minnesota Birth of Vivian, Doris, and Shirley, and death of Hannah[5]. At least two different houses during this period.
[1]  In census, church, and other records, the names Nordland, Eidsvold, and Minneota seem to be used interchangeably; Minneota is village at the border of Eidsvold and Nordland townships, in Lyon County. Nordland township should not be confused with the town of Nordland, which is about 100 miles north of Minneapolis. The use of different names for the same place (and the same name for different places) can make it seem that the Lunds moved around more than they actually did. The records between 1875 and 1900 show Hannah's parents living in Nordland, Minneota, Nordland, Minneota, Nordland... I suspect they were not moving every year, but that Nordland and Minneota were names for the same place used by different jurisdictions. John and Martina Johnson lived in Minneota until their deaths in 1925 and 1929, respectively.
[2]  Minnesota Births and Christenings Index 1840-1980; In Hannah's case also confirmed in church marriage record (hvor født = birthplace = Minneota). All of Hannah's brothers and sisters were born in Minneota or Nordland.
[3]  This is where Carl's parents lived. Carl's father Peter died in 1908, and was probably in decline in 1906, so I imagine the family moved to Streeter to help out. Clarence and Marvin were born there.
[4]  They are reported at different times as living in Underwood and in Maine Township, which are next door to each other; they might have moved or it might just be a variation in reporting jurisdictions. Hannah's obituary says they lived in Underwood but doesn't mention Maine.
[5]  Personal knowledge, Mom's birth certificate, and Hannah's obituary.

So Carl was in Minneota for some reason, met Hannah, they went to Carl's family's town to get married, then came straight back to Minnesota to live in Minneota for four years. Why Minneota? Because that's where Hannah's family (parents, brothers, and sisters) had lived since 1875. Meanwhile Carl's family moved from Wisconsin to North Dakota and Hannah, Carl, and children went to live on their farm for four years, then they came back to Minnesota and lived in Otter Tail County (Underwood and/or Maine) for 6-7 years until finally settling in Minneota.

Norwegian names

Lund was a common place name in Norway; it means "grove of trees", and there are countless places that fit that description. It was chosen as a surname upon entry to the USA, since Norwegians did not have surnames until the law of 1923 but our Norwegian ancestors came between 1842 and 1868. Usually they picked some variation of the current generation's patronymic, or else the name of their town or farm. Since, as far as I can tell, there is no town named Lund in Hedmark, it must have been the name of Peder's farm.

Traditionally Norwegian people were called name son-of-father's-name, or name daughter-of-father's-name, such as Jan Jansen or Kristin Jansdatter. Strictly speaking, the father's name is in genetive (possessive) case, like Peders, so if Carl had been born in Norway, he would be Carl Pedersen, i.e. "Carl, Peder's son". It might also be Petersson, but usually a single 's' is used in Norway, whereas in Sweden the suffix is usually "ssen". Norwegian immigrants to the USA who kept the patronymic as a last name would often change it to 'son' to be like English. And then, if the name had an English equivalent, that would often be substituted, so Pedersen might become Peterson. For women, "datter" or "dotter" is used instead of "sen" or "son". But any daughter patronymics that survived immigration either died out or were subsumed by marriage. Meanwhile, although most names of immigrants and their offspring were anglicized, there were exceptions in our family like Carl's half-sister Ragnhild, which sounds pretty Wagnerian to me.

How to spell "Lund"

Hope Lutheran Church
The original Hope Lutheran Church, where many Lunds are buried
Norwegian family records were kept in the Ministrialbog for Minneota Norsk-Evang. Lutherske Menighed, 1872-1910 (Ministry Register of the Minneota Norwegian-Evangelical Lutheran Fellowship) at Hope Lutheran Church in Minneota. This is a journal written in Norwegian by hand. Wherever the name Lund appears, it seems to be spelled "Lünd" (with an umlaut), and is transcribed that way in the digital version of the register. But it is not an umlaut; it is a convention in Norwegian handwriting (as it is in German) to put a line over the letter "u" to differentiate it from the letter "n". If you look carefully, you can see all the u's have a mark on top, which can look like a macron, an umlaut, a breve, or a tilde (so the shape doesn't matter). There is no word "Lünd" in the language, and for that matter there is no letter "ü" in Norwegian orthography. Strictly speaking, there is no umlaut at all, but Norwegians often write 'ö' instead of 'ø'.

Children of Carl of and Hannah Lund

I include this now because their names are used freely from here on and "you can't tell the players without a scorecard."

Lund Children

Children of Carl and Hannah Lund
Name a.k.a. Dates Schooling Civilian occupation(s) Left Spouse Years Kids
Palma Bertina Polly 1903-1995 10th PT&T telephone operator and later, executive ~1927 Harold Blanchette1927-//// 0
Mabel Josephine May 1904-1987 8th 1920s Lloyd Poehler1928-//// 2
Clarence J.†† 1906-1973 8th Janitor, carpenter, bartender, ship's cook 1920s Ethel Swanson 1926-//// 3
Marvin Selmer Zeke 1909-2001 7th Painter, bootlegger; later owned or managed various businesses (ice/beer/general distributing) in Long Beach, then Anaheim. ??? Mildred Graham 1934-???? 0
Alva Conrad ????-???? 1
Sally Strate 1947-//// 2
Merrie S. 1910-1910
Gislir Edwin 1911-1912
Ella Gladys 1913-2009 Managed Colonial House apts, Long Beach 1935 (none) 0
Raymond LesterRay 1917-1974 College grad Fireman, Long Beach 1930s? Barbara ????-???? 0
Gislie MelvinPug 1919-1995 12th Gas station (Minneota), Calship shipyard (Liberty ships, Los Angeles); Sudduth Tire Co. (Long Beach) 1940 Ruth Wise 1938-//// 1
Vivian Maxine 1922-2002 12th Joy movie theater ticket booth (Minneota), Drafts­woman (PT&T San Francisco), radio­telegraph operator (Navy Washington DC), medical/legal secretary (Long Beach) 1940 Francis F. da Cruz1944-1963 2
Frank Rider 1972-//// 0
Doris Viola 1924-1990 ≥10th (never) Earl Jasperson1949-???? 5
Clyde Burgress1960-???? 2
Shirley Ione 1925-1994 ≥8th (never) Leonard Hasel1954-1959 3
Norman Torgeson1966-???? 1
†  Served in the Navy in WWII (Lloyd Poehler died in Guadalcanal 1944)
‡  Served in the Army in WWII (Raymond in the Army Air Corps; Harold was in WWI, not WWII)
†† Served in Merchant Marine in WWII (Clarence was Chief Cook and was still at sea as late as 1955)
(All military Lunds and spouses were enlisted, not officers)


Carl Lund

Carl Lund 1913
Carl Lund 1913 (age 44)
Carl Lund about 1930
Carl Lund (?) about 1930
My grandfather Carl Nicolai Lund. The photo on the left turned up recently and is clearly the same person as the man in Mom's scrapbook, who my Mom told me was her father. The studio portrait on the right was passed down by Ella and is believed by some family members be Carl. But these are two different persons; leaving aside the total lack of resemblence, you can see that the younger Carl has a free earlobe while the older one has an attached earlobe. Luckily we have another, verified, photo of Carl from 1892 in which the face, the shape of the head, and the earlobe match the 1913 photo.

Anyway, whatever he looked like, Carl Lund wound up as a drifter, alcoholic, and eventually a derelict. On the 1900 census he's listed as a blacksmith; in 1910 as a farmer (on his parents' farm in Streeter, North Dakota); in 1920 a farmer (in Otter Tail County, Minnesota); on my mother's birth certificate his occupation is listed as "laborer". At some point between 1924 and 1930 Carl walked away from the family. My cousin Sandy, Mom's brother's Zeke's daughter, says "Carl, from what my dad said was almost never home, he was a blacksmith and traveled with the builders ... spent most of the time in the tavern and when he left Hannah with all those kids he told the owner of the General Store that when they had eaten all of what the house was worth he could have the house."

In 1930 Carl was living with daughter Mabel and her husband Lloyd and their baby girl in Casper, Wyoming, occupation "None", marital status "Divorced". He had left Hannah and the three youngest children — Vivian, Doris, and Shirley, who were still in school — and was mooching off his second child and her husband. To Hannah, Carl was as good as dead; she listed her marital status as "Widowed" on the 1930 census. Just as the Great Depression kicked in, she had to find a way to house and feed the three girls. I don't know the whole story but somehow she held it all together at least until 1940, when my Mom left home.

Mabel and Lloyd must have kicked Carl out because he made his way somehow to Long Beach, California, where several other of his children lived, including Sandy's father Zeke. The next thing I know is that he was found dead on the beach, January 27, 1936, liver failure. Sandy says, "Ella at age 95 still cried about her dad... she just remembers he bought her a red dress. I don't think she saw him [when he came to Long Beach]. Ella loved him for the good memory of a new red dress. They were poor and everyone had to work to support 10 kids. Seems if anyone knew he was in Long Beach we would have heard Dad say something about it and Carl was never mentioned." Certainly Mom never knew what happened to him because Frank Rider hired a detective to investigate, only to find out that he died on the very same beach that their apartment looked out on.

Carl's Norwegian family

Betsey and Peter Lund
Betsey and Peter Lund about 1885

Our Norway towns
Carl's father: Peder Nicolaisen, born 1841 in Løiten (now Løten), Hedmark, who became Peter Nicolai Lund when he arrived in the United States in 1868. Carl's mother: Bergit Høljesdatter, born Gransherad, Telemark, in 1834, who arrived in the US in 1842 and became Betsey Lund when (after a first marriage) she married Peter Lund.

Peter and Betsey met in Wisconsin, were married in 1869, lived in Winchester, Winnebago County, where the had four children: Carl Nicolai (1869), Martha Oline (1871), Eliza Elise Sophia (1874), and Melvin Bernard (1878). They also had Betsey's four children from her previous marriage to Knud Hanson, a Norwegian immigrant and Union soldier who had died in 1865 in Andersonville prison camp in Georgia: Ragnhild (1857), Caroline (1858), Anna Maria (1861), and Henry (1863).

Lund family
Betsey and Peter Lund family 1880
Lund family
Betsey and Peter Lund family 1892

These extraordinary photos showed up on EBay, cousin Sandy found them; the most amazing part is that they came with captions saying who everybody is; Click the photos to see the captions. Carl is on the left in the 1880 photo and third from the left, top row, in the 1892 photo.

Peder Lund
Peder Lund[8]
I have to say that the Peter (Peder) Lund in these group photos appears to have a normal body, whereas there is an authenticated photo (right) of Peder Lund in the book Wisconsin My Home[8], and he is very small. The book says Bergit "..was a tall woman and ... he was a short hunchback ..."; elsewhere she says "this small Norwegian man, who had been so crippled with some kind of rheumatism when he was eleven years old that he had a big bump on his back and chest. Both his head and arms were the same size as any other grown-up man, but his legs were so short that I don't believe he could have been over four feet tall. Because of this deformity his parents in Norway had educated him very well ... [he soon married the [Civil War] Widow Hansen (Bergit)] [and] there were four children [including Carl] born to this union, and a better father, husband, and stepfather has never lived, I am sure."

Peder was a prominent figure in the in the Winchester Norwegian community: church klokker (sextant) and bell-ringer, hymn leader, town assessor (of Winchester), parochial school teacher (where children learned not only the Lutheran religion but also to speak, read, and write Norwegian), night-school teacher, farmer, story-teller, and comforter of the sick and dying.

I'm inclined to believe the man in the group photos is indeed Peder Lund, not only because he is identified as such in the photo legend, but also because Sandy ran the photos at the top of this section through a face-matching app with an 81.37% look-alike score.

Hannah Lund

Hannah Lund 1940s
Hannah Lund 1940s
Hannah Lund 1930ss
Hannah Lund 1930s
Hannah Lund
Hannah Lund
(standing) 1902
My grandmother Hannah Engeborg Lund, born Ingeborg Johanna Johnson (anglicization of Janssen, her father's patronymic), raised ten children in conditions of unremitting chaos and hardship, as far as I can tell. Carl was not a good husband; he was never home, he drank up much of whatever money he managed to earn, and he deserted the family when my Mom was somewhere between four and eight years old and Doris and Shirley were very little.

I know little about the early years, but Sandy says her father Zeke (who was born in 1909) remembers living in a sod house; that's like a hole in the ground, typical of many newly-arrived Scandinavian immigrants who settled in northern plains states, where there are few trees; this would have been in either North Dakota or Minnesota, nobody is left alive who can say for sure. He remembered "having only flour and water to eat and if they were lucky they could sprinkle cinnamon on it for flavor." My own Mom had a similar story about eating snow.

Despite all this, and despite the fact that all the children except Doris and Shirley had gotten the heck out of Minnesota at the earliest possible moment, most of them without finishing school, Hannah was much loved by her children. Mom, like all her brothers and sisters, couldn't wait to get out but when she was still on the cross-country train she was already homesick...

I am more than 3000 feet above sea level in the Rockie Mts. It's 11:30 now, Sunday morning. It's all very wonderful. We stopped in Denver this morning and met some of the Jack B's wife's relations. Harold [Polly's husband] is shaving. There hasn't been time to write so I bought this [foldout postcard mailer] for 25¢. Harold's been feeding me so much I'm stuffed. There is snow on the mts. Now we're going thru an 11 mile tunnel. Will be in S.F. 9:35 Mon. nite. Tell all the kids hello I miss Viola [Doris] all ready. Phyllis Knight bought stockings in Marshall [Minnesota]. I had dinner over to Blanchette [Polly's married name]. I can't write its so bumpy. I'm afraid I'm going to be lonesome.
Postmarked June 11, 1940, in East Portal, Colorado, addressed simply to "Hanna Lund, Minneota, Minn" (notice the touches of "Fargo" dialect towards the end). I guess Polly and Harold must have come out from San Francisco to meet her halfway somehow.

So now it was just Hannah, Doris, and Shirley left in Minneota, less mouths to feed but also less people to earn money. The offspring who went west, I'm not sure how they all managed it, but Zeke worked his way across; at one point as a logger and others as a farm hand. Later on, in the 1940s and 50s the ones who had money like Polly and Zeke were able to send money to Hannah in Minneota and also to brothers and sisters down on their luck.

Hannah Marker
Hanna's marker
We (da Cruz's) were still pretty poor while Hannah was alive, but somehow my Mom got plane tickets to go see her in March 1954 when she was dying, the first visit since she left home. Maybe Polly sent her the money. I have postcards from Mom when she was there; she sounds happy being where she grew up and with her family and friends. Ella went to Minneota after Mom and stayed with Hannah until she died. Somehow Hannah's funeral and burial were paid for and an obituary was printed in the Minneota Mascot:
Mrs. Lund dies; Rites Held Monday
Mrs. Hannah Lund, a resident of this community for years, died at her home Thursday of last week after a lingering illness of several months. ¶ She was buried here Monday afternoon following services at Hope Lutheran Church. ¶ Rev. Ott Dale officiated at the funeral rites, with the following acting as pallbearers: ¶ Arby Furgeson, Orrin Hanson, Henry Johnson, Irving Johnson, and Richard Lund. ¶ Hannah Engeborg Lund, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John B. Johnson, was born on July 4, 1883, in Nordland township. ¶ At the time of her death she was 71 years old. ¶ On April 12, 1902 she was united in marriage to Carl N. Lund and they first made their home in this community. ¶ In 1905 they moved to Streeter, N.D., and later to Underwood, Minnesota. ¶ They returned to Minneota in 1920 and since that time this has been Mrs. Lund's home. ¶ To this union 11 children were born of which 10 are living. ¶ She was preceded in death by her husband, one son, parents, five brothers and sisters. ¶ Mrs. Lund is survived by her 10 children: Palma (Mrs. Harold Blanchette) of San Francisco, Calif.; Mabel (Mrs. Mabel Poehler) of Sheridan, Wyoming; Clarence, Marvin, Raymond, and Gislie of Long Beach, Calif.; Ella of Glendale, Calif.; Vivian (Mrs. Francis da Cruz of Falls Church, Virginia; Doris (Mrs. Earl Jasperson) of Storden, Minn.; Shirley (Mrs. Leonard Hasel of Minneota. ¶ She is also survived by two brothers, Andrew Johnson of Ivanhoe, Gislie Johnson of Minneota; and two sisters, Mrs. Theo Furgeson of Minneota, Mrs. Carl Wigness of Fessenden, N.D.; 16 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

Hannah's Norwegian Family

Hannah's father: John Bjorn Johnson, birth name Bjørn Jansen (or Janssen) in 1852 in Sauherad, Telemark, Norway (see map); arrived USA 1861, died 1925. Hannah's mother: Martina Halvorson, born Simonine Mathene Andersdatter in Bamle, Telemark, who took the surname Halvorson (her father's patronymic) when she arrived in the US in 1861, and became Martina Johnson when she married John Bjorn Johnson in 1875. They lived in Iowa and Wisconsin before settling in Minnesota, and had 12 children.

John Bjorn Johnson
John Bjorn Johnson

Martina Halvorson
Martina Halvorson
Children of John Bjorn Johnson and Martina Halvorson
Name Dates Born Died
Bernard Johnson* 1875-1953 Minnesota Minnesota
Anne/Anna Johnson 1877-1961 Minneota MN Lincoln MN
John Johnson 1878-1925 Nordland MN Nordland MN
Stener Johnson 1880-1907 Nordland MN Hendricks MN
Johanna Ingeborg Johnson** 1883-1954 Minneota MN Minneota MN
Andrew Johnson 1884-1960 Nordland MN Hendricks MN
Joseph Martinias Johnson 1887-1946 Nordland MN Lyon County MN
Julia Clareth Johnson 1890-1946 Nordland MN Stettler, Alberta
(baby girl) 1892-1892 Nordland MN Nordland MN
Ella Andrea Johnson 1893-1945 Nordland MN Todd MN
Tilda Nellie Johnson 1896-1982 Nordland MN San Leandro CA
Selmer Adolph Johnson 1898-1945 Nordland MN Fort Dodge IA
Gislie Louis Johnson 1900-1984 Nordland MN Sioux Falls SD
Bear in mind, Nordland and Minneota are most likely the same place.
*  Bernard and his wife Annie Kass were close with Hannah her whole life.
** Johanna is Hannah.

Summary of Mom's Norwegian immigrant grandparents

Norwegian name American name Born-died Arrived From Relation
Peder Nicolaisen Peter Nicolai Lund 1841-1908 1868 Løiten, Hedmark Carl's father
Bergit Høljesdatter Betsey Lund 1834-1926 1842 Granserad, Telemark Carl's mother
Bjørn Jansen John Bjorn Johnson 1852-1925 1861 Sauherad, Telemark Hannah's father
Simonine Mathene Andersdatter Martina Halvorson Johnson 1859-1921 1861 Bamle, Telemark Hannah's mother

So all of Mom's grandparents were immigrants from southeastern Norway, three from Telemark and one from Hedmark, and both couples met in the USA. Meanwhile on Bergit's side we have 4 generations of documented ancestors before her going back to Hans Olsen (1696-1740) and Gunlov Såmåldatter (born 1696) and on Simonine's side (Hanna's mother), five generations going back to Jon Nilson (1710-1763) and Live Knudsdatter (1713-1750).


Minneota Station 1908
Minneota station and grain elevators 1908
Minneota aerial view 1938
Minneota aerial view 1938
Minneota Main Street
Minneota Main Street (before it was paved)
Minneota is a tiny town on the Yellow Medicine River in the plains of southwestern Minnesota. It grew up around a railroad station built in 1877 for the coal-burning trains to take on water from the river for their boilers, and was incorporated in 1881 in the middle of a vast flat landscape of farmland and featured huge grain elevators and warehouses where the farmers brought their crops and livestock be taken to market on the train. In 1938 the town was a grid of 6 by 6 streets (give or take) and only the main street (1st Street) was paved. Farmers brought goods to town in horse-drawn wagons, and there were still hitching posts in front of the stores. The town ends abruptly at the farmers's fields, there were and are no suburbs. To this day, houses in Minneota have no fences, and it's not much bigger than it was then.

Minneota Big Store
Inside The Big Store
Minneota Big Store
Minneota Big Store
Although the population was only 1065 in 1940, Minneota had six grocery stores, three hardware stores, the Big Store (a 1900-era department store), five churches, five agricultural businesses, five cafés, four auto dealers, two gas stations, a drug store, a jeweler, a bakery, a pool hall (Dero's), a Public school and a Catholic school, and the Joy movie theater (where my Mom was cashier), plus a doctor, a dentist, a vet, and an undertaker. This is because Minneota served the nearby towns (which had very little in the way of retail) and the farms scattered over a vast expanse; it was the only place to buy stuff for hundreds (thousands?) of square miles to the west, north, and east. The larger town of Mashall was 12 miles to the Southeast, but if you were coming from the north, why go an extra 24 miles to Marshall and back if you could buy what you needed in Minneota?

Minneota Farmers and Merchants Bank
Farmers & Merchants Bank
Minneota bank clock
Bank clock
Minneota's population was Norwegian, Icelandic, and Belgian: some immigrants, others children and grandchildren of immigrants. The Belgians were Catholic Walloons (Dutch speakers); the Norwegians and Icelanders were Lutherans, with separate churches. The Norwegians and Icelanders went to the public school, the Belgians to the Catholic school. In 1940, the average annual family income was under $900, far below the national average. 24 Minneotans worked for the WPA that year. It was normal for families to have lots of kids; 41% of the population were children. Telephones existed but not everybody had them; phone numbers were two digits. The town had electricity but it was only just beginning to reach the farms through an electrical cooperative funded by FDR's Rural Electrification Administration. Even today, 20% of Minnesotans get their electricity from cooperatives.
Dana Yost points out that "Minnesota was well ahead of the rest of the nation as far as number of co-operatives and still is ... Minnesota was, indeed, a state with socialist tendencies from the 1890s up to World War II, largely as off-shoots of farm activist organizations, labor unions, etc. Interestingly, the left/socialist organizations started in more rural areas than urban ... From 1915-1920, an anti-banking, anti-big business organization known as the NonPartisan League had more than 50,000 members in Minnesota. It started as a farm-activist group but supported flat-out socialist policies in many areas and supported the state equivalent of nationalizing grain elevators ... (it gave) rise to the Farmer-Labor political party, which remains intact today in Minnesota as part of the Democrat-Farmer-Labor Party." Minneota itself had a gas-and-oil cooperative and a dairy co-op.
The Depression was as hard on Minneota as it was throughout the midwest: drought, farm failures, food shortages, lost jobs, and even an uprising of foreclosed farmers, but Minneota survived. My Mom was only seven years old when the Depression started, and hard times were all she knew during her formative years.
References - Source material and recommended reading and viewing...
  1. Yost, Dana, 1940, Journal of a Midwestern Town, Story of an Era, Ellis Press (2017), 665pp. A whole book about Minneota in the pivotal year of 1940.
  2. Federal Writers Project, The WPA Guide to Minnesota (1938); reissued by the Minnesota Historical Society.
  3. Kenney, Dave, Minnesota Goes to War: The Home Front during World War II, Minnesota Historical Society Press (2004).
  4. Haugen, Einar, Language Conflict and Language Planning, Harvard University Press (1966). Language and spelling standardization and reform in Norway.
  5. Haugen, Einar, The Norwegian Language in America, Indiana University Press (1969). The growing problems in communication between Norwegian immigrants in America and their relatives back home.
  6. Rølvaag, Ole Edvart, Giants in the Earth, Harper (1924-25). A novel about Norwegian immigrants to the upper midwest in the late 1800s. Rølvaag lived near Minneota.
  7. Moberg, Vilhelm, The Emigrants series of novels (The Emigrants, Unto a Good Land, The Settlers, The Last Letter Home, 1951-61). About Swedes rather than Norwegians but the same experience. Also available as two excellent (if depressing) films: The Emigrants (1971), and The New Land (1972).
  8. Oleson, Thurine, Wisconsin My Home, University of Wisconsin Presss (1950), 2012 edition. This is the autobiography of Thurine Oleson (1866-1990), as told to her daughter Erna Oleson Xan. Peder and Birgit Lund lived next door and appear throughout the book.

The Lunds in Minneota

Baby Mom
Baby Mom
Mom, Doris, Shirley
Mom, Doris, Shirley
Mom in 1937
Mom in 1937
Minneota winter
Mom had a whole photo album of Minnesota and her time in the Navy, but it disappeared after she died. There were photos of the house, of her as a little girl, and even of a snowfall so deep that people went from place to place through snow tunnels... treasures she had preserved her whole life. Luckily, on a visit to Big Bear in the 1980s, I took black and white photos of all the pages with a film camera. But un-luckily, almost all of my photos-of-photos were overexposed and washed out. I've done my best with Photoshop to rescue the faded ones you see in this section.

When Mom was born in 1922, the Lunds lived in a modest two-story house on South Jefferson Street which was big enough for Hannah, Carl, and the seven children (only Polly had left home, and Doris and Shirley were yet to arrive). Carl was presumably still contributing something to the support of the family, but I don't know the details. Even so, Mom said her mother was on welfare ("home relief") and took in laundry but that still wasn't enough to pay the rent so the kids would have to miss school to babysit or do other chores to get some money. Ella, for example, was farmed out as a live-in babysitter in faraway places for weeks and months at a time. Of course no food went to waste; nobody was a picky eater. Even in later life, when Mom ate an apple, she ate the whole thing, core, seeds, and all. When she ate chicken, she ate the bones too.

Minneota Public School
Minneota Public School
Minneota Joy Theater
Minneota Joy Theater
By the time Mom was a teen, no later than 1935, they moved to a tiny one-room house with one bed for everybody, right across from the school. The rent was $10 a month. Carl and seven of the children had already left home, so it was just Hannah, Mom, Doris, and Shirley. Mom worked as a cashier at the Joy movie theater ("Hollywood glamour available year-round"), which allowed her to stay in school and eventually to graduate.

Vivian Lund 1940
Vivian Lund 1940
Minneota HS class of 1940
Minneota HS class of 1940
I know that Mom was popular in high school, acted in school plays, was a big fan of Swing music, liked to dance, and probably had boyfriends. Dana Yost says there were none of the normal kinds of teenage hangouts in Minneota, such as a drug store or soda fountain, but the Big Store had an "opera hall" upstairs with a dance floor, where touring bands sometimes gave dance concerts. For any real nightlife they'd have had to go to the Blue Moon in Marshall, 12 miles away, but I don't know if Minneota teenagers drove cars in those days. But in any case, the April 1940 Mexican-themed Junior-Senior prom was the event of the season and I'm sure it was a big deal for Mom. The photos are from the from the Minneota Mascot, high-school graduation issue, June 1940; Mom is 4th row, 4th from the left, full-size cutout to its right. The accompanying Mascot article noted that "First choice for school queen and generally accepted as the class beauty, Vivian Lund says that everything is 'Jake' with her and has been for the last decade." ["Jake" is 1940 hep-cat talk.]

Mom's houses

First house
First house
Mom birth house?
House at 111 South Jefferson Street
I was interested to know if the houses where Mom lived were still standing. A breakthrough came when Sandy spoke with Betty VanMoorlehem (born in 1931), daughter of Mom's brother Clarence. Betty said the Lunds' first house was at 106 South Jefferson Street; the house that is there today, although very small, does not match Mom's photo at all. So I looked around the immediate area in Google Street View and across the street I found the house shown in the color photo, at 111 South Jefferson Street, right next door to Hope Lutheran Church. It seems to be a perfect match; look at the configuration of the roof, gables, and second-story windows. Clearly there have been considerable additions since then (and the chimney moved) but this could be the house where Mom was born, and Doris, and Shirley.

House at 400 E. 3rd St.
Newer house the same address
First house
Second house
Betty said the second house, the one by the school, was at 400 East 3rd Street, on the corner with North Jackson Street. The color photo from Google Street View shows the house on that corner as of 2013; clearly it bears no resemblence Mom's photo. Betty also said that later (after Mom and Doris moved out), "Shirley and Hannah also lived in the little house north of Bill Holm's house. She remembers that Hannah would give Shirley a nickel and Shirley would go down to Meger's Cafe and drink pop while other girls their age would be working for someone to raise money." Sandy, repeating a story of those days passed down by one of Mom's little sisters, said that this house "had no running water...they were very poor...she hated to go to school because she could smell how bad she stunk."

The girls who drowned

The search for the girls
The search for the girls
A melancholy postscript on the Lunds of Minneota. Doris and Shirley still lived there in 1960; Doris was married with Earl Jasperson and they had five children; Shirley was married with Leonard Hasel and had four children, including one from a previous marriage. One day Doris's 8-year-old daughter, Judy Ann, and Shirley's 4-year old daughter Cheryl went out to play and never came back. They fell into the Yellow Medicine River and drowned. CLICK HERE to read the story in the Minneota Mascot. It was a blow that Doris and Shirley never recovered from and, I suspect, the reason they never left Minneota.

San Francisco

Polly and Mom
Polly, Mom 1940
All of the Lund kids but the last two left home as soon as they had a chance. Polly was the first to leave at some point between 1920 and 1927; she got a job at Pacific Telephone & Telegraph in San Luis Obispo as a telephone operator, transferred to San Francisco in 1935, and rose through the ranks to become important enough to be able to bring some of her sisters and brothers to California and, in some cases, got them jobs there too. My Mom for one, who went there right after she graduated high school in 1940 and became a telephone company draftswoman, a job Polly arranged for her, and she lived with Polly for about a year. [SEE NAVY WAVES GALLERY]

Mom in the Navy
Mom in the Navy, Cedar Falls Iowa 1942
Mom in the Navy
Mom in the Navy, Cedar Falls
Mascot Article
Mascot article
Besides her PT&T job, Mom also got training as a private secretary, learning typing and Gregg shorthand. When the USA entered World War II in December 1941 she wanted to do her part so, while still working, she joined the American Womens Voluntary Service, sold War Bonds, and also went to night school in radio communications. There was talk that the armed services would open up to women and she wanted a head start. By this time she had moved out of the house of Polly (who, Mom said, treated her like a slave) and lived at the YWCA. As soon as she finished her training she signed up for the just-created women's branch of the Navy, the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) November 14, 1942. Her hometown newspaper, the Minneota Mascot, published an article about it (this, along with most of her Navy pictures, were in a scrapbook I do not have, but later I obtained a copy of the article from the people at the Mascot, which still exists and has all its back issues in binders). She had her six weeks of Basic Training at the US Naval Training School in Cedar Falls, Iowa — not at Lehman College as I had fantasized (Lehman — Hunter in those days — is near my Bronx apartment and was the only WAVES basic training center from 1943 onwards. Then they received advanced training in their assigned specialties at Oklahoma A&M, Indiana University, University of Wisconsin at Madison, Smith College, Miami University of Ohio, Georgia State Collge, Burdett College, etc [11].

Waves Radio School
Waves Radio School 1943
Waves in Cedar Falls
Waves in Cedar Falls 1943

After Basic Training in Cedar Falls, Mom went to Navy Radio School at "RS NYD Washington DC" (Radio School Washington Navy Yard) in Anacostia. She excelled as a military code operator. Just like my dad, she could transcribe incoming Morse code onto a clunky old manual typewriter at 120wpm, and nobody could transmit code faster than she could; a special side-to-side code key was built for her that had all kinds of springs, balances, counterweights, and adjustment points... I think it's called a "semiautomatic paddle key"... purely mechanical but she could make it "autorepeat" at lightning speed, which took enormous skill (we had it in our house when I was little; I have no pictures but it looked a bit — not exactly — like this one).

Mom Navy portrait
Mom Navy portrait 1942

Mom Navy pictures
Mom Navy pictures (and Dennis)
She was so good that she was assigned to Navy headquarters in Washington DC, nerve center for the naval war in all theaters, where she worked as a "Radio Wave"; as a recruiting poster said, "receiving dispatches direct from the battle fleet ... an important link between the men who plan strategy ashore and those who carry it out at sea." She met my father who wound up there too, having some five years experience as a radioman on ships such as the USS Omaha. Unfortunately I know next to nothing about my Mom's years at the Navy Department, except that she lived in temporary barracks near the Reflecting Pool, between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument and close to the Navy building. One interesting thing about the WAVES, though: it was the only branch of US military service that was fully integrated in WWII (but starting only in December 1944). The framed pictures are of Mom in the Navy in Washington DC. I don't have copies of them.

Mom and Dad March 14, 1944
Wedding day
Mom and Dad wedding portrait 1944
Wedding portrait
My mother and father were married March 14, 1944, in Washington DC in their Navy uniforms, most likely in one of the Navy buildings, perhaps the observatory (right photo).

She was released from the Navy May 10, 1944, two months after getting married, because she was pregnant (official reason: "Convenience of the government"). If that had not happened, her enlistment would have ended March 2, 1946 (six months after the Japanese surrender on September 2nd, 1945 — all wartime hitches were for "duration plus six months"). Fifty-some years later she received a citation from President Bush (W) thanking her for her service. I know that her time in the Navy was a high point of her life; she had a lot of friends — it was like going to college and living in the girls' dorm — and she was doing important War work. In later years she was proud to display the photos of herself in uniform. My great regret with her, as with all my family, is that I never asked them about their lives.

References - Source material and recommended reading and viewing...
  1. Bachner, Evan, "Making Waves - Navy Women of World War II", Abrams, New York (undated). A big coffee-table book of photographs of WAVES during the War.
  2. Mundy, Liza, "Code Girls - The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II", Hachette Books (2017). My Mom was not a code breaker as far as I know but she transmitted messages they had encrypted and received encrypted messages for them to decrypt. Chapter 6, "Q for Communications", is about the WAVES codebreakers and the buildings they worked in.
  3. WWII Women Cracking the Code, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum: "A major part of the WAVES’ job was building and operating the Navy Cryptanalytic Bombe, a 2.5 - ton electromechanical device developed to break the four-rotor enigma messages from German U-boats. Six hundred WAVES worked three eight-hour shifts, seven days a week at the National Cash Register Company (NCR) in Dayton, Ohio, where they learned how to solder and connect wires, read electrical diagrams, assemble rotors, and build 121 of these machines with no idea what they were building or why. It was tiresome, tedious work that allowed no room for error. After the first successful Bombe run in May 1943, the WAVES traveled with their Bombes by rail back to the Navy Annex in Washington, DC, where they operated the machines through the end of the war." The Navy Annex was about four miles north of the Navy building (see this page).
  4. Video: U.S. Navy Cryptanalytic Bombe, National Cryptological Museum.
  5. "Navy Service - A short History of the United States Naval Training School (Womens Reserve), Bronx, New York", US Navy Training Service (1944).
  6. "Here Come the WAVES", Hollywood feature film; Mark Sandrich (Director), Paramount (1944). Includes location shots at USS Hunter.
  7. "Homefront Heroines: The WAVES of World War II", documentary film; Kathleen M. Ryan (Director) [website] (2012).
  8. The little-known story of the Navy women codebreakers who helped Allied forces win WWII, CNN, 4 August 2020.
  9. Munch, Janet Butler, Making Waves in the Bronx: The Story of the U.S. Naval Training School (WR) at Hunter College, City University of New York (1993).
  10. Christine Heidenrich, Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service: The WAVES PROGRAM in World War II, National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC (2020).
  11. Speciality Training, at Homefrontheroines.com, accessed 30 November 2023.

After the Navy

Mom and Dad on a date 1947
Mom & Dad on a date, DC Aug 1947
Mom was a housewife for 20 years. Like many postwar mothers, she didn't have a job; she stayed home all day to take care of the house and kids. I don't think I knew any women who had jobs when I was a child, except my teachers (and my friend George Gilmer's mother who had been social worker before marriage, and then worked in a church office and then at AG Bell, Alexander Graham Bell Society for the Deaf). In those days, even a meager salary from one single 9-5 job was enough to support a family, even with a house and a car. My dad got out of the Navy in 1946 and had bought a house by 1947 (with a GI loan, of course), supporting a wife and one child and making mortage payments on one paycheck. Three years later, a second child and a car. He left the house for work at 8:30am and got home 5:30. The whole time I lived at home (until 1962), his salary was the only income.

Mom did a lot of things with me when I was little… she taught me to read and write, she made flashcards for math, and sometimes we even played together (I remember some races, and I remember a dough fight we had once when she was baking bread). The only time she ever asserted herself with us was when we refused to eat something; she could never let food go to waste.

I reconnected with childhood friend Jimmie Walker in 2014 (after 58 years). One of the first things he said to me was "[your Mom] used to just appear with a platter of orange slices or other goodies. She was like an angel — perfect in every way. All the other boys wanted a mom like Vivian da Cruz. I think of her often and remember how very beautiful she was." It's true; back in those days there used to be chain gangs of Black convicts working on the dirt road in front of our house; she'd bring them orange slices and big pitchers of cold water. George Gilmer, who I've known since 1947 said "I always thought that your Mom was one of the prettiest and nicest Mom's in our neighborhood."

At some point in the early 1950s my father's personality changed. I remember him being pretty normal when I was little; I liked him, I wasn't scared of him. He and Mom got along well and even had some funny routines, like long conversations in Navy jargon or Morse code. But now he was angry all the time, yelling at us, beating us, and he subjected Mom to withering verbal abuse every night when he came home, especially over dinner. Then after dinner he drank until he passed out. So that was Mom's (and our) life for about ten years.

In October 2018 Danny sent me scans of letters from Dad to Pete, 1941-1959. In them he speaks admiringly and at length of Mom. Throughout the first five years of marriage, the only anger he expressed was towards greedy money-hungry doctors and wishing for "socialized medicine". Just before Dennis was born in April 1949, Dad and Mom were already planning on a third child, a girl to be named Delores (not Maritornes, he joked — a character from Don Quixote, which he had just read, probably to impress his dad, who was a professor of it and even had published a translation, which was no doubt the one Dad had read). Mom's first suicide attempt was in mid-1953. Dad concluded it was because the house was too small and that's why he built the addition.
My Mom was the typical stoic Norwegian. She put up with dad's abuse and other hardships all that time, never complaining, but withdrew; she didn't talk about herself, she never expressed opinions, and after things got bad around the house, she never expressed any emotion, never laughed or cried; she wasn't affectionate, she just did her cooking and cleaning and sewing all day every day and put up with Dad. When I read "Giants in the Earth", I pretty much recognized my Mom in Per Hansa's wife, Beret.

Mom and me on 19th Street 1945
Mom & me 19th Street 1945
Mom and me on 19th Street 1945
19th Street 1945
Dennis, Mom, and Me Chesterbrook 1951
Chesterbrook 1951
Mom giving me a haircut
Haircut 1952
Mom and Dennis Chesterbrook 1952
Mom & Dennis Chesterbrook 1952
Us in 1952
At Gus's house 1952
Aunt Polly
With Aunt Polly 1952

Although I never saw dad hit my Mom (Audie, Dad's second wife, whose back he once broke, told me that he did), he was unremittingly cruel to her, eventually driving her to try to kill herself at least four times between 1953 and 1959. After each of these incidents (Dennis and I would come home from school to find her unconscious from pills or in a bloody bathtub), Dad would commit her to a mental hospital for months of shock treatments, which — even at the time — I didn't think was right because she wasn't crazy, just miserable. In July 2014, Jimmie Walker said:

I will fill in what I remember. Apparently, she tried using the sleeping pills twice. Early one morning, you and Denny came over to my house and asked if I could help you wake up your mom. You had tried pinching her, shaking her and yelling at her to no avail. When I could not wake her, I ran back home and woke-up my mother. She ran over and then called the ambulance. Then I recall the time she got a razor blade, locked the bathroom door and cut her wrists in the bathtub. Her life must have been a "living hell" because of him. One time he physically abused me and left marks on my chest and stomach. My dad marched next door and rang the door bell. When your dad opened his front door, my dad said "Frank, if you ever, ever, touch my son again, I will mop up this sidewalk with your bodily remains!" He could have done it, too, because I've heard stories about how my dad beat-up six guys at once inside of Coppicks Bar in Vienna.
Six months after writing that, Jimmie was dead.

Frankfurt, Germany, 1959-61

As described in the Frankfurt chapter, Dad was sent to work in Frankfurt for a few years in 1959, bringing Mom, Dennis, and me along. We lived in a German apartment for a few months and then moved to Army housing.
Mom passport photo 1961
Mom passport photo 1961
Mom tried to kill herself again shortly after we arrived. Looking through one of dad's albums I find this comment:
One night in Frankfurt, about July 1959, the whole gang decided to attend the "Merry Widow" ... Henri was in Paris translating for Eisenhower (when Krushchev chewed him out) and my spouse was in the rubber room at the 97th General Hospital. So I escorted Betty.
Nice guy. Anyway as a result of being strapped down and electrocuted so many times over so many years, and who-knows-what mind-numbing drugs, there was very little left. She had no emotions, no opinions, no engagement, no curiosity, she just went through the motions of living. The only thing that kept her going was her secret plan to escape, and finally she did it, but both she and Dennis were wrecked for life by that monster. I don't say that because Dennis was gay, even though that might well have had something to do with my dad's bedtime romps with him every night when he was a child, but he couldn't function in life; he couldn't graduate from high school, he couldn't earn a living as a musician no matter how talented he was, and he just bounced around from one situation to another where somebody else took care of him. And if you think about how my mom was when we went to visit her, she never really had anything to say. Once she was free of dad, the pressure was off but she was empty. If you asked her how she was doing, she'd say "Everything is wonderful!". And it was.

But what I didn't know was that she had been truly happy in the hospital. She had long breaks from Dad and she made good, deep friends there. One day some of her hospital friends paid her a surprise visit when I was home (and dad wasn't). Suddenly she was a person I had never seen before: lively, laughing, joking, saying outrageous things. It was the only time I ever saw her so lively and animated; I imagine that's how she was in high school and the Navy.

In later life I wondered why Dad turned so mean and brutal, especially since his mother and father were good people, and his brother was a charming, easygoing guy. According to Audrey, when he got Mom pregnant he had no intention of marrying her, but was ordered to by his CO, a random event to which all of us owe our existence. Audie says that's why he hated Mom so much, that she "trapped" him, condemning him to the life of a poor working stiff with no chance of becoming a big shot.

In 1976 my brother Dennis told me that that dad had told him that he was one of the unwitting subjects in the CIA's experiments with mind-altering drugs (Project MKultra) in the early 1950s. All I know is that he was angry and full of hate until about his 70th year when he calmed down a bit, but he had abused his own body so badly and for so long that he would only live another couple years.

Me at Mom's hospital
Me at Mom's hospital, mid-1950s
I've never had anal­ysis or psy­cho­therapy, but I do try to figure stuff out. Is there some part of me that resents my mom for trying to abandon us so many times? I don't think so but I do know that every time she disappeared into the mental hospital for a month or two and we only had dad around, it was pretty frightening. Dennis and I both believed he could kill us at any moment. I had nightmares for decades about that, even when we lived on 118th Street (I was in my 30s and 40s).

Trip to Norway, 1960

Mom and Dennis in Norway
Mom and Dennis in Norway 1960
As noted in another chapter, in the summer of 1960 while we were living in Germany, my dad took us all on an epic road trip that included Northern Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Despite his cruelty towards my mother, he wanted to fulfill her dream of seeing her ancestral homeland; she had a storehouse of Norwegian lore and she told us many stories of the Norwegian countryside when we were children that were passed down from her grandparents, all of whom emigrated from Norway. But she had no idea where her family had lived. Anyway we covered a lot of ground and she was able to experience many aspects of the country thanks to my dad, for which he deserves credit.

Long Beach, California, 1963-80

Dennis 1963
Free at last!  Dennis and Mom
in Long Beach, 1963
Soon after I joined the Army 1963, one day while my dad was at work my mom took Dennis and flew to California (Dad said she cleaned out the joint bank account, Frank Rider said there was no joint bank account and she had been saving pocket change for years until she had enough). In her quiet way, she freed herself and Dennis from his brutal domination and she put 3000 miles between them. From there she obtained a divorce, and probably got some restraining orders too. At first she stayed with brother Zeke and his wife Sally and daughters Sandy and Mary in Anaheim.
In late 2018, Cousin Sandy sent me a six-page typed letter Dad sent to Mom in August 1963, shortly after she left him. It's threatening, sarcastic, cruel, and — given the degree to which he had abused her for so long — delusional. As though he is the aggrieved party, not Mom. It confirms my impression that the reason he hated her so much is that starting around 1952 or -53 she "denied [him his] marital rights" for reasons I can only imagine; this leaves open the frightening question of whether he forced himself on her after (or before) that. He describes his marriage to "an impractical and ignorant woman" (and elswhere, "emasculatory") as "nineteen years of almost unremitting horror", even though the horror was all Mom's, Dennis's, and mine. He refers to her "appetite for gin and tranquilizers", which is news to me... and this from a man who was drinking two fifths of gin each evening by himself. He describes his ideal woman as one "free of small-town inhibitions" and "who has come to realize that a man is man and a woman is a woman; that they are not equal and never will be; that one leads and the other follows; that that is why she was born and fashioned as she is." He ends on a semi-conciliatory note: "I must say in all truth that I write this in some sorrow. In spite of the fact that we got off to a shaky start [i.e. that he was ordered to marry her by his Navy CO], you were a beautiful and devoted girl, nubile and all a man could ask for. A wonderful mother, too. But somewhere along the line you got off track and never quite succeeded in getting back on."
After staying with Zeke, Mom got an apartment in Long Beach and went to the Career Training Institute there (and perhaps also Long Beach Business College) to become a medical stenographer and secretary, and then was the office manager of an orthopaedic practice for 10 or 15 years.

Mom in Long Beach 1964
Mom and sibling 1964
Mom and sibling 1964
Mom and sibling 1964
Mom and sibling 1964

The photos above were taken shortly after Mom arrived in California in 1963. At first she had a small apartment (first photo) with Dennis. Some of her brothers and sisters lived in the area, and they appear in the next four photos. The second photo is Mom with Polly's husband Harold Blanchette. The third is Mom with Zeke's wife Sally. The fourth photo is of Ella, Mom, Zeke and Zeke's daughters Mary and Sandy, and fifth is Pug with his wife Ruth.

In the building where she lived she met Frank Rider, a divorcée who worked as a legal aide; his strategy for meeting women was to spend a lot of time in the laundry room, which is how they met. He looked like Dean Martin with blond hair. Frank was too young to have been in the War, ten years younger than my mother; he worked in a defense plant as a teenager, zooming around on his bicycle delivering stuff between the buildings. I think it was a shipyard in or around Vancouver WA where they built Liberty ships.

Mom's apartment building in Long Beach
Apartment in Long Beach
They decided to live together and rented a large and luxurious apartment on a high floor of a high-rise right on the beach, with a big picture window and a balcony overlooking the beach and the ocean. Mommy and I visited them there both before and after you guys were born.

At Laguna Beach 1976
At Laguna Beach 1976
I got out of the Army in 1966 but it was 10 more years before I saw my mother. In 1976 after Judy and I got married we went to see Mom and Frank Rider in Long Beach. They met us at the airport and Mom gave me such a huge hug, I never knew she had so much strength. That was the closest she ever came to expressing her feelings with me in person (after we got back, she wrote "I can't tell you both how much your visit meant to me, and to Dennis. It was one of the happiest times of my life. I have played the tapes [of Dennis and me making some music together] over and over, hope they don't wear out. I think you two are a great combination. I love my daughter-in-law, and I am very excited about being grandmother" [Judy's unsuccessful first pregnancy].) As you can see, she and Judy got along great and Judy and Dennis were also crazy about each other. Frank Rider rubbed Mommie the wrong way at first because he kept making little jibes about New York City, but as the years went by I think we all adjusted to each other pretty well.

Judy Peter Mom in 1978
Judy, Peter, and my Mom in 1978
Frank Rider and Peter
Frank Rider & Peter
Mom in 1978
Mom in 1978
On that first trip, Dennis picked us up in his 1959 Cadillac, possibly the biggest car ever made, and with the biggest fins. It was kind of a wreck but he was proud of it. He drove us all over southern Cali­fornia including San Diego, San Simeon, and Laguna Beach where Mom found a shop that sold a kind of Norwegian flatbread called lefse she used to have as a kid. When we got to her house she made it for us; you have steam it or something until it becomes flexible and spongy (kind of like injera, Ethiopian bread, but chewier) and that you can roll stuff up in it.

Frank Rider and Mom
Frank Rider and Mom
Dennis and me 1976
Dennis and me 1976
Dennis and me in Big Bear
Dennis and me in Big Bear 1976
By 1976, Mom and Frank had also rented or bought a small cabin in Big Bear in the San Bernardino mountains near Big Bear Lake and we went there too on this same trip. We'd go for long walks up the mountain... the air was pretty thin, it was at 10,000 feet. I fixed Frank's putt-putt motorcycle that hadn't worked in years and took Dennis for a ride around the lake, about 10 miles. He didn't want to drive it himself because he had had a serious and traumatizing motorcycle accident at some point (I don't remember the details) but he trusted me to drive.

Death of Dennis, 1978

Dennis 1968
Dennis 1968
I tell the story of Dennis's death in the Dennis chapter but, briefly... In early 1978, he had some strange symptoms, saw a doctor, and it was a cancer that had metastasized all over his thorax, every organ was involved; it was inoperable. Judy and I and 4-month-old Peter flew to Long Beach, and found that the oncologist was optimistic and, indeed, after two weeks of chemotherapy his cancer was in remission, but he would need to continue chemotherapy for a long period. He hated the chemo, the nausea, the hair falling out, and all the other side effects, so when the cancer came back six months later he declined treatment and died at 29 years of age on his own terms. This was devastating blow for my Mom but, always the stoic, she soldiered on for another 22 years. One consolation for her was that she was finally a grandmother. And within 18 months, she was a grandmother again!

Big Bear, 1980-1995

Peter, Mom, and Amy, Big Bear, 1980
Grandma Vivian Big Bear 1980
Flight to Big Bear
Flight to Big Bear 1981
When Mom and Frank retired about 1980, they sold their Long Beach apartment and moved to a much bigger cabin in Big Bear, where Mom's favorite pastime was feeding the racoons, chipmunks, and birds. Frank made a modest living doing real estate deals, maybe one a year. On one of our visits, Mom and Frank hired a small plane to fly us direct from LAX to "Big Bear X", as Mom called it. I don't know if you remember, it was quite an adventure... We went up and up and up and then just landed without going down again. And that's when Mom met Amy, her second grandchild. She came alive when you guys were there.

Death Valley
Peter and Mommie in Death Valley
At Big Bear Lake
At Big Bear Lake
Disneyland 1980
Disneyland 1980
Another time we had to drive across Death Valley.

Big Bear 1986
At Big Bear 1986
Us at Big Bear 1986
At the big cabin 1986
We always had fun at Big Bear. Once we went to a rodeo, remember? That was the time Peter rode on the legendary horse, Buttermilk. On that same trip, we also went to Disneyland, where Peter and I went on Dumbo about 500 times; it was the only thing he wanted to do, especially after that red-eyed monster popped out in front of him in a dark tunnel on the Magic Mountain ride!

We went again in 1986, when Amy was a sentient being, so this visit and the one in 1990 are the ones she remembers Granma Vivian from. But on this occasion Mom decided to bring out the family slides that my father had taken in the 1940s and 50s and that he sent her when Dennis got sick. As we watched them she got more and more upset and drank a lot of wine and finally passed out. She was mortified the next day and very angry with herself for losing control and as far as I know, she never did again.

Oregon 1990

On the beach Oregon 1990
Oregon beach 1990
Oregon beach 1990
Oregon beach - motel in background
Oregon diner 1990
Oregon diner 1990

Oregon 1990
Mom & Amy 1990
The last time we saw my Mom and Frank we went to stay with them in a place they were renting in Gold Beach on the Oregon coast. There was no direct flight to anywhere near there so we flew to Los Angeles and drove 500 miles up the coast highway. It was pretty nice, we went through Castroville (Artichoke Capital of the World), stopped in Bodega Bay (The Birds), we went along Big Sur, went in the redwood forests... It took us three days; the first night we stayed in a seedy old motel like in the Bogart movies in Santa Rosa; the next night we slept in the car; no motels had vacancies. I guess the most famous thing we did in Oregon was drive 160 miles north to get giant 12-inch-diameter hamburgers at the Big Wheel... Twice! This episode was the basis for Amy's Lehmen College application essay (the Big Wheel is still there; it's in Waldport). We also went to Eugene one day. We talked about going to Crater Lake but it was too much.

In 2018 cousin Sandy Stout (Mom's niece) told me "I noticed you were in Oregon in 1990. I believe that was probably the year we went to that same restaurant in Astoria and by happenstance saw your mom and Frank there. My parents were visiting me in Washington State (we live 20 minutes from Vancouver Wa and 45 min from Portland). That day we drove out to the coast and ate in that same restaurant with the red leather booths. When we walked in we saw Vivian and Frank and couldn't believe it. That was the last time I saw her. It took her a few minutes to put things together because it was such a serendipitous meeting. She couldn't believe what she was seeing. Neither could we! There was a picture of all of us together that my parents had. It would be cool to find that picture."

Indio, California, 1995-2002

Mom loved Big Bear and liked to walk around the area, which is truly beautiful, but the hills were steep and she could only go very slowly and it made her more and more tired as time passed. Eventually she saw a doctor about it and was diagnosed with a blood disorder called polycythemia, similar to sickle cell anemia, that was aggravated by the 10,000-foot altitude. As the symptoms grew worse the doctors told her she had to get out of the high altitude.

They moved to Indio CA in 1988, which is 13 feet below sea level and hellishly hot and arid. Nothing to do and too hot to go outside, they just stayed inside in the air conditioning. Mom and Frank were both in bad shape and most of the outings were to doctors and hospitals. There was an excellent hospital there that Bob Hope had paid for himself and then made extensive use of, that Mom also used.

Mom died a slow death. It started in 1982 when she had a stroke while riding with Frank Rider in a bus in Mexico. Ever since then she had more strokes, plus a bout of cancer (lymphoma) in 1990 that was totally cured and never came back. But the strokes persisted and increasingly affected her memory, speech, and strength. Then in 1992 she had an embolism in her femoral artery, which was resected in a big operation. Later the site developed a staph infection and had to be resected again, and again, and again, until this was being done almost monthly, for the rest of her life.

Meanwhile the strokes came more frequently, until by late 2001 she could no longer communicate. Finally in late 2002 she had a huge stroke and, according to her living will, nature was allowed to take its course and no fuss was made; there was no burial, no service, no trace of her is left except us (she wrote me a letter a couple years prior, expressing her wishes very clearly while she still could). Frank Rider loved her very much and was kind and attentive always; he stayed by her through her 20 years of medical nightmares, including dementia in the final years, up to the very end. There was no funeral or burial; Mom didn't want any of that, no fuss, no "spectacle", as she wrote in her letter. She was cremated and the "cremains" released to Frank Rider. Here's her obituary from the Palm Springs Desert Sun:

Vivian da Cruz Vivian M. da Cruz, 80, of Indio died July 26, 2002, in Palm Desert. She was born March 5, 1922, to Carl and Johanna Engeborg Johnson Lund in Minneota, Minn. She was a medical legal secretary for the Orthopedic Group. She served in the Navy. She is survived by her companion, Frank Rider of Indio; her son, Frank of New York; her sister, Ella Lund of Orange County; and two grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her son, Dennis in 1978  [see full obituary].
Mom was the nicest person in the world; she never had a bad thing to say about anybody. She wasn't prejudiced or narrow-minded. She was kind and considerate and loved children and animals (except bluejays). She never got angry, never argued. She never spoke of herself or her past and did not show her emotions. And on top of all that, she was intelligent and highly competent: she mastered mechanical drawing, shorthand, typing, and Morse Code, as well as everything it takes to administer a medical practice. And she was a tireless correspondent; I still have a stack of her letters over a foot deep. I loved her a lot but (now that it's too late) I only wish I knew her better.

I also wish I had gone to see her before she died, despite her wishes. But at least after 20 nightmarish years with my father she had almost 30 good years in California. Frank and my Mom were together until Mom died but they never married; Mom said "once is enough". He treated her like a queen and was crazy in love with her right up through her dementia and then her death and even after that. After the nightmare life my mom had with Frank #1, Frank Rider was just about the best thing that could have happened to her: gentle, considerate, soft-spoken, and adoring.

I stayed in touch with Frank after that. In late 2009 he was diagnosed with terminal kidney disease. He decided not to have dialysis; he didn't have that much to live for to go through so much agony and expense to prolong his life. Instead he went to Puerto Rico to relive a trip he made there once with Mom, which he said was the best time of his life. I spoke to him in Jan 2011, he said he only had a couple months left. But a year later he called and he was fine, the kidney problem just went away by itself. He was living in an assisted-living place in Oroville CA, near his first wife, Nancy Crowe. After that I had a long talk with him about once a year. The kidneys finally quit and he died February 17, 2017, in Enloe Hospital (CA) of kidney failure and is buried in Vancouver WA, where he grew up. He also had a son Rick I never met, who (last I heard) buys fruit in South America and sells it in Asia, and who was married to Sara (who I talk to by email); they had two sons and divorced in 2012.

The day Mom died I sent you guys an email that is a kind of epitaph, click here to see it again.

My Brother Dennis, 1949-1979


Dennis about 1951
Dennis 1951
Dennis about 1955
Dennis 1955
Dennis and me
Dennis and me
Dennis and me
Dennis and me
My brother Dennis was born in Washington DC on April 10, 1949, so I was 4½ years older. I remember one day when my Mom was pregnant and she took took me downtown (i.e. into DC) for some reason, which would have involved walking about 1/2 mile to the bus (I don't recall any other time she did this and I don't remem­ber what the purpose of the trip was) but I do remember being on some cold and windy street corner in DC where she was telling me that a baby was coming.

Me and Dennis
Me and Dennis 1957
Dennis and friends 1957
Dennis and friends 1957
Me and Dennis 1954
Me and Dennis 1954
When they brought Dennis home he slept in a dresser drawer. I started school that year and he and Mom were at home on weekdays for about 5 years. There were no other kids his age in area; I don't think he had any friends. When we moved to Arlington in 1956 he was 7 and made some friends in the neighborhood including Dee-Dee Faron (behind him in the middle picture) and Maria Carrera, Ludwig's little sister, and he was in the Cub Scouts and had some friends there too.

Three years later we moved to Germany and he was still in elementary school, coincidentally in the same class with a guy I came to know 60 years later, the one who sent me all the pictures of Berlin in 1961-62. When we lived on Raimundstraße, he made friends with the kids in that building and he picked up German pretty fast from them as well as in school.

Dennis 1963
Dennis 1963
Dennis about 1970
Dennis about 1970
When we came back to Arlington he went to Williamsburg Jr High School, where I had gone some years before. I should mention that it was only in that school year, 1961-62, that Dennis and I stopped bickering and became close. My dad had bought him an old upright piano, and we would play music together in the basement all the time. He liked West Side Story (the music is pretty complex) and we could do the entire repertoire. Also around that time he started to play Chopin completely by ear. I was in a rock band, and one of the other members could play a kind barrelhouse boogie-woogie New-Orleans style like Fats Domino or Allen Toussaint — a white high-school junior, I have no idea where he picked that up — and would come over and use the piano sometimes, which fascinated Dennis. Anyway by September I was off to UVA so I only saw Dennis a few more times before I left for Basic Training, and that was when Mom took him to California, so I didn't see him for 13 years although we stayed in touch the old fashioned way — letters, envelopes, stamps.

Dennis recital program 1967
Recital program 1967
Dennis at the piano
At the piano 1967
Dennis went to high school in Long Beach, where he organized an anti-Vietnam-war strike. He was expelled and never went back or got a diploma, or so I always believed. He turned out to be a blazing piano prodigy and could have become a top classical pianist. He favored the romantics: Liszt, Chopin, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikowsky, but could also play Bach and Scarlatti, and much else besides; see the program.
His funeral eulogy says he "took a year off from high school simply to practice the piano" and that eventually he graduated from Long Beach Polytechnical High School, but the recital program says he was going to receive a high school diploma from the National Guild of Pianists. My impression from spending time with him in the 1970s was that he never got a diploma. There's nobody to ask now.
He had started out, to his everlasting mortification, on the accordion (see photo); dad got him lessons in Germany when he was in elementary school. But in California Mom recognized his talent and got him a top piano teacher, Joanna Hodges, under whom he got about as good as anybody can get, until finally after years of recitals, he was scheduled to make his professional debut at the Hollywood Bowl in front of the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra performing Tchaichowsky's Piano Concerto Number 1; posters were up all over the city, programs printed, etc.

But a panic attack made him cancel the engagement at the last minute. After that he worked odd jobs (piano tuning, remodeling houses, in a funeral home, etc), or just living from the "kindness of others" until he died. Anyway, one night he took Judy and me to a church — he had the keys to it — that had a huge pipe organ, like in a cathedral; he fired up a head of steam and then played Bach's Toccata & Fugue in D minor for us, from memory, barefoot. Flying fingers and toes... Yikes! When he had visited me in NY in 1966 I took him to St. John the Divine to see if they'd let him play the organ but they just laughed... the waiting list was a year long. So instead we went downtown to the Steinway showroom and he played a big Steinway grand for an hour, attracting quite a crowd.

I never knew Dennis was gay until after I was in the Army; my dad wrote to me, like it was the worst thing that could ever happen. But I think dad had something to do with it. Once we moved to Arlington and Dennis and I had separate bedrooms, dad would go into Dennis's room every night to "put him to bed", which involved prolonged sessions of tickling in the bed. I never actually watched them, but I couldn't help hearing them and it drove me nuts. This went on for years and years. At the time I didn't understand what bothered me so much about it, it was just creepy, it made me want to get the heck out of that house. One night when dad was totally drunk, he got in my my bed with me, which creeped me out beyond words but he didn't do anything, he just passed out and snored all night.

I found some letters from 1966 where Dennis was worrying about being drafted. He opposed the Vietnam war and wanted to know about going to Canada. I got advice about that from the War Resisters League and sent it to him (at the time the WRL had no confidence in the Canadian government, but in fact it did harbor US draft resisters until President Carter pardoned them in 1977). In any case he avoided the draft somehow.

Dennis 1976
Harpo Marx hair
In 1976 (before Peter and Amy were born) Judy and I went to see my Mom and Dennis and Frank Rider in Long Beach, CA. Judy and Dennis really hit it off. Shortly after that Dennis came out to stay with us for a week or so and he met everybody, Granma, Granpa, Christine, and Lori, Mama Lori and Floyd. Floyd took 8mm movies of all this but I never found out what happened to Floyd's movies after he and Mama Lori split up. He took millions of movies of the whole family, all the aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews and cousins. I think Floyd is dead.

Dennis in hospital 1978
Dennis 1978
In 1978 Dennis (who was in very good shape, he ran and worked out all the time, had a body like in the magazines) started to feel bad, his stomach was sticking out. He thought it was constipation or gas or something but it didn't go away and it was growing, and felt hard. Finally he went to the doctor. They opened him up and found his whole thorax was one big cancer and there was nothing they could do, every organ was involved; they just sewed him back up.

Dennis and Peter 1978
Uncle Dennis and Peter 1978
Mommy and I and 4-month-old Peter flew out from New York as soon as my Mom called with the news. By the time we got there, the oncologist had seen him and was optimistic and put him on all kinds of chemo. We stayed with him through this for a week or two, Dennis was a good sport about it and had all these cravings, would only eat things that were white, like cottage cheese and yogurt and white bread (with no skaerks). Finally the doctor said the cancer was all gone and everybody celebrated, and Mommy and I and Peter went home.

Dennis celebration 1978
Dennis celebration 1978
Actually the celebration was kind of a disaster. Dennis's friend Bob took Mommy and me to this big gorgeous expensive Mexican restaurant and we stuffed ourselves. When we got back to Mom and Frank's house, Mom had cooked us a gigantic special dinner, she spent hours on it, and we couldn't even take one bite.

