Letter from Uncle Sam, Postponed Wedding, and Bad Teeth

This one is for my family.   Too good to keep to myself.

This past weekend, I went to my Dad’s looking for a story about the Shivaree the family held for him and mom “after” the wedding.  From what I know about Shivarees, they are held “before” the wedding, but I guess as time passed, the custom changed.  So, hopefully, that will be a story for another post.

What I did find out was the following:

Dad doesn’t remember the exact date of the proposal.  He knows it was a Saturday night, and that they pulled up at Mom’s house, really Grandma and Grandpa’s house as she was still living at home.  It was the summer of 1955, the year she graduated from high school.

The radio was playing, and according to Dad, Mom always picked the radio station, because she didn’t want him picking some “hillbilly” music.

The song on the radio, he can’t remember the title, but the lyrics state, ” I won’t be happy till I meet you at the alter.” (sorry, can’t find that on Google)

And, the conversation went,

Dad: Do you love me that much?

Mom: Yes, Are you asking me to marry you?

Dad: Yes

Mom: Yes

And, then, I think there was some major smooching.  I know, this dialog seems a little on the sketchy side, but I do remember Mom talking about that song and his proposal, so I know that part about the song is true.

He bought her the ring for Christmas.  A couple days before Christmas, he dropped her off at a party of something, went to the jewelry store, picked her up after locking it in the glove compartment, and she asked him later – “Where did you go?”  He told her he had to run an errand, and she pressed on, so he gave it to her early.  According to him, there was, again, also some major smooching after that.

So, in May or June, they set the date of August 4, cause back then, you only sent the invitations out so people could receive them a couple “weeks” in advance, not a couple “months”.  What’s up with that?

He came home from work one day in June – about the 20th, and his brothers told him, before he even got into the house, as they were on the porch, he got a letter from Uncle Sam.   He had to report for military duty July 10.

Even though they didn’t have a date that night, he figured he should go tell Mom what was going on, in person, not on the phone (yes, they had phones back then) because he knew she was supposed to go order the wedding invitations the next day.   He had to report two weeks before basic, and would be in basic training 8 weeks, so they somehow figured it out and set the date for September 29.

He rode a train from Carlinville to St. Louis, took a bus to Jefferson Barracks, had his physical and swearing in.  He also told me some guy who had passed his physical a  year or so before tow-handed, showed up with one hand missing from some machinery accident, and they let him go through.  Yeah, he ended up in basic training, couldn’t handle the gun right, etc., and eventually got an honorable medical discharge.  That’s the Army for ya, huh?

He went to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for 10 weeks, got out around the 22nd of Sept for a 15 day leave.  Mom and her cousin had driven his car down the week before.  His brother and wife had come down also to take Mom and cousin back, so his car was in the parking lot waiting for him – but he didn’t see them, actually.  Gosh, I forgot to ask him, I wonder if they left the keys under the car mat?

When he left Fort Leonard Wood, a few of his buddies needed a ride to St. Louis Lambert airport, and he was pretty much going right by there, so he had a car full when he left the barracks.

They got married, went on their honeymoon (didn’t ask about that, maybe next time), and he then had to report to Fort Sill, OK.  So he flew to Joplin, MO from St. Louis.  They hit a bad storm, and evidently, dessert on that flight or next was blueberry pie, and the cabinets flew open, and he remembers the stewardesses dashing about trying to clean up the floor of this blueberry pie mess.

Then, he flew from Joplin to Laughton, OK and supposed to connect to Fort Sill, but the plane broke down.  They said they would fix it, but then decided they couldn’t.  By this time, they would be reported as AWOL, so a private first class, or whoever was in charge there, called Fort Sill, and they sent a bus to get them.  The reason they all went to Fort Sill?  Well, evidently many from around the country met up there so the Army could fly them all to Fort Lewis, Washington, cheaper than your average commercial air fare at the time.

He was in Fort Sill for a couple days or so.  He remembers this because on October 6, 1956, Don Larson pitched a perfect World Series game, and evidently many of the men were listening to it on the radio.  That’s right, not even watching it on television, but listening on the radio!

The army had 7 planes for 720 men in the battalion to fly to Fort Lewis.  Dad ended up on a small 2 engine job with about 60 other men.  They landed in Billings, Montana for refueling.  After leaving Billings bound for Fort Lewis, Washington, at some point, he remembers the cockpit opening and the co-pilot coming out, headed at high speed towards the back of the plane, came out with a barrel of oil and headed back up to the front of the plane.

Evidently, the landing gear was stuck.  They got it down, but didn’t know if it was locked into place.  The hydraulics had failed.  So, they made a forced landing, emergency landing in Seattle/Tacoma airport, and all Dad remembers are the red lights on the runway, fire engines lights flashing as they landed.  Evidently, they were expecting a crash landing or belly landing. Dang, my brother John was almost fatherless right then and there (as if that flight to Joplin wasn’t enough), and the rest of us were not even a glint in his eye yet!  Whew!   Luckily, the wheels were locked, so all were safe.

At Fort Lewis, he had 8 more weeks of basic training.  The Army also wasn’t happy with his teeth.  Here they were wanting to send him to Korea, even though the war was over but they were “policing”.  Evidently, he had to have 7 teeth filled.  Well, the dentist took x-rays, and then said he also had 10 more teeth that were decaying FROM THE INSIDE!  What?  So, yes, he had 17 teeth filled! Gee, Mom, and we all thought you were the one who gave us the bad teeth!

I have more – his time off for Christmas, going back to Ft. Lewis, the train travel, etc., but this post is long enough.

What do you think?  Interesting stuff? I’ll tell you, I was riveted, but I did keep notes! Can’t wait to go down again and find out more about the honeymoon and the Shivaree!


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