Excerpts from Richard Warren’s Autobiography
I have included some of my father’s stories to give readers a background of his life before he entered the service. I also wanted to inform readers about some of the people mentioned in his letters. All writing by me, Kristine Sellers, is in blue; the writing in black is written by my father.
Click on the photos to enlarge.
Omer, Michigan is known as the second smallest city in Michigan. According to the Federal Census, the population was 313 people in 2010. Omer is centrally located in Arenac County; Lake Huron borders the east side of the county. Originally named Rifle River Mills, Omer was founded by George Gorie and George Carscallen in the 1860s.
Roscoe Warren and Ida Cassmore (Parents of Richard W. Warren)
Roscoe Warren was born in Omer, Michigan and came from a family of 10 children. Only seven survived to adulthood. Roscoe’s father, Richard Alexander Warren, was in road construction in Arenac County, Michigan. Roscoe’s mother, Edith Carscallen Warren, descended from one of the early of settlers of Omer, Michigan.
Ida’s father, William Cassmore, was a Methodist minister and her mother Emelie came from a strict Moravian family. Below is a photo of the Cassmore family:
Roscoe Warren and Ida Cassmore married February 16, 1920.
Starting a Family
April 12, l923 at 10:30 p.m., Roscoe and Ida Warren became the proud parents of an 8 pound 8 ounce baby boy, Richard William Warren. He was born in his own home one mile east of Omer, Michigan. Richard was named after his two grandfather’s first names, (Richard Alexander Warren and William S. Cassmore). Richard soon was called Dicky–or later Dick, he was the second child of Roscoe and Ida. Edith Marice Warren, Dick’s sister, was born March 27, 1921.
The story goes Dick took his first steps for a nickel. Below his father is holding out a nickel as Dick stands in the back of his grandfather’s truck. Dick’s sister Edythe stands in the foreground.
Dick’s grandfather, Richard Alexander Warren was a robust man. He apparently enjoyed his food. Dick would speak fondly of his grandfather and the banana splits he would enjoy with him. Because of his grandfather’s extended illness Dick would often spend time in the parlor of his grandparent’s house. He was often the recipient of gifts brought to his grandfather by visitors. One favorite gift especially liked by Dick was oranges, a rare item in those days.
Around the time we lived in Vassar, Aunt Anna (Scheffer) and some of her girl friends had met some Army Air Corp pilots. She must have been visiting us, for all of a sudden–two Blue and Yellow Bi-Wing Pursuit (that’s what they were called then) Planes buzzed our place. Boy they made a lot of noise! It was the thrill of my life, at that time, for you seldom heard–let alone saw any airplanes. (I wonder if the above had anything to do with my becoming a pilot in WWII?)
It must have been when Charles Lindbergh flew from San Diego to New York, to prepare for his flight across the Atlantic–and on the way to New York, his path was to take him across Michigan. I remember us all outside one night for 2 or 3 hours–listening–but apparently he didn’t come close to our area–for we heard nothing!
Back in Omer
Probably in the Fall of 1928, we moved back to Omer. The house was about one mile east of town on two acres of sandy soil. There was no electricity, running water or indoor toilet. The “two-hole” toilet was about 150 feet from the house–to the north-behind the garage. The well and pump for drinking water and other uses was about 50 feet east of the back shed, that served as the kitchen. There was a wood burning cook stove with a reservoir on the side for heating water. I still remember taking my “Saturday Night” bath in a big washtub on the kitchen floor!
The garage was an old ramshackle building, which blew down in a storm and Dad had to build a new one. He also built a new “three-holer” behind it. Our nearest neighbor was 1/2 mile away, towards town, although there was a brick house and big barn on 160 acres–just to the east of us as well as across the main highway from us. Nobody lived there at that time.
Dad received his appointment as a rural mail carrier in January 1929. (Later that year, the Merrills moved into the brick farm house to the east of us. In the family were five boys, Welby–who later married Aunt Marguerite, Frank, who was about Edythe’s age and Douglas (Doug) who was my age. There were also two Donalds–One an adopted blind person (close to Welby’s age) and another–much younger, who was “mean” and certainly retarded. I finally had someone to play with!!
One afternoon, while I was outside playing, Doug and his Dad went by in a team and wagon. Doug hollered at me to join them- which I did and jumped on the back. I had no sooner got on board, when something “spooked” the horses and they started to run away. I can still hear and see Mr. Merrill jerking on the reins and hollering, “Whoa! Whoa! @##%*& Whoa”, but to no avail! The team just ran faster.
Fortunately, a piece of the old wagon fell off and somehow jammed between the spokes of one wheel, bringing the wagon to a stop. Whew!! In the meantime, my folks had seen what was happening, but of course, couldn’t do anything about it. They told me later, that all of a sudden, they could see the cloud of dust caused by the jammed wheel and were just about to run to us to see how bad we were hurt, when they saw me jump off of the wagon–and skip nonchalantly across the road to Doug’s house–obviously ” none the worse for wear”.
