Saturday, May 5, 2012

May Have Posted Earlier

Early History of Joe Lenhard

          There were many questions I wished I had asked my mother but failed to do it. That being the case, I plan to devote a little time to documenting some history and recollections of my background and early life. Perhaps this will spur some questions from someone who might otherwise wait too long to inquire.
          I was born on June 18, 1929 in one of two bedrooms of a house at 14750 Ten Mile Road in Warren County, Michigan. This was two miles outside the city limits of the city of Detroit, but was at that time a quite rural area. The street was paved but the area was largely farms. There were perhaps five houses in view, each sitting on one or more acres and all having out buildings and large gardens. Immediately across the street was a huge barn belonging to a family with nine children who happened to be my second cousins. They were my early playmates. They had about 50 or so acres and a much larger house than ours. Which brings me back to the house. It was 20 feet by 30 feet area with an unfinished attic and a crawl space underneath. It sat on two acres about one of which was in garden when I was little. There was a hand pumped well for water supply and an outhouse for the end of that cycle. All the trees were sort of young because the land had been farmed until my father bought it and built the house about eight years before I was born. The house had a kitchen coal stove for heat and cooking, hardwood floors, and plastered and painted walls.
          My father, for whom I was named, was 5'8" and about 160 lbs. He had a full head of hair. He seemed pretty smart to me despite the fact that he had only an eighth grade education. He was born in Port Huron, Michigan in 1892. He had been an owner of a small grocery store, a plumber, and was employed as a machine operator at Plymouth motors when I was born.
          My mother Mary Alexander was born in Chicago in 1895 and moved to Port Huron to live with relatives after the death of her mother. Her first language had been German and she got through the fourth grade in English speaking schools before going to work at I know not what. She seemed to have a great deal of common sense and was much more calm and easy going than her intense husband.
I had three older siblings. Andy born in1918. Ken born in 1920. Janette born in 1924. Janette died of an ear problem in 1931 and I do not remember her.
          The stock market crash occurred only five months after I was born and Detroit was soon a disaster. It was fortunate that we lived on a farm of sorts and had food. We ate mostly what we grew which included geese, chickens, rabbits, and of course eggs in addition to veggies. Not too much store food though. I never knew we were poor because I never saw any people who had a lot. We had a 1929 ford model A but we didn't do a lot of travel. Listening to the radio was the main evening entertainment for me. Playing outside until I was forced to come in was my early recollection.
          Some of my very first memories are of trying to walk in snow up to my butt. I remember one time my mother taking me to the outhouse late at night when it was cold as hell. She told me later that I made her stand outside. I remember stealing a toy gun from a neighborhood boy and throwing it into the outhouse when I was about to get caught. I remember getting caught by my Dad and having to retrieve the gun and wash the crap off.
          Perhaps one of my most vivid early memories was about the age of 4 years, when I got some matches with the neighbor boy whose gun I had stolen and we went into his barn to try them out. I can still recall lighting the matches and lighting blades of straw. The next thing I recall is my brother Kenneth pulling the other boy and me from the barn. I next remember standing in front of our kitchen window with my father watching the barn burn to the ground. My last memory of that day was sitting outside in a chair answering questions about the fire while my dad wielded a strap.
          Toys were mostly either hand me downs or homemade, often by me. My first wagon as I recall was a rough cut plank about 16 inches wide and maybe three feet long with second hand wheels and steering bolted onto it. I learned to ride a two wheeler pretty young. It was a full sized mans bike and I rode it with one leg under the bar. Now that was a challenge.
          We had a dog named Rover and while he was a family dog and pretty old, I was all he had at home and he was always with me. Walking in the fields and along the old farm roads was a fun thing. I don't recall any rules or limits but I don't remember crossing the highway at an early age. That paved road had a car only once every ten minutes or so. In back of our house one of our acres was across a dirt farming road. The back acre was all farming - large crops like corn and potatoes. I can recall the whole family pumping water and carrying it to the back lot to water in a time of drought. I can remember pumping, but maybe I was only playing while all the others worked. There were no paved roads back that way for about a half mile. There were gravel roads and isolated farm houses, however.
          Around 1934, my older brother Andy dropped out of school for two years to help earn money by hauling coal. I can recall him working on the coal truck but I didn't understand the school thing at the time. I can remember he and Kenneth shoveling coal into our bin, which was outside, part of a detached shed and garage. Our other out buildings were a long skinny chicken coop and a small rabbit house behind that. There were some old National Geographic magazines stored in part of the chicken coop and I treasured the pictures of bare breasted natives. Some things just don't change.
     In 1935 or so, a new house was built on the lot between ours and the place with the burned barn. All neighbors were usually identified by their nationality. Polish folks moved into the new house. The house with the missing barn had Italians. It wasn't long before some hillbillies moved into a new house across the highway from us. In fact, the big barn across the road was split in two with half going to my cousins and half to the hill folk. I can remember climbing 20 feet high on the huge timbers of the original barn as they were stripping it. We had ethnic names for all those neighbors. My dad was sort of an Archie Bunker type and we didn't get along with neighbors. Of course burned barns didn't help much
          The polish people had a little blond girl a few years younger than me. She was more advanced than I in matters of life was though and my barn-burning buddy and I experimented with her in the rabbit house. Even then I didn't really catch on and he while younger, did better.
As I write this more things come to mind which seem interesting but somewhat out of sequence now. So I will forget any time sequencing since I really don't know times anyhow, and just get thoughts down.
          Next to my cousins house across the street, was a smaller, much older house, which was where their dad was born. When I was little, that house was rental and was a vehicle by which new folks moved to the area. I can recall when the Hillbillies lived in it before they built across the street.