Judy and me at Dennis's house
Judy and me at Dennis's house
While we were in Long Beach we met Dennis's friends, notably Bob who he lived with in a quaint little cottage decorated to look like something from Elizabethan times, tapestries and all, that Dennis made himself (see picture, in which the dark recorder on the red table by the duck had belonged to my grandfather; I guess Bob still has it... Note famous photo of Dennis and me on the mantle). The cottage was a guesthouse in the backyard of a larger house (mansion), and the rent was affordable. Bob was a paramedic, one of the very few people other than my Mom I met in southern California who had a regular full-time job.

Bob and Judy 1978
At Dennis and Bob's cottage
Bob and Judy 1978
Bob and Judy in 1978...

Six months later Dennis was dead at 29; the cancer came back but he refused treatment. Nobody knows how the cancer happened, but it could have been an early form of AIDS, or maybe from the embalming chemicals at his funeral-home job or the massive amounts of drugs he took (Quaaludes, LSD...) While on his deathbed he was baptised by his longtime friend Father Shemanski — a Catholic priest (I met him a few times) — but then joined the local Lutheran Church, either to please Mom or because of the huge pipe organ he liked so much.

My Grandfather Daniel da Cruz and his family in Portugal


Daniel da Cruz
Daniel da Cruz in 1906
Daniel da Cruz 1941
12 April 1941
Daniel da Cruz about 1960
Daniel da Cruz 1960
My dad's dad: Daniel da Cruz. Born Manuel da Cruz Narciso, Vilar, Portugal, 1 March 1880. Changed his name to Daniel da Cruz June 7, 1926, when he was naturalized at the Hamilton County Court House, Hamilton Ohio, Certificate of Naturalization Number 2 238 576. Died 26 December 1966 (of shock caused by coronary artery disease; he was a heavy smoker). His ashes were deposited in River of Adonis in Lebanon (the Abraham River in Mount Lebanon) by his second wife, Louise.
NOTE: I found this notation in one of my dad's albums: "As the investigations of my brother in 1986 and 1987 revealed, both he and I were citizens of Portugal, a fact neither of us knew in in 1949" (when he filled out his government employment form).

João da Cruz Narciso
João da Cruz Narciso
João da Cruz Narciso
João da Cruz Narciso
Son of João da Cruz Narciso and Joana Maria das Dores.

Paternal grandfather: Joaquin Narciso.
Paternal grandmother: Maria da Encarnação.

Maternal grandfather: José Maria das Dores
Maternal grandmother: Delfina da Conceição.

Neither of João's parents had the name da Cruz. Most likely, the parish priest suggested the name in honor of São João da Cruz (Saint John of the Cross), Catholic Saint and Carmelite friar and priest of Marrano (Jewish converso) origin associated with Teresa of Ávila (Santa Teresa de Jesus), with whom he cofounded the "Shoeless Carmelites" (Ordem dos Carmelitas Descalços), and with whom he shares the distinction of now being among the 36 Doctors of the Church named by Roman Popes since the beginning of the church, an honor they share with Thomas Aquinas, Saint Augustine, the Venerable Bede, and Hildegard von Bingen.

João inherited the name Narciso from his father, Joaquin Narciso. I don't know the names of Joaquin's parents but probably "Narciso" comes from São Narciso de Gerona, Bishop of Gerona in Catalunya in the 4th Century, martyred around 307AD, known for the Miracle of the Flies (o Milagre das Moscas), which occurred 1000 years after his death when a horde of insects rose from his tomb to drive out French invaders.

Portugal was occupied and ruled by North African Arabs and Berbers from 711 to 1249 and therefore most Portuguese (like most Spanish and Sicilians) have North African blood. According to Ancestry.com's analysis of my DNA, I am 1% North African so my father was 2% (because he married a Norwegian) and his father 4% (because he married a German).

About Portuguese surnames

Surnames that have prepositions (da/de/do/das/dos) or conjunctions (e) prefixed, such as "da Cruz" and "dos Santos", are similar to German surnames with "von": attempts to seem aristocratic (some of our relatives in Portugal say in many cases it's a snobbish or pretentious affectation). Anyway, if you are born with the surname "da Cruz", that is your offical name you are filed under D, not C, just as in the USA. But where we would say "the da Cruz family", Portuguese and Brazilians say "a familia Cruz". Our cousin Luzia Machado gives some examples from her own family and beyond:
[Husband] Artur's full name or register name on the identity card is Artur da Rocha Machado. However, everybody knows him as and calls him "Rocha Machado" and he often signs his name simply as Artur Rocha Machado. My son-in-law is Hugo César de Amorim and he probably does the same. My grandson is also "de Amorim" and at school everybody calls him Amorim (to differentiate him from the other Franciscos).

These last weeks a scandal arose here, revealed in our newspapers, about a woman whose name was Paula Brito Costa. She founded some years ago an institution to take care of children with rare diseases, a very worthy initiative, that unfortunately surmounted her founder. After being Paula Brito Costa, he began signing her name as Paula Brito "e" Costa and this "e" is even more stylish than de or da. Portuguese (but also human...) miseries!!!

Portuguese names have some other peculiarites too. For example, it is not unusual for brothers or sisters to have the same first name. For example in our family, my grandfather's sisters were Maria, Maria Rosa, and Maria José. His own birth name was Manuel da Cruz Narciso and he had a brother with exact same name. He also had a brother, Francisco Maria, with a different surname: dos Santos; this was because Francisco was born on All Saints Day.

I should also mention that (as you can see on the family tree) it is fairly common for a person's name to have six or more words. Example: father's surname Santos, mother's surname Oliveira; child's surname might be Oliveira Santos. This child marries another person who also has a double surname derived the same way, say, Machado Morais, and their child's surname could be Oliveira Santos Machado Morais. Or it could be Santos Morais. Or whatever else the parents decide. There are no fixed rules as far as I know. See this this page for a concise summary.

Daniel's Family


Daniel da Cruz and nieces in Portugal 1953
Daniel da Cruz, nieces, Portugal 1953
da Cruz Narciso family Portugal 1953
Family group, Vilar, 1953
My father and my Uncle Pete told me about our family in Vilar; they both went to visit in the 1950s (and Pete as recently as 1989), and then cousins Danny and Lina visited them often starting in 1992. The pictures at left were taken in 1953, which was the only time Daniel went back to Portugal after his departure in 1911. The two women are his nieces, my father's first cousins: Luzia and Madalena. The second picture is a large family group that includes four of Daniel's siblings. Click each picture to find out who's who.

Maria José
Maria José
Maria José painting
Maria José painting
Daniel had three brothers (Francisco, Manuel, and Celestino) and three sisters (Maria, Maria Rosa, and Maria José). All used the surname da Cruz Narciso except Francisco, whose surname was dos Santos because (as noted previously) he was born on November 1st, All Saints Day. They all married and had children except Maria José (1887-1974), who became a nun and teacher of art, music, and languages in Portugal, England, France, and Morocco; one of her paintings (courtesy of Luzia Machado via Cousin Lina) is shown above; to see a brief history of her life, click here. Anyway, if Daniel had remained a priest, he wouldn't have had children either and we would not exist. He was the only one who emigrated, dropping "Narciso" from his name and spawning the American da Cruz family consisting so far of 12 direct descendents, 9 still living.

Vilar 1950s
Vilar in the 1950s
Vilar is is about 60km north of Lisbon in the Provincia of Estremadura, Distrito of Lisboa, Coselho (county) Cadaval, Municipio Cadaval, Freguesia (parish) Vilar. It's a very small town in a fruit-growing region. There are several other towns called Vilar, so Vilar-Cadaval can be used to specify this one. Photo at right taken by either Dad or Pete in the 1950s.

In Vilar, the da Cruz Narcisos were a farming family, mainly vineyards but also vegetables, fruit trees, chickens, turkeys, ducks, and rabbits for home use and sometimes for sale. As Daniel's nephew Raimundo, who grew up in Vilar, recalls, "Our village was deeply Catholic. Most of the adult population was illiterate. Their culture and ideology were whatever the priest dispensed in masses and sermons. The dictator Salazar was held up as a saint. My grandfather João lived in our house and died in 1940 at the age of 92. He was very religious and when he could no longer go to church he prayed at home."

  1. Joaquim Claudino, Humberto Germano, Sérgio Claudino, Cronologia do Vilar (1148-2020), PDF, in Portuguese, 29 pages (2020). Sent by Luzia, who says "They say that your grand-father was the first to get a Ph.D. in the parish and that the first name of Vilar was Santa Maria do Vilar, something that I didn't know, as well as that the actor António Vilar was from Vilar and his name was a tribute to his motherland. You will realize, Frank specially, who understands portuguese, that your grand-father wasn't the only one to resign from the religious life, to found a family. In 1955-1959, Padre Carlos who had a "cousin" with him, resigned. And in 1965-1969, also António Morais, who was a modern priest, did the same. But what they don't say is that he found a family with our cousin Zita (Luzia Maria, Fafita's sister). People loved him and were indeed shocked, specially the parents, uncle Dinis and aunt Margarida, who were very catholic. Zita and Fafita were at that time studying in Lisbon to be kindergarten teachers and some time later he married Zita. They have 3 daughters in common. As Zita is hardworking, she also studied psychology later." Luzia points out that an interesting facet to Vilar's recent history is that "many families in Vilar received Austrian children, including my parents. I wasn't born and my brothers were small children and the little girl was with my parents few weeks. She had some disease and to my mother's great regret she went for treatment for fearing of contagion. As far as I know, most of these children even after being adults maintained warm relations with their adoptive families."

Daniel and the Church

Fr. Daniel da Cruz in 1910
Daniel da Cruz 1910
According to official documents, my grandfather entered the Convento Franciscano at Varatojo (in the Torres Vedras area about 26 miles NNW of Lisbon) as a novice under the name of Manoel Maria da Cruz at age 18 in 1896 and was given the novice name Daniel da Virgem Santíssima. He took his first vows a year later under the name of Daniel da Cruz. He began his studies of philosophy and theology at St. Barnardino College (about 43 miles NNW of Lisbon), continued at the Convento Fransicano Montariol in Braga, about 25 miles NNE of Porto. In 1901 the Portuguese government issued a proclamation perceived hostile to religious institutions, and Daniel along with some of his fellow seminarians transferred to Braga Theological Seminary in Seville (Spain). He was ordained there as a priest in 1904. So first he was a monk (Frie, Fr.), then he was priest (Padre, Pe.). A monk is supposed to take the name of a saint, and it turns out that in the Roman church, Daniel from the Old Testament is indeed a saint.

Em terras de Gaza 1910 p.217
Random page
Em terras de Gaza 1910
Em terras de Gaza
As a Catholic priest, Daniel served as a Fran­ciscan missionary in Mozambique [Portuguese East Africa] from late 1906 to early 1908 at the Congoene Mission in Chai-Chai (now called Xai-Xai) in Gaza province. During his stay there he devoted himself to scientific research rather than religion, learning about the people, their language and customs and beliefs and technology and diet as well as the flora and fauna of the area, and published a series of articles in the Franciscan journal Gazeta das Aldeias, even after he returned to Portugal. This material was the basis of a book published in 1910, Em terras de Gaza, Porto: Gazeta das Aldeias (1910), 312pp, 90 illustrations. The University of California had Google digitize this book for its Hathi Trust (see publication list). I skimmed through all the pages; it's gorgeous and very well done; an ethnological/​sociological/​musicological/​botanical/​nutritional study, not a religious tract, with tons of photos, diagrams, even sheet music; professional design, and no trace of superiority or racism.

Daniel in the United States

In Oxford Ohio 1933
Oxford Ohio 1933
In 1911 Daniel left the church of his own volition. He was not, contrary to family legend, excommunicated. Rather, it seems that he became more interested in science than in God, which is apparent in his publications in Gazeta das Aldeias as well as about 50 articles in another Franciscan journal, Voz de S. Antonio, which cover diverse topics, none of them religious: entomology, ornithology, botany, agriculture, public health, seismology, etc. These articles are available online here, and probably did not overly endear him to the Church. In any case he emigrated to the USA in 1911…
Incidentally, he sailed to the USA on the Lusitania ("Portugal"), a HUGE ocean liner like the Titanic, which would be torpedoed and sunk four years later by a German U-boat, killing 1200 out of 1900 on board and providing the USA with an excuse to enter WWI (look it up, there are two sides to this story). The Lusitania docked in the Port of New York August 4, 1911.
… where he went back to school and received his PhD in Botany at Catholic University in Washington DC in 1915. His Ph.D. dissertation was A contribution to the life-history of Lilium tenuifolium. At the end there is a brief bio:
Daniel da Cruz was born at Villar [sic], District of Lisbon, Portugal, March 1st, 1880. He received his early education in the public-school course of Villar and in the two years' preparatory course at St. Bernardino College. He joined the Franciscan Order, September 1896, at Varatojo, and pursued courses of Philosophy and Sciences at St. Bernardino and Montariol, Braga, Colleges, being graduated at Montariol in 1901.

He began his course of Theology in Sevilla, Spain, the same year, and was graduated in 1905 at Braga Theological Seminary, whither he had returned in 1903. He was ordained to the priesthood in July, 1905, sent to the Mozambique, Portuguese East Africa, Missions, October, 1906, and was appointed Professor of Sciences in the Franciscan College of Leiria [which is in Portugal] in 1910. He came to the United States, entered the Catholic University of America October, 1911, and pursued the courses of study in Biology, Botany, Chemistry and German under the following professors and instructors: Dr. J.J. Griffin, Chemistry; Dr. T.V. Moore, Philosophy; Dr. P. Gleis, German; Prof. J.B. Parker and Mr. G.J. Brilmeyer, Biology, to whom he expresses his appreciation for their sympathetic guidance of his studies.

At some point before 1917 he met my grandmother Gus (Lenore Rager); the family story was that he was in the hospital and she was his nurse. They were married June 7, 1917, in Kansas City, Missouri, during the period when they were traveling from one university town to another while he searched for a teaching position. Anyway grandfather had a tough time finding a professor job the first two years of his marriage. Every time he was hired, when they found out he was an ex-priest or atheist or troublemaker or a semi-communist and/or brother of a real communist who had fled Portugal for his life, they fired him. So he moved around a lot in those two years. In 1918 he wound up at the University of Miami in Ohio where the president (Raymond M. Hughes) told him his job would be safe and he would never be asked to resign because of his past, and indeed he worked there until he retired in 1946.

My father was born to them on April 1, 1918, in Kansas, shortly before Daniel landed his Oxford job. On September 12th, Daniel registered in Oxford for the World War I draft but, since the war was almost over and he was 38 years old, he was not called up. The second and last child, my Uncle Pete, was born in Oxford in 1921. Daniel was on the faculty of Miami University as a professor of Spanish, Portuguese, and Romance Philology. He wrote books on many topics including politics and history plus at least one Portuguese language textbook that I remember seeing as a kid, plus an annotated edition of Don Quijote (see publication list) plus a Spanish textbook that I found in the Library of Congress catalog (it has since disappeared), as well as works on diverse topics including astronomy. My grandmother left him in 1924. In 1927 he obtained sole custody of the children in a divorce decree, and took them back into his house in 1928. At some point while still in Oxford he married his second wife, Louise Burk, who would be with him until his death.

Upon retiring, Daniel moved to 1603 West Kiowa Street, Colorado Springs, Colorado, for his health — asthma, probably brought on by heavy smoking — and lived there with Louise until he died at 86 in 1966. The house is still there as far as I know. In Colorado Louise worked as a teacher at the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind. In the 1970s, she went to Portugal to meet Daniel's brother Manuel ("Ramon", as she and the American branch of the family called him) and the rest of the family; more about this below. She died in 1990; I never had any contact with her.

Daniel and Dennis 1956
Daniel and Dennis 1956
Daniel came to visit us once in the mid-1950s, so I knew him very briefly. All I remember was when he arrived he picked me up and gave me such a strong hug it almost broke all my bones, and then he was quizzing me about what I was studying in school; I had the impression that he fixated on schools, education, and learning above all other things. He also talked a bit about Mozambique and I recall he went into some detail about tapeworms. I was in 6th or 7th grade. He was going stay with us for a while, but he was gone within a few hours. My father said it was because he did or said something that made my mom very upset (he didn't say what) and she demanded he be sent away. But that doesn't sound right to me: Mom got along with everybody and she never demanded anything, and even if she had my dad would would have ignored her, or worse. I never asked either one them for the real story. Too late now!

Uncle Pete and his father Daniel
Uncle Pete and his father 1960
Thanks to Uncle Pete, who used the Freedom of Information Act to get a confidential 14-page 1946 FBI report, we find that granddad was definitely Reddish, something my Dad never bothered to mention. Daniel backed the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, organizing support and raising funds in the USA and belonging to the Committee for United American Spanish Aid, which published anti-Fascist pamphlets such as this one. He also was a member of the NAACP (viewed by the government as a subversive organization in those days), and he was a self-proclaimed atheist. He was an outspoken advocate of the working class and critic of the American way of distributing wealth. All this is in the FBI report. It was almost, but not quite, enough to get him into trouble during the postwar Red Scare (the FBI report, however, is not very thorough — they didn't know about his controversial writings, they didn't know he had been a priest, they didn't bother to look up the Aid Committee to find out it was on the Attorney General's List of Communist Organizations, and they didn't know about his radical brother, so who knows what else they didn't know!… But then, they also didn't think my Dad had a drinking problem...).

When I was kid, we had a book by him on our bookshelf called Spain Begs Your Pardon (1940). I never even bothered to open it. In later years I assumed this must have been about the Spanish Civil War and I wanted to get a copy. Eventually I found it at Miami University. It was just a manuscript, not published (I thought it was published because the copy we had at home was hardbound). Just before I left Columbia I got it on interlibrary loan and scanned it into a PDF (see publication list). It turns out to be a comparison of Spain and Portugal versus England as colonial powers in the New World. Spain and Portugal were awful, of course, but he shows how England was infinitely worse. So "begs your pardon" is ironic. The book is dedicated to the Spanish Republicans.

Another of his unpublished tracts was Faith of our Fathers (1964), a scathing takedown of the Bible that he originally wrote as an Xmas [sic] present for Pete and Leila. He sent me a copy of it when I was in the Army; I brought it back with me and had it in my apartment at 109th Street where my dog ate it. I'm not kidding. Judy had given me a puppy for Christmas, and it grew pretty fast. Since I was always in class or working, it went crazy locked up in the small basement apartment. One day when I came home and opened the door, the entire apartment was full of feathers and paper shreds up to the ceiling; the dog had demolished all the pillows and mattresses, plus many of my books and records. Faith of Our Fathers was in shreds. Many years later it turned out that my cousin Danny had his father's copy, which he scanned for me (see publication list).

My grandfather sent me the manuscript upon learning of my 1965 application for release from the Army on moral, ethical, and pseudo-religious grounds as a consciencious objector because I did not want any role in the slaughter that was going on in Vietnam and, in fact, I wanted to be entirely free of the Army so I could work to stop the war. Army regulations required that I be questioned by a chaplain to see if I was sincere, and my grandfather thought I had been mesmerized by the priest I spoke with, when in fact all I needed was to get his signature on a piece of paper (if the truth be known, the priest did not understand why I would not want to "kill a Commie for Christ" but I convinced him that I would not, and we ended by agreeing to disagree). Despite the misunderstanding, my grandfather's words in the letter he sent with the manuscript reflect his own life experience. He said my situation reminded him of:

...a phase of my own growing pains which cost me many years of undescribable suffering and disillusionment. It is a phase of life that overtakes a great number of young men of your age [20] as a result of the sense of guilt which in most cases is nothing more than the realization of one's inadequacy, which the ministers of the church are quickly inclined to exploit on behalf of their own pet ideas and preoccupations. Of those who yield to their insidious, though powerful, temptations, only rarely do they come out of their ordeal unscathed. Such conversions are the sour fruit of the emotions, of the surrendering of one's will and future destiny to the rapacious ambition of someone whose real interest is not your salvation but his own glory and the benefits accruing to his own class.

I am sending you a manuscript on the Bible, which I expect to have published before very long, which manuscript is the result of 60 years of research. I was only 17 years old when certain doubts about the genuineness of the Bible as the word of God made me start a study of the sacred book, and of what I found I give a few samples in the manuscript. The first criterion of Truth we were given, no matter by whom, was our Reason.

In 2018 cousin Lina went to visit the family in Portugal. Raimundo's sister Helena told her that she had spent six months with Daniel and Louise (probably in the 1960s) and said that Louise was jealous of them speaking in Portuguese all the time and that Daniel wanted to come back and die in Vilar among family; he had asked her to look for a house for him. Whether she did or not, he died before he could have moved.

Writings of Daniel da Cruz Sr...

[search Bookfinders] And about Daniel da Cruz:

Uncle Manuel (a.k.a. Ramon)


Manuel da Cruz and family
Manuel and family
Daniel and Manuel da Cruz 1934
Daniel & Manuel 1934
Daniel's brother Manuel was born in 1897, 17 years after my grandfather. Family legend says he was involved with the founding of the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP, founded 6 March 1921); within a matter weeks he had fled to the USA because the Fascist police were after him. So far this story can't be confirmed or denied but the timing tends to confirm it.

He was in the US for 15 years: May 1921 to October 1936, using the names Raimundo and Raymond and living in different places, including the large Portuguese outposts in New Bedford and Fall River MA in the 1920s, and at 175 Bleeker Street in Manhattan in the 1930s; see letters from that period. My father, my uncle Pete, and Daniel's second wife Louise all called him Ramon. Although my grandfather's role in Manuel's American sojourn remains unclear, I do know that Manuel visited him in Oxford at least once, in 1934. My father and Uncle Pete met him and remembered him well and referred to him as Uncle Ramon.

Manuel Fall River 1924
Manuel in USA 1928
Manuel in USA with friend
Manuel in USA
In 2003 I contacted the PCP asking for information about him; they were eager to help but couldn't find any records; small wonder given the confusion over his name, which, at the time, I thought was Ramon da Cruz.

In 2014 I came across a handwritten letter from my grandfather's second wife Louise (the one my father tried to kill with an axe), who made a pilgrimage to Portugal in 1971, five years after he died. The letter is gushing and scatterbrained but there are a few facts in it. She visited with Ramon (Manuel), who was 74 and in failing health but (she says) spoke excellent English even though he hadn't used it in many years. Manuel had his wife Ilda with him when Louise was there. Their two children had already left home; daughter Helena was in Orléans (France) expecting her first child (actually she and her husband Jaime were in exile from the fascists), and son Raimundo, they told her, was working as an engineer in Germany (but in reality had gone under­ground in Portugal as a leader of the antifascist revolution that finally succeeded in 1974). She ends the letter with some fantasy about how Dad and Pete are in "direct line and descent from a Portuguese Queen". She seemed to be totally unaware that she was in a fascist dictatorship ruled by force and terror. About the supposed connection to royalty, Raimundo (next section) says:

Francisco Maria dos Santos and part of his family were monarchists and some of the sons or daughters investigated the family origins and "discovered" that they descended from the queen Carlota Joaquina of Bourbon (1775-1830), wife of king Dom João VI. But of illegitimate descent and not the king. I do not know the foundation of this story that persists in the family. Since the descendants did not come simultaneously from the queen and the king I did not interest myself completely of the subject :-)  Carlota Joaquina de Bourbon was the eldest daughter of the King of Spain, Carlos III and was "sold" at 10 years of age by the court of Spain to the Portuguese court to marry João who was 18. She was a woman of strong character who conspired against her husband, the King, also tried to be Queen of Castile. With the invasion of Portugal by Napoleon in 1807, who wanted to replace the King (an ally of England) the Portuguese court fled to Brazil and only returned to Portugal in 1821.
Louise also mentions in passing that "Carlota (NY) and a friend met us for the 2 hours wait between planes in NY before we boarded TWA for Lisbon." Raimundo says Carlota Nobre Santos is a relative, about my age, daughter of Diniz, granddaughter of Daniel's brother Francisco, in other words my second cousin. She is a sister of Fátima/Fafita, pictured below. I don't know if Carlota was living in NY or was just visiting.

About his father's political history Raimundo says:

About my father's political activities in Portugal I know nothing. Nevertheless he referred to his brother Daniel as a man with progressive ideas but that's all I know.

I also don't have much information about why he went to the USA or what he did there. But the family referred to his radical ideas and his estrangement from the Church; these were condemned in the village and resulted in political and religious persecution.

Portugal experienced a period of great political instability and major political and religious confrontation during the First Republic — the Republican revolution of 5 October 1910 that overthrew the monarchy until the military coup that established the dictatorship in May 26, 1926, and that installed a fascist regime that lasted 48 years, until 1974.

Vilar, as well as most of the rural country outside Lisbon and Porto, is deeply conservative and dominated by the Catholic Church that was against the Republic — and consequently the Republic was against the Church — each side persecuted the other. It is in this context of political and religious harassment that Manuel flees to the USA.

My father never sought to force his polical or religious beliefs upon his children, but knowing them, and what he told us about America, were a window through which we could escape from the ultra-conservative, political and cultural environment of Vilar.

Then when I was 60 I noticed a collection of the American Communist Party magazines that were half hidden in some stacks of books. My father had brought them from the USA (at some risk to himself). He also told me about his participation in demonstrations in defense of Sacco and Vanzetti.

Raimundo also found a 1933 letter to his father from a comrade, F. Lourenço, who had gone to Siberia to help build the New Russia. So that's another hint.

Cousin Raimundo


Raimundo Narciso
Raimundo Narciso
We have a cousin, Raimundo Pedro Narciso, six years older than me, a leader of the anti-Fascist revolution in 1974 and in the late 1990s was a Socialist member of Parliament in Portugal. Danny met him once; see his travel diary. I saw him on the PCP and government websites when was a Communist/Socialist deputy in Parliament; I emailed him in 2003 but never received an answer. Then the government went back to right wing and all traces of him disappeared for a long time, but I looked again on the Internet in 2017 and see quite a bit, such as a long 2014 interview with him about his life and times and politics and struggles here and another here.

Plus he's on Facebook. And German Facebook. And Google+. He might be IS one of the kids in that group picture. His father is Daniel's brother Manuel. Raimundo studied engineering at the Instituto Superior Técnico Lisbon and in 2000 wrote a book about the Portuguese antifascist revolution:

ARA book
Narciso, Raimundo, 1938-
ARA, Acção Revolucionaria Armada : a historia secreta do braço armado do PCP / 1a ed. Lisboa : Publicações Dom Quixote, 2000.
(Series: Caminhos da memoria ; 27)

and another book Álvaro Cunhal e a Dissidência da 3ª Via, of which I don't have the details. The Wikipedia page for the ARA is here, and there is 2004 interview with Raimundo about ARA here. Raimundo says of himself:

Fui membro do PCP de 1959 a 1990 e membro do seu Comité Central de 1972 a 1988. Em 1989, ainda no PCP mas em processo de saída, criei com amigos e outros dissidentes, um Movimento político "Instituto Nacional de Estudos Sociais" que reuniu a elite da intelectualidade de esquerda portuguesa, e em 1992 criei com outros uma associação politica "Plataforma de Esquerda" que fez um acordo como o Partido Socialista então dirigido por António Guterres, actual SG da ONU. Fui então deputado do Parlamento de 1996 a 2000.
In short he was an orthodox Communist revolutionary for about 20 years but then got tired of the squabbling between the PCP and other left-wing groups which prevented them from winning elections — the same thing that happened in Germany in the 1930s, which was the direct cause for Hitler coming to power.

Finally in October 2017, I found a way to contact him and we have been working on this project together ever since. He has photos, documents, and a vast memory. He filled in 90% of the Portuguese side of the family tree and shared many treasures. His sister Helena's daughter, Helena Mascarenhas, says:

[My mother Helena] and my father [Jaime] went into exile (France) because of the dictatorship in Portugal. Five years after, the revolution happened (25 of April of 1974) and they were able to be back ... Meanwhile I was born (in France in 1971) :-)  My uncle Raimundo Narciso gave some years of his life to fight very hard against our dictatorship, and fortunately he was never caught by the political police, otherwise maybe he wouldn´t be among us. After the revolution, he participated on the construction of our democracy and he keeps on doing that. My mother and my uncle Raimundo, two persons which I admire a lot, are both very courage.
In March 2018 Raimundo resurrected and reworked an extensive website from his days in the post-revolutionary government, the purpose being to explain to the people exactly what he was doing as a Deputy in Parliament and Secretary of the National Defense Commission, what we today would call "transparency"... Raimundo invented it! See it here for as long as the link lasts.

Portuguese Family Today

These are some photos I received from Raimundo, Luzia, Fafita, Helena, and Danny in 2017-2018:

Jean-Luc, Lina, Raimundo 2018
Jean-Luc, Lina, Raimundo 2018, by Helena
In Spring 2018, cousin Lina and her husband Jean-Luc traveled to Portugal to see the family, an odyssey that Lina describes here (narrative and photos). This is another photo from the occasion, taken (in Óbidos?) by Helena Mascarenhas, my second cousin.

Below: Views of present-day Vilar by cousin Raimundo:

Vilar today
Vilar today
Vilar today
Vilar today

Raimundo and his wife Maria 2017
1. Raimundo with wife Maria 2017
Helena Narciso and daughter Helena Mascarenhas 2016
2. Helena+Helena 2016
1. Raimundo Narciso, my father's first cousin (and my first cousin once removed), and his wife Maria Machado in 2017.

2. Raimundo's sister Helena Maria (right) and her daughter Helena Mascarenhas (left). Read more about Raimundo and his family in Raimundo's autobiography.

Luzia Machado and her family
Luzia Machado (center) and her family 2018
Alfonso October 2019
Alfonso, Dina, Francisco
Alfonso, Dina, Francisco
The family of cousin Luzia (a.k.a. Juca) Machado, born Maria Luzia Moço de Oliveira Santos. Luzia is granddaughter of my grandfather Daniel's brother, Francisco, which makes her my second cousin. Left to right: Hugo César de Amorim (son-in-law of Luzia and Artur); Dina Machado Amorim (daughter of Luzia and Artur); Luzia; Artur Rocha Machado (Luzia's husband); and in the middle: Franciso (son of Dina and Hugo). Selfie by Hugo, January 2018. Luzia says, "Me, Artur, Dina, Hugo, Francisco, we live all at Lisbon (Telheiras) and very close. In fact we only need to bend the street corner to be in the house of each other." The second picture is of Dina's and Hugo's son Alfonso Rocha Machado de Amorim, born 03 April 2019, and third is Dina with her two children in 2019.

Artur and Zeca 2016
Artur and Zeca
Zulmira and Dina 2016
Zulmira and Dina 2016
Left: Artur (Luzia's husband) and José de Oliveira Santos (Zeca), grandson of my grandfather's brother Francisco, which makes him another second cousin. Zeca lives in Estoril. Right: Zulmira (Mi) de Oliveira Santos, wife of Zeca, and Dina Maria, daughter of Luzia. Photos by Danny da Cruz at Luzia and Artur's house, Lisbon, 2016.

Fátima and Francisco with granddaughter Joana
1. Francisco, Fátima, Joana
Fátima Santos family
Santos family 2019
Fátima Santos family
Santos family 2019
Fátima Santos family
Santos family 2019
1. Fátima Santos Nobre (Fafita) with her husband Francisco Lobão Rasquilha, who live in Elvas, Alentejo, celebrating the 5th birthday of their granddaughter Joana, June 17, 2017, in Sintra at the home of her paternal grandparents. Fátima is daughter of Diniz and granddaughter of my grandfather's brother Francisco, which makes her my second cousin, too.

The other three photos are from 2019.

Luzia Machado wrote on March 11, 2018:
Hi Frank, Olá aos primos e família

I've been postponing my message to you, because I didn't get (not yet) the information on my grandparents dates (birth and death). I've been in contact with Carlota and I even called the sacristan in Vilar, but they didn't get that information. Anyway it is online at: Tombo.pt but it will take some time to look for in the old books. I'll do it in some more time, unless some cousin may want to help me...

The register books begin with the year of 1860, because before that date occurred in Portugal the French invasions and the register books were destroyed in the church of Vilar. Several battles took place in the west region in those years with the Napoleon troops: Roliça, Vimeiro, Linhas de Torres Vedras and Portugal won those battles with the help of the old allies, the English? I remember my father saying that at that time the French troops transformed the church of Vilar into a horse stable. Later, a priest who went to Vilar (Padre Bento), had the "bright" idea to demolish that historic church, which was according my father, a small one, but beautiful.

Answering to one of your last questions on the wine-growing in Vilar, I'll say that in the family nobody lives from agriculture now and I would say that very few families live there now exclusively from agriculture. When my aunt Luzia died, all cousins agreed to sell her properties to a family that already cultivated her lands. Me and my brothers we had already sold our properties to the same family some years before. But they are specialized, one of them is an agricultural engineer, he has vineyards and produces wine by modern procedures. Other property owners take their grapes to the cooperative cellars in the area. Even when I came to Lisbon (1971/72) I seldom heard the nostalgic sound of the hand presses during September, that I heard when I was a child.

On the other side, many vineyards were transformed into orchards, in particular of pears (it's the case of ours and our aunt's properties) with a kind of pear called "pêra Rocha" which is very good, very appreciated and exported to other European countries.

  I would like to introduce you now a new generation of cousins: my nephew, Zeca's son, João Miguel and Carlota's daughter, Alexandra (the same name as Lina's daughter). Next time I'll send you a picture of the other Zeca's son (Paulo) and Lino's sons (Marco and Valter) João Miguel is IT engineer (like Hugo, my son-in-law, who is computer engineer as well). João Miguel lives near Porto and Alexandra is veterinary doctor and lives in Vilar. About Alexandra, she's an enthusiastic ecologist and hard-working woman, like her mother, Carlota. She gets in on a portuguese ecologist movement - Quercus, and has on youtube several videos (Alexandra Azevedo) on wild food, where you can see her (left). I send you also Alexandra's daughter, Carlota's granddaughter Laura Varges, who studies marketing and communication, performing a Nina Simone song (right).

João Miguel and family
João Miguel and family
I send you a selfie with João Miguel's family and a view from Porto and send their full names (to complete the tree): from left to right João Miguel Mendes de Oliveira Santos - Daniela Pinto Teixeira Oliveira Santos (older daughter) - Suzana Alexandre de Pinho Teixeira e Silva (wife) and Mariana Pinto Teixeira Oliveira Santos (younger daughter).

I send you also some photos we took last month at Andorra and Spain. My grandson wanted to see snow, something we don't see here in Lisbon. On the way back to Lisbon we stopped at Tordesilhas, where I was disappointed to see such a historic and medieval small town so abandoned. But history doesn't generate funds, at least at that place?

Andorra Velha
Snow in Iberia
Tordesilhas February 2018
Treaty House 15th Century
Tordesilhas Treaty House
About the treaty
About the treaty

And finally I would like also to ask you when do you introduce us your close family, the final consignees of the family tree?

Kisses to everybody/ beijinhos a todos(as)
Luzia (Juca)
OK, here we are: Amy and me one day in Queens NY, and a recent photo of Peter:
Amy and Frank da Cruz
Amy and Frank da Cruz
Peter Frank da Cruz
Peter da Cruz

In 2020 Luzia sent this photo from Christmas 2019 at her house in Santa Cruz:

Christmas 2019 in Santa Cruz
Hugo, Dina and the children, her nephew Paulo and his family, Paulo's wife Diana and the girls, Leonor and Mafalda, me, Artur and Zeca.

Luzia family 2022
And approximately the same group in 2022 (from Luzia).

Mercedes Jatel and family in British Columbia

Mercedes Jatel family
Mercedes Jatel (left) and family in 2018
In May 2020, my second cousin Mercedes Jatel, born Maria Mercedes Nobre da Costa in Lisbon in 1942, noticed this history and contacted me. She is estranged her her family in Portugal (except for cousin Raimundo and his family) and lives in Naramata, British Columbia. She is a granddaughter of my grandfather Daniel's sister Maria da Cruz Narciso. She emigrated to Hamburg, Germany, in 1964 and there she had a son Solomão (Sol) with another Portuguese emigré, João Martins, a military officer who had fled the fascist regime in Portugal. In 1971 she emigrated again, this time to Ontario, Canada, and there she married a Czech emigré, Karl Jatel, and had two more sons, Nelson and Ruben. Now she and Karl live in Naramata, British Columbia, and her name is simplified to Mercedes Jatel. The photo shows a birthday celebration in 2018; "first at the left against the wall is my husband Karl; next to him is our son Nelson and next to Nelson is Sol. Across from Karl is his wife Mercedes (me), next to me and across Nelson is his fiance 'Tanis' Norwegian from the part of her Mother (nice coincidence like you and your Mother), next to her and across Sol is his wife 'Janice'; they had 2 children: 'Kaitlyn Megan Martins' 28 years old, is a nurse in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. By the way, my son Sol with wife and children lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for 20 years, 3 years ago was transferred to Victoria, British Columbia."

My Grandmother Gus


Gus at home
Gus at home 1948
My dad's mom: Lenore Susan Maria Rager, born August 23, 1896, in Frederick, Maryland; died November 15, 1955, in Arlington, Virginia, by her own hand. We knew her only as Gus, supposedly from her middle name Augusta, but Augusta was not her middle name. She is my only "American" grandparent; all the others are immigrants or children of immigrants. Of course she is descended from immigrants too — 100% German/Swiss — but farther back.

She grew up with her family in Frederick: three brothers and five sisters; Gus was the youngest. They lived in a series of small townhouses in Frederick, and in high school Gus (along with her sisters and maybe her mother) helped the family make ends meet with a dressmaking business.

In 1916 at age 20 she entered Georgetown University Hospital School of Nursing in Washington DC, where she graduated the same year in a ceremony mounted by the Sisters of Saint Francis. She was baptised in the Catholic Church as a condition for acceptance into the program. As to her "forced conversion" (as Dad and Pete called it), I don't think she thought twice about it; all the years I knew her she never said a word about religion.

In 1917 she formed a relationship with one of her patients, Daniel da Cruz, a Catholic and former missionary priest from Portugal. Daniel couldn't find work in DC so he took Gus with him as he searched for a teaching position, traveling together before they were married, just as the United States entered World War I:

Marriage of K.U. Instructor
Daniel da Cruz, instructor in Portuguese in the University [of Kansas] and Miss Lenore Rogers [sic] of Washington D.C., were married June 7 in Kansas City [Missouri]. At present Mr. and Mrs. da Cruz are on their honeymoon trip in Missouri. They will be at home after July 1 at 1117 Vermont Street. Mrs. da Cruz is a graduate nurse and while in training in Washington, she nursed Mr. da Cruz through a serious illness contracted in Portuguese South Africa. She was appointed to one of the Red Cross units. She chose marrying instead of going to France however. Mrs. da Cruz already has offered her services to the Lawrence Red Cross.
—Lawrence, Kansas, Journal-World, 11 June 1917, p.3.
Dad was born 10 months later, on April 1, 1918, still in Lawrence, Kansas, while Gus was a World War I Red Cross nurse. Daniel finally found a permanent place at Miami University of Oxford, Ohio, and Dad's brother Pete (Daniel Jr.) was born there in 1921. Gus adored both her children, whereas (as my father told me) their father didn't pay much attention to them; he was always buried in his newspapers, books, and journals.

In 1924 Gus walked out on Daniel and (this part is yet to be proven) took the children with her. I don't know what the problem was but I suspect it was a clash of personalities — Daniel was an intellectual interested only in concepts, science, philosophy, history, literature, and politics, and he was rather stern, humorless, and pedantic. Gus was interested in people, animals, and real life.

Gus 1945
Me, Dad, and Gus 1945
From 1925 to 1927 the kids lived in Bozman, Maryland, with a family named Hardcastle; exactly how this came about and how the Hardcastles are related to Gus or anybody else remains a mystery. Gus might have lived there too because pictures taken there during those years are in her scrapbook, but it's also possible that she lived in the DC area to be able to work and traveled back and forth to see the kids; but that's less likely because I can't see how she could get from DC to Bozman in the 1920s unless she had car (I don't know if she ever had one). Meanwhile, back in Oxford, Daniel filed for divorce:
Lenore Da Cruz, whose place of residence is 1649 Irving Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., will take notice that on the 5th day of April A.D., 1927, Daniel da Cruz filed his petition in the Common Pleas Court, of Butler County, Ohio, being case No.34,463, praying for a divorce on the grounds of willful absence for more than three years.

Said defendent is required to answer or otherwise plead on or before the 22nd day of May A.D., 1927, or said petition will be taken as true and the prayer thereof granted.
—Hamilton, Ohio, Journal News, 7 April 1927, p.14.

The divorce was granted later in 1927 with Daniel awarded full custody of the children. Even then Gus hung on to them for at least another year, 1928, when they lived in Washington DC.

Gus, me, and Pete 1948
Gus, me, and Pete 1948
Between 1927 and 1940, while working as a nurse, she lived in various Washington DC apartments: In 1933 at 1820 K Street NY, Apt 7H, in DC. In 1935 at 505 18th Street NW, Apt 5. She went to Oxford at least once to see the children and had a terrible fight with Daniel's second wife Louise and smashed a window. In May 1940 she married a man named Benjamin L. Jacobs, known as Jake, born in 1862 and 34 years her senior. According to my father he bought her the house in Arlington, Virginia. The 1940 Census shows them both living there. Jake walked out on her in June 1942 and had the marriage annulled, accusing her of fraud, but:
RICHMOND, Oct 6.—(AP)—The Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals today granted a writ of error to Lenore da Cruz Jacobs from a decree of the Circuit Court of Arlington County which found her marriage to Benjamin L. Jacobs to have been based on fraud and annulled it.
— The Staunton, Virginia, News Leader, 6 October 1944, p.1.
So the courts exonerated Gus; then she sued him for divorce on the grounds of desertion and the court ruled in her favor; divorce was granted in October 1946 after four years of separation. What really happened we'll never know but Jake died in 1948 and she kept the house. I lived there with her from 1945 to 1947 and I never saw any trace of Jake in the house or in her photo albums either. Dad and Pete lived there at different points while he was there so they knew him and mentioned him occasionaly (not around Gus). I don't remember what they said but Dad expressed a favorable opinion of him in a 1941 letter.

Gus, RN
Gus as Georgetown nurse
Gus was a nurse at Georgetown Hospital when I was born in November 1944. I would like to think she was in attendance and might even have delivered me herself; it would be in character. Dad lived with her in her house starting around 1942 when he was assigned to Navy Department headquarters in Washington and Gus was a Senior Nurse in the Navy Reserve Corps. He married my Mom in March 1944 and they got an apartment in DC in June, which was the first place I lived, if only for a few months. My crib was a dresser drawer. But there wasn't enough money to pay the rent and feed everybody, so the three of us moved back with Gus in January 1945.

In April 1947 we moved to our own house 3 miles away in Fairfax County and we would go to Gus's house on weekends. She was good at everything she did, and cooking was no exception; she made huge dinners and always baked us delicious pies. I loved going there. One of my favorite treats was when she put the leftover pie scraps in little ceramic cups and baked them in the oven and poured cream over them... just for us little guys. My Mom had never learned to cook, so Gus got her started during the years we lived with her.

Sometimes I'd spend whole days with Gus, just the two of us. She would take me on the bus into DC where we'd ride around on the trolley or go to one of those old-time Chinese restaurants where you sit in a private booth behind a beaded curtain. Or to an amusement park on the Maryland side called Glen Echo (1891-1968; her sister Alice Lauretta — Aunt Al — lived near it). Gus was the relative I was closest to and now that I think of it, the only one (besides Uncle Pete) who ever showed me any affection. ('m sure my Mom did too in the early days but I can't remember it; my impression is that she suppressed all emotion as a survival mechanism against my father's endless abuse.

Dad Gus me Dennis 1952
Dad, Gus, me, and Dennis, 1952
Gus did not have a car so if she wanted to pick me up for a day of fun she had to take a bus for 2½ miles and walk another half mile, and then walk back with me to the bus stop so we could go to DC or Maryland. Then to bring me home and then get herself home, the same thing in reverse. But she was up for it! Always in a good mood (even when I threw up on the roller coaster). Similarly, for us to visit her: the same walk and bus ride.

After we got our first car in late 1949 it was much easier and we went to her house every weekend. Or drove there and brought her back to our house. Once it was for a big nighttime weenie roast at the Walkers' house next door when I was maybe six years old. Nolan Walker had built a big concrete incinerator-fireplace-grill in the back yard and he invited the whole neighborhood to the inauguration. In addition to cooking things on top, you could bake potatoes and ears of corn by burying them under the fire. For fuel, Nolan just used trash. Turns out there was a shotgun shell in the trash and it exploded and I got a load of buckshot in my butt! Wow, did that hurt... As a country boy, I was used to pain, but this was something else. I probably jumped six feet in the air and then ran around like my pants were on fire, which is what it felt like, or maybe they were. Gus caught me, calmed me down, took me inside and dug the pellets out, joking with me all the while, dressed the wound, and made me feel good enough to go back to the weenie roast. She was always able to make everything better except at the very end.

Gus and Mom
Gus and Mom in Gus's back yard, 1952. Mom wearing a dress she made herself. Both looking at my father as he takes the picture. What are they thinking?
Toward the mid-1950s my father became increasingly angry, cruel, domineering, tyrannical, and abusive with my mother and us kids, and Gus knew it. He began to speak disparagingly of her when not in her presence. But during our visits he behaved himself. I never saw her criticize him, nor them ever arguing or fighting, but I imagine she must have tried to help him privately, especially after my mother's suicide attempts began, and I further imagine that this would only have made him more angry.

Our bunkbed
Our bunkbed
In October 2018, Danny sent me scans of some letters from the 1940s, some to Gus from Dad when he was at sea in the 1930s, others as late as 1948, and it is evident that in those days, he adored and doted on his mother. About 1950 Gus bought the bunk bed that Dennis I slept in, as well as curtains for our house. At one point dad expresses genuine concern for her health and the sacrifices she was making to buy stuff for us babies. In the late 1940s, she was renting out not only the basement but also the upstairs. But by 1952 Dad writes contemptuously of her ("I must question Fate that puts real property in the hands of women who are too stupid or mulish to take proper care of it..."). He is also harsh with Pete, taking him to task for his many supposed faults. It would seem that his later antipathy toward Gus was part of his overall transformation.

Gus and Mischa 1954
Gus, Mischa, and toy pugs 1954
In the years before her death, Gus was having a casual romance with a Russian emigre named Mischa, a self-styled aristocrat who had fled the revolution and made his living with various hustles such as managing a gigantic wrestler known as the Swedish Angel whose real name was Tor Johnson and who appeared as a monster in some Ed Wood movies in the 1930s-50s. This might have lasted a year two and then Mischa was gone.

Gus's death

Gus killed herself just after I turned 11. Shortly before this she brought me into her dark bedroom, onto her big spool bed, heavy red velvet drapes drawn, and she was holding me with all her strength and crying and crying for what seemed like forever, saying "It's all over, it's all over!" I thought it was because this was one of the times that my Mom had tried to kill herself and was in the hospital, but now I know that was only part of it; 50 years later Dad's second wife Audrey told me Gus had terminal cancer. I realize now that she was crying not so much because she was about to die (she had seen more death and suffering as nurse in WWI, the 1918 flu, and WWII that she accepted it as part of life) but because then she would not be able to protect us from Dad — she was the only one who could make him behave.

Last photo of Gus
I believe she was set on her course when she had Pete (who was living with her) take some final photos where she is wearing makeup and what looks like a brand-new dress, in the house with her pets trying hard to look jolly. To me, the last photo is the most moving; she's looking in the mirror as if to say goodbye to herself. Pure speculation on my part but it feels true. The photos are at the end of the Gus gallery.

Meanwhile, around the same time she decided all the ducks in her backyard had to die. She took me with her as she decapitated them one by one with a hatchet without explaining why. The headless bodies ran around and some flew for a minute or two before being still. One even flew over the fence into a neighbor's yard. I had no idea why this was happening and only now I realize that she was organizing her death, and I imagine she knew I'd figure it out eventually. And then later, after the final photos were taken and we weren't there, she took all of her pugs (and I guess her cat too) to a vet to be euthanized. No loose ends.

Gus died November 15, 1955, not even 60 years old. Uncle Pete called on the phone and I picked up the upstairs extension at the same time dad picked up downstairs and I heard the news; in Pete's words, she "swallowed some goofballs". The death certificate says suicide by barbituate poisoning, a lethal quantity of Seconal. Later that day dad broke the news to me and Dennis separately. It was awkward for me because I already knew, but it was also creepy having him bring me into a closed room to speak with me alone. He did the same with Dennis (who was only about six), who told me years later that he thought dad was going to eat him.

Strangely, I don't recall being upset about Gus dying. I don't think I understood what "dead" was; nobody I knew had ever died before. If there was a funeral I don't remember it, but I recall being at the place she was interred; it was raining hard and I was looking through a glass window, that's all I remember. I knew she killed herself because I overheard the phone call, but my Mom tried to do that all the time; I thought it was normal and all women did it, and then they always come back after a stay in the hospital. But after Gus was gone, family life became increasingly grim; she never did come back and as the years and decades pass, I think of her more and more.


Shortly after Gus's death, we went in her attic to see what was there and found hundreds of stacks (each taller than me) of 78 RPM records, not vinyl but shellac (and some of them on cardboard), probably ten thousand all together. I took a few of them at random, all the rest went to the dump. The ones I snagged were "Jazz-age" popular music. Here are the ones I remember:

I left them behind when I went in the Army. By the way, making shellac records was an extremely complicated and labor-intensive process, see video (or try here). This one is worth watching so if the URLs go bad, do a video search for "how shellac records are made" (without the quotes).

I wonder if Gus also bought records by Black artists like Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Alberta Hunter, Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, King Oliver, Sidney Bechet, Don Redman, Sy Oliver, Kid Ory, Fats Waller... It's hard to imagine they wouldn't have been in those stacks of thousands and thousands of records.

Gus's house 2023
Gus's house in 2023 (Google street view)
I last saw Gus's house in 1988 (see story), and even went inside. It had been considerably renovated and the large backyard was sold off piece by piece until there was nothing left. But as of October 2017 the house was still standing, as were most of the other frame houses to its north along Glebe Road, and it is still there in 2023 as shown in the photo at right.

Gus's ashes are buried at National Memorial Park, 7482 Lee Highway in Fairfax Country, Virginia; Block II, Lot 1480, Space 14. I went there once as a teenager; my high-school friend Ludwig drove me in his 1953 Buick. Her grave was marked by a simple brass plaque in the grass, flush with the ground, no headstone.

Looking back, I think I had more feelings for my grandmother than I did for either of my parents. She wasn't withdrawn and silent like my mother, and she was never superior, stern, angry, critical, judgemental, or bossy — let alone violent or racist — like my father. To cite just one example: as you can see from the photos, Gus was very particular about her posture but she never told us children or anybody else to straighten up or sit up straight. She didn't lecture us, she showed us by example how to be a good person. She was never anything but warm, loving, jolly, kind, generous, energetic, positive, and always a joy to be with.


Was Gus still working up until her death? How did she commute? In 2023, Google Maps shows various combinations of buses and walking between her house and Georgetown University hospital, about an hour each way with a mile's walk on each end (see Google map).

Gus house plat map 1943
Did she ever have a car? I don't remember one, but she had a garage behind her house that appeared to have been well used. Today the garage is gone and a new house sits on its site, very close to Gus's house, which previously had ample yards on both sides and even ampler back yard, which can be seen in this photo and (along with the garage) in the 1943 plat map (northwest corner of Glebe Road and N.23rd Street).

I have more about Gus's house in the Gus's House section.

Gus's parents and ancestors


Rager family about 1900
Rager family about 1900; Gus is the
little one in the white dress.
One of eight children, Gus had sisters Bessie India (Aunt Bess) (born Jan 5, 1891) and Alice Lauretta (b. Jan 15, 1889, Aunt Al), whom we saw frequently, plus several more we never saw: Eloise Eleanor "Boomie" (b. March 8, 1894), Lydia Catherine "Kate" (Mrs. Hamilton Geisbert, born 1886, died 1958; Dad was a pallbearer at her funeral in Frederick), and Helen (Mrs. Harry C. Edmonds), and two brothers: Arthur Blessing (1881-1926), and Isaac Maynard (1885-1913); all but Gus lived in Maryland, most of them in Frederick. In this photo, taken there about 1900, we see:
Back row: Arthur;
Middle row: Alice, Kate, Isaac, Helen (face obliterated), Mother Susan;
Front row: Bessie, Lenore (Gus), Eloise.
Gus noted in one of her scrapbooks that Eloise married Captain George H. Gillis of North Abington, MA, November 1, 1919.

Rufus Rager about 1890
Rufus Rager ~1890
Susan Boyer ~1890
Susan Boyer ~1890
Rager map
Rager map
Their dad was Rufus Albertus Rager, 1849-1912: Gus's dad, my father's grandfather, my great-grandfather, and you guys' great-great-grandfather. Rufus Rager was born May 20, 1849, in Downsville, Washington County, Maryland; his parents were Rufus and Lydia Suman Rager. Rager is most likely an anglicized form of the common German names Räger or Röger, but I can't find anything about Rufus Sr's parents (a friend, Alex Bochannek, notes that the surname Rager, while uncommon, is found in many parts of Germany, with the greatest concentrations in Baden Würtemburg (mainly around Stuttgart), and Bavaria (Augsburg, Nürnberg, Munich, and the Deggendorf-Regen area; see map from kartezumnamen.eu). Self-educated, Rufus Jr. was county surveyor for Frederick County, Maryland, and had a brother and four sisters. His wife (Gus's mom) was Susan Loretta Boyer, son of Jonathan Boyer.

In July 2018 I found a way to access the Frederick County newspaper archives. For a small town, it had a lot of newspapers! During the time the Ragers lived there — about 1880 to 1923 — they were in the papers hundreds of times. In those days, small-town papers reported every single thing that everybody did: who was visiting who, who was sick, who moved, who acted in the school play, who went to visit a relative, who came to visit...  Rufus was a real striver, auto-didact who joined every fraternal organization, taught himself civil engineering and surveying, ran for office many times and had numerous businesses and offices all over town, was "director" of the volunteer fire brigade, and on and on. He had so many children I thought they must have lived in a big house in the country but no, at the time of his death they lived in "downtown" Frederick in a two-story storefront from which the daughters (including Gus) ran a dressmaking business.

Rufus was apparently not very robust; the newspapers report various periods when he was laid up with rheumatism for extended periods and other ailments. On November 8, 1912, he had a stroke that paralyzed him, rallied just enough to communicate with family and friends, then gradually lapsed into unconsciousness and died on December 1st. After that his son Isaac left home to join Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, following the example of his brother Harry who had traveled with Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show, and once sued the local hospital for $10,000. Harry had since come home but died in April 1913. The mother Susan moved with the daughters to a smaller (or perhaps just cheaper) house nearby in July 1913. Gus had moved out by 1916 to attend Georgetown University nursing school in Washington DC. Susan moved to Baltimore once the nest was empty and died there in 1923, but is buried in the family plot at Mt. Olivet Cemetary in Frederick, which is Section 00, Lot 19. Jonathan Boyer is there too, as well as Catherine J. Blessing Boyer, Arthur Blessing Rager, and Gus's brother Harry.

The Ragers lived in who-knows-how-many houses. The 1900 census says 45 West Fifth Street (which has to be a mistake; there is no 45, it must have been 25) with ten residents (with their ages): Rufus A 52, Susan L 45, Arthur B 18, Helen V 17, Isaac M 15, Lydia K 13, Allie L 11 (Alice), Bessie I 9, Eloise E 6, Susan L Rager (Gus) 3. In either 1906 or 1910 they moved into 119 West Fifth Street. They were living at 324 North Market Street in 1912 when Rufus died. In 1913, the mother Susan moved herself and girls 340 North Market Street. So these were four of Gus's childhood homes, all but the first small rowhouses, and all within a few blocks of each other.

25 East 5th Street
25 East 5th Street
199 East 5th Street
199 East 5th Street
324 North Market Street
324 North Market Street
340 North Market Street
340 North Market Street

With all the moving and Rufus's job-changing and money-making schemes, I have the feeling that the Rager kids' childhood was pretty chaotic. The other interesting thing is the complete absence of any mention of church or religion in any of the newspaper articles, even the obituaries and funerals. Maybe Rufus was like grandfather Daniel's brother Manuel: the village atheist. Which jibes with how I remember Gus, she never mentioned religion and as far as I know never went to church. Anyway who knew we had uncles in Wild West shows???

The Blessing family


George Blessing
George Blessing 1855
George Blessing
George Blessing 1864
Susan Easterday Blessing
Susan Easterday
Susan Boyer's father was Jonathan Boyer and her mother was Catherine Blessing (1828-1908). Catherine's parents were George Blessing Jr. (1794-1873) and Susan Easterday (1802-1884). Blessing Jr. is the earliest ancestor who we have photos of (photos date are approximate). He would be your great-great-great-great-grandfather (4GGF). His parents were George (Georg) Blessing Sr. (1763-1821) and Juliana Easterday (1765-1824), thus Blessing Jr. married his first cousin. These weren't the only first cousins who married. Digging back through the generations all the way to early 1700s, I see the Blessings and Easterdays (Ostertag in German) marrying each other all the time. There are whole books written about these families, such as History of the Easterday Family by Levi Fast M. Easterday, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1908, which says:
[The Easterdays are not] Blessing, but they are related to all the Blessings because all the Blessings are part Easterday. This for the reason that the wife of the Senior Blessing was Julia Easterday. It is true that all the descendants of Christian Easterday are part Blessing, for the reason that his wife was Julia Blessing.

The earlier intermingling of the Blessing and Christian Easterday families by marriage has been a matter of tradition and comment. It is a remarkable fact that the fathers of the George and the Susan, above referred to, each married the sister of the other. Thus George Blessing and Susan Easterday were doubly first cousins before their marriage, the father of Susan being Conrad of "the seven brothers" [sons of Christian Ostertag/Eastday] and the mother of George being Julia of "the three sisters." The maiden name of Susan's mother was Barbara Blessing. The first name of George's father is unknown to the writer. The only honor claimed by the writer in this connection is that his grandfather, Christian, and the "Hero of the Highland" were second cousins, the grandfather of the one and the grandmother of the other being brother and sister.

As you might imagine this poses some challenges for our family tree software. Also see this page.
As noted, Blessing Jr. was known as "the Hero of the Highland" for driving away a Confederate raiding party July 6, 1864. That same month, George himself writes, in response to a newspaper article (text found at findagrave.com, as was the 1855 photo and the names of his children and parents):
Messrs. Editors of the Examiner:
Your statement of the barn-yard fight of the 9th instant, is not correct. The facts of the dreadful scene are these: On the morning of that day a Company of Calvary, commanded by Major Harmon and Captain Walker, came in sight of my farm, where they detailed five to come and steal my horses. As they rode up, I gave my son two guns and I took six and went in the name of the Lord God of Hosts to meet them, and as they rode up in haste we fired upon them in quick time, one was mortally wounded (he died at Middletown), the other so bad, they rode under the overshoot of the barn where we had a cross-fire on them. As they were retreating I fired, killing one on the spot and took the other prisoner. The balance got back to the Company, which was from forty to sixty strong, and before I had re-loaded my guns they returned, nineteen in number, and had pressed in their service four of my neighbors as guides, and marched them in advance. I gave my son two guns and another young man one, but they both retreated. I then took four guns, and went to a group of cherry trees; as their guides came up I halted them under pain of death if they did not stand. One of them broke off and ran. I fired on him, without effect. As soon as he reached the Rebels, they opened fire upon me to their hearts content; the splinters from the trees and fence flew in my face, while some of the balls fell at my feet. I had three guns, which I held back (Unreadable word) sure work. After firing some fifty shots they rode off, leaving their dead and wounded in my hands. They sent word that they would bring up a battery and shell me. I sent word back that I had their wounded man in the barn, if they chose to burn him up they could do so. A little before night, Cole's Calvary, under command of Lieut. Colonel Vernon, came in sight. I thought it was the Rebel battery, and I took the dead Rebel's carbine and concealed myself in a bramble bush close to the lane to make that the closing scene of that bloody day. When I saw my happy mistake, I crawled out; they gave me a hearty cheer, rode up to the house, helped to bury my dead, and staid over night. Thus closed the most tragic scene in the history of my life. I am 70 years of age. I do not wish to correct your error to boast, but I do it to encourage our soldiers and people to fight better and look to God for a just victory.
Yours, &c.,
Speaking of the Civil War, Gus's mother's father, Jonathan Boyer (who was married to George Blessing Jr.'s daughter Catherine), was a Private in the 173rd Pennsylvania Infantry and died from wounds suffered in the Battle of Gettysburg; Catherine received a widow's pension.

Solomon Blessing
Tom Blessing Civil War photo
Solomon Blessing
Solomon "Tom" Blessing
Samuel Blessing
Samuel "Sam" Blessing
Solomon Blessing
John Philip Blessing
Incidentally the 1855 Blessing photo (the year is approx­imate) was by John Philip Blessing, who, along with his brothers Samuel and Solomon, were among the first professional photographers. They are grandsons of Philip Blessing, brother of George Blessing's father, Georg Johann. Although they were all born in Frederick, for some reason they moved to Texas and Louisiana to set up their photo studios. Then the Civil War broke out, and being in Texas, Solomon ("Tom") found himself a Private in the Confederate Army, was wounded four times, and took some photos like the one shown. After the war they got together and opened Blessing's Photographic Temple in Galveston that had a copying and enlarging department that could produce all sizes of portraits, from miniatures to life-size, as well as portraits in oil painted from photographs to reduce the traditional lengthy sittings. In the Civil War photo, the soldier in middle is holding a cast iron skillet in one hand, used to make the Civil War Cornbread in the other.

Nellie Blessing Eyster
Nellie Blessing
George Blessing Jr.'s little brother Abraham was father to journalist, writer, and lecturer Nellie Blessing Eyster, who is somewhat famous as a social reformer and defender of native Americans and of Chinese immigrants. She's my 6th cousin 4 times removed and you guys' 7th cousin 5 times removed. You can read about her in Wikipedia. According to the article her maternal grandfather, George W. Ent, was a captain in the Maryland Militia at Fort McHenry (which is in Maryland) in the war of 1812.

Digging deeper

Rager family tree
Rager family tree drawn by Rufus A. Rager 1896 or later. Bottom
1881 Arthur B; 1883 Helen V; 1884 Isaac M; 1886 Lydia C;
1889 Alice L; 1891 Bessie I; 1894; E. Eleanor; 1896 Lenore.
I have a barely legible copy of Gus's family tree, handwritten for her by her father, which traces the family back to his great grandparents, Eleanor and Peter Suman (more about Peter below). It's hard to read but here is how I interpreted it: the circle in the upper right of the left page labeled HUSBAND, which contains "1727 Peter Suman 1781", is connected to the circle in the upper left of the right-hand page labeled "Wife" that contains "Eleanor 1818", 1818 being the date of death. Peter Suman and Eleanor had 11 children, one of whom was Albert Suman with no dates given. Albert married Mary Lantz and they had seven children between 1817 and 1823, one of whom was Lydia Suman, born in 1821, who married the first Rufus Rager and produced seven children including Rufus A. Rager, Gus's father.

Anyway, it turns out that if you type the name and dates of a person who lived long ago into Google, you are likely to find them on a number of genealogy sites: ancestry.com, findagrave.com, myheritage.com, wikitree.com, familysearch.com, genealogieonline.nl, and so on. The longer ago the person lived, the more descendents who might be interested in their genealogy. I did this first for Peter Suman and filled in all the illegible names and missing dates from the handwritten tree, plus I found Peter Suman's father-in-law, Michael Miller (Johann Michel Müller), born in 1692 (note: the German name Michel is pronounced MEE-shel). That's on the Rufus Rager side. His wife, Susan Boyer has a lot of ancestors too, going back six generations to families named Spiess and Ostertag in what is now Germany, all the way to a Johann Daniel Heuss, born in 1673 in Bad Homburg (a town near Frankfurt that I visited from time to time 1959-61).

