To repeat, one of the sorrows of aging is loss of people who made my world what it is, leaders and mentors. Some of these are;


Charles A. Lindberg, Lucky Lindy;                                                                                   He was lucky and plucky. He made all of us “children of the 30’s” want to be “aviators”. We wore “lucky Lindy” helmets with goggles. (Like little Ralphy in the movie “a Christmas story”. When I was small, grandma Walsh and I would stand in the back yard  when a plane flew over and yell “land here Lindy”, although our back yard wouldn’t accommodate a small helicopter.


Winston S Churchill:

He used his middle initial because there was a Missouri politician and writer named Winston Churchill. When Winston S wrote him concerning the possibility of confusion, the Missourian answered “As I am older than you by some months, I suggest you use your middle initial. (A typical citizen of the “show me” state.)


Winston S was a reporter during the Boer War, (1899-1902). He was minister of munitions during World War I. As such, he instigated the first use of tanks to break the deadlock of trench warfare. If you wonder why these armored vehicles were called tanks, it was a disguise. For secrecy, these crated machines were identified as tanks on board ship to fool any German spies.


AS Prime Minister of England during World War II, it was he, alone who stood before the German armies, who had conquered all of continental Europe, when many of his advisors wanted him to sue for peace. Most of us had no idea how desperate their situation was. He said, in part, “We shall never surrender”. But for him, and his people we might be speaking German today.


Franklin D Roosevelt;

He was a controversial, egotistical charmer, loved by some, reviled by others, who for13 years, led our country through the bleak days of the depression and the frightening days of World War II. Though crippled with polio and, in his last years, failing health, he generated confidence in us. His most famous quote was; “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”


General/President Dwight D Eisenhower;

As a General, he orchestrated the most gigantic logistic operation in the history of the world, the invasion of Normandy. (D-day). He was not a great tactician, but he managed to blunt great egos such as our Gen. Patton and England’s Marshall Montgomery, and get the many international units going in the same direction. As an example of the patriotism and respect of the press at that time; Gen. “Ike” called a news conference for all the media and stated that there was no way to keep secret the time and place of the invasion, so he told them exactly where and when D-day would occur and requested that they keep it secret. And they did! What would be the chances of that happening today?


As president, Ike was best at leaving things alone. During the Truman administration there was a railroad strike, during which Harry threatened, cajoled and promised to draft the strikers into the army and make them work. In Ike’s administration, another strike was threatened, and Ike did nothing. The dispute was settled by both parties without incident.


General George C Marshall. (The Marshall plan).

General of the armies Marshall was chief of staff during WW II. Under the direction  of  newly  invested president Harry Truman, he implemented a massive generous program to “win the peace”. The allies, after World War I, set out to punish the defeated countries by stripping them of their resources and denying certain rights, thereby causing economic depression and resentment, and instigating World War II. After World War II, however, we generously offered the defeated countries the means to recover. We gave (lent) the money to rebuild the facilities that we had destroyed, and made them productive and prosperous allies. In spite of the “cold” war, world war III was averted.


Adolph Hitler;

This egomaniac was such a ridiculous figure that no government heads paid any attention to this “clown” until it was too late. He broke the treaties signed after WW I by building a war machine and none of the allies had the guts to stop him until it was too late. He defeated and humiliated the armies who opposed him and enslaved continental Europe. He was responsible for more deaths than any other person in the history of the world. And he affected the lives of every American for a decade.



Sister Marian Gerard, St. Ann’s, Normandy, sixth grade. She was a warm, friendly, interesting person who got me to realize that nuns are really people like us.


Brother Linus, Christian Brothers College High School. He taught Latin and life in the real world. He knew every student by name and temperament, (about 450 kids). When I graduated in 1943, almost all of us were in the service. He kept in touch with them and could tell you about almost every one; What branch of service, where stationed, and how he was doing.


Raymond R Tucker, Washington University. Professor of Mechanical Engineering, later Mayor of St. Louis. He taught thermodynamics and combustion engineering, but he spent most of his time trying to convince us that without salesmanship, (charm), no great idea will flourish. Of course we didn’t believe him until it was too late.


Pope John XXIII

He changed the concept of being Catholic. A thousand years of rules and law were torn down and not quite replaced. There was some comfort in knowing that certain things were “mortal sins”, and must be avoided at all cost. Now our “black and white” world had shades of gray. More decisions had to be made. On the other hand, the Mass is in English, and we are participants, instead of spectators. It needed to be done.


Nikita Kruschev/ The Cold War.

