Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What Would the Evening News Say About This

I was searching a newspaper for news on one of my ancestors when this article caught my eye. At first, I was thinking this was just a human tragedy story until I got to the last two sentences. They seem to change the entire scope of meaning of this article. Of course this was published on Jan 4, 1898 which granted was a different time but I couldn't help but wonder what would happen to parents in this day of age had a son blow his arm off with a shotgun and had two more sons who suffered the same fate. I'm guessing it would be all over the news like the Anthony trial now.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The One In Which I Am Glad I Don't Pack Heat

Let me set the scene for you. My car tires are a bit low judging by the slight bulge in the sidewall a little bit more than normal. My normal gas station with the air pump on a separate island well away from the store front and gas pumps is undergoing a complete rebuild and not available. So I pull into my backup store with the air pump in the back room and the air hose attached to the front of the building at the end of the angled parking spots in front for those not buying gas. There is a guy who pulled in right ahead of me.

This guy pulls into the station and with no cars in front of the store in the six spots for customers wishing to buy stuff besides gas and proceeds to park his car across two and a half spaces with his passenger side door right in front of the air hose. The other three and a half parking spots have no vehicles. I had a long day at work and wasn't in the best of moods and wasn't in the mood to ask this guy to move his car so I could access the air hose or for him just to park in one of the angled spots instead of taking up three of them. Instead, I just swung around the pump and pulled in "across the grain" of the angled spots taking up another one and a half of them, drove up on the sidewalk making sure there wasn't enough space for the man to pass between my car bumper and the side of the building nor between my car and his bumper. I got out with my tire pressure gauge in hand and walked around both my car and his car to get to the air hose.

The man got out and came over to where he was now blocked off by my car and I was just waiting for him to start bitching about me parking on the sidewalk so I could tear him a new one about his parking job. Instead, he looked at my tire, looked at me and said he thought it looked a little low. I bit my tongue and told him that I was aware of that and why I was trying to air it up and pointed at the air hose which he had effectively blocked. He then asked if he was in the way. I bit my tongue again and said very sarcastically that I thought if I unwound all the hose that I would be able to reach the low tire with the air hose. He nodded and walked around his car, my car and into the store. Had the gutter been a little lower and able to support his weight, I surely would have strung him up by the air hose.

Friday, June 24, 2011

...And Now There Is Only One

Frederick Albert Ludwig Buchholz

Life has been too busy to do much genealogical work of late and what time I have had has been spent banging my head against a brick wall of the Baker side of my family which I have blogged about much on these pages over the years. The Baker line in my family tree is tied as the shortest line that I have traced with the Buchholz line. On each of those lines I have gotten to my 3rd great grandfathers and have gotten no farther. Ironically, I have gotten farther with both of their spouses which are often times much harder to trace ancestry. So on a recent weekend while my daughter was entertaining herself watching a movie, I decided to look into the Buchholz line for a change of pace.

My 3rd great grandfather Frederick Albert Ludwig Buchholz is the second German immigrant in my family tree that is sure to have a few more if I can trace them back far enough. I know from census records that he was born in Germany and came to America in 1869 at the age of 18 but have been unable to locate which boat he came on. There have been many Buchholz's in the census records so I suspected he came with others but never had the proof. Well proof of him coming with his parents anyway because the census records do verify that he had at least an uncle or two living with him over the years. I was after the name of his parents though so I could trace my family tree back further.

Frederick Albert Ludwig Buchholz often went by A.F. Buchholz on the census records so I typed the latter into a newspaper archive database and was immediately rewarded with several articles on him from the late 1800's and early 1900's. I learned about an infant daughter that had died that had been unknown to me and a few other family related things. But most importantly I learned that his father (unnamed in the article) died at A.F.'s home in 1897 and was buried in a local cemetery.

Finally proof that A.F. had come to America with his parents. On a roll I then decided to try another new tack for naming them by checking German Emigration records since I have been unable to find American Immigration records on them. Lo and behold, I immediately found A.F. Buchholz's record along with three siblings, his parents and two cousins from his mother's previous marriages (yes plural) that I hadn't known about. Best of all, I now know his parents were Johann Christian Buchholz and Maria Elizabeth Luckviel Busse Crosse Buchholz. Barely thirty minutes into my decision to pursue the Buchholz line, I now had made the Baker line the owner of the title of the shortest line in my family tree.

