Short Story; Memphis 1948

Posted on 11/10/2018. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Author Foreword

I attended Aviation Technician classes at the Naval Air Technical Training Center near Memphis in 1948. At the time the United States military services were becoming fully integrated while the south including Memphis remained segregated as defined by Jim Crow laws. This resulted in conflicting practices in how people of different races interacted depending if they were located inside the Naval Technical Training Center or outside of it.

I had grown up in rural South Dakota and never had contact with non-white people of any kind before entering the navy. I can remember seeing only one black person in the town near our farm before I left in my late teens. When confronted with southern segregation I hadn’t developed any strong opinions on the subject. However, I did not feel comfortable with the practice. On its face it seemed immoral and conflicted with many of the basic principles on which our country had been founded. My memories of that 1948 experience are the basis for the Memphis 1948 story.

Memphis 1948

The Isaiah and his wife Sarah were Negro sharecroppers who lived in the Mississippi Delta and farmed twenty-four acres of cotton on land owned by Ed Sharpton. They had one son named Tyler.

Isaiah was a descendent of three generations of the Williams family which had lived in the Mississippi Delta as slaves, field hands, land owners and finally share croppers. Isaiah’s father had been a decedent of a slave mother and father and worked as a field hand and accumulated enough money and good enough credit to buy eighty acres of rich delta land. Isaiah had inherited the eighty acres with an outstanding mortgage in 1910, a time when Negroes were facing increasing political pressure and finding it difficult to obtain credit. In 1920 Isaiah lost the farm and became a sharecropper.

During the same time Ed Sharpton was buying up land being lost by bankrupt Negroes, using credit unavailable to Negroes. At one time in the late 1800’s, Negroes owned two-thirds of the rich delta land. By the 1920’s they had lost most of it.

In order for Ed Sharpton to utilize the land he had accumulated he broke it into small plots for sharecroppers to farm. Ed furnished the land, a mule, plows, other tools to work the land, seed and fertilizer and a shack without electricity or running water for the family to live in. For this he would receive half of whatever was produced by the sharecropper on the land. Ed wouldn’t let any of the sharecroppers to use any of the land for such things as gardens. All the land had to go into cotton. In addition, all the sharecropper’s shacks were bunched together in a hamlet with no room for yards or gardens. The shacks were part of a hamlet that included mule barns, sheds filled with plows and other field tools, and a warehouse for fertilizers and seeds. Also, in the hamlet was a store owned by Ed Sharpton where sharecroppers bought necessities.

Each year the crop yield would depend on many variables such as if there was the right amount of rain, if the boll weevil would be problem, if plant diseases effected the crop, or if Ed provided enough fertilizer. At the end of the year, when the crop was harvested, Ed Sharpton would buy the Willian’s family share of the crop at a price determined by the Ed. What the William’s received at that time would be their only source of income until the next harvest.

If the money ran out before the next harvest the family had only one place to get credit to buy the necessities the family needed. That was the store Ed Sharpton ran. As a result, most or all of the William’s family share of the crop might be needed to pay for the necessities they bought on credit at the store during the previous year.

In the spring of 1940 Isaiah was nearing his mid-fifties. He was all bone and muscle, slightly stooped over. He had turned grey prematurely, had lost most of his teeth and his face had wrinkled from spending many years working the fields in the heat of summer. Sarah was only a few years younger than Isaiah but didn’t display the signs of aging in the way Isaiah had. Her face skin was smooth and her hair a mass of black ringlets. Not that Sarah didn’t work hard. During the summer and fall she hoed and picked cotton beside Isaiah and did the family cooking and washed the cloths in a wash tub. Sarah was just one of those people that didn’t seem to age. Tyler appeared to be a typical eleven-year-old boy, a string bean who couldn’t get enough to eat. However, if one knew him well, he wasn’t a typical eleven-year-old boy. He had the bright shining eyes of youth but they often seemed to be looking beyond where there was anything to see and his mind also seemed to be in that far off place.

As an eleven-year-old, Tyler also worked in the fields. Tyler’s father Isaiah had gone to school for four years and had a rudimentary ability to read and do figures while Sarah had never attended school. Despite this meager experience with education the two of them made certain that Tyler went to the one room, one teacher school for Negroes where grades one through six were thought. Children of other sharecroppers often sent their children to the school when they didn’t have anything better to do. Tyler’s parents sent him because they wanted him to learn. It worked out well because Tyler liked school and also wanted to learn.

Sarah had wanted her boy to go to school as most mothers would. Isaiah had a more personal reason why he wanted Tyler to go to school. Isaiah believed he had lost his farm in part because he had an inadequate education.  He signed contracts he couldn’t read and knew nothing about the laws that allowed his farm to be taken away from him. He didn’t want that to happen to his son,

The school was a shack similar to those the sharecroppers lived in. Miss Brown, the teacher was a big black woman with an attitude. She had a limited wardrobe but managed to dress neatly every day in a clean dress. Miss Brown had been teaching single room multiple class schools for fifteen years before taking over the share cropper school. She maintained order and discipline doing whatever the situation required and the students who didn’t understand this soon became educated. For this she had the use of one of sharecropper shacks, was paid ten dollars cash every month and had credit to buy twenty dollars’ worth of supplies and food from Ed’s store every month.

Despite her rough exterior Miss Brown loved every child she ever thought and, Tyler was no exception. However, Tyler was exceptional, the best student she ever had. It was apparent soon after he had started the first grade. He wanted to know everything about everything and had the capacity to absorb all the knowledge Miss Brown could provide. Miss Brown’s concern was that what she could provide was limited by her abilities and the school’s resources. The books the school had were twenty-year-old work books designed for children learning to read and do basic arithmetic. They were not knowledge books that Tyler needed. Miss Brown had been around long enough to know talking to the county superintendent would be like talking to the sky and a waste of time. As an alternative Miss Brown decided to talk to Ed Sharpton.

Ed Sharpton spent a lot of his time in the store and Miss Brown approached him one day about the school’s needs.

“Mr. Ed” Miss Brown said, “I know your interested in educaten sharecropper children. Always said you were. I’d like da thank you for that. Now I have this problem that you kin help on. I need more books. Some of da high grades need books bout history, geography, grammar, things like that.

Ed laughed, “Niggers don’t have a need for anythen but lernen how to read a little an some rithmatic. You don’t wanna get fancy ideas in their heads.” With those words Ed left the store to tend to something.

Miss Sally Bates, the white woman who tended the store six days a week spoke up after Ed had left. Miss Bates, and Miss Brown had become casual friends. Miss Brown came into the store often to pick up groceries and other items, and if things were slow at the store as they often were, they enjoyed visiting for a while.

“Miss Brown,” Miss Bates said, “Maybe I can help you. I use the library in Clarksdale, I can borrow up to three books at a time for three weeks. I don’t have that much time to read so can help you with two books ever three weeks.”