Isaac Suman
Isaac Suman plaque
Isaac Suman
Col. Isaac C.B. Suman
One of Lydia's brothers (which makes him my 3-great uncle) was Isaac C.B. Suman, born in Frederick County in 1831 and enlisted in the Army (for the second time) upon the outbreak of the Civil War as a Private in Company H of the 9th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment and quickly rose to Captain, then Lieutenant Colonel, and finally Colonel and commander of the Regiment, known as the "Bloody Ninth" because it was in so many battles, including Shiloh, Stones River (where he was shot twice), and Chickamauga. After the war he was promoted to General by President Grant, but he turned down the promotion because he had already left the Army. He was known as a strong opposer of slavery, unlike his father, Albert Ellsworth Suman, Revolutionary War veteran, slaveholder, and my great-great-great grandfather. Isaac's sister Mary Elizabeth, who lived 94 years, liked to claim that her and Isaac's brother Albert fought on the Confederate side, but apparently she invented the story.

The Blessings and Easterdays were intertwined in ways that can't be shown in the family tree at Family Echo; for example, Conrad and Juliana Easterday are brother and sister. Conrad's daughter Susan and Juliana's son George married each other. That's just one example of many that go all the way back to when the two families were still in Germany, when the Easterdays were Ostertags.

Deeper Still... Or... Who knew our German ancestors were really Swiss?

Perhaps not all of them but...

Müller house in Schwarzenmatt
Müller Haus in Schwarzenmatt
Müller house in Schwarzenmatt
A more recent view
Switzerland 1964
Me in Switzerland 1964

In April 2019 I was contacted by Carole Pfisterer, who is my fourth cousin via Michael Rager (father of Rufus Rager Sr.), and who got me interested in following up the Rager branch in more depth (and height, and width). Thanks to some clues she unearthed in church and property records, I was able to trace the Ragers back several more genera­tions and to satisfy myself that they were overwhelmingly German or (surprise) German-speaking Swiss. It turns out the latter were among the "Pennsylvania German pioneers", focus of a great deal of research and genealogy, almost on a par with the Mayflower passengers in terms of attention. Johann Michel Müller (a.k.a. Michael Miller), my 8-great grandfather on the Rager side, was born in 1655 in the tiny Alpine village of Schwarzenmatt, Canton Bern, Switzerland, in a wooden house constructed in 1556, a house that still stands and, in fact, can be rented by tourists as a holiday chalet.
Note: In this section I use "Germany" and "Switzerland" as shorthand for the corresponding areas of the Holy Roman Empire, which were then kingdoms, duchies, bishoprics, principalities, cantons, etc.

Persecution of Pietists
It seems that some of our Swiss family — notably the Müller and Berchtol clans — belonged to a post-Reformation dissenter sect called the Swiss Pietists or Brethren (Brüder), also called Dunkers, who believed baptism should be a choice of fully conscious adults — the "Anabaptist heresy" — for which they were persecuted by both secular and religious authorities. Brethren were also pacifists and were opposed to bureaucracy and record-keeping, which is why it's often difficult to trace their births, deaths, marriages, and residences. The movement began in the Swiss village of Zollikon (near Zürich), where some of our family were born, for example Salome Huber, mother of Müller Senior (also born there). The co-founder of the movement, Jörg Blaurock, was burned at the stake along with other movement leaders; others were executed by drowning or beheading. This went on from about 1520 into the 1700s and it became increasingly clear that the Brüder were not welcome in Switzerland.

Thirty Years War
Thirty Years War
Nine Years War
Nine Years War
Meanwhile throughout the 1600s Germany suffered a series of calamities including the Thirty Years War (1618-1638), a French invasion in 1674, the War of the Palatinate Succession ("Nine Years War", 1688-1697), and a Bubonic Plague epidemic which among them left some parts of Germany virtually empty and begging for German-speaking immigrants to come and repopulate the devastated landscape and reestablish its agriculture and economy. As enticements, German rulers offered concessions including tax exemption and religious freedom, which attracted Swiss of all faiths, but above all the Brüder and Mennonites, who needed a safe place to live.

Steinwenden aerial view
Rheinland map
The result was a wave of emigration of German-speaking Swiss to Germany in the early 1700s; in the case of our family, to the Rheinland, where they settled near Kaisers­lautern (where I lived 1963-64), mainly in Stein­wenden and Krottel­bach. Johann Michel Müller "Senior" emigrated from his chalet in Schwarzen­matt to Steinwenden where he raised a family and lived out his days. His son Johann Michel Müller "Junior", born in Steinwenden in 1692, married Susanna Agnes Berchtol (granddaughter of Swiss emigrants) in 1714, and the family joined the Brethren. Their daughter, Eleanor Beauford Müller, my 4-great grandmother, was therefore 100% Swiss, making me 1/32 Swiss.

But the Müllers and Berchtols are not the only Swiss branch of the family. John Lantz, father of Mary Lantz, who was the mother of Rufus Rager Sr.'s wife Lydia Suman, was born in Switzerland and emigrated to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. So that's another 1/64. And the great-great grandparents of Michael Rager (father of Rufus Rager Sr.) were Tobias Anspacher and Elizabetha Winsler, both born in Canton Bern, Switzerland. They migrated to Germany in the early 1700s (were they Brethren?) and the family remained there until 1749. And that's another 1/256, making me (at least) 5% Swiss.

Port of Philadelphia 1730
Port of Philadelphia 1730
The Swiss settlers enjoyed 25-50 good years in Germany, but then the concessions that brought them there were rolled back by the ruling German families and the Swiss were subject once again to religious persecution and heavy taxation. So at the age of 35, after his parents had died, Johann Michel Müller (Junior) took Susanna and their 7-10 children up the Rhein, which flows north, to Rotterdam and sailed from there to British America on the Adventure, docking in Philadelphia on October 2, 1727. Later, in 1749, the Anspachers and the Ragers sailed to Philadelphia too.

Amish in Lancaster
Amish in Lancaster
They all settled in the Lancaster PA area, known for its Mennonites and Amish as well as its Brethren (the three are very similar). Georg and Barbara moved to Virginia but Conrath stayed behind and married Eva Maria Anspacher, at least half Swiss. (Incidentally John Lantz's wife Christina Kreider, lived to be 111 years old and her great granddaughter, Mary Elizabeth Suman Bower lived to 96).

Shortly after these settlers arrived they found themselves in the middle of a border conflict between Pennsylvania and Maryland called Cresap's War (1728-38), the two colonies disputing claim to the lands where the Brethren had settled and built their farms, making their lives impossible. In 1728 Pennsylvania militias ran the settlers off and burned their homes. In the 1730s, militias of both states started to demand rent, and to jail them. Some settlers resisted, but not the non-violent Brethren. The harrassment and violence was to last until the Mason-Dixon line was drawn in 1767.

Michael Miller (as Johan Michel Müller II is now known) saw the writing on the wall and started buying up land in Frederick County, Maryland. By 1752 he, along with a large group of Brethren and other Swiss Germans (and actual Germans), had moved to Frederick, already settled by other Germans who arrived in Maryland directly through the port of Baltimore — a few at first, then en masse starting in 1752.

Michael's son-in-law, Peter Balthasar Schumann, my 4-great grandfather (4GGF), was born in Schriesheim in Baden-Württemburg (just north of Heidelberg) in 1730, and he was a member of the Dunker Church, i.e. the Brethren. He emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1749, shortened his name to Suman, and settled there with his wife, my 4-great grandmother, the aforementioned Eleanor Beauford Müller. Theirs was another family forced by the border war to move from Pennsylvania to Frederick County in the 1750s.

French and Indian War
French and Indian War
These and many other German and Swiss settlers remained in Frederick except for 1756-1758 when they piled their belongings into 350 wagons and vacated their lands to get out of the way of the French and Indian War! Müller Junior didn't return until 1762. Nothing is known of this episode due to the Brethren's total lack of record keeping, but clearly life in the New World was a challenge. Where did they go? How did they live? What did they find when they returned? Who died and who survived?

Peter Suman's execution
Peter Suman's execution
Peter Suman's death sentence
Peter Suman's death sentence
Chastising a loyalist
Chastising a loyalist
Once back in Frederick the Millers and Sumans and the rest enjoyed about fifteen years of relative calm. Then came the American Revolution, which put Brethren and other pacifist sects in danger once again; their religious beliefs would not permit them to fight but there was no Consciencious Objecting in those days. At the height of the Loyalist scare, my 4GGF Peter Balthasar Suman (I am descended from his son Albert, 1763-1842) was charged with being a loyalist — treason — and along with six supposed co-conspirators was indicted, arraigned, and tried in a military tribunal that found them all guilty. On July 25, 1781, Peter and the others were sentenced as follows:
"You shall be carried to the gaol of Fredericktown, and be hanged thereon; you shall be cut down to the earth alive, and your entrails shall be taken out and burnt while you are yet alive, your heads shall be cut off, your bodies shall be divided into four parts and your heads and quarters shall be placed where his Excellency the governor shall appoint."
Peter and two others were executed as indicated August 17, 1781, and the land where his wife Eleanor [my 4GGM] and their 11 children were living was confiscated. Did Peter's refusal to join in the uprising make him a loyalist? The charges against Peter remain controversial to this day, but who cares; some Brethren, Mennonites, and Quakers in the area might indeed have been loyalists by reason of their faith, which forbade both keeping of slaves and killing[26], at a time when the colonists had reason to believe the British would abolish slavery.

Brethren church
Grossnickle Brethren Church,
Ellerton MD
As to Peter's situation, it seems to me there were significant numbers of Brethren in Frederick County, as can be seen by the number of churches called "Church of the Brethren" there: Catoctin, Ellerton, Fredericktown, Johnsville, Libertytown, Middletown, Monocacy, Monrovia, Mountandale, Myersville, Sabillasville, Thurmont, Urbana, Walkersville, Wolfsville... Among our own ancestors, Brethren were found among at least the Schumann/Sumans, the Müller/Millers, the Blessings, the Boyers, the Grossnickles (who had their own church!), the Studebakers... Then consider the other pacifist sects in the same county: Mennonites, Quakers, even some Amish. These are people who take the Bible literally and disdain worldly authority; the Bible says "Thou shalt not kill", the end, Punkt. Frederick County must have seemed like a seething hotbed of subversion to those favoring war. What better way to break the resisters' will than a show trial ending in unimaginably horrific public executions? In fact, the outcry upon the first three executions was so overwhelming that the remaining four defendents were pardoned and the Suman farm was returned to the widow Eleanor (albeit fifteen years later).

Pennsylvania and Maryland
Pennsylvania and Maryland
Anyway it turns out that many Brethren and other Swiss Germans remained in Pennsylvania or resettled there after the border war, and it is probably for this reason that births and deaths in these families (Müller/­Miller, Schumann/­Suman, and finally Rager) seem to alternate between Maryland and Pennsylvania over the 1800s. For example, Michael Rager (Conrath's grandson, born in Lancaster in 1780) married Elizabeth Gittinger (born in Maryland of mixed German and Swiss descent) and they had 12 children that we know of between 1809 and 1833, shuttling back and forth between Lancaster and Frederick; five of them born in Pennsylvania, seven in Maryland, never more than two in a row in the same state. Thus the Lancaster Ragers and Frederick Ragers are not the two separate families they might seem. The map shows the well-trodden path between the two, about three days each way by horse and buggy.

Pennsylvania Dutch
In the end, a good chunk of our heritage is indeed "Pennsylvania Dutch" (a term that includes Germans and Swiss but not actual Dutch). I would like to trace the Rager line farther back than Conrath and his parents (German father Georg Michael, Swiss mother Barbara Wurtzin), if only to find out the original spelling of the name, because "Rager" doesn't seem to be a proper German name. More likely it would be Räger/Raeger, or perhaps Reger (like the composer Max Reger, and as Conrath is listed in one genealogy I saw) or even Röger. On the other hand, the verb ragen means to tower above, so a "Rager" might be a tall person but I don't see the word in any dictionary. And no, the Ragers were not abandoned Hessian soldiers; the first Ragers arrived in America in 1749, twenty-seven years before any Hessians were imported by the British.

Going back a bit farther, it turns out the Müllers weren't always Swiss. Johann Michel Sr.'s paternal grandfather Daniel Müller (my own 10GGF) was Alsatian, and his grandma, Daniel's wife Magdalena was Bavarian, and her ancestors back to the 1520s were from Württemburg (where I lived in 1965, in Stuttgart; by the way, in this line we have some X-great grandmothers with operatic names like Walpurga and Apollonia). On the other hand, Johann Michel Sr.'s mother Salome Huber's family is Swiss all the way back to 1525, so Johann Senior is still "mostly" Swiss. Anyway, the distinction doesn't matter much given that the German-speaking countries and boundaries have been changing continuously over the past half-millenium. So for genealogy purposes I think it makes more sense to understand "German" as an ethnic/language group rather than a nationality, and in that sense Gus is just about 100% German.

  1. Roberta Estes, Heinsmann (Heinrich) Müller of Schwarzenmatt Switzerland, 15 September 2018.
  2. Roberta Estes, The Muller House on Kreuzgasse, 16 Feb 2019.
  3. Swiss Brethren, Wikipedia, accessed 3 May 2019.
  4. Thirty Years' War, Wikipedia, accessed 4 May 2019.
  5. Cresap's War, Wikipedia, accessed 4 May 2019.
  6. Roberta Estes, Johann Michael Mueller the First (1655-1695), November 8, 2015.
  7. Roberta Estes, Johann Michael Miller (Mueller) the Second (1692-1771), Brethren Immigrant, 27 December 2015.
  8. Roberta Estes, Irene Charitas (c1665-c1694) and Her Aching Mother's Soul, November 29, 2015.
  9. Roberta Estes, Backpedaling: Irene Charitas is a Heitz, not a Schlosser, April 15, 2018.
  10. Roberta Estes, Susanna Agnes Berchtol, 3 January 2016.
  11. Roberta Estes, Hans Berchtol, Twice a Godfather, 6 December 2015.
  12. German and Swiss Settlers in America, 1700s-1800s Immigration Records, AncestralFindings.com (accessed 4 May 2019). A bibliography of works on the wave of migration in the 1700s.
  13. Hermann Guth et al., Palatine Mennonite Census Lists 1664-1793, Family History Library (Salt Lake City), "a unique source for genealogical researchers as it lists where many of Swiss-German immigrants lived in Germany prior to emigration to America".
  14. Annette K. Burgart, Are Your Pennsylvania German Ancestors Really Swiss?, Der Kurier, v.12 n.6, December 1994.
  15. The Anabaptists and Persecution Against Them, Daniel Hason website, accessed 4 May 2019. "Hundreds of Anabaptists were deported or emigrated northward down the Rhine River into parts of southern Germany. An estimated 1,661 Anabaptists fled from Canton Zurich in the 1650s. Seven hundred helpless and impoverished Swiss Anabaptists were driven from their homeland in 1671. By 1700 few of them were left anywhere in northern Switzerland."
  16. Pennsylvania Dutch, Wikipedia, accessed 4 May 2019. "[A] wave of settlers from Germany, which would eventually coalesce to form a large part of the Pennsylvania Dutch, arrived between 1727 and 1777 ... The immigrants ... who were known as the Pennsylvania Dutch included Mennonites, Swiss Brethren (also called Mennonites by the locals) and Amish but also Anabaptist-Pietists."
  17. Klaus Wurst, Direct German Immigration to Maryland in the 18th Century, Loyola Notre Dame Library, accessed 5 May 2019.
  18. German Marylanders Timeline, GermanMarylanders.org, accessed 5 May 2019, according to which Frederick, Maryland, was first settled in about 1732. In 1735 about 100 families from the Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz) by way of the Chesapeake Bay, landing at Annapolis or Alexandria, settled at Monocacy and Frederick Town. In 1748, 2800 Rheinland emigrants arrived, settling mainly in Frederick Town. In 1777 the British garrisoned a Hessian regiment in the town during the war. After the war, with no way to return to their homeland, the men of the Hessian regiment stayed on and married into the families of the town, strengthening its German identity.
  19. Edward T. Schultz, First Settlements of Germans in Maryland, Frederick County Historical Society, 17 January 1896: "It is known that before the year 1750 a large number of Germans and their descendents had found their way into Maryland via the settlements in York and Lancaster counties and settled on the lands contiguous to the settlement of Monocacy ... The favorite route of the German immigrants was to the port of Philadelphia, thence to Lancaster County, where large settlements were made at an early period. From here they spread into other sections of Pennsylvania, and into Maryland, Virginia..."
  20. Steve Shook, A Porter County Civil War Officer: Colonel Isaac C.B. Suman, 1 February 2017. Isaac is my 3-great uncle. The second half deals with the horrific end of my 4-great grandfather, Peter Balthasar Suman, and a dirty secret of my 3-great grandfather Albert Suman.
  21. Hessian (Soldier), Wikipedia, accessed 6 May 2019.
  22. Who Were the German Baptist Brethren?, jacobbrumbaugh.wordpress.com, accessed 6 January 2020.
  23. Brumbaugh's Men and the Revolution in Hagerstown, Jacob's Estate, jacobbrumbaugh.wordpress.com, accessed 6 January 2020. Explains how all free adult males in Frederick and Washington counties of Maryland were required to join the militia to fight the British, and how the Brethren, Mennonites, Moravians, Quakers, and other pacifist sects would be labeled Loyalists and prosecuted if they refused. It also mentions that the topic of consciencious objection came up at the Second Continental Congress and systems of fees and fines was proposed but the issue remained in flux, colony by colony, town by town.
  24. The Pacifists (in the American Revolution), America in Class, Making the Revolution, Rebellion: 1775-1776, americainclass.org, accessed 8 March 2020.
  25. Peace Churches, Wikipedia, accessed 8 March 2020.
  26. Ronald J. Gordon, Who are the Dunkers?, Church of the Brethren Network (1998, 2013), website accessed 19 October 2020.

Gus's sisters

Back to my own lifetime!

Bess and Bill's house 2019
Bess and Bill house 2019
Aunt Bess and Uncle Bill 1950s
Bess and Bill 1950s
Gus's older sister Bess and Bess's husband Bill Middleton (an aristocratic landlord) lived at 3194 West­over Drive SE in Washington DC in what seemed like a mansion to me ("a lovely home in a private and prestigious enclave minutes from Capitol Hill ... 4 beds, 3.5 baths..."). It's in the small slice of DC south of the Anacostia River, on a high hill just off Pennsylvania Avenue overlooking Southeast DC and adjoining Maryland — a spectacular view, especially at night. It was not a child-friendly household. For example on the coffee table there were cut-glass receptacles for hard candies and Brazil nuts ("niggertoes") but nobody was allowed to touch them.

I lived with Bess and Bill for a week or two in summer 1961 when we came back from Germany and our house in Arlington wasn't ready. They were confirmed antisemites and racists, to the extent that's all they ever talked about. They may have passed this on to my dad (uncle Pete not so much); he certainly didn't get it from his own parents. It was a rude reintroduction to the country I had just returned to after 2½ years in the multiracial multicultural virtual paradise of the Frankfurt, Germany, Army base. One day they heard that a Jewish family was moving onto their street, so they instantly sold their house and moved to (would you believe) Florida, where Bill died in 1968 and Bess in 1980.

George Booth cartoon
Aunt Al (Alice) was like the cartoons in the New Yorker about those crabby old people who live in the messy rickety house with yapping dogs and mangy cats and lightbulbs hanging by frayed wires, surrounded by overgrown weeds and rusty tin cans. All she cared about in the whole world was her precious mutt Bobo. She had hundreds of cast-iron and ceramic "niggers", her favorite decorative motif, both in the house and among the weeds outside. She had a live-in boyfriend, John, who just sat there in his stained and torn T-shirt and never said a word. He only had one ear; Al had bitten the other one off. I never knew it until now, but she had been married at one point, she is Alice Perry on the 1940 census, which also shows that as of June 8th of that year, the house at 26 Conduit Road in Glen Echo Heights (Maryland) was actually Gus's; the two of them lived together then. Conduit Road is now MacArthur Boulevard and the house numbering has changed so there would be no way to find this house except from old plat maps. But anyway it close to Glen Echo Amusement Park. From Virginia we would drive across Chain Bridge and turn left on George Washington Parkway (now Clara Barton), which went along the Potomac to Glen Echo.

The three sisters had one quirk in common — they painted strange designs reminiscent of Gaugin or Rousseau — twisting vines, devil faces, fantastic animals — all over every surface in their houses: walls, tables, chairs, lamps, vases, pianos, plates, everything. Aunt Bess had covered a basement wall with a huge mural of a Mexican vaquero in a gigantic sombrero studded with thousands of real sequins, surrounded by cactuses and gaudy desert flowers. I wish I had taken pictures but I didn't, nor did dad.

My father always said his mother was "demented" but I never knew what he meant by it, except for how she painted designs on everything — maybe it was because, unlike her sisters, she wasn't an over-the-top bigot. I don't recall her ever saying "nigger" or for that matter, a bad word about anybody. Although I imagine she didn't care much for Hitler.

Uncle Pete...

I deliberately—to the extent I did anything deliberately in my late teens and early twenties—stole from him. I wanted to be like the polymathic, swashbuckling, self-assured, charming, somewhat subversive hard-ass that I saw him to be. And now as I read your story, I am enjoying a morning of self-congratulatory triumph at having, to some extent, been like Dan. And at realizing that my teenage suspicion that this would be an interesting life turns out to be the case. —Rif Haffar (his nephew), January 2018
Uncle Pete in 1940
Uncle Pete in 1940
My dad's brother: Daniel Pattee da Cruz (Pete), born Nov 17, 1921, Oxford OH, died January 5, 1991 (cancer), George Washington University Hospital in Washington DC, buried in Arlington National Cemetery: Area 63 Columbarium CT3. This is at the extreme east end near the Pentagon. His Mom, Gus, called him Pete and we did too, but everybody else knew him as Daniel or Dan. Pete called my dad Fran (my mother and his mother called him Roach).

Dad and Pete 1934
Dad and Pete 1934
Pete grew up with Dad in Oxford OH, but also in other houses with other families, at least in Washington DC, Bozman MD, and (in the 1940s) Arlington VA with their mother, my grandmother Gus. I'm pretty sure, but not certain, that they were kept together the whole time. I know they were together in Bozman and in Oxford, but Dad was 3½ years older. Dad was a pretty poor student; I think Pete must have been a better one — he went to Miami University in Oxford right after high school (unlike his brother, who worked at odd jobs for two years before his father made him go to the University of Maryland, where he lasted exactly one semester). At some point before 1941 Pete transferred from Miami to George Washington University in DC and lived with Gus but (as he wrote to me in 1964) "I flunked out of school before the war". In the late 1930s he and his friends had been anti-war, believing it was all just another big boondoggle for the arms industry, like WWI, but later he changed his mind and enlisted in the Marines in May 1941, several months before Pearl Harbor. In his own words (from a 1965 letter):
I recall with utmost clarity an all-night stag party of a bunch of us young-bloods just before we were to enter the university. We were all classmates. The date was September 1, 1939, and toward morning we heard on the radio that the Germans had invaded Poland. By daybreak we had taken a solemn oath, one and all, that war was hell, that we would all refuse to go, and that nothing would change our minds. Within three years everyone of us was in it.

Pete Parris Island 1941
Pete's basic training platoon Parris Island 1941
Pete in the Marines 1942
Private 1942
Pete in the Marines 1947
Platoon Sergeant 1947
Uncle Pete was my hero as a kid. He was hand­some, adven­turous, good-humored, demon­strative, curious about every­thing, spoke many languages (so it seemed to me as a child, but his son Danny adds: "none too well, but a passable ability in several"), and always was full of energy and enthusiasm and stories of his adventures. He had the good looks and to some extent the manner of fellow WWII veteran Paul Newman, although in fact (he told me himself) he patterned himself on Simon Templar, The Saint (a series of books by Leslie Charteris... the early ones, not the later ones).

North American B-25 Mitchell medium bomber
North American B-25 Mitchell medium bomber

His academic career was put on hold by World War II (inscription found in one of his books by Danny in May 2019, given to him by his mother Gus for Christmas 1941: "Merry Christmas to my darling. Be brave. Ma"), where he saw combat on land, sea, and air in the Atlantic and Pacific as an enlisted man in the Marine Corps. He flew in the front bubble of B-25 bombers as a navigator-bombardier...

Danny says his dad had a story about a training flight where "they got lost above the clouds somewhere over Georgia and they had to bring the plane down below the clouds and close enough to ground to read highway signs, with binoculars I presume, to get their bearings."

B-24 Liberator
Consolidated B-24 Liberator
By the way — Danny disputes this — I think he also flew in B-24s because he told me so when I was 10 or so while admiring my plastic models of both planes; I definitely knew the difference. I remember he mentioned that bailing out from the front compartments could result in being chopped up by the inboard propeller, which makes sense if you look at where the emergency exits are. Jumping out of the rear exits is safer but if the ship is damaged or on fire that might not be possible. Of course the pilot could also stop the engines and feather the props... Oh well, too late to go back for clarification.

Pete also sailed on the USS Texas and the USS Augusta where he was severely injured in a 5-inch gun explosion, and he fought on Guam where he got "jungle rot", a skin condition that lasted for many years (and eventually had an operation after which his whole head was wrapped in bandages like a mummy, I saw him like that but don't have a picture). He was also on Okinawa and Iwo Jima. I'm sure there's a lot more to his war record but that's all I think I know.

USS Augusta
USS Augusta
USS Augusta
Atlantic Conference
USS Texas
USS Texas
The Ayes of Texas
The Ayes of Texas
His experiences on the Texas and the Augusta provided the background for his Ayes of Texas novels. The Augusta, by the way, is the same ship where Roosevelt and Churchill had their first face-to-face meeting in August 1941 and issued the Atlantic Charter, the document that established the principal that every country had the right to rule itself, which spelled the eventual doom of colonialism (this was after the gun explosion). Danny notes:
It was also the flagship of Admiral Ernest King [standing, second from right, in the second image] at the time, and Dad fondly remembered Admiral King putting his coat on Dad's shoulders one cold night when he was on duty as his orderly. It was later General Patton's flagship during the invasion of North Africa.
When he was injured in the explosion my dad found out about it in a comminique that arrived at his code station at the Navy Department. He told Gus and Gus went to meet him when the ship came back, and nursed him until he was ready to live the horrors of Pacific islands; I don't have any stories about this, neither does anybody else — he didn't talk about it much; I vaguely recall some graphic descriptions of the jungles of Guam, but not the details. He was released from service in 1947 as a Platoon Sergeant E6 (three stripes and a rocker). To see what the war in the Pacific islands was like for US Marines, see the HBO "The Pacific" miniseries (2010) produced by Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Gary Goetzman.

Uncle Pete with cousins in Portugal
Portugal 1951
After that, he traveled around on his own, with no money — he rode a Vespa with a sidecar all over Europe (including in Portugal to find our family there). According to family legend, he stayed with nomadic Sámi in arctic Scandinavia for a year, traveled with nomads in the Iraqi desert (probably during or after his State Department assignment there), worked as a copper miner in Mexico and/or Butte, Montana, lived with Hopis in the southwest, worked as sharecropper, as a taxi driver in DC, etc — wrote lots of books, spoke (or at least studied) lots of languages (Spanish, Arabic, Caddo, probably French, maybe some Sámi, who knows what else). He even lived in Harlem for a while on or near Riverside Drive at some point, a short walk from where we ourselves lived when he visited us in 1979.

Me and Pete 1948
Pete and me in 1948
Pete oiled
Pete oiled up
During his wandering years, Pete would show up at our house unexpectedly every so often, on a Vespa or in some kind of modified jalopy with the seats ripped out, so he could sleep in it, wearing a ragged old olive-drab Marine T-shirt and dogtags, or dressed like an Arab or an Eskimo or a bomber crewman, bringing us exotic presents from strange lands — chunks of copper ore from Mexico, elaborate Arab garb for whole family, an ornate curved dagger from Iraq that had been a murder weapon, a reindeer-marking knife from Sápmi ("Lappland") that I still have… Penniless, he would stay with us for a few weeks or months until he launched his next adventure. Danny found the "oiled up" picture, neither of us has any idea what's going on in it, but I don't think this was the jalopy I remember because (a) it's not a jalopy; (b) it's not grey and beat-up as I remember it; (c) the license plate does not look American; and (d) someone is sitting in a passenger seat but the jalopy I remember didn't have one.

Pete coins
Pete coins (click to see labels)
Every time he came he gave me coins from the lands he visited (including pre-Israel Palestine, the dark coin below center), and also little tutorials about the latest language he learned, which sparked my lifelong interest in languages and linguistics, which I almost majored in, thanks to him. Although I didn't quite major in it, I did spend a year with a truly inspiring linguistics professor, Erica García. I talked about her so much with Mommy's and my friend, Ricardo Otheguy, that he was inspired to study under her and became a well-known linguist himself.

Pete and my mom were very fond of each other, sometimes I think they both secretly thought that she married the wrong brother. I remember on one visit he put a lot of time into trying to teach her to drive. Unlike my dad, he was patient, gentle, and encouraging with her, but even so it didn't work out, she was terrified of driving. I don't know why because she tackled all sorts of other challenges with no fuss — Navy Basic Training, learning to cook, learning to make our clothes from scratch, etc.

Uncle Pete in diplomat costume
Diplomat pose 1952
After five years of traveling the world on a shoestring, Pete applied for a post at the State Department so he could get paid for doing the same thing, was hired there in 1952, and bought himself a new wardrobe he thought to be commensurate with his new status. This was an occasion that called for a photo session at Gus's house; the image at left is just one of many photos taken that day (see gallery), shortly before he was to travel to Baghdad and assume his new rôle as Press Attaché at the US Embassy. Danny says:
My dad was a foreign service officer, but on information/press and not policy — to the best of my knowledge. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I think past attendance at one or two "communist" meetings or talks, in Oxford, OH I think, together with the frantic anti-communist witch hunts in the 50s eventually led to him leaving or being drummed out of the service [in 1953]. This would be ironic, of course, because he was a chronic critic of the commies.
This jibes with what Pete once told me himself about having been involved in antiwar activities during the runup to the US entry in WWII. I'm not sure how his later aversion to communism came about (after all, without the USSR the Allies would have lost the war in Europe), but it is the main theme in his 1980s Texas books. Danny found the source of "communist" allegation was Pete himself, something he wrote in a personal history statement in a government job application:
In the fall of 1938, while editor of my high school paper, I attended a CP meeting in Cincinnati to hear Earl Browder speak and write a report on it. The report, in editorial form, was not favorable.
Danny says:
I think the years between the war and the mid-fifties were years of what would be called these days 'finding himself' — I don't think he ever did, as he was always searching for some interesting adventure, learning something new (piano and flying in his sixties, for example) or attempting some great endeavor. Even in his last few months, when he was in pain with bone metastases and bed-ridden, he was hatching grand schemes or working on new book outlines. He was itinerant during the years between the war and the early- to mid-1950s, looking for adventure, chasing dreams, looking for employment... probably quite hard years, as I have found (in much less desperate circumstances) when I aimed for something different outside the mainstream. He did a very wide range of jobs, in different towns all over the country and Europe (taught English in Madrid, movie extra in Sweden, and lots more), never for long. I think he was meant to live in another era, not a world of corporations and pensions.
Amen! Finally after six years of military service and about eight more years of knocking around, he resumed his formal education in the mid-1950s, enrolling at Georgetown University in Washington DC and living with his mother. It turns out the "living with Hopis" story (and they weren't actually Hopis) is rooted in a research project for his degree in Linguistics in 1956, when:
Georgetown undergraduate student Daniel Da Cruz traveled to Oklahoma in the company of his linguistics professor, Paul Garvin. While Garvin worked on Wichita, Da Cruz woked with a Caddo woman named Sadie Bedoka Weller. In 1957 he finished a senior essay on the phonemes of Caddo, but he did not pursue linguistics further ... Other Caddo speakers have contributed to our knowledge of the language in a variety of ways, but Mrs. Weller stands out as the most important of all Caddo consultants. She was born in 1901 and died in 1970.
—Michael D. Picone and Catherine Evans, New Perspectives on Language Variety in the South: Historical and Comtemporary Approaches, University of Alabama Press (2015), ch.3.
The Caddo Nation is a confederation of tribes from Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas (more info here). The Caddo people were removed to Indian Territory in 1859. They are also known as Kadohidacho, Hasinai, Hatsinai. Danny has a November 2017 email from emeritus linguistics Professor Wallace Chafe at UCSB that says:
I never met your father. When I first met Sadie Bedoka Weller in 1959 your father had already been there, and Sadie mentioned him often and fondly. My understanding was that your father had been an undergraduate at Georgetown and that he came to Oklahoma with his professor, Paul Garvin, who was himself working on the Wichita language. In 1957-58 your father tape-recorded a number of sessions with Sadie and used the material as the basis for a senior essay on the phonemes of Caddo. It was called "A Revised Analysis of Segmental Phonemes in Caddo"[1]. He was kind enough to give me all his Caddo tapes before he went to Lebanon. I eventually digitized all his recordings and they are now living on my hard drive. I continued working with Sadie through the 1960s, until she died in 1970. I became involved in a number of other projects after that, and only recently got back to pulling together a description of Caddo that I hope to publish in another year or two. What your father did was quite valuable, and I will certainly give him full credit for it.
Pete Georgetown U graduation 1957
GU graduation 1957
The recordings, 30 of them in all (on which you can hear Uncle Pete's voice), are now available in the University of California Language Archive:
http://cla.berkeley.edu/collection/10163 for the main page to the collection.
Pete graduated Magna cum Laude from Georgetown University in Linguistics in 1957, 20 years after graduating from high school. His mother Gus had died in 1955 and his father Daniel was 77 years old and 1600 miles away in Colorado Springs, but my Mom, Dad, brother Dennis and I came, and I was the official photographer at age 12 (see more photos in the gallery).
  1. Daniel da Cruz, A Provisional Analysis of Segmental Phonemes in Caddo, Submitted to the Institute of Languages and Linguistics of Georgetown University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Bachelor of Science in Linguistics, May 1957. Sent to me by Professor Anthony Grant, Edge Hill University: "As a linguist interested in Caddo, with a close friend who lives in Oxford OH (and who also has Portuguese ancestry) I was intrigued to read your family history. I've known about Daniel's Caddo work for decades (and have a copy of his senior essay), but I hadn't fully realised the same Daniel da Cruz was the thriller-writer. ... And his teacher, Paul Garvin, is one of my linguistic heroes. ... Here's the paper. Your uncle must have given it to Paul G and Wallace Chafe (RIP, a nice man), Wally passed it onto Lynette Melnar, who gave it to me. I'm delighted and honoured to return this treasure to the family. Most of it is from Sadie, some from a lady named Eva Luther. Wally Chafe incorporated this into his book on Caddo which appeared in autumn 2018[2], a few months before he died in February last year."
  2. Wallace Chafe, The Caddo Language: A Grammar, Texts, and Dictionary Based on Materials Collected by the Author in Oklahoma Between 1960 and 1970, Mundart Press, ISBN 978-0-9903344-1-5 (2018).

Aunt Leila


Leila 1960
Aunt Leila 1960
Leila 2013
Aunt Leila 2013
Leila Shaheen, born in Lebanon, 1927, died in Beirut 4 November 2023. Daughter of father Nikula Chahine (1897-1984) and mother Hanneh Khoury (1906-1985). "Chahine" is the French spelling. Other parts of the family use "Shahine". All three are transliterations of the Arabic شاهين.

Men Who Made America 1962
Men who Made
America (1962)
By Fall 1957 Uncle Pete had wound up in Lebanon, established himself as an English professor at the American University of Beirut (AUB), met and married Leila, and raised a family. He published a book Men Who Made America, an ESL reader for use in his classes at AUB. He also juggled other gigs there to supplement his income; he was the Lebanon rep for various US publishers, he was editor of Middle East Journal, he was well-known lecturer, he worked for Aramco as a writer... There are dozens of articles by him; 26 of them are listed below, or you can search Google for aramco "daniel da cruz" see what else there might be. He wrote me in 1964 that "I've been working on articles for an oil company publication called Aramco World. The prestige is nil but the pay is about half as good as the top magazines — and altogether I wrote fifteen articles for them on Middle Eastern subjects ranging from Arabic calligraphy to the history of the Trans-Arabian Pipeline and underwater archaeology"). He was also the Middle East correspondent for various newspapers and magazines including Business Week and Air Transport World, and published articles in Readers Digest, National Review, and numerous other well-known outlets. And as a stringer for an international news agency he covered the Six Day War as well as the insurrections in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan in the 1958-1970 timeframe (see 1971 World Wide Lecture Bureau flyer). Once when he was researching advances in telecommunications (for a New York Times article, as I recall) he stumbled upon some articles I had published in Data Communications magazine and called me up from wherever he was at the time.

Leila 1960s
Leila mid-1960s
Leila was a prominent business executive; I met her several times, once when I was in high school in Germany and once in the Army, also in Germany; she had the beauty of Sophia Loren and spoke (it seemed to me) an infinite number of languages — Arabic, English, German, Italian, Spanish, French, ... Pete was smart but I thought Leila was smarter. They were truly a striking couple. Btw, Leila is pregnant with Lina in the 1960 photo at upper left; she made a note of it on the back. Danny says:
She was an accomplished woman in her own right. In business, she was editor-in-chief and head of a publishing company that for many years of put out a bunch of American comics in Arabic — Little Lulu, Superman, Batman... — these were among the few interesting/fun texts kids could read and enjoy in the Middle East back in the 60s and 70s, when most other publications were dry or religious. (An ex-employee of hers put together a paean to the Arabic version of Little Lulu, which I helped him convert to a website — not much there but here's the link). She, her mother and her sisters were always very active in serving the YWCA and the American University of Beirut hospital, and mom volunteered there a day a week up until her mini-stroke earlier this year (she's much better now). She was the member of the World YWCA Executive Committee and also wrote a small history of the YWCA in Lebanon, and about her experiences as the long-time work on the committee. Her sister still runs the institution in Lebanon, helping poor women from all denominations make a living for themselves and avoid predation.
In 1947 Leila witnessed the partition of Palestine. From her journal:
Palestine, Nov 30, 1947 - Saturday. Went out sight-seeing for the last time in the old city. Had a lovely time - All over the walls & going in thru all the gates. That night the partition of Palestine was decided by the U.N.O. and everything was spoiled.

Dec 24th - Left Palestine for the Lebanon. The trip was very pleasant until we had to go back from the British Nakoura to Haifa to renew the cholera injection certificates. Shooting in the Hadar area in Haifa. Otherwise all was safe except for the tension.

Danny explains (2018-01-14):
This entry relates to her brief time teaching in Palestine. After graduating from the American University of Beirut in spring 1947, my mother went to Palestine for the summer to kick back a bit and visit the family. She spent time visiting the country and the relatives, and by the end of summer she had an offer to teach at the Friends School in Ramallah (a Quaker school set up in the 19th century and still going strong). Both our grandparents (Palestinian grandmother and Lebanese grandfather) taught there, I suppose just after the First World War. In fact, they met there and the hitch was facilitated by the headmistress. Anyway, the head of the school still had very good memories of my grandmother and were in touch, so she offered my mother a job teaching high school, which my mom took.

By the time of partition a couple of months later, strife from both sides had begun and things were unsettled enough that the school closed. As she was planning to go to Beirut at Xmas to spend it with her family, she headed back — hence the [second] entry.

Naqoura used to be the main crossing between Lebanon and Palestine on the coast. I understand she was turned back from there for not having cholera shots and had to get them in Haifa. Mom said this morning that there was shelling between both sides in and around Haifa when she was there.

As of August 2020 at age 93, Aunt Leila still lived in Beirut in the same apartment where she and Uncle Pete raised Lina and Danny. She survived the August 4th Beirut explosion with some flying-glass wounds to her arm and leg and the apartment has broken windows but is still habitable.

Finaaly Lina reports that Leila "died in her sleep in her bed at home" Saturday, November 4, 2023, "as was her wish. Mariam, her companion who has been living with us for over 40 years was with her and Danny and I flew in last night. Mom had not been doing well for a while and the last few months had been rough on her. Danny and I were here last month and spent quite a bit of time with her. She has been ready to go for a long while and her quality of life was greatly diminished. We are both relieved that she is finally at peace and no longer suffering. Danny’s son Amin was here too, having decided to come here to study Arabic and do an internship but he and Danny both left a few weeks ago when it was evident that things might heat up in Lebanon. So far, it looks like no one has an appetite for another war and we hope that that remains the case."

Articles by Leila Shaheen da Cruz:

Lina and Danny

Lina and Danny about 1965
Lina & Danny ~1965
Pete Leila Lina Danny 1987
Pete and Leila, Lina and Danny, 1987
Pete and Leila had two children, Lina born in 1960 (while we were in Frankfurt) and Danny born in 1962 — my first cousins (the only ones I have ever met; I also have dozens on my mother's side); both are trilingual Arabic/English/French (and Spanish in Lina's case, "barroom level for me", says Danny). They grew up in Beirut with the constant bombing, shelling, shooting, and rock throwing of the 1960s and 70s that I used to see on the news every night, I was particularly worried every time in the TV news I saw an artillery shell slam into one of the high-rise apartment buildings like the one they lived in. Danny notes that Leila "was wounded in 1976 in our kitchen during a mortar bombardment. She was hit in the face, and smaller shrapnel in the neck, arm and torso (Dad called them his & hers wounds). A fantastic plastic surgeon and close friend and neighbour was the guy who took them out, and you can't tell looking at her that this all happened (I still have the mortar fins and the shrapnel that hit her)".

Family in exile
Family in exile 1978
Civil war in Beirut 1970s
Civil war in Beirut 1970s
Shortly after this the family left Beirut for 9 months of exile in the USA (Leila spent part of that time in Paris), as Pete put in a letter to me, "our year of the refugee, actually nine months, after 19 months of nonstop shooting got to the kids, especially after Leila got hit by six shrapnel in our kitchen." In a letter to my brother Dennis Pete writes (of Lina and Danny):
...they have both gained experience in hospital work under stress during the more active days of the civil war, when the bombs were falling around us, and they acted as nurses for the ghastly casualties who streamed in, sometimes up to 175 a day, so that the regular medical staff — what was left of them — couldn't cope with the load without volunteers like Lina and Danny.

We were considering, before we were offered a house and car rent free by a childhood friend of mine in Oxford, to go to California, very probably, coincidence, in Long Beach. My wife Leila has a first cousin with children the ages of ours, and it would have been good for them to have as companions. In retrospect, I rather wish we had gone, as it would have given them the opportunity of meeting your mother and you, the fresh air of California, and the sea which we missed.

In a 1979 letter to my dad, commenting on the gas lines in the US, Pete says:
I filled in Los Angeles after waiting for half an hour, and could happily predict the future from what grousing I saw. I find the Americans hopelessly spoiled, and wish them the worst ... They were not concerned for the many many years the Arabs were forced to accept one cent per barrel royalties for their oil, so they should shut up now. After all, nobody dictates to the U.S. the price they put on the wheat they sell the Russians. Anyway, let 'em cry — I love it ... Anyway, you still have it soft. In the war, which still goes on, less noisily to be sure, we have a lot tougher time of it than the Americans. We get water every other day -- sometimes, and electric cuts are frequent and for about eight hours at a time. I can see the Americans sticking that little inconvenience without revolution.
Uncle Pete and Peter
Pete and Peter 1978
Uncle Pete visited us at our West 118th Street apartment in Manhattan in 1978, shortly after my son Peter was born. Pete was a runner — the one who got me interested in it. On this visit he told me about how he ran through the war zones of Beirut every day. Within a few days I had started running too and didn't stop until nearly 40 years (and one marathon) later when my kneecap came loose.

Cousin Danny


I met Danny for the first (and so far, only) time in 1997; he was in NY for some business. He's a lot like his dad: polyglot, world traveler and adventurer, enthusiastic and ready for anything. He gave me some old family albums he found in his dad's apartment, which are the source of much of the information in here, and many of the photos. He has lived and/or traveled everywhere and knows the Portuguese side of the family.

Danny and Rula just married 2002
Wedding picture 2002
Rula, Rakan, Danny, Amin
Rula, Rakan, Danny, Amin 2017
Danny 2014
Danny 2014
Danny looks a lot like his Dad and he's a lot of fun. He and Rula Al-Chorbachi (who is Iraqi) were married in 2002 and have two sons, Rakan (2003) and Amin a.k.a. Nino (2005). When I met him he had a goatee exactly like Pete, same voice and mannerisms too, it was like he really was Uncle Pete.

Danny USNA 1980
Danny USNA 1980
Danny USNA 1980
Danny as USNA cadet and Pete 1980
Danny is a USNA graduate, he was in the US Navy for six years after the four years at the Academy starting around 1984 as an officer; then he was an international business consultant in London and later co-founded a sustainable energy project development company, Sindicatum. In 2009 he moved to Bahrain to start a joint venture, SCCMENA — Sindicatum Sustainable Resources Middle East and North Africa (in Bahrain): http://www.sindicatum.com, but when the business couldn't compete with heavily subsidized oil prices in the Mideast countries, he went to work for the bank that financed his previous business. As of 2017 he lives in Bahrain; has also lived in London, and (of course) Beirut and spends summers with his wife Rula's family in Cambridge MA. Rula is an architect, cohead of non-profit artists' collective. The kids are music (trumpet, piano, guitar, drums) and sports (soccer, basketball, capoeira) fanatics. Of his current (Nov 2017) situation, and of Lebanon, Danny says:
Work considerations aside, we are nearing the point where we want our kids to experience life in Europe or America. It's been hard to decide what a natural home for us would be at this stage, apart from London, so we're living with indecision while we examine options. It crosses my mind that Portugal is a place I'd like to spend time in, but since I still need to work it might be easier to do so in a primarily English-speaking country. Maybe later on in life we might make Portugal a base. Regrettably, and much as I love the place, Lebanon is not easy to think about for the long term because of the chronic political uncertainty and the regional forces that push and pull on the country.

I was in Beirut a few days ago to visit my mother and everyone is expecting another war between Israel and Hezbollah (they always are, mind you), which would mean another huge setback to the country if it happens. It's already struggling to cope with 1.5-2 million Syrian refugees, a stagnant economy, a destroyed middle-class, and a kleptocratic and feudal government made up of every sect and party. Those in power take every opportunity to stir their people against other groups, yet the politicians themselves are friendly towards each other and make money together. Sad, as our President Trump would say :-)  (Don't get me started on him…).

Danny is one of the major contributors to this history and to the family tree.

Cousin Lina


Lina and family
Lina, Adriana, Alexandra, Jean-Luc circa 2002
Lina and kids in NY 2010
Alexandra, Adriana, Amy, Lina 2010
Lina moved to Berkeley, California, in July 2008, after having lived in Lebanon, Bahrain, Japan, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, and who knows where else. She is married to Jean-Luc Lamirande, who retired at 51 from Unilever, with two daughters. In 2010 they came to see Amy and me at my West 112th Street apartment and we spent an evening looking at old photo albums and talking a mile a minute, because we had whole lifetimes to talk about. I took them to Samad's deli around the corner so they could "talk Lebanese" for a while, and then we went for a big banquet at Symposium (Greek restaurant), around the next corner. Their daughters Adriana (born 1993) and Alexandra (1995) are very cool, super smart, funny, and (like their mother, uncle, and grandmother) speak English, French, and Arabic fluently (the Arabic I saw when we were at Samad's).

Here's an exchange I had with Lina about her Dad:

> I think Dad was a real right-wing Republican now that I
> look back at his politics and his point of view on things. Maybe
> right-wingers then were not as bad as they are now, at least I
> wouldn't want to put him in the Fox News/Paul Ryan camp, maybe Tea
> Party, though.
It's true he had a lot of right-wing positions, but I'd put him in the class of World War II veterans who came away from the experience with the sincere belief that the USA truly was the good guy, and so went along with a lot of the later stuff (e.g. Vietnam) because of that faith. In that he was probably just like Jimmy Stewart or Clark Gable. In most things I looked up to him; he valued diversity and respected other cultures, he was not a racist (unlike his brother), he didn't reject science or history like today's right wing, and he had a sense of humor. And curiosity! And unlike any of today's rabid war hawks he had actually served in the military and seen combat. And plus, he had a realistic view of the Muslim world, not the grotesque caricature that predominates today. He had some pretty strong views on Israel's role in the disasters of the world over the last 60 years, based on first-hand experience. My son Peter, by the way, is a big fan of your Dad, they'd get along famously. Not only about Israel but he also bought and read most of your dad's books.

Btw, I'm not sure if he was (or always was) a Republican. When I told him about my feelings on the Vietnam war, he said he used to be like me, he was a protester against getting involved in a European war for the benefit of war profiteers, but eventually came to be a big supporter of the war (obviously) and I presume also of FDR.

So Adriana, Alexandra, Rakan, and Amin are your second cousins.

After Lebanon

Uncle Pete left Lebanon in the 1980s after his kids were grown up because it had become too dangerous for Americans to be there; the last straw was when he was kidnapped and friends of the family, particularly their surgeon friend Dr. Samir Shehadi, who wielded influence over the PLO at the time by virtue of all the lives he saved as a trauma surgeon, secured his safe release. Although the Shaheens were politically unconnected they had the affection and respect of many Beirut families through their educational and non-profit work. Leila remained behind; all her family was there. Her father was a long-time professor of physics and astronomy at the American University of Beirut.

Boot 1987
Boot (1987)
In later years Pete was an adjunct professor of anthropology at the Miami University of Ohio and the University of Wisconsin, and wrote right-wing science-fiction and adventure novels, nonfiction books, and magazine and newspaper articles. His best-known nonfiction book was "Boot" about Marine Corps boot camp, which he re-did in 1985 at age 64, 44 years after doing it the first time in 1941.

But in reality, Pete's politics didn't fit any particular mold. As noted, like many WWII veterans, he went through the rest of his life with the firm belief that the USA was the good guy, and therefore its adversaries — primarily the USSR — were the bad guys. He disagreed with my attempt to leave the Army in 1965 when the Vietnam "situation" turned into a full-scale war and at the same time the USA invaded the Dominican Republic. He wrote me a long letter on the topic, but (unlike those I received from my father) they were always affectionate and full of humor, noting that "my father told me that, as I was prepared to take the consequences of my acts, I was jolly well free to do anything I cared to do, with the proviso I didn't come crying later on when the consequences proved unbearable. I have so far been fortunate not to have to moan to him, although on more than one occasion my mother bailed me out when things got too sticky."

Nevertheless, he remained strongly anticommunist all his life, as his novels make abundantly clear. It is one trait he shared with my father, who was appalled when I was invited to the USSR to lecture on my work, but Danny says "I remember my father telling me about your trip, with some pride". Later on, both Pete and my dad admitted that I had a point about the Vietnam war. In any case Pete was not totally Rah-Rah-America as you can see from this November 11, 1981, Huntington WV Herald-Dispatch article about a series of lectures he was giving at Marshall University:

Life in Lebanon means bombs blasting outside your kitchen window, bullets puncturing the plaster and no police or army to protect you from gangs roaming the streets. ... He watched his children transported to school in convoys to avoid kidnapping. His family automatically moved around the house to escape the shaking of explosions, and he could point out the bullet holes in his walls. In an interview yesterday, the Middle East expert said foreign intervention has caused the chaos in Lebanon by supplying arms and magnifying minor outrages and incidents into excuses for war. He said major powers were using Lebanon as a testing ground for their weapons and armies with little concern for the inhabitants. They have brought their dirty laundry to air in Lebanon," he said. "Living over there you see daily the failure of American policy abroad. The Arabs are getting stronger, so the U.S. feels it must pour more support into Israel," he said. "They're just stockpiling gunpowder. The higher the pile gets, the more likely it is to go off." He concluded that the United States should withdraw from all diplomatic, political and military intervention and concentrate on commericial relations with countries that offer an equal exchange of goods. With the United States exerting its influence on the Arab nations, da Cruz said Israel could be persuaded to reach a "reasonable" agreement. Such an agreement might include provisions for an independent Palestine.
In a 1971 lecture flyer he says of himself that that he:
covered the six Day War as well as insurrections in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, in all of which the American involvement was deep and disastrous — and avoidable. To avert a Mideastern version of the Vietnam folly, he favors strictly reciprocal American commercial and cultural ties with both Arabs and Israelis — but the least political and military involvement possible.
He has expressed this viewpoint far and wide; even the National Review (July 15, 1969). I'd say Pete would be 100% in alignment with most of today's left on the Middle East, Israel, and Palestine, and with great deal more knowledge to back it up. He also would have noticed that the collapse of the USSR did not exactly turn the world into a peacable kingdom; quite the opposite: without the protection of the USSR, countries like Syria and Iraq were defenseless in the face of US interference and aggression.

Fado house 1989
Pete and Leila in a Fado house 1989
Both Uncle Pete and Danny (and for that matter, my dad) have been to Portugal to visit the family there, but until May 2003 I was never able to find out details. Danny told me of cousins in Portugal named Luzia Machado and her brothers, Lino and Zeca Santos, and their second cousin Raimundo Narciso [see Danny's travel diary]. Finally in 2017 I found a way to contact Raimundo, and now all the doors are open.

At Pete's apartment 1988
At Pete's apartment 1988
Uncle Pete and me 1988
Pete and me 1988
I last saw Uncle Pete at his apartment in Alexandria VA in 1988. He lived alone in a high-rise with a balcony looking out over the great void that is modern suburbia. He was as charming and lively as ever but he had a catheter with a urine bag, and had to keep taking his blood pressure every five minutes. As I recall, he had been treated for prostate cancer in Beirut and had been exposed to an overdose of radiation and had been suffering from it ever since. Anyway, he was super-enthusiastic because he had bought a big electronic piano and was learning to play it; I didn't realize it at the time, but he was taking up where had left off 10 years earlier, when he and Lina were taking piano lessons together in Beirut that were cut short by the civil war. As you can see in the second picture at right, his walls were festooned with photos of his family; it must have been bitter, living in exile. We stayed in touch by phone after that; he wanted to collaborate on a novel about computer hacking but then he stopped calling. He lived well, but he told me he never earned more the $20,000 a year in his whole life. I believe it was a matter of pride.

Uncle Pete lives on in Google, his books, and his progeny and those whose lives he touched. Many of his books and other works contain capsule biographies. Pete himself wrote the following one for the program of an Arab/American seminar:

Professor Daniel da Cruz has lived and worked in the Middle East for more than 30 years, as a diplomat, businessman, educator, journalist, lecturer and author. He spent six World War II years as a U.S. Marine volunteer in the three war theaters, ashore, afloat and aloft.

A magna cum laude graduate of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, he has been variously a census enumerator, magazine editor, editorial consultant for the Arabian-American Oil Company, judo master — he holds a Second Degree Black Belt of the Kodokan Judo Institute in Tokyo, taxi driver, farmer, public relations officer for Texaco, salesman, chief Middle East correspondent for a leading American news agency, publishers' representative, vice-president of a major New York advertising agency, slaughterhouse skinner, captain of a Texas security organization, American Embassy press attache in Baghdad, copper miner, member of the English faculty at the American University of Beirut, and Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at Miami University.

Professor da Cruz has written hundreds of articles on Middle Eastern politics, economy, military affairs and culture for the Washington Post and other major U.S. dailies, the Reader's Digest, the National Review, Time, and Newsweek.

He is the author of 17 published books, a number of them highly reviewed, among them the winner of a Special "Edgar" in the best-mystery-novel-of-the-year category. His latest non-fiction work [Boot] was a Main Selection of the Military Book Club.

There's a great deal I don't know about Uncle Pete's life but even from these scraps and fragments it's clear that he lived life to the fullest and had a range of experience few could equal. His nephew Rif (Rifa'at Haffar, son of Leila's sister Najwa) said, "He had a huge influence on me, this irreverent iconoclast who startled a family steeped in Ottoman and Imperial British propriety. And he kept on startling us for as long as he lived. I miss him and think of him often."

There's one more thing I'd like to mention about Uncle Pete: he was intensely loyal to all family members whatever their quirks or faults, notably including his brother (my father), who was bigoted, cruel, and brutal; his father, who was aloof and unfeeling; and even me when my politics took a turn directly opposite his. (He did, however, draw the line at stepmother Louise; Danny says he had "nothing good to say about her. For him, she was a quintessential horrible step-mother, and he complained about her driving him and Fran hard with housework and generally making their life unpleasant. One anecdote I remember is my dad feeling shame and anger when Louise wouldn't let him bring a Jewish friend of his into the house.") Of my Dad, Pete wrote in 1965:

He's never had the talent for putting things in the most gentle phrasing; with him it's better to concentrate on meaning than tone. Though certainly you doubt it, all he has to say is for your own good and in your own interest. You should know by now that every father seems a clod to his son — until he becomes a father in turn and realizes he's saying the same things he heard a generation before. Remember, he has his troubles too.
In my case, when I applied (unsuccessfully as it turned out) for early discharge from the Army as a conscienscious objector, Pete strongly disapproved, writing (toward the end of a 7-page letter):
You took your first steps from your mother to me. And in the East, my adopted home, the conception of family is somewhat different from that in the West, where it seems to be a collection of people who occasionally sup together and retire at the same time after the TV is turned off. As far as I'm concerned you are my nephew and you can call on me for anything I can provide whenever it is possible, whether you get out as c.o. or not.
In fact, I saw him a few months after that; we spent a week together and the c.o. topic didn't even come up. I don't have a copy of my reply to his letter but it probably said something along the lines of "World War II was a fight to save the world from German Fascism and Japanese imperialism, but Vietnam was a poor country that posed no threat to us or anyone else, and only wanted to be left alone; there was no justification for the United States killing Vietnamese people," a sentiment he came to agree with in later years.

Books by Daniel da Cruz II

Jock Sargent series...

Ape Swain series...

Republic of Texas series...

Other novels...


Aramco World Articles

(from his son, Danny...) And under a pseudonym (don't know why for this magazine, but this is one of a couple I know he used for manuscripts): BALLANTINE, JOHN

Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 1959-61

My dad's job takes us to postwar West Germany for two and a half years. We lived in US Army housing and I went to the Army high school for 9th, 10th, and 11th grades.

Also see (onsite)...

Frankfurt aerial views and WWII bomb damage (Click image strip to see gallery)

Frankfurt aerial views Other galleries:
* Frankfurt High School published its own yearbook, Focus, for the first time in 1960-61. Prior to that, different American schools in Europe shared the same yearbook, with a chapter for each school. The 1959-60 and 1958-59 yearbooks, both called Erinnerungen, came in two parts; Frankfurt High school was the first chapter in Part B. Other schools in Part B were Heidelberg, Kaiserslautern, Mannheim, Munich, Nürnberg, and Stuttgart. The Part A yearbooks covered Augsburg, Baumholder, Berlin, Bremerhaven, Karlsruhe, Orléans, Paris, Poitiers, Verdun, and Würzburg. The two Erinnerungen PDFs listed above come from the Berlin Brats Yearbook Archive, which goes from 1947 to 1994. Ironically Erinnerungen was the title Albert Speer chose for his book whose English title is Inside the Third Reich.
Also see (offsite)...

AND (on Youtube)...

  1. Book: Lemza, John W, American Military Communities in West Germany, McFarland & Company (2016).
  2. Book: Elkins, Walter, et al. Amerikaner in Heidelberg 1945-2013, Verlag Regionalkultur Heidelberg (2014), ISBN 978-3-89735-806-5 (auf Deutsch). Kind of like a coffee-table book with lots of photos. If only there were a book like this for Frankfurt!
  3. Online: Dewey Arthur Browder, The Impact of the American Presence on Germans and German-American Grass Roots Relations in Germany, 1950-1960, Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College PhD dissertation (1987), 274 pages. Detailed social history of the early Occupation. In 1987 Browder was a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army with a German wife.
  4. Film: Berlin Express, Jacques Tourneur, 1948: extensive footage of the Hauptbahnhof, the IG Farben building, and the ruins of Frankfurt. I have a gallery of screenshots here.
  5. Video: Frankfurt am Main with Alemanizando: from half-timbered houses to the top of a skyscraper, Youtube, about 7 minutes.
  6. Video: Don't visit Frankfurt's old quarter: let me show you an alternative (Höchst), youtube, about 6 minutes. The Höchst castle housed the AFN Frankfurt radio studios when I lived in Frankfurt, and a group of us Frankfurt High School students broadcasted a live radio show from there every Tuesday.

Frankfurt 1959-61 narrative

"You should write a book about your theory that the only golden age that this country ever experienced was in the military outposts overseas. A totally new idea."
  —Heidi Laird, email, 26 October 2023
Heidi Laird is a German expatriate who grew up in Frankfurt during the Nazizeit and the early postwar. She fled to the USA as soon as she was old enough and has been here ever since. Now a retired clinical psychologist and author of the books The Frankfurt Kitchen and Letters from Jenny, she looks on with horror as 1930s German history repeats itself in the USA 90 years later.
Postwar German occupation zones 1945
Germany occupation zones
US forces in Germany 1959
US forces in 1959
At the beginning of 1959 (for me, the middle of 9th grade at Williamsburg Junior High School in Arlington, VA) my dad was sent to Germany and the government paid for the whole family to go. Germany was still carved up into US, Soviet, British, and French occupation zones, although technically the occupation ended in 1949. By the mid-1950s, the French zone (mainly the Rheinland) existed only on paper; it was full of American military bases, such as at Kaiserslautern where I would be stationed as a GI just four years later, and many others including Baumholder, Zweibrücken, Pirmasens, and Bad Kreuznach. Berlin was in the middle of the Soviet zone which became a distinct country, the German Democratic Republic (DDR) or "East Germany"; Berlin itself was still divided into Soviet, American, British, and French zones. The geopolitical events of this period lent an intensity to our experiences that now, six decades later, still has not faded:
10 November 1958
As we were packing up to leave Virginia for Germany, Soviet Premier Khrushchev gave a speech demanding that the Western powers withdraw from West Berlin because they had violated the Potsdam agreement by rearming West Germany and bringing it into NATO.
25-26 September 1959
Camp David summit where President Eisenhower and Premier Khrushchev de-escalated the Berlin situation.
1 May 1960
The U-2 Incident, in which an American spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union, and which reignited US-Soviet tensions and re-escalated the Berlin situation.
17 April 1961
The Bay of Pigs Cuba invasion.
4 June 1961
Vienna summit between Premier Khrushchev and the new American president, John F. Kennedy, in which Khrushchev renewed his insistence that Western forces leave West Berlin.
July 1961
President Kennedy, unwilling to abandon West Berlin, prepares for war by calling up reserves and doubling the US military draft.
Sunday 13 August 1961
Stacheldratsonntag — Heavily guarded barbed wire is strung along the East-West Berlin boundary line, which would soon become the Berlin Wall. This marked the end of the Berlin Crisis of 1958-61 and averted World War III.
(By this time I'm back in Virginia)
22 October 1961
The Checkpoint Charlie standoff in Berlin.
16-28 October 1962
The Cuban Missile Crisis.
(Now I'm in the Army and back in Germany)
26 June 1963
President Kennedy visits Berlin and says "Ich bin ein Berliner".
22 November 1963
President Kennedy assassinated.
During each of these incidents, US forces (our parents and, starting in 1963, myself) were on high alert, expecting either nuclear war or a massive armored ground invasion of West Germany at any moment.
  1. German History in Documents and Images (GHDI), German Historical Institute, Washington DC.
  2. Speech by Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev, November 10, 1958 (GHDI).
  3. Peter J. Ortmann, Berlin Mitte und die Welt - wie sie einmal war, ISBN 978-1-4452-6699-2 (2009), 668 pages.
  4. The Berlin Crisis of 1961, Wikipedia (accessed 21 December 2019).
  5. Donald A. Carter, Forging the Shield: The U.S. Army in Europe 1951-1962, U.S. Army Center for Military History (2015), 513 pages, with photos: pp.363-368 and 403-427 on the Berlin Crisis.
  6. Schulze, Inga, Warum Frank aus N.Y. nicht von Frankfurt lassen kann, Frankfurter Neue Presse, 22 June 2006.