To add some heavy irony to this story, I sat down a few days later to review the contents of a box that I found while cleaning up our basement storage room so that it looks more presentable should we have to sell it this fall. In that box, I found a family history book on the Thomas line of my family that I forgot I had. It intrigued me since Amanda Thomas married A.F. Buchholz and produced my 2nd great grandmother Maria Buchholz. So I skimmed to the section on Amanda and lo and behold, found a paragraph stating the names of A.F.'s parents and saying that they immigrated to America with him in 1869 though the name of their boat is unknown. My answer has been in the basement of my house for at least five years, before I got started with genealogy, and I never knew about it. Still, I guess it is always more fun to figure out a puzzle by yourself instead of reading about the solution of others.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hell's Version of a Farmer's Market

When we first rented an apartment in the urban jungle, we would attend the farmer's market down town and actually enjoyed it. We would walk the stands, enjoying the atmosphere, snacking, picking up some breads, cheeses and vegetables for later consumption. Although crowded by our local small town farmer's market standards, it wasn't crowded by urban jungle standards.

Somehow time had passed us by and it had probably been a year since we had walked the farmer's market and we decided to remedy it. The first thing we noticed when we got close were all the parking lots where we normally parked before were now pay lots requiring cash up front to some guy standings in the middle of their entrance. In fact as we drove several blocks past those lots, there were cars everywhere. Since we were planning on stopping by the Science Center which we now have season passes too, I pulled into the ramp for it and we walked back to the market. Things didn't improve.

The entire market was shoulder to shoulder full of people requiring you to shuffle your feet as you walked because there just wasn't enough room for a full stride. Instead of people shopping for fresh organic veggies, the streets were full of shuffling robots who were trying to navigate the street which was blocked by oblivious people who felt the need to socialize with their long lost friend right in the middle of the street. Yes, I am sad to say that it was clear to me that the farmer's market in the urban jungle is now a fashionable and trendy place to be. People were coming here to be seen here.

It seems as if the fruit, vegetable, and home prepared goods every where you looked had been replaced by essentially street vendors selling overpriced food which they can get by with in a trendy crowd. There were still vegetable and baked goods to be found but they were now few and far between and even if they were still as delicious as always, it wouldn't be worth having to fight walking through the ebbing crowd as it sluiced it's way between stands and groups of people holding their reunion in the middle of the street. We bought a loaf of walnut bread, cut our losses and slipped into an alley to walk back to our car and avoid having to shuffle for four blocks back the way we came. I'm going to miss the farmer's market.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Progress On the Home Front... At Last According to Some

Last fall, probably more like late summer, I got an itch and decided I was going to do something I have wanted to do for some time, remodel our second three-quarter bathroom. I have pretty much remodeled our entire house since we bought it five years ago with the exception of the two bathrooms. Most of the bedrooms, needed just some paint and new carpeting, the first floor rooms had good flooring and the kitchen new cabinets so all I had to do was some painting and then built some custom bookcases and fireplace mantel in the family room. The basement I completely gutted and redid and I think that burnt me out of remodeling projects for awhile so the bathrooms just remained.

But the three quarter bath was hideous and worst of all, the lack of an exhaust fan had caused moisture problems causing tiles to rain down from the ceiling over the shower. Since we bought the house, we have used that shower only a handful of times for that very reason and I finally decided with my daughter getting older, it would be nice to actually have two functional bathrooms. So I gutted the tile surround above the shower which was pretty easy with the moisture destroyed drywall and tore out the ceiling. I installed an over sized in-line ceiling fan that was capable of doing not only that bathroom but the other one too and do it better than those standard ceiling fans with tiny but loud motors that mount in 95% of bathrooms. Now when I take a hot shower, no matter how long it is or what the humidity level is in the house, there is not a drop of steam on the mirror and best of all, you can't even hear the motor since it is in the attic. I put moisture resistant cement board above the shower and dry walled the ceiling. Then I ran out of steam and that was early last fall.

