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Adventures Of A Kid


Mario V. Farina

Copyright 2018 Mario V. Farina

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Mario V. Farina


Is it possible for a kid to have exciting adventures? Of course! Just as exciting as an adult could experience. Consider being born, for example. What greater adventure could anyone have. And only the youngest of babies can go through this adventure. I was born, of course, but don't have much of a memory of the event. Sadly, I was born with a poor memory. I can't remember a thing about the event. Gradually, over time, it improved.

My date of birth was Monday, June 11, 1923. As I write this, my age is 95.

The picture at the front of this story shows me an my brother, Tony. I'm the one on the tricycle. I made a list of the topics I want to describe in this story, but I'm leaving the book open-ended. After it has been published, I expect to come back to it and discuss other adventures that I've remembered about my childhood. Do reread the story from time to time to see if I've added anything. I've decided to record adventures up to the time I went into the service at age 20. I feel that after that, I was no longer a kid.

As I said, during my earliest days on earth, an almost non-existent memory. Gradually, it began to improve. My earliest recollections are of about events in 1928 when I was about five. My mother took me to elementary school for the first time. It is reported that I was not pleased with this event. One of my problems is that I did not know how to speak English. At home, only Italian has been spoken. It was a dialect made up of abbreviated Italian words and English. I found myself with other kids and did not have an easy way to communicate with them.

There was a bright spot in my memory concerning kindergarten. A little girl came into class one day and she had been caught in the rain and was all wet. She was crying. For some reason, not fully known to me, my heart went out to her and she became the first love of my life. I never lost my love for her though I never told her about it. I followed her life from afar. Sadly, she died at age 89. I'll have more about her in this story.

At home, my family consisted of my mother and father and a younger brother. My parents had recently immigrated from Italy. The had not received a great deal of education in Italy and did not speak English well. They couldn't write at all. My brother, Tony, and I had playmates in the neighborhood, but our command of English was a hurdle that needed to be made. I remember being taught to count from one to ten, not only in English, but also in Polish. One, two three, sounded like "Yeden", "Dva", "Shrih".

Somehow, I got through kindergarten, and started first grade. I still had problems with English. I remember being kept after school trying to catch up with English. My first grade teacher had me standing at the blackboard tracing the word "the" there and sounding the word. I don't have a clear memory of how I got through first grade, but, somehow, it happened.

I lived in Schenectady, New York at 1329 Sixth Avenue. My parents had purchased a two-family home. We lived in the upstairs flat and rented the lower half. The rent for tenants was about twenty-five dollars a month. In the house, there was a small radio in the dining room on a table near the window. My mother turned it on to listen for the weather report. At the same time, a long list of stock prices was reported. A stock-market "crash" had occurred in 1929 and stock prices were of great interest to a lot of people. I found the lengthy recitations boring. I was obviously older than six at the time.

At home Italian food was served. Wine was on the table for all; however, Tony and I did not drink any since we didn't like the taste. My father was disappointed since he made it in the basement. Tony and I did like pasta but we insisted that my mother serve only rigatoni.

In the street, playmates were well-behaved, but there were some bad actions. I remember being given a cigarette and being asked to try it. I did. With my first puff, I began coughing so much, I resolved never to smoke. Throughout my life, I never smoked cigarettes and do not do so at my current age of 95.

My brother and I got along well. He was about 1-1/2 years younger than I. I referred to him as "Baby," however, there came a time when he was no longer the baby. I was fated to be short and he, the reverse. There came a time when I realized I was the junior brother by size. He was taller than I and could run faster. I remember the race we had and how I felt by losing. There came a time when in all the photos that were taken of the two of us, he towered over me. I accepted the situation. Actually, there was not a great deal I could do about it. This eventuality did not affect our relationship. We got along well throughout until he died at age 90. I continued to live on. The reason for this, I believe is that he smoked and I didn't.

When my mother shopped, she would take the trolley to the downtown area of Schenectady. She would usually bring home a gift for myself and Tony. Often, these gifts would be crudely-made Chinese toy autos. Sometimes the gifts would be books. One of the most important to me books was Poppy Ott And the Tittering Totem by Leo Edwards. This was copyrighted in 1929. At the front of the book, the author had included a section called "Our Chatter Box". (I still have the book.) There were ten pages in this section and the author discussed writing a book. I believe it was this section that encouraged me to begin writing. I was in perhaps third or fourth grade in school at the time and I became known as the writer of the class. I seemed to have a knack for rhyming and a skill with words. My teachers were impressed. I would often read my poems and short stories to the other students in class.

My father worked at General Electric. He knew a great deal about tools and tool-making and advised me that when I was grown, I should choose working as a tool-maker. This is where the money was, he said. In school, we students were once asked what we wanted to do when grown-up. My response was that I wanted to be a tool-maker, but in spare time, write books. I think my response indicated what I really wanted to do.