Miss Bates,” Miss Brown replied, “That’d be so kind and be so helpful.”

The two women huddled, decided what kind of books to borrow. This unlikely partnership continued for the last three years that Tyler attended the share cropper school. In addition, the older students that were interested had their education enhanced by the borrowed books.

In the spring of 1940 Tyler was eleven and finishing the sixth grade when Isaiah decided they should leave the delta. Isaiah’s brother Howard, had moved to Chicago the year before and had gotten work in the factory making auto parts. Howard wrote, “Theys plenty work for them wants to work and the pay is good.”

The William’s family had been living in the delta for generations and Isaiah and Sarah knew nothing else. When they owned the farm, it had been a satisfying life. Share cropping had been a setback with no future while the oppression of the Negro race in Mississippi continued to increase. The information from the Howard, if half true, would be an improvement over their present situation. Isaiah didn’t have a hard time convincing Sarah that they should break their bonds with the delta and leave the unsatisfying known in hopes of finding a better life in the unknown.

Late one night that spring they packed everything they would take with them into a relative’s car that took them to Clarksdale where they caught the train to Chicago, leaving behind the life they knew and the unpaid credit from Ed Sharpton’s store.

While Isaiah looked for work and the family was becoming acquainted with the Chicago. They had moved in with Howards family and in the evening over dinner Howard would fill the Williams family in on things he had learned about the neighborhood. “Theys good, theys bad, but better than the delta for sure. Theys still segregathen, not Jim Crow, but still segregathen,” he said. “Yu can’t live just anyplace, only places where Negroes live. Da schools, where Negro’s live, da not much better than da Negro delta schools. Po teachers, po everythin.”

Isaiah was disappointed to hear most Chicago schools in Negro neighborhoods were no better than in the delta. They were not officially segregated, but in practice they were. Isaiah didn’t know all the reasons why, but Howard said they were and he believed his brother.

Isaiah decided to find out what he could about what to expect from Chicago schools. Isaiah knew Tyler was a smart boy, Miss Brown had told him Tyler was the smartest student she ever had. Isaiah wanted to get Tyler in a school where he could make use of that smarts and learn as much as he could. Isaiah started talking to people who knew things about education.

He talked to the preacher of Howard’s church. The preacher didn’t have a high opinion of schools in the community where his flock lived. “They’s bad schools and they’s worse ones. Da children spend the day there but don’t see them learnen anything.

He visited a neighborhood school. It was summer so the principle had time to talk. The principle, a white man, didn’t talk up his school, didn’t talk up the Chicago school district. He talked about problems. It didn’t seem like the principle was talking to Isaiah. Isaiah happened to be an object the principle could use to unload his frustrations. He talked about the huge influx of Negroes from where Isaiah had come from and other places in the south. They have to live somewhere. When the Negroes moved into a neighborhood the white folks would move out, often to the suburbs. The Negroes don’t have the wealth the whites moving out had. The Negroes moving in had many educational needs while the district’s finances were deteriorating.

Isaiah wasn’t understanding everything the principle was saying but he understood that the Chicago school district had big problems and wouldn’t be a good place for a Negro or for Tyler to go to school.

A friend visiting Howard planted an idea in Isaiah’s mind. The friend lived in Juliet, a community on the southwest edge of Chicago. The friend told Isaiah that there was a Negro community in the middle of the city, compact and segregated just like Negro communities in Chicago and were the only place’s Negroes could rent or buy a house. Also, the elementary school in the Negro community had mostly Negro students and it struggled with staffing and lack of support. However, there were only two middle schools and one high school in the district and they were integrated because there was no other option.

Juliet wasn’t far from where Howard lived so Isaiah took a bus to visit the city and check out job opportunities. Good paying jobs weren’t plentiful, but there was work. The result was that the William’s moved into the Negro community in Juliet, Isaiah found work as a janitor and Tyler entered middle school that coming fall.

Tyler spent the next six years in Juliet schools and graduated from high school with almost perfect grades despite some teacher’s reluctance to give him the grades he deserved. However, the school could not allow Tyler to be named Valedictorian, that would be stretching tolerance beyond reasonable limits.

Graduating from high school had been a goal for Tyler’s parents. The goal had been met; now what? Neither Isaiah, Sarah or Tyler had given that much thought. Despite being at the top of his class the opportunities for a Negro were limited. Few jobs were open to Negroes that provided more than lowest level pay for unskilled work. Negroes were the cleanup people in service businesses, in manufacturing they worked assembly lines and work other people didn’t want to do. Negroes provided un-skilled labor in the construction business.

College for Tyler was really beyond Isaiah and Sarah’s level of comprehension. Tyler had a broader understanding of the education hierarchy but he also understood that neither he nor his family had the means to consider the college option. He considered what his real options were and the most likely would be to get a manufacturing job. It didn’t take long for him to find work in Juliet working on an assembly line. He continued to live at home and contributed to paying family expenses.

Tyler knew that working on an assembly line for the rest of his life was not something he aspired to do. He also had recently become interested in young women and that further complicated thoughts about how to proceed with his life.

Tyler had been worrying these problems for almost two years when a fellow assembly line worker named Clayton informed him that he would be leaving soon to go into the navy. Tyler was surprised by Clayton’s announcement. He had thought the navy didn’t accept Negroes. “Going into the navy,” Tyler questioned. “The navy don’t take Negroes.”

“Well, theys taking me” Clayton replied. “Not a steward polishin officers’ shoes, but a real sailor. Something bout an executive order Truman usin says the navy has ta take any citizen meets the requirements. Skin colors not one of em. Be going up Great Lakes Boot Camp, nex week.”

Tyler didn’t question Clayton’s veracity, but being curious by nature checked out what was going on with discrimination in the navy. After a few hours at the library Tyler had found the source of the change occurring in the Navy. President Truman was interpreting Executive Order 8802 signed by President Roosevelt in 1941 as the basis to begin ending discrimination in the armed forces in 1947. Then this year, 1948, Truman issued executive order 9981 which that made it clear that there would be no more discrimination in the United States armed forces.  Apparently, this executive order was working for Clayton.

That the navy was accepting Negroes as recruits opened up a possibility that Tyler hadn’t considered. He hadn’t seen much of the world other than the Mississippi Delta and Juliet Illinois. His future seemed be low level jobs in whatever field he worked in.

He talked to his parents. Isaiah and Sarah who had long ago decided that they could give Tyler support and love but he was more capable than they were in just about any subject they could think of. “You decide that,” Isaiah said, “You know most about it than most folks do.”

Tyler thoughts had never considered joining the armed services as an option previously. He heard that, with few exceptions, Negroes in WWII were used in all- Negro units and mostly in non-combatant roles.  The thought of a segregated, separate but equal, type of military organization turned him off. The idea of Negroes serving in the military having their own toilet facilities, own mess halls, separate barracks, and maybe colored only fox holes seemed ridicules to him. If as Clayton said, Negroes were being enlisted to serve in an integrated navy, that could be a be a different story.