So for the last nine months, there is sat, a partially functioning bathroom full of tools that we still couldn't take a shower in. When you only see your spouse on weekends and hold a full time job as well as being a single parent during the week, it was just hard to find the time or motivation to finish the project. But finally a couple weeks ago, I finally got re-motivated. I mudded the drywall and sanded it down so that it was ready for paint. That was perhaps the reason for my lack of motivation because that job sucks, particularly the sanding part. It is was mostly overhead so all the dust falls on top of me and the repetitive motion with my arms over my head makes them feel like they will soon fall off my body within minutes of beginning. After ten minutes of it, I was caked in sweat and drywall dust, my arms felt like they were about to separate from my body and I wasn't even close to being down with the job at hand. Then I had a brainstorm. I took a fresh drywall sanding screen, cut it down to a size that could fit on my palm sander and went to town. That was much better on my arms and best of all, was much faster than hand sanding.

Three coats of mud applied and sanded, I started right into retiling above the shower. I've done most things involved with building houses or remodeling them in my lifetime so far but tiling is one of the few where I lack experience. My first tiling job was to tile the hearth in front of our fireplace and that was easy since the previous owners had down everything except mudding the tiles in place and grouting them. This tiling job would be a much larger job and all overhead instead of at my feet. This job, as with most remodeling jobs in old houses, had its issues to work around, namely that of the three surfaces that I had to tile, none were square or flat. I did the best that I could leveling things out with the cement board and getting everything to match with the existing wall level and decided that it was the best I could do.

I laid out the pattern, figured out how many tiles I would need this way and that and began to mud the tiles on. It went fairly easily and I must say that of various remodeling jobs, setting tiles is a pretty easy one to do. The only hard part were the numerous trips up and down the ladder. An added bonus was that my wife had found and purchased a tile cutter at a garage sale a few years ago for only one dollar and I dug it out for this job and it worked beautifully. Considering my other option would be to rent one for $25 for one weekend or buy a new one for much more, I came out well ahead. By the end of the day, I had all the tiles installed and I must say, they were a big improvement over the previous tiles, those that had still been sticking anyway.

And so that project still sits though I haven't run out of steam.  Work is still busy and my wife's schedule has necessitated trips to the urban jungle on the weekends so I haven't been able to finish it yet. I have the grout already bought so I need to spend a morning grouting the tiles. After that, I need to seal the grout and caulk the seams to make it waterproof. I plan to install a glass shower door instead of the shower curtain in their before. With a bathroom that is only 4 x 8 feet big and a shower taking up 25% of that, I think a glass shower door will give the illusion that it is much bigger since you will be able to see the back wall of the shower. Then it is a new coat of paint and I can finally have a fully functional second bathroom for the first time since we bought the place five years ago... just in time to turn around and possibly sell it later this fall. Oh well.

Note: I will post some finished pictures in a later post when I get the job done, I promise.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Thirty Years Later, I Bumped Into Him Unexpectantly

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon and I was taking a break from the bathroom remodel project so we decided to head down south a ways to a local strawberry festival in progress. On the way, driving through one of those little sleepy towns along the river, we saw what looked to be some sort of Civil War re-enactment going on in the park so we decided to stop by on our way back home. We parked the car, cross the street and headed into the thick of things between a booth set up under a tent and a small building. That is when I saw my father.

My parents were divorced when I was six years old and it has been thirty years since I have last seen my father. (He is not to be confused with my dad whom my mom married when I was eight and has been the best father a person could ever have and whom I mention off and on in past blog posts.) My parents were young, my mom just months out of high school when I was born and my father just wasn't ready to be a family man. Neither was my mom but she didn't have a choice when he left one evening while my younger brother and I were still in bed. I understand and harbor no anger towards the man especially since I ended up getting the better end of the deal when my (step) dad walked into my life. Still, I haven't gone out of my way to make contact with my father mostly because I don't know what I would say. When all you have of someone are a few fuzzy memories and thirty years have passed, I guess I have just opted to let sleeping dogs lie.

So there I was following my daughter and found myself just five feet away from the man and it caught me by surprise. At the time, he was in a civil war  uniform manning a booth and showing another person a civil war era pistol and didn't yet see me so I opted to just keep following my daughter. We wandered around the park looking at things and took a wagon ride to the south side of the river to check out 'rebel' activities and eventually ended up back on the north side of the river near my father's booth. From across the forty feet or so that separated us, I turned my head to see him from a front view and he was sitting there looking at me. I kept rotating my head and focused on the people ahead of me.