My parents raised chickens. My father had built a chicken coop in the back yard and there were a dozen hens one or more roosters in the chicken yard. I wasn't much interested in chickens but want to help my mother sell eggs to local customers. I, myself, would suck the contents in the morning from a fresh egg. My father had told me this was a healthful thing to do and I believed him. One day my mother asked me to take some eggs to a local customer, and I went to the home. I rang the bell and a little girl came to the door. She may have been five at the time and I was perhaps eight or nine. I asked to see her mother. She ran back into the house hollering, "Ma, there's a man here!" I was shocked. How had I become a man at my age? The angst from this incident remained with me for a long, long time. I liked being a child and was in no hurry to become a man!

The radio station that I listed to as a child was WGY. This was a station actually located in Schenectady and owned by the General Electric Company. At that time there were also radio stations in Troy and Albany that I listened to, but WGY was my favorite. It was very powerful, compared to the others and it was the only one that I could capture with a radio I made called a "crystal set". A "crystal set" was easily made from simple parts. All that was needed was a "galena" crystal, a "whisker", and some earphones. There was no electricity needed and no batteries. Somehow, the set got its power from the crystal. There was a time when a made a simple radio of this type. For the earphones, I used an old telephone receiver that had been discarded into a trash barrel. I took it to bed and would listen to favorite radio programs. At midnight there was a program I listened to. This was "Lights Out Everybody". This program featured scary stories, but they didn't bother me. I was able to go to school next day with no problem. On Sundays, I would listen to "The Shadow", which featured crime stories.

During the week, I would use the home radio and listen to "Jack Armstrong, the All American Boy", "Tom Mix", "The Goldbergs", and "Ma Perkins". During the summer I would also listen to baseball games. The Yankees were my favorite team. Eventually, my interest in sport program faded and I lost interest in all sport programs.

This story is open-ended. Come back tomorrow for more.

Day 2

As a child, I became intrigued with language. One time, my mother purchased a toy typewriter for me. It was tedious to use; each letter had to be set up and typed one letter at a time. Nevertheless, I enjoyed using it.

I enjoy my English classes in grade school. Grammar was of great interest to me.

In connection with language, I took German as an elective while in high school. This was followed by French. At one time, I tried to invent a "universal" language that was logically and scientifically created. One of the features was to use number to express exact meanings. For example, the word "fair" could be used to express a neutral condition. Grades of "bad" could be expressed with "fair" -1, "fair" -2, "fair" -3, etc., and grades of good could be expressed as "fair" + 1, "fair" + 2, etc. I worked with the creation of this language until I realized how difficult it is to invent a new language.

Also in connection with language, I learned the Morse Code when I learned of its existence. I practiced it with tapping my desk at school with a pencil. This was lightly done and was never a nuisance with anyone. In the service, my job was being a radio operator.

I enjoyed codes. As a child of about age sixteen, I invented two codes that were published by "The Shadow" magazine. I earned a $1.00 reward from the magazine for each of the codes.

In high school, I took a "shorthand" course at high school and a typing course. In each course I was the only boy. "Shorthand" was used by secretaries to take "dictation" from supervisors. With Pittman Shorthand and Gregg Shorthand, writers could keep up with speech by using brief symbols to represent sounds. Shorthand became obsolete with advances in technology.

In high school, I took a course in printing. This required that I arrange movable type pieces in a device called a "stick", to form paragraphs, then prepare the result for use on a large printer where I was to feed sheets of paper to the machine as it provided a finished document. This was an old-fashioned way to prepare documents such as elaborate certificates and wedding announcements. I don't believe printing presses of this type are used anymore.

As a child, I learned to create puns. This interest has stuck with me throughout life. One day, when my father was scolding me in Italian about something I had done, I attempt to defend my action. He held his finger to his lips and exclaimed, "moska" which meant "silence". In Italian, it also meant, "housefly". Bravely, I looked all around, and blurted, "ah-dough" which meant "where?" He stared at me for a few moments, then began to laugh. He couldn't have gotten angry for my insolence!

My love of language has expressed itself in my life in many ways.

Sports never meant a great deal to me. One day, during a routine health examination at school, it was revealed there was a problem with my heart. From that point I was forbidden to engage in sports. Instead, during the time when others were running around and lifting or throwing things, I was in Study Hall doing homework or browsing through interesting books. I enjoyed the books more than the running around and spent a good deal of time with "The Book Of Knowledge".

Day 3

My brother, Tony, and I needed to have our tonsils out when we were tots. I was, perhaps, eight years old, and my brother a little over one year less. Arrangements were made, and on the day of the operation, the family doctor came to the house. He may or may not have had an assistant. I don't remember.

The kitchen table was cleared, and a sheet or blanket was placed over it. I was first. The operation began with the doctor in charge. The placed a mask over my face, then poured some ether on it. The odor was strong, but I excepted it. Within a few seconds I heard a shrill whistle, and then there was nothing. My next awareness was a flight in bed. The doctor was looking at me, and asked whether I wanted to see the tonsils. I indicated yes, and he pointed to a glass on the dresser next to the bed. There was something in it that look like a bit of chicken flesh. That is all I wanted to do. The operation had, apparently, been successful.

