I could smell anticipation and excitement in the air and like an old work horse, I was instantly ready for the harness. Nostalgia and longing for my days of teaching rose higher than ever as I spent the morning with Theresa, Kristi, and the kids volunteering a few hours at iLEAD charter school in Santa Clarita as they prepare for the beginning of the new school year. It will be the twins first year at their new school. and as I looked around, and watched the young, enthusiastic teachers, I longed for a class of my own and to be part of this awesome adventure.
We spent our first hour making boxes to hold library books and the next two hours sorting books according to reading level. I don’t mean to brag, but I haven’t lost the ability to eyeball a book and know the Grade Level. My guesses, checked by Theresa with an IPad and Scholastic Books Grade Level list, were close to 95 percent right. Kristi not only helped, but kept us supplied with coffee and Danica made friends with another student. Eric found a pleasant place to sit and play games on his IPad while getting used to his new school. All in all, a wonderful way to pass the morning.
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With the passing of one hundred years since the days of World War I, I feel it a great time to share this news article about my father’s service. I do not have a date other than 1938 and the knowledge that we lived in Fergus Falls, Minnesota.. I was two years old at the time of this interview I do not have the original news page and the copy that I have is old and brittle. Therefore, I took time to type it out so that it would be more readable.
Photo of my father around 1917.
TELLS STORY OF WORLD WAR EXPERIENCES
>Fergus Falls Man Recalls Front Line Telephone Repairs and Close Calls
—————————————————————-Could Not Believe That Armistice Was Signed – Germans Most Anxious for Soap
Crawling through barbed wire entanglements in inky blackness of night, slithering through mud flat on one’s stomach flat on one’s stomach and listening, listening, listening, Always listening for the tread of feet or the whisper of a voice; wishing your heart could not beat so loud – these are memories that make Elmer Shaw of the city feel he would rather meet the enemy in New York instead of fighting on foreign ground.
Shaw spent thirty-three days at the St. Mihiel front, a member of the “sound and flash” ranging detachment with the 29th Engineers Corp. Shaw, then a lineman for the Otter Tail Power Company at Sisseton S. D, enlisted in April 1918 when twenty years of age.
Thought War Great Lark
When he enlisted, like many another youth, he thought he would see plenty of excitement and probably get a thrill out of it. Of course, he knew people said war was horrible, many were killed and wounded, left cripples, but it was great to fight for one’s country and to do something out of the ordinary. First of all he must get across the pond – if he was only lucky enough to get in the first detachment that left his camp. He went first to Minneapolis and by the way on the train that took him into the Cites his seat companion was Reuben Araskog of Fergus Falls and though he has been in Fergus Falls for two years, Mr. Shaw has never happened to meet Mr. Araskog again.
From Minneapolis he was sent to the training camp at St. Louis, Mo. Things looked dark for getting across though, as he was made a super-numeral, which meant that the only chance of getting into the fight was in the event that some-one else was taken ill and couldn’t leave.
There was a different feeling about war through the South – a feeling that made you realize war wasn’t just a lark. Memories of the Civil war still lingered there and on the faces of the southerners one could see that they had a realization of what war meant. They were loyal to their country, ready to fight, but only because it was their duty, not for the fun of it.
Reaches the Front
Finally, “opportunity” knocked at the door and he was sent across to France and pushed right up to the St. Mihiel sector where some of the bitterest fighting took place. For thirty-three days he lived at the front, never knowing which moment would be his last.
It was the duty of the “sound and flash” ranging detachment of eight men to keep the telephone system in repair, to tell by the sound of the guns their distance from the allies’ sector and to get their range by the flashes.
Shoot, First, Ask Questions Afterwards
When a connection broke it was up to the telephone man to go out and make repairs. If it was possible to get through in daylight, he was ordered out, and sometimes he didn’t come back. More often the repair work was done at night.
All the thrill of war was forgotten when the order came for Shaw and a member of his detachment to go out and repair a break under the cover of night. The repair men were sent out in twos, one 400 feet behind the other so that if the first one was shot or captured the other might have a chance to make a getaway.
The repair man feared not only the enemy but the Allied soldiers as well, as he made his way through the maze of wire entanglements. At night the order to shoot first and ask questions afterwards was given to all soldiers as in the darkness it was not possible to distinguish a uniform. May times the enemy cut the phone wire and then waited for the arrival of the repairman, in order to take him prisoner in hoping to obtain information.
Wished Heart Would Stop Beating
On one dark night as Shaw climbed across the maze of barbed wire he heard a sound of approaching feet. He dropped to the ground flat on his stomach and listened as the tramp, tramp, tramp came nearer and nearer. His heart beat faster and faster, and he admits he was scared – scared white. There were no bands playing now, no flags waving to keep up his courage. He was all alone, and he wished his heart would stop beating as it made so much noise he feared the on-coming soldiers would hear it. His watch ticked too loudly too and the few minutes he lay there waiting and listening seemed like hours. Then a column of shadowy figures passed within twenty feet of him and disappeared in the night and he resumed his search for the broken wire, made the repair and returned to his company.