Part of me felt that I should go up and introduce myself in case he doesn't recognize me. I had recognized him only because I had done an internet search on him not to long ago and seen pictures of him in his Union uniform for the very organization whose booth he was currently working. I doubt he has seen a recent picture of me. But another part of me didn't want to for reasons stated above. I just didn't know what I would say and that it was probably best to let sleeping dogs lie. Perhaps my half sister whom I have never met and whom may not know about me was there. Perhaps his current wife was there. Introducing my self for a family reunion after thirty years among a crowd of people just didn't seem right. And so I stood there with those forty feet between us and watched my daughter playing on the playground equipment and when it was time to go, I walked out the other end of the park back to my car.

When I got home I googled up a picture of him and reaffirmed that it was indeed he whom I saw in the park and then wrote this blog in attempts to clear the mess of thoughts now floating around in my head. I'm not sure I have been entirely successful at the latter. All I know is that even though I initially saw him out of the corner of my eye from five feet away, I felt that he was my father, the man responsible for bringing me into this world and that is a feeling I haven't felt before.

For now, the dog is still sleeping and I'm not sure I am ready to wake it up.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why It Is Nice to Have a Wife Home Again

My wife was home for a week of 'vacation' from her job as an internal medicine 2nd (almost 3rd) year resident. My busy life at work didn't allow me to take the whole week off and some plans for a relative to visit during the week were made so we didn't have time to go anywhere for an official vacation so we made do. My wife held a baking party for our daughter and a few of her friends as a delayed birthday party while I got in two full days of work, two half days and took a full day off to spend some quality time working on my bathroom remodeling project that I began over nine months ago. Thank god for a second bathroom or it would have been a rough nine months!

The half days at work allowed me to get some work done to stay on top of things and allowed my wife to get some alone bonding time with our daughter. Their favorite bonding activity is cooking which is extremely fortunate for me. When it is just myself and my daughter during the week, we scavenge more than cook. It just isn't practical to cook a lot when it is mostly me eating it and my daughter picking at it. So we tend to eat lots of simple foods with raw fruits and veggies on the side. So when my wife and daughter bond over cooking, I get to feast on the foods in the two pictures in this post. The top one is a traditional Filipino dish which I call bone marrow soup. I think for most people, the thought of eating it is probably not the best but like sushi, once you've tried it you can't stop eating it. The bottom photo is one I'm sure everyone would try and enjoy. It is of a custard tart with homemade white chocolate ice cream and strawberries. My wife asked for and received an ice cream maker for Christmas this past year and this was her second try at making ice cream. Both times, the end result was mind blowingly good and now I will never be able to eat that fake stuff that they call ice cream in a grocery store. Seriously, it is like the difference between a filet mignon and a hotdog when given a choice.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Slick was the name of the cat in the picture above and was a cat given to my dad when they were dating. Slick began life as an indoor cat up until my parents married and then got the boot outside by my mom. Kind of ironic. But was even more ironic was that my mom replaced him a few years later with another indoor cat named Tina that would live for the next nineteen years until I was out of college.

Slick was a tomcat and thus did a lot of tomcatting. Most days he would disappear only to come back in the evening for feeding time on the farm. Eventually his tomcatting would keep him away on overnight trips and as time passed by, his overnight trips became more and more frequent. Overnight trips eventually turned into multiple day trips which eventually turned into multiple week trips. But eventually there came a time when we fully expected that Slick would never come back. Coyotes were always a problem to farm cats out and about at night as well as winter frosts. We had another outdoor cat during the same time frame which had lost an eye to Distemper who got caught out one particularly cold night and ended up losing both ears and his tail to frostbite. When those had all fallen off and with his one eye, he looked as if he had been through a battle in hell and back.

On the other hand, Slick seemed immune to all these and always came back even if it was just once every few weeks. He would show up at our door thin and sometimes with open wounds mewing outside on our kitchen stoop steps. We would pour him a dish of milk or cream and tend to his wounds while he ate. He would stick around a couple days fattening up on the cream and then would disappear again. We never knew where he went but we spotted him sometimes several miles from our farm house as we were doing farm work on various outposts. Several neighbors along our road had plenty of outdoor cats of the female persuasion so I'm sure he spent time on those farms too.