 They had two boys as I recall. About Andy and Kens age rather than mine. I can remember the younger one boxing in our yard. Boxing was a big thing then because Kenneth was hung up on it. I didn't care a whole lot for it but Ken kept pushing it at me and trying to teach me. I can clearly remember a time when Ken was on his knees and we both had on the gloves. He was trying to teach me how to cover up and to fake others out. At one point he said to "go ahead and try to hit me". I can still remember swinging with a lucky punch and hitting Ken in the nose, which proceeded to bleed. I don't recall Ken teaching me after that, which was OK with me. However Ken evidently told many friends and even High School teachers that I was a Pro at boxing. That got my butt beat off in fist fights all the time. Even the teachers in high school would encourage me to settle problems with fists. And I would lose another round. Not only was I not good at it but my tiny hands made it like battering someone with feathers. I can remember in about second grade being in a fight and losing again. A girl in the class who was bigger than either of us took my side and started to fight the boy. I used that moment wisely to run inside school and tell that " Jimmy is fighting with girls". So much for my fighting career.
          After the hillbillies moved into their house across the street, they got a chow dog. One day when I was at my cousins the young chow started to fight our old dog Rover. Rover was losing big time and I was crying big time. I remember someone hitting the chow with a big board to stop the fight. Then I ran home calling Rover, crying, and holding my pants leg with my right hand. Yes you read that last part correctly. My main way to deal with fear besides crying was to grab my pants at the side near the pocket and run like hell home to tell my mother. I can clearly recall another time when I was showing off for my cousins by catching bumblebees by the wings and one twisted and stung me on the finger. Home- crying- grabbing pants. Anyhow Rover was badly chewed up by the fight and Andy took my Dad's gun and put him to rest.
          There was another house which I hadn't mentioned before, which was old and abandoned and was on our side of the street across from my cousins. I can barely remember it and I don't recall what happened to it because it wasn't there when I was older.
          What I do recall was Andy with a shotgun and after a rabbit, which had gone under the small crawl space of the tiny shack. He told me to go under and chase the rabbit out. I can remember being under there and it was really a tight fit even for me. Then the rabbit ran and the gun went off and I felt something hit me. I yelled, " I've been shot". I'm sure I scared the hell out of Andy. Anyhow I hadn't really been shot. I don't recall if Andy got the rabbit or not.
          I loved being under houses despite that experience. Our house had a great crawl space and it was like my secret hiding place. Rovers home was under there too. One part of it near the back of the house, where a three foot square door to the space was, had been dug out a little so that I could almost stand. That is where we put our garden produce for the winter. In baskets on boards raised slightly off the ground. Some things like fruit and unripe tomatoes were individually wrapped in newspaper in the baskets. The house was supported on poles about the diameter of telephone poles and rising about three feet above the ground. Maybe they didn't have concrete blocks then. Near the end of WW©2, they rotted out and my dad had to put in a basement. I still have dreams about that basement and the house. Always some kind of problem like the walls leaking, the roof has soft spots, or I have lost something there. Kind of a nightmare like I can't find the classroom on the day of my final and I haven't studied anyhow. My love of roof walking and tree climbing stems back to that house and yard.
          Many unemployed workers were put to work on welfare projects during the depression. That was much better than now when the unemployed get paid to sit on their butt and make trouble. One of these projects was called WPA (Work Projects Administration). I can remember them redigging the ditches along both sides of our street. They were kind of a joke at least to my father for their "leaning on shovels". They took portable outhouses with them and I recall hearing that the following was written on the wall. "You don't have to sit on the seat, cause WPA crabs jump thirty feet".
          We used to get welfare food. I remember dried prunes and bags of meal or flour. We had plenty to eat, it just wasn't too classy. The impact of our well water is still with me. It had very high fluoride content, which made my teeth hard as hell.  My permanent teeth in front had brown horizontal stains in the enamel from fluorine. It looked dirty but I sure didn't have cavities. Gum disease but no cavities. My Mother and Dad both had all their teeth out about the age of forty. My two teeth with the fluorine stains were knocked out in late 1960's.
          We never went to doctors or dentists. Care of illness was a matter of home remedies. I remember going to the doctor once about four or five. My mother took me because I was playing with myself I think. He didn't do anything but look at it. I don't know what he told my mother but I reckon the cause was because it felt good. I saw a dentist once in about the first or second grade. He came to give free checks. I remember asking him to fix the space between my two new permanent front teeth. He said it would be OK and it was. If he had told me never to ice skate after forty, I'd still have those two teeth.
          Generally family activities were few. I can remember going to the lake swimming one time. My mother went in which seemed a big deal. By the times I can recall, Ken and Andy were doing their own thing and I don't think my parents did much, if they ever did. They played cards like bridge with friends from time to time. Drinking alcohol did not seem a large part of their lives. My mother really didn't drink at all, or smoke. My dad was an infrequent drinker but smoked. I can remember a beer party in our garage when I was little. Seemed like a lot of people were there. I remember a later party at our house, which was Ken and Andys party. I recall a girl falling against the kitchen stove and burning her arm. Some drunken male was upstairs in the attic trying to play a trumpet of Andys.
          I can remember being with my parents at an outing at a house down the street. I was climbing around portable tables in the front yard. They were quite large and I was in a slot where the table folded. Suddenly the table folded on me catching my mid section. My father was up on the front porch of the house maybe 6 or 8 feet high with a railing. I can recall seeing him leap that railing and come to get me. Something I would do only if oiled by many drinks. He must have been athletic but he was kind of fat later at 50 years old.
          I can remember one "vacation" with my parents. It was a drive to Cleveland, Ohio in our model A to visit people who often came to visit us. I can remember my dad bitching because they only had grapefruit to eat for breakfast and we had always fed them very well. They went to work while we were there and left our car locked in one side of their garage. I can recall my dad bitching as he worked for an hour to maneuver the car laterally to the other door. So much for vacations.