The atom bomb may have saved my life. I was scheduled to ship out to the Pacific in two weeks when the first bomb fell. It was the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War. For decades we lived under the shadow of “Armageddon”. It was in the back of our minds at all times between crises. There was the blockade of Berlin, the Berlin wall, the Cuban missile crisis, and in between, wondering if the next crisis would be the final one. Much of my employment as an engineer was devoted toward preventing World War III. When the Cold War ended we did not anticipate anything like the War on Terrorism. 




The Breakdown of the Family;

The collapse of morals, a sense of right and wrong, was caused by several things.


Television, the “one eyed monster”.

Television has been defined by author Doris Goodwin as “The most fragmenting force in all cultural history.” It has replaced the family as teacher, moral guide and baby sitter. It has changed the way we get our news, elect politicians (and thereby redefine our constitution), define our morals and spend our money. We allow this single source of information to shape our news, redefine pornography and teach our children filthy language.


The Computer  (and it’s offspring, the Internet, the computerized Credit Card and the Cell phone

I have seen the computer evolve from a massive machine with it’s own air conditioner to something that fits in a shirt pocket. The modern computer now offers us extreme freedom, with a touch of slavery. It eliminates chaos in our lives, while creating new levels of chaos. With it’s wonders we can work at home, buy, sell, do research, print, check our credit, pay our bills, order pizza, all without leaving the comfort of our room, car or lap. In other words, we can become high-tech hermits.


With instant credit comes the computerized credit card system. This is the engine that drives the internet. It also drives many into bankruptcy. I have read how the banks carefully screen applicants to control excessive spending. That is why they pre-approved my grandson, who was in school and jobless, and also why they pre-approve some people’s household pets.


Cell phones can enrich your life by ensuring that, wherever you go, whatever you do, there will be no privacy. I liken them to the transmitters attached to criminals, in lieu of jail time, so that the law will always know where they are. (a tool of the Devil.)  One day, my grandson, whom I dearly love, complained that his phone went off three times in a movie theater, and he had to go out in the lobby to answer it. I was too flabbergasted to ask him, if he didn’t have a wife about to go into labor, why he took a cell phone into a movie.


It is interesting how the telephone evolved into the computer age. When I was small, you picked up the phone and a human voice asked “number please?” You told her the number you wanted and soon a person said “hello”. Next came the dial phone, followed by the touch tone phone. Now when you dial a number a computerized voice says “thank you for calling the XYZ company, then feeds you a series of menus, and eventually you hear the dreaded “Your call is important…..”.




The Entertainment Industry

In 1939, Rhett Butler was allowed to say to Scarlet O’Hara, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” This was considered obscene language for a movie at that time. Gradually, entertainment media achieved more “sophistication” until I now hear words on “prime time” television that have never been spoken in my living room.  Mere total nudity in bed does not beget an “R” rating, nor does the abominable F word. The “heroes” on TV, cops, doctors, judges, mothers, etc. have “trivial sex” with various partners without any sense of shame, or any attempt to keep it private. “Vengeance” movie heroes, (Schwarzenegger, Stalone, Norris, etc.) are allowed to commit first degree murder and various acts of brutality, as the audience cheers, because someone “done him wrong”. These are the role models our children are expected to look up to. TV games keep score of how many “bad guys” you killed on your journey. They don’t miss any of the 10 commandments. They break them all without remorse or punishment.


Lawyers,Liars and Legislators.

Beginning,(as I recall) in the1960’s, the Constitution of the United States has been gradually rewritten. Freedom of religion now means it is illegal to pray in school. Freedom of the press means there is no such thing as pornography. Freedom of speech means that special interest groups have the right to “bribe” politicians by giving unlimited  amounts to their election funds. Elections are won by the candidate who can extract the most money from the special interests. After the election, to whom are they beholden?


Judges have allowed us to be a generation of “victims”. It’s not the murderer’s fault because he was mistreated by “society”. A woman spills coffee on her lap and sues McDonalds because the coffee was too hot. A mother sues McDonalds because her son is grossly overweight from too much “fast food”. A woman is “awarded” $28 billion, (That’s 28,000,000,000, almost 3 times the budget for the state of Kansas), because, in spite of the labels on every pack and the escalating warnings in the news media she smoked for fifty years, and got cancer. Descendants of slaves think the government owes them billions of dollars because our dead ancestors mistreated their dead ancestors. (In fact my dead ancestors, who came here around 1890, were themselves “wage slaves.) When I was growing up I was told I was born with “free will”, and was responsible for my actions.


Hoene Springs.

It was a phenomenon of the 1930’s and beyond. Before homes had air conditioning or even window fans, summer in the city meant you never got a decent night’s sleep. We slept on porches, back yards, or in a city park. People went to the movies in the afternoon because it was air conditioned. It cost 15cents and up, and the show was continuous so you could cool off for six hours if you wanted to. To get a cool night’s sleep and daytime entertainment, some people had access to “club houses”. They were usually at or near a river for swimming, boating or fishing. Some were without electricity, most without running water.