Eventually when I was maybe nine or ten, the day came when Slick never came back. Whether he met his end one late night via a coyote or as I like to wish, meeting the ultimate female cat and settling down, we never knew. I do know that perhaps a year after Slick disappeared for good, a young male cat that looked identical in every way to Slick showed up at our farm and began cavorting with the outdoor cats. My brother and I were quick to name him Slick Jr. but he never stayed around long enough for the name to stick and after a few times of stopping by our farm, he too disappeared for good.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Start of a Pumpkin Salesman

I found the picture above in some old slides that I am scanning that was probably of year two in our pumpkin business when we reached the point where we decided that there was money to be had. We went from about twenty hills of pumpkins the year this picture was taken to around three acres of pumpkins the next year. To give you more of the story, I retooled an old post below about our business and posted a link to another old post at the end of this post.

I paid for five and a half years of college tuition by growing and selling pumpkins. I started off slowly by just raising several pickup loads but by the time I retired from the business ten years later (to attend college) I was selling them by the semi load to places as far away as Chicago and St. Louis. But one constant from the humble beginnings to the ten acres of pumpkins grown annually in the end was the local craft festival in our neck of the woods.

The festival was a county wide celebration of fall and most of the towns host some kind of event with the largest and most widely attended one being the craft flea market held along the river in town seen in my header. Near the only bridge crossing the river is a small city park along the river where the heart of the craft flea market is located. Under a large tree with golden leaves, my pumpkin stand was located for about ten years.

Festival weekend for me began on Friday night after school when my brother and I would load up my parent's pickup bed with the nicest pumpkins we could find until it was overflowing. Long before the crack of dawn the next morning, we would be on our was usually shivering in the early morning chill as we made our way along the 30 miles of rural blacktop road. Most stands were not allowed to drive their vehicles into the park but since we sold pumpkins, we were given an exception. Our location was always that big tree with the golden leaves. As dawn broke, we would unload our pumpkins and line them up in rows according to size (and thus price) creating an awesome palette of color with the oranges of the pumpkins, yellows of the leaves and the greens of the grass. My mom would sell honey at her stand right alongside ours providing some colors of gold as well. The early hours are always a battle trying to stay warm while waiting for the first customers to show up but soon they would arrive. My brother and I also provided the service of carrying the pumpkins to customers vehicles since they often would be parked four or five blocks away and didn't want to carry them that far themselves. Heaving a large pumpkin onto my shoulder and feeling the way my muscles warmed with exertion after three blocks always made me feel good, like I was a real contribution to society.

I enjoyed the selling part almost more than the money I received. Everyone was always in a good mood with large smiles on their faces. Mostly because fall Iowa weather just can't be beat in early October but because another year was drawing to a close and everyone was in the mood to celebrate. Whether buying a pumpkin to make into a warm pie or carve a spooky face in for Halloween or some comb honey to sweeten up the hot homemade biscuits just taken out of the oven. Sales were always brisk and just about every evening we would ride home in the now empty pickup but with a full moneybag.

About five miles north of town where I live today, there is a pumpkin farm where locals can go and pick their own pumpkins or select them from an assortment arranged on hayracks along the road. There are no humans monitoring the stand and there is just a cigar box where you can pay or make change on the honor system. I still buy my pumpkins there (if I don't grow a hill or two back home on the farm) because I like to support the independent guy versus buying them from a large box store but it just doesn't feel the same. I miss having the young lad with the cheerful banter selling the wares or commenting on the fine choice that I made in my pumpkin selection. I miss the thank you sirs and the thank you ma'ams and the offers to carry the pumpkin to my car parked blocks away. I miss the colorful splashes of orange, yellow and green underneath that large tree with the river in the background, the bridge to the west and a large old bed and breakfast to the east. I saved every penny I made during those weekends of selling pumpkins and like I said before, paid for my expensive education. But perhaps the best education I received was selling pumpkins out of the back of a pickup at the local festival under that large tree of yellow fire.

See also: Dealing In Orange Colored Gold

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Exploring My Family Tree: Not Forgotten - The Lover

I thought I would end this series of posts on my great grandfather Victor Kuck by posting the most common photo subject I found when scanning through a large stack of photos, himself and his wife Grace with love written all over their faces. I arranged a smattering of them roughly in chronological order and ended with one taken for their 53rd wedding anniversary in 1972, the newest photo I have of them together. They would go on to celebrate 13 more until Victor died in 1985 and Grace four years later in 1989. Since I married late in life, I doubt I live to celebrate my 66th wedding anniversary when I am three months shy of my 96th birthday but if I do, I hope I'm as happy as my great grandparents were.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Exploring My Family Tree: Not Forgotten - The Fisherman

My great grandfather Victor Kuck on left and great grandmother Grace Viola Smith Kuck on right were evidently big fishermen back in the day. I remember my great grandma Grace telling me so and I recounted one of my few memories of Victor in this post in which I remember a photo of him holding a large fish but until I saw all the pictures of them fishing, it never really sunk in.