           Later I remember two trips to Port Huron where my Parents families lived. Dad went to an old timers baseball game to play with the men he had years earlier. I can recall that his shoulder hurt perhaps as mine does these days. My dad hadn't seen his mother or brother for years. There were poor relationships, as I understood it at the time. Dads brother was very short and remarkably hump backed. As I understand it he had been on the roof of a house and my Dad yelled at him to get down. He somehow fell off then and broke his back. My grandmother it seems blamed my father for the accident. Anyhow we met my uncle, Johnny. He worked in a diner and I remember his serving me chili. He seemed pretty nice but I don't recall seeing him outside the diner. We also went to visit Dads mother. She was very small and I don't really remember much more. We also visited with my mothers brother who drove a large interstate truck. We went to Port Huron a second time. It seemed only a short time later. My only
 recollections of that visit were seeing the large bridge to Canada and a visit to my grandmothers house. This visit was very brief and I remember her yelling at my Dad and we left in a huff. That must have been 1936 or so cause I don't think it was in the model A. We never saw my uncle or grandmother again that I remember.
 I guess I was sort of distant from my father. I sensed he was on my case and I just avoided interactions. My mother would cover for me when I screwed up so that he didn't over react I think. I don't remember being paddled or beaten a lot. I don't know how they disciplined me. When I was really little my mother was very clingy to me. Remember, my sister had just passed away. Anyhow I could let my guard down with her and cry but I think I was always on guard when my father was around. The older I became the more distance there was between my father and me. And probably the more my mother covered for me so he wouldn't get on my case.
 About 1935 or so, my father must have been working at least part of the year at Plymouth Motors. I think they brought people to work for a few month period and laid them off again as production outstripped demand. It seems to me he was still working part of the year way into 1940, just before the war. Again, we were not really all that poor in 1936 because my dad bought a 1936 Plymouth and gave or sold the model A to Andy. Andy went back to school then and was a big man cause he had a car. I can remember going in that car to the next town to see King Kong at the movie. It was brand new then, as was the first movie edition of Frankenstein.
 I might as well get on to going to school. My cousins went to Catholic school but that cost money and we were too poor. Andy and Ken were both in the eleventh grade in the fall of 1935 when my mother walked me the half mile down the road to a ten room school where I attended the first three grades. School didn't seem like a big deal to me. I do recall I was starting form ground zero not knowing the letters etc. when I entered first grade. From school pictures, I was quite small and poor looking compared with the other kids. My clothes looked junky. I don't recall being especially mentally swift either. From recent discussions with classmates I was perceived as "Little Joey". Kind of a slow kid. I think I sort of caught up around the third grade in academics if not physical stature. My clothes in third grade pictures looked less like hand-me-downs.
 Outstanding memories of that school are few. I remember trying to be first at learning the multiplication tables. I remember liking girls and kissing them. They let us leave the school grounds in the third grade and I recall going a half mile down the paved road to catch frogs. I recall getting all wet on one occasion and being sent home right after lunch. I took my time going home so my mother wouldn't know about it. I couldn't tell or judge time very well however because she knew. 
           I remember throwing snowballs at a fire truck on the way home from school one day only to learn that they were going to put out a small fire at our house. I don't know how they were called cause no one had telephones that I knew of. I don't think I knew what a telephone was, really. The fire was in a wall where a stovepipe from a new oil burning stove in the living room went into the chimney. My dad got to repaint the living room with the insurance money I think. And he made me destroy a piece of stovepipe with a hole in it. I guess we did that so that the Insurance Company didn't blame him for the fire and take the money away. All this had to be about the third grade so I would have been nine years old. The year would have been 1937-38 and Ken and Andy would have graduated from high school that year. They were still around home until about 1941 when WW-2 started.
          During this period, we got running water to the house. My dad, being a plumber, seemed to plan and engineer the laying of the pipe for about a quarter mile to the area where our house and a half dozen others were located. We put it in also, maybe Andy helped. There was only one meter for all those houses and I used to go around and collect the fees. My bedroom became a john. We dug a hole about six feet cube and filled it with rocks and that was the septic tank. I can remember my dad digging the hole under the ten-foot wide driveway, which was between the house and our septic tank. All the neighborhood kids had a ball climbing through the hole.
          I just remembered something neat which preceded the new bath. Our outside john filled up to the point where the pile almost reached your butt. I can remember Kenneth digging a hole behind the john and then pulling all the crap out into the new hole. I seem to think he did it on his own accord. Ken was strange like that sometimes.
          I became more interested in girls during those first three grades and thought I liked a different girl each few months. I can recall a time in maybe second grade around Christmas we drew names for presents. After that present was gotten, I told my mother that I had to get a present for a girl whose name I can't remember. My dad finally asked me why I needed to give her a present and I remember responding with some indignity " because everyone is getting her a present" I remember liking her and some other guy was giving her a present. My dad said no way.
          I recall getting really hep on reading and setting up a desk in the upstairs where I read and did school type work. I don't think that craze lasted very long. I should note my fathers tools were in the attic too. I played with the real tools and learned to use them at a very early age.
          When I was very little, the entire attic was unfinished. And of course insulation had not been invented yet. I recall my dad framing in a room in about half the attic. It would have been about 12X20ft and was plastered so it could hold a little heat that might sneak up from downstairs. That was Ken and Andys bedroom and later mine. It was theirs before it was finished. They slept in the really cold attic. The only heat in the house was around the kitchen stove and my 6X8 bedroom was right next to that stove.
          Well, In the fall of 1938, I went into the fourth grade and that was at a 4 to 6 grade “Erin” school on the same land where the high school was. It was a mile and a half from our house right in the center of the city of East Detroit. It was one mile from the city limits of Detroit. The city had about 7000 people. We did not technically live in the city but went to their school for some reason. Most of the Kids I knew in the first school went elsewhere for the fourth grade so I was alone again on new turf. The seventh and eighth grades were in temporary buildings near the high school, about a hundred yards from our 10©room brick school. I walked the 1.5 miles to the school. Probably about the fourth grade, I started to ride my bike to the school. There were no buses. I never mentioned anything about this before but all the schools I ever went to were racially segregated.