Foggy days were generally good days for making repairs, but on one occasion the fog suddenly cleared and two members of his detachment found themselves only 400 feet from the enemy. They dropped into a shell hole and remained there until under the shelter of darkness they finished their job.
Did Not Live in Trenches
Asked if he lived in the trenches all the time during the thirty-three days he stayed at the front, Shaw said he did not and neither did any of the soldiers. There were three lines so-to-speak. The machine guns were in the front line, behind them the trenches and back of them the heavy reserve corps headquarters where the soldiers were stationed. It was two miles from the reserve corps headquarters to the machine gun line. The guns held off the enemy advance until the reserve corps arrived.
Food was taken to the soldiers twice daily, the cooking all being done some distance back of the line. During an attack it was delivered by donkeys and a two wheel cart to the trenches. If the donkey and its driver were hit by a shell there was no food that day. When the food arrived it was reheated at times in a trench kitchen which was concealed by three doors covered with blankets so that no sigh of light from the kitchen would reach the outside.
Couldn’t Believe the Armistice Was Signed
“How did you fellows feel up there when the Armistice was signed?” “Most of us couldn’t realize it for at least forty-eight hours. Some thought it was just a trick on the part of the enemy and that war would be resumed at any time. Even the loads of ammunition continued to pour into our sector for two days after peace was declared.” When they were convinced the war was ended some of the soldiers crossed to the German camps or met them half way between lines and collected souvenirs. One could get almost anything from a German for a bar of soap, as they had used sand instead of soap to wash with for a long time. The bandages they wore were made of paper, as their supply of cotton had long since been exhausted. Only about half a mile separated the Allies and the Germans on the day when the Armistice was signed. “The Germans were on three sides of us and might have taken us in time, but they would have run into plenty of opposition.”
Mr. Shaw returned to America in April 1919 and was mustered out. He resumed work on power lines for a few years. For the last fifteen years he has been with the Northwestern Bell Telephone Co. and was transferred from Crookston to Fergus Falls two years ago.
He fears that things are not settled in Europe and that Hitler is just biding his time and will embroil the world in a war at a later date. ‘Chamberlain didn’t stop the war, he just delayed the date,” said Mr. Shaw. Asked if he would be willing to fight again to defend his country, he said, “Yes I’d go if I was needed, but not for the thrill this time, and I don’t believe in fighting on foreign soil. I would rather wait and meet the enemy when it arrives in New York.”
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I have often said that attending the Journey to Happiness meetings led by Darrell Price were not necessarily about learning something new, but more about learning to use the knowledge already acquired and which is a little rusty at times.
So here is a fine example of choosing happiness over frustration. Bob and I have very different sleep patterns, so I go to bed early and wake up at 5 AM. Dawn is my time to catch up on the news, sip my coffee, and enjoy the first rays of early morning light in peaceful solitude. This morning however, neither the TV in the kitchen or the one in the living room would work. This was puzzling at first, but then I remembered that Bob had been working with DVD at two in the morning, when I had wandered out to get a glass of water. He had a DVD player connected first unsuccessfully to the kitchen TV and again unsuccessfully to the one in the living room. We talked for a few minutes, and as I walked back to the bedroom, I thought, “ I should tell him to return both TV’s to their original format, but I had quenched my thirst and longed to get back to sleep for a few hours. I just assumed he would do so before he headed to bed.
When I woke at the crack of dawn, I was looking forward to that first cup of coffee and the weather news concerning the storms and floods here in Southern California. You guessed it; Bob had not changed the TV back to cable, and I being DVD challenged, did not even want to attempt the switch. I fumed a little, even slammed a cupboard door or two before I reminded myself that I could choose this black pouty mood that I was nourishing, or I could choose to make it a lighter shade of grey. I was not convinced I could turn it into a happy time; that came when I took the dogs on an early morning walk. Walking in the unusually cool morning mist gave me time to think about my responsibility for mood. As the dogs, pulled on ahead, happy as could be to explore the streets, I decided to match their mood. My heavy step became lighter, and as we headed for home, I had a plan and I had a smile on my face.
The plan was simple. I would feed the animals, dress for my nine O: clock Zumba class and head down to Lugo’s Family Restaurant for breakfast. I would choose a booth where I could watch the large overhead TV screen which I knew was always turned to a news station. Watching the clock and knowing Bob would not be up before my time to go, I wrote him a quick note saying,
“Good Morning, Darling,
Treating myself to breakfast at Lugo’s. No TV here. You must have forgotten to re-adjust it. Computer news says that there were really
bad storms around Mt. Baldy and Forest Falls. Dogs fed, walked and medicated. Love you and see you after Zumba.