There was a navy recruitment office in Juliet and Tyler stopped in. A lone man in a uniform sat a desk drinking coffee and reading a newspaper. A half-eaten donut sat on a napkin beside the coffee cup. The man didn’t project the image that one sees in recruiting posters. He slouched over the desk, was a little flabby and his uniform could have used good pressing. The man glanced up and then resumed reading the newspaper. Tyler stood waiting to be recognized but after a few minutes realized that he was being ignored.

“Sir,” Tyler said, “I would like to ask a few questions.”

“About what?” the man asked.

“Well I heard that Negroes can enlist in the regular navy now.”

“What do you mean, regular navy” the man in the recruiting office asked. “Negroes have always been able to enlist as stewards. You want to be a steward.?”

Tyler was becoming irritated. He knew he was getting the run around. This man didn’t want him in his office, and didn’t want Tyler to be in the navy. It caused Tyler to react in kind and he wasn’t going to be intimidated. “No,” Tyler said. “I don’t want to be a steward, I want to be in the regular navy, as a deck hand or whatever regular sailors do.

“What makes you think you can enlist in the regular navy?”  The recruiting officer    asked.

Tyler, who was struggling to remain calm answered “A friend of mine has enlisted in the regular navy and will be going to the Great Lakes Boot Camp next week.”

The man in the uniform had a scowl on his on his face but his mind was working on a different problem.  He was a recruiting officer whose job was to encourage men to join the Navy. The goal for the number of men he was to recruit that month was far from filled. As a recruiting officer he had been informed he could recruit Negroes. He didn’t like to see Negroes serving in the Navy but there wasn’t much he could do about that. What he could do is sign this Negro up and it would add to the number of recruits for the month no matter what color the man was.  He reached into a drawer, pulled out some papers, asked Tyler if he could read or write.

Tyler didn’t respond to the question.

“In any case,” the recruiting officer said, “You can take these papers home, get some help if need be, bring them back with a certified birth certificate.

Tyler asked the recruiting officer if he had something to write with. “I’ll fill out the papers now.” Tyler hadn’t intended to enlist that day, or if ever, but he was so ticked off he decided to do it right there in front of the recruiting officer so he could see Tyler reading and writing.

Tyler did fill out the forms quickly and handed them to the surprised recruiting officer who noted how quickly and neatly the forms had been filled out. “Well, very good,” The recruiting officer said, then reminded Tyler to bring in a birth certificate and handed him a card with the date and place he was to go for the physical.

From that point things moved along quickly, Tyler passed the physical and was told to report to the Chicago City Center recruiting office in two weeks when a group of navy recruits would assemble to be transported to the Great Lakes Navy Training Center boot camp. Two weeks later twelve nervous, anxious young men were herded into a conference room. A navy officer had the men stand up and face him. He said something about swearing in and had the men raise their right hands and to repeat after him the enlisted men’s oath. They all did that and the officer declared the men were now United Navel Recruits and good luck.

When the recruits arrived at the boot camp they were outfitted with uniforms and assigned to a fifty-man company. The company was integrated with Tyler and five other Negroes as part of otherwise all white unit.

The first weeks training proceeded with a heavy emphasis on the importance of discipline which included close order drill as an example. The navy chief petty officers responsible the recruit companies training used whatever means needed to shape up the company to march in step and react to verbal commands without stumbling over each other. The half dozen Negroes were not singled out from the rest of the company. From Tyler’s perspective, it appeared that discipline was applied where needed and color wasn’t a factor.

There were a number of southern white boys in the company that Tyler would label as red necks in their natural environment. Some of them didn’t hide their distain of the Negroes in the company. This became apparent soon after the company had formed and moved into a dormitory.

There were two picknick type tables set in the middle of the company dormitory where recruits could write letters shine their shoes, hang out. A Negro recruit sat down at one of the tables to write a letter and two southern boys were shining their shoes at the other table. One of the southern boys remarked that he didn’t know niggers could write. The Negro recruit reacted instantly, picked up the uncapped ink bottle he was using and flung it at the two southern recruits. The ink bottle hit one of southern recruits and spilled ink over both red necks and on the table. The southern recruits jumped up and tipped over the table the Negro letter writer was sitting at and came after the ink thrower. Other recruits in the company pulled the combatants apart, stopped the confrontation and then attempted to clean up the mess. However, there was no way that all signs of the melee could be erased and the company recruit in charge would have to report what happened.

The next morning the company assembled in front of the barracks and stood at attention while a navy officer lectured them on the Presidential Executive Order 9981 that ended segregation in the United States Armed Services. The officer ended his lecture warning that, “It is the law, if you break the law you will be prosecuted, and if guilty punished and will at a minimum be given a dishonorable discharge. When the Commander in Chief, the President issues and order, you better damn while obey it if you want to serve in the United States Navy.

After that incident there were no racially motivated disturbances during the remainder of boot camp.

During boot camp the recruits were tested physically and mentally. They were required to meet certain strength and flexibility levels and be a third-class swimmer. Anyone falling short of meeting the physical requirements would get individual training in order to meet the requirements before leaving boot camp. Tests to determine math, reading and general knowledge levels were administered.  At the end of boot camp each recruit was interviewed and was told what options were available to that recruit based his back ground, test scores and other related capabilities.

The interviewer, Josh Brisson, watched Tyler as he approached his desk. Josh didn’t spend a lot of time with each recruit and sometimes hadn’t looked at the recruits file until the time of the interview. Josh was surprised to see Tyler was a negro. He hadn’t interviewed any Negroes before this one, although he knew Negroes were now allowed to serve in any one of the navies many different rates and skills. Josh had grown up in rural Wisconsin and never had known or had contact with any Negroes. He came into the Navy off the farm and it was an all-white organization until now. The Negro walking toward him made good physical impression; trim, good posture, pleasant looking. The deep tan skin tone enhanced an impression of a handsome young man.

Tyler stood in front of the desk and Josh motioned for him to sit down. “Excuse me,” Josh said to Tyler. “Give me a minute to look through the file.” What Josh saw in the file was the evidence of probably the sharpest recruit Josh had ever interviewed. This contradicted what Josh had heard about Negroes and he struggled to get his head around what he saw. The interviewers had guidelines they were to follow in placing recruits into slots where they would best fill the Navy’s needs. The navy is a technology-oriented fighting force and needed skilled personal to operate and maintain complex facilities, ships, submarines and aircraft. One of the interviewer’s responsibilities was to select candidates to be trained in the skills needed for the navy to function effectively. The evidence Josh had in front of him told him this recruit should be guided into one of the demanding skills most needed by the navy.

Josh looked up from the file. “Very impressive, you are qualified to go into any rating you would be interested in. What are you thinking about, what would you like to do in the navy?”