Tony was next, and his operation was also successful. Both he and I received all the ice cream we wanted at a later time. We had been promised this, and we enjoyed the treat. I don't recall how long it was before my life and Tony's returned to normal.

Generally, my health and the early days was normal. I had all the colds and diseases that children have. I believe chickenpox and whooping cough were a couple of them. When I was about 10 or so, the children in school had a routine medical test, and I was informed that I could not take sports anymore. Something was wrong with my heart I was told. Apparently, it beat too fast. While the other kids were engaging in various gymnastics, I was relegated to the study hall. I didn't mind that at all. I've already mentioned this in a previous paragraph. The heart problem did not keep me from serving in the Army during World War II. Nor did it affect my life at all when I returned to civilian life. When I was 80, it was determined that I needed bypasses and a pacemaker. I'm wearing one as I write this. The pacemaker does not have a defibrillator.

The girl that I mentioned at an earlier time, Lucy Ann continued to be a part of my school life. We were together in various grades up to and including high school. At times, during functions that were held in the auditorium, we sat next to each other. I was very shy at the time and did not speak to her, though I felt greatly attracted to her. I wrote her a letter during the time that I was in the Army, and she responded. That is the only time I ever communicated with her. I'll discuss this later in this document.

On March 18, 1937, I was greatly affected by news that there had been an explosion at a school in Texas that had killed almost 300 individuals mostly children. It was at the Consolidated School in New London.

It happened at about 3:05 on this day. There were almost 700 students and 40 teachers in attendance at the school waiting for the final bell. A huge explosion occurred which blew the top off the building. The blast was felt as far as 40 miles away it was reported. The individual who died, were killed almost instantly by the explosion. It was discovered that the explosion had been caused by a natural gas leak.

This was my first experience in having to deal with a huge calamity. Even though it had not occurred anywhere near our school, it frightened me to be in school for many days.

At home, I was brought up Catholic. My parents were not very religious, so my brother and I had not seen the inside of a church. One day one of our school playmates told us that we should attend church. He said Mass was like watching a movie, and we would enjoy it. We began going to church regularly, but I never agreed that it was an enjoyable event. In church, I spent much of the time with a mental perpetual calendar that I had invented. I'll talk more about this later.

Tony and I were confirmed in the Catholic religion late. I was about 12 when I went through the ceremony of Confirmation. There was a period of instruction that was required. Noting my age, the priest told me that I was probably a late bloomer. I feel that he was right in many respects that he had probably not meant. In life, I have done things later than most people. I'm 95 now. This may be an example. I have been a late bloomer in getting old.

Though I was not a strong Catholic, I observed the rules. At the time I was a kid, it was forbidden for Catholics to eat meat on Fridays. Often, I craved a meat dinner, and would wait until after midnight of a Friday so that I could cook myself a steak. One time, when I was dating, I took a girl to the movies, then for some food at a White Tower. I was not familiar with menus. It was a Friday and I wanted to avoid meat. I saw an item that read, cheeseburger. I ordered this without knowing that this burger was not entirely made with cheese; it had a good share of meat in it. I did not know quite what to do. However, I believed that God would forgive me for eating it, which is what I did.

Day 4.

In November 1929, there had been a "crash" in the stock market. A great many people who had been investing in stocks for quick profits lost a lot of money. High officials of companies and of the government were not able to persuade the public that the crash was temporary. It is believed that the crash caused the huge financial depression in the country.

A great many people lost their jobs. Many businesses failed. The Great Depression lasted for about 10 years. My parents were caught in the downfall. My father lost his job at General Electric. He was not able to return to work for over two years. In the meantime, the family survived. I don't know how. General Electric gave us food in baskets once a week in a plan that they called relief. This helped.

As a child, I was not aware that there was a financial problem. The life I lead, while not luxurious, was not painful. In school, we got free milk. I didn't wonder why this was. I did not become aware that the country was in financial difficulty until I was at least eight or nine. In 1933, Franklin D Roosevelt became president. Many programs were instituted at that time to help poor people that have survived to this day.

In school I was a good student, but not superior. My overall grade could been described as Be+. I studied very hard. Somehow I knew that receiving good grades in school would be important in later life. English and numbers came easily. Homework was difficult, but I always completed on time. Once in a while I would stay up until very late, to make sure that I could hand in my homework on the following day.

Summers were fun time. I spent most of the time reading books. I would go to the library often to select reading material. I liked fairytales, and other stories intended for children. I also enjoy browsing through Book of Knowledge. There were many articles in this book intended for children. I learned a great deal from them.

One time, my father was able to find a toy pedal car that needed repairs. He gave it to me and I enjoyed it. One of the problems with the car had not been fixed. If I wanted to turn in a certain direction, I had to turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction. This was not a great disadvantage after I had trained myself how to turn the wheel in the direction that I wanted to go.