The Voyage to Germany

View from Hotel Dixie 1959
View from Hotel Dixie 1959
Dixie Hotel 1959
Dixie Hotel 1959
On February 9, 1959 (give or take a day or two), we drove from Arlington, Virginia, to New York City, which I had never seen before, and stayed at the Dixie Hotel on 42nd Street, just off Times Square, which in those days was 100% drugs and prostitutes and peepshows and pickpockets (Times Square, not the hotel, but the hotel was pretty sleazy too). My mother was scared to even leave the room so I didn't see much of the city; only 42nd Street and the view from the hotel window (second photo). We were on a very high floor and couldn't see much through the filthy windows but I remember we had a view of the light-blue McGraw-Hill building (where I would go many years later when I published some articles in their magazine, Data Communications). I don't remember this part, but my brother told me that dad took him to a movie at a sleazy Times Square theater and it was a traumatic experience for him, creepy people grabbing at him, etc (I took Peter — at his own insistence — to what might have been the same theater 30 years later to see a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie, Blood Sport (his idea, not mine), and it was still just as sleazy.

SS America
SS America
SS America tag
SS America tag
Pier 86 1959
Pier 86, 42nd Street 1959
NYC Skyline from SS America 1959
NYC from SS America 1959
SS America promenade 1959
Promenade & deck chairs
On the deck of SS America 1959
On the deck 1959
SS America interior
SS America interior
The next morning we drove straight to Pier 86 at the west end of 42nd Street, where the Intrepid is now. We boarded the ship, a luxury liner in fact: the SS America (1939, christened by Eleanor Roosevelt, served as a troop ship during WWII), occupying two first-class cabins, all expenses paid by the CIA. Dad rented out our Arlington house while we were gone and we took the car with us, a 1959 Studebaker Lark station wagon, which they hoisted with a crane and lowered into the hold. I remember as we left, we passed under the Verazzano Narrows Bridge, which was only about half built and seemed a mile above us, the construction workers looking like ants hanging from strings; 25 years later I would run across it in the NYC Marathon.

The crossing was great fun, Dennis and I ran wild all over the whole ship. Ping-pong was an interesting activity because the ship's rocking caused the table to move out from under the ball. Swimming in the small indoor pool was even more interesting… Just when you dived in, the water would slosh over to the other side of the pool and you'd land on the bare bottom and then, while you tried to recover your senses a huge tidal wave came down on top of you. Dennis and I shared a cabin; he got seasick and I didn't. I was always playing tricks on him to make him feel even more seasick like in the Fred and Ginger movie Shall We Dance.

Bremerhaven 1959
Bremerhaven 1959 - Was ist los???
Bremerhaven 1959
Bremerhaven Feb 1959
After a week at sea we docked briefly in Cobh and in South­ampton (so technically I have been in Ireland and England even though we weren't allowed to leave the ship), then finally in Bremerhaven on February 16th. We waited for the car to be unloaded, then got in and started to drive south. We had only gone a few blocks when the car stalled and couldn't be started… And we were on train tracks! And a train was coming!!! Seriously, we got out and pushed and saved the car and ourselves just in time. Turned out the gas tank was full of water from condensation in the hold. We got that fixed and then drove to Bremen where we had our first German meal in a Gasthaus — sausages and black bread, and Fanta to drink — then on to Frankfurt (via Hanover, Kassel, Fulda, and Hanau), where we were going to live for three years.

Rubble in Frankfurt main square 1945
Frankfurt Römerplatz 1945
Rubble in Frankfurt main square
Only partially repaired in 1959
Germany was still a poor country, still marked by war and full of amputees; the Wirtschaftwunder had not fully bloomed yet. Most people didn't have cars, or if they did, they were the extremely cheap postwar "microcars" like the Messerschmitt (basically a fighter plane cockpit with a lawnmower motor over three little wheels).

Dennis and accordion 1960
Dennis & accordion
Dennis's German accordion teacher 1959
German accordion teacher
Huge num­bers of Ger­mans de­pended on the American occupiers for their living: work­ing as Putzfrauen (cleaning ladies), cooks, nannies, or pros­ti­tutes; giving music lessons to American brats (like Dennis's accordion teacher shown at right), working as B-girls in bars, working on the base in the PX or Snack Bar, or trading the black market. Most Germans got around on bicycles or (in the country) horse-drawn wagons. Some German amputees had self-propelled wooden wheelchairs that had a big lever on each side; the rider pushed and pulled the levers to power the wheels. They could go fast, I even saw them zooming down the Autobahn.

Frankfurt 1938[3]
Germans 1940s
Typical street 1940s
In general Germans were extremely friendly and polite. They greeted you when you passed them in the street or when you entered a store and there was always a lot of hand-shaking. But clearly they had mixed feelings about Americans and about themselves too. Almost everyone over 30 years old had been a Nazi (NSDAP, Hitler Youth, BDM...), or supported them, or went along with them — with some notable exceptions[1,2] — and everybody over 30 had been involved in the war in one way or another. Few ever talked about it, unless to say that they had been on the Russian front. Germans were infinitely more friendly and jovial than (say) the French or Belgians or Swiss. They loved to drink, sing, and have big festivals, they invited you to their homes. But walk down any street, and you could imagine it festooned with Nazi flags not so very long before. Still, the penalty for Gemans for merely critizing Hitler and Nazism, let alone taking any form of action, was death or concentration camp. Contrast with Trump-era USA where some 40-50% of the population is openly racist, antisemitic, misogynistic, xenophobic, etc, of their own free will. The Nazi Party received only 37% of the vote in the election of 1932 (the one that launched Hitler's Führer career), suggesting the 63% of German voters were antifascist, whereas Trump received 46% in 2016.
  1. German Resistence to Nazism, Wikipedia (accessed 17 February 2023): "[D]uring the height of Nazi Germany, unlike the more coordinated efforts in other countries ... [t]he German resistance consisted of small, isolated groups that were unable to mobilize widespread political opposition."
  2. Rebecca Donner, All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days - The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistence to Hitler, Little, Brown, and Company (2021), 559pp. The Woman was Mildred Harnack, the author is her great-great-niece, and the resistence Die Rote Kapelle (the Red Orchestra); it didn't end happily.
  3. Color photo from the Historiches Museum Frankfurt, Frankfurt and Nazism section (accessed 17 February 2023).

Living in Frankfurt

The City of Frankfurt am Main had been mostly leveled by Allied bombing but was largely rebuilt by the time we arrived. There were modern office buildings downtown but no skyscrapers. In every town and city the church or cathedral (Dom) was supposed to dominate the skyline, and in 1959 Frankfurt it still did and no matter where you lived, you could always hear church bells. Beyond downtown, there had been less destruction so buildings were older, although where I lived you could still see walls that had been raked by machine-gun fire. "AMI GO HOME" was written on walls all over the place. There was not actually any perceptible anti-American sentiment in daily life; the graffiti was mainly just from kids. If you went downtown at night (like to the Jazz Keller), it was dark and quiet and there were rabbits hopping around the streets.
27 Raimundstraße
27 Raimundstraße in Frankfurt 1959
27 Raimundstraße
Raimundstraße: our car with US Forces plates
Dennis and Klaus-Dieter
Klaus-Dieter, Dennis, 1959
Michelle 1959
Michelle 1959
At first we lived "on the econ­omy" in a German apart­ment at 27 Rai­mund­straße, right over a loud bar, Rudi's, second floor far left in the left-hand color photo, with Rudi's beneath it. No kids my age lived there but there was a family with two kids Dennis's age, Klaus-Dieter and Michelle Böhm, children of the building's super, Herr Böhm; they became great friends; Dennis learned German very fast playing with them. If you click the left-hand color image to enlarge it you can see Dennis (red shirt) with them and a third person, don't know who, on the balcony next to ours.

German coins in circulation 1959
German coins in circulation 1950s-60s
Our first day in the German apartment, my dad went to work and my mom was panicked, she didn't know what to do. She sent me out to buy food… There was a Lebensmittel (a small food store, like a bodega) up the street. I didn't yet know where the PX and commissary were. I went in and bought black bread, unsalted butter (the only kind Germans use), sausages, mustard, milk, eggs, salt and pepper, etc. I knew a little German already from phrase books. I was struck by the fact that food wasn't packaged at all. If you wanted (say) five eggs, you just picked them up one by one. You also had to bring your own shopping bag or basket (I don't remember what I did about that). I managed everything OK, I understood numbers and basic phrases and the money — 1 Mark had 100 Pfennig and was equal to 25 cents, pretty easy to deal with. Sixty years later (as I write this), "zero waste" stores like this are starting to pop up in the USA (about time!).

Walking to the Lebensmittel I was struck by how clean everything was. In those days, at least, Germans were fanatics about cleaning everything. Every morning early everybody would be outside sweeping the sidewalks and streets with those old kinds of brooms like in fairy tales. They also washed sidewalks and steps and cobblestones. Nobody left trash behind, not only because they were neat but there wasn't much to discard.

German forest
A German forest
German forests were different too. In the USA forests have all kinds of underbrush growing between the trees and there are fallen branches and rotting tree trunks. In postwar Germany, the forest floor was perfectly clean, a beautiful carpet of green grass. Germans scrounged everything else for fuel, kindling, or food.

German farms
German farms in the Rheinland
In fact the whole way Germans use land is completely different. In the USA everybody is an individual, on their own. So American farms are isolated from each other: a house surrounded by its land, far from any other house. In Germany they put all the houses together in a little town that might also have a church and a Gasthaus and maybe a shop or two. Everybody lives together. If a family has a milch-cow, it lives in a room of their house, not in a separate barn. So if you look at the German countryside from the air you see little clumps of buildings surrounded by vast amounts of cultivated land with no buildings, as in the aerial view in Rheinland-Pfalz near Kaiserslautern. This way the people are closer to each other and they can share resources more easily, so not everybody had to have a car or a pickup truck or a tractor. Some of these little towns are 500 or 1000 years old and they have a distinctive farmyard smell.

When I lived in Germany there were hardly any suburbs, and never had been. You could be in a town or a city, or you could be in an agricultural area or a forest. The boundaries were sharp, you could literally step out of the city into the country.

German bathtub
German bathtub
German toilet with shelf
German toilet with shelf
German apartment buildings are different too. In the staircases at night, the lights go on only if you push a button, and then they go off automatically after one minute; you have to push the button on each landing as you go up the steps. Doors have latches instead of knobs. Bathrooms don't have stand-up showers or shower curtains; toilets have a "continental shelf" instead of a bowl and the water tank is up on the wall with a pull chain. Supposedly the reason for the shelf is to prevent splashing and to allow "inspection".

PX transformer box
1959 PX transformer box
Germany, like the rest of Europe, uses 220V 50-cycle current, so if we brought anything electrical from home we needed a transformer for each thing. Electric clocks were no good even with a transformer; they only showed 50 minutes per hour due to the lower frequency. We didn't bring a TV either because in those days AFN (Armed Forces Network) didn't broadcast TV and all you could see on German TV was Fußball games. The Army European Exchange System (EES) made transformers at their facility in Gießen and sold them by the thousands at the PX so we could use our radios, record players, and toasters.

Raimundstraße 1959
Raimundstraße 1959 (panorama stitched from several photos)

Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof 1960
Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof 1960
Our German apartment looked out over Raimundstraße, which was paved with cobblestones and had trolley tracks, with the Number 17 trolly (Straßenbahn) running on them, which consisted of one or two cars made of wood (at least on the inside). Frankfurt did not have a subway until the late 1960s. The 17 went to the Hauptbahnof, the majestic but war-blackened Bismarck-era main railroad station, where you could transfer to any of the other trolley lines, some of which went to neighboring cities like Höchst or Offenbach or even up into Taunus mountains. The seats near the trolley entrance were reserved for Schwerbeschädigte, badly damaged people — war casualties, amputees, who were a large segment of the population.

Frankfurt Straßenbahn Nº17
Frankfurt Straßenbahn Nº17 at WAC Circle
Frankfurt Straßenbahn Fahrkarten
Trolley tickets early 1960s
The trolleys had a driver and conductor. The conductor would walk up and down the aisle selling and punching tickets — "Noch jemand bitte?" — it was pretty much an honor system but fares were so cheap there was no point in cheating. Some of the other trolley lines were starting to get sleek modern metal trolleys where you had to stop at a ticket desk when you entered, like on the Nº.11 to Höchst (this trolley line still exists as of 2023).

When standing up in a crowded trolley, or even walking around in downtown Frankfurt, I towered over all the Germans. I guess this is why I never thought of myself as short until recently (I was 5'6" then, less now!). In countries like Germany and Japan, it was only the postwar generation that started to grow taller, supposedly due to the influence of the American occupation on their diets.

A Henninger Bier bottle from 1960
Henninger beer
bottle from 1960
Old Limonade bottle
Limonade bottle
from the 1960s
Frankfurt Trinkhalle 1960
(yearbook photo)  
Raimundstraße Trinkhalle and beer truck 1959
Raimundstraße Trinkhalle and Binding beer truck, 1959
Across the street from our apartment was a Trinkhalle, a kiosk similar to a NYC news­stand except it sold beer and schnapps as well as snacks like Gummi bears and soft drinks called Limonade (four syllables) in big glass bottles: sparkling mineral water with fruit juice, normally citrus (somewhat like Orangina), or German sodas such as Fanta or Florida Boy. There was also German Coca-Cola with a lemony taste. As for alcohol, anybody could buy it, even little children. German beer was so much better than what we can get here that I can't even describe it. It came in half-liter bottles with ceramic tops (Bügelverschluß) like on the big Grolsch bottles. My dad had a wooden case of Henninger Bier delivered to our apartment in Frankfurt every week, much like New Yorkers used to get a case of seltzer delivered every week in the old days. If he didn't drink the whole case within a week, it would spoil. Seriously, it would turn into big globs of slime. That was the difference, local beer was unpasteurized. Once you boil it, it doesn't spoil but all the taste disappears. That's why European export beer and all American beer is so tasteless.

Button from the Taste-Freez store
Other features of Raimundstraße that I remember include a fenced-in yard with a big sign in English that said "BEWARE SHARP DOG", a Kino (movie theater) that played the Horst Buchholtz - Hayley Mills film Tiger Bay[3] every single day for the whole time I lived in Frankfurt (and there were always long lines to get in), a Tastee-Freez shop, and D'Angelo's Pizza, the essential local hangout for us FHS kids.
  1. Verkehrsplan der Stadt Frankfurt von 1956, Verlag Richard Schwarz KG (1956), from www.tramfan-ffm.de. Frankfurt map showing Straßenbahn (trolley) lines as of 1956, which were very close if not identical to those of 1959-61, before the subway and light-rail system was built starting in 1963 and opening in 1968, replacing many of the trolley lines, with further expansion later. On this map the trolley routes are shown as solid blue lines with blue numbers such as 17; at an Endstation (terminus) the number is circled. The map does not show the Platenstraße housing area or the American high school, indicating the "plat" content of the map (buildings, etc) dates from 1954 or earlier.
  2. Horst Bosetzky, Alfred Gottwald und einem Mann an der Kurbel, Noch jemand ohne Fahrschein? Straßenbahnerinnerungen, Berlin, Jaron Verlag (1997), about German trolleys in the postwar (but in Berlin, not Frankfurt).
  3. Tiger Bay of 1959 [Wikipedia] was perhaps the beginning of the British New Wave, preceding A Taste of Honey by two years; it's quite good, see it!

American Housing in Frankfurt

View of Platenstraße from my bedroom 1959
Seen from Raimundstraße
The Platenstraße housing area 1960
The Platenstraße housing area 1960
HiCoG building
HiCoG building architectural rendering 1951[1] - click to see gallery
In May 1959 we moved to American housing in Platenstraße, the housing area just across from our first apartment; I could even see it from my Raimundstraße bedroom (left photo). Our new ad­dress was 2231 Platen­straße, apartment on 3rd floor all the way to the left. Platenstraße was medium-rank housing; for NCOs (sergeants) and company-grade officers (lieutenants, captains) and their civilian equivalents who had families. There was a higher level housing area for field grade officers (majors and colonels) called HiCoG[1] ("High Commissioner of Germany"), a.k.a Carl-Schurz-Siedlung, a few blocks away and there were also some Platenstraße clones (Hügel, Von Steuben) nearby to the northeast (see map). And then, near the high school there was a little neighborhood of private houses for generals. For unmarried officers there was the BOQ (Bachelor Officers' Quarters). Married enlisted men ranking below some level of sergeant lived "on the economy"; i.e., in a German apartment. Unmarried enlisted men lived in the barracks.

Our Platenstraße apartment
Picture window and balcony
Our Platenstraße apartment
Our Platenstraße apartment
The Platenstraße housing area 1960
Platenstraße buildings 1960
The Platenstraße apart­ment was palatial by NYC standards: two or three bedrooms, one or two baths, big living room, nice kitchen with a cutout onto the dining room so you could eat at the bar or at the table. Fully furnished, picture windows on both sides with ample views of the other buildings and a balcony, plenty of closets (which were virtually unknown in Germany, where they use a piece of furniture called a Schrank the way we use closets). The windows of all the buildings were lined up so perfectly that if everybody had their curtains open you could see through them all at once. The buildings were arranged face-to-face and back-to-back. Our apartment was directly opposite the apartment of a friend of mine; we used to have balcony-to-balcony snowball fights in the winter. I don't know what the rent was, or even if there was any at all! (Apparently not, see below).

The attic of each building was a huge empty room, 250 feet long, that could be used for parties or playing; usually they had at least ping-pong tables. And in the basement there was not only a common laundry room but also private storage rooms for each apartment. Every building had its own parking area, free of course. Almost all the American families had American cars, but there were also a few small cars (mainly VWs) and one guy, a sergeant and father of the pianist in our band, had a 16-cylinder 1937 Cord* in perfect condition; it would be worth millions now. I saw it every day, wish I had taken a picture of it. Obviously it was a horrendous gas-guzzler, but since we Amis only paid 10 cents a gallon for gas, so what? Germans paid ten or twenty times that, and had 10 or 20 times less money. Another Platenstraße resident had a Nash Healy ("America's first postwar sports car"), a combination Nash Rambler and Austin-Healey.

* Greg Cagle points out that there were no 16-cylinder Cords in regular production, but Dickie's dad once opened the hood and showed me the engine; he liked to joke about how just starting the thing used a whole tank of gas. This was sixty years ago as I write this, so who really knows.

History: Restricted areas and requisitioned German housing 1945-55

Römerstadt on 1946 map
Römerstadt on 1946 map[19]
Römerstadt aerial view
Aerial view of Römerstadt about 1930
Römerstadt building
One of many Römerstadt buildings 1928
Soon after the US Army took charge of its sector of Germany in 1945, it encountered a lot of discipline and morale problems among the troops, not to mention a low reenlistment rate (and a high VD rate)[12]. To address the situation, the authorities decided to allow married soldiers have their families join them in Germany. The first dependents arrived in April 1946 via troopship with no place to put them, so they were housed in requisitioned German homes. In Frankfurt, the American occupation requisitioned about 3700 apartments in Ernst May's historic and un-bombed 1920s Weimar-vintage Bauhaus-style "socialist" Römerstadt complex on the north bank of the Nidda river about 4km NNW of the Farben building, between Heddernheim and Praunheim: at first to temporarily house freed Polish slave laborers, then American paratroopers, and then until the mid-1950s it was home to American military families complete with snack bar, PX, fire house, chapel, movie theater, and parade ground: a fenced-in and guarded area for about the first five years[14,15,16]. Displaced tenants were paid monthly rent for their apartments, which came out of German war reparation funds[20,p.481]. Americans started starting moving out of Römerstadt and other requisitioned German apartments in Fall 1950 with the opening of the 420-unit HiCoG housing area[1], but it would be five more years before enough American housing was available to free (almost) all the requisitioned units.

History: The big Sperrgebiet

Frankfurt Groß Sperrgebiet 1945-48
IG Farben building with barbed wire fence
Frankfurt Groß Sperrgebiet 1945-48
Guarded compound entrance
Frankfurt Groß Sperrgebiet 1945-48
Das Große Sperrgebiet
A much larger fenced-off zone, das Große Sperrgebiet (the Big Restricted Area)[18], was created in April 1945 for American use and lasted until June 1948: 2.4 square kilometers enclosed in barbed wire and protected by armed guards. Germans were not allowed to enter except with an Army-issued permit. It went from a block south of the IG Farben building, north to Am Dornbusch, west to incorporate Grüneburg Park and the Palmengarten, and east to Oeder Weg. The western part included the IG Farben complex; the eastern part included a lot of apartment buildings, from which the tenants were evicted, allowed to take only their clothing, sheets, blankets, pillows, and cookware, and were not allowed back in until 21 June 1948, when the barbed wire was taken down. But they weren't able to move back into their apartments until Platenstraße and the other American housing areas were ready about 1955. The first American elementary school opened in the Sperrgebiet in Fall 1946.

History: Newly-built American housing 1955-1995

Between 1950 and 1955 as US occupation forces expanded due to heightened Cold War tensions, the demand for American housing was growing at the same time that German political and public opposition to requisitions was reaching a boiling point. The occupation had little choice but to construct its own housing and return the requisitioned units to their renters or owners[20]. HiCoG, which opened in 1950, was the first purpose-built American housing in Frankfurt; it was constructed from bombing rubble[20]. In May 1954, the Stars and Stripes announced the aquisition of land near the Farben building and other locations in Frankfurt for the construction of housing[17]. By 1958 about 20,000 housing units had been created[11,12] including Platenstraße, Hügel, and Von Steuben in the IG Farben area.

Map of Platenstraße 1960s
Platenstraße building numbers
Platenstrasse in 1954
Platenstraße site in 1954 (from this photo)

Platenstraße housing did not exist yet, as can be seen in the 1946 Große Sperrgebiet map above and the 1954 aerial photo at right. But by the end of 1956 both the street and the housing were fully realized[5]. The apartments were constructed to American specifications (bathrooms, closets, kitchens) by German contractors and — like all American housing in Germany built before 1957, including HiCoG — it was paid for out of German War Reparation funds[11]. Platenstraße housing comprised 41 buildings with a total of 777 apartments, making it the largest US Forces housing area in Frankfurt[4], and the same design was used all over West Germany. The units ranged in size from 80 to 115 square meters (861 to 1238 square feet). Traditional construction, not prefab, because had it been prefab it would have been called Plattenstraße :-) (in German, Platte is a prefab panel and Plattenbau is prefab construction). The housing area is named after the street that runs through it, which, in turn, is named after poet and playwright August von Platen-Hallermünde.

When Platenstraße housing (along with Hügel, Von Steuben, and others in Frankfurt) opened about 1955, the Römerstadt, Sperrgebiet, and other requisitioned apartments were turned over to the City of Frankfurt and displaced former tenants were free to move back into their old apartments, and some did[16,17].

History: What was the rent?

Numerous references discuss postwar dependent housing, and all state that it was "subsidized". But to what degree? What did an Army family pay for rent in Platenstraße or HiCoG? I don't remember ever hearing any talk of rent when I lived there as a teenager, neither does anyone else I know. Nothing shows up in Google or any of the books or articles in the References section below. Maybe rent was never discussed because there was nothing to discuss! Greg Cagle[5], who (like me) lived there in the 1950s and 60s as a dependent, found the following entry in his father's diary from January 1964:
... I’d have to pay for shipment of my car, there was no way out of that. I would have to wait my turn for family quarters. The quarters were rent free.
Robert Paul says, "I can confirm that we consulate families paid no rent for the housing in Frankfurt. I recall my parents' discussing how they could save money by being posted abroad."

History: Elvis at Platenstraße

Elvis at Platenstraße 1959
Elvis at 2238A Platenstraße 1959
On another historical note, on January 18, 1959, PFC Elvis Presley of the 1st Medium Tank Battalion, 32nd Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Division in nearby Friedberg paid a visit to the Marquette family at 2238A Platenstraße and their six-year-old son Robert, March Of Dimes poster child for the 1958-1959 campaign against polio, arthritis, and birth defects.[4]

This was the second of three visits he made to Robert; on this one he is accompanied by Czech/German actress Vera Tschechowa (at left in the photo), only a few weeks before I arrived in Frankfurt.

Platenstraße and HiCoG today

Thanks to Ruth Schlögl and Joseph Röder von Diersburg of the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences, who were working on an Audio Guide to Platensiedlung[9] in July 2021, for sending the photos and information in this section.

Aerial view 2021
Aerial view 2021
Platenstraße buildings 2021
Redensified north buildings in 2021
Platenstraße buildings 2021
Platenstraße-South buildings in 2021
Shortly after the American base in Frankfurt was vacated in 1995, most of the Amer­ican housing in Frankfurt was transferred to the City of Frankfurt, which manages it and rents the apartments as good-quality affordable housing through manage­ment companies such as ABG[2] and Bundesimmobilienagentur BIMA. The Platenstraße housing area is now called Platensiedlung (Platen Village). Rents are subsidized, normally set at 35% of net income. Some of the apartments are designated "social housing" for people with low incomes. Others are for employees of the Federal Government of Germany. A typical
Platenstraße buildings 2021
rent might be 9 Euros/square meter, significantly lower than market rate (and less than half what I pay in the Bronx, which is the lowest-rent district in NYC). In many of the former U.S. housing areas the average age is comparatively young since there was a complete change of tenants in 1996 and many young families moved in. Nevertheless, there are also a lot of old people. A large number of people with foreign roots live together at Platenstraße and in Frankfurt as whole, where the proportion of foreigners is about 17%. Buildings south of Platenstraße (the street itself; see old map at C-12) remain as they were in the 1950s and 60s; in the northern part a "redensification" project has added two stories to each building[2,6,7,8,9].

HiCoG is now now known by its traditional name, Carl-Schurz-Siedlung; Americans still live and work there, this time those attached to the US Consulate, and the buildings are being renovated too[3]. Reputedly the new American acronym for the former HiCoG buildings is AMCONGEN.

References... (American housing in postwar Frankfurt)
  1. Chadbourn, Dorothy, "HICOG Houses Its Employees", HICOG Information Bulletin No.187, February 1951, pp.19-23, unearthed by FHS veteran Dennis Healey in 2018 (see Information Bulletin index 1945-1953).
  2. Modernisierung der Platensiedlung, Wohnungsbaugesellschaft ABG Frankfurt Holding website, accessed 14 July 2021. So far 650 new apartments have been created.
  3. Germany, eDiplomat website, accessed 14 July 2021: "The Carl Schurz Siedlung is a combined housing and office complex, conveniently located in Frankfurt and within walking distance of both the Consulate Office Building and the RSC [Regional Support Center]. Transportation to and from Consulate facilities is not provided. The Siedlung has over 300 apartments in 25 three-story, walk-up buildings. Each building has two stairwells with six apartments sharing each stairwell ... Frankfurt is renovating and upgrading its apartment buildings to improve facilities and institute energy-saving measures. This project is ongoing and while in progress, the flexibility of housing assignments will be limited, as entire buildings need to be reserved for renovation."
  4. Platenstraße (Frankfurt am Main), Wikipedia.de, accessed 18 July 2021.
  5. Gregory A. Cagle, Scenes from an Automotive Wonderland: Remarkable Cars Spotted in Postwar Europe, McFarland & Company (2018): "...it's parked in front of our apartment building in the Platenstrasse American housing area in Frankfurt on December 9, 1956." Later I found evidence that Platenstraße opened in 1955: "Die Housing Area Platenstraße war die Größte Wohnsiedlung der Amerikanner in Frankfurt. 1955, zehn Jahre nach Kriegsende, zogen die ersten US-Bürger dort ein..." (Inga Schulze, Warum Frank aus N.Y. nicht von Frankfurt lassen kann, Frankfurter Neue Presse, 22 June 2006).
  6. Video: Frankfurter Projekt baut alten Häusern Zusatz-Stockwerke, n-tv Nachrichten, 26 Juni 2019 (accessed 18 July 2021). Early stages of redensification of "Platenstraße North". It looks there is a lot of prefabrication involved so now maybe it's Plattenstraße after all!
  7. Video: Platensiedlung aktuell, November 2020, ABG Frankfurt Holding, Youtube (accessed 18 July 2021), shows Platenstraße Nord" (where I lived) with new upper stories, construction in progess.
  8. Video: Platensiedlung aktuell April 2021, ABG Frankfurt Holding, Youtube (accessed 18 July 2021), same thing five months later.
  9. HALLO Platensiedlung!, Ruth Schlögl, Natalie Heger, Thyra Jones; Forschungslabor Nachkriegsmoderne, Architekturstudiengänge der Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences, 23 July 2021. [Facebook] [Instagram] [Map CLICK HERE to hear the Audio Walk (37 minutes, in German)  
  10. Donald A. Carter, Forging the Shield: The U.S. Army in Europe 1951-1962, U.S. Army Center for Military History (2015), section "Settling in for the Long Haul", pp.127-137: the story of behind dependent housing. Briefly, it was for both the morale of the soldiers and to convince the Soviets that the US occupation was not a prelude to invasion.
  11. Robert P. Grathwol and Donita M. Moorhus, Building for Peace: U.S. Army Engineers in Europe 1945-1991, Center of Military History and Corps of Engineers, United States Army Washington, D.C. (2005), pp.96-100.
  12. Brian McAllister Linn, Elvis's Army, Harvard University Press (2016), pp.45-46.
  13. Dewey Arthur Browder, The Impact of the American Presence on Germans and German-American Grass Roots Relations in Germany, 1950-1960, Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College PhD dissertation (1987), pp.74-79.
  14. Klaus Gülden, Die Beschlagnahme der Römerstadt-Siedlung durch US-Truppen Ende März 1945, heddernheim.de (accessed 28 August 2021).
  15. Von Clemens Dörrenberg, Plötzlich mussten sie das Haus verlassen, Frankfurter Rundschau, 14 March 2016 (accessed 28 August 2021).
  16. Heidi Laird, The Frankfurt Kitchen: Forty-One Stories of Growing Up in Post World War II West Germany, Fulton Books (2021), pp.92-93. The author, a German born in Heidelberg in 1941, lived in a Römerstadt apartment for several years starting in 1949, when it was full of American families; she notes that the Americans gradually started moving out that same year. "Frankfurt Kitchen" (Frankfurter Küche) refers to the unique Bauhaus design of the Römerberg's kitchens. Laird eventually emigrated to the US and became a clinical psychologist in San Benardino, California. Read an interview with her here.
  17. James Quigley, "Land acquired for 1,834 New NACom Billets", European Stars and Stripes, 19 May 1954, p.2: "Northern Area Command recently completed the acquisition of land in the Frankfurt area that will be used for housing construction projects scheduled to begin soon. The land is located in the Gibbs, Drake, Edwards, and IG Farben Complex areas, as well as adjacent to the HICOG housing development and the Hoechst cemetery. Plans call for the construction of 103 buildings which will include 1,854 housing units. The acquisition of suitable land for housing construction will now allow the US Army to release sooner German housing currently under requisition."
  18. Andrea Janssen, Das große amerikanische Sperrgebiet in Frankfurt April 1945 bis Juni 1948, Stiftung Polytechnische Gesellschaft (sptg.de, accessed 4 September 2021).
  19. Stadtplan S8 1/498 Frankfurt/Main in Hyperboloid-Projektion mit Kilometernetz, Falk-Verlag (1946).
  20. Adam R. Seipp, "This Land Remains German": Requisitioning, Society, and the US Army, 1945–1956, Central European History 52, Issue 3 (September 2019), pp.476-495 (restricted access): A detailed account of requisitioning of German dwellings and other property by the American occupation.
  21. 1945 in Frankfurt: Wie Frankfurter das Kriegsende erlebten, Frankfurter Rundschau, 10 April 2015.
  22. Ernst May, Wikipedia (accessed 24 November 2021).

Frankfurt High School

Frankfurt High School
Frankfurt High School
Frankfurt High School
FHS dorms (right) and "Quonset" huts (Silver City)
My bro­ther and I went to the Amer­i­can Army schools — 9th-11th grade for me, Frankfurt High School; ele­men­tary school for Dennis. The FHS student body was 900 and included kids like me who walked to school, kids from farther away (the Drake-Edwards or Gibbs or Atterberry Kaserne, or neighboring towns and cities like Aschaffenburg, Babenhausen, Bad Homburg, Bad Nauheim, Bad Vilbel, Bonames, Butzbach, Büdingen, Darmstadt, Friedburg, Gelnhausen, Hanau, Höchst, Langen, Mörfelden, Oberursel... or the Rhein-Main air base near Wiesbaden) who arrived in 25 big olive-drab Army buses each day; kids from even farther (e.g. Bad Godesberg, Gießen, Fulda, Kassel, Wildflecken) [apparently, at least Fulda and Gießen got their own American high schools in later years] who lived in the dorms all week but went home on weekends, and kids from REALLY far away like Moscow, Damascus, Warsaw, Helsinki, Lisbon, Tunis... (children of diplomats or attachés in places where there were no American schools); they stayed in the dorm all semester and ate three meals a day in the cafeteria. Although 900 sounds small to a New Yorker, it was far too many for the original 1954 building so we also had some "Quonset huts" for the overflow (strictly speaking these were Butler Buildings; real Quonset huts are half-cylinders, but it's the same idea: prefab temporary buildings made of corrugated metal that can be erected in a few hours)[9].

Me in Frankfurt 1959
Me in 1959
Frankfurt High School aerial view 1960
Frankfurt High School aerial view 1960
When I started school in the middle of the 9th grade, it was quite shock. Instead of all white suburban kids like in Virginia, there were Black kids, Puerto Ricans, Hawaiians, Mexicans, Filipinos… and even the white kids were from all over, with every kind of background and accent. Plus people were from all social classes from aristocracy (children of ambassadors or generals) to dirt-poor. It was the complete opposite of my junior high school in Arlington, where everybody was exactly the same: white, middle class, and Virginian.

Some of the FHS kids in 9th grade were hoodlums like in Blackboard Jungle, with leather jackets and collars turned up and ducktails and switch­blades but there was never actually any fighting. My friend Joe Caranci always spent Geography period carving things into his desk with his switchblade and one day when the teacher said something about it, he cut off the teacher's necktie and threw his briefcase out the window (that was my only Blackboard Jungle class). And yes, there was a Geography class; in those times everybody learned what all the countries in the world were, and something about them.

Miss Costello's Latin Class
Miss Costello's Latin Class in Silver City
Creating writing story
Creative writing story 1961
In reality, it was an excellent school, and the best thing about it was that if you did well in class, there was no social stigma as there was in Virginia. Consequently I got high grades the whole time I was there and had good relationships with many of my teachers, for example Miss Costello, my Latin teacher for two years who ran the class like a Marine drill sergeant but in reality was a sweetie. Or Miss Rotter who taught AP English and encouraged me to write down any crazy thing that came into my head. I could do that and still be a cool guy. She was also the Radio Club adviser in 1960-61. Or Mr. Thompson (more about him below).

The Lovings
The Lovings of Virginia
To top off the differences from "back home", there were interracial couples… This was at the exact same time as the huge uproar in Virginia — in Central Point, not far from where I had lived — about the Lovings[11] (a white man and black woman who married and were prosecuted for it), that went all the way to the Supreme Court. Honestly, we all felt so lucky not to have to worry about any of that... Imagine, living in a diverse community with no racial barriers in the late 1950s and early 60s. We knew how precious a gift this was; we lived in a virtual paradise safe from all the ugliness and brutality of our own country.

Carolyn Parker in 1960
In 9th and 10th grade I was friends with a girl named Carolyn Parker. We sat next to each other in class; I helped her with her homework (she didn't really need help, it was like a game). We just enjoyed each other's company; she was very sweet and soft spoken. I guess I had a crush on her. But that was 1959-1960 and it simply didn't occur to us to see each other outside of school, or if it did, we were probably both thinking about how our parents (or in my case, just the one) would react. Plus we were both pretty shy. She "rotated" before my junior year which was when I started to have a social life. But I still remember her.

Speaking of rotating, I quickly realized that another big difference between a military base and everywhere else I had ever lived is how easy it is to make friends. Because kids are so diverse, there wasn't the kind of cliquishness I recall from my junior high school in suburban Virgina. And because nobody stayed in the same place more than two or three years, military brats grew up learning how to make friends rapidly and how to be openminded and honest and not play games. I never felt more comfortable with people in my life than I did there, and never had so many friends, not before, not since.

Another facet of life as a kid on a military base is how the parents are so conscious of rank: who's more important than who, who can socialize with who, who can go to which club (Officers, NCO, EM)... whereas the kids instinctively rebelled against all that and we all developed a healthy antiauthoritarian streak. For example if a General found out his daughter was dating a Sergeant's son he would almost certainly order her to break it off and that would only make the relationship stronger.

Frankfurt Base Facilities

Frankfurt PX, Commissary, and Snack Bar
WAC Circle: Frankfurt PX, Commissary, and Snack Bar, 1960
Meanwhile, there were endless facilities on the base for service members and their families. The Post Exchange (PX, center in the photo) was like a department store that sold clothing, records, books, pots and pans, etc, (and of course, transformers) at no markup or even subsidized, in recognition of the low military salaries. The Commissary (right of the PX in the photo) was like an American supermarket for food shopping, also nonprofit and subsidized. The Snack bar (left) was a huge cafeteria featuring approximately the same fare as a Burger King or IHOP. There was also a "Class VI store" somewhere, that's Army-speak for a liquor store. Behind these buildings was a gas station where gas was 10 cents a gallon. Scattered all over the base (after 1948 it wasn't a fenced-in base[6], just buildings and neighborhoods all over the city) were countless smaller snack bars, field houses, clinics, athletic fields, running tracks, dispensaries, clubs, and so on[7]. Barracks for soldiers were fenced in, however; they were called Kaserne since many of them were old Wehrmacht barracks (Kaserne) with swastikas chiseled off the gates (♪♫ Vor der Kaserne, vor der großen Tor... ♪♫).

Medical care was free and universal, school was free and excellent, and housing was free or heavily subsidized. Ordinary working people of all ranks could live modest, comfortable, and relatively secure and stress-free lives without being millionaires and billionaires or working 100 hours a week. Our parents (or more often than not, just our fathers) did their 40-hour-a-week jobs (and we did our jobs by going to school), and the government took care of us. No wonder we liked it so much over there, it was Socialism! [1]

In January 2024 Pam Ives came across a two-page 1960 Army Times article[2] clipped by her parents that describes the Frankfurt base facilities in great detail. If you think it sounds like Paradise on Earth, you're not far wrong!

  1. Strictly speaking socialism includes public ownership of the means of production; the Frankfurt Army base experience was more like "market socialism" where private companies exist, but the essentials of life such as housing, health care, education, and secure retirment are provided by the government at no or low charge. This was the dominant form of government in postwar Europe and Scandinavia and, to some extent, other countries like Canada and New Zealand, but lately is eroding due to the wave of right-wing backlash sweeping the whole planet. US military bases sometimes crossed the line into true socialism, like when the Army set up factories in Germany (and elsewhere) to produce ice cream for base residents.
  2. Guild, Hazel, "Frankfurt: Chicago on the Main, Army Times, 14 June 1960, pp.36-37.

Bob Engs

Bob Engs
Bob Engs (yearbook)
Bob Engs at home
Bob Engs at home 1959
Höchst chemical plant
Chemical plant
I don't remember much about 9th grade, it was only a few months. In 10th grade, Bob Engs was pretty much my main outside-of-school friend. Bob was a year older but we had the same birthday. He was also a year ahead of me in school and president of his class, a super-achiever. He lived far away in the indus­trial city of Höchst, about two hours away by trolley*, dominated by the huge Höchst AG chemical plant that spewed out toxic black smoke, the air was always thick with it; in those days if you took a color picture of Höchst it would still come out grey. The chemical plants employed thousands of Turkish "Gastarbeiter" under horrible conditions, we never saw them because they weren't allowed to go into town. My dad was scandalized about Bob, but said it was OK for me to have black friends as long as we were in Frankfurt, but not in Virginia. My brother's best friend was also black. My parents were pretty impressed I could navigate the trolley system from city to city, negotiating the hair-raising transfer from the #17 to the #11 at the free-kill zone in front of the Hauptbahnhof.

The Engs family returned to the USA at the end of the 1959-60 school year, ending up in Fort Eustis VA, near Newport News; I visited them there in 1962. Bob had a long and distinguished academic career and died in 2013 at age 69[12].

* Mary Frances Keller '61, now Mary Fran Archer, who made the trip every day, says 30 minutes.
  1. Frankfurt American High School, Wikipedia (accessed 31 March 2019).
  2. Wertsch, Mary Edwards, Military Brats, Harmony Books and/or Brightwell Publishing (1991, 1996, 2006).
  3. Curtis, Marc, Growing Up Military, CreateSpace (2009).
  4. Willis, William, Base Jumping, William Willis Books (2013).
  5. Tuscott, Mary R., Brats, Dutton (1989).
  6. "'Little America' Fence in Frankfurt Seen Doomed", George Bria, Schenectady Gazette, 9 February 1948 (via usarmygermany.com). Apparently the fence was up for only a bit more than a year (1947-48).
  7. Army & Air Force Exchange Service, Europe, Walter Elkins' U.S. Army in Germany website, accessed 7 July 2020: The European Exchange System: "The mission of EES is service to the troops in Europe. Basically, this means providing services and goods at minimum costs and in the most pleasant, courteous, and efficient manner possible."—Col. Charles L. Redman, QMC, EES Chief.  EES was responsible for PX's, commissaries, liquor stores, snack bars, delis, laundries, dry cleaners, barber and beauty shops, photo processing; watch, radio, and shoe repair; florists, tailor shops, photo studios, gas stations, car repair garages, libraries, athletic fields, service clubs, teen clubs, service shows, as well as central butchers, bakeries, dairies, and ice cream plants (such as the massive one in Grünstadt) that supplied the commissaries and snack bars. There were also EES service stations and snack bars on the Autobahns. Also there were mobile PXs and snack bars for troops in the field. In Germany the large majority of employees at EES establishments was German.
  8. The Bald Eagles Echo, Fall 1995: 26 pages devoted to the closing of Frankfurt High School and the whole American base in Frankfurt.
  9. Julie Decker and Chris Chiel, Quonset Hut, Princeton Architectural Press (2005).
  10. Memories from Germany, American Overseas Schools Historical Society. I particularly enjoyed the story of an American teacher, Nancy Siler, who went to Germany on a troopship in 1949.
  11. The Loving Story, 1960s documentary about the Lovings.
  12. Dr Robert Francis "Bob" Engs Jr, 1943-2013, Find A Grave memorial by Allen Monasmith, 11 May 2014.

History: American schools in postwar Frankfurt

"A somewhat unprecedented byproduct of the USAREUR dependents’ school system was the 'melting-pot' role it assumed far beyond the borders of the United States. Both staff and student body were composed of persons from all 48 states, and the territories, as well. People from all walks of life, all races and creeds, and representing the full range of sectional backgrounds and interests, met in the classrooms, bringing with them the uniqueness that was theirs and taking away, certainly, a fuller knowledge and deeper understanding of the totality that is the American people." —[10,p.113]
FHS sign Starting in 1946, the US Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS) made schooling available to children of military, consular, and other American families in Germany and other occupied countries[7]. So the correct way to refer to these schools is DOD or DoDDS schools, but we always called them Army schools. Why? Because (1) there was no Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast guard in Frankfurt, it was all Army; and (2) the sign on our school said "U.S. ARMY FRANKFURT HIGH SCHOOL" as seen on the inset, that comes from the far right of this photo. Other American school signs in Germany also said U.S. Army, such as this one in Kaiserslautern.

An interesting facet of the American elementary and junior high schools was that German language instruction was given to all students[16,17] in a required daily class. My younger brother Dennis took German at Frankfurt Elementary #1, as did Robert Paul (see report card), Greg Cagle, and other slightly younger informants who were in Frankfurt the same time I was. Similarly for American schools in France, but French instead of German. German language was taught by Germans; one of my informants has an autograph from "Ruth Geise, Deine Deutschlehrer). The same is true for American elementary schools in elsewhere in Germany such as the one in Kaiserslautern, confirmed by another informant who was there in the late 1950s.

At Frankfurt high school when I was there in 1959-61, Latin, German, French, and (from Fall 1960) Russian were offered as electives. Checking the 1977-78 yearbook I see that Russian had been removed and Spanish added.

High School...

Friedrich-Ebert-Reformschule, which would become the first Frankfurt High School in 1946. Photo: frankfurt1933-1945.de.

The first Frankfurt High School (FHS) was at Am Bornheimer Hang 46 in Bornheim, about 2.5 miles (3.8km) east of the Farben building. It was built in 1929-30 as the Friedrich-Ebert-Reformschule[1,2] and designed by Ernst May, who was also responsible for the revolutionary Römerstadt apartment buildings described above. This school building was the first of its kind in Europe and drew visitors from many countries. During the war it served as a military hospital, an officer's school, and temporary housing for bombed-out families. From May 1945 to September 1946 it was billets for American occupation troops. It became Frankfurt's American high school in Fall 1946 and served in that capacity through Spring 1954.[3]  A protected landmark, it's still there as the Charles-Hallgarten Schule[4,13,14] for special-needs students, grades 1-10.

Frankfurt High School 1959
Frankfurt High School Siolistraße 1959
In Fall 1954, Frankfurt High School moved to its newly constructed home at Siolostraße 41, just north of the IG Farben building. It was in operation from Spring 1954 through Fall 1995 when US forces left Frankfurt after 50 years. It was one of few American high schools with dormitories (Nürnberg, Kaiserslautern, and Munich also had them but I believe they were 5-day only, whereas Frankfurt was both 5-day and full-term). It went from 9th grade through 12th grade through
Phillip-Holzman-Schule 2014
Phillip-Holzman-Schule and athletic field 2014[15]
1959-60, then 10th-12th until it closed in 1995. The school's name was changed to Frankfurt American High School (FAHS) only in 1961-62, the year after I left. When closed it was returned to the City of Frankfurt and became the Philipp-Holzmann-Schule; it has since been considerably remodeled, expanded, and improved. In April 2014 a former FAHS student (Otis Pate, class of 1985) visited the Holzmann campus and posted a rhapsodic 7-minute video of it on Youtube (screen shot at left). By 2020, however, the at-least-80-year-old athletic field was sacrified to make way for another new school, the Adorno Gymnasium (academic high school), address: Miquelallee 160.

Junior High School...

Frankfurt American Junior High School
Frankfurt Junior High School
Frankfurt (American) Junior High School opened in Fall 1959 at 381 Homburger Landstraße at Drake Kaserne[5,17] to relieve crowded conditions at the high school and the elementary schools, taking over 9th grade from the high school and 8th and 7th grades from the elementary schools. It was convenient to residents in the Drake-Edwards, Gibbs, and Betts areas but students who lived in the Farben building area (Platenstraße, Hügel, Von Steuben) and elsewhere had to ride big olive-drab Army buses every day. The junior high school closed in 1995, along with all the other American military schools in Frankfurt. The building still exists as of November 2021 and houses the IKS Interkulturelle Schule Rhein-Main, a state-recognized private vocational and preparatory school.

Elementary Schools...

Frankfurt Elizabethan School 1946
Elizabethan School
The original Frankfurt Elementary School, the Elizabethan School[9,10] — in German Elisabethanischschule — at Vogtstraße 35-37, was about half a mile east of the Farben building. Founded in 1876 as a high school for girls in another part of the city, it moved to Vogtstraße in 1908. In 1942 it was converted into a German military hospital. In 1945 it was confiscated by American forces and opened in 1946 as a school for grades K-8[6,11]. It was in the Sperrgebiet, the fenced-in American restricted area around the Farben building 1945-48 described above. The school was returned to the City of Frankfurt in 1954 and lives on today as the Gymnasium Elisabethenschule, a co-ed academic high school.

Frankfurt Elementary School #1
Frankfurt Elementary School #1 in 1960
Frankfurt Elementary School #1 at 2201 Platenstraße[5] (photo by my father) opened in 1953, as part of the same project that created the high school and the Platenstraße, Hügel, and Von Steuben housing areas, serving grades K-8[6]. Students from areas such as Oberursel, Bad Homburg, Höchst, Fischstein and Rödelheim were bused in daily. Frankfurt Elementary School #2 (a.k.a. the Atterberry School) at 358 Friedberger Landstraße[5] in the Betts housing area near Atterberry Kaserne also opened in 1953[6].

The city of Frankfurt was located in the US Army Northern Area Command (NACOM), one of six Cold War commands in 1952-1965, covering a large part of the American zone of Germany (which by then had also subsumed the French Zone). In addition to its military role, NACOM "also act[ed] as landlord and corner grocer, city administrator and recreation supervisor for the complete community of servicemen, wives, children and civilians. Along this line there are [as of 1963] 82 chapels, 51 service clubs, 71 libraries, 74 theaters, 69 bowling lanes, 70 gymnasiums and 602 other sports facilities. In addition there are 72 education centers for the American community plus 45 elementary and high schools with an enrollment of 33,000. There are 72 housing areas and 100,000 troop barracks spaces to maintain plus providing utilities for more than 200 separate installations. The 12 main posts directly under NACom are: Giessen, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Wuerzburg, Bamberg, Fulda, Hanau, Bad Kreuznach, Baumholder, Pirmasens, Kaiserslautern and Karlsruhe. The 12 sub-posts are Mainz, Schweinfurt, Darmstadt, Bad Hersfeld, Bad Kissingen, Wildflecken, Kassel, Gelnhausen, Worms, Aschaffenburg, Kitzingen and Wertheim."[8]

  1. Der Frankfurter Reformschulversuch 1921–1930, Institut für Stadtgeschichte, frankfurt1933-1945.de (accessed 23 November 2021).
  2. Der Frankfurter Reformschulversuch 1930–1937, Institut für Stadtgeschichte, frankfurt1933-1945.de (accessed 23 November 2021).
  3. Frankfurt American High School, wikipedia.com (accessed 23 November 2021).
  4. Charles-Hallgarten School Am Bornheimer Hang, architecture.eu (accessed 23 November 2021).
  5. Federal Republic of Germany Post Report, US Department of State, U.S. Government Printing Office, 0-281-540-2013, April 1979. Frankfurt am Main section: pp.33-37. This is written for consular personel and their families, where housing, school, and other policies might differ from those for military families.
  6. Memories of Frankfurt Elementary #1, compilation 1946-1995, American Overseas Schools Historical Society, entry by Erika and Kurt Rothe (aoshs.com, accessed 25 November 2021).
  7. DODEA's 75 Year History, dodea.edu (accessed 25 November 2021).
  8. Ralph Bennington, "NACOM to Celebrate 11th Anniversary", Stars & Stripes, 30 November 1963.
  9. History of the Dependents School Service (DSS), Germany: Those First Six Years (1946-1952), Department of Defense Education Activity, dodea.edu (accessed 26 November 2021).
  10. The Dependents' School Program of the U.S. Army, Europe, 1946–1956, Headquarters, United States Army, Europe, Historical Division (1958), 118 pages (non-searchable PDF). Page 9 has the photo of the Elizabethan School captioned "The Elizabethan School—first American elementary school in Frankfurt and headquarters of the Dependents' School Service".
  11. Elisabethenschule (Frankfurt am Main), second.wiki (accessed 26 November 2021).
  12. Elisabethenschule website (accessed 26 November 2021).
  13. Charles Hallgarten Schule website (accessed 26 November 2021).
  14. Charles Hallgarten Schule: Schulhaus (school building's history with photos, accessed 26 November 2021).
  15. Video: Behind Frankfurt American High School 2014, Otis Pate, Youtube, April 2014.
  16. Host Nation Studies: An International Language and Culture Program for U.S. Elementary Students in Overseas Schools, International Journal for the Historiography of Education (IJHE) Jahrgang 4 Ausgabe 5, October 2014 (abstract). "In 1946, the first U.S. schools for military dependents opened their doors in post-war Germany to provide education for children of American personnel on foreign soil. The school system, originally known as the 'Dependents School Service' (DSS), offered a special subject within its curriculum: Native German teachers were hired to teach the language and culture of the current host nation to U.S. elementary and middle-school students."
  17. Yearbooks, Frankfurt MS (formerly JHS) Archives, American Overseas Schools Historical Society archives. Not a complete set, but they reveal that the school had several Germans teaching German, and no other languages were taught. The 1988 yearbook identifies the school as "Frankfurt American Junior High School which is a Department of Defense, Dependent School located on Drake Kaserne, Homburger Landstrasse 381, 6 Frankfurt/Main or APO New York 09039-0005".
  18. "Who Runs the Best U.S. Schools? It May Be the Defense Department — Schools for children of military members achieve results rarely seen in public education", New York Times, 10 October 2023.

The 1960 Artillery Accident at Grafenwöhr

Memorial Service 1960
Memorial Service 4 September 1960
The morning of Friday, September 2, 1960, an 8-inch Howitzer round crashed into a 3rd Armored Division encampment at the Grafenwöhr tank range, killing 15 soldiers and wounding another 28, one of whom died later. We were in school that day and it was announced over the PA system. The fathers of many of the students were at Graf at the time, and when the announcement was made the details were still not known. Everyone was worried, scared, upset. I remember big silent crowds in the halls, I think they must have let us out early so we could be with our families. Nine of the dead were PFCs and probably not old enough to have kids in high school. Three were sergeants (two of them SFCs) and could have been old enough but their surnames don't match anyone in the 1960-61 FHS directory. The rest were SP4s and SP5s, and only one of them, Earl Johnson (an SP4, therefore probably pretty young), had a surname also found in the directory (seven times). In any case I don't remember that any FHS parents died, but there were also 27 wounded (later I checked the list of wounded against the FHS directory too, and no matches there either). Anyway there was deep anxiety throughout the school for at least the whole day. The photo was taken by SSG Lowell Fox of the 3rd AD, one of six sent in by his son Farley in 2008  (see gallery)  (decode Army ranks here).
  1. Howitzer Overshot Kills 15, Injures 27 at Grafenwoehr, Stars and Stripes vol.19 no.138, Saturday, 3 September 1960, page 1: "Fifteen 3rd Armd Div soldiers were killed early Friday [September 2], and 27 injured when an 8-inch howitzer shell with an incorrect powder charge overshot its mark and landed in a camp area after a morning roll call ... The shell smashed into three tents occupied by soldiers. It tore through one tent, exploded in the second, and sent fragments hurtling into the third."
  2. Little-known Grafenwoehr accident remains vivid to those who lived it, nearly 60 years later, Martin Egnash, Stars and Stripes, 1 September 2018: "the memory of that day lives on in the soldiers who were there. Retired Gen. Colin Powell ... was one of them."
  3. Tragedy at Grafenwoehr in September, 1960, 3rd Armored Division History Foundation. Includes list of fatalities.
  4. Artillery Accident of 1960: The deadliest event in the history of the Grafenwoehr Training Area, Johanna Pschierer, USAG Bavaria Public Affairs, 23 August 2018.
  5. 3rd Armored Division, Cold War, Wikipedia (accessed 6 March 2021): "Throughout the Cold War, the division headquarters company, the 503rd Administrative Company, 503rd Adjutant General Company, and 503rd MP Company were based at Drake Kaserne, with 143rd Signal Battalion and other support units stationed across the street at Edwards Kaserne in Frankfurt ... subunits were based in other Kasernes [in Kirch-Goens, Butzbach, Gelnhausen, Friedberg, and Hanau]", which are all places where FHS students lived (see directory).
For more information, use this Google search.

11th grade at Frankfurt High School and Pam Ives 1960-61

Me in 1961
1961 yearbook photo
Me in 1961
Look: saddle shoes!
In 11th grade I made tons of new friends, started going out on the town and drinking beer (and anything else I could get my hands on - cognac, Schnapps, Jägermeister...), having all kinds of fun. Maybe too much fun because now I recognize that, for the two full years 1961 and 1962 I drank to excess almost every day. At first it was some combination of dulling the stress and oppression of "life with father" and the fact that drinking in Germany was easy, cheap, legal, fun, and everybody else was doing it. Later, back in Virginia, where it was not legal, I still did it. The compulsion faded after I left home.

I often felt that my time in high school in Germany was the best time of my life. It was such an adventure to be in postwar Germany, still pockmarked with the scars of war, still relatively poor, still full of people who had been Nazis, and with Elvis stationed just down the street. And on the base, to be among people of all races, nationalities and social classes after living in racial and economic segregation up until then. And my first love, Pam Ives.

Pam Ives
Pam 1961 in FHS gym
Pam Ives
Pam 1961
Nürnberg Bierdeckel
Nürnberg souvenir
Cheerleader portrait
Even in 11th grade I was still shy around girls and had only been on a couple awkward dates. Pam was in 10th grade and a junior varsity cheerleader. We clicked instantly, we were inseparable; we did everything together, she was funny and she was fearless. And (as she says herself) kind of smart-ass. We always enjoyed each other, never argued, no egos, no drama, just romance, affection, and tons of fun. Everything was hilarious to us. We went on long trips in Army buses to away-games in places like Mannheim and Nürnberg (and then didn't bother going to the games), we went up in the Taunus mountains and drank our­selves silly with no idea how we would get back. I would go to basketball games just because she was cheerleading. She came to the radio station with me on Tuesday nights sometimes. I'd meet her in HiCoG every morning, where she lived, to walk to school together.

Jazz Keller
Jazz Keller
We wrote notes and slipped them into each other's hall lockers. We went to the Teen Club after school and then again after dinner at home, when it became like a night club: lights low, dancing to the jukebox or a band... and everybody forming little groups for sorties into the neighborhood or downtown — restaurants, bars, Storyville, the Jazzkeller — then coming back to the Teen Club to share our adventures. Typical corny teenage stuff but I was never so happy before or since (until recently).

About the Jazz Keller... Heidi Laird (author of Frankfurt Kitchen) recalls "being able to sit up close to famous Jazz musicians who had just given a concert at the Festhalle and were showing up at the Jazz Keller to unwind and relax in an informal setting among friends. I remember seeing Coleman Hawkins up close, and the Modern Jazz Quartet and Ella Fitzgerald and Jerry Mulligan, all legendary, almost mythical. And there were the Mangelsdorff brothers ... There was a wonderful bass player named Oscar Pettiford who died within a year or two of my meeting him..."

The time we went to Nürnberg we wandered around the city and stumbled onto the Luitpoldhain, which is where big annual Nazi rallies were staged from 1933 to 1938. Spooky!

Pam's Prom book
Pam's Prom book 1961
Prom night 1961
Prom night April 1961
The Casino Officers Club seen from I.G. Farben
You can see how ridicu­lously happy I was in the pre-Prom photo, in which the other two are our friends Joe Martin and Genell Roberson, and in which Pam is wearing the dress her Mom made for the occasion. Joe had his dad's car that night. The Prom was a very big deal, held not in a crepe-paper-decorated school gym like most proms but in the Officers' Club, the "Casino" part of the I.G. Farben complex and probably a major "venue" for the Nazi elite during the war. It was in the Casino's enormous, elegant ballroom. Honestly I don't remember much about it (was there an orchestra? Was there food?) but Pam and I danced and danced. And then as the Prom wound down we drove to a classy nightclub downtown with a stage show and had fizzy mixed drinks with umbrellas instead of beer steins. We stayed out very late, culminating in a Prom breakfast at 3:00 or 4:00am in the main Snack Bar, which they kept open for us. It was a night like in a 1940s Hollywood movie. Pam is the only one I ever danced with.

A Prom-related incident resulted in a bump in our relationship (my fault) and before it could be fixed the school year ended and Pam's family rotated back to the States, Pan Am Flight 73, Frankfurt to NYC, July 2, 1961 (just after her 16th birthday). I would have been devastated by this if it were not for the fact that we were being rotated too! A year prematurely, due to a f**kup by my dad. I was devastated anyway; back in Virginia I missed her like crazy. We stayed in touch by mail. A year later she was thinking about college, wanted to major in psychology, wanted to come to the east coast somewhere but said her grades weren't good and probably she would wind up at Iowa State ("Anything! Anyplace! Just to leave home!"), wished we could talk about it and do the things we used to do, and closed by telling me not to do anything crazy like getting married (like Tom McCaffrey did in while still in high school, which is why she mentioned it) or... Joining the Army! But then her father was transferred to Fort Leavenworth and I left for UVA at the same time, and then the Army, and then my Mom left my Dad and my Dad lost the house — the address Pam was writing to — so we literally lost touch. Forever.  Or so it seemed!

Maps of Our Frankfurt

Frankfurt a/M 1961
Our part of Frankfurt in 1961: Falk-Plan No.119, Falk-Verlag-Hamburg (undated but purchased in 1961) - Click to enlarge

This is a piece of a German map from 1961 showing the part of Frankfurt we inhabited. Click on it to see a full size version with notations in pencil that I made at the time. At C-12 I have the Platenstraße housing area circled and building numbers penciled in, plus I drew in the baseball field. A line is coming out of 2231 showing the shortcut I used to take to school, which is in the upper left of D-10 marked FHS, north-northwest of the IG Hochhaus (I.G. Farben building, shown in red). The Teen Club (TC) is on Siolistraße right across from the school. In E-11, WAC Circle at Adickes Allee and Eschersheimer Landstraße is circled: the PX, Commissary, and big Snack Bar. Pam lived in Carl Schurz Siedlung, a.k.a. HiCoG; her house is circled by the lower left corner of D-11. Our hangouts are also indicated: D'Angelo's is on Raimundstraße near Am Dornbusch indicated as DA's in D-12. Kurt's (with the jukebox that played Milord) is at bottom center of D-12. Some other places I don't recall are indicated there too: D.S. and 7-Up, then just below the lower right corner of the same quadrant, the eat-in family Italian restaurant, Bologna. Then going south on Eschersheimer Landstraße (E-10 and E-9) was bar country: Stark's, Frank's, Bodega's (indicated as BO's), Leon's, Torrero, and finally the Straw Bar. These were the places we could walk to. Römer wine glass The Straw Bar, unlike the other rowdy dives just listed, was sedate and civilized, owned by a nice lady. Nobody knows why we called it the Straw Bar; it wasn't labeled that way. A bunch of us guys and girls would go there and sit around a large round table playing Hearts all night, drinking white Mosel Wein out of Römers (photo at left) rather than the customary Bier in Steins, in deference to the ladies, much more refined and sophisticated.

We also frequented some other places not on the map, e.g. in Ginnheim. The next map shows the hangouts we went to by trolley.

Frankfurt a/M 1961
Frankfurt Bahnhof area in 1961 - Click to enlarge or CLICK HERE to see the whole map (big).

Santa Lucia
Ristorante Santa Lucia 1961
Maier Gustl's
Maier Gustl's 1956
This is another part of the same map that shows the Hauptbahnof area, directly accessible by Straßenbahn Nº17. Various hangouts are indicated near the Bahnhof (C-D 5-6): Maier Gustl's on Münchener Straße (a huge and rowdy Bavarian beer hall complete with Oompah band), and next to it Santa Lucia (Italian grotto restaurant up a flight of stairs), Maxim's (which I don't remember). "Little Maier Gustl's" was as quiet and sedate as the big one was loud and chaotic and it had the best Ochsenschwanzsuppe. The yellow area in front of the red Hauptbahnhof was the free-kill zone where all the trolley lines met up in a huge chaos and you could transfer from one line to another if you were lucky.

Other things to do in Germany

Besides drinking in bars? On base, there was every conceivable kind of recreation for us, either free or very cheap — a movie theater (25¢), game rooms, a roller rink, the post library, craft shops, music rooms (where you could check out any musical instrument and practice on it), libraries, athletic fields, judo classes, bowling alleys, a baseball team (the Vikings), the Teen Club, plus a huge selection of after-school activites... No end of fun. And to top it off, we were in Germany! So there was even more fun to be had off base... We could go to nearby Grüneburg Park or ride all over the city on the trolley, all the way to the Taunus mountains for pocket change, go swimming at the German pool in Oberursel (swimming was the only amenity not found on base).

The Platenstraße area in Frankfurt was like Smurf Village; everybody lived in one place and it was just a couple blocks from the high school and main PX. When you walked to school in the morning you'd bump into all your friends. You could go outside any time, around the corner to the ball field bleachers (a popular hangout) or a couple more blocks to the Teen Club and all your friends would be in one of those places or the other. We'd just hang out or decide to go somewhere together, there was no end of escapades we could have in postwar Germany.