Tyler studied the interviewer, “I get to pick what I want to do?”

“In your case, that is true,” Josh replied. “Are you interested in shipboard duty, aircraft, submarines? Those are categories, then what do you want to do in a category.”

World War Two had only recently ended and Tyler had become fascinated with the aircraft and their use during war. The Tuskegee pilots were his heroes. “I’d like to have something to do with aircraft.” Tyler replied.

“There is a full set of navy ratings related to aircraft maintenance and operation,” Josh explained. “The rating I would like you to consider is Aviation Electronics Technician. You will get almost a year of training and if you do well, you’d come out as a 3rd or 2nd class petty officer. Some enlisted sailors take years or never make 2nd class petty officer.

Tyler took the recommendation and found himself at the Memphis Tennessee Naval Air Station, attending the Aviation Electricians Technician school. He was in a class of twenty and the only Negro in the class. Not unexpected since very few Negroes had been accepted into the navy at that point in time.

Tyler encountered bigotry at the Memphis Naval Air Station, the kind that any Negro would consider normal. Otherwise the Memphis Naval Air Station was fully integrated. The State of Tennessee and Memphis were a different matter. To Tyler, Jim Crow seemed more prevalent in Memphis that it had been in the Delta.

Tyler found the training interesting and not difficult and graduated, as had become normal, at the head of the class. He had the petty officer 2nd class rating sewed onto his uniforms and decided to celebrate by going into Memphis to spend some time on Beale Street. He would go alone. There were few Negroes on the base and none that Tyler found shared common interests. None of his white classmate would want to go with him and Tyler didn’t fault them for that. Mixed race sailors together on a Memphis street could draw a crowd.

Tyler wore his dress blue uniform with the new 2nd class rating on the sleeve. He caught a navy bus that circulated through the base and then made a run to Memphis. The bus was nearly empty and Tyler took a seat behind the bus driver. When the bus got to the main gate a marine guard stepped on board and checked the service men’s liberty passes. When the marine had finished checking the passes the driver stood up and said, “All you colored folks now have to move to the back of the bus.” Tyler was the only Negro on the bus. He stood up and moved to the back of the bus.

After Tyler completing his training, he was assigned to unit at the Miramar Navy Air Station near San Diego testing high definition radar being developed to detect snorkeling submarines. Navy technicians worked with civilian engineers to get the kinks out of the new radar before being deployed for fleet use.

Tyler found the work interesting and challenging. The radar guys were more interested in the technology than in skin color so there hadn’t been any obvious bigotry in the group. One of the sharpest technicians in the group was a first generation Mexican American. In addition to that Tyler got to do some flying when testing the equipment. Something he liked and it also made him eligible for flight pay.

Tyler had finished his second year in a three-year enlistment when the Korean War broke out.

The navy had become interested in testing their new radar for an airborne command and control application and Korea offered a chance test it under realistic conditions. As a result, a contingent from the Miramar radar group, including Tyler, was sent to Japan to test the radar command and control capabilities while flying over Korea and adjacent waters. It was during this deployment that Tyler became aware that the GI Bill that assisted World War Two veterans in the cost to attend college was being extended to Korean veterans. As a result, Tyler knew what he would be doing after completing his navy enlistment, an enlistment that was extended for a year because of the Korean war. That was to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana, a school that admitted Negroes, to major in Electrical Engineering,

While at the University of Illinois Tyler changed his major to Physics, a change endorsed by his advisor. This had been driven by Tyler’s interest in a physical world beyond electricity and its various forms. He graduated with honors from the University of Illinois and went on to earn a Master and Doctor degrees in Physics at MIT and then became a research scientist at Stanford.

It was during the 1960’s that Tyler became involved in the civil rights movement under way in the United States. He joined the march on Washington in in August of 1963 with a half a million other civil rights supporters and heard Martin Luther Kings “I had a dream speech.”.

On March 17 1964 President Lynden Johnson addressed a joint session of congress on the subject of civil rights and the President, who had deep southern roots, browbeat and shamed the congress into passing the historic Civil Rights Act in July of 1964.

Tyler was thrilled by the passing of the Civil Rights Act but had no illusions that the act would immediately eliminate prejudice and bigotry in America. Tyler’s concerns were soon confirmed when the Civil Rights Act was met with resistance throughout the south. This resistance was highlighted by the march from Selby to Montgomery Alabama in March of 1965, which Tyler participated in, protesting Alabama’s flaunting of the Civil Rights Act. The march highlighted the nations determination to enforce the Civil Rights Act with federal troops if necessary and by rulings of the courts. However, regardless of the of the enforcement the Civil Rights Act, it would not eliminate prejudice and bigotry from the hearts of many Americans. Yet Tyler was optimistic that the Civil Rights Act had set the nation in a direction and with goals that would improve relations between all of the ethnic and cultural variations of its citizens, However, Tyler also realized that for those improvements and the direction to be maintained depended of future generations supporting those same goals. That was something only time would reveal.

Copyright © 2018 by Alfred Wellnitz


All rights reserved. No part of this story may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, names, incidents, organizations, and dialogue in this short story are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author.

Also by Alfred Wellnitz

Finding the Way;
From Prussia to a Prairie Homestead

Deficit Triggers Hyperinflation, Terrorism

For the Cause;
The Cold War Turns Hot in Korea
And Why Young Men Went To War


About the Author

Alfred Wellnitz grew up in rural South Dakota, served in the United States Navy, and worked in technology as an electrical engineer. After retiring from engineering, he worked as a real estate agent before deciding to become an author at age seventy-three. He has since published three novels and numerous short stories. Alfred’s first novel, Finding the Way, was awarded an Honorable Mention in the 13th Writer’s Digest International Self-Published Book Awards, and PushBack was a finalist in the ForeWord Review’s Book of the Year Awards. Alfred now lives in Bloomington, Minnesota.

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“Risks and Rewards” Give Away

Posted on 11/08/2018. Filed under: Uncategorized |

This week I am giving away a short story called Risk and Rewards. The book can be found in Amazon at the link below, or you can type my name, Alfred Wellnitz, into the the Amazon search box. It will be free through through November 12.

Most stories I write relate to some personal experience, something I observed, heard, been involved in. I believe this is true of many writers. It is true of the short story “Risk and Rewards”. I was in the Philippines while serving in the Navy stationed at the Sangley Point Navel Air Station in the early 1950’s. At the time there was a low level insurrection being waged by a group of Philippines communist that went by the name of Hukbalahaps, commonly referred to as Huks. One night the Huks broke into a Quonset Hut being used as an armory to store 30 caliber ammunition. This was not revealed or announced officially but was pretty well confirmed by base rumors. Part of the evidence was the appearance of some little brown people under marine guard eating at the enlisted men’s mess the morning after the night the incident was rumored to have occurred. In any case these rumors inspired me to write the fictional story “Risks and Rewards” where I imagine how this event was conceived and carried out. The resulting story is summarized as follows:

Three Philippine fishermen who eke out a living fishing in Manila Bay are suddenly presented with an opportunity be paid what would be a fortune in their eyes for one nights effort. The fishermen must consider the risks and moral considerations the opportunity presents. The story follows the decision making process and the results of the choices made by the fishermen.