There was not a lot going in school. I did not participate in extracurricular activities. No clubs. No music. No one ever suggested I do these things, and I was not doing a lot of thinking for myself at that time. At present, however, I'm not sorry. I was very studious, and spent a great deal of time with learning.

I tried making some extra money one time, but the experiment failed. I was good at shoveling snow, and went around various places one winter looking for places that would pay for my shoveling. At one home, I spent about an hour shoveling a huge driveway. I had not asked for any money ahead of time. At the end of the job, an older woman handed me a dime and asked if ten cents would be too much for what I had done. No, it would not be too much, I felt! It was simply enough to have me decide that I was not going to make a lot of money shoveling snow.

Day 5

Our family consisted of four people, father, Michele; mother, Louisa, Anthony (Tony), my brother, and me, Mario. We lived in a two family, brick house. It had wooden front and back porches. There was a backyard that had some depth. We lived in the upper of two flats. My parents rented the lower flat for about $25 a month. The upper and lower flats had virtually the same for floor plans. There was a kitchen, dining room, living room, bathroom, and two relatively small bedrooms. My parents slept in one bedroom and Tony and I slept in the other. He and I use only one double bed, but each of us made sure to use only our share.

There was an attic that I would visit once in a while. It was weird being up there; a lot of old stuff. The house also had a basement that was separated into parts. Each part had his own furnace that burned coal. Both parts were fenced in and locked. Tony and I would sometimes go down to the basement to work on some project or other. He was more mechanically minded than I, so his finished product were always the more impressive.

The furnaces were coal burning. Every once in a while a truck with come to the house, put a chute through one of the cellar windows, and to dump coal into the call bin. Both Tony and I had responsibility for bringing coal upstairs so we could be used in the stove. The stove in the kitchen burned coal and also gas. There was a supplemental device for providing hot water in winter.

The family went to the movies on Sunday. The family would troop together to Crane Street where there was a small movie theater. We never looked ahead what was playing. We always excepted what the management was offering. My father liked cowboy movies. He especially liked Hopalong Cassidy. My mother liked Eddie Cantor. Tony and I liked whatever was playing, but not if there was a lot of talking in the movie. We liked a lot of action. Buck Rogers was one of our favorites. Usually, there were two movies, and a cartoon.

There was no car in the family, and no talk of getting one. I think my parents had decided that we were not wealthy enough to own a car. Tony and I did not yearn for one until after we came back from the Service.

In the kitchen, we had an ice box. Ice would periodically be delivered and popped into the appliance. Food kept relatively well this way. Eventually the family got a refrigerator, and this was a welcome step forward.

A ragman would routinely travel by driving a horse driven wagon. He would holler at the top of his voice, "rags, rags, rags!". Tony and I would bring whatever we had found lying around and get a few cents as spending money. Cigarette packages would have some aluminum linings on them. He and I would pick up discarded packages and peel the aluminum off of them. We would make large balls of aluminum that the ragman would accept.

Tony and I would also hunt for metal that the ragman would accept. Any money that we accumulated we would spend at the corner grocery store. There we would look into the candy case and select favorite penny candy. Sometimes we tried the patience of the storekeeper by taking a long time in making decisions. We especially like candy that lasted a long time.

We had playmates. There was a family next door where the children were two girls and a boy. The boy's name was Donald. He was one of our playmates. His nickname was Dono. Also nearby was a boy named Johnny. He was one of our playmates also. We never engaged in anything mischievous, but we did have fun.

Eventually, the family with the three children moved away. However, Johnny remained with us for a long time, even after Tony and I had come back from the service.

At one time, I learned to play chess. This became a favorite game with me and I wanted to be very good at it. I got a lot of books at the library on how to win at chess. My game improved a little, but I'm not sure I actually became very good at it. Maybe, I won more games than I lost with local players, but I'm not sure of this. I once tried making a book that contained all possible moves and all possible responses I soon found out that this was an impossible endeavor. There are so many possible moves and chests and responses, that it was foolhardy trying to record all of them. I later found out, there are trillions and more moves that are possible. Today, computers can play games very well, but it is not possible, even for them, to record all possible moves and responses.

Tony was naturally thin, but I tended to be chubby. One time, a schoolmate told me that I was getting fat. I was about 12 at the time. This news bothered me so much that I went on a diet. This was the first diet of my life, but there were at least another hundred that followed. All the diets that I went on were successful, but I always regained the weight.

Day 6.

I was graduated from Mount Pleasant High School in Schenectady in 1941. I began looking for unemployment right away and found a job with the Draft Board in Schenectady. My job was clerical having to do with filing of papers. I knew the job was temporary so I kept looking for more substantial work.

I was able to get an interview with an individual at the American Locomotive Company named William Brockhurst. He needed a clerk to work in the shop. He knew that I could take shorthand and dictated a letter to me that I should type for him. The dictation was rather fast, and I was only able to catch about half of it. I went to a typewriter and, using what was in my notes, and what I had recalled, I wrote the letter and returned it to him for signing. He thought the letter was okay, but suggested that when I go from place to place that I move faster. In response to his suggestion, I formed the habit of moving fast. I got the job.