          I remember liking school. I must have been doing fairly good work because in about the fifth grade they double promoted me a half year. From that point on, I moved from grade to grade in January. I don't remember my parents being involved with my schools or education. I can remember my father saying to Andy  “I have forgotten more than you will ever know”. I guess he intended that about me too. I was not pushed to study, perform or get decent grades as I recall. It was as if going to school was just something one had to do. I did not have any real built in motivation to excel either as I remember. In the 5th and 6th grades, I was close to a year younger than the other kids in the class so I was no leader. I remember in about the fifth grade I was made a “safety boy” and wore one of those white belts. Seems like I was proud of that, because I was crushed when I did something wrong and the assignment was taken away.
          On the home front in Jan.1940 when I went into the sixth grade, the economy had picked up a little. Car plants were working a somewhat longer portion of the year. My Dad bought a 1940 dodge and gave or sold the 1936 Plymouth to Andy.  Ken had a 1932 DeSota as I remember. Andy was working at Chrysler Corp., as was Dad. Ken was going to business school and setting pins in a bowling alley to pay his way. Worldwide war tensions were building. We had a garden and chickens, so food was no problem. They and the yard and garden were becoming chores for me about then however. Money was not something that I had. Perhaps a penny every week or so for candy.
          I can recall tensions in the house between dad and Andy who was wanting to be his own person and was beginning to talk back slightly. Dad hit Andy with his fist in the face after such an occasion, and Andy moved out very soon after to live with Julius Distler, whose father had built our house. Ken always seemed busy with his own thing and didn't interface much or get into troubles. Dad was probably beginning to have health problems about this time and was becoming testy with my mother too. I can recall a time when Ken intervened to stop a hitting episode between them. My dad then threatened Ken with bodily harm, but I do not recall the end of that event. Again, I, personally, was never hit or unreasonably punished. Houses were starting to be built up in our neighborhood. About this time dad sold our back acre for the same price as he had bought it in 1920. What a rotten investment
          My playtime was still with neighborhood kids. There were no school activities or clubs or sports. Zero!  We made our own play and often our own toys. I did not often go to the city for things with parents etc. My dog was my best buddy and we went on many hikes through the fields and back roads just like I do now. Listening to the radio in the evening was wonderful for me. Serials like the Lone Ranger were the greatest. There were free outdoor movies during the summer about 5 miles from our house for a year or so and I probably went to those with parents a few dozen times. The movie showers hoped you might buy something at their shop to eat but we never did.
          My clothes were still pretty tacky but no one seemed to care about those things or maybe I just did not recognize it. No fad clothes etc. In Jan.1941, I went into the 7th grade, which was junior high school. Actually, it was in temporary wood buildings adjacent to the high school and just a hundred yards from the school, which I had been attending. We pretty much had all our classes in those two buildings. My entire class was perhaps 25 or thirty kids because we were in the half-year group. We had Gym and things like that in the high school. I continued to ride my bike the 1.5 miles to school.
          About this time I started cutting the grass for Mr. Distler, who I mentioned before. He had a power mower, incredible. It was not like the ones we have now. It was a big push mower with a motor added. I think I got a dollar for the three hour job of cutting the grass. Also I got to drink the
“pop” he had. That was big time, I had some money. He also had a big yard with fruit trees and I got to take some of the fruit. Andy had earlier helped build two huge rock gardens on Distlers property. Mr. Distler lived alone in the old farmhouse, with a workshop attached on the back. I can remember sneaking into the attic of the house to look through boxes of his family heirlooms. A year or so later but before 1944, I helped him build gardens and concrete structures in the yard. He taught me to drive his tractor, which was a 1929 model A ford chassis with big four foot high steel tractor wheels in the back. He later got upset with me when he learned I drove the tractor up and down the dirt road fast and without his permission.
          I barely remember Dec. 7, 1941. I had not heard about it until the next day at school. It started to change our home life big time. Andy and Ken both joined the service promptly to choose their own service (navy), and avoid the draft. Dad moved very swiftly to working six and seven days per week from then to 1945. He became even more distant from me. I had to work more at home tending the yard, gardens, chickens, and even a pig. We did have a 1941 Dodge as a car, so that was lucky. Andy and Ken both had cars, which I learned to drive before we sold them. Gas, tires, food, clothes, and everything else was rationed, so there was not much to spend your money on. No new cars were built from 1941 to1946.
In Jan. 1943, I went into the 9th grade and moved into the high school. War was going big time. Still riding my bike to school. My interest in girls was high but mostly not productive. I was still kind of small and immature. I did not have any interest in high school sports or other activities at this point. I got interested in a job and found one at a butcher shop about half a mile from school. A German, who seemed to like me and trust me, owned the store. I earned 35 cents per hour.  I worked about 100 hours in 1943 and a little more in the next two years. One of those years I earned $600.00, and my dad was very angry because he could not count me as a dependent on his income tax. He took $200 from me to compensate for that. One of my fortes in the butcher shop was killing and cleaning chickens and turkeys. I never learned to cut meat much, but I did wait on customers for simple things like a pound of hamburger. I learned to cook and make different kinds of German sausage.
          In spring 1944, I started to get interested in high school sports, and went out for track and football for three years and lettered in each sport for each year. However, I was 5ft 9” tall and weighed about 120 pounds at that time. I remember praying I could get to140 pounds but never really did. I remember now my first day of football. The coach had put the first team together and got them going and then turned to the remaining twenty of us. He said “OK who wants to play center on the second team?” No one said a word. He stood there a second then pointed his finger at me and said, “OK, you get over here”. I did not know a thing about being a center. Can you imagine a 120 pound center on a high school team? Lucky for me, the defense job of the center was as line backer. I could do that with class. I could catch almost anyone in a football uniform and I was unafraid to tackle the 200 pound backs head on. One time in my senior year, I intercepted a pass in a scrimmage game and ran for a touchdown. No one on the team could catch me. The coach then made up a new end around play, and named it “The Lenhard Express”. I ran it maybe four or five times in games. I never made a touchdown. But always got 15-30 yards. My problem was I could not shift and weave. I ran much faster than others, but always in a straight line and right into a tackler.