 Our family owned a club with the Alfert family, Ben, Gerry and girls Betty, Joan and Marilyn. Ben went to school with my mom and was my godfather, and, at the club, he tried to teach me to fish, without too much success. This “kid’ stuff my dad did not enjoy as a boy. It is a minor miracle that two families, for almost 30 years, could share a clubhouse, (one room, kitchen and porch), without a major disturbance. The first club #32, as I said before, consisted of one huge bedroom, a tiny kitchen and a screened in porch. It stood on “stilts”(cedar posts about 10 feet high) because every few years the river would flood the grounds. The bedroom was also used for indoor recreation, especially on rainy days. The porch was used for dining, drinking and playing cards, usually till the wee hours of the morning. Outdoor activities included swimming, fishing, boating, “mountain” climbing, corkball, (look that one up) , softball and hanging out. For the adults it was swimming, horse shoes, bar-b-cueing, beer drinking and penny-ante poker long into the night. Sleeping occurred on “rollaway” beds, day beds, (they call them futons now), and sometimes on army cots. There may have been as many as 18 or 20 people sleeping there on some nights. Either family could invite one or more friends at almost any time without prior approval from the other family.


Hoene Springs was a community of clubhouses in a valley surrounded by the foothills of the Ozarks, about 4 miles from Eureka, Mo. The area is now virtually a suburb of St. Louis. There was a spring at the foot of a hill, from which we got our water. Next to the spring was an ice house, a small general store and the original Hoene farmhouse.


All this was started by a farmer, grandpa Hoene, who used to sit in a lawn chair under an old tree and tell his stories. How his first year as a farmer, he planted his crop, tended it and watched it dry up in a drought so he harvested nothing. He decided farming was not for him. Next year he rented out his land to a tenant farmer and started to invite people out for a day in the country, chicken dinner, etc. He picked them up at the train station at Eureka and brought them out in a horse drawn wagon. Then during the depression of the30’s, his son Harry, a shrewd farmer, started building clubhouses and selling them to city folks. Shrewdly, while my folks owned the cottage, Harry still owned the land it sat on. Somehow, Harry managed to buy land when it was truly “dirt cheap”, (during the depression), and wound up owning  “about half of Jefferson County” according to rumors. With all his wealth he lived in the original farm house and his Wife, Winnie cooked on a wood fired stove until after the war, when they built a beautiful ranch house.


We would go there on weekends and sometimes we would spend a week or two out there. Dad and Ben would have about a 30 mile commute to work each day. We went to Sunday Mass at House Springs, (4 miles), or Byrnesville, (8 miles) on alternate Sundays. Father Murphy, a witty old Irishman, said the 7 AM  in one town and the 9 AM in the other on alternate weeks. We went to the 9, whatever town it was in. He could keep the congregation in stitches. He would announce the bans of marriage and say “ Don’t see what Rosemary sees in that ugly lug”. House Springs was a tiny frame church perched on top of a hill with a few pews so uncomfortable that Father dared anyone to try to fall asleep during Mass, and a choir so bad it was comical. If you arrived late, as we usually did everyone could hear you chugging up the gravel road. Sometimes the Church was full and the husbands would stand on the porch or outside the windows and “hear” Mass.


Around 1940, Harry finished off the loft of his large barn and every Saturday night there would be a genuine barn dance. This really brought the club owners, (and renters) together and formed year long friendships. One incident stands out in my mind. Herman Haenel, Who knew dad from grade school, and his wife, Ethyl, after the dance argued for hours as to who will drive home. It was;  I’m driving!, no, I’m driving!!. We kids were in bed hours before and wondered when it would end. Finally Ben drove their car back St. Louis and dad followed and drove Ben back. Probably neither Herman nor Ethyl was in any condition to drive home.


The barn dance really turned the place into a community. People would get together, “kids” from pre-teens to thirties and all treated alike Party games, dancing, softball games. We even had annual elections to various offices. Ben was elected mayor one year. Dad was always elected official party- pooper.


While I was in the service, they sold old #32 and bought a nice cottage about a mile from the river. It had running water, separate bedrooms, a basement and a lovely porch about 20 by 20 feet, screened in on three sides. It had a large dining room with a beautiful sponge rock fireplace. It was a mile from the river, making it less convenient. And it was more formal, such that you couldn’t invite a guest without first checking with the Alferts, because we couldn’t have too many total guests, lest they not each have a private bedroom.


This was a magic place in it’s time. But it’s time has passed. The area is now a subdivision with permanent homes, a part of suburbia.


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