I believe it was about 1929, when they put in an electric line and paved the Highway (US-23),in front of the house. I remember watching all the action and also them digging the ditch and putting in the culvert into our place and the bridge under the main road.
The Merrills only lived in the brick farm house a year or year and a half. That was the only time during my growing up that I had someone to play with nearby. As there was always some-thing “Old Man” Merrill had for his boys to do–there wasn’t much of that (playing) except when we were feeding the chickens, “slopping” the hogs or pitching hay to the horses and cows.
It must of been around the time that the Merrills left, that Welby asked Dad if he would give him room and board for doing odd jobs around the place? Welby was over 6 ft tall and must have weighed at least 200 lbs. He probably was only 20 or 21 at the time–a big eater and somewhat clumsy with tools. I remember Dad saying several times,– at a later date,– “It would have been cheaper to board him out– than feed him and pay for fixing all the tools he broke!.”
Welby was a “born” comic–I recall many evenings, when he would get down on the floor with Edythe and I and shortly have us in “stitches” with his antics; mimicking and pantomiming and what have you—-he was our “Red Skelton”! I’m sure he would have been famous, if he could of gotten a job as a Comedian or even a Circus Clown. I not sure how long he lived with us–but it must of been several months. Eventually he found a job–moved out and later married Aunt Marguerite.
It must have been shortly after this, that Dad’s cousin, Bob Reed and his wife Martha moved in with us. The depression was on and things were tough! I don’t remember too much about that period, but Edythe tells me that they slept in my bedroom. I’m not sure where I slept–it must have been on a cot or couch in the living room for there wasn’t any place else. I recall Martha and Mother washing on the back slab–with the big tubs and wash boards–but not much else.
I can still recall how I hated to have to go out to the “2 or 3 holer” after dark (scared!!). There were no yard lights, so if I could, I’d talk Mother or Dad to come out as far as the garage and wait until I was thru. The “toilet paper” was either last years Sears, Montgomery Ward’s or Spiegel catalogues. In the winter time, there was another deterrent!!! You could expect to find about 1/8″ of frost around the hole!! (You didn’t sit around and ponder very long what you were there for)!
I know they had to cook on the old wood stove in the kitchen–which also kept that part of the house warm–for there wasn’t anything else to do it with. It was sometime in 1931 or 32 that Art Reed ( Bob’s dad), and Bob wired our place for electricity! What a difference!!
I went to school in Omer. From kindergarten to the 12th grade was all in one building. It was a brick building–2-1/2 stories high. The restrooms and furnace room was in the basement. The biggest building in town! I wasn’t too thrilled with my teacher in Kindergarten or 1st grade.
A new teacher was hired when I reached 2nd grade. Vera MacKenzie. I don’t recall what happened, for sure, but apparently she felt I should be in the 3rd grade–not the 2nd. My report card shows that I struggled for the first 2 or 3 months before I got squared away. She put a line thru the 2 on my report card, so it looks like I was in grade 13 that year . I remember getting out of school one winter day, Just as Dad was going by with a horse and sleigh he had rented– having just gotten thru with his mail route. You can bet that I quickly hollered and hitched a ride.
Grandpa R.A. Warren
Grandpa Richard A. passed away in Sept. 1930, he had been ill for a couple of years and as I was to find out years later, had borrowed, what was a considerable sum in those days to run his culvert and bridge business and had not been able to pay it back. Dad, although legally he didn’t need to, assumed Grandpa’s debts. For years–all my father could pay was the interest.
Sometime in 1930, Bob and Martha Reed rented the “Old Bergman” place, which was just east of the railroad tracks. Martha, a registered nurse, had gotten a job in our hospital. Anyhow–it was while Bob and Martha lived at the Bergman place that Jim Reed was born. It was during this time that my mother was Township Clerk–which I know now added about $100 to the less than $1500 per year that Dad made on his Mail route.
I remember for at least 3 or 4 years, I visited Aunt Anna & Uncle Rays for at least a month and sometimes for 6 weeks. I also visited Aunt Marguerite and Uncle Welby for a week or two and also Uncle Tube and Aunt Gladys. (I probably, willingly made those visits in the summertime because there were no kids near me to play with at home).
Some of the things I recall while being at Aunt Anna’s and others: Picnics on Belle Isle–an Island Park in the Detroit River; Trip to Bob-a-Lo on a Boat–it was an Amusement Park; A hot summer night (too hot to sleep)–Uncle Ray had a new car, so we went for a ride to downtown Detroit, where it broke down! Aunt Anna hadn’t bothered to get dressed and was still in her nightgown! I’m not sure now, but I think we had to catch a taxi to get home.
If I’m going to tell a story or two on Edythe, I guess I’d better tell one, when she came to my rescue! We were walking home from school one day and Edythe was just ahead of me with a couple of girlfriends. There was a couple of other guys with me and one was Earl Steward.