          In track, my best efforts were the 220 yard and the 440 yard dashes. I could not make real endurance runs and never practiced enough to learn more complex things. No one really pushed us to do better. Whatever you had naturally that's what you used. I won a few races but mostly made second or third. The same guys, who would beat me on the track, I would pull down from behind in football. Being light weighted but driving, I was prone to be hurt. In both my junior and senior years I received a hemorrhage in my leg which caused me to miss the first few football games. Anyhow, sports made me a “somebody” in high school. I was a part of the in folks. I eventually became involved with the letter club, the choir, and acted in a couple of plays. I had a few close friends, mostly football players.
          My academic achievement in high school was only weakly OK. No body was pushing me to study or get good grades and not studying was almost a game. I took good courses and listened in class but did not often go much beyond that. I can recall a few times when my sports eligibility was in question but it always got fixed.
          Socially, I did not date too much in school. There was not time with sports, jobs, and work at home. I did not have enough money. No one had cars or gasoline, so dates mostly meant walking. And, of course, I was still a little younger then my associates and not mature enough for my female classmates. Went to dances some but did not really dance well. Stayed out late and partied and drank some. Would wait until my father had gone to work in the morning so he would not know how late I was. While most of the activities involved females, few involved extended time with females. Guess I was too shy to take the first step to intimacy.
          In 1945, I worked some at another butcher shop and in June, I turned 16 years old. One of my teachers took me to several defense factories and got me a job in one for a remarkable ninety cents per hour. I started one week after I turned 16. The plant was about 7 miles from our house and I worked second shift- from 3PM to midnight. The plant made the outer casings for small artillery shells. They had to be plated in a chemical bath, and when done, I took them one by one off the rack, that had taken them through the bath. I had to walk 1.5 miles and ride two buses, twice each day-once at 1AM on the way home. I was working at that job at the instant that world war two was declared over. They laid us off right then in the middle of the shift and sent us home to celebrate with everyone else. That was my contribution to WW2. All that ended just in time for me to start getting ready for my junior year of football.
          Also in 1945, My dad had discovered that the wood posts, which had been holding up our house for 25 years, were getting rotten. He contracted to build a basement under the house. It was, being built during and right after the war, a terrible time to get help and necessary materials. The project dragged out and screwed up and caused great stress for my father. His health was also not good and he became more and more despondent. He was well overweight and loved sweet stuff to eat. I think he was diabetic but no one had heard of that back then. Very depressed in early 1946, he took his own life at age 53. Since I had not been really close to my father, his death was not overly devastating to me. Many folks were very supportive and helpful.
          I did not work much in 1946, except around the house trying to straighten out the mess from the basement job. My mother gave me back the $200 that my dad had taken. I also learned to party more. Some friends had use of cars and we could do things and sort of date. I never got a driver's license because nobody would sign for me. I drove without one from time to time. In the fall of 1946, I went into my last half year of high school and my last football season. Met and sort of dated Joan Austin, a cute ninth grader, whom I later married.
          In Jan. 1947, I graduated from high school, and started to party big time. After about two months that got old and one of my football buddies got me a job at Hudson Motor Car Company, where he worked. I was only 17 years old, so I had to falsify my birth certificate to get employed. I think I earned about $1.10 per hour. That was big time money. After the cars were painted, the paint was rough and had to be sanded lightly and polished. I worked as a polisher. Put polish on a door as the car body went by on an assembly line and then polish it with a motorized pad. Had to walk and bus to work every morning. After about 4 months, I was 18 years old. Got my license and bought my first car, a 1936 ford. It had one cylinder which did not work. A 7 cylinder ford V-8. I loved it. It would only go about 60 miles per hour so that probably saved my life. I was dating Joan Austin quite a bit then and becoming very familiar.
          Besides working and dating, I started to take courses at the Detroit Institute of Technology- sort of a junior college. Took English and Trigonometry and I studied then. Got A's in both classes. At work, I became sort of a relief polisher, since I had learned to polish every portion of the body. I would spell people to go pee. Felt like a big deal. In early 1948, I was getting fed up with labor, and took leave to enlist in the navy, like Andy and Ken. Do not recall what other urges I had. Went for basic training to Grosse Pointe Navy Air Station just south of Detroit. Could drive there in maybe an hour and a half from home. Was able to stay close to home and Joan on weekends. After basic training, I chose to be an Aerographer (Weatherman). However, I had to go for a three month session of working in the mess hall, which I hated. One day they said that anyone who wished to could have the next day off to take a test for officers candidate school. The day off sounded good to me and I took the test. I liked the weather activity, at least the technical part. Worked for a Female Naval Officer. To have gotten ahead in this activity, I had to learn to type 25 words per minute and I never made it. 
          In the spring of 1949, I learned I had passed the officers candidate test with flying colors. I had gotten one of the three highest scores in the country. I applied to University of Michigan and Vanderbilt University. U of M. looked at my high school grades and laughed. Vanderbilt must have been trying to meet some kind of quota for Yankees because they accepted me. In June 1949, I was assigned to the U.S. Naval Academy training center at Bainbridge, Maryland for a three month warm up. In the fall, I was discharged from the navy enlisted ranks and became a Cadet at Vanderbilt University. My car at that time was my fathers' 1940 dodge, which was almost worn out. I drove it to Bainbridge and Vanderbilt.