My job was to pay purchase orders having to do with the building of locomotives. My location of employment was close to where the locomotives were actually being built. Each morning as I walked to the job, I would observe how locomotives were built.

In the shop there were several workers, all men, except one who was a secretary. I joked a good deal with the men. I was 18 at the time, but they thought they could have some fun with me. I knew what they were up to, and went along. From time to time they would send me for a bucket of steam at a nearby location. I would go to the place they had said, and I went dutifully asked for the steam. The men there were in on the joke and they would give me excuses like they were all out of steam for that day, or the steam that they had was not hot enough, and to go back and tell my employers that I had failed in getting the steam. I would do this, and everyone in the office would enjoy the joke.

Other times, I would be asked to go get a skyhook. I would do as I had been asked and would get excuses like they couldn't reach the hooks, or something else vague. I would need to go back and report that I have not been able to get the skyhooks. Everyone would laugh and have a good time.

I knew the vulgar words that were not supposed to be spoken in an office, and would never use them. However, every once in a while, one of my coworkers would ask me to go tell a particular joke to someone else in the shop. I would do this, except, in the punchline, I would not use the exact words that I had been given but synonyms. The listeners would not understand the joke and would not laugh I would go back and tell the requester that I had told the joke but it had not been understood. I would tells him how I had told the joke, and the requester would say, "no, no, no! Tell exactly this way!" I would do as he had said; however, substitute another synonyms this time. The listener would not laugh because he did not get the joke. I would go back and say that I had failed again. I was having more fun than the person who is trying to play a joke on me!

There was someone who would come around every day asking people to bet on "the numbers," if one bet a dollar, and the number came out, that individual would win $540 for the dollar he had bet. All the players indicated they were, "ahead of the game," but I thought they were losers in actuality, only not letting on.

I thought I could beat the system since I was good with numbers. I tried the system where I bet only on numbers that have not come out in a long time, but all that happened was I kept losing money. I was not heard a great deal because I was only betting pennies on 10 numbers every day. A person who was smarter than numbers then I was, told me that numbers have no memory. They do not know when they have not come out in a long time. This was an important lesson for me. I stopped gambling altogether.

At about the same time, or a little later, that I had gotten the job at the American locomotive company, Tony had begun working at Super Markets in downtown Schenectady. Both of us were doing well, but it turned out that his future was brighter than mine. I'll tell about this later on it in this story.

At work, I invented a game that everyone seemed to like. It was to spell our names backwards. I said that my name should be Oiram Aniraf. When other people try spelling their names backwards sometimes they came up with very interesting results one of my coworkers became Nod Efeek. Another was, Yevrah Yerdnal. With some of the workers, these names stuck with them for the duration of our work associations. Nod Efeek and struck up a good conversation where we compared stories that we had written. He was far more experienced than I but I learned a good deal from him when we worked together. I would sometimes try the stories on my brother before I showed them to my friend, Nod.

Day 7.

Our mother had a friend that she liked to visit. The friend's name was Madalena and she lived about five blocks from our home. Mother referred to her friend as being a skinflint. One day she told Tony and me that she was going to visit Madalena. She warned us that her friend might offer us something to eat. Under no circumstances were we to accept! Madalena would be offering as a matter of courtesy; she did not actually expect anyone to accept and would be disappointed is he or she did! I and Tony were about 8 an 6-1/2 years old, respectively. We assured our mother that we understood.

The three of us began walking toward Madalena's house. Our family had no phone at the time and our visit would be unexpected. That was all right. In those days, friends would customarily visit each other without calling ahead of time. When we arrived at Madalena's home, we could small frying potatoes half a block away. We arrived at her door and knocked. Madalena opened the door, and, smiling, welcomed us into the house. "I'm cooking myself some potatoes," she announced. Would you like some?" she asked my us as a group. Mother said, "No." I shook my head, no. Madalena turned to the stove preparing to turn off the heat. Then there was a tiny voice from Tony, "Io lo voglio!" This was Italian for, "I want it!"

Mother was obviously very upset. In Italian, she said to Tony, "No you don't!" Tell Madalena you don't! Tony did not utter a sound. Mother spoke again, more sharply. "Tell her!" The tiny voice was heard again. "Io no voglio," he mumbled. "I'm so sorry," Madalena said. There's plenty for all. Then she turned off the burner and covered the frying pan. "I'll have my dinner later," she said.

Mother and Madalena then chatted, and we left about half an hour later. Tony and I did not utter another word until we go home. None of us brought up Io lo voglio, at that time, but the story about what was said on that day kept recurring over and over with all of us laughing about it.

There was a quiet time in the life of our family before world war two came to the country.

My father used to make wine in the basement every year. We kids were about eight or nine when we began to notice. He would purchase grapes, both white and black and wooden boxes. He went squeeze the juice out of them with a huge wooden press that he had made himself. He would put the finished product in barrels and did bottles. I don't know whether he was breaking the law. There was a prohibition about selling liquor at that time, but I believe making wine for personal use was okay.