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Book Give Away

Posted on 10/30/2018. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

I am planning to return to being more active on this blog after a session of care taking and recovery from that experience. I have finished revising the last novel that I published, For the Cause,  and it is now available on my Amazon page in both paper back and ebook versions.

Starting on Thursday November 1 the ebook version of the book will be available at no cost (free) through Monday November 5. Just enter my name on google, “Alfred Wellnitz” and you will be taken to the Amazon site that will take you to my Amazon page where you will find the book.

For the Cause synopsis:A Two young South Dakota farm boys, Pete Houser and Chris Engleson, with uncertain futures decide to join the marines as an alternative to some other mundane job.It is 1950 and they complete boot camp just as the Korean War suddenly erupts. Chris finds himself assigned to the First Provisional Marine Brigade being hurriedly put together to be deployed to Korea. Pete is assigned to a marine unit providing base security for the Sangley Point Naval Air Station in the Philippines. The story follows the lives of the two young men during the last six months of 1950 while Chris in Korea is involved in the Pusan Perimeter, Inchon and the Chosin Reservoir battles and Pete spends his time as a security guard in the Philippines. Over a short period of time Chris goes from a green farm boy to a seasoned warrior and Pete’s world expands quickly as he encounters unfamiliar moral standards and first love. The story alternates between Chris in Korea and Pete in the Philippines until the story comes to a surprising conclusion.

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A Short Story: Making the Numbers Work

Posted on 08/01/2018. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

I have written many short stories and now plan to put some of them together to publish a printed and eBook version of a book of short stories. Below is a short story to be included in a book of cold war short stories. This is considered to be a draft and any comments, note of errors would be appreciated.

Jim Fowler settled down in his corner office with his first vendor machine cup of coffee. The coffee was pretty bad but the only alternative would be bringing a thermos. The corner office with a door represented a measure of his success as a longtime employee of the Data Control Corporation, commonly known as DCC. It took a while, over twenty years to reach this position. Fowler started out as a mechanical design engineer and was finally put in charge of all program management for all space systems programs. DCC had a reputation for highly reliable, light weight, miniature sized yet capable computers for use in space for its government customers. Business had been good with President Reagan promoting his Star Wars missile defense system but that could change since the Berlin Wall had come down a month previously.

There had been a lot of pressure with the job and Jim attributed the stress to his overweight condition and loss of hair. Jim had thought about doing some exercise, maybe jogging. Trouble is he should lose some weight before he tried jogging. It was one of those chicken and egg things. There wasn’t much that could be done about the growing bald spot on the crown of his head. Combing what hair he had over the bald spot wasn’t much of an improvement.

Despite the pressure Jim liked his position, head of program management in Space Systems programs with staff of a half a dozen working on proposals, program budgets, scheduling and four program managers in charge of seven multimillion dollar programs between them. He was making more money and wielded more power than he ever would have had as a design engineer and thought he had a talent for the job. He had a reputation as a good negotiator, was liked by customers who were prime contractors for the most part like Lockheed and Boeing. He also became known as a demanding kick ass type by his program and department managers that supplied the engineers, technicians, assemblers and support people that worked on the programs. Like most of the DCC management, his background and training had been technical, not people oriented. As a result the company depended on self-trained or gifts from God type managers for the most part. Jim suspected he had been born with above average management skills.

Jim’s phone rang. He hesitated to answer it. He suspected it might be Gerald Blackstone, director of the Government Systems Division calling about an overrun on the Eagle One program that showed up in the last monthly financial report.

Gerald growled “Good morning Jim.” To Jim, Gerald’s voice didn’t sound like it was going to be a good morning.

Gerald continued, “Say Jim, that Eagle One program is over budget, behind schedule. What are you doing to fix it?”

What Jim heard wasn’t any news to him and shouldn’t be any news to Gerald Blackstone. Alex Jorden, the program manager that prepared the Eagle One proposal had instructed all of the departments doing the estimating to bid it skinny. The procurement would be fixed price and competitive. A potential for follow on programs added value to the current procurement.  The systems use would be for surveillance, something not likely to be cut during defense spending cuts. Last but not least, the division backlog had been shrinking and without new business there would be headcount reductions.

Alex had negotiated and cajoled the department managers to cut the bid to the bone and then division management cut the low ball estimates by twenty percent. They were rolling the dice, betting that other division programs could make up any Eagle One losses so the division would be able to post an acceptable profit and level of business during the coming year. Now division management wanted to know why the program was running over budget. This was likely due in part because other programs weren’t taking up the slake and division profit margins were suffering. As a result, division management was under critical scrutiny by corporate management. Jim hesitated to answer, he didn’t want to say what he was thinking; which was, you dumb asses, what were you expecting?

“Hello, anybody there?” Gerald asked after waiting a while for an answer.

Jim faked a small cough to let Gerald know he was still on the line. He was trying to think of ways to stall or dodge the question. No doubt Gerald Blackstone was under pressure from corporate to show a division year end profit to be rolled into the corporate annual report. Jim began fabricating an answer to Gerald’s question. “We are working the problem,” he said without going into any detail. “I’ll have a work around plan on your desk Monday morning.”

After discussing a number of issues on other programs Gerald signed off reminding Jim he looked forward to seeing the work around plan on Monday.

Jim rocked back in his desk chair and stared at the ceiling after hanging up the phone. He didn’t want to work this weekend on the “Plan.” For one thing it seemed to be an exercise in futility and the other thing is that he had better things planned for the week end.  He dialed Alex Jorden’s office located several doors down the hall. “Alex, you got a minute or an hour or so to talk about the Eagle One program?”

At the time Jim called, Alex Jorden manager of the Eagle One program, was in the middle of preparing the customer Eagle One monthly progress report. It was good timing for him and he grabbed a couple Eagle One binders and headed for Jim’s office.

Alex had a boyish face with a full head of hair that made him look young for a man about to turn fifty. A lot of activities with his two sons, nine and eleven, helped him stay in shape. Alex like most managers in the company had technical backgrounds. Trained as an electrical engineer, he loved design and was good at it. Like many good design engineers, he had been awarded by making him a manager of other engineers. It took Alex some time to realize he didn’t like managing people, particularly egotistical engineers.

The problem with leaving management and going back to computer design was that technology evolved at a fast pace at the design level and a person away for couple of years could become obsolete. Transistors were packaged individually in cans when he was designing, now they put thousands on a microchip. Instead of doing logic at the transistor level they were doing it at the microchip level. Sure, he could do it but it would be like starting over.  He worked around the problem by going into program management where he had to understand the nature of the technology changes but not the nitty gritty of implementing them. In program management he didn’t manage people, he managed things, like proposals, budgets, schedules and was the primary interface with the customer. He could handle that.