Plus there were part-time jobs for teenagers, bagging groceries in the Commissary for tips, setting pins in the base bowling alley for 10 cents a frame, and working the concession stand at the movie theater. In those days bowling alleys and pool halls were everywhere. I never bowled much, but I played pool quite well, starting in the Teen Club up through Army discharge, six years of solid pool playing. After that I think I played pool 3 times total, once with Granpa who used to be a pool hustler (I did pretty well, but he won of course — this was at the marina in Kinapic).

The Teen Club

Frankfurt Teen Club
Frankfurt Teen Club 1960 looks like a dump but inside it was magic
At the Teen Club, one room had a grill with hamburgers and french fries and a soda fountain, with tables and chairs and a nickel jukebox with good music in it. At night the lights were turned down low for dancing. The songs that take me right back there (mid-1961): Blue Moon by the Marcels, Mother In Law by Ernie K. Doe, Chain Gang by Sam Cooke, This is Dedicated to the One I Love by the Shirelles, Gee Whiz by Carla Thomas, Who's Loving You by the Miracles, and Suddenly There's A Valley by The Drifters.

Framus Hollywood 1958
Framus Hollywood 1958
Teen Club band 1961
Teen Club band 1961
Meanwhile, back in the Teen Club there was also a stage where my first rock band used to play for evening dance parties. I played a German electric guitar, a red 1958 Framus Hollywood (the one on the left in the color picture) that I got at Musik-Hruby on Marbachweg in Dornbusch, the same street where Anne Frank was born in 1929 and lived as a little girl...  In 1961 the Teen Club was totally unsupervised, the only adults there were the German ladies who ran the soda fountain and grill. We'd go out drinking in bars, come back to the Teen Club, go out again, come back... The way I remember it, this was just about every night. For the record, everybody's favorite local spot for drinking and eating was D'Angelo's, a tiny hole-in-the-wall pizza place on Raimundstraße (just on the edge of the American housing complex), run by Marco and patronized exclusively by Frankfurt High students (as opposed to, say, GIs or Germans). Marco's pizza was the best I ever had in my life (Pam says it was strange). It cost one Mark per slice, and he'd also make a custom pie in any size at all... decades before anyone had heard of a "personal pizza".

Elvis at the Teen Club?

Autographed Elvis record
Autographed Elvis record
Autographed Elvis German postcard
Postcard front
Autographed Elvis German postcard
Autographed postcard back
In November 2021 I had email from a person who was in Frankfurt 1958-1961, about the time as me; she said "I was particularly interested in your memories of the teen club. Although I never actually got to go there, I had an older sister in high school (graduated in 1959 I think) who spent a lot of time there. In fact, my stepfather was a volunteer there. I have in my possession a 45 RPM record in its jacket, and a post card photograph of Elvis, both signed by him. My recollection is that he actually visited the teen club at least once, which is where she obtained his autographs. My sister is deceased, so I can’t ask her. Do you have any memory of one or more visits by Elvis? Although I liked some of his music and movies as a teen, I was never really a fan." I don't remember but if any readers do, please let me know! The record, "A Big Hunk 'O Love", was released in 1959, about a year before my Teen Club days. The postcard photo was taken before November 27, 1958, when Elvis was promoted to PFC. He made SP4 on June 1, 1959, and Sergeant E5 February 11, 1960, and was one of those ranks when he recorded the record. He was discharged March 5, 1960.

Armed Forces Network

NACOM Chronicle article 1960
NACOM Chronicle 1960
Höchst Castle - home of AFN Frankfurt
Höchst Castle - home of AFN Frankfurt
Armed Forces Network Frankfurt 1960
AFN entrance with Dennis and Mom
Bob Engs was in the Radio Club at school (and also the president of it of course) and con­vinced me to join in 10th grade (1959-60). We had a weekly show, "Teen 20", on AFN Frankfurt, at the time the most powerful radio transmitter on earth at 150,000 Watts. It was kind of a silly show but the experience was magical. The station was in an actual 12th-century castle in Höchst (Schloß Von Brüning); every Tuesday after school we'd ride in a big olive-drab Army bus, about 12 of us. Everybody would take turns in each job: engineer, director, announcer, writer, sports news, DJ... So, for example if I was the sports reporter I'd have to go to the games and take notes, even away games in Heidelberg, Karlsruhe, Mannheim, Wiesbaden... If I was DJ I had to know how to cue records and segué from one to another while talking, watch the sound levels, making sure there was never any "dead air", and finish exactly on time, cuing the closing theme: Sleep Walk by Santo and Johnny. The real AFN staff, merry-prankster enlisted men who had worked in radio before they were drafted, taught us everything. We had sound-proof studios with director's booth, super-expensive Telefunken microphones, control consoles, and 16-inch turntables, it was unbelievable amounts of fun.

AFN announcer/DJ console
AFN console
AFN 16-inch record
AFN 16-inch record
AFN library sign
AFN Library sign
AFN library
Frankfurt library
The "Frankfurt library" photo shows my Teen-20 friends Mike Sanborn and Stephanie Smith retrieving a 16-inch vinyl record for a show in 1960 (another photo shows the card catalog used for finding records). AFN had the largest music library on earth, all on 16-inch vinyl records. Not just music but also radio shows (dramas, comedies, soap operas, variety shows) from 1942 to 1980.
Teen Twenty
Teen Twenty (1959-60 Erinnerungen yearbook p.30)
I don't know if it has been preserved, but it would be an incredible resource for music historians and archaeologists. Later I found out that when AFN converted from vinyl to casette tape in 1980, all the vinyl records were supposed to be destroyed. There were about 25,000 distinct records, each holding about 30 songs (or other types of audio), of which apparently about 20,000 have been found and archived (see References). The selection was comprehensive; there was never even one single obscure R&B song from the 1940s or 50s that I couldn't find.

AFN record and an ordinary LP
An AFN record and a 12-inch LP
The black-and-white "AFN 16-inch record" photo above doesn't quite do justice. 16 inches is like a large pizza! I happen to have a 16-inch AFN disc from 1945 (no, I didn't walk home with it from AFN, I found it recently in EBay) and took some photos. The one at right shows it alongside a standard 12-inch LP that I bought at the Frankfurt PX in 1959. Click the image for more views. It may come as a surprise that AFN was using 33⅓rpm records during World War II, especially if you read the Wikipedia page[11] that says LPs weren't invented until 1948. But it was the LP (long-playing record) — not 33⅓rpm — that was invented in 1948; the early AFN 16-inchers are NOT long-playing except in comparison to the 10-inch records. As you can see, the 16-inch record shown here has only three songs on the side that is showing (Jo Stafford); the other side (Red Norvo Quartet) has four cuts; a typical music LP has six or seven. When I was at AFN in 1959-61, the 16-inch pop music disks had about 12 cuts per side. See and read more in the accompanying photo gallery.

1960-61 Radio Club
1960-61 Radio Club
Elvis interview schedule
In 11th grade I was presi­dent of the Radio Club. We were a close group and enjoyed ourselves immensely. Aside from playing music (not only teenager music but also recordings we made of school choirs and orchestras), doing high-school sports news, and so on, we sometimes inter­viewed celebrities who happened to be on the base, like the singer Joni James (I still have a vinyl Christmas album of hers). I'm pretty sure we interviewed Elke Sommer ("America's Sweetheart") and we almost interviewed Bridgitte Bardot; it fell through at the last minute. But the biggest interview we almost had was... Elvis. It was scheduled for December 7, 1959, at his house in Bad Nauheim (click the second image to see proof). But Colonel Parker wound up nixing it so we did all the other stuff on the list instead.

Before leaving the topic of Elvis, he was filming parts of GI Blues while I was there; there was some location shooting near me. This was kind of a joint Hollywood-Army production, and the Army did things the Army way. For example, painting the tires of Army Jeeps and trucks black and painting the grass in front of Army buildings green. I saw this. Just two years later I'd be doing it.

American Consulate General in Frankfurt 2017
Consulate General 2017
97th General Hospital
97th General Hospital 1960s
Anyway since I was now well-known at AFN, they asked me to take over a show, "Bedside Rock", previously hosted by Roger Norum (also of the FHS Radio Club, who had just graduated) at the 97th General Hospital, a US Army hospital originally built for the Luftwaffe in 1941; it was almost solid swastikas inside and it was enormous; the photo shows only a tiny part of it (click the image to see more views). After the US Army pulled out of Germany in 1995, they kept the hospital to serve casualties in all the wars they'd be having in the mideast but later that role was taken over by the hospital in Landstuhl and the 97th is now the American Consulate; the red crosses on the roof to ward off bombing attacks dated from the Luftwaffe days and were still there until the early 2000s, when they were painted over with light grey paint so you can still see where they were (second image, from Google Maps).

Strassenbahn No.13
Strassenbahn No.13
Trolley Line 13
Nº13 schedule
Owing to its vast­ness, the hos­pital had its own internal closed-circuit AFN "Bedside Network" station and I had the whole studio and record library all to myself every Thursday evening; this was the highlight of my radio career. I'd take the No.13 trolley after school to the hospital — Raimundstraße to Marbachweg, last stop at the far end of the Hauptfriedhof — eat dinner in the hospital snack bar, and then go up to the studio. I played rhythm and blues from late 1940s and early 50s plus a lot of jazz, and I also talked about whatever I felt like and invited anybody who might want to stop by and chat on the air. Since hospital workers were on duty and most patients were bedridden, I mainly got mental patients which made for lively discussions! I had no bosses, no supervisors, no reports to make, nothing. It was great fun with no pay.

Before leaving the topic of the Armed Forces Network, it should be noted that AFN Frankfurt played music of interest to teenagers only scant hours of the day; there was also "grown-up" pop music, country music, religious programming, "music in the air", Don McNeill's Breakfast Club, and so on. The other alternative for rock & roll and rhythm & blues was Radio Luxembourg, which broadcast our kind of music about five days a week, only in the evening. We thought it was a pirate station broadcasting from a ship in international waters, and in fact sometimes it was. Meanwhile, there was a pretty serious jazz scene in Frankfurt, as noted above; in addition to the Jazz Keller and Storyville, there was excellent jazz programming on the radio (Hessischer Rundfunk, Jazz Intermezzo with Joachim L. Spieren) featuring highly regarded Frankfurt cool-jazz groups like the Jutta Hipp Quintet and various Mangelsdorff groupings[9] (Albert Mangelsdorff wrote Jazz Intermezzo's theme song "Simone I").

  1. Armed Forced Network, Europe, at Walter Elkin's monumental U.S. Army in Germany website.
  2. The Story Of American Forces Network (AFN) (video), The Big Picture, Army Pictorial Center. A 30-minute film from 1963 about the history of AFN in Europe; it includes footage of the studio and record library where I worked in the Höchst castle just outside of Frankfurt.
  3. On The Air Over There, AFN Europe: Part 2 The Castle Years, 29-minute video about AFN Frankfurt at the Höchst castle... End of the War, Nürnburg trials, Berlin Airlift, Elvis, Beatles, Berlin Wall, JFK (there are three other parts to this series).
  4. Meria Petrich, Lost vinyl collection returned to AFN home, Northwest Guardian, 9 December 2011.
  5. American Forces Network, Wikipedia, accessed 10 December 2018.
  6. American Forces Network, German Wikipedia, accessed 10 December 2018.
  7. AFN Frankfurt, Wikipedia, accessed 13 December 2022.
  8. GI Blues, a very silly Elvis movie made while he was in the Army and partially filmed on base. He sings a song in German (Muß i denn).
  9. Heidi Laird, The Frankfurt Kitchen: Forty-One Stories of Growing Up in Post World War II West Germany, Fulton Books (2021), Chapter "The Höchst Palace", pp.245-262: Her experiences as a German girl listening to AFN Frankfurt in postwar years and visiting the AFN studios.
  10. Michael J. Budds, ed., Jazz and the Germans, Pendragon Press (2002).
  11. Dennis M. Spragg, The Armed Forces Radio Service, Glenn Miller Archive, University of Colorado at Boulder, September 2013.
  12. LP record, Wikipedia (accessed 12 December 2021).

Interlude: "The Warriors" Frankfurt style

Tom McCaffrey
Tom McCaffrey
Peter and I were watching one of his favorite movies recently (summer 2015), The Warriors (1979), in which one gang is chasing the members of another gang all over the NYC in the middle of the night. I told Peter, "you know, I had a night like that once", and described it to him. Peter said I had to put the story in here so here it is… When I was in high school in Frankfurt we used to go out drinking almost every night (not just the guys, the girls too, but this night was just the guys, about four of us). We went to random places, bars, Gasthauses… So we went in a bar on a dark side street that was very dark inside, sat at the bar and were drinking. One of us, Tom, goes to the bathroom. A bit later he comes out and says, "Let's get outa here", and hurries us out. We're walking (maybe staggering) down the block and suddenly a whole swarm of guys busts out of the bar and runs at us, like maybe 20 guys. So we we start running too, and they chase us through all the dark streets, yelling and cursing. Eventually they catch us and they restrain me and the other guys except Tom, and they beat the crap out of him, I mean REALLY… One ear was half torn off, teeth missing, eyes swollen shut, face unrecognizable, blood everywhere… (at least that's how I remember it). Then they leave. We take Tom in a taxi to the dispensary (Army word for small clinic on the base). They sewed him up, put bandages all over. Very painfully he explains what happened. When he went in the bathroom, the guy at the next urinal made a play for his parts so Tom clobbered him and left him on the floor. The place turned out to be a gay bar, but we barely even knew what "gay" was!

Food and drink

Most of the German places we went to for drinking also served food, sometimes just Butterbrot (chewy German black bread with unsalted butter or cheese), or soups… Bouillon mit Ei (chicken broth with a raw egg in it) or my favorite, Ochsenschwanzsuppe: thick, dark, and rich oxtail soup served with chewy Brötchen — white bread rolls but much tastier and crustier and chewier than American ones. And for a whole meal there was Wienerschnitzel, Jägerschnitzel (which is Wienerschnitzel with mushrooms and gravy), Zigeunerschitzel (spicy "Gypsy" Schnitzel), Leberknödel (liver dumplings), Rouladin (flank steak rolls with stuffing), roast chicken... these would be served with a delicious kind of subtle marinated "soft" salad that I've never seen anywhere else, and potatoes (or in Schwaben, Spätzle, where also in the Weinstuben, Westfälischer or Schwarzwälder ham would be served with the wine). Also in some places you could get a charcouterie that was an assortment of meats and sausages on a bed of Sauerkraut soaked in champagne (Mommie had that once at the Goldener Hecht in Heidelberg and it made her very silly).

On the street there were Bratwurst vendors, flame-grilled Bratwurst with Brötchen and German mustard, and later on (when I was in Army) there were a lot of Yugoslavian food stands and the things they sold were called Ćevapčići (phonetically chee-WOP-chi-chi) (Wikipedia) and (phonetically) DZHI-vich, which were both super-spicy, I think this was the first fiery-hot food I ever ate. And then besides these, there were Chinese and Italian restaurants that were uniformly excellent. A sit-down meal in a German restaurant never cost more than 4 Marks (one dollar) when I lived there.

Waitress with beer steins
Waitress with twelve big beer steins
Henninger Bier Stein
Henninger Bier Stein
Henninger Bier Stein
Binding Bier Stein
German Gasthauses (Gasthäuser) served beer in half-liter and liter steins, and serious beer­halls like Maier Gustl's in Frankfurt and the much larger Hof­bräu­haus in Munich also had five and even ten liter steins. The wait­resses could carry five or six one-liter steins in each hand and they did this all night; it was pretty amazing (see video). At the Hof­bräu­haus in Munich you could earn a 5-liter or 10-liter pin if you drank that much in one sitting (I could have done that, but only went there once, very briefly, and it was kind of a zoo).

Weihenstephan beer coaster
Founded 1040 AD
Beer culture in Germany was unique. Each town or area made its own lager beer with a distinct taste, following the Reinheitsgebot (Purity Law) that dates from the early 1500s and says that beer may contain only water, barley, and hops. Note: no preservatives, no chemicals, no flavorings. Of course big cities might make several brands. There weren't nationwide brands because the beer was unpasteurized and it might spoil before it reached some distant destination by truck. Many German brewing companies have been in business for hundreds of years, in some cases a thousand years. When I lived there, each bar, restaurant, and Gasthaus served only one kind of beer. Besides lager, by the way, there was also a completely different thing called Weizenbier, or wheat beer, served with lemon and usually found only in Gasthauses frequented by old men; it was famous for causing fart storms so Weizenbier establishments were not for the squeamish. The main Frankfurt beers were Henninger, Binding, and Frankfurter Brauhaus, but others were to be found, both native and imported from different parts of Germany.

Mr. Thompson

Mr. Thompson
Mr. Thompson teaching Russian
Reading Provda
Reading Pravda
From the class
Gift from the class
When I was in 11th grade, a math and science teacher offered a brand-new new Russian class, which I signed up for as soon as I heard about it. He had taught himself Russian, I don't know how. It was the best class I ever had in any school. His name was John Thompson, he was a WWII and D-Day Normandy Beach veteran, Battle of the Bulge, etc, something he never mentioned and I found out only 50 years later. He had a great fondness for the Soviet Union, probably owing to their part in the victory over Germany and he had us learn and sing Soviet songs, listen to Radio Moscow, and read Pravda (and, for fun, Krokodil). Bear in mind, this was in a US Army school! We had no textbook; he typed out the lessons on Russian and English typewriters and mimeographed them, even painstakingly adding two-part harmony sheet music in the case of the songs, such as Полюшке поле: the marching song of the Red Army.... by hand, with the aid of only a ruler. He liked to talk about the USSR… One day he said, "In the USA we have a lot
Polyushko polye
Полюшке поле
Vo pole bereza stoyala
rights, but the Soviet Union has one right that we have never had: the right to work!" I had to think about that for 30-40 years before I got it. Bill Fedor ('62) tells me that the next year (1961-62) "Russian II at FAHS ushered in Nina Potopova's Russian I and II textbooks that Mr Thompson purchased in Düsseldorf for DM4.20 each." Thanks to Bill for the song scans!

Binding Bier mug
Jerry's mug
Jerry Jacobs
Jerry Jacobs (front)
John Thompson was so enthusiastic and he worked so hard; he loved what he was doing. Besides Russian he also taught physics, math, biology, and photography. True, he was kind of a hardass (and he looked the part, like a Prussian)... He didn't appreciate kids fooling around in class; he could throw chalk at anybody in the room and hit them square in the forehead. One night my friend Jerry Jacobs and I stumbled out of a bar, literally falling-down drunk. Mr. Thompson happened to be walking by just then and he helped us get home like he was our best friend. The people in the picture are Jerry, Johnny Johnston (alias DJ, "Drunkard Johnston", a self-bestowed nickname), and me in the photo booth at the PX. The color picture shows the Binding Bier mug from Little Maier Gustl's that Jerry sent me for old times' sake shortly after I rotated but after 60-some years of washing now it's just a dull gray mug, no logo.

Mr. Thompson left FHS in 1962 and died in 2009, about ten years before he could have seen these Youtube videos, which I know he'd have enjoyed as much as I do!

Family Trips while living in Frankfurt

One good thing my Dad did while we were in Germany was to take us on lots of trips. As a teenager in high school I was kind of embarrassed to be traveling around with my parents, but in retrospect I'm glad we did.


See gallery ]
Don't Miss Berlin
Don't Miss Berlin!
DC-4 airliner
The DC-4 that took us to Berlin 1959
Landing at Tempelhof Airport
Landing at Tempelhof Airport
Our first trip was to Berlin in early 1959 which was in part still in ruins, like you can see in movies like The Big Lift and One Two Three. The flight to Berlin was on a Douglas DC-4 (4-engine propeller driven airliner, the civilian version of the C54 cargo plane used in WWII and in the airlift).

This was my first plane ride. I remember looking out the window and thinking East Germany looks the same as West Germany, just a lot of farms and little towns. But traveling across or over East Germany was a tricky business, there could be no deviation from the approved route. So… At some point the pilot came back into the passenger cabin and saw Dennis, who was a cute little 9-year-old, and asked him if he would like to fly the plane. Dennis said OK, my Dad said OK, so the pilot took him into the cabin. Next thing we knew this huge aircraft was peeling off to the right and in a steep dive. Then it recovered and the pilot, his face drained of blood, brought Dennis back to his seat without a word.

Landing at Tempelhof airport in Berlin was an adventure in itself. The airport was in the middle of the city and as the plane makes its descent there are apartment buildings on both sides, sometimes so close you can see in the windows. Tempelhof (which dated from 1927 and claimed to be the world's oldest operating commercial airport) lasted until 2008, when it was closed and converted to a "green space".

Helmstedt/Marienborn checkpoint
Helmstedt checkpoint 1963
For the record, it was also possible to go to Berlin by auto. You could cross into East Germany at Helm­stedt/​Marien­born (the nearest to Frankfurt of several crossing sites) and take a special route that was totally unmarked; if you lost your way you'd be detained. Another way to go was by a sealed train like the one Lenin rode in. Anyway while in Berlin I took some pictures with my Brownie Hawkeye that are now famous from having been published in several books, including a photo similar to the first one below left but no family (obviously I didn't take that one because I'm in it).

Berlin 1959 Brandenburg Gate
Brandenburg Gate 1959
Berlin 1959 Brandenburg Gate
East Berlin 1959 (pre-Wall)
The Reichstag
Reichstag 1959 (burned out since 1933)
Soviet War Memorial
Soviet War Memorial
Soviet War Memorial
Memorial inscription
Soviet War Memorial
Red Army soldiers
Olympic Stadium
1936 Olympic Stadium
Olympic Stadium
Olympic Stadium Eagle

In Berlin I saw the not-yet-walled-off Brandenburg Gate, the burnt-out Reichstag, the 1936 Olympic Stadium (where the swastikas had been chiseled out from under the eagles), the Soviet War Memorial, and Spandau Prison where Rudolf Hess, Albert Speer, and Baldur von Schirach were serving their Nürnberg sentences (Karl Dönitz had been released several years before; Speer was released in 1966 and published "Inside the Third Reich"; after Hess died in 1987, the prison was demolished to prevent it becoming a shrine). I saw the bust of Nefertiti at the Berlin museum. I crossed into East Berlin by myself because my father couldn't go there and bought some snacks at a Trink­halle. I paid with Deutschmarks and got change in Ostmarks made of aluminum. In the Stadium photo I'm standing where Hitler stamped his feet when Jesse Owens won the 100 meters.

Also see...
  1. Video: Berlin 1945 in color, Youtube (7 minutes, silent).
  2. Berlin 1961-62, photos from Robert Paul, a Frankfurt Elementary schoolmate of my brother Dennis, who visited Berlin in 1961 and again in 1962 with his family.
  3. Stunde Null (Zero Hour), early postwar Germany and Berlin, Wikipedia, accessed 25 February 2020.
  4. Book: Robert Grathwol and Donita Moorhus, Berlin and the American Military: A Cold War Chronicle, New York University Press, Second Edition (1999).
  5. Book: Hildegard Knef, The Gift Horse, McGraw-Hill (1971). Life in Berlin in the Nazizeit and the early postwar: an intense, fascinating, and unique narrative. Out of print; used copies can be found at Amazon, Alibris, and EBay. It's better in the original German, if you can read it (and find it), as Der Geschenkte Gaul.
  6. Hildegard Knef, brief biography at the DEFA Film Library at the University of Massachusetts.
  7. Book: Horst Bosetzky, Der Kalte Engel – dokumentarischer Kriminalroman aus dem Nachkriegs-Berlin, Berlin, Jaron Verlag (2002). Highly detailed descriptions of 1949-50 East and West Berlin. Also available in English as Cold Angel: Murder in Berlin 1949.
  8. Victor Grossman, The Wall 30 Years Later, November 2019. Was East Germany really as bad as all that?
  9. Victor Grossman books, a review by me of two books about East Germany by Victor Grossman.
  10. Trümmerfilm (Rubble films), Wikipedia, accessed 25 February 2020.
  11. Film: Die Die Mörder sind unter uns (1946), the first postwar German film and the first Trümmerfilm (rubble film), shot in the Soviet Zone of Berlin and starring Hildegard Knef and Ernst Wilhelm Borchert.
  12. Film: The Big Lift with Montgomery Clift and Cornell Borchers, about the Berlin Airlift, filmed in the rubble of West and East Berlin in 1950. It was originally going to star Hildegard Knef, but Borchers was substituted at the last moment for reasons Knef relates in her book.
  13. Film: The Man Between, a British rubble film starring James Mason, Claire Bloom, and Hildegard Knef. Filmed mainly on location in East Berlin in 1953 and directed by Carol Reed (who also directed The Third Man),
  14. Film: One, Two, Three with James Cagney and Horst Buchholz, filmed in West and East Berlin in 1961, just before the Wall.
  15. Berlin's battle scars remain 75 years after end of WWII – in pictures, The Guardian, 8 May 2020.
  16. Joseph Kanon, The Good German, Picador / Henry Holt and Company, 2001: 482 pages of total immersion in Berlin just after the European war ended in 1945; see the New York Times review. It was made into a film of the same name in 2006 that looks like it was filmed on location in 1945 but that twists the plot and characters beyond recognition.

Bavaria and Austria

Kehlsteinhaus 1959
Kehlsteinhaus 1959
Koenigsee St. Bartholmä
Salzburg double exposure
Church from 800AD
1200-year-old church
View from Mozart's window
Out Mozart's window
Nazi ruin in Berchtesgaden
Nazi ruin Berchtesgaden
Obersalzberg salt mines
Us at the Obersalzberg salt mines

High in the Bavarian Alps, Berch­tes­gaden and Ober­salz­berg where we saw the ruins of recently blown-up houses of Hitler, Goering, and Bormann, along with their secret bunkers and tunnels, Hitler's Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle's Nest), from there to Salzburg in Austria to see Mozart's birthplace, with a stop in the salt mines that you enter by sliding down a wooden ramp about a mile long.


The Venice of the North
Wooden shoes
Once my Mom took me and Dennis to Holland on a bus tour, that was the only time she ever did anything like that, being in charge on her own. Aside from that, Bonn (to see the birthplace of Beethoven, my dad's idol), plus countless castles and museums all over Germany. Neverending castle visits are pretty boring for teenagers. The Holland trip was kind of cool though; click on the Madurodam picture to enlarge it and look at it until you notice something odd.

About Holland… It was the first place I ever saw besides Army bases that was totally diverse. The parks were full of children of all races playing together, everybody intermarried, etc. I thought it must be the most progressive, enlightened place on earth, and maybe it was. Until it became the first capital of Islamophobia in the 2000s.

Evacuation Dry Run

Evacuation story
Evacuation story 1960
Another trip we took was a mandatory one for every Army family: a practice run for evacuating from Germany in case of a Soviet attack. You have to leave at an appointed time and only then do you find out the route and destination. It was on back roads, not the Autobahn, so it's hard to imagine all the 100s of thousands of American families trying to get out at once. Anyway we drove almost all the way to France on picturesque two-lane country roads. Still, this was 1960 and we were always expecting to be vaporized at any moment, hence my little Creative Writing story at right.


Hamburg Reeperbahn 1960
Die Große Freiheit, Hamburg 1960
Hamburg Reeperbahn 1960
Another view of "Beatles Street"
But our most epic trip — 2000 miles driving! — started with Hamburg (300 miles from Frankfurt), where I took a famous picture (left) of the street where the Beatles were playing before I had even heard of them (the photo has since been used in some books*); this was in the Reeperbahn district of Hamburg on the street called Die Große Freiheit. The color photo was taken by my dad at the same time; I include not only because it's clearer and higher resolution, but it's taken from an angle where the sign for the Beatles' first Hamburg spot, the Indra Club*, is visible towards the end of the street (click on the photo to enlarge it). They had only started playing there a few days before. He took us to the Reeperbahn not because of the Beatles, obviously, but because this is one of the places he came for sex while in the Navy.
* e.g. Elizabeth Partridge, John Lennon, All I Want Is the Truth, Viking Press (2005), pp.66-67.

...and Scandinavia

See Norway gallery ]
Denmark Viking rocks
Aalborg Viking rocks
Hirtshals, the ferry Skagen
Kristiansand Norway
Kristiansand Norway
Then up through Denmark — Aarhus, Aalborg... In one of these "Aa" towns we stayed at a small family hotel where my father told the owner that I played the guitar which prompted him to give me a huge pile of classical sheet music (with swastikas on every page). From Hirtshals — the very tippy-top of continental Western Europe — a four-hour ferry ride to Kristiansand, Norway... It was dark and cold and foggy so my family stayed inside but I was on deck at the rail, there was a girl there about my age and we tried finding a common language for communicating... Not Danish, not German, not English... Russian! A fleeting moment in life. We landed in Kristiansand about 8:00pm on a Saturday night and the place was totally dark, everybody was asleep, not even the street lights were on. No signs on anything either. We had to bang on doors until somebody told us where to find an inn, Mom remembered her Norwegian a little bit, then we banged on the inn door and the grumpy inkeeper came down carrying a candle and wearing one of of those sleeping costumes like in Dickens movies.

Frogner Park
Frogner Park, Oslo
Frogner Park
Frogner Park
We visited lots of spots in the countryside... Arendal, Brevik, Larvik, Drammen... as well as Oslo, spent almost a whole day in Frogner Park with the surreal statuary of Gustav Vigeland. From Oslo to Sweden on the only connecting road at the time, a one-lane dirt road through the mountains and forests (at one point we met a car coming in the opposite direction, and as there was no shoulder we had to back up several miles before it could squeeze past us). In Sweden we visited Jönköping, Linköping, Örebrö, Stockholm, and Nyköping (in that order I think) and spent a lot of Kroner and Øre, and learned that if we got into an accident and were lying in the ditch we had to holler "Hjeyelp, Hjeeyelp!", which Dennis and I did at every road stop. In those days hotels in Europe were mostly pensions, family-run small establishments and the rooms did not have baths; normally one bathroom was shared by all the rooms on each floor, or even the whole building. Furthermore, the shared bathroom didn't have a shower so bathing meant, literally, taking a bath. Inevitably, other guests would be pounding on the door the whole time.

The Little Mermaid Copenhagen
Little Mermaid Copenhagen
The Scandinavia trip was an adventure… it was the first time I ate yogurt, or even heard of it. Besides that the only good thing I had to eat was big bowls of berries with milk — blackcurrants, lingonberries, bright-orange cloudberries… One restaurant we went to, what they brought to eat when we asked for a "sandwich" (the only word we could say that they understood) was a slab of black bread with a raw whole fish on it, with a raw egg over the fish and whole peppercorns embedded in the egg slime. I couldn't imagine taking even one bite. My mom ate it though, scales, bones, teeth, eyeballs, and all. It's how she grew up; she never wasted food. Anyway, she liked it.

Stave Church at Borgund
Stave Church
Stave Church at Borgund
Stave Church side view
Houses with sod roofs
Houses with sod roofs
In Norway Mom mostly wanted to see the countryside because her family were peasants and she heard lots of stories passed down from her grand­parents. We saw the wooden Gol stave church (stavkirke), built about 1200; it impressed me a lot, it looks like cross between a Chinese pagoda and huge Viking ship and it was amazing to me that wood can last so long. Perhaps because stave churches are built without nails. Elsewhere we saw houses with sod roofs (pictured), but not the ones with flowers and shrubs growing on top and goats up there grazing, like she had always told me about.

Oslo Olympic ski jump
Oslo Olympic ski jump
Viking Ship in Oslo
Viking ship prow
Viking Ship in Oslo
Viking ship in Oslo
In Oslo we went to the Viking museum that had a per­fectly pre­served Viking ship that had been found in the water just outside. And the 1952 Winter Olympic stadium where we went up to the top of the ski jump. On the way back we stopped in Copenhagen for a few days, the only part I remember is the Tivoli Gardens one night where I wandered around on my own and saw the Delta Rhythm Boys performing in a tent. Speaking of vocal groups from the 1930s and 40s, once I also saw the Ink Spots at the Frankfurt Officers Club.
  1. Gustav Vigeland, Wikipedia (accessed 4 December 2023).
  2. Ragna Thiis Stang, The Art of Gustav Vigeland in 48 Pictures, The Vigeland Museum Series Number 1, Johan Grund Tanum, Oslo (1957).

Other trips

The cathedral in Köln
Köln cathedral
I have to hand it to my dad, he spared no expense nor effort to take us everywhere. When I sat with him at his deathbed, it was the main pride he had in his life. I had to agree with him. I can't even remember all the other trips... Heidelberg, Köln (Cologne), Rothenburg (an ancient walled city that people still live in)... Rothenburg was untouched by the war, but Köln was flattened, all but the cathedral, like Frankfurt. Of course every cathedral we visited, we climbed up to the top on ancient stone steps worn down smooth and contoured over the centuries. The photo of Rothenburg is probably the most-photographed spot in all of Germany. There was also a barely remembered trip to Switzerland, where there was some kind of expo going on in Luzern.

A trip we did NOT take, my Dad's idea of "bonding"… He wanted to take me to Villefranche to the brothel he frequented when he was a sailor in the 1930s. No thanks.

Leaving Germany

We were supposed to stay in Germany until I graduated from high school in 1962. But my dad was caught having an affair with a woman in his office and we were sent back a year early, in June 1961. This was a terrible blow to me, I loved living there, I had never been happier anywhere else. I really did not like Arlington and knew I would like it even less after finding out how much better life could be. I tried to convince him to leave me behind, I could be a dorm student, but no dice.

Diane Sutton
Diane Sutton
I had to give up the Radio Club and my radio show at the hospital; I turned it over to a friend, fellow FHS-er and Radio Club member Diane Sutton. She was surprised and a little apprehensive but I took her along a few times and showed her how to do everything, and she did it and she was fine.

On the SS America 1961
On the SS America 1961
SS America 2004
SS America today
Now it was our turn to rotate. We trav­eled back the same way we came, on the SS America, but from Le Havre (France) this time instead of Bremerhaven. We drove there, of course, from Frankfurt, stopping in Verdun for lunch where I was surprised to find out my dad spoke French! I don't think he ever studied it in school; he just picked it up from prostitutes when his Navy ship's home port was in Villefranche in the 1930s. Anyway, some of my Frankfurt friends were on the same ship and we got our old band together and played in the ballroom and people danced. The voyage was from July 14 to July 21, 1961.

Later years

I visited Frankfurt High in 1963 when I was in the Army stationed in Kaiserslautern; nothing had changed and there were still people there I knew (story in Army chapter). Then again on a Sunday in 1975 with Judy on our belated honeymoon. The school was open but nobody was there. We went in and wandered around; everything was exactly the same except there was now a glassed-in computer lab with Teletypes connected to an Interdata 7/16 minicomputer. The neighborhood was unchanged too, except the Platenstraße buildings, once painted a variety of pastel colors, were all white.

FHS lasted until 1995, five years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of Cold War, when the US Army pulled out of the area and gave it all back to Germany. The buildings at WAC Circle (PX, Commissary, snack bar, etc) were torn down and the space is now occupied by the new Hessisches Polizeipräsidium. The IG Hochhaus is now a campus of Goethe University. Frankfurt High School is now the Phillipp-Holzmann Schule; its athletic field survived until about 2020 when it became the site of the new Adorno Gymnasium. The American housing areas except HiCoG are now occupied by Germans, Turks, Greeks, Syrians, and other residents of Germany; the 3-story buildings are pastel colors again but the "redensified" ones are white. HiCoG houses the American consular families.

  1. Farewell to Frankfurt, Karl Weisel, Soldiers, The Official U.S. Army Magazine, Volume 50, Number 1 (January 1995), pp.22-23.
  2. Frankfurt High's Final Bell, Helke Hasenauer, Soldiers, op.cit., pp.24-25.
  3. The Abrams Building and the American Experience in Frankfurt 1945-1995, V Corps 30-minute video (1995).
  4. Report 4: Restructuring the US Bases in Germany, Internationales Konversionszentrum Bonn (June 1995).

Arlington III: Back in Virginia 1961-62

Back in Arlington after 2½ years in Germany, our house was not vacated yet. We had to stay with my dad's Aunt Bess and Uncle Bill in Maryland for a week or two while the tenant moved out. The only thing I remember about that is I read the entire works of Poe because they were in the bedroom where I slept, and I figured out how to play "There is a Rose in Spanish Harlem" on the piano in the basement. Then we moved back into our old house on N. 23rd Street. The tenant while we were gone was a Marine sergeant who had painted the entire inside olive drab… Including even the fireplace bricks. My dad scraped it all off and put it back like it was.

Yorktown high school 1962
Yorktown high school 1962
Me in 1962
Me, yearbook photo
I had my senior year at York­town HS in Arling­ton, anti­septic, sub­urban, con­for­mist, patriotic, segregated. I did not like Yorktown or Arlington or the suburbs one bit and cut class and got drunk all the time, but still managed to do OK on my SATs (despite having a huge hangover) and graduated on time in 1962. YHS was kind of posh and elite compared to my Army high school; one measure of this is the Vietnam body count for each school for classes up to 1962: Frankfurt: 19, Yorktown: 0. Of course that's a bit skewed since FHS is older but if even if we just look at the class of the 1962 it's still 4 and 0. Yorktown graduates were much more likely to go straight to college, which is a draft exemption. More about this below.

The only good thing about that year was the music: the Shirelles, the Marvelettes, Mary Wells, Jimmy Reed, Ike and Tina Turner, the Isley Brothers… It was kind of a renaissance of Black music after the drought that started in 1957 when 1940s-50s R&B era ended and there was only cheesy pop music for a few years (and jazz, of course, but that's another story).

1953 Buick
1953 Buick (nicer than Ludwig's)
Almost all the kids at Yorktown had their own cars and drove to school, so I rode around in cars a lot that year. Ludwig was not at Yorktown (he was blacklisted and had to go to another school far away), but he had a 1953 Buick, which was like tank. A guy named Pete Washburn was generally
Pete Washburn
Pete Washburn
acknowledged as the coolest guy at Yorktown and for some reason he thought I was cool too. Graham Chapman was clone of him. He had a 1950 Ford and would pick me up in the morning, we'd stop at a diner and have coffee and hash browns for breakfast which probably made my Mom feel bad because my whole life she always made us a hot breakfast. A couple times Mom made us a special breakfast so we wouldn't go to the diner. Pete pretended to be like a homeless drifter, nobody knew anything about him. He finally showed me where he lived, a mansion!

1939 Ford Coupe hotrod
1939 Ford Coupe hotrod
1950 Ford similar to Pete's
Customized 1950 Ford similar to Pete's
The preferred cars for cool guys were the 1950 Ford and the 1939 Ford coupe, both heavily customized. The Ford had to be painted with grey primer (matte finish) and have its front grille removed, plus had to be either "raised" or "lowered" (big wheels in front, small ones in back, or vice-versa). A special glasspack muffler was required that produced a sort of Harley-Davidson sound. Optionally it could also be "chopped and channeled", "bored and stroked", and/or "rolled and pleated". I never was totally sure what things were but the first two have to do with the engine, the latter with the upholstery. The 1939 Ford was always painted Candyapple Red and had its hood off so the souped-up motor was exposed. Drag races were common, and some guys even raced at real dragstrips like Manassas Speedway, we went there sometimes to watch. At the speedway, the mufflers came totally off and the cars were as loud as 747s. Unlike a lot of my friends, I never learned to be an auto mechanic or a car customizer. Incidentally when my dad finally advertised his beloved 1950 Ford for sale, it was bought by a drag racer.

Ludwig was the bad boy of his family, the other three (Nick, Carole, and Maria) were great successes in whatever they did, but Ludwig always screwed up and got in trouble. We were inseparable during 12th grade, because we both had a compulsion to be drunk all the time. We'd drive to DC, buy a case of beer with false ID, and then drive around Arlington drinking it and throwing cans out the window until we got sick. Even then, Ludwig would keep driving and drinking, door open, puking his guts out on the street while still driving the car. That's how miserable we both were that year. Once Ludwig's mom loaned him her tiny little red Renault, I don't remember why. We bought some big 40-ounce bottles of Country Club Malt Liquor (high-alcohol beer) and were driving around downtown DC after we had already gone through several of the bottles, looking for a parking space. I saw one and pointed it out. The next thing I knew we had crashed into the back of the car in front of us… And it was a Police car! And our car was full of empty beer bottles! Just then a street guy comes up and says "Give me the bottles", and we did, so by the time the cops came to the car we were clean. But the car was totaled. Renaults have their engine in back and their trunk in front, so we pretty much just squashed the whole front of the car under the back of the police car, which didn't even have a scratch. They took us to the station, called Ludwig's mother; Lud was released into her custody and was in the doghouse for the rest of his life. But since we weren't caught drinking, there were no criminal charges.

Btw, Maria Carrera was my brother's best friend that year, they were very close. When Dennis was dying, my dad used his special powers to track her down at a commune in the mountains of Colorado so she could call him in the hospital. I don't know what happened to her after that.

Tops Drive-In
Tops Drive-In
Anyway the Arlington car culture was pretty much what you see in movies like American Graffiti and Remember the Titans, all the males "cruising" around all the time looking for girls or parties or whatever, and also pulling into Tops Drive‑In on Lee Highway, one of those places where you park your car and order stuff through a microphone mounted next to the space, and girls (on roller skates?) bring your order to you on a tray that clips to the car window, to the tunes of Sam Cooke, Gary US Bonds, Ike and Tina Turner, Gene Chandler, Little Eva, the Contours...

Incidentally, the last fight I was involved in was in 12th grade in Arlington, when my band (but not me personally) got in trouble with John Glenn, the astronaut and future senator, who had just returned from America's first space mission. It was in all the papers, you can still find it in Google (it was February or March, 1962). I guess Peter will want the whole story so…

Our band had a gig at a junior-high-school girl's birthday party in her house in suburbs. Our singer (don't recall his name but he was just like Sean Penn) was quite a handful, and this time he brought a fifth of whisky and was taking big slugs out of it in front of everybody; I guess the parents were too terrorized to say anything. But the rest of us were drinking beer at a pretty good clip too, but more discretely; we had stored it outside in the snow to hide it from the parents. About 9:00pm John Glenn shows up, he's picking up his daughter who is at the party; he sees what is going on — first the beer cans littering the front yard, then our singer chugging down whisky between verses — and throws us out. We didn't even get paid!

Early 1960s Chevrolet Impala convertible
Early 1960s Chevrolet Impala convertible
John Glenn 1962
Who John Glenn is
Our piano player had the use of his parents' car, a 21-foot long bright red Chevrolet Impala convertible. So we were cruising around looking for something else to do and we found another junior-high-school party in the parking lot of a church so we pulled in and started playing music. A strange thing I remember is that on the far side of the parking lot, on top of a hill, a house was burning down, and we improvised some kind of creepy apocalyptic accompaniment. What can I say, we were teenage boys. We were still drinking and throwing beer cans around and who should pull into the parking lot but John Glenn! To pick up his other child.

Our singer who was blind drunk by this time and pissed off about not being paid, when Glenn approached us, the singer tried to punch him in face, but Glenn deflected the punch and spun the guy around and laid him out over the car hood, like a cop would do. I don't recall exactly what happened after that; we weren't arrested or anything, I think we just left. But the next morning it was on the news, and in the papers, and it was in the next issue of Time Magazine. Drunken Teenage Punks Attack America's Greatest Hero. And we were in Big Trouble for the rest of the year. Sometimes I even thought we were being followed, but who knows; it's not inconceivable that my dad put a tail on us.

Bob Engs
Bob Engs 1962
Williamsburg windmill
Williamsburg windmill
Bob Engs had been my friend in Frankfurt in 1959-60. His dad had been an Army Captain but was "RIF'd" down to Sergeant, a very humiliating experience but he stuck it out so he could retire. Bob came back a year before me; his dad was stationed in Fort Eustis VA, near Jamestown and Williamsburg and Newport News and they lived on base. I went there in summer of 1961 before school started and spent a couple weeks with them. Bob had a summer job at Colonial Williamsburg in the windmill, I'd go with him and spent the days grinding dry hominy into grits for the tourists, even though I didn't have a colonial costume like Bob did; I was like Bob's apprentice from the future. Each morning we'd turn the mill around to face the wind (it was on a pivot) and then unfurl the sails so the huge "propeller" (sweeps) could turn in the wind and drive the massive millstone, but we used smaller muscle-powered wheels (hundreds of years old and not exactly lightweight) to do the actual grinding.

Later that year, Mom and I played a trick on my dad, we invited Bob and his family to our house for dinner, which was a truly surreal experience, when my dad saw them he almost had a heart attack but he behaved himself while they were there. But afterwards, you can imagine. Later Bob went to Princeton (I saw him there after I got out of Army) and he went on to become a well-known professor of Black History; you can look him up in Google (Robert F. Engs) and in the Books section of Amazon. I went to his wedding, and later Mommie and I went to visit him in NJ and it was a very strange experience, he was mean to both Mommy and to his own wife (a Black woman). I never saw him again, but he got in touch with me by email in 2008 to apologize and we exchanged a few cordial emails, and then he died.

High-school graduation night Ludwig and I and a couple other guys went to Ocean City MD in Ludwig's 1953 Buick for a week. In those days Ocean City was just a strip of seedy white wooden boarding houses alongside a 2-lane road, with the beach on the other side of the road. Every house had a porch on both the first floor and the second floor, like houses in the French Quarter of New Orleans; we had the upper floor porch, where we'd sit and drink beer for breakfast before going to the beach to drink more beer. Each day we'd drink until we passed out, wherever we happened to be. One morning I woke up on the beach half buried in sand with a bad sunburn on one side of my body but not the other. So that was high school.

Elaine Neam 1962
Elaine Neam
Chloris Kranich death notice
Chloris Kranich
Having written all of the above, I looked at my Yorktown yearbook for the first time in 50-some years and found some surprisingly affectionate inscriptions from several girls I knew including one — Elaine Neam — who I had known since 7th grade and who I always liked a lot, but aside from seeing Chloris Kranich* occasionally that year, and a few other random encounters, I was way too busy drinking (i.e. too much of a jerk) to have a real girlfriend. Anyway I was just about the only one in school who didn't have a car, or even access to one, so not exactly a great catch in the suburban car culture. But if somehow I had married Elaine instead of Mommy, Uncle Pete's children would not be the only ones in the family who were half Lebanese!

* Chloris was one of Pam's fellow-cheerleaders at Frankfurt High School in Germany who, like me (but unlike Pam), had rotated back to northern Virginia ..."to live in Fairfax in 1961. Graduating from J.E.B Stuart High School, miss Kranich was ... a member of the civil rights committee and ... organizer of the movement to send ... books to Negroes in Prince Georges County"** [which had shut down its public schools rather than integrate them]. Neither one of us could drive so we got together when we could thanks to friends who drove us. Only when the Internet came along 20-30 years later and old FHSers were getting back in touch did I learn that she had killed herself in 1965, at home on summer break after her Junior year at Antioch College in Ohio. I never knew why. This was three years after we had last seen each other and while I was in the Army in Stuttgart.
** Northern Virginia Sun, August 10, 1965, p.2: Obituaries.


Art in Vietnam
Art Goldtein
There was a Class of '62 reunion in 2023 (the 61st, I didn't go). One of the organizers, Art Goldstein, put together a list of classmates who had died, which included some of my long-ago friends. I wondered if any of them had been killed in the Vietnam War, since alumni of my previous high school, Frankfurt High School in West Germany, have a list of "fallen eagles" that shows a total 27 Vietnam deaths from all classes 1950-1968. But nobody knew about Yorktown.

Trudy Harlow
Trudy Harlow
So I looked up each name in the 1962 yearbook and then also at VirtualWall.org (the online list of names from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in DC). There were 8 name matches, but the ages weren't right and/or the Virtual Wall photos did not match the yearbook ones. But then my YHS classmate Trudy Harlow wondered if any had gone to Vietnam and returned safely, only to die later from Agent Orange exposure or other war-related cause. There's a database for that too: the In Memory Honor Roll. But this too turned up nobody in our class.

Lynda in Vietnam
Lynda Van Devanter
But there was a schoolmate from Yorktown class of '65, Lynda Van Devanter, a sophomore when we were seniors. After graduation she trained as a nurse, volunteered for Vietnam duty, then worked at the 71st Evacuation Hospital in Pleiku (and later in Qui Nhon), and returned with PTSD. In 1983 she wrote a book about it — Home Before Morning — on which the TV series China Beach was based, and devoted her life to women Vietnam veterans with PTSD until she died in 2002 from Agent Orange poisoning.


Langley lobby mosaic After Ocean Beach I came home I started work at the summer job my Dad got for me at CIA headquarters in Langley VA, I guess it was an attempt at bonding on his part. Every time the CIA is in a movie or TV show they show the entrance lobby with the CIA mosaic on the floor. I walked over that thing every day for three months. Dad drove me to work a few times but I told him I'd rather take the bus because it dropped me off right at the entrance, whereas his parking space was way off in Siberia because he was so totally in the shithouse.

CIA Langley Some interesting things I can tell you about working there… All the many long hallways had little concession stands at intervals for newspapers, snacks, and coffee. The people who ran them were not only blind, but verifiably blind, with empty eye sockets. I'm not kidding. It was so they couldn't see or identify anybody who worked or had business there, and they weren't allowed to cover the sockets, so the covert people could be confident they weren't being seen. Another thing I remember was the library… Maybe not the only library, but the one I saw contained nothing but spy and science fiction novels and comic books; presumably people who qualify to be spies are not all that imaginative, so that's where they went to get ideas. My Frankfurt friend Tom McCaffrey showed it to me; after high school he went straight to a full-time entry-level job at the CIA. (He got married while he was still in high school and lived in an apartment with his wife, Sara, pretty surreal to me. Btw, Tom was also a heavy-duty Catholic despite his rowdy ways, and one time "made" me come to Mass with him.)

At the CIA I worked in a project where teenage children of employees — about 30 of us — were to go through all the CIA's files (on paper in those days, in manila folders, in thousands of black filing cabinets) as the first step in converting them to microfilm. We weren't supposed to read or talk about the documents but of course we did. The sad thing is I can't remember much, just little snatches, like something about a beheaded frogman in NY harbor… One thing I do recall, though, was that at least half of all the file cabinets were about "Red China". I also recall finding out that the magazine US News and World Report was a CIA operation; it was in the orientation film.

As to the documents themselves, they were mainly typed on typewriters, originals or carbon copies, generally written by agents reporting on activies or incidents or meetings or whatever, often discussing at length the extent to which a given source could be considered trustworthy. Once the report was completed, it was sent to (let's call it) the cataloging department where analysts would check for names or places or terms (i.e. keywords) that should be indexed, like in a university library card catalog subject index. The cataloger would mark each such word or phrase with a diagonal stroke of a color pencil (let's say red). Then the document would go to the indexing department. Wherever there was a stroke mark, the indexer would record the word or phrase in a master index (I don't know if it was cards, or what, it might even have been "computerized"), and then cross the stroke with a (let's say) blue color pencil, making an X, to indicate it was indexed (the colors were indeed red and blue but I don't recall which was which). The result was a huge index on a scale similar to Google; if you looked up a given word or phrase, you'd get a list of all the files where it appeared, but I don't know the details of how this was done, or what the list looked like, or how the information was retrieved, but I imagine it was like the Butler Library stacks at Columbia University; you'd ask for a document and someone would deliver it to you.

Not Suitable for Microfilm
Creative stamping
Well, none of that was my job, it's just stuff I picked up while doing it. My job was to decide whether each document could be microfilmed, based on its condition. If so, it went in the good pile. If not, I had a big stamp, NOT SUITABLE FOR MICROFILM, wham!, and put it in the bad pile. All of us did the same thing all day every day. It was pretty monotonous so we made it more fun by making up silly songs and singing them while stamping the documents in rhythm ("Not suitable for microfilm, not suitable for microfilm, not suitible, hardly suitable, it's indisputable, not suitable for microfilm!").

So it was actually kind of fun. This was before I understood the real business of the CIA and what the USA was up to all over the world… That would come 3 years later. Anyway we got to be friends, got together after work, had parties and adventures, including a big cookout sponsored by the job. Another reason it was fun is that it was totally integrated, unlike everything else (except military bases) in Virginia including my high school, so I felt more at home there, like being back in Frankfurt.

I had a Top Secret clearance as a result of that job — even higher than Top Secret apparently, because there was a special one called KAPOK (you can't even find it in Google) — and then later in the Army it got me assigned to my first computer job, in Stuttgart — I wouldn't have got the job without the clearance, and my life would have been totally different. It also qualified me to burn Top Secret trash in a big crematorium. But then when I applied to be discharged from the Army as a conscientious objector, that was the end of my security clearance.

White House Seminar 1962
My entrance ticket
Clinton meets Kennedy
Clinton meets Kennedy
Robert Kennedy's house and family
Robert Kennedy's house, Hickory Hill
(Back at the CIA...) One day they took us to meet President Kennedy in the White House Rose Garden, where he gave us a little pep talk about public service. It was called the White House Seminar. Maybe there's a picture of it somewhere, like the picture of Bill Clinton meeting him under the same circumstances. We only went to the first event, not the others. I also saw Robert Kennedy all the time; the bus to the CIA went past his house, Hickory Hill, on Old Dominion Drive — a grand Virginia mansion with horses, etc; the kids were always out cavorting with the animals. I earned $600 that summer, which paid for my one-and-only semester at the University of Virginia. (Btw other presidents I saw included Eisenhower [at a Washington Senators game at Griffith Stadium] and Nixon [at an antiwar demonstration in DC where we threw stuff at his car]… I didn't see Truman but I saw the bullet holes where some Puerto Rican separatists had tried to shoot him a few hours earlier; Uncle Pete showed me, this was November 1, 1950.)

University of Virginia...

University of Virginia
University of Virginia campus - this part hasn't changed since 1819; Edgar Alan Poe lived in one of the dorms on the left.

I applied to the University of Virginia in Charlottes­ville (the "Harvard of the South") in 1962 with little hope of getting in — and without applying anywhere else — but both Ludwig and I were admitted. Like my other Virginia schools it was segregated. Except for four (4) token Blacks who had private corner rooms in each of four dorms. Nobody else had a private room. UVA was beautiful to look at, designed by Thomas Jefferson, whose house looked over it from above, and built by slaves. When I went to UVA in Fall 1962 it was very much the same as it was when it opened in 1819; now it's all full of ugly modern buildings. At UVA the college (undergraduate school) was all-male until 1970.

Charlottesville 1962
Charlottesville in 1962
Charlottesville was a typical dusty, poor Black rural Virginia one-street small town. The bus station was festooned with "White" and "Colored" signs on waiting rooms, bathrooms, and water fountains. UVA students hardly ever went into town except to buy liquor. Since they weren't old enough to do that, there was an old Black guy who stood outside the liquor store all day, when he saw white boys coming he made a special kind of slow semicircular wave with a Cheshire-cat smile, like a 1930s cartoon character I can't think of right now; they'd give him the money and he'd buy the booze for them. The bar that students went to, the Cav, was not in Charlottesville but down the road a ways in the other direction, maybe a mile's walk. It was a huge cavernous chaotic place, like being in a full-time riot. It had the best hamburgers on earth but the beer, of course, was 3.2 since everybody was under age, so you had to drink a lot of it.

The area around Charlotteville was a different story: tweedy country gentry with gigantic white-fenced horse farms with manicured lawns and mile-long driveways. At some point I suppose they decided that Black Charlottesville was a blot that had to be erased and in the late 1960s it was bulldozed. Now it's an upscale hip and trendy destination, suitable home for the Harvard of the South. Up the road there was another town just like it except no university: Boston, Virginia, on Route 29: all Black, unpaved, and dirt poor. I can find no trace of it now but there's another Boston on Route 522 (I think many of the routes and highways have been renumbered and/or renamed since 1962).

UVA serpentine wall
UVA serpentine wall*
At UVA, every­body was sup­posed to be in a frat­ernity. Each fraternity had its own house (mansion, really), complete with slaves. Seriously, cooks and porters and maids and janitors who descended from the slaves originally owned by each fraternity. There was a huge party every night in every fraternity with kegs of beer and live music usually performed by Black groups from town who made music like the Isley Brothers ("Shout") or the Countours ("Do You Love Me"); one of the groups called itself (no kidding) Ten Screaming Niggers. At a fraternity for medical students, instead of beer they filled a bathtub with pure medical alcohol and frozen lime juice, it was called Green Goddamns. Quite literally everybody was drunk all the time. It was too much for even me; this might have been the beginning of the end of my heavy drinking. I was the only one who didn't want to be in a fraternity. I mentioned this to computing pioneer John Backus, who went to UVA 20 years earlier; just like me, he didn't get through the first year and went in the Army; he said the drinking culture was exactly the same in the early 1940s.
* Serpentine wall, unique feature of the UVA campus, a clever idea of Thomas Jefferson that allows a standalone brick wall to be one brick thick, instead of two or more, without falling over.

Aside from fraternity parties, there were also occasional mixers with girls bussed in from nearby schools like RMWC (Randolf-Macon Women's College), Mary Washington, Sweet Briar... I vaguely recall some mixers but no details. Also, although UVA was all-male, there was a nursing school on campus with its own (girls') dormitory, target for constant raids and pranks by the male students, no letup.

Cuban Missile Crisis 1962
Cuban Missile Crisis 1962
I shared a tiny dorm room with the most obnoxious person who ever lived. Anyway I really was not ready for college and missed most of my classes. To add to the dysfunction, the Cuban missile crisis happened while I was there; nobody went to class, we all sat around listening to the radio; we thought we were gonna die any minute.

It wasn't all bad though; one thing that impressed me about UVA was the food. There were many places on campus to eat ranging from big dining halls that seemed more like expensive restaurants with plush comfy booths, to Army-base-like snack bars with juke boxes, to underground candle-lit caverns where folk music was performed. The food was uniformly excellent. In fact, I believe UVA was where I first tasted real butter; I couldn't get enough of it.

But aside from the food UVA really was no fun. The professors (all but one) were the snotty aristocratic kind who didn't even try to teach, only to impress us with how smart and sophisticated they were and what stupid bufoons we were. The students themselves were obnoxious privileged white boys who only wanted to party. UVA itself was pretty brutal, its policy was to flunk out 50% of the freshman class. I dropped out after one semester. I had paid my tuition and all expenses with the $600 I had earned in my summer job. While at UVA I saw Peter Paul & Mary, and also Andrés Segovia, who gave concerts in the gym. Also while at UVA, a guy taught me the Travis pick so it wasn't a total waste. Plus at the last minute when I was about to graduate from GS at Columbia and they were hassling me about some credits, I was able to transfer the ones I had earned at UVA in the few courses I didn't fail (all my grades there but one were F's or A's). I also had some credits from the University of Maryland extension in Germany, where I took some night classes in the Army.

Wendy Sibbison 1967
Wendy Sibbison 1967
The most important thing that happened at UVA is that I met Richard Lamborne ("Head") and his girlfriend Wendy Sibbison, who was still in high school in Arlington but would come to see Richie on weekends. It was because of Wendy that I wound up in New York and at Columbia, and that I met Judy, and therefore that you guys exist. As I explain in a later chapter. But briefly, Wendy broke off with Richie eventually and she and I corresponded the whole time I was in the Army, and by the time I got out she was across the street at Barnard and pretty much the only one I wanted to see and I went straight from from Fort Hamilton to her dorm. We were never "together", but we were close for many years.

A New Generation

In Virginia in 1961-62, I began to sense the stirrings of something new... the early beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement, the Nuclear Disarmament movement, and early opposition to the "situation" in Vietnam. It came to me mainly through music; folk music at first, then popular music: artists like Peter, Paul, and Mary ("Cruel War" "Where Have All the Flowers Gone", and later, "The Great Mandella", about a war resister, as well as freedom songs like "If Had a Hammer"); Bob Dylan ("Blowing in the Wind", "The Times They Are A'Changin'", "Masters of War", "With God on Our Side",...); Joan Baez ("Birmingham Sunday", "No Nos Moverán", "Freedom", "Kumbaya", "There but for Fortune", "Where Are You Now My Son", "Saigon Bride", ...); Martha and the Vandellas ("I Should Be Proud"), The Staples Singers ("Freedom Highway", "Long Walk to D.C.", "Washington, We're Watching You", many more), Phil Ochs ("What Are You Fighting For", "I Ain't Marching Any More", "Vietnam", many more), Buffy Sainte-Marie ("Universal Soldier"), Crosby Stills Nash and Young ("Ohio"),...  Odetta, Nina Simone, Bob Marley, George Harrison, Joni Mitchell, The Kinks, Tom Paxton, Richie Havens, Sam Cooke, Edwin Starr, Kris Kristofferson, The Byrds, Country Joe and the Fish, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Jimmy Cliff, Ringo Starr, Cat Stevens, John Lennon, The Doors, and on and on — many of these artists covering each others' songs or performing them together at antiwar and civil rights rallies and demonstrations, sometimes joined by performers from our parents' generation like Josh White, Barbara Dane, Pete Seeger (who, with Woody Guthry and the Almanac Singers and the Weavers pioneered protest songs in the 1940s-50s), Marlene Dietrich ("Sag Mir Wo die Blumen Sind"), and posthumously, Billie Holiday ("Strange Fruit"). It seemed like my whole generation was rising against war, racism, poverty, and misery and that as soon as the young took over, the world would finally be fixed. Anyway I remember being at UVA during the Cuban Missile crisis, sitting around with Ludwig, Head, and some others expecting the atomic holocaust to start any minute while listening to songs like "Cruel War" with a kind of optimism for the future if we could just get through the next few days. The artists and songs of the early sixties brought millions of young people into the broad social movements for peace and justice that lasted into the Seventies.

Listen to The Cruel War, it's beautiful and touching, moreso in restrospect, with hundreds of thousands of us about to be drafted and sent to the meatgringer in Vietnam (sorry if Youtube bombards you with ads, or the link stops working, but that's life in the XXI Century). Another almost heartbreaking video is of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez singing "With God on Our Side" at at the 1963 Newport Jazz festival — it was so hopeful and optimistic, as if it would make a difference . The two of them, along with Peter Paul and Mary, Odetta, Mahalia Jackson, and Marion Anderson sang at the March on Washington... despite the sound system having been destroyed by saboteurs the night before and hastily rebuilt by the Army Corps of Engineers that morning.

In the end, of course, the saboteurs won. In a few short years King was dead, not to mention Malcom X and both Kennedys; a full-scale near-genocidal war raging in Vietnam, Freda Payne pleading Bring the Boys Home. Half a century later, nothing much has changed except the technology that allows the USA to kill countless people overseas without drafting hundreds of thousands Americans to do the dirty work in person.

The Army – 1963-1966


Army basic training portrait
Official photo
My dogtags
My dogtags and P-38 1963

I was in the Army from February 6, 1963, to February 2, 1966. My dad was furious when I dropped out of UVA, I thought he was going to kill me, literally. I had really had enough of him so without telling anybody, I went and joined the Army, and that was the last time I ever saw my family together. I joined the Army because I knew I would be drafted anyway, but if I enlisted I could pick where they sent me. And I picked Germany. Actually it was a bit more complicated… if you enlisted you could pick an overseas AREA (Asia or Europe) and the BRANCH (Infantry, Artillery, or Armor) and so, knowing that all the Armored units in Europe were in Germany, I picked Armor and Europe. For my dogtags I had to put a religion, so I put Sodothic (a made-up religion) on one, and Taoist on the other (compare with my father's WWII dogtags). The other thing with the dogtags is my P-38, explained below. Hey, didn't I get dogtags made for you guys once at the Army exhibit Addison County Fair in Vermont? (I was 48 years old and they tried get me to re-up!)

Anyway, 1961-62 was just a big gap, a wasteland. I hated Virginia, the cliquishness, the segregation, my school, the suburbs, the car culture, everything. I was still angry that my dad had screwed up and got us kicked out of Germany a year early and all I really wanted was to go back, and I did. Pretty amazing my plan actually worked, I might have wound up in Vietnam, which in early 1963 I had barely heard of.