Earl was a year or two older than I and 10 to 15 #’s heavier — at least a half a head taller and inclined to be a bully. I don’t know what caused it, but he started beating on me and I’m sure I hollered and started to cry! Within seconds, Edythe, who was close to his size, was back there and started beating on him!!! While hollering something like “Don’t you hit my Brother, or I’ll beat you to a pulp!!! It sure worked, for Earl never hit me again!!
As can be seen, most summers, at this time, I was away. But with school in the Fall, Winter and Spring there were some things to do in my spare time. In the fall, I usually followed Dad around bird hunting or would look him up after school, if he was doing some carpenter work in town.
The area that Dad hunted when I was only 6 or so was usually thickets of small poplars, marsh grass and who knows what. If I kept up close behind him, I’d often get hit across the face with one of the small twigs he’d pushed aside going thru. One day, we were in a real thick area of marsh grass and I’d fallen back quite a bit–all of a sudden (what I later knew as a raccoon) ran across my feet–scaring the HECK! out of me. I hollered, “There’s a BEAR–A BEAR”!!, but of course the raccoon was long gone–for he was more afraid than I was!! Believe me, I didn’t let Dad get that far ahead again for a long time!
My chores were keeping the drinking pail and stove reservoir full, bring in the firewood for the cook stove or the dining room heating stove–help Dad shovel snow and neatly pile any wood that wasn’t too large for me to handle. I hated this last chore the most, particularly when there was a pile twice as high as my head (10 or 15 chords). It seemed to me there was no end to wood that Dad wanted in neat chord rows, that he would accept. Besides, if you didn’t pile it neatly—it would tip over—and you could start all over again!!
The real “fun” was getting a pail of water in the winter time! Invariably it was froze up!! You had to get a tea kettle of hot water, pour it down the pump and keep working the pump handle until it finally broke loose. After doing that–you’d get how many of pails it took to fill everything up–including the pan of water we kept on the heating stove. The thing you had to watch out for most, is to make sure you didn’t get any moisture on your hand—for if you did–the skin would freeze to the pump handle!! A not very pleasant experience!!.
As we had no electricity in the late 20’s and early 30’s, naturally we had no refrigerator–but an ice box instead. Where did we get the ice?? I can still recall, Dad and others cutting ice on the river in the winter time, then loading it on sleighs and hauling it to an ice house, run by Cliff Macey in town. The ice house was behind Holland’s store. I often went with Dad, during the warmer weather to get a block of ice for the ice box from the ice house.
Sawdust was used for the insulating material–so I’d help shovel it away until we found a block of ice and Dad (the blocks were too big for me) would grab a hold of it with the ice tongs–wash it off and haul it home and put it in the ice box. (That reminds me–another of my chores was emptying the water in the pan under the ice box before it over-flowed)!!
Coal was too expensive during these times for heating, so Dad & others would cut trees for logs–again loaded on sleighs and hauled to Grandpa R.A.’s place where they had a big buzz saw–which they ran by a belt run off of the rear wheel of the old truck. Thus the big pile of wood that I later had to put in neat piles!!
Homemade Ice Cream
On whatever someone determined to be a “special” occasion (like maybe Grandma’s birthday) we’d all meet at her place and make ice cream. I think Dad owned a hand cranked ice cream maker, and Uncle George(he lived on a farm North of Omer) would furnish the cream and what have you. The only kind we knew how to fix, was vanilla–but boy was it good!! Uncle George Kaven, was especially fond of ice cream and so was Dad–for I can still remember him cleaning and eating the ice cream off of the paddle, you turned. (To make sure it didn’t go to waste)!!!
The ice cream maker was like a wooden bucket, with a smaller metal can (probably between 1/2 and 1 gallon) inside and a paddle inside of it, that you turned with a hand crank. We’d get a block of ice and with a small pick, chip the ice into small pieces and place it in the small space between the inside of the bucket and the outside of the metal can–then pour rock salt over it.
After filling the can with the ice cream mix–someone would have to start cranking, so that the inside paddle would mix it and eventually harden into ice cream. It wasn’t hard to tell when it was done, for it became essentially impossible to turn the crank any more. Luckily for me, I was too small to crank it, except when you first started!! I remember making ice cream like that–several times—it was a real treat.
World’s Fair and Baseball
In 1933, we went to the World’s Fair in Chicago. There were many rides and exhibits–particularly of inventions of the last century and the cities of tomorrow. I’m not sure, but think there was an exhibit of what we now know as TV. While we were there, we attended a ball game at Wrigley Field (Cubs). Dad wanted to go to see Kiki Cuyler play. He was one of their Stars and if I remember right, a real good hitter—but more important to Dad, came from Alpena, Mich. (Practically a neighbor?).
Because of Dad’s love of the game, I got to see many of the Greats! Babe Ruth, Lou Gerhig–Ty Cobb probably–although I don’t remember him directly. Later there were ones like Hank Greenburg, Rudy York, Charley Gehringer, “Pinky Higgins, Hal Newhouser, Bob Feller and on and on. I don’t know how it is today, but at that time there were only a few parking lots for cars, near the Stadium. The neighborhoods near the stadium let you park in their front or back yard for $1.No problem! A good summer income for them!!