Most of these pictures were taken up at Ballard Tall Pine Camp somewhere in Canada. A cursory search of the internet doesn't reveal anything about it so I'm guessing it is no longer in existence. Several of the pictures also include a couple, Frank Noehl who is pictured center above and his wife Buelah also pictured in silohette above. I'm guessing they were the camps owners. According to my grandma, Victor and Grace went up there to help out and fish quite often and I even have a stack of postcards that Grace wrote home to her mother from there.

As you can see in the above two photos, there prime target appeared mostly to be very large northerns and also some walleyes. My grandfather said they mostly caught them, gutted them, iced them and brought them back to Iowa with them in a trailer for meals through the rest of the year. I'm guessing this was back before there were limits or worries about crossing a international border with a trailer load of fish.

Not sure if this picture is from Iowa or Canada but this shows that they preserved all that fish by smoking them. Another sign that they had a lot of fish to preserve is the radio sitting in front of him. If this were a modern photo, you wouldn't see any radio and maybe just a wire coming from the earbud buried in his ear.

I included the two pictures above and the one below because they show something that I think is a dying part of our society, the picnic. When I was young, it seemed as if everyone went for a picnic now and then for no reason other than to get outside and enjoy the day. There weren't barbecue grills, picnic tables, folding chairs with foot rests or coolers of cold drinks and you didn't drive to within yards of your picnic spot. There was just large wicker basket with some meats, cheeses, breads and maybe some pasta and you walked a considerable distance to arrive at your designated spot away from all other people. I can't remember when the last time I saw someone having a picnic like that was and I'm just as guilty.

Finally, this is perhaps my favorite picture of this series and shows my great grandfather Victor boating in the Gulf of Mexico off of Florida probably when I was still less than a handful of years old. He still had another half dozen years of life left after this picture was taken though the last four would be robbed after a series of strokes. When I see this picture and remember the picture of him holding the large northern beside his bed at the nursing home, I can say for certainty that my great grandpa Victor was a fisherman until the day he died.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Exploring My Family Tree: Not Forgotten - The Car Wreck

When sorting through my great uncle's photos, I came across this series of pictures and after questioning my grandfather, learned that my great grandfather Victor Kuck had survived not one but two very bad car wrecks. In a later wreck, he had been hauling all his and my great grandma Grace's possessions in a car trailer from their former home in Rockford, Iowa to their new home in Fort Meyers, Florida and ended up rolling it multiple times. He survived unhurt, got the remaining possessions gathered up in another but now much smaller trailer and continued on his journey. In the wreck pictured in this series of pictures, he wasn't so lucky.

As you can see from the top picture, he was broadsided at a fairly high rate of speed in 1952, well before seat belts. He was thrown across the car hard enough that you can see the passenger door significantly bowed out where a side view mirror would go on a modern day car where Victor's body and head slammed into it. He ended up in a coma with multiple holes drilled through his skull to relieve pressure and fortunately ended up surviving it.

As I scanned these pictures, my mind gravitated to what kind of car this was. I couldn't find any wording but it did have a distinctive albeit unfamiliar emblem on the front of the car. After some surfing, I'm fairly certain that what I'm looking at is an early 1950's Studebaker but don't know the exact model of the car. I'm guessing perhaps the Commander Starliner or Skyliner Champion? Google will have one picture that says it is one but then another picture, totally different under the same name. I've gone back and forth and still don't know what it is other than a Studebaker of early 50's vintage.

When I see these old cars, I am amazed at how far vehicle technology has come. Now a days they have seatbelts, airbags, crumple zones, etc. Back then, the technology was to put as much metal between you and the other driver and hope you or both walk away.