          The naval scholarship was a lifesaver. They paid $60 per month and all tuition, books, travel, and other costs, except room and food. My room on campus was $33.00 per quarter and I could easily eat, live, and get by on the rest. Each of the three summers, we would go on a two month cruise along with the Naval Academy cadets. In the summer of 1950, for instance, I was on the USS Missouri on which the peace agreement with Japan was signed in 1945. While I was on it, the Korean War broke out and I was glad I did not have to go to that.
          At Vanderbilt, I did virtually nothing except live and study. I did not know a female on campus. I guess I was looked upon as one of the WW2 vets on the GI bill. My grades were B+ overall and higher than that in the Physics and Math, in which I majored and loved.
          In my freshman year, I had to give up the car and leave it at home. It was too costly and troublesome. Joan and I were having a split anyhow and I did not have to go home. In the summer of 51 after my cruise, I was at home and dating a friend of my cousins. Joan made an effort to reconcile and after a wild spell of having two girlfriends, I agreed. My scholarship specified that I could not be married while a cadet but some time in early 1952, Joan and I got secretly wed. Her parents learned about it somehow but the Navy folks never did. After my 1952 cruise, Joan went back with me to Vanderbilt and we rented an apartment. We had bought a brand new 1952 Plymouth- the only new car I ever bought.
          I graduated in Jan. 1953 and went into the graduate school of Physics for the last six months of my scholarship. In June 1953, I was commissioned an Ensign, US Navy and assigned to the Norfolk amphibious group in Little Creek, Virginia. Joan followed in maybe 4 months and we lived in a hotel like apartment for three years. I was assigned to an Amphibious Cargo Ship, the USS Vermilion as the Combat Information Officer and later the Communications Officer. We took tanks and other heavy equipment along with the associated personnel to where ever they were needed and loaded them all on some beach to do their job. I really liked Naval Officer service and considered that my career for some time. One thing I did not like was the caliber of the senior officers. It seemed to me the smart ones left the service after WW2 and the less bright ones stayed in. I asked the Navy to send me to nuclear graduate school and they said I had to commit to staying in beyond my three years and they would decide then. I promptly accepted a one year United States Atomic Energy Commission health physics fellowship at Vanderbilt. 
          In my last 6 months in the navy, we went to northern Hudson Bay in Canada to set up a Distant Early Warning station. We were well above the Arctic Circle and stayed there for about three months as part of the cold war with Russia. That was fun.
          My naval salary was way beyond living expenses, and I learned to invest in the stock market while in Norfolk. Also, Joan became pregnant near the end of our stay there. In May 1956, I was discharged from the navy, and went to Detroit to relax a bit and prepare for graduate school.
          Went to Vandy for the summer session using unemployment welfare and the GI bill. Then in the fall the AEC scholarship began and provided much more monitory support than we knew how to spend. We rented an apartment in a big historic house. Lived there about 15 months. Andrea Lenhard was born at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nov.1956. Finished work on my thesis by October or so and the course work for my MS in physics in Jan 1957 and started work toward a Ph.D. in the March Quarter. Finished first in our AEC fellowship class of some 25 people.
          Part of my fellowship included spending the 1957 summer doing fieldwork in health physics at the ORNL in Oak Ridge. We moved into an apartment in the Garden Apartment complex.  By fall, I had fallen in love with Oak Ridge. Even though I had been awarded a US Public Health Service fellowship at Vandy to get a Ph.D., I turned that down to accept a job with the Atomic Energy Commission in Oak Ridge as a Health Physicist in August 1957.
          I worked in the R&D division, which had about 25 employees. Their principal function was to oversee the operation of ORNL. I, however, with one other HP, provided Health Physics support to the entire AEC office to provide independent assurance that ORO contractors were properly protecting employees and the environment.  This was a time when AEC was being hounded to do better in the safety field. Within a few years, we had built that group to about 6 Hp's and added criticality safety review people and an industrial Hygienist. By 1963, I had become the senior Health Physicist in AEC Oak Ridge and the leader of that group which was reviewing operations at the 8 major research and production facilities under ORO. There was also a group in ORO to review reactor safety and another to review industrial safety and fire protection.
          About 1960, the Health Physics Society was ready to certify Health Physicists by examination. The president of the society, who had been my mentor at Vanderbilt, asked me to take the exam to “calibrate” it, even though I did not have the experience factor. So in 1960, I was one of the first five individuals in the world to become a ”Certified Health Physicist” by examination.
          ON the non-job side, we bought a  D house on East Geneva Lane in 1959 and also bought a couple of rental houses in OR. In 1958, Mark was born. In 1962 I bought a lot on the Norris lake up near Maynardville and built a cabin and Michele was born. Our life revolved around that cabin and junky ski boats and parties at the lake. We did very little else on the vacation front.  I learned to dance like the kids did at that time and used to enjoy the country club and the Elks club. We went to a lot of work parties and had wild drinking new years Eve parties every year at our house. Some where in this time frame my mother who was still up in the family home in Detroit was having trouble dealing with homeowner issues. We helped her to sell the house and move here to live with us. She visited Andy and Ken at times too.
          IN 1964, the major world nations organized an “Atoms For Peace” conference in Geneva, Switzerland, and I was selected to be the official USA safety representative to oversee the safety of US exhibits. There were several nuclear activities involved. So I spent about two months in the summer of 1964 having a ball in Europe.
          There was still increasing pressure for AEC to do a better job of assuring safety and in 1967, AEC headquarters told ORO to integrate their three safety functions. I was selected to become the head of that group and in 1967 became a division director in ORO. That sudden recognition scared the daylights out of me and I had a time adjusting to my new role. My pressure was increased by the fact that Joan was becoming increasingly unhappy and difficult for me to please. Within a year or so Joan and I were divorced and she departed Oak Ridge. She left the three children with me in accord with my request. Thank God that grandma was here to help me watch after the kids. For the first time, I took the kids on a vacation to Florida. I sold the rental houses to lower my demands, and started to look for a new wife. During that process in late 1969, Mark was killed while riding a bike on the turnpike. I was devastated. In early 1970, I married Crissy Buchan who also had two children and I had a house built at 125 Newell Lane.
