Monday, October 14, 2013

Memories of Grandmother Simon

When I was a little girl during the 50’s the word bored was not a part of our vocabulary.  Mom didn’t put up with me or my siblings sitting around the house and complaining.  She always told us there was plenty to do. If we complained, we got chores. Mostly, though, we went outside to play. We had active imaginations; playing Hide and Seek, Tag, and other games.    

Often my cousins, who lived next door and my siblings would all play together. One of our favorite places was at our maternal Grandmother’s house. She, like us, lived on the edge of town and her house was the last one on the hill across from ours, next to a big field of alfalfa.  From here house, I could see our house across the football field and beyond from that vantage point and it seemed like the edge of the world.

Another place we kids liked to play was near the town water tank near Grandmother’s house. It was a big round brick building surrounded by trees, long grasses, and thorny bushes and very mysterious to explore. We never figured out how to get inside it but were satisfied to play near it.  For some reason there was a feeling that we weren’t supposed to be there, although I don’t think any of the adults told us we couldn’t.
There was a vegetable garden beside the house. Sometimes I got some one on one time with Grandmother, and we would sit on her front porch, shelling peas or snapping string beans. I also remember her beautiful irises, her snowball bush, and her lilacs. Ah yes, those hot summer afternoons were the best. 
Grandma loved to watch Gunsmoke.  She had her little routine each day.  She napped every afternoon.  At some point she walked to her neighbor’s to get the newspaper. All of us kids were afraid of the neighborhood lady. She was such a stern lady, and I don’t think she liked kids.
 Grandma Simon crocheted.  She made tablecloths and so many doilies.  I was so amazed at how quickly these were created and how many patterns she knew. She tried to teach me once, when I was a girl, but I just didn’t get the hang of it.  I didn’t inherit the knack for handcrafts.  She used to make special doilies for the back of Grandpa’s easy chair so that he would leave oily marks from his head.  She also put them on the arms of the easy chair and the sofa. I have some of my grandmother’s doilies, which my mother has given me.  I treasure them.
Grandmother Simon was a widow for l7 years. Grandpa died when I was 10.  She did very well on her own. We are a close family, and two of her daughters lived close by and I think that helped a lot.

I watched her hang laundry as I sat on a tire swing in the back yard near the barn.  I can still picture her among the clean, wet garments as she patiently attached them one by one to the lines with the wooden clothespins. She had one of those hanging bags where she kept her clothespins. There is nothing like the fresh scent of sheets that have hung outside to dry.

Grandma had a wringer washer in the bathroom of her house.  It was fascinating to watch the clothes as they churned and churned in the washer tub.  The highlight was when she put the wet clothes through the wringer. She always warned us not to keep our fingers back and not to put anything else through.  There was a big bathtub with clawed feet in that bathroom.   I loved to take baths there, except for Grandmother would throw a handful of Tide laundry soap into the water, which would make the tub really slippery an. I guess she wanted to make sure I was clean.Grandma’s rocking chair was a beautiful wooden chair.  She would rock me to sleep on occasion and I loved it.  I used to think about her when I rocked my own young grandsons to sleep.  I felt like she was with me.

Grandma wore an apron every day, a bib apron with big pockets. She had work aprons and dress aprons.  She also carried around a hanky stuffed in the sleeve of her dress.  She pulled out the hanky at the slightest hint of a runny nose, not the least bit hesitant to tell us to blow.  Now I am thinking that may have not been that sanitary, as she sometimes had several of us grandkids around at one time.  We survived, so it must not have hurt us.
I loved going upstairs and lay on top of the bed on a quilt. Grandma’s quilts were patchwork, made of various pieces of old clothing and pieces of wool. The quilts were hand stitched, heavy, and very scratchy.           