In the Summer of 1934, being 11 years old, I wanted a bicycle very badly. Edythe was working, weeding onions on a farm about 3 miles East of us and earning $1.00/ day!! What better way for me to earn money for a bike!! I applied and got a job. I was told that whether you got .80cts/hr or $1.00/hr was not determined by your age, but by how many rows of onions you weeded every day. Not true!!!
I know I weeded more rows than most of those I worked with. At the end of the week, I was paid only .80cts/ day!! I said to heck with them, I’ll earn my bike some other way! Fortunately I got the job of delivering the Bay City Times newspaper, shortly afterwards.
This is probably a good place to relate a few stories about the paper route–particularly about dogs and the life of a newsboy! Dogs weren’t a big problem but there are a few I still haven’t forgotten about.
I had stopped at this place to collect for the paper–they owed me about 3 weeks at the time. There were about 5 people in this family and if you added up their total brain power—it too would be 5!!. Anyhow, –when I knocked, I could hear the dog barking and pawing and clawing to get out. Sure enough, when the door was opened, out came the dog and bit me pretty good on my leg. I didn’t collect that day!!!
Dad went with me the next day and essentially the same thing occurred—except Dad (there was wood piled up on the porch) picked up a piece about 2″ in diameter and when the dog came out the door—hit him along side of the head–knocking him “cold”. I got my money and I guess they and the dog got the picture–for I was bothered no more.
In 1934 or 35, Dad brought home a dog that obviously was a stray (someone probably dropped him off in town) and he had been hanging around the Post Office. We hadn’t had a dog for some time, after a not too happy experience.
We’d had a nice white female, primarily a Collie, who had a litter of puppies. Within a couple of days, she wandered out into the road and was killed!! We were only able to save one of the puppies, by nursing him on a baby bottle! A real cute, black one with big white spots–as sharp as a “tack” and of course we called him Spot.
Everybody fell in love with him in no time flat!! When the puppy was about six weeks old, unbeknown to Dad, he followed him out to the garage when he was going to work. I don’t think I have to go into detail as to what happened when Dad backed out of the garage!!! You don’t often see an entire family cry together–but we sure did that morning.!!!!!
Anyhow—-the dog Dad brought home was part police dog, part Bull and part Great Dane and who knows what else?? It was getting close to bird hunting season, so Dad thought he’d see if he knew how to hunt. We named him Pat!!! Pat turned out to be an unusually smart dog and within a short time “we” were buddies and darn near the same size. I can still remember wrestling with him, like two kids!
Pat had one bad habit. He always wanted to play, and if you ignored him, he’d let you walk away and then when your back was turned, he’d take a run at you, launch himself in the air and hit you between the shoulder blades with his shoulder! As big as he was and the surprise involved–you usually found yourself knocked down—now he’d dance around you to play with you!!! A not too desirable habit for a dog–particularly when the Grandmothers visited or we had other visitors.
It needs to be said, that Dick came home from school that day, and found that nobody else was home. After playing with Pat for a few minutes, he noticed another dog (a good size police dog) in the yard which he recognized as belonging to the neighbors, about a half a mile away. Dick told Pat–“Get him out of here”. The other dog, immediately turned and ran across the culvert over the ditch and across the main highway that ran in front (US-23), with Pat after him.
As Pat got close to the road, Dick noticed a car coming at high speed from the west and immediately hollered–“Pat!! Pat!!”. Unfortunately that slowed Pat just enough so that he was hit by the right front of the car and thrown at least a 100 ft. thru the air into the far ditch. The car neither slowed nor stopped.
After Dick had gone to Pat and found that he was dead, he went back to the house, got his wagon, put Pat on it and hauled him home to the back yard–where he was still sitting– crying his heart out, when his folks came home. He claims that is one of the last times he cried for many years.
Memorial to a Dog
Dedicated to Pat, a bull and police dog, who was killed by a speeding auto, September 14, 1936.
Dear Pat, in thought of you I write
This humble verse. I hope I may
Let some folk know the way I felt
When I heard you had passed away
I know at times you thought as mean
when other dogs you’d like to chase,
If other dogs you’d left alone.
You still could seek your resting place.
And yet, I know that every day
Mom gave to you you’re well earned meals.
We always loved you, Dear ol’ Pat,
How bad poor Dickie now will feel.
We know you dearly loved to lie
On Dickie’s or my bed at night ,
Oh! how we laughed when every morn
Mom’s come and find our rooms a sight.
I remember how you loved to romp,
And tease the cats at my dismay.
While barking at some passing tramp
For you would end a perfect day.
So Dear Old Pat, some day I hope
That I can catch the man who sped
Through country roads at frantic speed,
To leave our puppy lying dead.
Pat I hope where ere you are
That you can realize how I’ll miss
Your dear old face when I return,
But still you get my parting kiss.
I hope you know you poor old dog
That for you many tears were shed.
Out here, at least, when mommy wrote,
“Don’t cry, my Dear, but Pat is dead.”