Holabird Sphinx
Fort Holabird had a Sphinx
Fort Holabird, Maryland
Fort Holabird, Maryland
At the beginning of February I visited a nearby Army recruiting office to discuss my options, then a couple days later, very early in the morning, I took a WV&M bus to K Street in DC and then a Greyhound from DC to Baltimore; had breakfast in a diner on Broadway with a guy I met on the bus who was also enlisting, then we took a city bus to Dundalk...

Physical exam, signed the papers, took the oath at Fort Holabird*, 6 February 1963

Reception center at Fort Jackson SC (near Columbia) - about a week

Basic training at Fort Gordon GA (near Augusta) - 8 weeks Company B, 2nd Batallion, 1st Infantry Regiment (where I saw Cubans training for a second invasion that never happened**), Military Occupational Specialty: 111 (Infantry)

A week's leave where I traveled around visiting people and spent a night in jail.

Reconnaisance (scout) training at Fort Knox KY (near Louisville) - 8 weeks New MOS: 112 (Cavalry Scout) Took an overnight bus from DC to Louisville that went through West Virginia on 2-lane Route 50 through the Appalachian mountains to Cincinnati and from there to Louisville on a highway.

It was either at Fort Gordon or Fort Knox, I was invited to go to OCS — Officer Candidate School — so I could be an officer instead of an EM. I had zero desire to be an officer.

A week at Fort Dix NJ waiting for ship to Germany.

USNS Geiger (troop ship) from NYC to Bremerhaven Germany - about a week.

About a year and a half (1963-64) at HQ Troop, 3rd Reconnaissance Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, 7th US Army, Kaiserslautern, Germany (Vogelweh Kaserne, near Hohenecken) with tank range at Grafenwöhr and field maneuvers up to a month long. I had many jobs there ranging from office work (because I could type), motor pool, marriage counselor (really), garbage dump detail, etc. Office work was like Radar in MASH: morning reports, cutting orders, filling out forms, etc, all done by manual typewriter. Motor pool was maintenance of jeeps, armored personnel carriers, and tanks. Also in those days everybody took turns doing guard duty and working in the mess hall (KP = Kitchen Police about one day a month), taking garbage to the dump (for this I drove trucks or stood in the back of them, waist-deep in garbage). Of course everybody also had to do cleaning in the barracks, offices, and other places — scraping, sanding, waxing, and buffing wood and linoleum floors, etc. "Policing" the area around the barracks each morning, picking up beer bottles and cigarette butts. We worked Monday-Friday, plus Saturday mornings. Sometimes instead of working on Saturday morning, we'd have a parade, complete with Army marching band playing Sousa marches and the occasional improbable sentimental song like "Memories". I did good work, I reached the rank of SP4 (Specialist 4). My PMOS (Primary Military Occupational Specialty) was Cavalry Scout, i.e. scouting for tank groups, MOS 112, but I never actually did that after Fort Knox. I also worked as a "personel" specialist (716), orders clerk (711), key punch operator (761)… MOS's have totally changed since the 1960s (several times). The reference for when I was in the Army is US AR 611-201 June 1960, but I can't find a copy.

About a year at 7th US Army HQ in Stuttgart/Vaihingen, Germany, attached to Command and Control Information Systems (CCIS), Resident Study Group (RSG), an early computer prototyping project (1965), with a month's "computer school" in Orléans, France, in April 1965. Not actually *in* Orléans, but in the forest somewhere a few miles from there, along a dirt road. The school was a little group of Quonset huts, some for work, others for barracks, and one as a mess hall. It was almost like camping out. Then back to Stuttgart.

Back to NYC (Brooklyn Navy Yard, Fort Hamilton) by USNS Geiger, another week.

Released February 2, 1966.

Ready Reserves until February 6, 1969 (they never called me up, even though there was a war).

Service number: RA13786982. In 1963 they said I'd never forget it, and so far I haven't). RA means Regular Army as opposed to draftee [US] or National Guard [NG].

* Fort Holabird closed in 1973, no trace remains except a Holabird Avenue.
** About the Cubans… I could hear them speaking Spanish, and their sergeants and officers spoke to them in Spanish, which just does not happen in the US Army. We weren't allowed to get anywhere near them but sometimes it couldn't be avoided. I could see that unlike us, they had no markings whatsoever on their fatigues — no "US ARMY", no name tag, nothing. I mentioned this to Tom Hayden about 2015, when he was writing Listen Yankee, and he put my story at the end of an article he had written on Cuba and the assassination of JFK. Tom died in 2016 and his website tomhayden.com is gone as of 2017. He was a founder and hero of the New Left for nearly fifty years.

1960s Army organization decoder (approximate)
Unit Sub-units Soldiers Commander
Fire team (Infantry) 4-5 Sergeant
Squad 2 fire teams 9-10 Staff Sergeant
Platoon 2 or more squads 16-40 Lieutenant
Company / Troop* / Battery† 3-5 Platoons 100-200 Captain or Major
Battalion / Squadron* 4-6 Companies 300-1000 Lt. Colonel
Brigade / Regiment* 3-5 Battalions 1500-3200 Colonel
Division 2-4 Brigades 10,000-16,000 Major General (2 stars)
Corps 2-5 Divisions 20,000-45,000 Lt. General (3 stars)
Army 2-4 Corps 50,000 or more General (4 stars)
    * Cavalry;   † Artillery

Reference: Survey of U.S. Army Uniforms, Weapons and Accoutrements by David Cole, US. Army Center of Military History.

Click the image below to see a table of US Army enlisted ranks in 1963-66, plus some explanation:

Army ranks table screenshot

Reception Center at Fort Jackson, South Carolina

Fort Jackson
Fort Jackson SC 1963
I enlisted in Baltimore, which consisted of a physical exam, signing some papers and taking an oath. Then they put us on a train for Columbia, South Carolina. So far so good. At the train station we boarded a big Army bus for the Reception Center at Fort Jackson, still not so bad. When we pulled in at Fort Jackson, some sergeants came in the bus and started screaming at us... DICKHEADS! GET OUT! GET OUT! MOVE IT! A whole week of this, during which we got our uniforms, boots, and haircuts, and were sent out on work details.

It was quite a shock… The minute you arrive they are yelling at you, insulting you, and making you run everywhere, dickhead. They shave off all your hair, and if you have any cavities they pull the bad teeth out. You have no rights, no privacy; they punish people at random for no reason. They don't let you sleep, they don't let you rest. They give you good food and then don't let you eat it... GET OUT! GET OUT!.

At first I thought I had stumbled into some kind of rogue outfit, but the shouting, profanity, insults, cruelty towards the most vulnerable, the arbitrary punishment and scapegoating, sleep and food deprivation, etc, were standard. Some people couldn't take it, but for me it wasn't much different from "Life With Father". A week of that, then on to Fort Gordon, Georgia, for Basic Training.

Basic Training at Fort Gordon, Georgia

"Shit, shower, shave, and shine"
Fort Gordon 1962
Fort Gordon Georgia 1962

Fort Gordon
Fort Gordon barracks
Basic training
Carrying heavy duffle bags
Basic training
Marching, pitching tents
Like at least eight other southern Army bases, Fort Gordon was named after a Confederate general; all nine renamed in 2023-34[1,2]. I don't have any original pictures of my Army training, but these from Google are pretty much how I remember it: the old two-story WWII-era wooden barracks and M1 rifles... At Fort Gordon, we were treated the same as at Fort Jackson, but now at least here was a routine. They woke us at 4:00 or 5:00am (or as early as 1:00am if you had KP) and made us stand in formation outside in the cold February air for an hour or two before letting us go for breakfast... and maybe even letting us eat it.

Basic training
Tons of pushups all the time
Every day we had about an hour of calisthenics in the morning, we did pushups and chinups thoughout the day, went on forced marches carrying a lot of heavy stuff, and where we were (Georgia) it was up and down hills made of sand, holding our 9-pound M1 rifles out in front of us for hours at a time. A forced march alternates between walking and running, and everybody has to stay in step. Sometimes we ran the whole way, up to 7 miles without stopping. The first episode of Band of Brothers (except the parachute part) was a lot like Basic Training at Fort Gordon... it even looked like Fort Gordon.

Basic training
First introduction to the M1 rifle
Most of the time, however, was spent in training: military protocol and terminology, marching, first aid, climbing ropes and walls and barriers, hand-to-hand combat, stabbing rubber tires with bayonets, rifle drill; disassembly, assembly, cleaning, and maintenance of the M1, and eventually shooting them and qualifying in marksmanship. Plus night fighting (and the Monty-Pythonesque "night walk"), sheltering and concealment, hand grenades, rifle-launched grenades, a lotta stuff. Some of this was in classrooms, but most of it was outdoors.

Gas chamber
The gas chamber (older photo)
Another noteworthy experience was the gas chamber, where they put you in concentrated tear gas without a gas mask just to know what it does to you, and on another occasion deadly chlorine gas (you enter the chamber with no mask on, holding your breath; then you put on and clear your gas mask and then you breathe). We had mustard gas rubbed on our skin and we learned how to inject ourselves in the thigh with atropine (by actually doing it) in a nerve gas attack. We had obstacle courses, including one where you had to crawl through mud and barbed wire under (they said) live machine gun fire 3 feet above ground level.

Back in the barracks after dinner in the mess hall, we'd have to be constantly shining our brass and polishing our shoes and boots and also keeping the place clean, because there could be a surprise inspection at any moment, and the tiniest speck of dirt or wrinkle on a bedspread would result in mass punishment. At least once we week we had to strip the wax from the floor and rewax it. Every morning it had to be buffed, but I liked doing that, the buffer is fun. But with all that there might be only 30 minutes of free time for the trainees to write home before lights out.

Some of the drill sergeants were pyschos and alcoholics, like Sergeant Goo (really) who lived with us in the barracks because his wife had thrown him out, and he would usually pass out on floor some time before lights out, but before that he'd be telling the sad tale of his life, always ending with "If the Army wanted you to have a wife, they'd issue you one". Others were more straight-arrow and super-tough on physical training. One of these had fought in Korea and he was haunted by how it was the flabby out-of-shape guys who got killed, so he wanted us to come out of Basic with the endurance of Zulus. He told us about his time in Korea towards the end of Basic, the first time he ever sat down with us and just talked instead of barking orders and insults. His name was Sergeant Swenby (pronounced Svimby). His favorite saying (when he wasn't showing his human side) was "Only three things I hate in this world: cold coffee, wet shitpaper, and Got-Damn Train-ee!" (the 't' in Got represents a prolonged glottal stop). Instead of saying "everybody" he said "sick, lame, and lazy".

When marching, there was always an NCO (corporal or sergeant) who marched alongside calling cadence. White sergeants like Swenby used a lot of glottal stops... Hut Haw Hut Haw Your Left Right Left (the t's being glottal stops). But Black sergeants were super creative, they'd accentuate the downbeat, make a poem or a song or a chant out of it, make up crazy words, etc, it was almost a pleasure to march with them. Sometimes it would also be call-and-response, like a work song. Thinking back, it was kind of cool how we evolved from a bunch of clumsy stumblebums into a crack marching outfit. Sounds dumb for me of all people to be saying that but there was some satisfaction in it.

Entrenching tool
Entrenching tool
At one point we were "asked" to buy US savings bonds. I said no thanks. For that they had me outside all night digging big holes ("six-by's" — six by six by six feet) with a small folding shovel ("entrenching tool", standard issue for digging foxholes) and filling them up again. After a week of that I finally gave in, and later I was glad I did because I had about $1200 when I got out three years later, which pretty much paid my first semester's tuition at Columbia. Yes, it's gone up a bit since then.

Most guys were totally cowed by the cadre, but one guy sticks in my mind, he was from NYC, probably Brooklyn; Italian or Jewish. If a cadre told him to "get down and give me fifty" or whatever he'd say "Fuck you, cracker, YOU get down and give ME fifty!" He didn't take abuse from anybody, it was a real eye-opener. The amazing thing was, he pretty much got away with it; he was tough, they respected him. That was one of things that attracted me to NYC.

Rifle range
An Army rifle range 1960s
Other forms of resistence were not so up-front. One day at the firing range… It's like a football field, with us at one end and the targets at the far end. We're laying on our stomachs and shooting at our targets. Our abusive drill sergeant has to poop. The outhouse is about halfway to the targets, but on the left side. As soon as he sat down, bullets were whizzing through the walls just over his head. He came out white as a sheet and didn't have anything to say for a while. It's a good thing he was pooping and not peeing standing up!

I'm pretty sure the firing range at Fort Gordon was 500m, the targets were so far away you could hardly see them. There was also another range where you had to walk forwards and then shoot cardboard enemies as they popped up.

We had one overnight pass in Basic, so a bunch of us took the bus to Augusta to (what else) go drinking in bars. In those days Augusta was pretty much just a one-street sleazy "strip" full of bars and clip joints. There were six of us, 3 white, 3 black. We probably tried to get into 20 different bars and not one would let us in. We kind of expected it but still... this was a town that depended almost totally on an integrated Army base for its livelihood (yes, they also have the Masters golf tournament but that's only for a short time each year). Anyway we tried. Then went back to base for some near-bear at the snack bar. That was the closest I ever got to a Freedom Ride because I was in Germany during the real Freedom Rides.

The song that sticks in my head from Basic is "Our Day Will Come" by Ruby and the Romantics. Also "Two Lovers" by Mary Wells; "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" by Bob B. Soxx and The Blue Jeans (early Phil Spector Wall of Sound remake of my first favorite song when I was 1 or 2 years old), and "Walk Like a Man" by the Four Seasons, not because I liked it but it kept going through my head during forced marches when I had an untreated bone fracture in my foot. Also, not a song but whenever we had to "charge", people would always yell Yabba-Dabba-Doo! (from the Flintstones).

  1. Why Does the U.S. Military Celebrate White Supremacy?, New York Times (editorial), 23 May 2020.
  2. DOD to change names of nine Army installations by 2024, jbsa.mil, 14 April 2023 (accessed 1 January 2024): Forts A.P. Hill, Benning, Bragg, Hood, Lee, Pickett, Polk, Rucker).


We had a week or two off after Basic. I took a bus from Augusta to Charlottesville with a stop in Fayetteville NC to see my old friend from Frankfurt HS, Jerry Jacobs, at Fort Bragg. Called his house, his little brother answered, Jerry had just been killed in a car crash.

Continued to UVA, met up with Ludwig. He said I was totally transformed, all tanned, hard, and muscular with my buzzcut. We went on a road trip in his 1953 Buick (he didn't care much about school). There was a third guy too but can't remember who, Don somebody?. We drove diagonally southwest for a date that had been arranged with three girls at Hollins College* in Johnson City*, Tennessee, friends of Ludwig or the other guy, I didn't know them. It was a beautiful drive, kind of like rural Vermont, passing through Lynchburg, Roanoke, Blacksburg, and the rest was pretty much backwoods; about 250 miles all together. We arrived at Hollins in the evening, picked the girls up, drove back to Bristol (which straddles the VA-TN border), bought a case of beer and were drinking it in an empty parking lot in the dark when the police came and arrested all six of us and hauled us off to jail. I think this was in the Virginia half of Bristol. We slept, woke up to a breakfast of hard stale bread, fossilized baloney, and super-harsh black coffee in metal cups, were taken across the street to the courthouse where the judge said "Well, y'all look like some nice young boys and girls (i.e. white ones), I'm gonna let you off with a warning but don't ya'll let me catch you in here again, y'heah?"

So far so good. Now to drive the girls back to Hollins. They had missed curfew at school and were afraid they might be in trouble. When we arrived, the entire road that led from the Hollins gate to the buildings was lined with people waiting to see the fallen women after their night of sin (there wasn't any sin, we went straight to jail). We felt awful but since they were immediately taken into custody there was nothing we could do, so we left.

Later I found out the three girls were expelled from Hollins. I didn't even know them. But still, not exactly one of my happier memories. Soon after, Ludwig dropped out of UVA for the same reasons I did, was drafted or enlisted in the Army, and wound up in Vietnam**. Although I did see him once later on, I don't know anything about his time there. I assume he was in combat because he rose to Staff Sergeant (E6) in only one 2-year hitch.

The other thing that happened when I was on leave was that I bought the Martin O-16 that I still have, at Sophocles Pappas in DC. April 1963 for $110 new with my Basic Training pay (I only earned $78 a month but since there was nothing to spend it on I had more than enough for the guitar). I've had it with me wherever I lived ever since.

* All of this is from memory sixty years later. I know for sure that we went to Johnson City to pick up the girls, and I know we were arrested in Bristol. But Hollins College was not in Johnson City, Tennessee, it was in Roanoke, Virginia, and we definitely did not go there! Ludwig mentions a Sullins College, but it was in Bristol, not Johnson City. If that was the college where the girls were, why did we go to Johnson City? As far as I can tell, the only college in Johnson City in 1963 was East Tennessee State College (now University), which was and is co-ed, but I seem to remember the college the girls were at was all girls. Oh well, it was nearly sixty years ago as I write this.
** Ludwig and I reconnected briefly in 2022 and there's lots more to his story to be filled in, e.g. that he wasn't drafted until 1967.

Scout Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky

Vacation over, I took an overnight bus to Louisville, Kentucky, where Fort Knox is. The bus went along Route 50, a winding mountain road through West Virginia that ends up in the flatlands of Ohio and then the bluegrass of Kentucky.

Now it was time for 8 weeks of Armored Cavalry scout training, which was lots of fun. Once you get past Basic they're not mean to you any more and you have free time and freedom to go anywhere. Fort Knox is HUGE and has about a dozen movie theaters and free buses that take you all over. One Sunday, Roger and I went to four movies, 25 cents each.

Jeep training
Jeep with M2
Machine gun mounted on Jeep
Jeep in water
Jeep in water
At Fort Knox I learned how to drive (my parents would not let me drive in high school, for the very good reason that I was drunk all the time). We had 1938 Jeeps — the good kind with the vertical grille, not the tippy 1955 ones with the horizontal grille. They had 50-caliber machine guns mounted on a post; we drove them off the road through every kind of terrain and through water (and you could even drive them under water with a snorkel), and across deep ravines over a couple of rickety boards, in thick dust clouds, shooting blanks from the machine gun and flying through the air… (one time when I was driving and then stopped the jeep, without thinking I reached up to the gun barrel to pull myself up and almost burned my hand off).

M2 .50 caliber machine gun

We learned about azimuths and radians and coordinates, and how to call in artillery fire. We learned to estimate distances and sizes of far-away things and how to orient maps and to navigate by dead reckoning, shadows, and tree-moss. We learned how to classify roads, tunnels, and bridges and how to blow up bridges and railroad tracks. We learned to fire and take apart and put back together every kind of gun the Army had: The WWII M1, the M2 50-caliber machine gun (which is still in use even though it's 100 years old), the M60 machine gun, the M3 45-caliber "grease gun" (submachine gun), the M-1911 45-caliber pistol, the M79 grenade launcher… and we also threw real hand grenades. Every boy's dream! (Seriously, boys are fascinated by this stuff… I never wanted to kill or hurt anybody, but getting to shoot all these guns… what can I say?) The firing range at Fort Knox for the M2 machine guns was 500 yards, five football fields, almost a third of a mile. At that distance, those guns could knock down big trees.

He looked like this
The only strange thing that happened at Fort Knox was when one of the cadre, a Corporal Magnus — he looked like the hero of a 1930s Nazi movie, tall, blue eyes, a mane of blond swept-back hair; a perfect Aryan — asked a bunch of us if we wanted to join him for "voluntary special training", a lot of running, sounded OK to me, I liked running. We met after dinner, ran through the woods, up and down hills for miles and miles, then we sat down and he explained how we had to be ready to take to the hills and defend our Freedom when the Communists and Faggots and Niggers took over the government. That's when I noticed that all the people he invited where white. I like to think that they were as creeped out as I was.

Roger Anderson

[See gallery]

Roger Anderson 1965
Roger Anderson 1965
Sharon Robinson and Roger 1972
Roger Judy Sharon
Roger Judy Sharon in Wyoming
My main friend in the Army was Roger Anderson. We were together the entire time from Reception Center to discharge, which is almost impossible, but I'm pretty sure it happened. I saw him once later, he spent a week with Mommie and me in 1972 in Wyoming and Colorado (which were "close" to where he lived, in Elko, Nevada). We said goodbye to him one night on a mountain near the Utah border looking down on Junction City, Colorado, the Town that Glows in the Dark (from Uranium tailings). We stayed in touch by mail for 7 or 8 years after that but then lost touch. In the meantime he became a medical doctor and married his wife Patsy. I tried to find him lots of times but he was Google-proof. Then when I started writing this I dug out all my old letters and found Roger's, was reminded that he got his MD at the such-and-such a university in 1975, so knowing that plus his name made it possible to find the last place he worked before he retired but... well, it's a long story.

Berchtesgaden poster
Berchtesgaden poster
Hotel in Berchtesgaden
General Walker Hotel Berchtesgaden
Army lockers
Army bunk and wall locker
Roger's nickname in the Army was Rog-Bod because he was so physical, always doing improbable things with his body like, for example, hopping up on top of his wall locker, which was like eight feet high. We had an R&R one time; the Army sent us to Berchtesgaden for free — ride, hotel, everything. Roger bought skis and ski-boots and did endless ski-practice exercises in the barracks to prepare. I figured if I did that I'd probably break my leg so I just went along for the ride. I think that was the same trip where a German guy (or Austrian) in a Mercedes offered to take us on a two-day tour that included Oberammergau and Innsbrück; the price: one carton of American cigarettes, which we bought for him in the PX for a couple dollars, but was like gold on the German economy. For me, the highlight of the trip was a church in Oberammergau that had the bodies of twelve saints standing erect in glass cases, grotesque skeletons with bits of flesh, scalp, and hair clinging to them wrapped in spendid bejeweled robes.

Elko on the map
Elko on the map
Anyway, Elko is a boom town now because gold was discovered, but in those days nobody ever heard of it. Nevertheless you could see it on any map or globe because there was no other town for 500 miles in any direction (well, maybe just one), so New York, Paris, London, Elko.

Roger's family was Swedish; his dad worked for the railroad. Before Roger was born, every day his dad would bring home some railroad ties. When he had enough, he built the house where the family would live. They kept a lot of Swedish traditions, like Christmas morning his sister Sandra would come down the stairs with candles on her head. One Christmas she sent me a BIG box full of home-made chocolate chip cookies and "fattigmankakas*", a kind of Swedish thing… Let's see if I can describe it… Dough rolled thin, cut in a longish rectangle, then a slit is made toward one end, and the other end is twisted and then pulled through it, sort of like a Möbius strip, and then it is baked until it's crunchy and sprinkled with powdered sugar. And the packing material was Cheerios, probably ten big boxes of them! That was one of my most appreciated Christmas presents ever. I guess that happened when she was 24 or 25 (I was 19). She died in May 2020 at age 78 of aortic stenosis.

Sharon Robinson (in the pictures) was a friend of Mommie's and one of my favorite people of all time, we used to see her constantly in the 70s but I don't know what happened to her after that. Once she made me a big thick knitted scarf that I still have.

* A word I never encountered again until nearly 60 later when I read Wisconsin, My Home by Thurine Oleson, University of Wisconsin Press (1950), about 19th-century Scandinavian immigrants. "Fattigmankakas" are "poor man's cookies".

3rd Armored Cavalry, Kaiserslautern, Germany

3rd Armored Cavalry 1963
L Troop, 3rd Reconnaissance Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, 1963 (I was in HQ Troop - no group picture for us!)
3rd ACR fatigue shirt
Third Armored Cavalry
fatigue shirt 1960s
3rd Armored Cavalry pin
Third Armored Cavalry
Regimental pin

At the end of scout training at Fort Knox we found out where our final posting would be, and mine turned out to be the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Kaiserslautern, Germany, which is in Rheinland-Pfalz, about 66 miles southwest of Frankfurt. Roger too. We were sent to Fort Dix NJ to wait for transportation to Germany. We were there for a week, totally free to wander around and do whatever we wanted. Once day we bought some beer and went in the woods to drink it in a creekbed. Next day I had my last and possibly worst case of poison ivy ever. I couldn't use my hands at all so when it came time to board the troop ship USNS Geiger (T‑AP 197), Roger carried my duffle bag and guitar along with his own stuff... and duffel bags are heavy! Thanks, Rog (more about the Geiger here).

As I recall, the crossing was uneventful. We docked in Bremerhaven, took a train to Kaiserslautern, and rode in the open back of a deuce-and-half (2½-ton truck) from the Bahnhof to our new base, Kapaun Kaserne [4,5] in Vogelweh, a suburb of Kaiserslautern, in what was formerly a rural region that had been the poorest and least developed part of West Germany until 1950 when the Americans came and built massive military installations, many of which are still there. The German spoken in Kaiserslautern was not very different from what I learned in Frankfurt.

I was to find out only 50-some years later that I am descended from farmers in the tiny villages Steinwenden and Krottelbach, that were literally walking distance from my barracks in Vogelweh. They lived there in the late 1600s and early 1700s before emigrating to Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Kapaun Kaserne
Snack Bar and barracks
Kapaun Kaserne
Kapaun Kaserne 1963
When we arrived at the base and piled off the truck, an NCO came to meet us and the first thing he said was "Can any of you guys type?". I raised my hand, and poof, my life took a whole new direction. I guess Rog raised his hand too. Then we were assigned units and quarters.

In the Cavalry you don't have companies (like Company A, Company B), you have troops, like F Troop and L Troop. And you don't have batallions, you have squadrons. Roger and I were assigned to "Headquarters and Headquarters Troop" or HHT, the headquarters of the squadron.

Kapaun Kaserne
3rd ACR headquarters and barracks
We had regular work we did on normal days, plus everybody had to go out in the morning and "police the area", meaning pick up all the cigarette butts and beer bottles that had been thrown out the windows overnight. Then every so often we had to "move out", sometimes at a moment's notice, to some faraway place in a forest for several weeks of maneuvers, usually in horrible weather. On base, there was also night-time guard duty and Kitchen Police (KP). Plus there were regularly scheduled shifts along the Czech border in guard towers on opposite sides of a raked strip of bare earth with barbed wire (the Czech guards would would yell across to us, "Our beer is better than your beer!"). And once a year in February, the whole Squadron went to the Grafenwöhr tank range in Bavaria, also near the Czech border, for tank practice.

Operation Big Lift

Soon after we arrived was our first big deployment, Operation Big Lift, October-November 1963. Quoting from the Army history page:

The 3rd Infantry Division played the enemy (ORANGE) force. Elements of the 8th Infantry Division, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, and a reinforced Panzer Grenadier Battalion from the III German Corps served as the friendly (BLUE) force. Altogether, nearly 46,000 personnel, 900 tanks, and hundreds of trucks and armored personnel carriers participated. The Air Force flew 759 sorties in support as well. Ultimately, BLUE proved victorious, but not before it was nearly overrun by ORANGE and suffered heavy damage in the partially choreographed battles.

In a speech slated for November 22, President Kennedy planned to tout it as proof that the nation was 'prepared as never before to move substantial numbers of men in surprisingly little time to advanced positions anywhere in the world.' The address, however, was never given. Earlier that day the president was gunned down by an assassin.

I don't know if we even knew Big Lift was such a big deal at the time. All I remember is being in the mud, mostly in the woods, for weeks and weeks, relocating periodically to another muddy forest two or three times. If we were in any battles, I didn't notice (I was probably working in the Heaquarters tent the whole time). More about the Kennedy assassination below.

Back on base...

C-ration can
P-38 all-purpose tool (1 inch long)
Shit on a shingle
Shit on a shingle (SOS)
In those days the regular Army was a nice place. They didn't harrass us much and we got a lot of time off. The food in the mess hall was good (despite what you might have heard about "shit on a shingle" — creamed chipped beef on toast — I had that more at home as a kid than I did in the Army). The breakfasts were especially good. You could have anything you wanted for breakfast — eggs any style (and any number of them, like Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke), waffles, pancakes, french toast, sausages, bacon, toast, buiscuits. But one day a week we had to eat C-Rations (food in olive-drab cans) because there was a huge stockpile from 1948 that had to be finished. We became connoisseurs of the 1948 vintage, among the favorites were scrambled eggs with lima beans, cheese with crackers, "meat" with beans. We opened the cans with our P-38s, just an inch long, the all-purpose tool and friend found on every GI's dog-tag chain.

In spite of the good mess-hall breakfasts many of us often went to the Snack Bar to buy breakfast for a nominal fee, just to be in the presence of the German girls who worked there, and also there was a juke box. The song that was almost always playing was "Where Did Our Love Go" by the Supremes.

The mess hall also made special Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners but one year when we filed in for our Thanksgiving dinner, we got C-Rations! All the turkeys, hundreds of them, had mysteriously disappeared. Army Quartermasters ("procurement specialists") were notorious wheeler-dealers, selling everything from penicillin to Jeeps on the black market. Maybe mess sergeants too! But they weren't all bad. One time we arrived back at base at 3:00am, tired, wet, and miserable after being in the field for several weeks in constant freezing rain. The mess sergeant greeted us with fresh coffee and a huge batch of hot-from-the-oven home-made chocolate-chip cookies. This same sergeant was very fond of his block hat, he never took it off, and conse­quently it developed quite a grease stain around the rim (the standard thing to say about that was "hey, when you gonna get the oil changed in that hat?"), but the funny part was that every time he bent over a big pot that he was stirring, the hat would fall into it.

Also Kaiserslautern's main Snack Bar (which was normally just a big cafeteria) turned into an almost-elegant restaurant one Thursday per month for Steak Night... dim lighting, music, tablecloths, candles, waitresses and busboys from the high school, and delicious meals served on china. Rog and I never missed it!

Me in 3rd Cavalry 1964
Me at Grafenwöhr in 1964
Grafenwoehr tank range
Grafenwöhr tank range
I joined the Army just 18 years after World War II; it was essentially the same Army with many of the same people, weapons, vehicles, and gear (and C-rations). Many of my sergeants and mid-level officers were WWII and/or Korean War veterans. In Kaiserslautern, Regimental Sergeant-Major "Hellfire" Deems was a WWI horse cavalry veteran; his service number had less digits than everybody else's. He looked like Joe E. Brown without the funny faces.

Luxembourg American Cemetery
Luxembourg American Cemetery 1964
One time when Roger and I told him we were going to be in Luxembourg while on leave, he *ordered* us to visit the war cemetery there where a lot of his friends were buried. We did; Roger remembers that we saw General Patton's marker there and the Sergeant Major wanted to know all about it. He would drive us crazy but we liked him. He would say things like "Hellfire there da Cruz, when was the last time you had a haircut?" Yesterday, Sergeant Major… "Well, here's a quarter, go get another one." When imitating him, we'd always start every sentence with "Hellfire there" followed by the surname of person he was talking to. That was a tradition passed down over generations of soldiers but in reality we never actually heard him say it. He was 100% Regular Army, he lived and breathed it. One day at the Grafenwöhr tank range in midwinter, 30 degrees below zero, he said "Hellfire there da Cruz, there are some cigarette butts outside the command tent!" Meaning I should go pick them up. I went but they were under a foot of ice! I had to "pick" them up with a pickaxe. In retrospect I wish I had asked him about his experiences; for example, I imagine he might have been in Patton's 3rd Army in 1944.

One day at Graf I was on garbage duty in a deuce-and-a-half picking up garbage and taking it to a huge burn pit. We were backed up to the edge of the pit along with about ten other big trucks, shoveling out the garbage, when a large amount .50-cal ammunition started going off… belts of M2 machine-gun ammunition, big heavy bullets flying in every direction. All 10 trucks took off like race cars! (Sixty years later burn pits are very much in the news with so many veterans sick from exposure to all the toxins and our gridlocked congress unable to appropriate the funds needed for treatment.)

Army coal stove
Army coal stove
All this was long before any form of clean energy. At Graf and any time we went on maneuvers, heat (if there was to be any) was furnished by coal-burning cast-iron pot-belly stoves. On maneuvers this would be only in the huge CP and mess tents; we'd sleep out in the cold in our pup tents or "shelter-half" shelters. Grafenwöhr had primitive concrete barracks with bare metal cot frames and a pot-belly stove. It was pretty harsh... It was around 30 below zero the whole month (that's what they said but I don't know if it was Fahrenheit or Centigrade but in fact it didn't matter, it's the one place where F and C coincide). We wore super warm clothes all the time, including "Micky Mouse boots" — insulated rubber boots that were so big you looked like you were in a
Mickey Mouse boots
Mickey Mouse boots
cartoon. They did keep our feet warm; so warm, in fact, that when we went to the barracks to retire for the night and took off our boots, we'd pour out a half liter of sweat onto the concrete floor. We'd load up the stove with coal and we'd climb into our cotton-and-feathers sleeping bags on top of the cold metal racks. Naked! The older NCO veterans of WWII and Korea said it was a big mistake to wear clothes in the sleeping bag. Then at 5:00am when they woke us up, the stove was stone cold and we had to come out of our sacks into -30° stark naked, which is kind of shock at first, get dressed super-fast and go to the mess tent to warm up... giant cups of coffee in tin mugs for that extra-metallic taste, hot breakfast on tin trays.

One night at Graf they threw a surprise party for us, turning the huge mess tent into a giant beer hall and everybody could have all the beer they wanted for free. Local (northeast Bavarian) German beer. I guess they had a slush fund for this kind of thing.

Lyster bag
Lyster bag
Army mess kit
Army mess kit
Army poncho
Army poncho
In the field we didn't have a bar­racks. Instead, each soldier had a rubberized poncho about six feet square. In fact it was just a big square with snaps around the edges and a hole in the middle with a hood; if it started pouring you could stick your head through the hole and use it as a raincoat but it was more like walking around in a tent. Then at night, you and your buddy could snap your ponchos together and you'd have a waterproof
Army field kitchen
Army field kitchen
pup tent to put your sleeping bags in, hence the term "shelter half". Now that I think of it, there was usually no mess tent in the field; we had to eat in the woods from our mess kits, not on trays. Then after eating we'd have to clean the mess kits by dipping them in a series of 55-gallon drums filled with boiling water. We brought water with us in big tanks towed by 3/4-ton trucks. Enormous "lyster bags" were hung from trees for drinking (filling our canteens) and for washing up in our steel helmets.

The prevailing odor around an Army base or bivouac in those days was coal smoke and diesel fumes. Strangely enough, it was not entirely unpleasant.


[See gallery of Hohenecken photos]
Hohenecken seen from castle 1964
Hohenecken from castle 1964
Hohenecken 1964
Hohenecken 1975 with castle
Hohenecken Gasthaus
Hohenecken Gasthaus postcard
Judy & die Oma
Die Oma and Judy 1975
Our bar­racks were near Hohen­ecken, a little village that I fell in love with, especially the Gasthaus of die Oma und der Opa, Gasthaus zum Rathaus, with the ruins of an ancient (1150-1200) castle looming overhead. Neither Hohen­ecken nor the Gasthaus were frequented by GIs, who preferred dimly lit bars in downtown Kaisers­lautern, with B-girls and juke boxes. The Gasthaus was a family place with the indescribably delicious home cooking of die Oma (granma). Before or after eating you could walk up through the woods to the castle, which was not some kind of theme park; it was just a ruin in the woods — no signs, no fence, no nothing. The Germans called it Barbarossa's Castle, but it wasn't.

At one point Roger and I registered for a night-school Russian course at the University of Maryland extension on base in Kaiserslautern High School. After class we'd go to Oma's to do our homework over a delicious home-cooked dinner. We would sit at the table by the window in the picture at the bottom right on the postcard. At the lower left is the larger dining room, where once we had a unit banquet for 15-20 people and Oma cooked Rouladen for everybody, which is rolled-up beef with stuffing and gravy.

My corner
My lockers and bunk
Armored Personnel Carriers at river crossing
Birdie driving APC
Birdie driving APC
Tanker boots
Tanker boots
PS Magazine
PS Magazine
Above: some random photos I took... My corner of the barracks after I had enough seniority to be by the window, which looks out on the parade ground and if you magnify the photo you can see two armored personnel carriers (APCs) parked, then the forest and the foot of the little mountain that has the castle on it. If you look hard you can see the wall locker says DACRUZ on the door. And the Martin guitar that I still have, miraculously, on top of my my foot locker. My bunk is to the left, made up for inspection (it had to be like this every day except Sunday). Next, some APCs about to cross a river... they can swim! I drove these things a couple times, it's fun. Next, my friend Birdie driving an APC. And then my tanker boots. Being in the Cavalry entitled us to wear these instead of the lace-up kind, for extra "readiness" in case of Soviet attack; no tame wasted fiddling with laces.

The color item is a 1964 issue of Will Eisner's PS Magazine, the monthly Preventive Maintenance magazine distributed all over every Army base everywhere, humorously explaining how not to screw up the multitude of little jobs we had to do, especially in the motor pool.

Kapaun Kaserne motor pool
Kapaun Kaserne motor pool
M60 tanks
M60 tanks
M60 tanks on train
M60 tanks on train
In the field
APCs in the field, taking a break
Some random pictures I didn't take, from Walter Elkins' US Army in Germany website; they are all of my unit at the same time I was in it. The motor pool was where all the vehicles (jeeps, trucks, APCs, and tanks) were kept and maintained. About once a month I had motor-pool guard duty, where I had to walk around the perimiter with my rifle all night long, until sunrise. I always expected some KGB (Soviet) or HVA (East German) stringer to come out of the forest and start quizzing me about everything, but that only happened in bars. The M60 tank was the core around which the whole squadron was organized, everything else was in support of the tanks, which took the place of the original cavalry horses. One very cold night we loaded them onto flatbed railroad cars, securing them with heavy chains for the 200-mile trip to the tank range at Grafenwöhr; my gloves were ragged and torn and it was the closest I ever came to serious frostbite. The last picture shows a typical trip to "the field", trips that usually lasted a week or two, living in the woods for the duration of the exercise.

On war games, we'd sleep in our individual canvas pup tents in sleeping bags (made of cloth and feathers) on top of inflated rubber mattresses, which we'd inflate with jeep exhaust. This was a non-waterproof alternative to the shelter-half method described earlier. I would usually be working in the big CP tent, morning reports or whatever (simulated casualties). One night when I was sleeping a pipsqueak second lieutenant threw a live tear gas canister into my pup tent! You know, to test my READINESS...

On a more serious note, once I was kept back from maneuvers for some reason, to hold down the fort or whatever. I was on KP in the mess hall, working in the kitchen, when one of the cooks came and gave me a bucket and a sponge and sent me to the clipper room at the opposite end, which is where they wash the trays and cups and bowls, and get to work on the wall and the radiator. Because it was simulated combat, even those of us who remained on base were armed and wearing combat gear. Some guys in the clipper room were horsing around... actually I don't know what they were doing, but a gun went off and the bullet exploded a guy's head. I didn't even hear it. The MPs had already come and gone; they had cut out the piece of the plywood wall that had the bullet hole but left behind all blood, brains, skull fragments, scalp and hair on wall, floor, and radiator, and I cleaned it up.

Anyway, field maneuvers could have been fun... They start with a huge convoy of trucks, Jeeps, APCs, and tanks going for hours along narrow secondary roads through small villages and finally entering a forest somewhere and making camp. The way I remember it, every single time it was bright and sunny when we set out, but as we approached our destination there were huge black clouds looming overhead, and when we arrived it was pouring erain, and we lived in rain and mud the whole time.

On another big exercise I didn't go on, when an M108 self-propelled Howitzer was going through a little village, its radio antenna made contact with a power line, which started a fire, which caused the thing to explode and everybody in it was killed.

Milk dispenser
Milk dispenser
Germany was still relatively poor in the early Sixties, and to Germans we Americans — even low-ranking soldiers — seemed immensely wealthy. As late as the early-to-mid Sixties, a lot of Germans were still beggars. A typical incident will illustrate… I was on KP one day, in the mess hall where there were some milk machines, which were loaded with six-gallon containers (plastic bags encased in cardboard boxes about 1x1x2 feet) of white milk and of chocolate milk. Apparently we were overstocked so the mess officer (another pipsqueak Lieutenant) told me to take about 10 of these — sixty gallons of perfectly good fresh milk — out into the courtyard and dump them down the drain. When I got them outside I saw there was German family with small children on the other side of the chain-link fence asking for food. I suggested to the Lieutenant that we give them some of the milk. He said no, dump it all down the drain. After some fruitless arguing I told the family in German that the little officer would not let me give them the milk and started pouring it down the drain while the family made horrified sounds. After I finished the first box, I picked up the second box and dropped it at the Lieutenant's feet, where it exploded. He was soaked with milk and shouting at me in his squeaky voice. I wish I had a good ending for this story but honestly, I can't recall what happened after that. I hope I gave some milk to the family, but it would have been hard to get it over the high fence — each container was over 40 pounds.

German headline
Kennedy Erschossen
I was at a bar in Kaiserslautern when JFK was killed, with Roger I think. Here's how I explained it to my friend George Gilmer (1943-2020):
B-girls, as you know, were just working girls whose job was simple, you buy them drinks and they sit and talk with you. Of course the waiters bring them fake drinks with no alcohol, so they can do it all night. I found out that JFK was killed from a B-girl at a bar in Kaiserslautern. She had just heard it on German radio, she told us how it happened… his motorcade was going over a bridge, and he was shot from a boat below. She drew a diagram on a beer coaster with a ball-point pen. I wish I had saved the beer coaster. About two minutes later the MPs came crashing in and loaded us on 3/4-ton trucks back to base. We stayed up all night in the barracks with loaded guns and full combat regalia waiting for the Soviet tanks to come rumbling across the Fulda Gap but by midday the next day (Saturday) nothing had happened, so since WWIII didn't start they un-canceled all leaves and passes and Rog and I went to Frankfurt to see if anybody was still there that I knew, and sure enough Virginia Search, who was a cheerleader with my ex-girlfriend Pam, was there and since her dad was an NCO she took us the NCO club for lunch, even though Rog and I were only privates. Then we went to check out the high school and in a Felliniesque touch there was a circus underway on the athletic field; an elephant broke loose, crashed down the fence and ran away down Siolistrasse. That night or the next, I was in a station of the new Frankfurt U-Bahn (subway) when a newsboy came running down the steps, screaming the headline "Kennedys Mörder Ermordet!". Kennedy was adored in Germany because he came to Berlin after the Wall went up and said "Ich bin ein Berliner!" Every shop window had a shrine to him and this lasted for many years.
Speaking of B-girls, it was said that in Kaiserslautern (which had a huge proliferation of American military bases), 50% of the German population was on the KGB or HVA payroll, including probably 100% of the B-girls. It was not uncommon for a girl to sit down with you in a bar and start asking questions like… Which Kaserne are you at? Which unit? How many tanks do you have? What kind? Where is the ammunition stored? I always answered all their questions.

Das Spinnrädl
Das Spinnrädl
Not that I only went to bars in Kaiserslautern; there was also one semi-upscale restaurant, Spinnrädl (The Spinning Wheel), dating from 1509, one of the few old buildings in the city that wasn't flattened by Allied bombing, that we went to fairly often even though it was a bit pricey. The menu (sorry, no longer online) is written in Dialekt: Lewwerworschtebrot (liverwurst sandwich), Ofenbraten mit Speckböhnscher und Schneebällscher (roast pork with bacon bits and "snowballs"), Handkäse mit Musik (a kind of pungent cheese with onion sauce that makes you fart, which is the music).

Uncle Pete at Frankfurt Book Fair
Uncle Pete at Frankfurt Book Fair
At one point when I was in K-Town (as the GIs called it) my uncle Pete and aunt Leila were in Frankfurt for the annual book fair and I went and stayed with them there for a week. I had planned to hitchhike around Holland but it was more fun being with them; they were a truly glamourous and fascinating couple. At one point Pete and I were walking past a milk bar with Beatles music coming out (in 1964 you could hear Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand and Sie Liebt Dich everywhere, as well as the English versions) and he let on that he was a big fan, which shows how different he was from his brother. Pete and Leila urged me to come and visit them in Lebanon; I never did but wish I had.

(I know I said something like this before, but it bears repeating...) Being in the Army was like living in a socialist economy. You worked, and in return all the essentials of life — food, clothing (uniforms), lodging, medical care, even tailoring and laundry — were totally free. Even college courses in night school. Furthermore, in those days there were no corporate concessions on Army bases… no Pizza Huts, McDonalds, Starbucks, big-box stores… Everything was government and nonprofit. Even the food in the mess hall was non-corporate, like the famous "government peanut butter" — no brand names. You were paid a salary but you had no fixed expenses or bills, so you could use your money for whatever you wanted. As a PFC (1963) I earned $99/month, and as an SP4 (1965) $185. Dollars went a long way in postwar Germany, where you could get a good meal in a restaurant for four Marks (a dollar), trolley fare was maybe 15 cents, a half liter of beer was a quarter. The stores and restaurants on the base (PX, snack bar, EM club) were nonprofit and subsidized, and there were tons of facilities available to use for free: gyms, music rooms, pool and ping-pong tables, bowling alleys, running tracks… and theaters that showed first-run movies, admission 25 cents.

Just a few years later the dollar-Mark exchange rate got so bad that GIs could barely afford to go into town. But staying on the base was still like socialism with nonprofit subsidized housing for dependents, excellent schools for dependent children, nonprofit supermarket ("commissary"), free medical care for the whole family, etc. Not to mention service clubs (that served alcohol), movie theaters, libraries, etc. Besides military people and their families, all this was also open to DAC's — Department of the Army Civilians — such as my teachers or, for that matter, my own father (DAC was his CIA cover in Germany). If you have ever lived this way, you see see dog-eat-dog capitalism in a whole different light.

Since all essentials for living were provided, if you lost your entire paycheck on payday in a poker game (as many GIs did) you could still eat, have a place to live, get medical care, and have your laundry done. All without money. (But if you had a family, their food was not free, so it was bad news for a married GI to lose his whole paycheck; nevertheless, it happened a lot.)

On the far side of Hohenecken was a big swimming hole called Gelterswoog that only Germans went to. One time Roger and I and some other guys went and spent the day swimming and hanging out, and made friends with a lot of Germans… I remember heated discussions among them, "Rolling Stones ist besser!" (pronounced with guttural R and "St" like in "Straße").... "Ne, ne, Beatles ist besser!", back and forth 100 times (this was like 1964). We all agreed to have a big cookout for dinner, a huge bonfire was lit using old rubber tires as fuel. I had my guitar and we were all singing, and it turned out I knew a lot of German songs which they thought was pretty remarkable, so I played one after another and all the Germans sang along. Then I started another one, "Ich hatt' einen Kameraden" and a woman wagged her finger at me in a way that meant "Not that one, it's a Nazi song". It wasn't really; it was 150 years old but I guess the Nazis had adopted it so I moved along. (Ironically, I did NOT play "Die Heimat ist weit doch wir sind bereit, wir kämpfen und siegen.... Freiiiii-HEIT!" because I thought it WAS a Nazi song but it turns out to be from the German International Brigades that fought on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil war, oh well...) Anyway it was a pretty atmospheric night, the huge bonfire blazing with a thick black plume of toxic smoke hundreds of feet into the sky… Eventually we wandered back to the base in the dark through the foggy fields and forests and the hole in the back fence.

DP camp

Kaiserslautern forest
Forest near Kaiserslautern
Roger and I liked to explore; we'd drive around the Rheinland to towns like Lauterecken, Landstuhl, Koblenz, Bad Dürkheim, Hochspeyer, Bad Kreuznach, Worms, Idar-Oberstein, Neustadt, Bingen, Bitburg, Baumholder, Pirmasens, Zweibrücken.... or go on epic hikes in the forests and low-rise mountains around Kaiserslauten. One day, deep in a forest (the same day the photo at right was taken), miles from any paved road, we came upon a Displaced Persons camp. It was a big clearing with rough-hewn wooden barracks buildings, a mess hall, and some other buildings — like an Army Kaserne, but more rustic. Each building was labeled (in English) with a nationality, like Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, Romania. These were DPs from WWII. It didn't even occur to me at the time to wonder why there were still DP camps almost twenty years after the war, but most likely they had been Nazis themselves, perhaps in the Ukrainian, Hungarian, Romanian, Estonian, or other SS divisions who might have faced punishment or execution if they were repatriated. I wonder how much longer they were there, and who was in charge of the camp — I suspect it was the US Army.

The story of the DP camps is told in DPs: Europe's Displaced Persons, 1945–51 by Mark Wyman (Cornell University Press, 1989-1998). The camps were administered by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), and by 1951 (or, according to Wikipedia, 1957, or 1959 at the latest) all DPs should have been resettled or relocated and all the clamps closed. Anyway the camp Roger and I saw was in the middle of nowhere; the country names on the buildings were in English and it had the look of a US Army post. It seemed to be deliberately isolated and hidden. By the way, an excellent movie about DPs in postwar Germany is The Search, Fred Zinnemann (1948), with Montgomery Clift, filmed on location in the rubble of Germany with actual DPs.

Theater group

Army friends
Barnes, Munn, and Stewart
Army wall lockers
Barnes on a Sunday
In Kaisers­lautern I had two sets of friends: one, regular (non-arty, non-college) guys like Roger, plus some other guys that I made music with in the barracks (one, in particular, who liked to sing Nat King Cole songs with me accompanying), and then some "artsy" guys with college degrees or at least some college (Barnes, Munn, and Stewart) who liked art, literature, and classical music instead of the standard beer, pool, and rock or country music. The arty guys had all been drafted, of course, whereas many of the regular guys (like Rog and me) had enlisted. Munn convinced me to join the theater group he was in, where I mainly just built the sets, but I was also the "orchestra" in a week-long production of A Taste of Honey. Another play we did was The Fantasticks, but they had a real pianist for that one, not to mention a cast member of the original show in NYC (as the mummy). For some reason, those songs were favorites of the Freedom Riders, who sang them in the buses going south. In New York The Fantasticks ran for 57 years.

Taste of Honey poster 1964
"A Taste of Honey" poster 1964
Taste of Honey program p.1
Program page 1
Taste of Honey program p.2
Program page 2
Taste of Honey program p.3
Program page 3
Taste of Honey program p.4
Program page 4

A Taste of Honey was written by an 18-year-old British girl, Shelagh Delaney; it's about working class people in the industrial north of England, interracial romance, mixed-race babies born out of wedlock, gay people, alcoholic mothers, etc, pretty gritty for its time. It was made into a film that sparked the whole British New Wave (and the career of Rita Tushingham), and the Beatles recorded the song too. Kind of subversive for an Army base, but not surprising since Kaiserslautern Community Theater describes itself as "non-profit, non-secret, non-violent, non-militant, non-sectarian theatrical association". The people were a mixture of all ranks, genders, sexual preferences, and races. And "military courtesy" was checked at the door.

The mother and daughter in the play were mother and daughter in real life: Sandi Ramsey (listed as Mrs. Paul Ramsey on the program) and her daughter Connie (listed as Constance Asbury). The mother was bossy, controlling, and high-strung and was forcing Connie to act in the play, which made her miserable and a nervous wreck. Connie was the only girl I had a date with the whole time I was in the Army and all we did on the date was talk about her mother. Since I had a somewhat similar experience with my father, I was able to sympathize. I said just get the heck out as fast as you can, like I did. Who knows, maybe she joined the Army!

Being in a play while in the Army was tricky because you had to be in bed by 10:00pm lights-out bed check but the play ran until after that and it was pretty far away. For staying out late, some people used the old duffle-bag-under the covers trick but it rarely worked. I invented a better trick... Since our room in the barracks had 15-20 people, it would be easy to overlook if one of the beds was missing, especially if you rearranged the other beds so there was no gaping space. So I'd strip my bed, put the bedding in my wall locker, fold up the bed frame, and put it behind the wall locker. The OD (officer on duty who did the bed check) just looked to see if each bed was occupied, but never actually counted them, heh heh.

Sitges, Spain

1949 Volkswagen
1949 VW controls
1949 Volkswagen
1949 Volkswagen (nicer than mine)
Well one time the arty guys all went on leave for a week or two on the Spanish Costa Brava to place called Sitges. When they came back they made it sound so good that I went there later with two of my regular-guy friends (I can't remember who they were) in the green 1949 VW I bought for $50, which was pretty beat up, doors rusted shut, etc, not shiny like the one in these photos. You had to get in and out through the sunroof. Not easy to drive either, you had to double-clutch when shifting down, synchromesh didn't come until years later. I actually took some photos of it but the camera was stolen with the film still in it. It had graffiti all over it, hammers and sickles, peace signs, Workers of the World Unite in Russian — Пролетарии всех стран, соединяйтесь! — Nobody ever bothered me about it. Some features of this car: turn signals are in the doorposts between the side windows, they light up and flip up and down with a distinctive whacking noise (the proper automotive term is "semaphores"). Small divided back window. Floor shift. No heater. The little black thing above the driveshaft bump switches between the main gas tank to the reserve tank, so when you run out of gas you can still go another 40 miles. This was in lieu of a gas gauge. At some point in Kaiserslautern the VW conked out and I took off the USAREUR license plates, left it on the side of the Autobahn, and hitchhiked back to base. Around the same time Roger bought a VW of his own, a 1954 — same color — that even had a heater.

Guardia Civil
Guardia Civil
To get to Sitges, we drove over the Alps, through Milano and Genoa down to the Mediterranean coast: the Italian, French, and Spanish Rivieras. The Italian resort towns like San Remo were pretty awful, the water full of garbage that stank so bad it was impossible sit in an outdoor café under the Cinzano umbrella. We stopped in Antibes (or was it San Tropez?) hoping to catch a glimpse of Brigitte Bardot. It was a long trip, 1300km; we slept on the beach several times, including once in Spain where we were rousted by scary-looking Guardia Civil, Franco's fascist police with capes, rifles, and shiny black tricornio hats. We spent a few hours driving around Barcelona, a huge, grim, colorless, depressing city in those fascist times, as depicted in the novels of Carlos Ruiz Zafón (but we did see Gaudi's Sagrada Familia when it was not covered by scaffolding).

Sitges 1964
We spent about a week in Sitges, drank way too much — Rioja from bota (wineskin) and porón, endless gallons of sangría, which I never knew about before — but in sober moments I joined in playing flamenco guitar in some of the "caves" frequented by construction workers covered in plaster dust who knew the intricate compás, palmas clapping methods, and also played music with some British proto-hippies I met.

Sitges 1964
Sitges Spain 1964
Sitges 1964
Sitges 1964
British friends in Sitges
British friends
While I was in Sitges I made some pretty good ink drawings including the two on the left; one is a beach scene (in those days Sitges was a fishing village, hence all the boats on the beach), the other is one of the British guys I met the caves (you can see a porón on the shelf) with a friend, probably in was La Taverna on Calle San Pedro. This guy grew up in a pub in Hastings (third image), was bumming around the Mediterranean coast with a band; he showed me how to play "Don't think twice, it's alright"... I didn't know about 9th chords before! The drawings are done mainly with German Rapidograf drafting pens (see more drawings).

After Sitges

NSU Prinz
NSU Prinz (not the same one)
Meanwhile I went on lots of other excursions with the artsy guys. One of them had bought an NSU Prinz (a tiny German 2-seater that we would cram four people into) and we'd go to places like Worms, Heidelberg, Koblenz, Bad Kreuznach, I forget where else. It was so small that if there was a parking space that was too short to get into by parallel parking, we could just pick it up and drop it in the space. Also one time we went to the Kaiserslautern Stiftskirche (built 1250-1350) for a performance of Bach's St. Matthew's Passion. (I also went to a performance of Bach's Christmas Oratorio at a big church in Stuttgart, probably with Roger; I don't remember doing it but I have the ticket stub so I must have.) On another excursion, I forget exactly where to, Mannheim maybe, in winter with a lot of snow on the ground, we were walking around when I stepped off the curb without looking and a car hit me and sent me flying about 10 feet; the lady driving the car was beyond upset but I was fine, I landed on a big soft pile of fluffy snow.

Painting of me
Painting of me by Munn (now lost)
Anyway, one day one of my artsy friends came to tell me that they had been busted for being queer and were being sent back to the States and discharged. I had no idea they were gay, I barely even knew what gay was. (Not all the artsy crowd were gay, but all the gays were artsy; also some of the gay guys had already gotten out of the Army by the time this happened.)
This guy, by the way, was a white guy from Bulawayo, Rhodesia, John Hugh Stuart-Munn, who had a degree in architecture at the University of Cape Town. He was active in the anti-apartheid movement and had been arrested so many times he had to get out so he came to the USA. But was drafted almost immediately. He said in South Africa they could hold you without charges for 180 days; for anti-apartheid whites, they'd turn you loose and then arrest you again as soon as you stepped on the sidewalk, over and over which happened to him I don't know how many times.)
I spent their last week with them and they showed me their whole world, parties, bars, etc. A whole secret underground world. Then they were gone. I realized that, aside from Ken Nicol (next paragraph), they were the only ones who got sex on a regular basis, or at all. In February 1965 I wrote letters vouching for their fine qualities as workers and human beings. In the end, as Munn reported to me later, "We got General Discharges under Honorable Conditions, and were not reduced to lowest Enlisted Grade, so we got away almost scot-free and except for a slight stain on our reputations we are as good as the next man who served out his misery in full." He went straight to Berkeley where Stewart and Barnes were waiting for him.

Last Supper
"Last Supper" by Munn
Munn by Barnes
In May 2015, one of the artsy crowd (Stewart) noticed my web stuff and contacted me. He told me Munn had died of AIDS in San Francisco in 1988. Meanwhile it was only recently that I found out that Sitges is the biggest gay destination on the planet. If it was then, I didn't notice. Stu sent me the Last Supper drawing, which would take a week to explain, but you can see me in it, and Roger, Barnes, Munn, and Stewart. Sergeant Seltzer, top left, was not only a Sergeant in the US Army and a major wheeler-dealer in a class with Sergeant Bilko — he was the Mayor of Neustadt! Ken Nicol, butt cheek seen protruding from the clouds at top, left of center, was the only one in the whole place who had a girlfriend, Trudi, whose leg is shown. (The clouds are for people who had already left, the people at bottom were still there. One of the cloud guys is Poage; I visited him when I came to NY, he lived in a bombed out building on East 12th Street near Avenue D that didn't even have any street lights; I went there one night on my motorcycle.)
  1. 3rd Cavalry Regiment, Wikipedia, accessed 3 March 2020. Wherever the USA was stealing land from Indians or Mexicans, wherever it was invading countries that never posed any threat to the USA, the 3rd ACR was there. The only bright spots were that it fought on the Union side in our Civil War and it fought the Nazis in WWII.
  2. Blood and Steel – The history, customs, and traditions of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment, Third Cavalry Museum, 2008.
  3. 3d Cavalry Regiment Museum, Fort Hood, Texas.
  4. Kaiserslautern Military Community hosts memorial to Father Emil Kapaun to be awarded Medal of Honor, US Army 21st TSC Public Affairs Office, April 5, 2013 (we lived an worked in Kapaun Barracks).
  5. Medal of Honor recipient and Korean War Soldier accounted for, US Army Public Affairs, 5 March 2021.
  6. 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, at USARMYGERMANY.com by Walter Elkins: 3rd ACR history and overview of each Squadron with photos (some used in this history, with permission).

Transfer to Stuttgart

Patch Barracks
Patch Barracks Stuttgart-Vaihingen
When a bunch of your friends are "disappeared" by the organization you work for, it kind of spoils the ambiance. Since at this point Roger and I both worked at Regimental headquarters, we saw everything that came in, including a call for volunteers to sign up for "computer training" in Stuttgart. We transferred ourselves to 7th Army Headquarters. At that point one or the other of us — I forget — was the Regimental orders clerk (Roger says it was me), so we cut the orders knowing the CO would sign anything we put on his desk. Somewhere in January or February 1965 we drove to Stuttgart in Roger's VW and it was like driving through a 3D Christmas card.

Side trip: Cutting orders

Stencil machine
Army orders
About "cutting orders"... You may have heard the term, but why "cut"? From the 1920s or 30s up through at least the 60s or 70s, military orders were indeed "cut". The first image at right is an Army order from 1963, the one sending me to Fort Jackson after taking the oath in Baltimore. If you click to enlarge it you can see it looks almost just like it came from a typewriter, but it didn't.

Anyway, when typing on paper and you hit a key, it shoots up the associated typebar, which whacks the ink ribbon, which presses the image of the character onto the paper (similar to a rubber stamp and inkpad). The result of typing is normally a sheet of paper with typewritten text on it. If you want extra copies you can use carbon paper, but there's a limit to how many legible copies you can get that way. If you need LOTS of copies, you can use either a mimeograph machine or a stencil machine. In the Army we had stencils (obviously there are more options nowadays).

A stencil is a long sheet of blue waxy stuff, typically 8½×18", that can be run through a typewriter — just like paper — but with a different result. When typing a stencil, the type bar whacks into the waxy stuff, punching (cutting) a hole in the shape of the letter; thus the orders are "cut". When you're finished typing you put the blue rubbery sheet around the stencil drum and then you turn the crank around and around to produce the desired number of paper copies (or if it's an electric machine, you set the number and push the Start button). The stencil machine forces ink through the cut-out character shapes onto the paper. Later, if you need more copies, you can make them from the same master (stencil). A military headquarters would typically have a room where dozens or hundreds of stencils were hung up to dry like laundry on a clothesline until they were no longer needed. You can find a more graphic description of a stencil machine (Roneo) on p.152 of the WWII historical novel Library Spy by Madeline Martin, Hanover Square Press, 2022.

The stencil business was just one aspect of Army orders. Another was that an order should be as short as possible, and this was done by abbreviating all sorts of common words and phrases as specified in the Army Abbreviations and Acronyms manual, as shown in the sample order: "Fol indiv RA this sta on EDCSA indic AR 601-210 and AR 601-215" (the following individuals enlisted Regular Army this station on Effective Date of Change of Strength Accountability indicated in Army Regulation 601-210 and Army Regulation 601-215); "all indiv UNOINDC" (all individuals unless otherwise indicated); "Asg: USARECSTA..." (Assignment: US Army Receiving Station..."); "Indiv WP via..." (Individual will proceed via...), etc etc. You can see a 1985 version of the manual HERE.

7th Army Headquarters, Patch Barracks, Vaihingen

Bad Dürkheim Weinfest
Bad Dürkheim Weinfest
Bad Dürkheim Weinfest
Bad Dürkheim Weinfest
We were stationed at a big former Nazi military complex in Vaihingen and lived in ex-Nazi barracks (unlike the base at Kaiserslautern, which was postwar) — Patch Barracks, originally Kurmärker Kaserne, constructed around 1936. Stuttgart didn't have much charm, but we drove all over the surrounding area on our days off, mostly liking little rural villages such as Klein­ingersheim, gypsy camps, traveling circuses like Willy Hagenbeck, wine festivals like in Bad Dürkheim (photos by Roger), and when we had some leave we'd go up the Mosel or the Rhein, to Belgium, Luxembourg, and Holland. We liked Klein­ingersheim so much we spent a lot of time there, it was a real country village, the streets were full of manure and hay and chickens, and the Gasthaus there served huge portions of whatever you ordered, and it was dirt cheap. It was perched on the hilltop overlooking the Neckar river, and the slopes were vineyards.

Camping out
Camping out (Roger's VW)
Schiller College
Schiller College, Kleiningersheim, 1965
Kleiningersheim was also home to Schiller College, a very small institution occupying a 16th-Century castle (with parts that dated back to the 11th century; not at all unusual in Germany) and specializing in "spend a year in Germany" for students from the US and Britain for immersion in German language and culture. Best of all, at harvest time all the students and faculty worked full time in the vineyards. I got their literature and I was seriously considering going there after the Army, especially since it cost only $1700 for the whole year including room and board and medical care. But the timing was not right; I got out in February but school didn't start until September. By the way I also almost went to SUNY New Palz instead of Columbia because it had trimesters and I could have got an early release from the Army if I was admitted. Can't remember why I didn't do it; at the time I had no plan to go to Columbia. Schiller College moved to Heidelberg in 1983 and now it's like a chain, with branches in different countries.