          Back on the work scene, my new division shaped up very quickly and became a respected group of safety experts, both inside Oak Ridge programs and on the national AEC level. Many transitions were made to comply with new controls on AEC facilities. We established the first preoperational review program for new facilities and began to apply it to all ORO sites. We began the cleanup of some sites that were closed. Radiation safety concerns were blossoming all over the nation and we grew with them.
          In mid 1970, the man who had been manager of AEC ORO for thirty years retired. The new manager named had been the deputy manager from Richland Operations Office and he came here with some strong dictates to change things. One of those was to get the ORNL to be more responsive to the AEC headquarters program managers who were supplying the money to ORNL. After he got the problems and the senior ORO people figured out, he started changing things and people. In 1972, he created a new larger division for Research and Technical Support with responsibility for ORNL, ORAU, the Carl Lab in OR, the Puerto Rico Nuclear Center, and the New Brunswick Analytical Lab. He selected me to head that large program division. That was a big promotion and I went from a GS-15 to what is now the Senior Executive Service (SES) of the US government. This promotion I loved and was very comfortable with.
          I remained as head of that activity until my retirement in 1989. The job went from a Division Director to an Assistant Manager after DOE was created in 1976,and soon after that I became one of the newly created SES members. At that point I started reporting directly to the manager. The new ORO manager also changed a lot of things in our contractor organizations, especially ORNL. Moving people at the top. That made it easier for me to make the changes, which were needed.
          A lot of good things happened under my leadership. The ORNL budget went from $85M to over $350M. The work for other federal agencies program in Oak Ridge for which I was responsible went from about $30M to $300M per year. DOE contractors started subcontracting certain things, creating the large DOE support effort outside the plants, which still exists today.
          At the request of kids, I will add here a section on children and our early home life. Near the end of my commissioned naval service in Norfolk, we decided we should start having kids. It did not happen quickly and needed specific technical study and actions. This included Joan temperature measurements and timing of sex to jibe with fertility. It does work. In early spring, Joan became pregnant with Andrea.
           I was discharged from the navy in May and we went to Michigan for a while. Joans dad helped me build a trailer from a car frame, much like the one I gave Michele. We used that trailer to take stuff to Vanderbilt. We rented the upstairs of a classic old house in Nashville, north of Vandy. I was busy from that point on with graduate school. First on welfare and the GI bill and then on my very enriching AEC fellowship. We always lived inexpensively and we were receiving much more than we spent. Joans Mother came down in November to help with birth and care of Andrea. She was born at Vandy hospital and since I was a grad student there, it only cost about $100. That included hospital and Doctors.
          In June 1957, we had to move to Oak Ridge to perform my summer as an intern- experiencing nuclear work at ORNL. We drove to Oak Ridge in our 52 plymouth pulling a large full trailer, and with Andrea in the back seat. Over the mountains we went. Remember there were no Interstates then.  I had to drive back alone for a second load. We rented a two bedroom apartment at 208 Villanova road in the Garden Apartments. We were on the ground floor and next to an elderly couple who learned to love Andrea. Our life was focused on a little partying but mostly work and raising kids. In fall of 1957 I joined AEC. Our party folks were those I worked with in AEC. Art Schoen and his wife were fairly close to us. We partied with my bosses and their friends too. Drs. Shoup and Roth were two. As Andrea grew a little , she seemed to like the outside there on Villanova. There are pictures in those slides. Joans family visited several times there as did my mother and both brothers.
          In, spring of !958 we had decided to have another child and using the same techniques as with Andrea, Mark was conceived and born in November in the old Oak Ridge Hospital. He cost fifth times what Andrea did. About then, I started looking for a house.  In 1959, I found an A house for $5,000.00 that I liked and bought it for rental. Soon after I found the D house at 102 East Geneva Lane for $9,300.00 and we bought it and moved in. It was huge. We shared a driveway with Don and Louise McKay. He was the publisher of the Oak Ridger and they were great friends and supporters. They had several kids a little younger than me and a daughter Nancy who was about 12 when we moved there. The area was wonderful to raise kids. Dead end street with lots of kids and yard. We started having some parties in our house. We never did a lot to improve the house. New roof, better heating system, remodel the furnace room ,etc. Nancy realy liked fooling with Andrea and when she was about 3 years old Nancy got her all dressed up like a cheer leader and took her to junior high school football games. Andrea was very bright- she recognized all the letters by about 2 years old and had talked before she was one. Her first New kind of word was “hot” which I told her after she touched a christmas tree bulb. 
          About 1960 or so I learned of TVA plans to sell some lake front land way up on Norris lake. A co AEC worker, Joe Burleson and I went to the auction and we each bid on and got one lot. Mine was only $350.00. That soon became our way of life in the summer. I converted my trailer into a two level mobile bedroom and we were up there every weekend. We parked the trailer on the lake side of the road and used that big hole across the road as our john. We and our two kids would sleep on the bottom deck and the Burlesons and their two would sleep on the top deck. Joe had a small boat and I got an old but bigger one in about a year. Mine had an inboard 4 cylinder motor which was always messing up. But it was powerful when operating. I soon built a dock, and left the boat there all summer. Andrea and Mark learned very quickly to be comfortable with the water. No one was permitted to go near the water without a life jacket. We continued to party close even in winter with the Burlesons and another couple named Hilsmeyers . Burlesons lived out on Clinton Highway and Hilsmeyers lived in Oak Ridge. We were very close with both.