Written by Edythe Warren of Omer, but attending school in Los Angeles, California
Driving the Model A
I used to go with Dad, quite often, on Saturdays on the mail route. This was where I learned to drive in the Model A. It was a good place to learn, because after the first 5 or 6 miles, the route went up across, what was known as the Plains, on a road that was only sand trail!! The ruts were so deep in the sand, that you couldn’t hardly get out of them and they were crooked like a “snake” so you learned to steer, so you weren’t thrown around so much.
If you met someone, going the other way–fortunately it didn’t happen often–the one that could, got out of the sand trail and let the other one go by. As it was easy to get stuck in that sand, the one that stayed on the trail, always waited after getting by–to help if necessary, until the other one got back to the trail and was going again!
After buying the .22, Dad taught me how to use it safely. Whenever I could afford a box of shells, I’d target practice. It was safe to shoot in most directions–except out across the main highway–but what to shoot at! I got no “kicks” at shooting at birds–it seemed, most were “good birds”–robins, bluebirds & etc. If they made targets in those days–I didn’t have any. After breaking a couple of bottles on the back fence, I quickly learned that Dad “frowned” on that!!
I finally found a good target! I’d put a penny in a crack in the top of a fence post and shoot at it!! That could have been expensive, then, but it usually–for a long time–cost me more for shells, than it did for pennies. I’d get back about 75 to 100 feet and see if I could hit them. When I did, you’d hear a Ziinnnnnggg!! and no more penny. That was fine–but where did the pennies go???I looked and looked in the field I was shooting across–but couldn’t find any that I had hit. Finally I got an idea—I waited until we’d had a fresh snow and then after hitting a couple–I looked for them. As there weren’t any tracks or anything–just unbroken snow–I’d look for any disturbance—sure enough I found one!! In fact, I found several more at later times.
Peg Leg (Edythe)
When the skating was poor, because of too much snow, we’d usually go over to “Bunker Hill” and go down it on our sleds. I think it was in 1935–Edythe would know for sure-we had a bunch of snow on the ground, followed by a major ice storm. We skated down the
main highway (US23) to go to the hill. We found the ice so thick that we decided it would be a lot more “fun” to go down the hill on our skates!!!! I don’t know how many times we went up and down–sometimes on our skates and sometimes on our–you know what!! Anyhow, it was getting late in the day so we decided to go down, one more time!! Edythe was just ahead of me ,and when we were about to the bottom, one of her skates broke thru the crust of ice, and down she went! I almost ran into her–just barely dodging around her.
When she tried to get up, she found she couldn’t stand on one leg–I suspect there were a few tears in her eyes too. We went and got one of our sleds and put her on it–as gingerly as we knew how. As we’re hauling her back up the hill, the skate on the problem leg (broken!!!) caught in the ice!! I can’t relate how that felt to her—but her OUCH!!–even I could feel. I don’t know how we got her to the Hospital but I suspect that Bill Baikie or Jack Nowak, who had gas stations nearby–probably took her or at least helped us. Thus Edythe became Peg-Leg–Peggy—Peg
Somewhere around this time, in the summer, Dad started putting in a garden up to Aunt Bays. It was certainly over 1 acre—in any case, it was too darn big for me!!! When I was younger, and went to Aunt Anna’s or wherever, Dad would rent???–Barter?? for a horse and cultivator to keep the weeds out. About the time I was 12 or 13, I became the “horse” and had to keep all the weeds out with a hoe!!!. Those were the longest and hottest summer days I ever spent!! I thought some of them would never end! Once in a while, I’d talk Harry Hatcher (Aunt Myrtle’s son) to come up there and keep me company. That helped! Harry may have been not good for much else in those days, but he sure could talk!
Cutting the grass at home and sometimes at Aunt Myrtles–also became a–“Let Dick do it!” In the late 30’s, the “City” of Omer created a two acre park, near the RR Depot. It too, needed mowing—so I got the job for $2 every time I mowed it! I certainly got all the “practice” hand mowing lawns–I needed!!
A change of pace!!! There were a few things–during the mid 30’s that I remember–that weren’t so good.
Uncle Frank (Dad’s younger brother)–got engaged to an Edna Mckay, who lived, I believe, with just her father, in a small log cabin–“kitty corner” across from where the Silver Gables was eventually built–now that was fine with the folks but Edythe tells me that for some reason Aunt Myrtle had problems with it.
One evening, shortly after the engagement was announced, they went out and celebrated. On the way back thru town–doing about 50 miles an hour, they ran straight into one of the main drive wheels on a steam locomotive that was temporarily parked on the railroad (which ran thru Omer) crossing. There was every indication that the warning lights weren’t working, and it was obvious that Uncle Frank never saw it!
The crash killed his fiancé instantly, and it was a month or two, before we could be sure Uncle Frank would make it! The crash left the imprint of the main drive wheel in the car radiator, and a hole in Uncle Franks skull. I’m sure that today, the railroad would be sued for millions—I don’t think anybody thought about suing then.