Tübingen Neckarfront
Tübingen with pole boats
Another favorite destination was Tübingen, a picturesque university town, also on the Neckar, about 30km from Stuttgart. Roger and I were fascinated by the many Stocherkähne (pole boats, punts) moored on the riverbank. Anybody could take them out, no charge, no bureaucracy, no supervision, no nothing. On a typical Spring or Summer day the river would be full of students and other people poling back and forth or just drifting along under the overhanging willows.

Dachau stone
Stone from Dachau camp
Dachau ovens
Dachau ovens (Wikipedia)
Another time the Army sent us to Berch­tes­gaden in the high Alps for a week of midwinter R&R. On the way we visited the Dachau concen­tration camp; it's right in the middle of the town, there's no way the residents didn't know what was going on with hordes of people arriving by train all the time and nobody leaving, while the crematorium smokestacks that dominated the skyline constantly pumped out thick smoke.

Berchtesgaden was where Hitler and his friends had lived only 20 years before. While we were there Roger and I climbed the Kehlstein [1800m] to the Eagle's Nest (which I had been to with my family when I was 14), it was the only time I used my expensive German mountain-climbing boots. We had no idea what we were doing and we nearly killed ourselves lots of times. We made it to the top somehow, had tea in the teahouse, but instead of climbing back down we took Hitler's elevator. I still have the boots but they no longer fit because my feet grew three sizes when I started running!

Stuttgart is in Baden-Württemberg in the southwest part of Germany traditionally known as Schwaben, and they speak very differently but Rog and I adapted. The first thing you notice is that they don't say "Guten Tag", they say "Grüß Gott", which they pronounce "grease gut" (I read somewhere that this greeting arose as a presumably safe alternative to "Heil Hitler"). But also they have a lot of unique vocabulary, they leave off the last part of words, and they use different verb endings and diminutives. Plus they eat Spätzle (little flour-egg dumplings) with every meal, which were unknown in the Rheinland, at least to me. And unlike in the Rheinland, there were lots of cozy, quiet little Weinstuben (wine bars).

My first "computer" job

Card punched by me at 7th Army CCIS in 1965
IBM 026 Key Punch
IBM 026 Key Punch
In Stuttgart they put me to work in the 7th Army HQ Resident Study Group (RSG) on the Command and Control Infor­mation Systems (CCIS) project as a key puncher, serving a roomful of (what seemed to me at the time as) humorless suit-wearing civilian contract program­mers who sat at their desks all day filling in Fortran coding forms. I was also in charge of the giant coffee urn. The boss of the place was a general; I'd never been anywhere near a general before. When we went on maneuvers I'd do the keypunching in the woods, in a big truck trailer full of key punches and verifiers, powered by an automobile-sized gasoline generator on wheels. The computer was an IBM 1401, I never had the least idea what it was being programmed for but I assumed it was some kind of computer-controlled death and destruction, but no, it was just bookkeeping; many years later I heard from Wade Harper who was one of the programmers:
It's hard to believe that we had 12 E6's and 12 E7's, 3 Lt's and 2 or 3 WO to program a computer with JUST 8K of memory. The 1401 was programmed for MRS (Military Report System) in the field. Which was a simple sequential database on tape. 1 block for each report. Each Hq office would submit info in card format which was put to tape as input to MRS. We could hardly program anything with just 8K ram. Every report had to be the same format. No individual calculations. We were barnstorming one day and Jodie Powers wondered if we could somehow put 1 or 2K of code on the tape with each block of data. Then we could individualize each report. So I finally got it programmed and it work very well. We also programmed stuff for garrison work. I had all the conventional ammo in Europe. Spurling (because he spoke German) and I think Jerry Cook, had the marching orders program (in case of war). I don't remember the other projects. We went around to a lot of Battalion headquarters begging for work. I stayed in the Army for 20 years. Then worked as a Systems Programmer on the IBM 360/370 and others until I retired for good in 1996. I was fortunate to learn computer programming in the Army.

Wiring a plugboard
Wiring a plugboard (not me)
Plugboard installed in machine
Plugboard in place

Anyway I became a wizard at key punching, the fastest ever, because I was a 120wpm touch typer and I figured out how to make program cards for the IBM 026 (i.e. I RTFM'd). I forget what Roger was doing, I think he may have been a driver for our company commander. Finally they sent me (but not Roger) to Computer School, which was a collection of quonset huts in the forest outside Orléans (France), where we learned to program everything BUT computers! Mainly "unit record" equipment (that operate on punch cards): sorters, duplicators, collators, interpreters, tabulators, and accounting machines: the big grey mechanical iron boxes from before there were what we consider to be computers today (Von-Neuman architecture, stored program, etc). The programming was done by sticking jumper wires into plugboards; see my computing history site for details if you're interested (look for Tabulators and the IBM 407).

Orléans Cathedral
I was there for about a month. There was a shuttle bus into town; one day I saw the play "Jeanne D'Arc" in the 13th-century Sainte-Croix Cathedral (1945 photo at right from Lee Miller's War*). She (Joan) attended Mass there and led a force that lifted the English siege during the Hundred Years War (the play was in English, but I don't remember which of the 400 plays about her it was: Schiller, Shaw, Brecht, Anderson...?)

Photos by John Martin:
Me in Stuttgart barracks 1965
Me in Stuttgart barracks 1965
Me in Stuttgart barracks 1965
Me in Stuttgart barracks 1965
Me at unit picnic 1965
Enjoying a unit picnic 1965
* Lee Miller's War, edited by Antony Penrose, Thames & Hudson (2005).


Olympia Press book
An Olympia Press book 1960s
Beatniks under Pont Neuf 1965
While in Orléans I would generally take the train to Paris by myself every weekend where I wandered around and saw everything. I usually stayed in a miserable pensión on the Rue de la Huchette, which was then just a stinky little alley, and now is a gaudy tourist mecca, and at least on one or two occasions I slept under the Pont Neuf, just to be able to say I did… "Down and Out in Paris"… I hung around the West Bank, the intersection of Saint-Michel and Saint-Germaine, headquarters of the Bohemians and Beatniks not long before; the Shakespeare and Company bookstore, which sold "underground" books (books banned in the US: Olympia Press etc), sat in outdoor cafés and even met some people that way… The Luxembourg Gardens, the Tuileries, the Jeu de Paume,
Me at Paris bookstall
Me at Paris bookstall on the Seine 1988
the book stalls along the riverbank (where I discovered Gustav Doré, thumbing through some books), eating at street vendors, etc etc blah blah (my French vocabulary was limited to pommes frites and un fraise de soisson centimes). I walked and walked until my feet hurt too much to walk any more and then I rode on the metro. Paris is one of the few places where I spent time in the 1960s that still looks almost exactly the same, except for all the gentrification. In 1975 I would come back with Mommie, and again in 1988 on a Kermit trip where we were taken to outrageously expensive restaurants such as the one on the Ile de la Cité (near Notre Dame).

Race and Integration in the Army of the early 1960s

"The army of the 1950s was America's most racially and economically egalitarian institution, providing millions with education, technical skills, athletics, and other opportunities" —Brian McAllister Linn, Elvis's Army[9].

Fort Gordon unit 1960s
Fort Gordon, Georgia, unit 1960s
Of course the Army was integrated when I was in it. In fact, it was FIERCELY integrated. Any kind of racist talk or behavior was severely punished. It was a revelation to see white redneck drill sergeants in Georgia excoriating every kind of racism. Also, there was no religious prosyletizing then. Religion was totally voluntary and was not forced on anybody. For that matter, there wasn't any jingoism or anti-communism either. It was totally non-political in my experience. Just people learning and doing their jobs (or goofing off). (Obviously racism, jingoism, and anticommunism took off in Vietnam when the war got big in 1965, but I was never exposed to any of that in Germany.) (Another aside: I never had a German girl friend or even a date with any German girl, hardly any of the white soldiers did. Because German girls preferred Black GIs[8]).

(Drug use and Black Power… I saw no drugs the whole time I was in the Army, and there was only one Black guy in my unit who was openly hostile to white people. Things changed pretty fast just after I got out.)

I read an eye-opening book in 2016, "GIs and Fräuleins" by Maria Höhn[2]. It seems Truman's 1948 order to integrate the armed forces was met with massive foot-dragging and as late as 1952 most units, including those in Germany, were still totally segregated. Apparently there was a lot of racial conflict within the Army up until about 1960. White GIs would go into town and demand that their favorite bars put up big signs saying "White only, no colored". Other bars took advantage by putting up "Colored only" signs. This was against German law but they did it anyway, so effectively there was segregation in the small towns around Army bases (but not big cities like Frankfurt), and the Army did nothing to discourage it. Germans justified it by saying they were only doing what the Americans did. The off-base hostility reached such heights that there was an all-out race war in Baumholder in 1955 — gun battles in town between Black and white troops with fatalities — and several others in Kaiserslautern in 1956-57, only 6-7 years before I arrived there in 1963.

Little Rock 1957
Little Rock, Arkansas, 1957
The segregation and conflict produced such a huge public relations coup for East Germany and the USSR that the military units were forcibly integrated and the Army put all the segregated establishments in Germany off-limits to GIs, thus effectively integrating them; this was a few years before Eisenhower enforced integration of Little Rock schools with (apparently all-white) armed troops. A year after I was in Augusta GA and could not enter any bar or restaurant with my Black friends, they did the same for segregated establishments the American South.

German dance club 1960s
German dance club 1960s[2]
When Black occupation troops first arrived in 1945, Germans welcomed them and for many Blacks this was their first taste of freedom — to go into any establishment, to interact with other human beings on an equal basis, to not have to fear arrest or worse for failing to act deferentially towards white people. Many thousands of Black GIs stayed in Germany for that reason, many of them married into German families after discharge. The stories that were spread about Black GIs getting German girls pregnant and going back to the States without them are often misleading; from direct experience I know the Army would send Black soldiers who they learned had a German girlfriend back to the States. And if the woman tried to follow, the US Consulate would deny her a visa.

Jutta Hipp
Jutta Hipp about 1950
My very first job upon arriving at the 3rd Armored Cavalry was "marriage counselor"; I was supposed to make it impossible for GIs and German girls to marry (by drowning them in paperwork), but I did the paperwork for them so didn't last long in that role. Anyway applications by Black GIs to marry German girls were routinely refused by their commanding officers. A notable example was Jutta Hipp[11,12], a highly regarded German Jazz pianist who formed a combo just after the war that played in bars and clubs frequented by American GIs in Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich, and other cities where she met a Black American GI who was also a jazz musician who was not allowed to marry her. She named her son with him Lionel, after Lionel Hampton.

I went through the Army with a couple guys from the Alabama outback, one white and the other black. They had grown up in the same little town and had never spoken to one another, but once they found themselves in the Army together they became inseperable (I remember on long bus or truck rides, they would sleep cuddled up together). At the end of three years, about to go back home, they told me they had to say goodbye to each other forever.

References - Source material and recommended reading...
  1. MacGregor, Morris J., Integration of the Armed Forces 1940-1965, Office of Military History, United States Army, Washington DC (1981).
  2. Höhn, Maria, GIs and Fräuleins - The German-American Encounter in 1950s West Germany, University of North Carolina Press (2002).
  3. Lemza, John W., American Military Communities in West Germany - Life in the Cold War Badlands, 1945-1990, McFarland & Company (2016).
  4. Dewey Arthur Browder, The Impact of the American Presence on Germans and German-American Grass Roots Relations in Germany, 1950-1960, Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College PhD dissertation (1987), 274 pages.
  5. Grossman, Victor, A Socialist Defector — From Harvard to Karl-Marx-Allee, Monthly Review Press (2019). Defections from East to West were highly publicized; defections in the opposite direction were hushed up but I was in a position to hear about them and this book confirms it.
  6. Adams Earley, Charity, One Woman's Army: A Black Officer Remembers the WAC, Texas A&M University Press (1989). The experiences of the first Black women in the US Army.
  7. Victor Grossman, "African Americans in the German Democratic Republic", in Larry A. Greene and Anke Ortlepp, Germans and African Americans: Two centuries of Exchange, University Press of Mississippi, Jackson (2011).
  8. Damani Partridge, "Exploding Hitler and Americanizing Germany", in Larry A. Greene and Anke Ortlepp, Germans and African Americans: Two centuries of Exchange, University Press of Mississippi, Jackson (2011).
  9. Brian McAllister Linn, Elvis's Army, Harvard University Press (2016).
  10. Oliver R. Schmidt, Afroamerikanische GIs in Deutschland 1944 bis 1973: Rassekrieg, Integration und globale Protestbewegung, doctoral dissertation, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Münster (2010, copyright 2013). Available in print from AbeBooks.com.
  11. Aaron Gilbreath, The Brief Career and Self-Imposed Exile of Jutta Hipp, Jazz Pianist, This Is: Essays on Jazz, Outpost19, https://longreads.com, August 2017 (accessed 16 March 2022)
  12. Marc Myers, Jutta Hipp in Germany: 1952-'55 and Jutta Hipp: The Inside Story, jazzwax.com (accessed 16 March 2022).
  13. Hans Jürgen Massaquoi, Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany, Harper Perreniel (1999).
  14. Exorcising the Ghost of Robert E. Lee, Brent Staples, New York Times, 27 April 2023.
  15. Höhn, Maria, and Seungsook Moon, Over There: Living with the U.S Military Empire from World War Two to the Present, Duke University Press (2010). GIs and the women of West Germany, Korea, Japan, and Okinawa.

Consciencious Objecting

"Every war already carries within it the war which will answer it. Every war is answered by a new war, until everything, everything is smashed."Käthe Kollwitz, Nordhausen, Germany, February 21, 1944[1]

Bombing Vietnam
Bombing Vietnam 1965
Dominican Republic invasion 1965
Dominican Republic invasion 1965
While I was at computer school in Orléans in 1965 two things happened, which I learned about from reading the Stars and Stripes and listening to the Armed Forces Network: February-June President Johnson started massive bombing of Vietnam and by July he was drafting 50,000 kids a month (many of them my high-school friends) to fight there, and while this was happening the United States invaded the Dominican Republic simply because they were trying to reinstate their first democratically elected president, Juan Bosch, after he had been toppled in a CIA-backed coup.

When I got back to Stuttgart I had access to all the Army Regulations where I worked, and one day while reading through them I discovered an obscure paragraph in the then-current version of AR 635-20, "Active Duty Enlisted Administrative Separations", that allowed for somebody already in the Army to become a consciencious objector and apply for a discharge, and I did that because I did not want to be put in a position where I would have to kill people who only wanted to be left alone (or to help others kill them by working in a support role). The regulation stipulated that the only valid basis for conscienscious objection was religious belief, so I had to write the application that way. To do this I had to get a Bible and hunt through it for the good parts (what Jesus said to do and not to do) — no Google in those days! As noted elsewhere, this caused my grandfather no small amount of consternation, since he was an implacable foe of all forms of organized religion, despite (or because of) having spent his early years as a Catholic priest. If you want to read the application, there's a semi-legible PDF here. Rereading it now, 50-some years later, I can see how he might have been gotten the wrong impression.

Nobody in my chain of command had ever seen such a thing before and it took them months to figure out what to do with it; it went all the way up to the Pentagon. In the meantime AR 635-20 said I could not be required to do anything against my "professed beliefs", which I interpreted to include carrying a gun and saluting, which resulted in quite a few comical moments, and they couldn't hassle me for subscribing to left-wing and counterculture journals like Liberation magazine and Evergreen Review.

Once I walked right past a General, looking him in the eye, without saluting; he didn't say a thing. On the other hand, once I did the same thing to a pipsqueak 2nd Lieutenant and he went ballistic like in a Warner Bros. cartoon and started screaming "Post! Post!" in his high squeeky voice, which was some order he must have learned at lieutenant school but I had no idea what it meant, so I just ignored him and walked on.

Normally the Army in those days was pretty informal, it wasn't snapping to attention and saluting and Rah Rah America. I don't remember anybody I knew, NCOs and officers included (except my company commander), giving me a hard time about my CO application. Once on maneuvers in the outback of Schwaben, my platoon was sitting around a campfire at night (campfire = burning gasoline in a #10 can) roasting C-rations and drinking beer and we got to talking about the war in Vietnam. My platoon sergeant (picture him as the actor Brian Dennehy) was a Korean War combat veteran and it turned out that the war had disgusted him; he said he admired me for what I did and wished he had done the same thing. Some other guys in my unit followed my lead and also applied for CO status; I did the paperwork for them.

On the other hand… There were two Hawaiian guys in my unit, Akino and Barrios. They were straight out of the central casting: fun-loving, gentle, playful, always in a good mood, always horsing around, not a mean bone in their bodies. Off duty they wore Hawaiian shirts, sang Hawaiian songs and played ukuleles — they had Martins and they could do a lot more than just strum them. Here is a piece they taught me, "Sushi" (if the link goes bad, look up "sushi ohta-san"):


When the Vietnam war exploded in 1965, I was totally shocked when Akino and Barrios volunteered to be transferred to the 25th (Hawaiian) Infantry Division to fight in Vietnam. I said, What do you have against the Vietnamese??? Akino, at least, was Asian (it's the Hawaiianization of a Chinese name). They couldn't explain it, they just wanted to get away from the haoles and be with their own people. I tried to convince them not to, but off they went. Searching The Wall (www.vvmf.org) I'm glad to see that neither of them was killed. (Later I read about the history of the Hawaiian divisions in James Michener's Hawaii book[2] and understood it better. But still...)

Just a couple weeks before my hitch was up, my CO application came back denied. My immediate commanding officer had recommended disapproval (because he didn't like it), but all the higher level commanders (e.g. of the 7th US Army) recommended approval, all the way the Pentagon, where the Secretary of the Army, Cyrus Vance, wrote that the application was "not favorably considered", no explanation given. But by then I was already short, i.e. on my way out. So I served my full hitch and since I hadn't broken any laws or Army Regulations have an honorable discharge.

  1. The Diary and Letters of Kaethe Kollwitz, Northwestern University Press (1955).
  2. James Michener, Hawaii, Random House (1959).

For the record...

As of 2017, there were 58,318 names on the Wall (the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the US National Mall in Washington DC): military men and women who were killed in Vietnam (National Park Service). But "for many Vietnam veterans, the horrors of war manifested itself into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Others suffered from Agent Orange-related illnesses including: Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and cancer" (Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund) ... "Agent Orange is taking a huge toll on Vietnam Veterans with most deaths somehow related to Agent Orange exposure. No one officially dies of Agent Orange, they die from the exposure which causes Ischemic Heart Disease and failure, Lung Cancer, Kidney failure or COPD related disorders" (Veterans Administration) ... "However, the wall does not document any names of the estimated 2.8 million U.S. vets who were exposed to the poisonous chemical while serving and later died": Forbes ... "The Monsanto Chemical Company reported that the TCDD in Agent Orange could be toxic as early as 1962. The President's Science Advisory Committee reported the same to the Joint Chiefs of Staff that same year. Studies from 1954 onward confirm the toxicity of both herbicides used in Agent Orange": Military.com.

It was President Kennedy who gave final approval to "Operation Ranch Hand", the massive effort to defoliate the forests of Vietnam, Cambodia. and Laos with the toxic herbicide known as Angent Orange. The U.S. Air Force flew nearly 20,000 spraying sorties from 1961 to 1971 under the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon Administrations: Into the Wind: The Kennedy Administration and the Use of Herbicides in South Vietnam, Georgetown University (2012).

Besides American and allied soldiers (e.g. Australian), approximately 400,000 Vietnamese died due to a range of cancers and other ailments caused by Agent Orange, and approximately 4.8 million Vietnamese people were exposed to Agent Orange: Wikipedia.

And in addition to all those directly exposed are their children and grandchildren, who have a much higher rate of birth defects than the general population, including mental retardation, cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, deafness, missing limbs/fingers/toes, heart defects, blindness, and on and on: birthdefects.org.

Total death toll so far: more than six million (3.8 million war casualties + 2.8 million delayed-action "aftermath" deaths including not only toxins but also unexploded munitions left behind at war's end).


Bring the Boys Home...  Appreciating Freda Payne

Freda Payne Jet Magazine 1971
Click image to enlarge;
click HERE to read article.
In 1971 Freda Payne released her second Gold Record: Bring the Boys Home, a beautiful and haunting song that perfectly expressed the pain felt by loved ones of the hundreds of thousands of young soldiers sent to Vietnam to fight and kill and die for... what??? It's an intensely emotional plea... "Can't you see 'em march across sky... All the soldiers that have died... Can't you see 'em tryin' to get home, just tryin' to get home?" This was at the height of a war that — unlike today's wars, which are not even publicized — affected every family in the country because of the military draft; nobody wanted their children to die for no reason in a far-away country they'd barely even heard of.

Elsewhere in this history I describe working at the Armed Forces Network in Germany in the early 1960s. I had great respect for AFN for reasons I go into in the Frankfurt chapter, but apparently President Nixon ordered AFN not to play this song. But Freda says, "Ironically, the soldiers did hear it. And you can’t believe how many have come to me and said it was the song that got them through the Vietnam War."[5]

  1. Bring the Boys Home (Youtube).
  2. Band of Gold, Freda Payne's 1970 #1 hit (Youtube).
  3. "Freda Payne Fights Army Ban on Song", JET Magazine, October 1971.
  4. "Freda Payne Recalls Her Anti-War Song Banned by US Armed Forces Radio in 1971", Roger Friedman, Showbiz  11, 2 November 2021.
  5. Freda Payne, Band of Gold, a Memoir, with Mark Bego, Yorkshire Publishing (2021).
  6. Bring the Boys Home, Wikipedia, accessed 28 November 2023.
  7. Bring the Boys Home, Lyrics (songfacts.com).

Getting out...

Being short means that you no longer have to do your job because you have countless offices to go to and get various things checked off. Short-timers carry a clipboard with all their checkout forms and nobody bothers them, so in effect their last week or two is like a vacation. But even when you're not short, a good trick is: whenever you go outside, carry a clipboard and walk fast, everyone assumes you're doing something important and official so they won't hassle you.

USNS Geiger
USNS Geiger
USNS Geiger
Geiger deck and lifeboats
USNS Geiger
Bunks in the hold
All these years I thought Roger and I came back to the States together, but it turns out he left a few weeks earlier. Anyway I was in the hold of the USNS Geiger with no ventilation over 8 or 10 days in late January - early February in rough seas, sleeping in bunks ten deep with no air, and everybody either smoking or vomiting, probably 500 or 1000 people packed into an airless iron box that was constantly pitching and yawing. Occasionally they showed movies in another airless iron box that was only four feet high. The food was not very good; milk came in half-pint cartons that were frozen solid and everything else was made from reconstituted powder. (The Bunks-in-the-hold photo is from WWII, but shows exactly what the bunks were like.)

They let us up on deck a few times when the weather was good and there were dolphins leaping and playing alongside. When we were were almost in NY, there was a huge storm with 50-foot waves and near-hurricane winds and the Geiger was bobbing around like cork. I was so sick I found a way to get out of the hold and onto the fantail, where there was a little balcony cut into the stern of the ship. I held on for dear life to the railing and puked my guts out while at one minute I was looking up at a wave as tall as a mountain, and the next minute the ship was perched on top of it, and the next it slid all the way down into the trough, while the vomit blew back into my face. It didn't matter, I was soaking wet, icing up actually, but at least I was breathing good air. In four crossings, this was only time I ever was sick.

We landed February 2, 1966. Looking at a map I realized just now for the first time that we came in through Long Island Sound. I know that because I remember looking up and seeing a sign that said "125th Street". That must have been when we were going under the Triborough Bridge. We landed at the Brooklyn Navy Yard (which was also a naval port throughout its history) and were bussed from there to Fort Hamilton where I got my walking papers and that was the end of the Army.

I realize that I owe a lot to the Army. I was pretty worthless before I was in it, and it taught me some valuable things. Like, if you have to do something, just go ahead and get it over with, no matter how awful; nothing lasts forever. And like, don't let big messes accumulate, always be cleaning things — "Clean as you go"; it was a good habit to get into that I never had before. Or, do things for yourself instead of expecting somebody else to do them for you. But being in the Army didn't teach me how to get along with and appreciate all different kinds of people from all different places, because I already learned that in Frankfurt — which was also the Army — but for most other people it's an important lesson.

The Army of the early 1960s was almost a microcosm of life itself. It did practically everything to sustain itself except grow food. So we learned the great variety of tasks required in a society, and we did most of them ourselves: cleaning house, yard work, preparing food, picking up trash, taking garbage to the dump, maintaining equipment and vehicles, operating hospitals, schools, stores, and radio stations (that had no ads!), ... Once I even spent spent a few days at Fort Knox building a concrete staircase up a hill. This gave us some respect for people in real life who made their livings in those ways: sanitation crews, cooks, cleaners, mechanics, teachers, nurses, doctors, disk jockeys, truck drivers, construction workers... Conversely, the Army did not include any of our 21st-century gods: hedge-fund managers, commodities traders, arbitrageurs, leveraged-buyout specialists, stockbrokers, portfiolio managers, corporate raiders, vulture capitalists, or anyone else who could become obscenely wealthy without actually doing any productive work.

Kids today grow up in little bubbles as society becomes increasingly compartmentalized by race, religion, social class, social media, and cell phones. I wish the peacetime Army — and the draft — still existed, or something like it — for example, the CCC camps of the 1930s. A few years in a setting like that is a great experience for kids right out of high school: living and working with diverse people from all over the country, learning skills, learning to depend on other people and to be dependable, learning respect for others. Speaking for myself, I was definitely not ready for college after high school, but after the Army I was. I knew how to work.

Obviously I don't favor a draft if it is used to send people to wars of conquest, except insofar as it would spark another 1960s-magnitude antiwar movement. But some kind of compulsory national service would be an effective antidote to the anomie and aimlessness of 21st-Century American young people, especially if the service was focussed on doing work that was needed (e.g. to fix the infrastructure, save the planet) and helping people who need help, like in the original New Deal.

  1. Fifty Years Ago, Frank da Cruz, The Veteran, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Vol.46., No.1, Spring 2016 (I'm not a Vietnam veteran but the organization is for all Vietnam-era veterans).

After the Army...

Nazerman's pawn shop
Mr. Nazerman's pawn shop (right)
At Fort Hamilton a guy named Herbie Bader came to meet me, he was an Army buddy from Stuttgart, it was a complete surprise; I have no idea how he knew where and when I was arriving. He was a native New Yorker who spoke with an old-time Brooklyn accent (Queens, really), fast-talking, argumentative, big, tough, belligerent, ironic, and funny, always in trouble in the Army for talking back or fighting — that charming combination that attracted me to New York. It was a good thing he came because I was going to see Wendy at Barnard but had no idea how to get there, so he took me on the subway (looking on the map I see it must have been the R train terminus at 95th Street, with a transfer to the F and the 2). Except he didn't know we had to switch to the local at 96th Street, so we wound up surfacing at 116th and Park. And Hoib said "Oh My God, we're in Spanish Harlem!!!" and I said, "Look! Mr. Nazerman's pawn shop!" Herb and I had just seen The Pawnbroker a few weeks before and there was the actual pawn shop, right on the north end of La Marqueta under the elevated New York Central tracks. He was panicking (not as tough as I thought!) but I said big deal let's just walk, and we walked west on 116th Street to Morningside Park, up the stairs to Morningside Drive, across campus to Broadway, and my new life started right there. I found Wendy at Barnard and we went straight to the West End bar, which had been the official Columbia/Barnard hangout since 1915.

Hotel Paris
Hotel Paris
Wendy, Jude, and Peter
Wendy, Jude, and Peter
Jude yearbook photo
Jude yearbook photo
When it got late I asked where a hotel was and the only close one was the super-sleazy Paris Hotel on 96th Street and West End Avenue, where the elevator operator offered me drugs and prostitutes and the tiny room was ratty and full of cockroaches. The next day Wendy introduced me to Peter Marsh and Judy Bryant (Jude), and I slept a couple nights on the floor of Peter's Hartley Hall dorm room. Then I went to Virginia to find Richard Lamborne in Alexandria, because we had planned to get an apartment together in DC (Ludwig was in Vietnam). Later when I moved to NYC I visited Herb a few times; he lived with his parents in an apartment in Flushing, which was totally Jewish in those days; now it's totally Chinese. We would always sit in the kitchen and his father would just keep giving me food. Eat! Eat!

Washington DC...

Richard Lamborne
Richie Lamborne
1715 19th St NW
1715 19th Street NW, Washington DC
Richie still lived at home with his parents, I stayed there with them for about a week, they were kind of uppercrust and arrogant (his dad was in charge of the annual regatta on the Potomac river, rich people stuff). Richie was was called Head because of his big head. We'd go to DC each day looking for apartments and finally found one in a small townhouse at 1715 19th Street NW, between R Street and Riggs Place, a couple blocks north of DuPont Circle, in those days Washington's miniscule bohemian section (in 1966, "a simmering bouillabaisse of classes, colors, and types; a ferment of beatniks, genteel matrons, foreign students, thrill-seekers and curiosity hunters," according to the National Register of Historic Places). We were a couple doors from the Ghanaian Embassy and they invited us to all their parties (now it's the Sierra Leone Embassy). We had a large studio that had a real fireplace and a kitchen with a bar to sit at and, $100 a month. The culture seemed to have changed overnight, just out were the Beatles Rubber Soul, the Stones High Tide and Green Grass, Dylan's Blonde on Blonde, the Miracles Goin' to a Go-Go, Otis Blue, the Temptations first album… In January 2020, I was surprised find that the block is virtually unchanged.

Goya Rangemaster
Goya Rangemaster
Right off, I bought a Goya Rangemaster for $300 at Sophocles Pappas, which I used in all my DC post-Army gigs but when I moved to NYC in August 1966 it was stolen. It was a good instrument, handmade in Italy; hollow maple body, rosewood fretboard, single cutout, cherry finish. It had a row of buttons for selecting different combinations of four split-coil pickups, plus various other controls. The futuristic hard case was shaped like a right triangle with its point lopped off, lined with bright yellow faux fur. As of 2019, this same guitar is selling for $2000.

I worked as a musician in the house band at The Brickskeller (which existed 1957-2010) at 1523 22nd Street NW, just off P Street, near Rock Creek Park in Washington DC, fronting for name acts that had records out (one I remember was the bluegrass group, Country Gentlemen), and had other gigs on the strip along M Street just east of Key Bridge in Georgetown, which was almost solid bars; this area is pretty much intact but WAY more upscale. (We used to go drinking there when I was in high school in Arlington, with our fake IDs, not just in bars but also in Greenwich-Village-like clubs like the Cellar Door on 33rd Street just off M with little-known folksingers and beatnik poets; the building is still there but the club is gone. Meanwhile just west of Key Bridge was a tiny place called Little Tavern, where you could get 20 miniature hamburgers for a dollar.) Years after I lived in DC, the Brickskeller became famous for having the largest selection of beers of any bar on earth, over 1000.

About playing in bands in Washington… Actually I was in two bands, one in the Brickskeller that played mainly bossa nova, some Charlie Byrd style jazz and Mose Allison (both Washingtonians), some German jazz that I picked up in Frankfurt, e.g. Simone 1 (Emil Mangelsdorff, Jutta Hipp); sorry, it's not on Youtbe but this one is close (more about the Frankfurt jazz scene HERE). Plus guitar adaptations of pieces like So What, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, In Crowd, Moanin', etc. And of songs that Dakota Staton sang (Late Show, When Sunny Gets Blue, ...) And some cheesy cabaret songs like The Shadow of Your Smile that the lead singer liked (can't recall his name, or his other songs). Sometimes Richie Lamborne would sit in and we would do Dave Van Ronk / John Hammond kinds of blues; he did a pretty good imitation and played blues harp too. Sometimes I'd also do some Bach riffs.

The other band played at bars on M Street and was pure rock… Songs that I remember are We Gotta Get Outa This Place (Animals), Good Lovin' (Young Rascals), She Belongs to Me (Dylan, my own arrangement), Well Respected Man (Kinks)… Nowhere Man, Michelle Ma BelleEvening of the Day… The interesting thing about this band is that the drummer had been James Brown's drummer and left because the Godfather of Soul was such a tyrant. A third group at the same time was just me and Wendy and another girl, Tandy, and we had only one song, Catch the Wind, a little-known Dylan song that they liked that we did with weird dissonant chords. We "rehearsed" it every time we got together.

I played in bands in high school in Germany and in Arlington, and then in the Army too. In Arlington I also had two bands, one rock, the other "skiffle" (guitar, banjo, washboard, washtub bass, jug, spoons, etc, where we did songs that we copied from Library of Congress field recordings, plus some Leadbelly, some Almanac Singers, and once performed at a school-wide assembly in the auditorium). So I guess my musical career went from 1960 to 1966.

Soul Syndicate
Wait, I just remembered, in the late Sixties some mainly black Columbia students had a 12-piece Motown/Stax R&B and funk band, Soul Syndicate, a large group with horns, big sound. I knew some of them from Double Discovery and they liked how I played guitar. Just before 1968 happened, they asked me to try out with them. But then things got complicated and the deal was off. (This comes up because I found out that the guy who invited me to try out, John Herbert, is at Montefiore, 3 blocks from me, and we got to reminiscing by email… And then after that I learned that John had been the anesthesiologist at my colonoscopy that Peter escorted me to!) Image at right courtesy of John, showing Soul Syndicate performing at Manhattan's Cheetah nightclub in 1968.

Anyway life in DC with Ritchie was getting too strange and eventually I realized he was stealing everything I had and selling it to support a heroin habit, and I knew I had to get out.

Moving to New York...

Wendy Sibbison
Wendy Sibbison
116th Street subway kiosk
116th Street subway kiosk 1966
Chock Full o' Nuts
Chock Full o' Nuts 116th Street and Bway 1966
The Yumke Man 1966
The Yumke Man
Wendy Sibbison was a Barnard student and she got me interested in going to Columbia, so I filled out an application while I was living in DC with our friend Tandy Martin, where I went to get away from Richard for a few weeks, and mailed it in. I first met Wendy in 1962 when I was going to UVA, before I totally left home. I remember her being at our house and meeting my parents and brother at some point, and me being at her house and meeting her parents. She had written to me the whole time I was in the Army and her letters meant a lot to me, so she was the first one I wanted to see when I got back, and she was. Then while I was living in DC I would go to NYC all the time on a Greyhound bus to see her and Peter and Jude.

In August 1966 I moved to NYC all by myself on a Greyhound bus, with what I could carry. I didn't even know if I had been accepted at Columbia. Here's what the Columbia U area was like when I arrived:

Columbia made a good first impression on me… In one of my visits while I still lived in DC, there was a Martha and Vandellas concert in McMillan Theater… pretty amazing, right? I went with Wendy and some other people. Eventually I noticed the guy I was sitting next to was an old friend from Frankfurt High School, Dave Kelston. He lived in an apartment in a brownstone in the 80s (in those days, a rough neighborhood) and he had a motorcycle, he took me on some rides and then I wanted one too.

Angela Davis
Angela Davis
When I arrived at Columbia and met Columbia students — who in those days were not clueless narcisistic arrogant bubbleheads like today, but socially aware, committed, intelligent, knowledgeable, fast-talking, anti-racist, anti-imperialist, many of them Red Diaper babies — and faculty — half of them Marxists — I started to understand why the USA was invading all these countries. Marxist theory was taught in every sociology course in those days, and International Publishers (USSR English-language press) had a whole aisle in the bookstore. There were also a lot of teach-ins going on by people ranging from Lyndon LaRouche (in those days a Leninist known as Lyn Marcus) to Seymour Melman, an anti-war Columbia engineering professor who had a Marxist-Melmanist analysis of Pentagon economics. I read pretty much all of Marx and Engels except Volumes 2 and 3 of Kapital, hung out at Communist book stores (there was one called Taylors where Papyrus was later on, and another one on 8th Avenue around 155th Street), read Malcolm X, George Jackson, Angela Davis, Sam Melville, Mao, Lin Piao, Fernando Cabral, Regis Debray, Franz Fanon, Sartre, Eldridge Cleaver, etc etc. Subscribed to the Daily World (formerly the Daily Worker) up until the mid-80s; it was delivered right to our door at 118th Street. Read Pa'lante and the Black Panther newspapers every week, and have a big box of them in Mommie's garage, probably just moldy mush by now.

The same day I arrived from DC I got an apartment and a job. What can I say, life was easier then. There was a sign on College Walk that said Employment so I went in and they gave me a job at Butler Library. Then I went to the Taint (the passage between Hartley and Livingston halls, "t'aint Hartley, t'aint Livingston") where the bulletin board was and found an apartment in the Ta-Kome building.

601 West 115th Street
601 W 115th Street 2017
Ta-Kome deli
Ta-Kome deli 1957-1984
The apartment I got was a TINY room in the Ta-Kome (University Food Market) building on 115th Street and Broadway, that I sublet from some Columbia professors, FW Dupee and George Stade, who used it during the academic year. Little did I know I would spend some 40 years of my life on that block. The apartment was on the top floor (12th) and it had a huge window that looked out over the Hudson, but the room was so small it only had space for a bed; there was a tiny triangular bathroom in one corner with miniature toilet and sink and shower stall and no kitchen or fridge. I was only there for the summer, until school started. New to New York, one night I had such a strange dream that when I woke up, like Coleridge, I had to write it down.

Dennis telegram
The only time I ever got a telegram
My brother Dennis came to stay with me for a week; I went to the Army Navy store on 125th Street to buy a folding cot for him to sleep on. We cooked meals in an electric frying pan on the windowsill, but the view made everything kind of magic, especially at night with the Circle Line and other cruise ships going by with music and dancing; you could actually hear people on the boats talking in their normal voice, some trick of acoustics. I remember taking Dennis to see Hard Days Night at the Quad Cinema on 13th Street and stopping at the Ukrainian shops. I also took him to a party at Neil Hurwitz's house at 610 W 115th Street, where he (Neil) still lived 49 years later in 2015, last time I was there.

I checked with GS and found I was admitted, so since my tiny apartment was rented only for the summer, I went to the Taint and found another place to live, a room in the apartment of David Stern and Erna Gold at 419 West 119th Street across from Aki, the Japanese restaurant where "The Mean Man Pushed the Lady" (Peter's interpretation of painting on the wall). David and Erna were very nice and smart and funny and good Communists and Erna played Bach and Scarlatti on the piano. But the place was stinky because they fried frozen fish every day to feed to their cat. And sharing the bathroom was tricky. The building had its own 1930s-era telephone system, with a switchboard in the lobby. David was famous for having turned down a National Defense scholarship, the first person ever to do that, it was in Time Magazine. I always wonder if he is the same David Stern who is now the NBA commissioner but I don't think so.

The Bertha on 111th Street...

The Bertha
The Bertha
Anyway everybody knew I wasn't crazy about living at David and Erna's. Meanwhile Peter Marsh was living in a three-bedroom apartment at 515 West 111th Street, The Bertha, with Paul Brooke and Paul Nyden. Paul Nyden was pretty famous left-wing guy, became a crusading pro-labor journalist in West Virginia. He died in 2018; his kids' middle names are Mandela, Allende, and DuBois. Anyway, he moved out at the end of the first semester so they invited me to take his place. Our apartment (1E) was the first one on the right as you go in the front entrance, with windows looking out on 111th Street at street level.

In the photo, the four windows to the right of the entrance were our apartment in 1966-67. The first two windows were Peter's, the second two were Paul Brooke's. Kitchen, bath, and three bedrooms, about $300 a month split three ways. It was so easy and cheap for students to find apartments that there were hardly any off-campus dorms.

Paul Brooke
Paul Brooke
Paul Brooke's girlfriend was Mommie. I thought he was kind of arrogant and didn't like how he treated her. This was sort of a mythic place; Jude was always there, Mommy, Wendy, etc, and of course Froggy. Peter Marsh was always playing his Chambers Brothers and Mamas and Poppas and Mothers of Invention records, so those songs always take me back to the Bertha.

My 1956 BMW R26
My 1956 BMW R26
My 1956 BMW R26
Me on it 1967
It was while living in the Bertha that I bought a 1956 BMW Motorcycle for $300 from a guy in Queens. I registered it in Vermont using Peter Marsh's address because insurance wasn't required there; I never had insurance or even a driver's license. I took the test about 100 times up on Audubon Avenue but in those days they just automatically flunked everybody every time. In the winter I brought it inside the apartment, riding it up and down the front steps. It wasn't fast or anything, but I rode it all over the place, all over Manhattan, especially the Lower East Side (which was like a bombed-out zone in those days), around Central Park (the S-Curve is awe-sim on a motorcycle), up and down Palisades Parkway in NJ and out into the Great Swamp. Sometimes I went to Palisades Park, a big amusement park on the top of the Palisades across from
Palisades Park NJ
Palisades Park NJ seen from upper Manhattan
Washington Heights (you could see it at night from Manhattan, all lit up) to get vinegar-soaked french fries (it closed in 1971). Peter Marsh and I would go on rides together, he had a 500cc Triumph, which was a serious bike, not a slowpoke like mine; once we rode up to the Little Red Lighthouse along paths in Riverside Park in the middle of the night, another time we went to a biker hangout in NJ but that was a big mistake; we didn't exactly fit in with Hell's Angels, they made fun of us the whole time.

Bertha Apartment 1967
Bertha Apartment 1967
Bertha Kitchen 1967
Bertha Kitchen 1967
Froggy 1967
Froggy 1967
The three photos at left were sent to me by Peter Marsh in 2024, which makes them 57 years old. The first one shows Peter's Triumph in his bedroom. The second shows the entrance to the cramped kitchen / dining room where various combinations of Judy, Paul, Jude, Peter, Wendy, (and Patty Chen? anyone else?) and I would crowd around the tiny table; this was the only common area. The third photo shows the foul-tempered homicidal cat, Froggy, who came with the apartment and apparently had to power to shrink Peter's bike down to an un-intimidating size. My second-least fond memory of Froggy is when he (she?) attacked me while I was sleeping, bent on severing my jugular vein; I pulled her off me and tried to throw him full-force out my bedroom door. That was when I learned an essential lesson of life: Never Throw a Cat.

Anyway when the fall semester ended, our merry band disbanded and gave up the apartment. I forgot who was going to take Froggy (it definitely wasn't me), but somehow I had the honor of carrying her out the door. Froggy didn't like that and tore into me with tooth and claw, shredding my shirt, my chest, and arms, so I just put him back inside. And as the years passed and tenants changed, Froggy stayed; every time I walked down that block I'd see her in the window.

109th Street...

170 West 109th Street in 2012
170 West 109th Street 2012
170 West 109th Street in 2012
Front door and Pedro's apartment
170 West 109th Street in 2012
Basement apartment entrance

170 West 109th Street in 2012
170 West 109th Street 2012
Needing a new place to live, I went to Off-Campus Registry (the same place where I got my first apartment) and found the basement apartment at at 170 W 109th between Amsterdam and Columbus, directly across from the Con Ed substation, just $70 a month (but Peter Marsh would share it and pay half when he came back in the Fall, so $35 each). At the time I was the only person on that street who was not Puerto Rican or Dominican. I lived in the basement in a condemned apartment, four narrow rooms in a row, a classic NY tenement railroad apartment. There was no bathroom but there was a shower stall in the kitchen. The tiny kitchen sink was also for teeth brushing, face washing, etc. The toilet was outside the apartment, near the boiler. The kitchen was the only room big enough to hang out in; it had a table and some chairs. The landlord was an old Irish lady, Mrs. Gavaghan who was exactly like Mrs. Lift in Throw Momma from the Train. She lived on 106th Street in a huge apartment with her cat, who had its own bedroom and slept on a king-size four-poster with canopy. My super, Pedro Lugo, and his family lived right above me; he had three kids, Tony, Papo, and Maria; his wife was very shy and nobody ever saw her. (Decades later Ivonne said she knew Tony and Papo, they were much older than she was and famous drug addicts.) I still had my motorcycle then, I'd take the kids for rides. The next door neighbor was Mikey the drug dealer. Every night you'd hear people yelling Mikey, Mikey, Miiiiikieeeeeee… Sometimes they'd come to my place looking for Mikey (the two buildings were twins and he lived in the corresponding basement apartment). I didn't have any furniture so I just brought in stuff from the street (some of it I still have, like the black chair). Pedro gave me a mattress with bedbugs. I was friendly with the people who had bodegas and laundries on Amsterdam and would hang out with them at night.

Iris Chacón poster 1967
Iris Chacón poster 1967

Willie Colón album 1967
Willie Colón album 1967
The street had personality, especially in the hot summer. Half the cars were up on blocks with their wheels gone and windows broken out, fire hydrants and Willie Colón music blasting, the frío-frío man (a 90-year-old Dominican guy with a rickety wooden cart painted light blue with a big block of ice)… the famous Iris Chacón poster plastered all over the neighborhood... Delicious cooking smells coming from the apartments… families barbecuing on the street, kids of all ages everywhere hanging out, dancing, making out… old guys playing dominó…

One morning as I left for work I saw somebody parking a big shiny silver Bentley in front of my building. I thought to myself, that's not good. Sure enough when I got home, it was up on blocks and burnt down to a hollow black shell. I realized that to park my motorcycle on the street was a bad idea too so I moved it to the Royal Garage on 107th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus, $12.50 a month. I sold the bike after about 2 years.

109th Street stories continue below, after Double Discovery.

Project Double Discovery...

PDD 1967
Ferris Booth Hall
patio 1967
The summer of 1967 I worked as a counselor in Project Double Discovery, which was basically a Marxist revolutionary study group (just kidding) (not really) paid for by the US government and HARYOU ACT, and it was one of the places where the Weather Underground was born. We lived on campus in Hartley and Livingston. The ostensible purpose was to prepare mainly Harlem high-school kids for college. Mostly Black, Puerto Rican, and Dominican kids but also some poor whites from East 90s and Hell's Kitchen (which were tough areas then) and some kids from Chinatown.

In the morning the kids attended classes taught by top Columbia professors like Jim Shenton, who later directed the program. In the afternoon our kids, in turn, had to tutor elementary school kids in Harlem. I took my kids on the train every day to 145th Street and we walked from Broadway over to PS90 on 147th Street, just east of 8th Avenue. Besides tutoring the kids we did a lot of projects around there, like price surveys in the stores so we could publish lists of which stores had the best and worst prices for essential items like milk (in this, we discovered a little-known dark and dusty relic of the Marcus Garvey days, a nonprofit Hey Brother food market — you can't even find this in Google). We'd spend lots of time in the Communist bookstore on 8th Avenue at 155th Street. And for fun we'd go to Bradhurst Park and Colonial Pool (now called Jackie Robinson). I didn't know it at the time, but that is one of jewels in the crown of the New Deal in NYC, one of 11 palatial public swimming pools and bathhouses built in the City by the WPA in 1936. Anyway just being in Harlem every day that summer was unforgettable, Martha and Vandellas and James Brown blasting out of boom boxes… People making their own music on street corners, usually involving multiple conga drums, everybody out on the street because it was too hot to be inside… Fire hydrants going full blast long before the days of sprinkler caps. Shabazz bean pies, egg creams, orange soda; Sherman's Barbecue… I forget the name of that cheap sparkling wine that came in fruit flavors and cost a dollar… Oh right, Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill.

NYC Subway tokens 1960s-2000
NYC Subway tokens - Click to enlarge
We got almost unlimited amounts of money for activities — cash, big bags full of subway tokens — movies downtown (whatever movie the kids voted on, e.g. The Dirty Dozen), lots of times to the Apollo, plus food festivals, trips to all different places, including one to the Cuban Consulate — you could not believe how many camera shutters we heard clicking as we entered. There was also a Kurosawa festival going on in Ferris Booth Hall and we all went see Yojimbo, Throne of Blood, Sanjuro, and Seven Samurai. It was their introduction to Kurosawa and they ate it up. Mine too except for Roshomon, which I had seen in high school in Germany, where they showed it in the auditorium one day.

And speaking of movies, the kids worked as extras in the (otherwise pretty dumb) Hollywood film Up The Down Staircase, which was filmed at Benjamin Franklin High School on Convent Avenue at 116th Street in the uptown Little Italy (Mommy would teach at Franklin for years, starting about 1970). We went to the NY premiere and the kids were screaming with joy to see themselves up on the huge movie screen. But all of those scenes have been cut from DVD version.

Other counselors in 1967 included Mommy, Wendy, Howie Machtinger, Teddy Gold, Mark Naison, Heywood Dotson (played for NBA), Paul Nyden, Paul Brooke. Eric Foner and Jim Shenton were among the teachers. Just for the record, the kids in my group were Mike Hall, Michael Alston, John García, Tony Delbridge, Hollis Jenkins (who always wore a suit!), and Tim Lee (who took the picture of me on my motorcycle).

109th Street, cont'd...

Max 1967
Max 1967
After Double Discovery, Peter Marsh joined me in the 109th Street apartment for the 1967-68 school year, which was pretty tumultuous not just because of the Columbia uprising, but the MLK assassination, the almost-riots in Harlem only a few blocks away, the RFK assassination, the Nixon victory, etc etc. At some point Peter and I found Max, a homeless cat, on the street and brought him (no, her) home.

Peter and I shared the apartment for about a year and had lots of adventures… For one thing, we both had motorcycles. Jude would come over all the time, and would usually stay the night (Peter had the front room, the only room that could be closed). We'd cook stuff but there were constant assaults of roaches and mice. The roaches would literally jump off the walls into the cooking pots. There was one mouse that was kind of a pet, Max didn't bother it, and it would do cute things to entertain us like stick its little head up through the burner ring on the stove (not when the stove was on!)

One Sunday morning we heard a lot of commotion outside. A whole caravan of suburbanite do-gooders had arrived in their station wagons to clean up our block and paint everything bright pastel colors, improving the ghetto for the poor people so they will be in a better mood when they see pictures of flowers and smiley faces everywhere. They did the whole block except my building because Pedro told them, "You touch my building, I kill you."

Peter Marsh 1968
Pharmacist's Mate Peter M
Peter Marsh dropped out and left before the school year was over. His grade point average was not good, and in those days Columbia reported everybody's GPA to the draft board, and if it was below a certain number you were drafted, and that's what happened to Peter. This was when the Vietnam war was at its height, what a nightmare. He did what I did — applied for CO status — and he was luckier than I was; the application was approved and he went back to Vermont at some point after the 1968 strike at Columbia but before the end of the school year (taking Max with him) to do his alternative service, working 2-3 years in a hospital in Burlington, where he was like pharmacist's mate (his work costume in the photo). He and Jude and Max lived on the top floor of Abernethy's at the north end of Pearl Street, in a gothic apartment that was full of turrets and ladders and hatches and secret rooms.

Patty Chen 1968
Patty Chen 1968
And I had the 109th Street apartment to myself again. That summer I worked in Butler Library and since I was in the doghouse for being in the strike, they had me move the entire College Library stacks by myself, I don't know how many tons of books, and it was like 120 degrees in there… This was long before the library was air conditioned. I'd come home in the evening exhausted and drenched in sweat, take a shower, go spend the evening with Wendy, Jude, and Patty Chen (they shared an apartments in a townhous on 91st Street and then another on 101st Street); we'd cook dinner, drink wine, and listen to music: Wendy's Stax Review in Paris LP, the Miracles Goin' to a Go-Go LP, etc.

One night when I came home from work, the entire stoop was covered with what looked like congealed bacon fat, but a LOT of it, it was several inches thick and covered the whole stoop. Pedro was scraping it off with scraper, filling up big garbage cans. He said it wasn't just the stoop, it was the stairs all the way up to the top (fifth) floor. He'd been scraping all day. He told me what happened. A guy who lived up there, I never knew his name… he was huge. He must have weighed 400 or 500 pounds. Every morning he'd come down and sit on the stoop all day, smoking cigarettes. I always said hi to him but we never had anything to actually talk about, he never really talked with anybody. At the end of the day he'd hoist himself back up to his apartment and, it turns out, drink and smoke himself to sleep. Apparently he was smoking in bed and the bed caught fire and melted him and all his fat ran out the door, down the hall, down the stairs, and out the front door, probably 400 pounds of it.

Judy at 109th Street
Judy at 109th Street
Judy at 109th Street
Judy at 109th Street
Judy at 109th Street
Judy at 109th Street
I kept the 109th Street apartment until Mommy and I got together, which was in May or June of 1968. She stayed with me there about week but that was all she could take (vermin, no bathroom, no closets...). The picture on the left shows some things about the place: the no-view window at the foot of an airshaft, the kitchen sink that was also the bathroom sink, the adjoining shower stall right in the kitchen, the bright colors I painted everything. I wish I had photos of the toilets out in the hall with mushrooms growing around them. Or all the crazy makeshift gadgets we had for locks and doorbells, made with ropes and pulleys and two-by-fours and hinges and buttons.

Judy at 109th Street
French New Wave pose
Judy at 109th Street
In the kitchen
Judy at 109th Street
Judy at 109th Street
Judy and I decided to move to a better apartment, even though it would cost four times as much. I gave my apartment to Mike Hall, one of my kids from Double Discovery, just to piss off racist Mrs. Gavaghan. Mike had a pretty horrible life, he grew up in the Bronx, once his mother locked him in a closet all summer, later he saw his brother murdered, etc… After PDD he hung around Columbia for the rest of his life, homeless, usually sleeping on the Broadway center strip. In later life he had huge dreadlocks, no teeth, and hobbled around with a cane. He was very smart and a very nice guy but he just couldn't take care of himself… All the old PDD people at Columbia watched out for him. Oh right, I almost forgot, once we got him a job as a kind of "security guard" at Amy's Own Broadway Presbyterian Cooperative Nursery School when Amy was going there. He was still around when I moved out of Manhattan in 2012.

Before leaving 109th Street, let's have some more pictures. In the second one, I still have those two mugs. The left one I brought from Germany. The right one Jerry Jacobs sent me from Frankfurt but over the years the Henninger Bier logo wore off, now it's just plain grey.

Me at 109th Street
Me at 109th Street
Me at 109th Street
Me at 109th Street
Herbert at 109th Street
Herbert at 109th Street
Herbert at 109th Street
Judy and Herbert
Herbert at 109th Street
Who ate the mattress???
Judy 1968
Amsterdam Avenue 1968
Judy 1968
110th & Amsterdam 1968
Judy gave me a puppy for Chistmas, I called him Herbert. Actually she and Paul Brooke gave me a different puppy first (Paul is holding him in the picture back in the Bertha section) but it got sick and died within a couple days, so then they gave me Herbert. I had him for six months or a year, but it was a real bad idea. I was in school or working almost all the time and he was locked up in the apartment, so he'd get crazy and start wrecking things. One day I came home and the entire apartment was up to the ceiling in feathers; I'm not kidding, when I opened the door all I saw was white. He had also eaten all my books, including a hand-typed manuscript of my grandfather's. So eventually I took him to the ASPCA, whose job (I thought) was to find him a new home. Anyway, in some of these photos you can see the secretary that I had until I moved to the Bronx; Peter Clapp gave it to me when he went underground.

Judy Frank 1967
Judy and me 1968
Peter March 1967
Peter Marsh 1968
Expo 67 Montreal
Expo 67 Montreal (1968)
These are from a trip we in 1968 took to Vermont and Expo 67 in Montreal (the Expo supposedly ended in September 1967 but it was still there). Peter and Jude were already living in Vermont in a little house they rented in Burlington for short while, which is where the first two photos were taken.

103rd Street...

308 West 103rd Street
308 West 103rd Street
View from 103rd Street Apt
View from 103rd St.
Mommy and I sublet a studio apartment of a friend of hers at 308 W 103rd Street, 9th floor, for a few months in 1969 and when her friend wanted the apartment back, the one next to it was vacant so we rented that; it was a fairly modern building; we had a separate but tiny kitchen, and one bedroom. There was an Orthodox synagogue on the first floor. We looked out over its back yard, where they sounded the ram's horn, conducted various ceremonies, and pitched their Succot tent in the Fall. We stayed there for about 7 years, during which time I was working and going to school full time, earning my BS and MS, until 1976, when she was pregnant and we needed an apartment with more bedrooms.

118th Street...

419 West 118th Street
419 West 118th Street
In 1974 Mommy and I decided to get married and have children. We were married at the end of 1974 in Mama Lori's house in Queens. All the family was there, plus Peter and Jude and some of my engineering school friends. Mommy has the wedding album but I looked really stupid in the 70s with big stupid hair and beard and 1970s suit.

Long dark hallway
In 1976 we rented the place at 419 W 118th, apartment 51 on the fifth floor, a 7-room apartment that had a pretty nice living room and study but the rest was a long, long, long hall with little tiny rooms off it that looked out on a dark airshaft: the kitchen, bedrooms, and 1930s-era bath, and there were so many cracks and crevices it was impossible to keep the cockroaches and mice out. The original rent was $350 and gradually rose to about $850 by the time you guys vacated in 1994.

419 West 118th Street
419 West 118th Street
Family group
At 118th Street May 1980
The first baby miscarried at 5 months, but the next two came out OK: Peter October 7, 1977, and Amy on May 26, 1980. We all lived there until 1988 when Mommy and I split up, and you guys and Mommie stayed there until 1994. By that time Columbia had found out I wasn't living there any more (somebody ratted us out) and had issued an eviction notice and we had to go to housing court, but Mommy and Rick found the house in Riverdale just in time.

The 118th Street years are documented in the photo CD I made in 2001. Our next-door neighbors were the Garcías, Marshall (Mariscal?) and his wife whose name I forget, and their grandson Max (Peter's good friend) and Max's mother, whose name I also forget. Peter told me Max died in 2017 of one of several conditions he was born with.

Hungarian Pastry Shop 1978
Hungarian Pastry Shop 1978
Ludi and Peter
Ludi and Peter 1980
This is where you guys both spent your first years: Peter 17 of them and Amy 14. Your baby sitter was Lourdes (Ludi) Charles, and your "nanny" was Holly Papas (in a neighborhood of white children cared for by black nannies, you guys were the notable reverse exception). You had all your birthday parties there except for the time we had one of Peter's at a bowling alley on Broadway and 230-something in the Bronx very close to where he would live one day. You played at St John the Divine ("Peacock Park"), the Columbia campus, Riverside Park, and Morningside Drive. We normally cooked meals at home but also ate out pretty much, often at Mama's Place (the Greek diner on the corner), sometimes at V&T on 111th and Amsterdam, Moon Palace on Broadway at 112th. The Hungarian Pastry Shop was right across Amsterdam Avenue from Peacock Park and we always stopped in there for treats; it's still there as of 2020. Around the corner was Green Tree, an old-fashioned Hungarian restaurant, long gone.

Amy on Amsterdam Avenue
Going to school
Barnard Toddler Center
Barnard Toddler Center
Both of you started your schooling at Barnard Toddler Center on 120th Street, even before you turned 2. Then Peter went to Tompkins Hall Nursery School on Claremont Avenue where Lita Eskin worked. Amy went to Greenhouse School on 116th Street, then Broadway Presbyterian preschool on 113th. Then you both went to PS87 on 78th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus for elementary school. I was pretty strong on sending you guys to public school, but Mommy would have sent you to private schools if she could have
Earl Carroll
Earl Carroll
(she applied to one on Fifth Avenue for Peter, Manhattan Country Day School, but luckily wasn't accepted). I would have wanted you guys to go to PS36 on Amsterdam and 122nd Street; it was the neighborhood school but Mommy wanted something more downtown. PS87 had a famous janitor, Earl Carroll, who was lead singer of the Cadillacs who had a huge hit in 1955, "They often call me Speedoo but my real name is Mister Earl". After that he was in the Coasters for 20 years. He died in 2012 at 75. Also Chaka Khan was a school mom, we saw her all the time (did you know she had been a Black Panther?)

Then you both went to IS44 on 77th Street (which was one of the early schools that was broken up into mini-schools, like the Science School, the Computer School, and which was unceremoniously shut down by mayor Bloomberg in 2009), also between Amsterdam and Columbus. Famous parents or grandparents there included Peter Boyle (he was the monster in Young Frankenstein) and Fyvush Finkel from Picket Fences.

Day camp: Ramapo, 1980s. Sleepaway camp: ECCC, Episcopal Camp and Conference Center, Old Saybrook CT, formerly Camp Incarnation, because Mommie had started hanging out at St John the Divine some time after 1988 (actually I think it was after Granpa died and she got religion). In 1993 at ECCC Peter snapped his ACLs in one knee while Mommy was away on a trip and unreachable. I rented a car and drove there (like 100 miles) the next day to pick up him up, arranged for surgery, and kept him in my 112th Street apartment, took him to hospital, visited him each day while he was there, brought him back to my apartment on 112th Street, and even bought an air conditioner so he wouldn't suffer in the heat. This was over a week or two, it was super traumatic. The first doctor who saw him (at camp) told him he'd lose the leg. In the end, he was in a leg brace and in rehab for six months and recovered OK, but with a huge scar.


Peter and Jude's house
Peter Marsh and Judy Bryant have been my friends since 1966, just off the boat from the Army in Germany. They've been together since high school and have a daughter Hannah. Peter is a fanatical Vermonter, with good reason: it's a beautiful state and the people are almost universally good-natured, open, kind, and friendly. He grew up in Arlington (near Bennington), where Norman Rockwell lived and so the Marsh family appears in some of Rockwell's paintings and Saturday Evening Post covers. As noted earlier, Peter left Columbia and NYC because of the Vietnam war and the draft and returned to Vermont to do his alternative CO service in Burlington. Not long after, Jude joined him there and after a few years they bought a fairy-tale log house in the woods in a high valley over Starksboro (pop. about 1000). We went to stay with them every summer for 30-some years, it was a big part of our lives. The visits diminished after Mommy and I broke up in 1988 because I didn't have a car, although a few times I rented one so we could go. In recent years Amy went there with a former boyfriend and Peter went with Sophia before they split up in 2019. And I went there with Pam in September 2019; they had sold their fairy-table cabin and moved to a house in Bristol right near Cubbers.

Peter and Jude's house
Creek scene
Bridge over creek
Peter and hammock
Vegetable garden
Big Rock
Clifford's Pond
Clifford's Pond
At Jude's studio
Country fair
Cubber's in Bristol

For the record Peter has been a carpenter (and I think also a woodworking instructor at the Shelburne Craft School), a house builder (his own business for many years), a restoration carpenter at the Shelburne Museum, and most recently a house inspector. And Jude has a been a potter all this time, and also a pottery teacher at the Craft Center.


Kinapic is the name of a little colony of "housekeeping cottages" on lake Kezar, about 5 miles outside of Lovell, Maine, owned by the family of my ex-sister-in-law Christine's husband Henry. Starting when Peter 8 months old in 1978, we went there every summer until 1988 (and Mommy continued to take you guys there after that, right?). Lovell is a tiny town whose only store (an old wooden house) is a combination diner, convenience store, and gas station. Steven King lives there, but I don't think we ever saw him. At first we stayed for a week, but it was so nice that the next year we stayed two weeks, and after that three weeks. THEN we'd drive across New Hampshire to Vermont and stay with Peter and Jude another week. Yes, it's hard to believe but I had FOUR WEEKS of vacation in my job (and of course as a teacher, Mommy had the whole summer off).

Judy and Peter at Kinapic 1977
Uncle Henry
View of Lake
View of Lake
Dock, boats, diving platform
The voyage to Blueberry Island
Kinapic scene
Granpa, Christine, Granma at Kinapic
Peter jumping off the dock
Goodnight Moon

112th Street...

605 West 112th Street
605 West 112th Street
No furniture
No furniture yet - 1988
Mommy and I were together for 20 years (1968-1988) and were also married for 20 years (1974-1994). I moved to 605 West 112th Street in 1988 (not a Columbia apt) and stayed there until 2012, 24 years, the longest time I ever lived anywhere. At first you guys came over every weekend, and I would come back to 118th Street every morning to get you off to school. Eventually you got older… And summer camp… And college… and Brazil… and South Africa.... Amy also went to Spain and to Italy on class trips in middle or high school. (You guys can write your own bios!)