Sunday, October 13, 2013

War is Hell

By Bob West
Nov. 7, 2002

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the allies - Great Britain, France and the United States, accepted a peace treaty from Germany ending World War I. The allies set aside this date in each of their countries as a day of remembrance for the men who died in the service of their countries. It became known in the USAas Armistice Day. WWI was labeled as the “The War To End All Wars”. Unfortunately, this did not happen.
On Sept. 1, 1939, Germany attacked Poland igniting WWII, the biggest and worst war the world has ever known. Our country became involved in it a day after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. This war was a two front war, the ETO (European Theater of Operation) and the islands in the South Pacific. The war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945. The Japanese surrendered on September 2, the same year. On June 1, 1954 President Eisenhower signed a bill designating November 11 as a day honoring the veterans of all the wars that our country participated in. This day is now known as Veterans Day.
Oh what a celebration we troops who had fought in the ETO had when we heard of the surrender of the Germans! We knew the war was only half over, the Japanese still had to be defeated. We all anticipated being sent to the Pacific at a later date, but for now, we were going to enjoy peace. My company landed on Utah Beach on the shores of France on D Day, June 6. We were tired of the sights and sounds of war. I never could understand why fate selected me out of a company of more than 250 men to be a witness to a wartime action after peace had come.
At the time of the surrender our company was in a major city in northern Germany. We had taken over a large building that at one time had been a grand hotel. It had suffered much damage from the Allied bombings but there were enough rooms left in fair condition for our company headquarters and billets for our troops. What furniture we could not find in the hotel we salvaged from other buildings in the area. We were living in the lap of luxury. A nearby park became soon became the most popular spot in the area for our company. I will always remember it as “My Garden of Eden”, an oasis nestled in an area surrounded by acres and acres of rubble caused from the bombings. A battery of anti-aircraft guns, and a bomb crater were the only signs of war in the park. Several days after the end of the war the no-fraternizing regulation was lifted. We could now legally pursue the many young, and not so young, Frauleins that roamed the area. What a girl hunting paradise!
In the center of the park a pond had been dredged. A beautiful stream flowing through the park was its water source. A cobblestone path that meandered through the park crossed over the dam that controlled the water level. I spent a lot of time walking along the stream or standing on top of the dam looking into the water. Quite often I would see large trout swimming near the bottom. In early morning and in the evenings fish could been seen rising to the surface catching insects. Oh how I longed for a fishing pole!
In the spring of 1999 I wrote an article for the Boomerang about Levi, a German Jew, that I befriended. Before the war he had been a professor of foreign languages in a large German university. The Gestapo raided the college and arrested all the Jewish teachers, students, communists and other political enemies of the Nazi party. The Jews were sent to the now infamous concentration camps where an estimated 6 million of them were slain, the rest were sent to slave labor camps, one of them a few miles from the city where we were living. The camp had been deserted by the Germans by the time the American troops arrived, with the prisoners free to leave. I found Levi and several other former prisoners living in a bombed out building about a mile from our quarters. I spent a lot of time with him. He was an outstanding gentleman. I was instrumental in getting him hired by the allies as an interpreter. I have a hunch he was used in this position during the Nuremberg Trials of the high-ranking Nazis officials.
One morning I decided to take a walk through the park before going to work as company clerk. I had hopes of seeing the big fish I had seen several days before. I saw no fish, but what I did see certainly altered my memories of this pond for the rest of my life. Floating, face down were two nude bodies wedged against the gate of the dam. I thought about ignoring them and continuing my walk. I changed my mind and headed for the company headquarters and reported what I had seen to my commanding officer. He ordered me to arm myself with my carbine and return to the site, guard it, and let no one near. It seemed like an eternity before a one-ton truck arrived with a captain and two enlisted men from the MPs. I had to help retrieve the bodies from their watery grave. This was the second time I had to perform this unpleasant job. The first corpse I had ever seen in my twenty years of life was when my company was wading from our landing craft toward Utah Beach. As I passed by one of the smaller landing crafts that had been damaged by artillery fire I glanced down and saw the body of an American soldier. I went into shock for a few moments, becoming violently sick. I recovered, and with the help of one of my buddies we moved the body to the beach. I never did get over the shock of seeing the bodies of victims of this terrible war, be they friend or foe. The first one was by far the worst, but when I saw the condition of the corpses in the pond I almost became sick again. Their throats had been slit, certain parts of their bodies mutilated, and there were signs they had been badly beaten and tortured before they were killed. I had to go to the MP headquarters to make a report. I was told that this was just one of several such actions they had investigated in the last several days. Who were the victims, and why had they been tortured before they were killed? The MP s had no idea. The next time I visited Levi I told him about these killings. He believed he had the answer. In the prison camp there were about a hundred inmates, both men and women, who had made a pact that if any of them survived the camp they would spend the rest of their lives hunting down the guards and personnel who had made their lives a living hell. They wanted revenge. There was no doubt in his mind that these people were responsible for these acts.
We lived in this city for over two months. One morning a messenger from battalion headquarters arrived at my office and told me this story that had just happened to him. He had been stopped by the MPs at a roadblock, given an armband, a carbine and was told he was now an MP and was going to help settle an incident. He and about thirty other “recruited” GIs marched about three blocks to a large church courtyard where fifty or sixty men and women had gathered. They were in a festive mood with lots of singing and dancing. When they saw the armed troops advancing toward them they began cheering and pumped their fists in the air shouting USAUSAUSA! They slowly retreated, then disappeared into the rubble of the bombed out buildings. As the Americans turned to leave they saw two nude bodies hanging by their ankles from either end of the cross bar of a large cross at the exit of the courtyard. While they were cutting the bodies down it was discovered one was a female. They had been killed and tortured in the same manner of the ones I had discovered several weeks before. 
A few years after I was discharged I was reading a book about concentration, prisoner of war and labor camps. One chapter was about the commandant of a large slave labor camp. He and his mistress had contests to see who could come up with the worst torture and the slowest and most painful way to execute prisoners. The end of this chapter described the execution of these two people almost exactly the way the driver told me.
About 2200 hours (10:00 PM) December 24, 1945 I received the best Christmas present of my life. I boarded a converted liberty ship in BremerhavenGermany, the first step in returning home and civilian life. I was discharged at Fort LewisWashington almost three years to the day from when I was sworn in. Army recruiters had set up a desk trying to get all of us to join the army reserves.
I laughed at them. One war in a lifetime is enough.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Animals I Have Loved