Somewhere around this same time, Art Reed and a couple of his friends went to AuGres– I don’t know for what–but they certainly had been drinking. AuGres had a good curve, just as you came into town from the west, as did Omer (it was worse). There was no speed limit in Michigan in those days, and it seemed to me that there was at least one wreck a week on the curve into Omer, by people going too fast to make it.
As Art and his friends were leaving AuGres, they waved at a friend by the road and apparently drifted across the inside of the curve, directly into the path of a big tractor and trailer going the other way! They hit the tractor just right, so that it rolled the car ahead of it, back across the curve and into a ditch, with the tractor and trailer on top of the car. I don’t think the car was two feet high, after the crash–killing all three men instantly!!! Enough of this.
All of the various pieces of furniture I made the first year, was made from white pine, a real soft wood. Mr. Petit taught me to make furniture from hardwoods–the 2nd year–from quarter-sawed oak, maple (birdseye), walnut and etc. I also graduated into making larger and larger “fancy” end tables, stands and inlayed tables, as well as cedar chests.
Aunt Rachael (Great Uncle Franks wife) paid for the material for me to make her a good size cedar chest. I’d already made one for Mother. I had it pretty well along, when I went down there one evening and found someone had drilled a whole bunch of holes in it–some clear thru and some only part way!!! What to do!!! Fortunately, cedar has a lot of knots in it, so I fashioned and glued dowels in the holes. Most people thought they were just more knots! Who did it?? The school finally determined it was one of the other boys in 4-H and “kicked” him out of school!! Obviously jealous of the work I was doing!
Mom & Dad 10th Grade Education
Speaking of getting kicked out of school! Neither Dad nor Mother graduated from High School!! I think Mother dropped out (about the 10th grade), but Dad got himself “removed? He told me the story of what happened!! Apparently he, and a couple of other boys were playing when the school bell rang but were having so much fun, they decided to ignore it. The Principal hollered at them to get inside–but they continued to play!! After a few more warnings–including something like–“I’m going to “LICK” you good, if you don’t get in here!!!
They decided they’d better move. As there was a back door as well as a front door to the school–they decided to split up–maybe that way, one or more would escape punishment!! Dad said, “I don’t know how he did it, but he met everyone of us at whatever door we came in–picking us up and slinging us part way up the stair way”. I guess by the time they could start to get to their feet, they’d be knocked down again by the next one!!! As Dad said, “That’s the way it went, all the way to the top floor”! “Shortly afterwards, he was “summarily dismissed” from school!!! I think, he too, was in the 10th grade.
One of the games, that year, against our biggest rivals, was 2 to 1, our favor, going into the last of the 7th (we only played 7 innings). I had pitched two hit ball, to that point. Two were out–and two men were on–I walked one and the other got on- on a 2 base error. Their “clean-up” hitter was at bat–on the first pitch, he hit an easy grounder directly to the shortstop (a good fielder). I can still see it yet–rolling between his legs out into left field and two runs scored!! He didn’t even slow it down—we lost 3 to 2!!
I pitched again during my Senior year. As could be expected, I had gotten a little better. I don’t think we won over half of our games but in doing so, I pitched a No-hitter and 2 – One hitters!
We lost the No-hitter—5 to 2. That should give a clue as to why we only won half of the games!
I think I was 15, when I fell in “love”, for the first time. I’m not sure what took place at what time, but I do recall that Edythe went with her brother for a while and she was a friend of Laura Ruste. I believe I met Eleanor “Nonie” (Frank) at one of our basketball games against AuGres. I’m sure Edythe can remember better than I all the various relationships going on. I know that Laura’s Dad was a teacher (the typical absent minded Professor) at AuGres, and that Laura, stayed with my folks and went to school; think that was 1940/1941. Anyhow, it wasn’t easy for me to get to see Nonie–I remember riding my bike over there one day–seven miles-one way.
I had a tail wind going over there, but a head wind coming back–a long!! and tough trip. Never did it again. I didn’t last long–probably less than six months! I’m sure I was pretty immature in “affairs” of heart and she left me for an “older man”–about a year or two, with a car. His older brother had a convertible and would let him drive it!
A little more about hunting. In the 30’s–particularly the late 30’s and early 40’s, we had a lot of pheasants in the state, partridge hunting was good and there were even a few flocks of prairie chicken. Bob Reed, even after he moved to Flint, would take a week off to go hunting with Dad. We would often go down to Frankenmuth to hunt pheasants on Martha’s relatives farms. We usually got our limit! We had both Dot and Muggs, so if there were any– we found them and if we knocked them down–Muggs would retrieve them for us. By this time, there were a whole bunch of boy cousins in the family–for example Charles and Harry Hatcher, Jim and Tommy Reed, “Corky” Curriston, Clare and Robert Warren and on and on. They liked to follow Dad or I around, just like I had my Dad.
Let’s go to deer hunting–I’d rather talk about that! For years, probably from 7 on, I often went with Dad in the evening when he went to town and stopped at Orton Stones gas station. Thru the years–when I could stay awake, I’m sure I heard the story of every deer killed on Drummond Island innumerable times.