Jim waved Alex to sit at a side table where they could spread out program data. “Here’s the problem,” Jim said as an introduction to what they had to do today. “Division management wants to know why Eagle One is overrunning its budget. Apparently, they don’t want us to tell them what they already know. We bought the program, an investment that will pay off someday in the murky future. Apparently corporate wants the division contracts to pay off today, to hell with the murky future. So, all we have to do is come up with a plan to show how we can make a profit from a contract we bought with a bid that we estimated would twenty percent less than cost. How do we do that?

Alex looked at Jim, “Are they serious?”

“We are supposed to come up with a work around plan by Monday morning.”

“We can give them the plan this afternoon,” Alex replied. “It’ll be a note that says it can’t be done. We have technical problems we don’t even know how to solve. A twenty percent overrun could be a low-ball estimate. I’m hardly charging the program. I keep haggling the department managers to keep the cost down. We have put as much pressure on the vendors as the law allows. Some of the vendors are betting on the follow on, just like us.”

Jim, who had been scanning a print out of charges on the Eagle One program looked up, “That’s interesting,” He said.

Alex wanted to know what’s interesting.

“Are you doing any work on Eagle One?” Jim replied. “Don’t look like you are charging hardly any time to it.”

“You know time is charged to what you are working on, a program, a proposal, overhead if you are on vacation, sick-leave.”

“So you don’t spend much time on Eagle One?”

Alex didn’t like where the conversation had gone. Mischarging on government contracts was a no no which could result in heavy penalties for the company and individuals. Alex managed two phases of the Eagle One program; one phase a fixed price contract to develop of a new computer, and a related but separate cost-plus program to manufacture a dozen satellite computers of previous design for use in a NSA program. The production program had been negotiated a year earlier as a none-competitive cost-plus contract. The government had little leverage as no other suppliers had the technology or the interest in competing for the business. As a result, DCC Space Systems loaded up the contract which the prime contractor was only able to negotiate out some the most egregious charges. The result had been a contract with a lot of padding and Jim knew damn well what Alex had been doing.

Alex didn’t answer the question but Jim answered it for him. “Hey,” Jim said, “It’s no big deal; we all fudge project funds given an opportunity and need. Maybe that’s a solution, doing something like this on a bigger scale.

What Jim had just said scared Alex. “What are you saying?” Alex asked, hoping maybe he had misunderstood Jim.

“Well you have two programs, one that is starving and the other one is fat. Same prime customer, same government agency, you just balance things out between the two of them.”

Alex was aware of those kinds of shenanigans went on with cost plus programs where there were two contracts within the same program and two buckets of money and how you filled them didn’t make much difference in the big picture as long as they didn’t overflow. Two programs, one program cost plus and the other fixed price is a different story. People get fired, companies get fined and get a black mark when those kinds of things are mixed together. Alex had over twenty years invested in DCC and didn’t want to risk it in order to make management happy. He pointed out these obvious problems to Jim.

Jim wasn’t impressed. “There’s more than one way to get fired,” he replied. “The quickest way is to mismanage your programs. If you are given an impossible program to manage you have to figure out how to manage it. I’m in the same line of fire as you are. I see a way to fix the problem and everyone will be happy and none the wiser.”

Ales felt the pressure. Jim evaluated Alex’s performance in the annual reviews and made salary recommendations. These evaluations went into his file and stayed there forever. A bad evaluation in his record could affect his future in DCC in a bad way. Besides Alex was not sure how they could accomplish what Jim implied. How could they manage the time card information?  Alex couldn’t think of a shuttle way to ask Jim how the manipulation of time card information would be accomplished so laid it out on the table. “How do you intend to modify the time cards?” He asked.

“Hey Alex, as far as we are concerned, this conversation never took place. I expect you will work out the details and I don’t want to know how it’s done.” He said they had accomplished what they needed to do in the meeting and Alex should get busy working on the plan to be completed by Monday.

Alex felt a migraine headache coming on after leaving Jim’s office. Alex had been looking forward to a weekend of canoeing with his two sons. They would be canoeing on a nearby river, leaving Saturday, camping overnight and returning Sunday evening. Now he had this problem hanging over his head, an impossible problem to be solved in any legitimate way.

Alex hadn’t been asked if he agreed with the scheme Jim had come up with. Jim had decided what to do and told Alex to do it. This was Jim’s style. So, Alex knew he would be in trouble with Jim if he didn’t do as directed, and he would be in trouble with the customer if they found out what was going on. There were no good scenarios.

Alex  went on the canoe trip with his two boys as planned and he decided he wouldn’t let his work problems spoil the canoe trip for the boys. The first day they were going down river with the current helping them. They stopped often observed the rivers wildlife. They caught a couple nice walleyes that they roasted on a fire for a shore dinner that evening. They did some more fishing from shore that night and caught a few small sunfish that they returned to the river. They got into their sleeping bags early because they would be paddling upstream to return to their put in spot the following day. The following day they didn’t take many breaks as they worked against the current. It was a day devoted to rowing. The boys took turns rowing the bow position. It was evening by the time they had made it back and tied the canoe onto the cars luggage rack. While driving home Alex felt exhausted but felt that he had done a good days work. The boys were also exhausted and were soon sleeping in odd positions in the car.


In addition to having a fun weekend with his boys, Alex had worked out a plan in his mind to satisfy Jim’s order to fix the Eagle One program.

The scheme Alex concocted involved collecting time cards on Friday that would be turned in by noon. He would then close the door to his office and select cards to be modified and replace them with time cards that had been altered. He would forge the employee’s signature on the altered card by looking at the real signature and duplicating it as best he could. He had tried to think of better ways to do it but using white out or cross outs would obviously be spotted.

In addition, Alex decided during the canoe trip that he would begin looking for a new job. The twenty plus years he had invested in DCC had lost its importance after the time card meeting with Jim.

He found the defense business job market had tightened. The USSR was collapsing, the cold war ending and technology people exiting the defense business were crowding the rest of the technology world. Alex spent a month chasing leads, contacting every local business that might need his skills. He didn’t want to move out of the area. He and his family had put down roots that would be hard to extract.

A month went by and the next Eagle One budget report showed remarkable improvement. Jim congratulated Alex on how he had managed to improve the program performance

Alex began calling former associates who had left DCC recently to find out what they were doing and if they knew of any opportunities.

He called Frank Dawkins, a sharper than average engineer who had been lured away from DCC by a startup. Alex found that Frank had left the start up after three months.

“They didn’t know what to hell they were doing,” Frank said. “So, I decided to start my own company. Have you heard about a thing called the internet? It’s starting to go commercial. I’m looking for C ++ coders. Know any?”