Then out to the car and off to breakfast. I parked the car in the parking lot, choosing a place between the Restaurant and the gym so I wouldn’t have to move it before my Zumba class. Lugo’s was moderately busy, and I chose the perfect booth to watch the large screen TV. The waiters are always the friendliest and before I could even say, “coffee,” a cup of hot brew was in front of me. My favorite waiter came by and took my order. He is a wonderful young man and frequently calls his favorite white-haired female customer “Mama.” It is a term of endearment and recognition that I have always appreciated and seemed a perfect greeting to fit my much-improved mood.
I took a moment to tell him my TV was not working and that I came down to have breakfast, morning coffee, and watch a little of the local newscast. He told me to stay as long as I wanted and if I chose I could curl up and sleep awhile in the booth. Laughing, I said, “No way, as soon as I finish breakfast, I need to get next door to In-Shape for a morning class.
As appropriate for a happiness scenario, I ordered comfort food; omelets, home fries and a biscuit with gravy. It arrived shortly and tasted as great as I had anticipated. I watched TV, sipped my coffee, and finished off almost the entire breakfast served.
On the happiness scale, my mood was nearing the top. and I had the feeling that after I paid the bill, I could skip like a kindergartner clear across the restaurant and out the front door. However, I sauntered instead, and when I arrived at the door, my waiter had propped it open and was saying good-bye to two customers. He hugged each of them and turned to me with open arms. I held my arms out too and received the perfect hug appropriate for a woman old enough to be his grandmother.
It is only a few hundred steps to the gym, but on that walk I thought about happiness and how I may not always be in control of events, but my attitude makes all the difference. A morning that started with frustration had turned into a morning of fun. Oh yes, it didn’t stop there. I stepped, gyrated, and followed the Zumba Instructor better than ever before. Attitude, happiness, determination what wonderful words to contemplate as I bring this post to an end.
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I have been blessed with the opportunity to belong to a senior group here in Ridgecrest called Journey to Happiness led by a great Life Coach Darrell Price at Price Life Consulting. If you are on Facebook link to Journey to Happiness Senior Group and if you live in Ridgecrest, join us. It is a great place for finding happiness, meeting new people, laughing, and learning about life.
Today, we discussed the importance of Social Media in our world with the emphasis on seniors and the growing number of us who use the various internet programs for communicating and socializing with friends and family. Which brings me to this story about social media.
My husband Bob and I met on one of the early dating sites back in 2000. We married in 2001 and will celebrate 14 years of marriage in November. We had both lost our spouses, were anxious to move ahead with our lives, and when he proposed, I eagerly said, “Yes”.
For the first few years after we married, we were often asked, “How did you two meet? Proud of being among the first wave of seniors (Bob was 78 and I was 68) to use an internet dating system, we were more than eager to tell our story. As it often goes with couples, Bob would start out by saying, “We met on the internet.” Then I would add that we had much in common. Bob was a retired Naval Commander and my husband had been a career Marine. Bob would add that we lived in two different cities in the Mojave desert only ninety miles apart. This then was my clue to announce proudly that we were both owners of African Grey Parrots. Something truly destined to bring us together.
So when asked again, this time at a large RV group dinner in a building with little or no acoustic quality, we promptly began sharing our story. As we reached the climax and I said proudly, “and we both had African Grey Parrots”, the woman across from us who was listening intently, leaned across the table to be heard, and shouted, “YOU HAVE ACTIVELY GAY PARENTS. HOW OLD ARE THEY?” Needless to say, bad acoustics and perhaps a little less than clear pronunciation, brought us a delightful story to add to “How We Met”.
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Those of you who know Bob know that he is not much for man-kisses, preferring the old-fashioned firm handshake. So you can understand the rather shocked look on his face in this photo when he was ambushed for a real smack-a-roo.
Last Sunday, Danica’s school held a fundraiser breakfast at Appleby’s and of course the idea of all the pancakes you can eat for five dollars is a welcomed attraction, not to mention that we also wanted to support the PTA’s efforts so the family arrived around 9:00 and enjoyed scrumptious pancakes.
As good as the pancakes were, the young enthusiastic parents who served us were without exception, the finest waitpersons ever. Particularly, a delightful young man named Brandon. We took him up on his offer to take a group picture of us and raising the camera high above his head, snapped a great photo.
Bob was quite taken with Brandon’s sense of humor, friendliness, and the laughter he brought to our group. He asked Brandon if we could take a photo of him and he said, “Of course”. I raised the camera and readied the flash. He quickly bent down and gave a raspberry sounding smooch in Bob’s direction. The price of the breakfast 30 dollars total. The look of surprise on Bob’s face priceless.
Thank you PTA for a great time and a special thank you to Brandon for making a wonderful memory for all of us.
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