Tony and I enjoyed the grapes. We could have all we wanted. The years went by slowly. It seemed that Christmases would take forever to come. Sometimes we'd trying staying awake in order to catch Santa Claus arriving to the house. We only half believed but wanted to make sure. Somehow, we were never successful in finding out. I think it ended up that we continued to believe forever.

Day 8

I was about 12 years old when began understanding that all was not well with the world, especially in Europe. It was around 1935. Adolf Hitler was making war noises and Benito Mussolini invaded Ethiopia. Josef Stalin of Russia was also beginning to look scary. I watched the news daily since I knew that a war in Europe could spread to the United States and ultimately involve Tony and myself.

I was well aware of the first World War that began in 1914 and ended in 1918. It had been a calamity the likes of which the world had never seen. In the United States, Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin were almost universally hated. Hirohito, Emperor of Japan was also very much disliked.

The sympathies of Franklin D. Roosevelt seemed squarely with the British and French. Finally, war began with Hitler invading Poland in September, 1939. England and France declared war on Germany.

In 1940 Germany made a successful conquest of France and the British were driven back to the British Isles. I was 17 and Tony was 15 plus. Hitler tried to defeat Britain with a fierce air attack on the English but failed. I became 18 and graduated from Mont Pleasant High School. The war in Europe seemed to be coming closer to our shores.

Hitler attacked Russia in June 1941. I was working with the Draft Board at the time and was immensely surprised at what appeared to be a huge blunder by him. Nevertheless, in the first several months, everything went his way and German troops almost reached Moscow.

I began working at The American Locomotive Company as a stenographer/typist helping to build locomotives, then later, Army tanks. Tony was in Mont Pleasant.

At Alco, I met a girl who was a couple of years older than I was. Her name was Elizabeth. We became attracted to each other and we began dating. My parents didn't allow dating. I don't remember where I said I was going when I went to see Elizabeth at her home or went to a movie together. She lived about a mile away and I would walk 100 steps, then run 100 steps in getting to her home. (I understood this was a boy scout technique for traveling fast.) I was not brave enough to break from my mother's strong apron strings. At later time, Tony accomplished this task and broke strings for both of us.

On December 7, 1941, my parents and we kids went to the movies on Crane Street. When the show ended and we went home, we learned that Japan had conducted a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in the Philippines and much damage had been done to our Navy. Over 2,000 American sailors had been killed. On the following day, Roosevelt announced that a state of war existed between ourselves and the Japanese.

A few days later Hitler declared war on the United States. He had a pact with Japan that required this. This move represented a second blunder by this man.

A state of unity formed in the United States that had never before existed and lasted throughout the war. Virtually all of our people were untied in winning the war.

I was drafted into the Army in April, 1943 when I was 20 and Tony got called at age 18 when he was still in High School.

Tony and I communicated during the following three years, but mostly by letters. I was ultimately assigned to the CBI area (China, Burma, India), and Tony to Europe, then later to the Pacific.

Our parents were devastated by our call to the Service. Tony and I had been under close control by them, especially our mother. Being forced to be on our own was good for us. We need to break away and begin living our own lives.

My first day away from home was difficult. This had never happened to me and I couldn't understand it! I was at Fort Dix in New Jersey getting ready to do basic training. I, and other new recruits were taught how to make out own beds, shower, shave, and undertake morning duties in the presence of others, was not pleasant. I understood it was necessary, and though I hated the activities being done this way, I did them willingly.

During basic training, there was much I learned, most of which I thought was waste of time, especially the drilling. We drilled for most of an hour, then rested for ten minutes. Time passed very slowly with this kind of activity. There were tests we took designed to assign us to our best duties. At times, we were marched to the Chow Hall for meals. I enjoyed these times.

We needed to sit for many training films. One film was called the Mickey Mouse which had to do with activities we should not take involving sex. There were scary scenes that showed what could happen if we didn't take proper precautions. For me, a "few words to the wise were sufficient!"

A few days later, I was informed that, after basic training, I was to attend Adjutant's General School. I didn't know what this was, but learned it was to learn how to do clerical work. I guessed the reason for this was because I had been doing clerical word at Alco.

In the days that followed, I learned how to shoot a rifle, to run an obstacle course, to put on a gas mask in a hurry, and to drill! Always, there was the drilling! From time to time, I had to do KP (kitchen police). This involved preparing meals for other soldiers. It was hard work and long. It was long and unpleasant, but I did it willingly knowing it was a requirement that all of us would undertake. There was grounds-keeping to be done, picking up cigarette butts, for example. I didn't care for this duty. I did not smoke at this time and did not pick up the habit.

I wrote a letter home every night. My parents couldn't read, but there was a girl next door who could tell our parents what our my letters said. I said I was doing well and relatively happy. This was true!