Alex said he didn’t know C ++ but was looking for work.

“What happened with DCC?” Frank asked.

“Short story,” Alex replied, “Still working but looking to leave.”

“Hell Alex, you used to do Fortran, you can learn C++ like nothing. But you know I can’t pay you like a Program Manager at DCC and you will be digging in the nitty gritty.”

Frank went on to describe what they were doing with the internet and seemed to get more excited as he talked. The idea began to appeal to Alex, and he liked the nitty gritty. It wouldn’t be hardware but programming was the same kind of thing. “The idea is appealing,” Alex admitted. “I can handle a pay cut as long as it doesn’t last forever. How about some stock in your little enterprise in lieu of a big salary?”

Frank laughed, “All our professional people have gotten stock, don’t cost the bottom line anything and we can all get rich together.”

They agreed to meet the next day and talk some more. As a result, Alex signed on for a substantial cut in the salary he made at DCC and twenty thousand shares of the new company’s stock.

The next morning Alex gave Jim the required two week notice that he would be leaving the company. Jim looked shocked. “You can’t do that,” he yelled. “You know damn well you can’t do that.”

“I did it,” Alex admitted.

“Stay another year; you’ll get the best raise you ever had.”

“If you’re worried about the time cards I’ll brief you on the process. I’ll help you with it for the next two weeks.”

“Dammit, you know I can’t assign another manager to either program. I’ll have to manage them myself. That’s not going to work. I’ll get you a promotion.”

Alex had been focused on his own problems associated with leaving DCC and hadn’t lost much sleep worrying about the problems he might be causing Jim. But being made aware of some of Jim’s problems wasn’t giving him any heart burn either. He made his best effort to sound sympathetic to Jim’s concerns while suppressing a satisfied smile.


Alex soon became immersed in his work in Franks new company and it didn’t take him long to realize the thing called the internet would be transforming the communications world. Franks little company was growing as fast as it could hire engineers, programmers and staff. The stock that had no value when Alex joined the company six months previously now traded on the local market at ten dollars a share.

Through contacts Alex maintained with former DCC associates he learned the government was doing an audit of the Eagle One program, an event that only occurred when something really caught the government’s attention. A couple of months later Alex had lunch with an engineer he had worked with at DCC. The engineer said Jim had suddenly left the company and whole division had been shaken up with a number of directors being replaced. He heard that Jim had been manipulating time cards. “Can you imagine anyone being so dumb?”

Alex shook his head, “Ya, I can imagine it.”



Copyright © 2015 by Alfred Wellnitz


All rights reserved. No part of this story may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, names, incidents, organizations, and dialogue in this novel are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author.


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Posted on 04/29/2018. Filed under: Uncategorized |


From: Lstraight <lstraight@venturecomm.net>

Murgatroyd, remember that word? Would you believe the email spell
> checker did not recognize the word Murgatroyd?
> Heavens to Murgatroyd!


I do remember the word Murgatroyd (so does Wikipedea) and just about all of the other words or phrases listed in this post. Does that mean I am getting old? Based on a recent picture, it seems possible.

2016 Image

The other day a not so elderly lady said something to her son about

driving a Jalopy and he looked at her quizzically and said “What the
> heck is a Jalopy?”
> OMG (new phrase)!
> He never heard of the word jalopy! She knew she was old…. but not
> that old.
> Well, I hope you are Hunky Dory after you read this and chuckle.
> About a month ago, I illuminated some old expressions that have
> become obsolete because of the inexorable march of technology.
> These phrases included “Don’t touch that dial,” “Carbon copy,” “You
> sound like a broken record” and “Hung out to dry.”
> Back in the olden days we had a lot of ‘moxie.’ We’d put on our best
> ‘bib and tucker’ to ‘straighten up and fly right’.
> Heavens to Betsy! Gee whillikers! Jumping Jehoshaphat! Holy moley!
> We were ‘in like Flynn’ and ‘living the life of Riley’.
> Even a regular guy couldn’t accuse us of being a knucklehead, a
> nincompoop or a pill. Not for all the tea in China!
> Back in the olden days, life used to be swell, but when’s the last
> time anything was swell?
> Swell has gone the way of beehives, pageboys and the D.A.… of spats,
> knickers, fedoras, poodle skirts, saddle shoes, penny loafers, and
> pedal pushers… AND DON’T FORGET… Saddle Stitched Pants
> Oh, my aching back! Kilroy was here, but he isn’t anymore.
> We wake up from what surely has been just a short nap, and before we
> can say, Well, I’ll be ‘a monkey’s uncle!’
> Or, This is a ‘fine kettle of fish’!
> We discover that the words we grew up with, the words that seemed
> omnipresent, as oxygen, have vanished with scarcely a notice from our
> tongues and our pens and our keyboards.
> Poof, go the words of our youth, the words we’ve left behind
> We blink, and they’re gone. Where have all those great phrases gone?
> Long gone: Pshaw, The milkman did it. Hey! It’s your nickel..
> Don’t forget to pull the chain. Knee high to a grasshopper. Well,
> Fiddlesticks! Going like sixty.
> I’ll see you in the funny papers. Don’t take any wooden nickels.
> Wake up and smell the roses.
> It turns out there are more of these lost words and expressions than
> Carter has liver pills.
> This can be disturbing stuff! (“Carter’s Little Liver Pills” are
> gone too!)
> We of a certain age have been blessed to live in changeable times.
> For a child each new word is like a shiny toy, a toy that has no age.
> We at the other end of the chronological arc have the advantage of
> remembering there are words that once existed… and there were words
> that once strutted their hour upon the earthly stage and now are
> heard no more, except in our collective memory.
> It’s one of the greatest advantages of aging.
> Leaves us to wonder where Superman will find a phone booth…
> See ya later, alligator!
> Okidoki

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I’m Back, Still Able to Turn a Phrase Or Two

Posted on 03/29/2018. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I have not been writing anything of significance during the past five years having been deeply involved in care taking for my wife Joan who suffered from dementia of the Alzheimer’s type. She passed away August 2, 2017. It wasn’t until after the the holidays that I felt a desire to do any writing. I felt apprehensive, would I be able to write in a way that I would feel competent. It was not only that I hadn’t been writing anything significant for a long time, but had the accumulation of years eroded my abilities to put words on paper in a satisfactory manor. Could I in my ninth decade still write?

In the middle of January of 2018 I started a project to revise “For the Cause, The Cold War Turns Hot in Korea and Why Young Men Went to War.” “For the Cause” was the last novel I had written, and like the other novels I had written, felt a need after publishing to revise the original in response to feedback from revues and other sources.

“For the Cause,” is a story about two friends, young South Dakota farm boys, having reached adulthood and having not figured out what to do with the rest of their lives joined the Marines as their best alternative in the short term.  Unfortunately, soon after graduating from marine boot camp the Korean war broke out.

