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.
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.