When I set out to talk with you every Thursday, I intended to come up with a tale that nearly everyone could relate to. This one may be a tad different, it may be a stretch for some, but let us see where it goes.
I don’t want to be an egoist but I realize at this late stage, I am what I am because of where and how I was born. Like many at my age, we were poor and in the middle of a depression, but at the time I did not know what the word meant and didn’t much care. When I visited relatives in Baltimore and saw the indoor plumbing, the electric lights, sidewalks and all the other “city stuff”, I guess I just figured “chores” would a little different but they would still be “chores” and I was always happy to get back to the farm.
Most of us now have indoor plumbing and electricity in this day and age but that didn’t happen at the end of Old Landing Road until 1937. That has always given me something extra to brag about whenever someone is speaking of how hard life was in those days. I am going to try to list now some of the things I have accomplished as a direct result of being where I was and with whom I began life.
At the age of five years, I could milk a cow but at times had trouble carrying the bucket of milk. I knew how butter was made from cream that came from that milk and often had a turn at the churn. At the age of six I was taking the eggs out from under the hens and gathering vegetables from the fields. At seven years I was coping with the task of helping my mother in the raising of the new arrivals, my twin brothers, who survived their early childhood nicely, with some help from me and are now passing 74 years. Our father, try as he may, suffered his entire life from the contact he had with the Mustard Gas that was used in WW I in Europe. A lot of those early days he spent in bed or sitting in a rocker.
I tried plowing with a one horse plow but I could not keep it in the ground, it took a lot more strength than this skinny kid had and a single hose couldn’t plow deep enough. For serious plowing in the spring, a neighbor came with a team and did a two acre field that we planted our corn, beans and tomatoes in. I think it was my mothers Uncle Lennard, who had the farm beyond the old Miller farm. I did OK with the single horse cultivator, keeping it in a straight line, trying not to dig up what I was cultivating.
We left the farm a few years after the twins came to our 10 acres and moved closer to school and church to make life just a little easier for everyone. I began working on Ruthkowski’s farm when I was 12, picking beans and tomatoes and cutting spinach and kale and cabbage. I still consider this now as a part of my well-rounded education.
The Ruthkowski farm was close by, just over the hill, so Mom thought it was safe for us to walk there. Later on, at fourteen and fifteen, brother Henry joined with me and we walked a couple of miles to Jones’ farm along the Gunpowder. We did just about the same kind of work there but with different kids and Richard Jones took us to the Circus when it came to town.
Just as a side note here, until we were sixteen, neither Henry nor I kept any of the money we earned, though it was sometimes meager, it went into the family coffers. Did we think anything of it? No…just wanted to help. We always had plenty to eat, a place to sleep and as much love as we could handle.
When I turned sixteen I thought I was into the big time, got a work permit and took a job for the summer and also worked weekends after school started in September. I was employed by Frank Yeager, who had a store on Belair Road in Kingsville, appropriately called The Kingsville Market, a grocery and meat market. He actually taught me how to cut meat and run a retail grocery business.
The Yeagers were a wonderful family, Frank & Janet and three daughters that treated me like another family member when I was there. In fact, I learned to water-ski while I was a grocer. I met his niece Patty Hodous, and dated her for a short time. Her father, Dr. Fred Hodous, had a boat on Bush River and she taught me to water ski.
When I turned eighteen, I left the grocery business and Miss Hodous. Although, I did pay another visit to her house in Joppa one Sunday afternoon. We were at Frank Chells farm, now known as Joppatowne, shooting Clay Pigeons. One of the shooters, Tom MacCauley, had a malfunctioning Winchester that went off accidentally sending a load of #8 lead shot through a rotten board serving as my protection The pellets went through the shield and struck me in the lower back and leg. We wanted to find a doctor quickly and settled for Dr.Hodous, who lived about 5 miles from the farm, 5 minutes, the way Tom was driving. His office was in his house and the doctor picked shot out of me for over an hour and still couldn’t get it all. I was thankful that Patty wasn’t there to witness the picking.
After that I took a job at The Glenn L Martin Company, building airplanes. But World War II had ended and with no war and no contracts, the Martin Company did not need my expertise any longer. Answering an ad in the Baltimore Sun, I became a Customer Relations Specialist with the Baltimore Gas & Electric Company. That was interrupted by the Chinese crossing the Yalu River to help North Korea beat down their southern half and I was off again.
I enlisted in the newly reorganized United States Air Force, thinking maybe I could learn to fly. After basic training, I was assigned to a Bomber Group at Travis Air Force base in California but someone else did the piloting. We were sent for a short time in 1952 to Andersen Air Force Base on Guam and took turns bombing North Korea. While on Guam, I drew a few days of R & R (rest & relaxation) in Japan, my one visit to foreign turf. When we returned to California, I took some tests and was considering going flight school but then my mother died and I gave up the life of an Airman and came home to help with the family.
I returned to the Gas & Electric Company to listen to irate customers complain of no electricity or poor service. The job paid some of the bills we had then but I had just met my wife Joan and wanted to get married. The BGE position would fill my day but not my pocket so I went looking. It was then I found my future with McGraw-Hill, the publishers, and hung my hat there for 40 years.
After a few years of getting my feet back under me, I returned to the air. I finally did something I wanted to do since I was 8 when my father took us to an airplane show, I learned to fly. It was just a Piper J-3 CUB and occasionally a more powerful Aeronca Champ, a couple of tail-draggers, but I was at the controls and alone in the sky. I enjoyed this thrill for a while but with a baby on the way and flying becoming more costly, I put the log book in the drawer and was happy that I had learned what it was like for a while to shake the bonds of earth.
Somewhere back there I found time to be a Volunteer Fireman for almost 20 years and even took on the job as chief officer for 6 of those years. During this period I learned to get out of bed in the middle of the night, dress quickly in the dark and to drive a car at speeds greater than you should while still half asleep.
These are just few of the tales about a shy kid from Bradshaw that struggled with the bucket of milk and the cultivator, about my close call with the Winchester and my trip to Tokyo as an Airman when I felt like Marco Polo. In reality, the only thing that Marco and I had in common was the fact that we were both just 21 years old at the time of our visit to Asia.
There may not be any cows left for you to milk or eggs to gather or fields to plow and I am sure you can do without the shooting incident but as for the rest of it, you can do that and anything else you set your heart on. Just try to visualize the prize and keep your eye on it……