The two young men had joined the marines at the same time and were in the same boot camp company. However after boot camp the two young marines were separated with one going to the Navel Air Station Sangley Point in the Philippines to be part of the navel air station security detachment. The other  marine found himself in the Marine First Provisional Brigade being hurriedly put together to be sent to Korea where North Korean forces had overrun most of South Korea. The book follows the two young men during the first six months of the Korean war with one doing guard duty in the Philippines and the other is involved in almost continuous combat in a very fluid situation as both armies maneuver for an advantage.

Reviews of the “For the Cause” book were most critical of the Korean part of the book. For the most part the Korean story revolves around the young South Dakota farm boy and the men in his fire team, squad, platoon and company. The overall view of the war by the men during the fighting was limited to what they heard or could see. As I researched the marines roll during the first six months of the Korean War I was impressed at how well the marines performed. The marines were first thrown into the line to fill holes in the Pusan Parameter, then pulled out to lead in the Inchon landings and the liberation of Seoul, and then again take to ships to land on the east coast of North Korea and advance into the mountains where they fell into a trap set by the Chinese at the Chosen Reservoir. I flew as a crewman on a navy patrol plane in the theater during the Korean War and followed what was happening on the ground closely and had the impression that the retreat from the Chosen Reservoir was a disaster.  Only after doing the research for “For the Cause” did I realize the marine retreat from Chosen is considered one of the Marine Corp’s proudest moments. I thought if I didn’t understand the history of which I had been a part of, how likely would others understand the history of the Korean War. For that reason I decided I would include an overall view of the action taking place during the first six months of the Korean War.  A view that would not be seen by the men on the line doing the fighting. To do this I had a third person narrator that would occasionally provide the reader with a general’s perspective of the war. Adding this overall perspective would seem to be something readers would be interested in. Wrong. The fiction reader is following the protagonist and their story and is not interested in the wars overall strategy. So in the revision the third person narrator is being eliminated and the reader sees the war as the protagonist sees it.

Because of the revisions mentioned, the changes to the Korean portions of the “For the Cause” were quite extensive. Since I now live alone, prepare my own meals, do my own laundry, clean, and since I had not done any serious writing for a number of years I had suspected it would take several months to complete the revision work.  However within a month and a half I had the revisions to an editor. The good news being that I had not lost my writing abilities, such as they are, due to my long absence from doing any serious writing and am now ready to move onto another project.








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Lost My Companion of Nearly 60 years

Posted on 08/05/2017. Filed under: Uncategorized |


Joan Wellnitz

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Joan Wellnitz passed away August 2, 2017, in Bloomington, MN. She was 87. Joan Pauline Gross was born on May 22, 1930, in Chicago to her parents, Edwin and Harriet Gross. She grew up in Bridgewater, SD, and married her husband, Alfred there on August 31, 1957. The couple moved to Minnesota and settled in Bloomington where they lived for 59 years. Preceded in death by her parents and sister, Jean. Joan is survived by her husband, Alfred; her married children, Todd and daughter-in-law, Kim, Ann ans son-in-law, Blady, Matthew and daughter-in-law, Jessica; grandchildren, Guillermo, Josie and Gretchen; and siblings, Judy Olthoff, Kathlene Schroeder and Richard Gross. Joan was loving wife and mother, an avid seamstress, a reader of many books, and an occasional artist. She had a full life and will be sorely missed. Joan will be laid to rest at Fort Snelling National Cemetery following a private ceremony.

Because of Our Love

We were mutually attracted at a dance.

We dated, limited by distance and schedules.

We felt the angst, the ache, the obsessiveness of true love

And became engaged; time to have doubts, to reconsider.

Because of our love, we didn’t turn back.


Marriage, early bliss, and eventually children.-

The routine and challenges of everyday life engulfed us,

While doubts of our abilities as parents tested us.

The bonds that bind us were being threatened.

Because of our love, those bonds survived.


Eventually the children, despite our inaptitude,

Made us proud by becoming responsible adults.

Our work was nearly complete, our bonds strong,

When nature intruded with dementia to end our bliss.

Because of our love, it didn’t matter.


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How To Make Winters Seem Short

Posted on 02/12/2017. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: |

Reminiscing: After permanently settling in Minnesota and starting a family we did the usual outdoor winter activities like skating. tobogganing and shoveling the driveway. That was fine but looked for something that might offer more variety. The North Stars , a local cross country ski club put out a notice for anyone interested to come to out and try cross country skiing one weekend. We rented some skies and and took them up on the offer. I came  away from that demo of the sport convinced we had found what I had been looking for. It was 1970 and for Christmas we equipped the family with skis. The whole family became involved but I become obsessed with the sport and still am. Following are some pictures of skiing activities over the years. We skied locally and all over the state of Minnesota and Wisconsin and took trips to ski in California, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, and Switzerland. I’m now a care taker for my long time skiing partner and have little time for anything else but never regret the experiences we had together skiing.





Youngest son Matt on skies when five.




Daughter Ann skied with her high school team and in a

US Junior Cross Country League team  



Skiing with first son Todd and his wife Kim at Devils Thumb near Fraser Colorado.



Joan on a trail near Big Mountain Montana



Skiing near Anchorage Alaska. The temperature was well below zero.



I skied one or two of the big area races most years



1993; Skated the 23K Kortelopet version of the Birkebeiner. Skied my last race in my early 80’s



Joan collects her ribbon for finishing the 13K version of the Vasaloppet race



Skiing on Nine Mile ice. The last time Joan skied



























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Jobs For Those Displaced by Automation

Posted on 02/12/2017. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |



Some people have suggested that government jobs similar to those created during the Great Depression to build and repair infrastructure would absorb workers replaced by automation. I grew up during the Great Depression. Many of my uncles and aunts depended on the dollar a day paid by the WPA (Works Progress Administration) to survive. The primary purpose of the WPA was not to build infrastructure but to put some money into the pockets of desperate people. It was a solution to a temporary problem. Automation is not a temporary problem. Automation will replace human labor of a repetitive nature around to globe permanently. An interesting solution to the problem is to provide what is equivalent to a living wage to every adult citizen. You can earn more but in any case would never have less than the equivalent of a living wage.

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Proceed With Caution

Posted on 01/30/2017. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: |


Smoot-Hawley, 1929

I’m seriously scared. Particularly with regards to the economy. The Smoot- Hawley Bill, called the The Tariff Act of 1930 raised tariffs on many imports in order to protect US workers. The tariffs were the highest in the country’s history with one small exception. This started a trade war and US trade was halved and is believed to have  been a major contributor to causing the Great Depression. It seems that Trump is using the same playbook.

I was born in the late twenties so didn’t know anything but an economic depression until my teen years. Nothing moved for ten years. The economy was locked up, thousands of banks closed, savings were wiped out, many survived only because of make work government programs. Trump, be careful what you do to this country and the rest of the world.

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