One day, I was informed, that Adjutant's School for me had been canceled and I was to be sent to The Citadel in South Carolina for additional testing.

Day 9

At the Citadel, a group of about 22 other soldiers and I were given tests of various kinds over a period of two days. These tests involved number series, meanings of words, spatial relations, logic problems, and more. I was told I had done well and would be reassigned to a program called ASTP (Army Specialized Training Program) and would be taking classes at Syracuse University.

Classes actually began there within a short time and I was considered a student as if I had applied and been accepted. I went to class every day learning such subjects as Calculus, Physics, Chemistry, and others. We were supposed to maintain good marks; otherwise, would be transferred to regular Army. We were still soldiers and wear the uniform, but we would be taking classes instead of serving in the field.

I had not asked for this; nor understood why I have been selected for the program. It was 1943 and the war was raging in Europe and Asia. It was a sense of wonder and guilt that I undertook my new duties. I didn't object to the new duties. Indeed, I felt extremely lucky have been selected for this program.

While at Syracuse, I lived in a regular house with other students. I believe the name of the Street was Waverly. There was a park at the end of the block. Soldiers marched to classes and to an eating hall during the day.

Syracuse was only 120 miles from Schenectady, and I was able to go home on the train on weekends. My parents were delighted, of course.

I was a strong student. At night, I would study under a blanket with a flashlight after "Lights Out". I was not supposed to do this, but was bold in taking a chance. I was actually caught one time by some officers making an inspection. I was on the floor under a blanket studying. The blanket was violently torn off my body and I was asked, "What are you doing, soldier?" I meekly responded, "Studying, sir." He smiled and ordered, "Go to bed, soldier!" I did.

Another time, I was studying on the porch, and a young woman stopped to talk. She invited me to take a walk with her. We went to the park I've mentioned and sat on the grass talking. It got dark. I wanted to keep talking since I had not been with a woman companion in a long time. However, she seemed tired of this and suggested we leave. I agreed reluctantly. I never saw nor heard from her again.

I made friends with a Swedish student. He seemed to like me and we became companions. His name was Erik E. Erikson. One time he taught me the words to a Swedish song that began with words that sounded like, "Devaw bloot oota mann, sum loosa sahnd, ee blahnd." It was clean and about eight men. Erik was pleased that I wanted to learn some Swedish. Our relationship was absolutely platonic! After our military service had ended, we communicated some by mail, then lost touch. The last I heard, he had started a company dealing in plastics.

One other memory worth mentioning is that one time I was asked by a muscular fellow whose last name was DeFrancisco to accompany him on a date with two women to go roller skating. I had never roller skated, but he convinced me that it was easy. I agreed. During the date, one of the girls was his date and the other was mine. I recall my date was tiny and pretty. I don't remember her name.

During the skating, my girl said, DeFrancisco was going to ask her to go with him after the skating had been finished. She didn't want to do it, and asked me to make sure it wouldn't. I agreed to do this. At the end of the date, I told DeFrancisco that my girl and I had agreed to go somewhere. He appeared angry but didn't say anything. We all parted and the my girl thanked me for what I had done and the date ended.

DeFrancisco never mentioned the incident afterwards.

Day 10

Often, when we marched to class or for food, we sang a song that reflected how many of us felt. Here are the words.

Take down your service flag, mother.

Don't wave it in honor of me.

Take down your service flag mother.

Your son's in the ASTP!

TP, TP, Your son's in the ASTP.

I did what I suppose the others did; assume we were doing something important for the war effort; otherwise they wouldn't have placed us in college when troops were needed for the war.

The semester finished and my grades had been good enough for me to remain in the ASTP program. However, I needed to continue in another school. This was the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. I and the other students who had had good grades were transported by train to the new location. We were housed in a regular fraternity house.

Something new happened at this school that I had not expected. Instead of my having to go to other students for help, students began coming to me for this purpose. This was a huge moral-builder.

I continued in this school for another semester. After that, the program was canceled because there had been complaints from the public that programs like this should not be conducted in time of war. I needed to take more tests to see how I should continue in the Service.

A few days later, I was informed that I was assigned to the Signal Corps and was to be trained as a Radio Operator at Camp Crowder in Missouri. So, I was off on a train again to a new location.

At Camp Crowder, I had to take basic training all over again. Again, I needed to learn how to fire a rifle, drill, run the obstacle course, and do KP. Asked to have this training skipped so I could get right to school, but this was not allowed.

Two days I remember is when we had to learn about gas. We were to go into a building that was filled with tear gas, don a mask as soon as we could, then take off the mask and run out of the enclosure. This was a good lesson on how successful a mask can be when and if necessary.

The second experience was to crawl on the ground with machine gun bullets being fired a foot above your head. I did the crawling as directed. All the while I was thinking that they were only kidding about firing real bullets above our heads, but I didn't try to prove my theory.

Other than these experiences, I thought the training had been uneventful. However, our instructors told us that in real battle, the training would seem more useful. I believed it!