When I got my first deer, in 1938, (I’m now a “mature”?? 15) — it was about the 4th or 5th day of season and Bud Soper, and I went up on the plains, to the west of Dad’s mail route. We got there before dawn and it was a cold frosty morning.
I knew where I wanted to be by daylight so I headed that direction. It was in a scrub oak area and I didn’t try to be quiet, for I couldn’t if I wanted to–with all the leaves on the ground and frosted–I sounded like a “freight train going uphill” Crunch! Crunch! Every step! The sun was coming up and I realized I wasn’t where I wanted to be. Recognizing where I was, I quickly hurried towards where I had planned to sit for a while.
All of a sudden!! I saw a movement –a deer and it had horns! I thought at first that someone was playing a trick on me, for I had heard many stories about decoys and the pranks played with them—but decoys don’t walk!! The buck was walking diagonally across in front of me, and when he walked into a little opening–I “pulled down” on him (I thought) and shot. He stopped! Nothing else happened! I quickly realized I’d missed him, so I aimed again and pulled the trigger. All I got was a click!!
I found that I had racked the old shell out but I hadn’t racked hard enough to rack in a new one –What to do???–If I racked in a new one–surely he would run, and if I couldn’t hit him when he was walking, I sure as heck couldn’t hit him running!! I quickly realized I’d never hit him as long as there was no shell in the chamber–so I racked the gun again–he still stood there! I took aim again and pulled the trigger–away he went–tail up in the air and running like heck!!
I’d heard many deer stories, that if you hit a deer hard–they’d clamp their tail down tight and you wouldn’t see it. Must have missed again!! I recognized where I was and knew that the direction he was running, he had to go down in a ravine and up a hill on the other side–maybe I’d get another shot at him! I hadn’t run very far when I stumbled right over him–dead. I found that the 2nd shot had gone thru his heart, when I dressed him out. I quickly whistled for Bud and the rest is History. I don’t think I could stand still!! for days after that.
High school Graduation
I had completed all the courses by the 11th grade needed for graduation but being just barely 16, they insisted I should go another year. As can be seen by my 12th grade report card, I took a bunch of electives. Typewriting (thank goodness), American History, Civics, Sociology, and Music (Glee Club).
Graduation day finally arrived, and as I was the “smartest” (Valedictorian) of the “dumb” ones–there were only ten of us in the class, I had to give a speech! It was a “Canned” speech which I had to learn! I don’t remember a word it said, but obviously “History has not seen fit to place it with other speeches-like Lincolns Gettysburg Address!! Ha!
I stayed in Omer that summer, after graduation, still pedaling papers.
When Dick was around 17 years old, he felt his parents believed he was lazy. This prompted Dick to get a job in Flint, Michigan; he worked for Western Union as a messenger boy. Bob Reed and his wife were living in Flint at that time so Dick lived with them. Bob Reed and Marshall Warren were working in the Mott building in downtown Flint. Bob was chief electrician and Marshall was in charge of elevator operators. Yes! Each elevator had an operator in those days–none of this automatic stuff!
I’m not sure whether it was when I first went to Flint that I lived for a few weeks with Uncle Marshall and Aunt Celia or later when I came back from my sojourn to Cleveland? Anyhow, their place was not real large and I spent all or most of my time at Bob and Martha’s. When I came back to Flint from Cleveland I finally got the room at 726 Elizabeth Street.
Bob and Martha had bought their home at 1522 Maplewood Ave. and let me have the SW bedroom upstairs. As I was only 17, what could I do?? The factories wouldn’t hire you until you were at least 18. Bob suggested I apply for a Western Union messenger job. Luckily for me they didn’t ask questions like, “How long have you lived in Flint?”–(a week!) but instead–“Do you know Flint? Of course I knew Flint — (the main streets).
As soon as I was hired, Bob lent me some money to buy a used bike and a detailed! map of Flint. As soon as I got around the corner after they’d given me, a bunch of Telegrams to deliver–I’d stop, pull out my map and figure out where I had to go! It really wasn’t too difficult, for if you had several telegrams, they would all be in the same relative section of town.
One of the toughest jobs, was when the recipient was considerably outside of the city limits. I had one of those, one day, about a mile east of Flint. As I was returning, my chest started hurting–it finally got so bad that I had to get off of the bike and walk–pushing the bike. After I got back into town–I couldn’t go any further and I called either Bob or Martha, and they came and got me. A trip to the Doctor, showed I had Pleurisy–an inflammation of the lungs (you want to quit breathing–if you could). As Martha was a Nurse, I was in good hands–wrapped in mustard plasters, with a week in bed and I was just about as good.
Not too long after that incident, I had to make a trip to the South end of town. They were working on a bridge or underpass on the main street–Genesee and had a detour around the area. The detour was on rather narrow streets, and they had even re-routed the trolley bus lines to them.
