The day after

Yesterday is the day remembered as the Day of Infamy, but this day, 64 years ago, is the one that set much of the direction for the rest of my father’s life- which of course had some trickle down effect to yours truly. And ultimately led to the Night Buckminster Fuller Came to Dinner. But that’s a story for next week.

My father grew up on a two homestead farm in rural NW Ohio outside of Jerry City. It was a huge dairy farm run by my grandfather and his sons and my great uncle Fred McKenna (my grandmother’s brother) and his sons. My grandmother, originally Olga McKenna, and my grandfather, Bill Aller, made for a tough German-Scot blend: tight, rigid and stubborn. Hard working and patriotic.Usar_new_parknet_photo

My grandmother’s brother, Kenneth K. McKenna, was serving as signal man, first class, on the USS Arizona when Pearl Harbor was attacked. On December 8th, the Western Union notice arrived, telling the family that my great uncle was missing In action, presumed dead. It would be ten days before they found out that he survived and was on board a hospital ship. Those ten days set my grandfather’s resolve and he would subsequently enlist both my Uncle Bill and my father, underage, in the Army where they cleaned up the end of the war in the Pacific.

I have a photograph somewhere of my father in the Army. It’s one of those sepia brown pictures and he’s standing on board a ship (and I’m getting a scanner next week so I will share it with you). He is barely 18 and looks as though he doesn’t yet shave. He weighed about 150 pounds and he’s wearing a tank top and khakis, with a cigarette hanging out of the side of his mouth, Brando-Waterfront style. He worked with a platoon that did mine detonation and clean-up. He was rapidly promoted, a month after he turned 19, to sergeant and soon after that, it was all over and he was turned loose to make his way in the world. Whenever I look at that picture I think, why he was just a child! I compare him to Dan at eighteen and think no! that couldn’t happen. That just couldn’t work- a war fought by children. But he wasn’t, of course. That was a different time and he was a man among men.

When my father and uncle were discharged they came to rural Michigan and wandered around, basically out of work, for a year. Except that, like Dan, my father had a gift. He was a jazz musician and played in a band all over the Midwest. When Woody Herman came to the area and needed to pick up local musicians for his Young Thundering Herd, my father played. Fairly soon, my father played some dances at Kent State University where he met a well-heeled coed, daughter of a New England Yankee and he got married. He had a rolly polly son by the age of 20, a half-blind, runty daughter 23 months later and he went to work for Ford Motor Tractor Division. Enter Buckminster Fuller.

My brother, Bruce (affectionately called Uncle Buck by Dan and Abby when they were younger) is going to help me with a post about the Ford Rotunda- a structure that looms large in the Christmas memories of our family when I was very young. I’ll have that up next week sometime.

But first! You get nothing tomorrow except recipes for 2 Christmas family favorites: Egg Dump and Poop Cookies. (This joint is not to be confused with Angie’s but, aside from the nomenclature, they’re still really,really good.) I will be enroute to The Bud and Jan Show in the tippy top outermost point of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Two new things this trip: First, it’s rumored that WiFi has come to Gratiot Lake! All 3 year round residents are in a hot zone, provided by the Gratiot Lake Conservancy. I hear the antennae is mounted high atop Mt. Horace Greeley that looms over Lost Loon Lodge. We shall see about that, but I’m taking my laptop. Because, second: maybe, just maybe, there will be another ‘long distance’ visitor to the Bud and Jan Show this weekend and, without spilling the beans, you are going to want the full report. Guaranteed.


14 responses to “The day after

  1. Quite an interesting post. I’m a fool for history anyway. Looking forward to more…

  2. As a child born in the 70’s, there has not been a conflict where the draft was initiated. As a teenager, after the Gulf War, before the current conflict, I remember being so frightened by the prospect of a draft calling up my friends.

    It is such a different time we live in now. We don’t understand conflict like our parents and grandparents do. While we worry about WMD, people like my grandparents suffered true hardships during the Depression.

    Thank you for posting this. I think we forget all to often about the lives that have been lost and the boys and men that proudly served our country in its time of need.

  3. Half-blind, runty daughter? You? I’ve seen you, and cannot believe this. You more like far-sighted pretty.

    And strange, too: Egg Dump and Poop Cookies… Oh, my. How many did Buckyball take home with him?

  4. What? I’m terrible at following who’s who in the family line up, but I think I got this straight. Your grandfather thought for 10 days that your great uncle was no more – only to be found alive. So instead of not wanting to go thru that again with anyone else, he inlistes his two baby sons in the same service??


    I guess thats the female in me to see that as odd. I cant even stand it when I cant find my cat for an hour, much less 10 days. My word.

  5. Sp00k- Amy- you just defined the difference between this generation and that one and the wars of this generation and that war. Precisely so.

  6. I have an idea who that visitor might be.

  7. Am I ever glad I met you. I love the stories of the time you speak of. My grandparents lived those lives as well and they are ever so wonderful to me. I can sit and listen to them forever.

    Thanks for posting a remeberence of that horrible day that changed the world.

  8. Well, now I am on pins and needles!

    I’ve been to Pearl Harbor twice; what a somber and sobering place it is. My husband’s basketball coach in the Navy was on a ship that day; he swam all over the harbor and finally escaped harm. He had some horrible stories to tell.

  9. You tell such amazing stories, Vicki. They really draw me in. I can’t wait to see the photo and hear about this mystery visitor.

  10. Great story, V.

    O, and keeping us on pins and needles, are you?

  11. Great story, V.

    O, and keeping us on pins and needles, are you?

  12. My grandfather on my mom’s side was a Ford man, too, and went to WWII when he had three kids (a little older). My Dad enlisted in the later part of the war. He was quite a bit older than my Dad.

    Can’t wait to read your next posts. I want to hear about the Ford plant and find out who’s coming to see you.

  13. You are so right Vicki. We should be required to visit the Pearl Harbor memorial and one of Hitler’s concentration camps. The one in Mauthausen, Austria is small but the understanding of the depth of that horror becomes real. It was a different time.

    I can think of only one or two long distant visitors. Will just have to wait and see. Have a safe trip…saw that airplane that skidded off the runway earlier. The weather has been awful today up your way. Take care.

  14. Oops. I meant to say my Dad was older than my mom.

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