 by Frances West

Sitting here in my easy chair with my spoiled old cat in my lap I begin to reflect on all the animals that have played a role in my life. In my “growing up” years the animals were not just our pets and friends, they were a major part of our livelihood. My husband once asked if we named our animals. It never was thought they wouldn’t have a name the same as any family member.
There was a great team of work horses that our Dad would use to plow gardens and haul whatever needed to be hauled in the big wagon. The team's main job in the summer months was at the lumber camps in northern Idaho where it was the major machine for the loggers. The horse's names were Charlie and Jack and they worked long and hard hours without complaint. My father worked with them from dawn to dusk, caring for them the best he could given the work they had to do. He rested them, watered and fed them each night before he had his own supper. I can remember seeing him brush their coats with a “curry comb” after removing their heavy harness. It would be like us humans getting a back massage. They were indeed “gentle giants”. Charley was the bigger of the two and Jack seemed content to let him be the leader and sort of followed along with whatever was expected of him.
We had two milk cows that I can remember plainly. They were called Margaret and Patty. They were good friends it seems. Again, Margaret was the bigger of the two and the leader. Patty was content with her role as the follower. I always attributed these cows for actually saving my life. It was my job to call them in from the pasture for their evening milk time. It was an easy job as they were eager to be milked at the end of the day. I would merely stand at the top of the hill when they could see me and call to them. They would come lumbering home with full udders and hungry for their food and water. One evening when I went to call them I turned back to look at our house and saw it was on fire and burning rapidly. It was an old house and quickly burned to the ground with all of the content and our little dog. If I had not gone for the cows at that time I would have been trapped upstairs with the little dog. So therefore I have always felt good about cows and the fact they probably saved my life.
We had numerous dogs through the years. There were two collie dogs whose names were Old Red and Lady. Seems natural the animals were in pairs, sort of like us humans; one a leader and one a follower. Lady was the female and followed Red around. They were both very gentle and we all loved them dearly.
There were always cats around, mostly barn cats, and being the independent creatures that they are, never seemed to have a special partner. Only one or two privileged ones were allowed in the house. The others stayed in the barn where they were given fresh cow’s milk and hunted tasty mice. The house cats had names. We never considered not naming one of the animals so in answer to the question, “Did your animals have names?”? Yes, indeed, they did.