Dad at around 20–years–old (Origin of photo unknown: c. 1938–1940).
In setting out to pay tribute to my father, I did not realize the amount of information and family history that I had learned from him. This post is the third in this series of honoring him. This is a lengthy post, which I hope you do not mind perusing. I also hope that you feel free to take your time reading it. As with all my blogs, I provide a lot of references and background information to help give readers a deeper context to help them understand and appreciate the significance of the issues, concepts and people I have been portraying.
A prisoner–of–war camp was built at the camp in 1942 after the Allies’ North African Campaign started. The 1114th SCU maintained security and oversaw the camp. Captured German soldiers, primarily from “The Desert Fox’s”, soldiers of Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel (1891–1944) Afrika Corps, were “imprisoned” there. It was located at the south end of the runway and up to 2,000 POWs were quartered in the camp. Up to 5,000 POWs were received, processed and repatriated there.
When it came time for the tractor to be placed on the block, the auctioneer called out the item and rattled off its technical specifics and said that the tractor with various attachments was being sold “as is”. When he asked for the first bid the auctioneer looked over at Dad, who nodded his head. The man then said, “Sold to the soldier and returning veteran from the War for $10.00!”
One of the cattlemen that Dad met offered to take me as a baby to his ranch in Montana and raise me there. He also raced thoroughbred horses. He thought that as both my parents were small in stature, I would be as well, and thus would make for a great potential jockey. I always wondered what my life would have been like if my parents had decided to send me up to the Big Sky Country . . .
In building their new ranch style home on Vinnicum Road, Dad was helped by Mr. Travis (Travis Lumber) who gave him all the wood and supplies Dad needed to build the house. Mr. Travis knew that my father and mother did not have the money needed to pay for the cost of these supplies, but he treated it as a loan. A year after the house was built in 1954, Mr. Travis stopped by when he saw that my dad was working out in the yard of the new home. They talked together for a while and then my father went inside the house and got the money he had saved to pay the bill. He went back out to see Mr. Travis and paid him in full. This occurred at a time when people would make business arrangements simply with a handshake and in good faith between them. My father told me this story throughout his life. The last week he was alive, he told me once again how much he thought of Mr. Travis giving us all the wood that we needed to build our new home.
“Hi, son,” the man said and laughed. “I’m Nelson Rockefeller, and I’m glad to meet you!”
One of my parent’s favorite places to go was to The Eastern States Exposition. It is held every fall in West Springfield, Massachusetts. As my father loved to see the agricultural exhibits, the competitions, the Avenue of States and sample the food, we also had the opportunity to meet Dwight David Eisenhower in 1953 and Richard Nixon in 1959. Both men respectively gave me a penny, and I believe I still have them in one of my childhood boxes of special memorabilia. President Eisenhower was a force to be reckoned with and even though I was very young when I first met him then, I do not recall his being in a cocoon of secret service protection. He walked down one of the streets of The Big E, grinning and shaking hands with everyone, unrestricted in his movements in a sea of people around him. I remember seeing an almost bald man, with brilliant blue eyes lean over to me and shake my hand.
My mother and father were divorced in 1973 after being married for 25 years. It was a bitter time for them. My mother remained single and alone until she died in October of 2000. My father remarried. I played my classical guitar for Willetta and his wedding ceremony at a Baptist church in Fall River in 1975. They were married for forty–two years. Willetta passed on in early June of 2015.
He spent the rest of the afternoon cutting down the trees and then had enough energy to pull the stumps out of the ground by wrapping the chains he had brought with him around their base and using the power of the tractor to pull them out of the ground.
Dad had a fourth–grade education, yet he also had a world class work ethic. He put me through college. While we were estranged for a while, I am so glad that I got over it. You only have one father on this earth; and, he needs to be honored and given your utmost love and respect. I have never known anyone who could size up someone so quickly and accurately and then sell them something they at first, didn’t want, then once buying it, bought more and became long–standing customers. He was one of the best and top selling salesman in the country in his professional field. Often, he would help train college educated people who were breaking into the area of cosmetology sales. Everyone who met with him in the “hair” business agreed he was a unique phenomenon in the industry.
The silent howitzers of time have slowly depleted the ranks of my father’s generation. Their stories and remembrances of the moments of life they experienced in anguish and victory have almost disappeared. The men and women who fought and participated in the greatest conflict of the last century are all but gone from us now. They are mostly in their eighth and ninth decades.
According to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs statistics, only 620,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II were alive in 2016. 372 of them are dying every day now. Roughly four percent remain with us. If you see and/or encounter a veteran, especially of the World War Two era, please make sure you thank them for their service to our nation. If they are out and about, treat them to a meal, or just a cup of coffee and some conversation with them. After all, Our first duty to our country and to one another is one of remembrance.
He belongs to the ages now, as we all must eventually become. I hope that in the very brief amount of time talking about him, that I have given you a small, but accurate portrait of who he was and the essence of his character and times.
Kindly do me a favor—better yet: if my father has a legacy, it is as follows. I hope that you indulge yourself in it. It is simply this: Hold onto those you love. Give them a hug and a kiss. And tell them, “I love you.”
“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”
— John Robert Wooden (1910-2010), American basketball player & coach.
— The “Wizard of Westwood” (He even looks like my dad.)
1“The exact date of the war’s end is also not universally agreed upon. It was generally accepted at the time that the war ended with the armistice of 14 August 1945 (V-J Day), rather than the formal surrender of Japan (2 September 1945). A peace treaty with Japan was signed in 1951. A treaty regarding Germany’s future allowed the reunification of East and West Germany to take place in 1990 and resolved other post-World War II issues.”
Attack on Pearl Harbor:
Camp Edwards (Otis Air Force Base):
The Great Blizzard of 1949:
Speaker of the House, Joseph William Martin Jr.:
Eastern States Exposition:
President Dwight David Eisenhower:
President Richard Milhous Nixon:
Dad’s Medical Condition:
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
© 13 July 2017 by A. Keith Carreiro
For information about my series, The Immortality Wars, please go to my home page: http://immortalitywars.com/