          About 1961 summer, Joan got pregnant again. This was not planned. It came as a surprise. I promptly moved on having a cabin built on our lot. I contracted with a guy in Manardville to build the basic cabin with block walls, windows, doors,  roof, electrical, and plywood floors for about $1000.00, I think. They did a terrible job but I guess thats what I paid for. Joe Burleson brought the outhouse from some family farm and we set it up. Burleson wanted to pay me and partly own my cabin but I would not. 1963 was our first real full summer in our cabin. I put in the linoleum, kitchen and sinks, gas and water lines etc, and the sheet rock on the ceiling and built the little bedroom. Electricity was not there yet and we had oil lanterns for light.
          One day Joe Burleson was pulling me on skis with all four kids in his boat. I made a sharp turn on the skis and yanked the rope really hard. His little boat turned over about 100 yards from the dock. Lucky again that all the kids had life vests on. But Joe had to get them out from under the boat, which he did before I could swim up there. The boat did not sink and we got it to shore and were able to turn it over on shore get it restarted. Amazing.   
          Noting again, we really did not travel anywhere for pleasure or to visit people. Relatives came to visit us. By 1962, tensions were building some in our marriage and drinking was heavier than desirable. I do not imagine that our kids noticed this in the early days.
          About 1965, my brother Andy had gotten married and moved out of the house in Detroit. My mother at the age of 70 was maintaining the house and yard and got hurt falling off a ladder. I went up there and got her essential stuff and helped her to sell the house and come to live with us. Now we had an almost full time baby sitter. She also was a point of stability for the kids. Sort of making up for the fact that parents were very involved with other things.
          We had new and old friends come to visit us and spend time at the cabin and for folks from out of town, at our house. Old friends from college, relatives, etc. All the kids seemed to enjoy this kind of life. Again all of this was happening while I was working very hard and advancing professionally. By 1964 Andrea and Mark were both in school. Andrea was doing outstandingly. Mark had some growing up and attention and eye coordination problems, but was mechanically a whiz. Mark had some buddies down the street named Henry. Two boys about his age. Their dad, Bill Henry later bought a plaque for Mark in the Jackson Plaza.
          We continued to have very exciting and classy new years eve parties with old timer Oak Ridgers. I used to decorate the house brightly and have green martinis in a big bowl. We would play games, paint pictures, get drunk and even dance in the back room off the dining room. Our kids would get to see the start of the parties but not the 3AM ending.
          In 1965, I was sent to Geneva for about two months to be the USA safety representative at the Atoms for Peace Conference. After about six weeks, Joan left the kids with a keeper and drove to Delaware where Downings lived and then flew to join me for the end of the conference and a tour of nearby countries. On our way back we stayed with the Downings for a night or so. They had been to the lake with us, and Roland had come to the lake a few times without his wife.
          Andrea was eight years old that year, Mark, six,and Michele about three. I recall when I was drinking my martinis, Michele would come and take a sip. She seemed to like the taste of a martini. Thats amazing.  I attributed that to the regular exposure she had while in uterus.
          Probably a few years before this, my inboard boat burned at the lake. It had stalled and I was doing electrical adjustments when it burst into flame and I jumped out. Lucky I was alone in the boat  I was about a half mile from the shore and Bill Hilsmeyer swam out to help me. It burned to the waterline and sank. I bought another used boat. This time a 17 foot outboard with a 85 horse engine. This one would go 40+ MPH. Andrea was learning to ski and Mark rode on a paddle board. Michele loved the water and was in it all the time. In fact, one time when we were at Don Mckays lake house on Watts Bar Lake, Michele, at about two years old, was on the dock watching Don work on his boat and she jumped into the water with no life jacket. Thank god Don was alert, heard her and got her out as she was struggling.
          About 1966, some new folks named Bowers from the Richland area came to Oak Ridge and joined the many people we partied with and took to the lake. They had two boys about the age of our kids.
          In 1967, I was promoted to a newly created Division director position at AEC Oak Ridge and that had a lot of effect, directly and indirectly on kids and family. First of all, I was scared to death at the new responsibility and sudden broad recognition. I was emotionally bashed and was barely able to handle issues at work much less at home. I went to a MD psychologist type to help figure out how handle the pressure and hand-quivering. I had to be very careful even about that because any hint at AEC that I might be having mental stress or a nervous breakdown would cut my security clearance. I quit drinking and all my other bad habits. This impact further distanced Joan and  me. She seemed as emotionally messed up as me. This went on and on. I started to recover and get on top of things. She in comparison seemed to get worse and drink more. I finally got her to go to see the MD I was working with. He indicated she was an emotional mess and needed help. As we got to her wish for a divorce, that fact impacted her decision to concede to my demand to keep the kids. I was fairly stable by then. I recall one time that her raving about wanting to divorce, while we drove home from the cabin, made Andrea cry quietly in the back seat. In general, however, I did not sense that our three kids were really deeply impacted by the slowly developing separation. Grandmas constant support and availability to them seemed to over come much of the problem.
          About in 1965 or 1966, I think, I put the addition on the cabin. Electricity had come to the area then.  As you probably recognized, I did it all alone. Brought the doors and windows from remodeled houses in Oak Ridge and had the other stuff delivered from Manardville. Mark helped with some things and Michele ran my power saw one time. Changed the gas refrigerator for an electric one.  
          Andrea was a good skier now and Mark was learning fast. Both could drive the boat. Grandma used to love the cabin too. Nancy McKay would come up time to time too. Cousin Craig went up one time and I let him drive to the cabin. It scared me to death. Mark and I used to crawl under the entire cabin floor to check things out, lay waterline and lay down plastic to keep the floor dry. I do not think anyone else ever had the guts to go into that narrow space.



Afairbanks said...

This was absolutely wonderful! So many new things I learned from this. I had always thought that Janette died from a car accident, in fact I am pretty sure Pappy told me that was the case. To read it was from an ear infection was surprising.

Wonderful family history. Did he keep records as a child and into adulthood? His memory of events, names, and details astounds me!

The Happy Trapper said...

My dad was the one who was nearly killed by a truck driver while riding on his bike.