I'm not sure how to take this last picture of the opposite side of the car as the impact. With the tire folded under, was he pushed up against a curb or perhaps something else that left the scrape marks on the fender? What I do know is I wouldn't mind having one of those cars. One in this shape could go for $5k and one in good shape upwards of $25k. Certainly not very high compared to other vehicles of the era but not too shabby.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Exploring My Family Tree: Not Forgotten - World War I

As I had written before, my great grandfather Victor Kuck had burned his hand severely in college which required him to apply five times to join the military before he was accepted and only then with a waiver from Washington D.C.  He joined the 106th Aero Repair Squadron out of Des Moines after being sworn in at Denver, Colorado and sent down to Kelly Field, Texas. He trained for two months there before being sent to Garden City, New York where he left for Liverpool, England arriving there on Christmas day 1917. (On a side note, it is recorded that their first meal in England was eaten aboard the boat and was tripe, marmalade and tea. Later that evening for supper they feasted like royalty on salt herring. It makes modern day MRE's sound gourmet.)  Victor in Liverpool only four short days before shipping across the channel to  Camp De Coetquidan which was 45 miles inland from St. Nazaire and Camp Neucon where the 1rst and 4th aero observation schools were maintained.

Once in France, the squadron spent a long time in quarantine for mumps and measles and were also recommissioned from the 106th four days after this picture was taken to the 800th Aero Repair Squadron. They spent a lot of time with their French counterparts learning all things relating to repairing airplanes but also evidently spent time with this off the field. This picture talks of a football game between 16th Foreign Detachment Cadets and my great grandfather's squadron that ended up tied and was described as the "best game of the season." When not spending time with the French, the squadron spent a lot of time doing drills  and the 800th Aero Repair earned the reputation as the "best drilled squadron in France."

Judging from the two pictures above, Victor must have spent a good share of his time in office duties though my grandfather says he was mostly a mechanic.

According to the book "History of the 800th Aero Repair Squadron", each of those tents slept twelve men. During winter, the men often converted used bacon cans into stoves to keep them warm. I have never seen canned bacon and I'm not sure I would ever like too. I'm sure it tasted as bad as it sounds.

The above two photos of 'chow' time really drive home the fact that war is a young man's fight directed by old men. Most of the 'men' in the photos look to still be in their teens. It appears that all men were issued frying pan like plates and tin cups that they were responsible for bringing to the mess hall to eat their meal on. Now a days, we fly in companies like McDonalds and Pizza Hut directly to the war zone to cater meals.

I'm guessing these two pictures were slated to be sent back home to reassure Victor's parents that he was doing well or perhaps to impress my great grandma Grace back home whom Victor knew from when he was in college and whom he married a few months upon returning home in 1919.

This picture really caught my attention because it emphasized to me the fact that airplanes were only 15 years old at this point if you subscribe to the Wright brothers being the first pilots. (They were actually beat to the punch by Gustav Whitehead who flew higher and further three years earlier but due to a signed contract with the Smithsonian in exchange for displaying the Kitty Hawk, no one can declare otherwise.) It took some research but I believe this plane is a Farman "Shorthorn", a French plane built beginning in 1914. It was a push model with the prop in the rear because the device to time machine gun bullets so they didn't take out the prompt hadn't yet been implemented. Four years later, planes were already looking closer to their modern cousins and my great grandfather Victor was describing the Farman as "old and almost forgotten."  According to the book on the 800th, my great grandfather's squadron received six of these planes by rail in a state if disarray and after considerable fixing, they were flown by a handful of the most skilled pilots and were nicknamed the "Galloping Geese."

I love this picture though I don't know the context of it at all other than it was taken during the same time frame as the others during World War I. If I had to guess, I would say this was taken on the boat ride across the channel from Liverpool on their way to Le Havre, France. That trip was on a steam side-wheeler called Mona's Queen and was described as very crowded, stuffy and full of sea-sick men. I think that picture certainly matches that description but I have a hard time explaining how my great grandfather took that picture when he was on it.

This picture is almost the classical view of France during World War I. Bombed out buildings. According to 
the notation on the photo, this is somewhere in Reims, France. The Red Cross trucks stuck in the mud below also strike me as a classic war photo that you look at and say oh, World War I.

I'm not sure what the subject is of the above photo other than the one word on the back of the picture saying it is a shrine. I'm guessing it is France. I wish it had been in better shape. Any clues?

I think this final picture is a little bit of humor from my great grandfather as he poked fun of the manual style of threshing grain.