I was coming back from my run, and was riding as close to the curb as I could on those narrow streets, when a trolley bus came up behind me and just as he got even with me, he cut in towards the curb. The front “fender?” on that big bus wasn’t over 2″ wide, but it hit the end of my left handle bar, jack-knifing the bike with the front wheel up over the curb and the rear one still out in the street–with me still on the bike!! He didn’t stop until he was by me! I’m afraid I had a few cuss word for him too!!
When I went to pick myself up, I looked and there, just behind the seat I was on, was the imprint of the big rear-dual tires in my bikes frame and rear wheel!!! The bike was completely ruined!! Four or five inches closer and I would have been too!! I got the number of the bus and the drivers name–but I don’t remember now how I got back downtown.
Anyway, I got there, and Bob insisted I see one of his doctors. Luckily I only had scrapes and bruises! The bus Company, at first, denied any responsibility!! I don’t know what Bob said to them, but shortly–they paid for the Doctor and bought me a new bike! That same thing today, and I could of collected thousands–and only would of had to threaten to sue! The only thing I was concerned with then, was getting a new bike and thankful that I hadn’t been hurt worse than I was.
AC Spark Plug
In April 1941, when I became 18, I applied for a job with AC Spark Plug. They put me to work immediately as an apprentice on automatic screw machines on the third shift–I think I was now making .80 cents an hour–a fortune!! Maybe it was .85 or .90 cents because of working the third shift. I had a good teacher and within a month or two, I was not only feeding the machines new material as needed but had also learned to change most tools as necessary.
I got acquainted with some other guys, and one morning they were going out to play a game of golf–so I went with them. When we got there, they talked me into buying some clubs and playing with them. I bought a couple of woods, 3, 5, 7 & 9 irons and a bag and putter. I still have and use that putter and Jim may have some of the woods or irons yet. I won’t bore you with all the great shots?? I made that day! I think the clubs, bag and etc. was between $25 and $30!
Shortly after I got the job, I started taking courses at GM Tech–Blueprint reading , drafting, lathe & etc. I think I went two nights a week.
After I had worked at AC a few months, Dad told me that Ed Gleason ( General Manager of the Fisher Body Plant in Cleveland) had offered to back me to a 4 year course in GM Tech in tool and die making. The Gleason family lived in Omer, and Ed had been born and raised there.
Anyhow, after thinking about it, that sounded like a pretty good idea, so I quit AC and went to Cleveland. Cliff Macey–who used to run the ice house in Omer, with his wife Nellie, were now living in Cleveland and they said they would put me up, until I could get settled in. The Macey’s and the Gleasons lived less than a block apart in Omer. After getting there, I went to the Fisher Body plant to check in and found that Ed Gleason was on a 2 or 3 week vacation! He’d left word with his staff, that I might be coming, so it wasn’t entirely unexpected–so they put me to work in the Tool and Die Department, looking at blueprints, cleaning up–a “Go-For” boy!
Back to Cleveland. I really didn’t know either Cliff or Nellie Macey all that well, as they were my folks age. In addition, being unable to talk to Ed Gleason, I really didn’t know any of the details of the program– or really for sure–what he was proposing. With no friends–my age–in Cleveland and not much to do, after a week, I said to heck with it–for I also realized, it was just a matter of time and I would be in the Service–and went back to Flint!!
Back to AC Spark Plug
I applied for work with AC again and was immediately put to work as an inspector on .50 caliber machine guns at their Industrial Ave Plant, just south of the main Buick Plant. I found a room, nearby–within walking distance–at 726 Elizabeth St. I was assigned to the 2nd shift on the machine gun barrels, themselves. Within a short time, I got to know my job pretty well, and although, I scrapped some barrels–if there was any doubt–I’d follow it thru the “line”, until it had gone thru the operation that would verify if it should be scrapped or not.
During this time, I was generally working 7 days a week, with no time off to spend what I was making–I was “broke” if I didn’t have at least $100 in my pocket. Within a few weeks, he made me acting Foreman on the day shift, over the rest of the machine gun mechanism. That fall, when you couldn’t buy any time off; he let me take 10 days, so I could go to Drummond Island deer hunting.
When I went on day shift, I was also in charge of the rest of the machine gun parts–a lot of those operations were performed by women–believe me some of them were a real pain! However, there was one gal–about 5’5″ or 5’6″–black hair–purple eyes and well proportioned!!!I quickly got to know her better, as Diane Chuleas.
She was Greek and her Dad didn’t want her to have anything to do with any man ,except another Greek!! That made it a little “inconvenient” –but not much–for she wanted to know me better to! We soon found ourselves spending time together nearly every evening after work–a lot of it in my car–parked in my garage–just “talking”–and “talking”–and “talking”–maybe a hug or two–I’m not sure!–my memory is going bad again??
I went with her all the rest of the time I was in Flint and during any leaves I got from the Service until I went overseas. We wrote to each other regularly–but about 3 months before I was released to come home from Europe–I got a letter–“have met someone else and am getting married!!” She had my High School ring, and I never did get it back!