Ivonne García
Ivonne García about 2000
Peter's 12th birthday
Peter's 12th birthday at 112th Street
But we had a lot of fun in those years… You guys would come over for the weekend and we'd always go to a movie, usually at Leows 84th, and then eat in a restaurant, usually Broadway Cottage II on 94th Street. Sometimes we'd go the West Village or the East Village or the Feast of San Gennaro or Chinatown or other places reachable by subway. Once (twice actually) Amy and I went to Staten Island on the ferry. After about 10 years, Ivonne García became part of the family, so there would always be 4 of us at the weekend gatherings. I used to cook a lot... super salads, eggplant parmagian, lasgana, various chicken-cutlet extravaganzas, plus every Friday night we always had a large pizza with spinach and mushrooms from Pizza Town, which was right around the corner.

Me 112th Street
Me at the foot of 112th Street
View from 112th Street
On Saturdaysnbsp;we'd always make sure to be home in time for Hercules and Xena, and then Peter would stay up till all hours watching Headbangers Ball, then we'd wake up early to watch the Smurfs, while eating our traditional breakfast of grits, toasted bagels, and soy sausages. The three of us (or sometimes just Amy and me or just Peter and me) went on some good trips too… Misquamicut, Cape Cod, Howard and Lita's and Saratoga Springs (the stinky water), Vermont, a little diner in rural Canada, a zoo somewhere in Quebec with drooling giraffes… I remember on one trip we had big black fuzzy dice hanging from the rear-view mirror of the rental car. If I did that now I'd be arrested.

The Bronx...

277 East 207th Street
277 East 207th Street
Oval Park
Oval Park seen from my window
The purpose of living at 112th Street was so I could walk to work but once I lost my job, there was no reason to stay there. The rent in my 112th Street place was $1100 in 1988. It stayed in the low-to-mid 1000s for about 20 years but then a new management company took over and was raising it 20% every year; it was $2400 in 2011 and it was about to go up again. I was sick of the increasingly gentrified neighborhood and the whole borough of Manhattan so I decided to look for an apartment in the Bronx. At first I wanted to live on Sedgwick Avenue along the reservoir in Kingsbridge and I looked at some places that were pretty nice, but it was not near any stores or transportation, and walking there from Broadway was like climbing a mountain. So I "settled" for the place on 207th Street overlooking Oval Park. Turns out to be the best place in NY I ever lived.

Oval Park on a winter night
Oval Park view on a winter night
Once I moved I realized that I was never comfortable among Columbia people (except janitors, AA's etc, like Freddie Cocco and Terry Thompson)... privileged, entitled, arrogant, competetive, and increasingly clueless. Now I'm back among working people, like my whole life up until I left the Army, and it feels right. I love it here. It's the most diverse place I ever saw except maybe Woodside, Queens. Everybody is so nice, the total opposite of Manhattan. Not just nice to me, but also nice to each other… Dominicans, Black Americans, West Indians, Bangladeshis, Puerto Ricans, West Africans, Mexicans, Albanians, Yemenis… And a few very old Italian, Irish, and Jewish holdovers from decades past. No arrogant yuppies, no masters of the universe, everybody working hard to get by, mostly families with children, but they're not angry and hateful like the people who voted for Trump, because unlike them, these people have always been on the bottom. When they come home from work, they forget about the job and live their lives. Nobody is an outsider or foreigner here because everybody is.

This is the first place I've lived since high school that is like Frankfurt, where there is a common gathering place — Oval Park — where all the kids go after school and all the families take their children and everybody walks their dogs.

Amy Peter and Sophia in the Bronx
Amy Peter and Sophia
Peter and Sophia
Peter and Sophia at City Island
Then in 2017 you guys moved here too... All three of us living in the same building! (until COVID, when Amy lost her job and had to move back in with Mommy).


Columbia University...

Columbia University
Columbia University 2002
In August 1966, before I received my acceptance letter, I moved to NYC from DC. The day arrived I found a temporary apartment (the one in the Ta-Kome building) and got a job Butler library. I worked there three years, everything from shelving books to working at the checkout desk to cataloging PhD dissertations. I started at $1.00/hour and was earning $2.30 by the time I left in 1969. One day working at the desk a little old man shuffled in, timidly… It was the library's first ever amnesty on overdue books, and he turned in a book he had checked out in 1888.

In September I started a full load at GS (Columbia's School of General Studies, its adult division created originally for returning veterans) and still worked full time in the library, 40-60 hours a week. I ended up with a BS in Sociology in 1970, somewhat belated because I was suspended for a semester due to the 1968 sit-ins and arrests. I paid my way totally by working, plus a $100-per-month stipend from the VA, and whatever meager scholarships I could get. Also Peter Marsh and I would go to the Columbia hospital once a month and sell blood for $10 and some free juice and cookies.

My undergraduate degree was pre-Internet, pre-computer, purely paper and pencil, blackboards and chalk, books and libraries and typewriters. The only exception was one single sociology class that used computers, but I dropped it because we had to go to the East Side where *the* computer terminal (an IBM Selectric typewriter) was.

The only computers were mammoth multimillion dollar monsters accessible only to a select few and even then only by punch cards and printouts, and they were not networked. There was no email. TV was still broadcast, cable didn't come until the 1970s. Music was on 33⅓ and 45rpm records and LPs; there was a record store on Broadway across from Columbia. Although video recording had been invented, it did not reach the mass market until the 1970s, so there were no VCRs, no video rental. Anyway I never had a TV until the 1970s although Peter Marsh and I rented one briefly at 109th Street for the 1968 Olympics. At Columbia, papers had to be typed on typewriters. Around every university was a bunch of stores for used and new typewriters, and Butler Library had coin-operated public typewriters. I bought a Czechoslovakian manual typewriter for $5.00 that I wrote all my papers on. Offices had electric typewriters, usually the IBM Selectric. I have been a good typer since high school, when my dad and mom made me learn to touch-type. To this day I can type about 120wpm just like both of them. I imagine my life would have turned out a lot different if that hadn't happened.

I got straight A's all through freshman year. Sophomore year was 1968, when I was in Low Library and was arrested twice, etc, so no more straight A's.

Interlude: Student uprising 1968

[Read 1968 history]

My first impression of Columbia was pretty good: the students, faculty, and staff... A lot of fast-talking New Yorkers, it was "somewhat" integrated (staff: very; student body: a little; faculty: not much). There were lots of antiwar demonstrations and pro-Harlem activity. In 1966 and 1967 I was in a lot rallies and marches against the Vietnam war and/or racism, including several huge ones in Washington DC. In 1967 I withheld 84% of my tax bill; click here to see what I wrote to IRS by way of explanation (I remember typing this in the Bertha with Mommie and Jude and Peter and Wendy watching over my shoulder). I never heard a peep from the government about it.

Breaking into the gym site
Breaking into the gym site 1968
But it soon became evident that the Columbia administration and trustees were all in with the Vietnam war and with the ethnic cleansing of Harlem (a long story I won't go into here because there are whole books about it... anyway you see how Harlem is today and you can thank Columbia for it). The final straw was when Columbia appropriated a big chunk of Morningside Park for itself in order to build its new gym. There were constant demonstrations over this, so finally CU made a concession, allowing "community members" (i.e. Black people) into the gym but only through the back door, a policy that was immediately dubbed Gym Crow. I was at work when this news came out and a bunch of students went to the construction site and tried to tear down the fence and the police came and arrested them. When I came out of Butler Library a near riot was going on around the Sundial, I joined it, and before long we all marched into Hamilton Hall and "occupied it" overnight.

Me in Low Library 1968
Me in Low Library 1968
I have a whole website about this here, no need to recount everything that's already in there, but briefly... Early the next morning the white students, including me, marched to Low Library, broke open the locked door and moved in to President Kirk's office. As the days passed, four more buildings were occupied, including Fayerweather where Mommy was for a while, then after a week we were all removed forcibly by police. That was the "first bust", involving about 700 arrests.

100 Centre Street
100 Centre Street
Tom Hayden
Tom Hayden 1968
I spent the night in the Tombs at 100 Centre Street sharing a cell with Tom Hayden and few other people. Another item worth mentioning about that night is that I saw a guy I worked with in Butler who had tried to recruit me to "blow stuff up" walking the corridors wearing an NYPD badge; I ratted him out and he was fired from his Butler job.

612 West 114th Street
Peter Marsh in custody
About two weeks later there was an SRO occupation on 114th Street with about 100 arrests, including Peter Marsh (right) , and a few days after that 138 of us occupied Hamilton again and were arrested. There's a movie about all this called Columbia Revolts; I'm in it a lot, but the best part was cut out some time after 1988 (when Peter and I saw it at a 20th anniversary showing), where Teddy Gold and I are sharing a gallon jug of apple cider. All traces of Teddy were removed from the film after he was killed in the March 6, 1970, West 11th Street townhouse explosion where they were building bombs.

I was charged with three felonies and a misdemeanor and spent the next three years going to court dates on Centre Street and learning about how the criminal courts work in real life for the accused prostitutes, drug offenders, etc, who are the large majority of the court's cases. The key number is 90: the public defender meets the defendent for the first and only time and spends 90 seconds convincing him or her to plead guity in exchange for a 90-day sentence; otherwise they'll be at Rikers for 2-3 years awaiting trial (did you know that 70% of all the people in jail in this country are awaiting trial but can't afford bail?). So they plead guilty. Next!... For every hour I spent in the courtroom I'd see 40 poor souls sent to prison. Anyway after three years and about 30 court dates I ended pleading to a violation, with no punishment.

May 1968 French poster
French poster
About a month later all hell broke loose in France and afterwards some of those people came and stayed with me and they all said that we were their inspiration; they gave me a bunch of their famous posters like the one shown at left that was on my wall at 109th Street. Then that summer the same thing happened in Mexico. Mommy and I were there for that, and only by accident did we miss being in a demonstration that was mowed down by machine-gun fire.

The Columbia strike lasted the rest of the school year; the University was effectively shut down. There were picket lines in front of every building, and I was in them. Our main function was to reason with people who disagreed with us, rather than to physically block them from going in. Many were sympathetic, some were hostile, some were belligerent.

I can't speak for the French and Mexicans, but as to why we were so motivated in those days... On average, the USA was killing 2000 Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians every single day and destroying and poisoning their cities, towns, and countryside. People our age were being drafted and sent over there to murder people who only wanted to be left alone. Of my Frankfurt High schoolmates, hundreds went to Vietnam and 15 came back in boxes. And, in the wake of the very recent civil rights movement, Columbia's behavior towards its Harlem and Manhattan Valley neighbors was arrogant and predatory.

Interlude within the Interlude

Joanne Tuminski 1968
Joanne Tuminski 1968
It's a little-known fact that I had a girlfriend just before Mommie, named Joanne Tuminski. She was two years behind Mommie at Barnard and lived in 616, the Barnard dorm on 116th Street. I knew her from my library job, every time she came to the desk she'd stay and talk. Then when I was in Low Library, she'd come to my window and bring me treats, so after it was all over we saw each other for a couple months before Judy happened. Joanne was from Dorchester Mass and her favorite expression was to say something was "warped", but with her Boston accent. We used to lay on the South Field lawn and look up at the stars and talk for hours and hours. One day when we were hanging out together we bumped into Mommie and I introduced them.

Columbia University, cont'd

I was suspended for a semester because I wouldn't apologize to the Dean of GS and worked full time in Butler, during which time I also was a labor organizer for District Council 65, successful enough to force an (unsuccessful) election, but this got me fired from Butler. The voting, by the way, was at Broadway Presbyterian (Amy's Own Skoo-well), in the basement.

Mina Karp and Margo Jefferson
Mina Karp, Margo Jefferson
After being ejected from the library I got a full-time job in the Engineering School because Mommy's and my friend Laura Karp whose parents, Bill and Mina Karp, were 1930s Lefties in the WPA Art Project, asked Mina, who worked there, if there was a job for me and that's how I wound up at the Engineering School. Margo Jefferson also worked there and we became good friends; later she became famous as a journalist and writer, winning a Pulitzer Prize, and has published three books: On Michael Jackson (2006), Negroland: A Memoir (2015), and Constructing a Nervous System (2022).

The job was in the Applied Physics and Nuclear Engineering department in the Mudd building, which is built around a nuclear reactor that was never turned on. Nevertheless on the reactor floor there were always radiation experiments going on so I had to wear a film badge that was checked weekly to make sure I wasn't radioactive. So aside from office work, I helped set up the experiments (e.g. making big walls out of lead or paraffin bricks for shielding) and also was responsible for the liquid nitrogen supply (once I accidentally dropped a canister and it spilled out over my foot but luckily I was wearing workboots and still have my foot). The job was informal and flexible and people were nice so I could take off for class at any time, and that's how I finished by BA.

Interlude: taxi driving...

I graduated at the end of 1970 (the middle of the school year because of the 1-semester suspension) with a BA in sociology, which turned out to be good for only one job, welfare inspector, which entails going to public housing apartments, banging on the door, demanding to enter in and see if they had anything expensive, the objective being to evict them from public housing and/or take them off welfare.

Yellow cab 1970s
Yellow cabs 1970s
So instead of that I wound up doing odd jobs (like illustrations for books and pamphlets) and then as a taxi driver — yellow cabs, "big boats" over 20 feet long. Most of the other drivers were middle-aged Black or Jewish men. Since I was the kid at the garage, I always got the worst car. Once I actually drove a whole shift in a car that had no floor in back seat. Another time my car just stopped working at the foot of the big stairs on 231st Street at Ewen Park and I sat there for like 6 hours waiting for a tow truck, never knowing that one day you guys would be taking those stairs every day.

Hack license 1970-72
Hack license 1970-72
I drove for Inwood Garage in the Bronx. This was when Mommy and I lived on 103rd Street. I'd get up about 4:30am, shower, take the #1 to 96th, take the #2 to 149th and Grand Concourse, and then the #4 up Jerome Avenue to 170th Street and walk a block west to Inwood Ave where the garage was. The building is still there but now it's Taxi Cab Partitions Inc. My shift was 6:00am to 6:00pm. At first I'd go straight to Manhattan, but the passengers there were mostly rude arrogant cheapskate businessmen in a big rush to get to a meeting or the air­port, so I quickly learned to try my best to stay in the Bronx all day where people were nice and friendly and tipped much better, even though they were poor, plus the traffic was lighter so I could make more trips per shift. Many of my Bronx passengers said I was the only yellow taxi they ever saw in their lives. Once I picked up a group of three or four gang kids, wearing colors; they couldn't believe I stopped for them and gave me a huge tip. I remember mainly being on Grand Concourse, Jerome Avenue, St. Ann's Avenue, and Third Avenue. Since this was before Internet and GPS, I carried a big foldup map with me.

By the way, a trip to the airport was about a $7.00 fare, so it would seem like a good thing, but it turned out that to get a fare back from the airport you had to pay the dispatcher a $10 bribe, so I'd just go on Queens Boulevard and usually got a fare or two. (I could keep going for many pages of taxi stories....)

Around the same time was when Mommie and I bought our first car, a used 1963 Dodge Dart. We went to a used-car lot on Jerome Avenue and Grandpa picked it out. I know we had this car while I was a taxi driver because I remember braking on Broadway to pick up fares, forgetting that I was not in my taxi. We had the Dart for years. We bought our next car from Henry, it was kind of a sports car, eight cylinders, very fast, but paint would not stick to it, it fell off in sheets. After that we bought another used car that was stolen the very next day. Then we bought our first new car, a kind of minivan for our big shopping trips to the Paramus Mall in NJ.

How I got my computer job...

Lee Lidofsky
Lee Lidofsky
Herb Goldstein
Herb Goldstein
Me programming
Me programming the old way
Eventually the same people I had worked part-time for in the Engin­eering School offered me a full-time job, which I took. As I recall it paid $6000 a year. Within a year or two I was programming their minicomputer (a room-size monster that had 16k of 16-bit-word memory) and with prodding from one of the professors there, Lee Lidofsky, and also much encour­age­ment from Herb Goldstein (a world-famous scientist and mathematician), I earned a Masters in EE & CS on tuition exemption. It took three years while I worked in my full-time job. I had to take 65 points of "makeup" courses (calculus, physics, linear algebra, statistics and probability, etc) in addition to the 30 points of engineering because I had no math or science as an undergraduate. I would have gone on to get a PhD (was actually admitted to the program) but by then Peter was on the scene. When the grant that funded my job there ended, Lee got me my first real programming job, R&D in nuclear medicine at Mt Sinai Hospital while I was still taking
Columbia U machine room
Columbia U machine room 1974
Howard Eskin
Howard Eskin + Mr.P
engineering classes, a lot of zooming back and forth across Central Park on my bicycle. One of my engineering professors, Howard Eskin (pictured with Peter at his 1st birthday party) who was to become one of my best friends, along with his wife Lita (who would be Peter's teacher in preschool), recruited me to come work for him at the Columbia Computer Center. This was in 1974; I did, and wound up with a 37-year career in computing, data communications, and networking at Columbia (when such things were relatively novel and obscure), wrote books, traveled the world, etc etc blah blah.

PDP-11 room 1975
Judy visiting the PDP-11 room 1975
PDP-11 room 1976
PDP-11 room 1976, much more crowded (and loud)
When I first went to work at the Columbia Computer Center I was just another programmer on the huge IBM 360/91 mainframe, which was all punchcards and printouts. But from Mount Sinai I also had experience with the new minicomputers from Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), and talked them up. Within a year we had bought our first DEC multiuser timesharing computer, a PDP-11 with which up to 32 simultaneous users could interact directly. And poof! I was a manager after just one year on the job. The first picture above shows a small part of the DEC PDP-11 computer that was in this small room which was also my office for two years, and where the noise was measured at 75dB.

DECSYSTEM-20 1977... A Biiiiiiiiiig Computer!
DEC buildings in Maynard MA
DEC Marlboro
Just two years later we had bought a large (not mini) DEC timesharing system for a million dollars and I was the manager of that one too, and then over the next few years three more like it, all of them networked together and used by about 6000 people. Columbia's first computer network, Columbia's first email, etc etc. We were one of DEC's biggest customers, so important they'd fly us to Logan Airport on one of their private jets and then from there to Maynard or Marlboro in one of their helicopters.

The Kermit Project...

Starting in the late 1970s, microcomputers and PCs became popular, all different kinds, and also the Columbia departments all had different kinds of computers, both mini and micro. But there was no way for all these different computers to communicate with each other so we developed the Kermit file transfer protocol and the original software programs to execute it. We wrote Kermit programs for CP/M microcomputers, the DEC mini and mainframes, the IBM mainframe, the IBM PC and (when it came out) the Macintosh. This was a big deal, all the other universities wanted it, and when they got it they added new implementations for their own computers, and before long Kermit software was available for hundreds of different computers and we were famous and I had written my first book, which was a best-seller.

Chris Gianone 1987
Chris Gianone 1987
Kermit machine room 1986
Kermit machine room
In fact, Kermit software became so popular that we (the systems programming group) were spending all our time putting it on magnetic tapes and mailing to places all over the world. No other work was getting done, and the postage was costing a lot. So I agreed with Howard and the Director, Bruce Gilchrist, to start charging for the tapes and to use the revenue to hire a business manager, Chris Gianone (who already worked elsewhere in the Computer Center), and some tape-makers and shippers, and set up a machine room in the back of Watson Lab 7th floor for making the tapes.

Me in 1987
Me with suit 1987
By 1987 Kermit was such a big deal that Chris and I were teaching courses at Columbia (and at various corporations downtown) and giving speeches in front of big crowds at computer conferences and symposia all over the USA as well as overseas. For this I had to buy a suit! Chris and I published books and articles both together and separately, and often traveled together; I'd give the technical talks and she'd make the deals. We went to the Boston area countless times in our dealings with DEC, which (as Digital Press) was also the publisher of our books. We also went to conferences in Anaheim, Nashville, and Baton Rouge (where a modem company seriously tried to hire us away from Columbia). We went to other conferences in Japan, Germany, Switzerland, France, and finally the USSR, and each trip also included side trips to other nearby places such as Austria, Italy, Hong Kong, Macau, Hawaii... Everybody (including Mommie) thought Chris and I were an item but we never were. All that time Chris was with another guy, Louie, who she married in 1997 and they had kids who are grown up now.

Me in Paris 1988
Me in Paris 1988
Chris and me in Tokyo 1987
In Tokyo 1987
Me in Ulm 1988
Me in Ulm 1988
Me and Chris in Milan
In Milan 1988
Chris in Japan 1987
Chris in Japan 1987
Me in Innsbrück 1988
Innsbrück 1988
Amy Peter

By 1990 we were making so much money in shipping fees and book sales that I was able to resign from my real job (as Columbia's network planning officer) and do Kermit full time, and even hire a full-time programmer. We came out with Kermit 95 for Windows 95 and it made millions of dollars for Columbia. But Windows and the Internet spelled the end of the international conferences and junkets.

Watson Lab
Watson Lab on 115th Street
7th Floor Watson Lab
Where I worked for 37 years
The idea of working at Columbia was that you didn't make a lot of money but it was super-informal and the benefits were almost unbelievable. For example tuition exemption for myself (how I got my Masters degree) and for you guys, about a half million dollars worth. Four weeks vacation. A defined-benefit pension. Health care. My job was just perfect for me: no bureaucracy, no meetings, no wearing suits, none of that stupid stuff that other jobs had, and I could do creative work all day long, plus dealing with users and helping them with their projects and research. Most of the time I was there I had my own private office, as did most other people — no cubicles, no "bullpens", no "scrums"... Imagine, peace and quiet, no interruptions, but at the same time you could visit other people in their offices to talk about stuff.

All of that changed in 2005 when CU president Bollinger decided the university should be run like a corporation and brought in corporate managers for every department inluding ours. Overnight it turned from the best place on earth to work to the worst. Nobody was allowed to do their job any more, all we could do was sit in meetings accounting for ourselves and setting goals and milestones, doing "strategic planning", recording everything we do in spreadsheets and dashboards, and on and on. The new managers who were brought in at every level knew nothing about computing, software, or anything else we did, so even more meetings were necessary for all the real workers to explain what they were doing to the clueless managers. Furthermore "project managers" were brought in to "interface" between us and our new managers, and to micromanage our supposed work, which none of us ever had time to do.

Meanwhile heads were rolling; not a week went by without people disappearing, especially the most senior and the most competent. I was the only one they couldn't fire because I was paying my own salary from sales of software licenses. I had been one of the small group of senior managers at the computer center for 30 years, but now I reported to a young guy 1/3 my age who used to work for me, and I had to have a "teleconference" with him every day for a couple hours. But worst of all they decided to starve me out by not letting me make new releases of our revenue-generating software products. It took five years, but eventually orders went down to where CU was having to contribute a few dollars towards my salary, and they laid me off. Luckily by then I was old enough to retire. Even more luckily, my last day was the day before Columbia cut back drastically on its retirement package. It was also the same day as the Washington-DC/NYC earthquake. I actually felt it, sitting in my office chair, a fitting sendoff.

What Is Kermit?

For the record, since it's the main thing I'm known for... From the Kermit Project website:

Kermit is the name of a file-transfer and -management protocol and a suite of computer programs for many types of computers that implements that protocol as well as other communication functions ranging from terminal emulation to automation of communications tasks through a high-level cross-platform scripting language. The software is transport-independent, operating over TCP/IP connections in traditional clear-text mode or secured by SSH, SSL/TLS, or Kerberos IV or V, as well as over serial-port connections, modems, and other communication methods (X.25, DECnet, various LAN protocols such as NETBIOS and LAT, parallel ports, etc, on particular platforms).

The Kermit Project was founded at the Columbia University Computer Center in 1981 to meet a specific need, and until the mid- to late 1990s, Kermit was Columbia's standard desktop connectivity software, used universally by students, faculty, and staff to connect from desktop microcomputers, PCs, Macintoshes, and Unix workstations to the central computing facilities: the IBM mainframes (1963-2017), the DECSYSTEM-20s (1977-1988), CLIO (Columbia's first online library information system, 1984-2003), and Cunix (our big central Unix-based servers, 1986-present), and to departmental VAXes, PDP-11s, Suns, and other minicomputers. In the early days of microcomputers and PCs but before widespread deployment of local area networks and desktop workstations that connected to them, Kermit software linked the desktop to e-mail, bulletin boards, file sharing, text processing, messaging, and other aspects of the new on-line culture that is now taken for granted, long before the experience was available at most other institutions. At Columbia, the DEC-20s and the departmental minicomputers are long gone and the IBM mainframes are now only for backoffice use, but Kermit software is still used for SSH sessions from the desktop to CUNIX, and by the technical staff for system and network administration tasks; for example, configuring racks full of HP blade servers as they arrive, management of the University's telephone system, CGI scripting, alpha paging of on-call staff, and so on. Plus, of course, by old-timers who just plain prefer the safety and efficiency of text-mode shell sessions for email and to get their work done; for example, software development and website management.

Over the years, the Kermit Project grew into a worldwide cooperative nonprofit software development and distribution effort, headquartered at and coordinated from Columbia University, as Kermit software was ported to or developed for more and more computers and operating systems (see list). The Kermit Project is dedicated to production of cross-platform, long-lasting, stable, standards-conformant, interoperable communications software, and has been actively engaged in the standards process. Kermit software is used all over the world in every sector of the economy: national government, state and local government, academic, medicine and health care, engineering, aerospace, nonprofit, and commercial.

EM-APEX ocean float Although terminal emulation has been largely supplanted by the Web for online access, Kermit software continues to play a role in other applications such as remote sensing and data collection, management and troubleshooting of networking and telecommunications equipment, back office work, cargo and inventory management, medical insurance claim submission, electronic funds transfer, and online filing of income tax returns. Kermit software is embedded in network routers and switches, in cell-phone towers, in medical diagnostic and monitoring equipment, even in cardiac pacemakers, not to mention the cash registers of quite a few big-name "big box" retailers. In 2002 Kermit flew on the International Space Station, and Kermit software is the communication method used by EM APEX ocean floats (left) supplying realtime data to hurricane researchers and trackers to this day (the hurricane project entered a new expanded phase in 2010 based on a new version of Embedded Kermit).

Boeing 787 Since the 1980s, Kermit protocol and software have been used on the factory floor in programmable die-cutting, press brake, laminating, flat roll, shearing, metal- and plastic-processing, woodworking, and other machines. For example, in the manufacture of the Boeing 787, where Kermit is used to control a Tape Layer that forms certain body components. You can read more about how Kermit is used on the factory floor here and here.

Mr. Zip Flag of Brazil Flag of Bosnia-Hezogovina In the 1990s Kermit software was used in US Post Office automation, it played a key role in the 1994 Brazilian national election (the biggest in the history of the world up to that time), and it was central to the UN relief mission to Bosnia, “linking the entire spectrum of the project operation, from mainframe, minicomputer, PCs, to handheld devices and barcode readers.”

In the 1980s the robustness of the Kermit protocol suited it ideally for service in the Green Revolution in Africa, the joint European-USSR Giotto space mission, and perhaps most notably in reestablishing data communication between US research stations in Antarctica and the mainland after they were cut off in 1986 in a computer mishap during the 9-month Antarctic winter. In 1988 an international conference on Kermit was hosted in Moscow, USSR, and Kermit sessions were featured at other conferences throughout the 1980s in Tokyo, Bern, Paris, Nashville, and elsewhere.

Muppets Calendar page from May 1981 The Kermit protocol and software are named after Kermit the Frog, star of the television series, The Muppet Show; the name Kermit is used by permission of Henson Associates, Inc. Why is it named after Kermit the Frog? In May of 1981 we already had first implementations of the protocol working, but we didn't have a name for the protocol or the software yet. A group of us was discussing it (me, Bill Catchings, Bill Schilit, Jeff Damens, I think that was the group), without actually caring too much since we never expected the software to spread all over the world and last for decades. I happened to be facing the wall that had a Muppets calendar on it, and since my children were such big fans of the Muppet Show I said, How about Kermit?  Thirty years later (May 2011) I found the calendar page that I was looking at when I said that, you can see it on the left and you can click on it to see a bigger image.

About 150 distinct Kermit programs were written by us at Columbia and elsewhere by volunteer developers, which ran on countless different hardware architectures, operating systems, OS versions and variants, in about 36 different programming languages; they are all housed at the Kermit Software Archive.

Kermit 95 Shrinkwrap
K95 Shrinkwrap
Kermit 95 was developed not only to meet Columbia's need for connectivity from Windows 95 (and later) to the central text-based services, but also to raise money to support the Kermit Project. Unlike other Kermit programs, K95 was strictly commercial, available in both a retail shrinkwrapped version (right) and in bulk right-to-copy licenses. From its release in 1995 until mid-2011, over a quarter million bulk license seats were purchased in over 1000 licenses ranging in size from 100 seats to 10,000. About 30,000 shrinkwrapped copies were sold, many thousands more purchased for download from e-academy (site now defunct), and K95 was site-licensed by over 100 universities as well as by entire statewide university systems such as SUNY (64 campuses with about 400,000 students).

The Kermit Project was put on a self-funding basis in 1984, and from then until its cancellation in 2011, it realized $8,894,912.00 in revenue for the University, plus an equipment grant (the Hermit Project) valued at $3,000,000.00. Between 1984, when the Kermit "business" began, until 1998, when the Internet took over the world, we made 31,591 shipments of Kermit software on magnetic media (mainly 10-inch reels of 9-track magnetic tape); 4679 of them international to 107 different countries including some that no longer exist such as the USSR and Yugoslavia, and to others you might not expect such as New Caledonia and (via Panama) Cuba.

The documents and records (and some artifacts) of the Kermit Project are housed at the Computer History museum in Mountain View CA, along with oral histories of the Kermit Project

  1. da Cruz, Frank, and Bill Catchings, "Kermit: A File Transfer Protocol for Universities", BYTE Magazine, Volume 9, Numbers 6 and 7, June and July 1984 (our title was "The Kermit File Transfer Protocol" but the BYTE editors changed it).
  2. da Cruz, Frank, Kermit, A File Transfer Protocol, Digital Press, Bedford MA (1987), ISBN 0-932376-88-6; foreword by Donald Knuth (a Russian edition was in the works when the Soviet Union collapsed).
  3. da Cruz, Frank, and Christine M. Gianone, Using C-Kermit, Second Edition, Digital Press / Butterworth Heinemann, Newton MA (1997), ISBN 0-55558-164-1 (there was also a German edition).
  4. Gianone, Christine M., Using MS-DOS Kermit, Second Edition, Digital Press, Burlington MA (1992), ISBN 1-55558-082-3 (there were also German and French editions).
  5. Kermit Oral History Panel, The Computer History Museum, recorded 6 April 2012 at Watson Laboratory, Columbia University (the link is to a PDF transcription).
  6. Frank da Cruz Kermit records inventory, 1968-2006, The Computer History Museum (PDF).
  7. The New Open-Source Kermit Project (website, 2011-present).

International Kermit Conference Moscow USSR 1989

USSR Kermit Conference logo
USSR Kermit Conference logo
USSR button
USSR button
Me in Moscow 1989
Me in Moscow 1989
Kermit software was perhaps the main way that Soviet computers communicated with each other (mainly in ASCII) and with the outside world in the 1980s, but they wanted Kermit to be able to deal with the muliplicity of character encodings used by the different Soviet computers for Cyrillic writing and by Eastern bloc computers with their "extended" Roman alphabets. I spent a year or two working with them on this, communicating by post and, sporadically, by BITNET and Usenet through various gateways that would cloak their identity. Finally we had a workable scheme that could, indeed, be expanded to any number of character encodings such as those used for Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Hebrew, etc, but more to the point for COMECON countries: most of Soviet Union (Cyrillic, Georgian, Armenian scripts) pus the unique Roman character repertoires like Czechoslovakia, Romania, Poland, and Yugoslavia. So a conference was organized for computer experts from all the COMECON countries (including Cuba) to be held in Moscow in May 1989, and Christine and I, the "owners" of the Kermit protocol, were invited as keynote speakers, all expenses paid.

Me in Suzdal 1989
Me in Suzdal 1989
Red Square
Red Square
USSR coins
USSR coins - click to enlarge
I have a trip report and photo gallery here (for as long as the link lasts; hopefully longer than most). Meanwhile here are some Soviet coins I brought back. The largest is 1 Ruble; the legend ПОБЕДА НАД ФАШИСТСКОЙ ГЕРМАНИЕЙ means Victory over the German Fascists.

Mommy and the Scotts


Judy 1947
Judy 146th Street 1947
Judy in high school
Judy in high school 1964
Judy in 1970
Judy in 1970
Judith Maria Scott, born in New York City March 16, 1947.

Judy's mom: Consuelo Lillian Bergen (Granma), born NYC January 17, 1922; died in the Bronx Saturday, June 22, 2019.
Judy's dad: Ulysses Samuel Scott (Granpa), born Lockhart SC February 12, 1917, died July 5, 1996.

Mommie grew up in the Bronx, went to public schools in the Northeast Bronx — PS 78 in Williamsbridge and PS 113 Olinville Junior High School (now MS 113 Richard Green Middle School), also in Williamsbridge (it's a New Deal site, I showed it to Amy; the reason Judy went there instead of JHS 135, which is closer to the projects, is that she still lived at 1047 when she entered 7th grade and 113 was the local junior high school, and didn't want to transfer). Then to the High School of Music & Art when it was next to City College on 135th Street and Convent Avenue (instrument viola and violin), then Barnard College where she was when I met her, then Columbia grad school, then Columbia Teachers College, and much later also Bank Street, and Union Theological. For all I know, also Manhattan School of Music and Jewish Theological! She probably has 3 or 4 Masters degrees by now plus a PhD or two. Was a public school teacher since about 1968 mostly in NYC but also in Newark and Engelwood Cliffs, and more recently a principal, retired around 2006? We separated in 1988 and divorced in 1994 at which time she married Rick Levine (your stepfather) and moved to 2708 Netherland Ave (a house) in the Bronx (Riverdale). Rick had previously lived on 157th Street in Washington Heights, in the big triangular building ("The Grinnell") just west of Broadway, married to Maura with one daughter, Maya (your stepsister).

1047 E 216th Street
1047 E 216th Street at Loconia Ave 2018
1047 E 216th Street
Ten-Forty-Seven, closer view
As a baby Judy lived in Harlem on 146th Street (in the picture above, that's her step-grandfather Carrington Lewis ("Papa") holding her). Then in the late 1940s, Mama Lori and Carrington bought the house at 1047 East 216th Street off Laconia Avenue and lived on the first floor with their German shepherd Bruno. Granpa, Granma, Judy, a German Shepherd, and eventually also Christine and Lori, lived on the second floor (which had only 2 bedrooms) and, as Christine says, "Mrs. Chambers and her tortoise lived on the third; we had a pear tree in the back yard and a sunny kitchen window over the sink, 2 bedrooms, 1 bath."

Judy at 1245 Adee Avenue 1970
Judy at the Projects 1970
Judy, Peter, Granpa at the Projects 1979
At the Projects 1979
About 1958 the Scotts (minus their dog, which they had to give up) moved to the Eastchester Projects near Gun Hill and Boston Roads, the building at 1245 Adee Avenue, a 3-bedroom unit on the 8th floor facing front, above and to the right of the main entrance. Before Judy and I got our first car, we used to go there on the train: The #1 to 96th Street, the #2 to East 180th Street, and then the #5 to Gun Hill Road, about 2 hours each way. After Judy, Christine, and Lori grew up and left, the housing authority made Granpa and Granma move to a smaller unit on the 3rd floor, which they didn't like as much.

Adee Avenue
Eastchester Projects grounds 2018
Adee Avenue
Eastchester - 1245 Adee Avenue 2018
Adee Avenue
Eastchester - 1245 Adee Ave 2018
Adee Avenue
1245 Adee Avenue
Adee Avenue
Adee Avenue 2018, at Throop Avenue
In those days the projects were wonderful places to live and for kids to grow up. Solid, well maintained, with lots of green space and play areas, and people of all races living there. Granma and Granpa's friends in the Projects were not only Black but Jewish, Puerto Rican, and Italian, many of them old lefties. But when Co-Op City opened in 1973 everybody who could afford it moved there (eventually including Granma and Granpa) so only desperately poor people were left in the projects and this made it easy for public housing to be totally defunded and neglected until now the projects are nightmarish hell-holes. If you live there and you have no heat or hot water and your ceiling falls down and your walls buckle and sewage is gushing out of broken pipes and your kids have lead poisoning and rats are running wild, the only way to get NYCHA come and fix your apartment is to get News12 The Bronx to come and do a story on it, which they do every single day. Even the Sotomayor Houses, named after the sitting Supreme Court judge who grew up there, are like that.

Judy's first teaching job in the early 1970s was in Newark, which was pretty rough then. After that Benjamin Franklin High School in East Harlem at 116th Street and Pleasant Avenue, right across the street from Rao's, in the days when the surrounding neighborhood was still Italian (and mobbed up) and there were still Italian street festivals. Puerto Rican kids from west of Third Avenue had to walk through hostile Italian turf to get to school (one of my Bronx friends now, José at the Foodtown Deli counter, was one of those Puerto Rican kids). How did Mommie get to work, you might ask... We lived on 103rd Street and West End; just 3 blocks away, on 106th and West End was a magic bus — the M116 — that went direct to Benjamin Franklin. Meanwhile, on the NW corner of 116th and Pleasant was a pay phone that nobody was allowed to use, it belonged to the drug dealers. She taught there for many years, then moved to JFK in Spuyten Duyvil and stayed there a long time too. After we separated I lost track of her career but she wound up as principal of a school in Englewood NJ, or Englewood Cliffs, and then retired and devoted herself to getting more and more degrees and playing violin as she had done all her life, probably starting in junior high school, which got her into Music & Art, and ever since then has been in one orchestra or another.

Mommy and me

The Bertha 515 W 111th Street
The Bertha
Judy Yearbook photo
Yearbook photo 1967
Button, 1968
Button, 1968
I first knew Judy in summer 1966, Double Discovery (slightly), and then in 1967 in the Bertha and in Double Discovery again. She graduated from Barnard in 1967, one of only four African-Americans in her class. We got together in 1968 a couple months after the Columbia uprising. At first it was a secret and we went on a trip to Mexico that nobody was supposed to know about, but we bumped into somebody there who knew us and and when we got back to New York it was the talk of the town.

Zócalo July 1968
Zócalo July 1968
Mexico 1968 Olympics coin
1968 Olympics coin
Mexico City was pretty amazing. The whole country seemed to be designed around its cultural heritage, from Aztecs and Olmecs to Orozco and Diego Rivera. At the city's huge central square, the Zócalo, there was not only a 500-year-old cathedral, but also an Aztec pyramid. We went all over the city, saw a lot of armed police and troops. Once we peeked into the courtyard of some public building and there were hundreds of fully armed soldiers hiding in it. This was shortly after the Olympic games when the big demonstrations were starting. We went to one in the Zócalo and met some Mexican students; we had a date to meet one of them for a march the next night but he didn't show up, so we didn't go because we didn't know where it was going to be. It turned out the police fired on them and killed lots of people (this was not La Noche de Tlatelolco, that came a few months later); we saw it on the TV news that night in our hotel room. Anyway we were in Mexico City for about a week with side trips to places like Toluca, I forget where else [trips to tiny places in the mountains where we ate some of the most delicious foods ever, like elote — corn on the cob with gigantic kernels rubbed with spicy hot fresh-ground cinnamon and lime juice]. No photos, I didn't take a camera.

La Quebrada
La Quebrada - I did that
Then we went to Acapulco on a bus that was full of chickens, goats, and people who kept giving us things to eat like cactus fruit. In Acapulco we stayed in a family hotel (i.e. a house) in the Mexican section, $4 a night for a room, three delicious home-cooked meals a day, lizards on the wall, and a ceiling fan hanging from a frayed electrical cord. Right on the beach, but it was the Mexican beach, not a tourist beach. The famous diving cliff was there: La Quebrada, 35 meters, that's like a 10-story building. After watching the divers for a while, I tried it myself, pretty stupid because I didn't know how deep the water was or how it sloshed back and forth so you have jump at exactly the right time so it's not too shallow, but lucky for you guys I didn't kill myself.

103rd Street apartment
103rd Street apartment
103rd Street
Judy at 103rd Street 1972
103rd Street
Judy at 103rd Street 1972
103rd Street
Floyd at 103rd Street 1972

Soon after that we got an apartment together at 308 W 103rd Street, near Riverside Drive, a studio sublet from a friend of Mommy's, and when the friend wanted her apartment back, we got our own 1-bedroom apartment right next to the sublet, described above. This was still in the days when every time I moved into a new apartment, I painted it in bright colors, and this was probably the most colorful. Also note my painting of Mommy on the wall in the first picture — the only oil painting I ever did, not very good.

Puerto Rico 1970
Puerto Rico 1970
Puerto Rico 1970
Puerto Rico 1970
Puerto Rico 1970
Puerto Rico 1970
Puerto Rico 1970
Top of El Yunque 1970
The next year we went to Puerto Rico, not just San Juan but we rented an old VW and went all over the eastern half of the island, up in the mountains, down to Ponce. Also we went to El Yunque on a rented motorcycle, the only time I ever got Mommy to ride on a motorcycle with me. El Yunque (the Anvil) is a mountain about 30 miles from San Juan, and the twisty road up the mountain goes through a huge jungle with waterfalls and exotic birds.

The next year (or maybe it was the same trip) we went to St. Thomas, rented a car, drove on the left side even though it's the US Virgin Islands, stayed in a guest house. The part I remember is buying conch, a huge chunk of pure white meat for a couple dollars, and trying to cook it. Another lady who was shopping asked us if we knew what we were doing, and advised cutting it into thin strips, breading and frying it, which I did. It was good, but really tough, there was some tenderizing step I didn't know about. Our jaws were so sore we could hardly chew again for a week.

(By the way, all these places were very nice, very safe, very friendly; now, by all accounts they are pretty dangerous with drug wars, kidnappings, etc. The only problem I had on all these trips was getting my pocket picked on a bus in Mexico City, losing the military driver's license I had been using since I got out of the Army.)

The next year we went to Guadeloupe, which is like Haiti but without the neverending disasters, stayed in a tourist hotel but also went out into the town, Point-à-Pitre, and ate in little family restaurants.

Wedding Announcement
In December 1974 Mommy and I were married in Mama Lori's house in Queens Village by a minister picked out by Mommy's family, from Holy Rosary Church at the far (east) end of Adee Avenue. I don't think anybody had any connection with this church, it's just that you could see the steeple off in the distance from the Projects… Turns out to be Catholic, I never knew that until just now when I looked it up. Just goes to show, nobody in the family was much interested in church at that point, except Lori who sang gospel. From the reception (which was in a bar in Queens) we went straight to East Stroudsburg PA in the Poconos for a few days… by Greyhound! We had had a car for several years already, I can't remember why we didn't use it.

Judy Scott in 1975
Judy, Germany 1975

Judy and Oma 1975
Judy und die Oma 1975
Judy on the Rhein 1975
Luxembourg 1975
In 1975 we went on a delayed honeymoon trip to Europe: Germany, France, Switzerland — Frankfurt, Taunus, Heidelberg, Kaiserslautern, Bad Dürkheim, Trier (Karl Marx's house)… Luxembourg, Paris, Verdun, Dijon, Beaune, Lyon, Valence… Berne, and then some place in the Italian part of Switzerland… We were close to Italy too but I don't think we went there. On that trip we went on the wine roads — Rhein and Mosel in Germany and Meursault in France. Driving and drinking wine all day! The second photo is of Judy with die Oma at the Gasthaus in Hohenecken that was my second home when I was in the Army.

The next year we went on a kind of tour to Spain: Madrid, Toledo, a bunch of cities. You had to fly from Madrid to each city and back. It was still a Fascist country. At the time I didn't fully appreciate the horror of the Spanish Civil War; Franco seemed like a cartoonish tin-pot dictator, I had no idea he was a mass murderer (I don't mean just the battles, but also the bombing of civilian populations, the sieges, and that after he won he had everyone shot or imprisoned who was on the Republican side; since Franco was anti-communist the American public never heard about what he did). On a separate trip we stayed a week in Torremolinos on the Mediterranean coast. On another (I think) separate trip we stayed a week in Mallorca, and the whole time I was there I didn't realize that they were speaking Catalán and not Spanish (which I learned much later). On one of these trips we also took the ferry to Morocco, my only time in Africa, although Mommie spent the summer of 1972 in West Africa in some kind of program and brought back all of those masks, country cloth, etc — Ghana, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, maybe other countries around there too.

After you guys were born we only went to Maine and Vermont, and sometimes drove from there to Canada. And a few times to California to see my Mom, including one visit to Disneyland just after Amy was born. And then later to Oregon to see Mom and Frank Rider for the last time. And later, Amy and I drove to Cape Cod to stay with Peter Marsh and Jude, and once the three of us drove to to Misquamicut, Rhode Island, where we stayed at a beach motel for a week.

Peter and Amy

Pregnant with Peter
Peter inside
First photo of Peter
First photo of Peter
Peter's room
Peter's room 1977
Peter was born October 7, 1977. We already had his room ready for him in the 118th Street apartment. Mommie had wanted natural childbirth and we went to the Lamaze classes and all that but Peter just didn't want to come out and her labor dragged out to 25 hours. Finally the obstetrician, Dr. O'Leary (he's the one who got me hooked on Guinness after he prescribed it for Mommy, one small bottle every day), gave Mommie spinal anaesthetic and delivered Mr.P with forceps; see red marks in picture. It was still a major job to get Peter to come out, nurses were actually kneeling on top of Mommie to squeeze him out, I'm not kidding. When I got home very late that night (strangely enough the M104 goes straight from NYU hospital to Columbia) I drew a picture of it. Ever since I moved to the Bronx I've been looking for it. The first couple weeks Peter was home we actually used cloth diapers but Mommie got disgusted and switched to Pampers. By the way when I came back to the hospital the next morning, it was still Peter's birthday so we sang happy birthday to him.

Amy's first phone call
Amy's first phone call
Amy in baby room
Amy in baby room
First photo of Amy
First photo of Amy
Amy was born May 28, 1980 — also at NYU — with no drama at all; she just slid right out... She and the backback she brought for Peter. Everybody came to see her in the baby room at the hospital, Granma, Granpa, Mama Lori... When we took her home everybody came to see her there too. The first time she started to fuss, Peter pulled the wow out of his mouth and stuck it in hers.

This section is kind of skimpy because it's all covered in the Family Photos CD I made in 2002, now new and improved, which you can see if you CLICK HERE

Judy's sisters


Sisters: Christine Joyce (1949), Lori Ellen (1954).

The three sisters 1986
The three sisters 1986
Lori and Judy 1976
Lori and Judy 1976
Lori at Projects 1976
Lori 1976
Lori is the youngest. She went to elementary school at PS 121 on Throop Avenue (2 blocks from home) and to PS 135 (which has disappeared) for middle school. Like both her sisters she went to the High School of Music and Art, her instrument was the cello. She went to Springfield College in Massachusetts for a while and then transferred to Lehman in the Bronx, where she graduated. Then she had a career in fashion, following her dad's flair for style and elegant clothing, ending up traveling the world (e.g. Hong Kong) as a top buyer for famous NYC department stores, and eventually moved to Chicago to work at Sears headquarters (world's tallest building at the time), making her the only daughter who ever moved away. Years later she married Mel Funchess, who I have not met yet.

Christine 1978
Christine 1978
Christine and Henry Wedding
Christine and Henry Wedding
Christine is the middle sister. Short bio (her words): "I graduated from [SUNY] Cortland. Was a media Assistant at [SUNY] Oneonta. Then taught at LaGuardia [Music and Art] then at Truman [in the Bronx near Co-Op City]. AP at August Martin [high school in Queens] then Bronx Science. Summer school principal at August Martin and Science. Summer school AP at Stuyvesant." Retired in 2017, saying: "I'm loving my oboe- Have you seen me in Mozart in the Jungle on Amazon Prime- It's a new career- got my SAG card! I'm in three orchestras and two bands- I even play in the band in Maine!!"  Wants us to come to Kinapic. Like Lori, Christine went to PS 121 and PS 135 and then Music and Art (oboe).

David and Philip 1984
The four cousins 1984
David and Peter
David and Peter 1982
Christine was married to Michael (forget last name) in the 70s, then married Henry W. Deutsch (born two days after me) in 1976; they have 2 sons, David (1979) and Philip (1983), your 1st cousins. Henry is named after FDR VP Henry A Wallace, who ran for President in 1948 on the Socialist line; Henry's sister Eugenia is named after Eugene V Debs. Eugenia is married to Bernie Cohen; they have 2 daughters, Lori and Debra. Henry's parents were Irving and Miriam (b. Fuchs), who ran the Kinapic housekeeping cottages on Lake Kezar outside of Lovell ME in the summer, where we used to go for summer vacations from 1977 until 1987 (and I guess you guys kept going there after that). I think Henry (and maybe Eugenia and/or Bernie) own it now,
Deutsches 2023
Deutsches 2023
and probably sold some or parts of it off, you know this stuff better than I do. My impression is that Kinapic started out as a kind of socialist Jewish commune in the 1940s but by the time I knew Irving he was a capitalist through-and-through.

In late news... David married Tabetha Pate, have a new (2017) baby Carolina, and live in Houston, where they were flooded out by Hurricane Harvey. Philip married Jessica Klug and they have a new baby William (2017); they live in Baltimore. Carolina and William are the first (and so far only) members of the newest generation on the family tree. The photo at left, taken New Years 2023, is from Christine, who writes "David’s family is on the right. Carolina and Tabetha, are in front of him. Jessica is top left and is holding William. Philip is in front of her holding Katherine (Katie). Roo- the french bulldog is between William and David. William: May, 5½, Carolina: May, 5½ (2 weeks younger than William); Katie: October, 4".



Granma 1975
Granma 1975
Granma in 1977
Granma in 1977
Consuelo Lillian Scott, née Bergen (Granma or Consie), was born in New York City Friday, January 27, 1922 (just a few weeks before my own mother) and died in the Bronx Saturday, June 22, 2019, age 97.

Consuelo's dad: John Bergen, a.k.a. Alexander Bergen.
Consuelo's mom: Laura Wilson (Mama Lori), b.1906 in St.Eustatius (Sint Eustatius, Statia). Died just short of her 100th birthday in 2006. Mama Lori was a Dutch citizen. Was she also an American citizen? Who knows!

Grandma was born when Mama Lori was only 15, so they were more like sisters than mother and daughter. Her father was rarely present, though she saw him from time to time. He was supposed to provide child support but never did; he spent all his money on his car. They lived in Harlem. For many of these years she lived with and was raised by her aunt Louise (Lou). Grandma went to PS ??? and ... I forget the name of the high school (Julia Richman?) — it was a trade school for seamstresses. Then she was a housewife, then she worked as a school aide at various public schools in the Bronx including Evander Childs on Gun Hill Road.

Granma Granpa Peter
Reading to Peter about 1980
Like my parents, Granma and Granpa were married in 1944. They lived on 146th Street and Judy was born when they lived there. Mama Lori was married to Carrington Lewis then, and shortly after Judy was born in 1947, they bought the house at 1047 East 216th Street off Laconia Avenue and lived there until about 1958, when the moved to the Eastchester projects near Gun Hill and Boston Roads: the building at 1245 Adee Avenue, a 3-bedroom unit on the 8th floor facing front. After the kids grew up and left, the housing authority made them move to a smaller unit on the 3rd floor, which they didn't like.

In the early 1970s Granma went to back to school and got a BA from Lehman College, 120 points plus tons of make-up courses in math and science, which she had never studied. She retired probably around 1987.

Granma's Co-Op City building
Granma's Co-Op City building
About 1990 Granma and Granpa moved to a very nice apartment in Co-Op City, 920 Baychester Avenue, Building 1A (i.e. the first building), sixteenth floor, Apartment 16D, with a terrace and a spectacular view all the way to the distant horizon. When Granpa died in 1996 Granma was alone and was losing her eyesight, so Lori moved in with her for some years, but then went back to Chicago. After that Amy stayed with her for about a month. Eventually her sight was totally gone.

Granma 2000
At my work in 2000
Amy and I went to see her in November 2012 and again Xmas 2013. She was 90-91 years old and still totally lucid and in much better humor than when she first started to lose her eyesight around 2000. She had a series of ladies who came every day to keep her company, cook and clean, and take her places (shopping, doctors appointments, and to City Island for manicures and pedicures; also one of them did her hair). She looked much younger than she was. When she didn't have anybody with her she "watched" News12 The Bronx or listened to audio books. Her living room is exactly the same as the one in the Projects, with the same piano, sofa, upholstered chairs, and paintings. The same pictures of Judy, Christine, and Lori on the piano, plus framed pictures that I took on the walls including the famous triptych of Granpa bursting into laughter, and of Granma with a loaf of bread she had just baked (at first she hated that picture but eventually grew to like it).

Granma could tell family stories all day, she remembered everything both times Amy and I saw her. For any given event, she had an uncanny ability to remember not only who was there and what happened, but also what everybody was wearing and which day of the week it was. But when Peter went with David and Philip to see her in Fall 2017 she was seriously diminished, stooped, thin, fading away. But in mid-February 2018 Christine said, "Saw my mother today!! She is well and was quite alert, I couldn't write fast enough!" (because she was asking her questions about the family history).

I was in New Mexico when she died in June 2019. There was a service in Manhattan at a funeral home somewhere around 145th Street on Thursday June 27th; I wish I could have been there. Christine sent some videos:

Granma's funeral
Judy, Christine, and Lori

Granma's funeral
Christine and Henry

Granma's funeral
Amy and Ronnie Gray

Christine says "The first song was Ella Fitzgerald- The Man I love. The three sisters 'danced' to that. The last was Tony Bennett- For once in my life. We all sang "Somewhere over the rainbow" with the minister. Lori, Mel, Henry and I attended Mayme's 100th birthday party. She was too upset when Donna told her that Mommy was very ill. They did not tell her that she passed. Donna and Howard and Deborah were there [and] Annette, Maria, Linda (from Boston), Shirley, Yvette, Renata (and Brock), Suzon, Aundonielle. Harold passed a few months ago- Lori and I attended the funeral in SC. Huck is very ill in DC. From the WIlson side- Leah and Chicky and Butchy..."

Mama Lori


Mama Lori
Mama Lori 1976
Ella Schmidt
Mama Lori's mother, Ella Schmidt
Laura Wilson, born 1906 in St.Eustatius, Netherlands West Indies. Died 2006, Bronx New York, just short of her 100th birthday. In the family she is known as Mama Lori or Mamilori.

Mama Lori's parents: Ella Schmidt and Donald Wilson (dates unknown but probably born in the 1880s).
Mama Lori's siblings in birth order (dates unknown): Alice, Donald Jr., Louise, Mama Lori, Lillian, Myrtle, Harold and Arthur, all born in St.Eustatius except Harold and Arthur, who were born here.

Since Mama Lori was born in St.Eustatius she must have been a Dutch citizen. Christine remembers when she was little and the family went to Canada, Mama Lori had to show a passport but nobody else did. Mama Lori was unbelievably sweet and loveable. People said she was like a little girl, with a giggly musical laugh and a big irresistible smile. When I first met her in about 1968 she lived alone in an apartment with her dog in some building in Bronx that was near Boston Road, but nobody can remember the details.

Carrington Lewis
Judy, Carrington Lewis 1947
John Bergen
John Bergen
Mama Lori's first husband was Alexander John Bergen, born in St. Kitts, British West Indies, date unknown but probabably in the early-to-mid-1880s. One of 15 children. In the USA he was in the Army and fought in World War I, then he was a taxi driver, then a chef, and finally a gardener at Pilgrim State Hospital in Brentwood, Long Island. At age 15 in January 1922 Mama Lori gave birth to her only child, Consuelo Lillian Bergen, your grandmother.

John had another marriage, wife's name Ethel; they had a daughter Marjorie, who would be Granma's half-sister. Christine says, "John's sister (georgiana) had three children; one, the son Earl, was a first-class mechanic and my father (and I) spent a lot of time with him and my dad learned much about cars from him. I recall a feeling and a sense but can't pull up a face. (I was always dispatched with my dad on Saturday afternoons and we usually went to garages and such)... Great Aunt Ada, John's other sister, married a cook who was one of twins. My mother believes his name was Elvin. She kept her house immaculate and the pots hung on the wall as shiny as ever."

By 1947 Mama Lori was married to Carrington Lewis, but I don't know when this marriage started or when it ended. Carrington was in show business like Mama Lori was herself, and at least two of her brothers, Donald and Harry, who both had orchestras in Harlem. Donald's orchestra was a regular at the Renaissance Ballroom, and brother Arthur was in it too, on sax. Another member was Clyde Eric Nourse who is remembered on the Local 802 website Requiem section, which says "he played with Donald Wilson at the Renaissance Ballroom in Harlem". As Christine says (quoting her Mom), "Donald played the violin and occasionally sang (he was only Okay)". "Don Wilson's Orchestra" turns up constantly in the New York Age, a Harlem daily, from 1931 until 1958. Christine adds:

Donald's oldest daughter moved to CA and stayed there. Phyllis called my mother recently and said she saw her? SHe must be near my mother's age. Lois (loyce- she was sometimes called) lived with us for awhile, I do not recall that, but I knew her well. Henry and I used to take her home to Hartsdale from my mother's house. Married 3 times- I don't think any children Her last husband died in the doctor's office on the pot in the men's room. Donald married a 16-year-old woman when he was 65 or so. They had about 6 children and moved to Long Island. They were all tall and slender, like him. They must be in their 50s. Bert's brother Stanley was a VERY handsome man — he took my mother to her prom. Bert was also handsome but he messed around with the wrong WI woman and she cut him. He had a scar from his forehead between his eyes, down the side of his nose to his lip.
Speaking of ballrooms, I don't know if Granma and Granpa ever went to the Renaisssance (they must have) but I know for sure they went to the Audubon Ballroom on Broadway and 165th Street, because when Peter was in the hospital across the street with his knee, it looked right out on the ballroom; Granma and Granpa stood there looking at it and reminiscing about all the times they used to go there.

Mama Lori
Mama Lori 1940s
St. Louis Woman scene
St. Louis Woman scene 1946
Carrington Lewis was a featured actor in the racially integrated play "Stevedore" at the Civic Repertory Theater in NYC in 1934. In 1938 he was in the integrated cast of the George S. Kaufman / Moss Hart revue Swing Out the News at the Music Box Theater on Broadway, in which Hazel Scott also appeared. In 1939-40 he was a member of the singing group Josh White and his Carolinians which made a number of recordings on the Columbia and Harmony labels (some can be found on Youtube), and which was featured in the 1940 Broadway musical John Henry with Paul Robeson. In 1940 he was also in the radio drama Green Pastures on The Cavalcade of America.

Mama Lori and Carrington Lewis were in the cast of the Harold Arlen / Johnny Mercer / County Cullen musical St. Louis Woman in 1946, starring Pearl Bailey, Ruby Hill, and the Nicholas Brothers. Lewis is listed in the cast (as "Waiter") but not Mama Lori; I suspect she had a nonspeaking singing-dancing role. She might be somewhere in the second photo. She probably did more than just this one play but I don't have any more information and there's nothing on the Internet that I found so far. Anyway, since she was a singer I would be surprised if she did not sing with the orchestras of her brothers Donald or Harry. Christine said of the Wilsons, "EVERYONE sang AND played an instrument, it was the Wilson way!" and that Mama Lori was "a regular on the chittlin' circuit". I think "Harry Wilson's Orchestra" had a regular show on WAAM in 1931 (it's listed in the NY Daily News radio schedules).

Christine says of Carrington, "He was around during all of our childhood. Momilori put him through school and when he graduated, he walked out on her. I don't know why he left but it might have been because of her gambling or maybe that started after he left. He was tall, proud, spoke well and was a fastidious eater. He never touched food with his hands and I cannot recall his ever being anything but impeccably dressed. You sat to the table when you ate and behaved much like Downton Abbey."

Mama Lori in the Bronx 1970
Mama Lori 1970
About 1969 Mama Lori married Floyd Jackson, an extremely nice guy who was the night manager at a parking garage on Sixth Avenue and 46th Street, and who looked remarkably like Ike Turner, and they bought a house in Queens Village. Like John Bergen, Floyd loved cars but he also loved Mama Lori and the family. She would always come to help him with the accounting at the end of his shift, late at night. She was a genius with numbers, she could add up big columns of figures in her head and count huge piles of cash at superspeed. Aside from whatever jobs she had (e.g. as a waitress at IHOP on 34th Street) she was also a numbers banker in Harlem; I used to drop her at a storefront on 146th Street on the east side of Broadway.

Mama Lori and Floyd
Mama Lori Floyd 1970
Mama Lori and Floyd
Mama Lori and Floyd at their house 1974

Floyd at piano 1970
Floyd in 1970
Mama Lori and Floyd's house was at 208-15 110th Avenue in Queens Village, Zip 11429, near Hollis Avenue and Francis Lewis Boulevard, a huge sprawling area of modest brick single-family homes with yards, 100% Black. The house is still there but many of the other houses in the area have been replaced by newer ones that aren't brick. Mommy and I were married in that house December 21, 1974. Mama Lori sang "Danny Boy" at the reception, she had a voice like an angel.

We knew tons of people on Mama Lori's side of the family; there were big get-togethers at her house most weekends, especially Uncle Harry and his wife Lily and daughter Barbara. Aunt Lou, cousins Sylvia and Pearl, Phyllis, Sharon. Sylvia's husband Willie Netter, who was another former jazz musician; he could play the piano just like Teddy Wilson. I don't think I ever met Donald or Arthur. But when I knew all these people they never talked about their adventures in the old days, they just barbecued and played cards. That's why it's hard to put it all together 30-40 years later.

Mama Lori at her house in Queens
Mama Lori 1979
Sharon and Peter 1979
Sharon and Peter 1979
Mama Lori was so beautiful that even in her 70s and 80s, young guys were hitting on her (I saw this happen). Her older sister Lou pretty much raised Grandma because Mama Lori was too young, and Lou's daughters Sylvia and Pearl were like her sisters. They were all very pretty. Sylvia married Willie Netter and had a daughter Phyllis who adopted a little girl Sharon and later got married.

Uncle Harry 1978
Uncle Harry at Mama Lori's 1978
Anyway the inside of Mama Lori's and Floyd's house was painted bright colors and the furniture was elegant. Floyd had fixed up the basement. There was a big extended-family cookout in the back yard almost every weekend, even when it was pouring; Floyd had a huge tarp. About half the big holidays we'd go there for dinner, Mama Lori cooked huge dinners (the other half we'd go to the Bronx and Granma cooked huge dinners). We saw the first moon landing live on TV when we were at Mama Lori's house. They lived there for many years but Mama Lori had a gambling problem and eventually lost all of their money, so Floyd left her. She moved to the building at 3438 Fish Avenue, just off Boston Road, a few blocks from the Eastchester projects where Granma and Granpa lived on Adee Avenue. There were no elevators; Mommy and I used to drop her off after family gatherings and I'd help her up the dark stairs to her small apartment that was crammed with all the elegant furniture and the giant mirror from Queens (she gave us some of her furniture that she couldn't squeeze in, like a nice red velvet chair; we had it in 118th Street).

3438 Fish Avenue
3438 Fish Avenue in 2018
It turns out that Mama Lori's apartment on Fish Avenue was in the first large-scale New Deal low-income public housing project, originally called Hillside Houses or Hillside Homes, now called Eastchester Heights. It's enormous, covering about 12 city blocks between Eastchester Avenue and Wilson Avenue, Boston Road and Hicks Street. It was financed by the Public Works Administration, completed in 1935, and opened in a huge ceremony with Governor Lehman, Mayor La Guardia, and a contingent of New Deal officials to a cheering crowd of 5000 because rents were a uniform $11.00 per room and the buildings were very nice, with ample courtyards, gardens, playgrounds, and wading pools. Mama Lori's building is a bit hard to find because even though her address was 3438 Fish Avenue, the entrance is on Seymour Avenue!

About 2000, in her mid-90s, Mama Lori had to go live in an old-age home. Granma would go to spend time with her every day (sometimes with Amy), even though Granma was blind and Mama Lori didn't remember anything and thought everybody was trying to poison her. She left very little, if anything, behind besides Granma and her descendents, and now here we are trying to piece together the details of her remarkable life after it's too late to ask anyone about it.