The training was to learn to copy messages by typewriter that were being sent by Morse Code at a rate of 25 words per minute and to send by telegraph key at 20 words per minute. I already knew the code and how to type so made progress easily and quickly. At first my speed was slow, but this improved quickly. Soon I was able to send at the required speed and to type messages at the necessary speed. Messages were sent in coded groups of five letters, so messages never had any meanings.

Camp Crowder was located very close to Neosho, Missouri. Many of the students would "go to town" when they got passes. I was never interested in getting a pass to Neosho. At the end of the training, however, I was able to take a trip home. Tony was home too, and Johnny, our boyhood chum. We enjoyed the reunion.

It was about mid-1944. Our group was ready to go overseas. A train took us for a long train ride to Los Angeles. We boarded a troop ship and began a month-long sail to Bombay. On the way, I volunteered to do KP. This way, I could eat well. I spent the month peeling potatoes.

Day 11

Life on the sea wasn't very exciting. There were about 2000 of us on board. There were no restrictions. I could walk on deck if I wanted to. Sometimes the waves were interesting, other times they, were dull. Now and then, I dolphin would jump out of the water.

Living accommodations were not luxurious, a single hammock constituted our home. Nobody minded.

Every so often we'd hear a whistle blow, and a voice from a faraway place calling out, "Now hear this!" It would be a bit of news about what was happening. As we sailed, the ship zigged and zagged. This was done to confuse any submarines that might be interested in us. Thankfully, there were no submarines encountered to our destination, Bombay.

At one time, the ship docked at the southernmost tip of Australia for a day. We were all required to remain on board, which was understandable.

Finally we arrived. We marched ashore, and took our first look at India. My first impression was that everyone walked around in sheets. The deck was a blanket of white. There was also the feeling that we were in an area of extreme poverty.

We boarded a train, and began a week-long trip to Calcutta, which today is named, Kolkata. Bombay is on the west and of India, Kolkata is on the east. There were no restrictions on the train. We could stand at the door openings if we wanted to and look at the passing scene. The train rarely went faster than 30 miles an hour. When we went through villages, of which there were many, little children would run to the train calling out, "Baksheesh," which meant, "gift please." Some of us would throw out candy for them. The kids would grab them, but would not eat. We knew that they were carrying them home for their families.

We had instructed, that we could holler, "Jow," which meant, "Go away," and, I'm sorry to say, that many of the soldiers would holler this word. I was more happy when we could give them something!

They after day we traveled, finally arriving at Kolkata. Then we were taken to camps located in the area. The camp that I was in was called Kanchrapara. And there, we set up four-person tents. We also did our own wiring for electricity. I had never done any of this kind of work, but I learned from it. I learned for example, that electricity is not dangerous if it is understood. The secret is, don't let it run from one part of your body to another! The results would be unpleasant!

The reason we had come to India was to, ultimately, be transported to China by air over the Himalayas. In the meantime, we can do whatever we wanted, so long as we didn't get into trouble. The Indian people liked American soldiers, and we were perfectly safe with them. We could room the areas if we wanted. We could even arrange for little trips. The city of Kolkata was within walking distance. There were many things that soldiers could do in the city, and I partook of some of them.

Life in the tents was boring. It was monsoon season. The rains were sometimes fierce. If a soldier wanted a shower, all he had to do was undress and walked in the rain for a while. When it rained, we could collect water for shaving and drinking by collecting it as it rolled down the outside edges of the tents. Water could be collected in discarded extra gasoline tanks that fighter planes carried under their wing. We never lacked for water.

There were books that could be read, and I read a lot. Many of the soldiers just spent their time talking to each other, playing cards, or rolling dice. I never participated in any of the gambling games. I knew I was simply not good at this endeavor, and would only lose by trying it.

After a month or two of this kind of activity, transportation to China became available. We got on trucks again, and were transported to a Assam. We were stationed at a place called Dibrigar. After some additional camp life there, a two- engined C46 airplane arrived prepared to take us over "The Hump" to Kunming, China. The Hump" was a well-known nickname for the Himalayan mountains.

Day 12.

We were placed on a truck and taken to a primitive airport. The C46 was waiting there with propellers spinning. We were required to don parachutes then enter the plane through a side door. There were bucket seats along the wall on the inside of the plane. The few round windows were on the fuselage in back of us. Finally, the plane took off.

This has been my first flight in an airplane, and I was moderately frightened. However, after we had been in the air for a few minutes, I calmed down and became interested in what was going on. I looked out one of the little windows and was amazed at what I saw. There were mountain peaks all around us. Some seem to be pointing at the plane, even more specifically, at me. What if I had to jump, I asked myself. How could I survive? I would be speared by one of those peaks.

Thankfully, the plane landed a couple of hours later in China, and I had not been speared! It was the Kunming Airport. There was construction work going on. However, instead of machines, there were hordes of men busily working with shovels and picks. They were either repairing the damage that had been done or improvements that were needed. The plane came to a stop and we got out. I was happy that the trip had been successfully accomplished.

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