Friday, May 27, 2011

Postcard Friendship Friday and Sepia Saturday: Lest We Forget

When this beautiful postcard was mailed, 100 years ago, Memorial Day was called Decoration Day, a day to pause and remember both the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil war.  Today, after many other wars, we remember all of the soldiers who gave their lives for our Country. "Lest We Forget", May 30th (now the last Monday in May" was designated as the day of remembrance.

The card was mailed 8/2/1911 and is postmarked Rome, New York which is in the north central part of the state.  E.W. says "I cannot do as I promised because I have got to go to my cousin's.  He is very ill."  The writing appears to be that of a child.  What do you suppose she promised her friend Henrietta?  Another of life's mysteries.
 William LaKoske 1925 -1994

This is my Uncle, Bill La Koske.  The picture was taken around 1943 while he was in boot camp in Ft. Hood Texas. He is 17 years old.  

I know little about Uncle Bill's time in the service.  We were instructed to never ask him any questions about his experiences during WWII.   I've managed to put a few bits and pieces together though.  
He took his basic training at Ft Hood, Texas, and was still there in October of 1943 when my parents took a train to visit him while on their honeymoon.

I enlarged the patch on his left arm, and I also remembered an ashtray he had with the same insignia.
 It is the insignia of the US Army Tank Destroyer Unit.

At the time, Fort Hood was a training center for the TDU, and I found this on line:
"The mission of the Tank Destroyer Unit Training Center became that of training tank destroyer units to the point of blotting out and erasing any fear of armored forces; establishing superiority in maneuvering and gunfire.

The specialized training program for TDs provided for 19 weeks of training. 6 weeks of basic and 13 weeks technical and tactical training. The basic training was comparable to that of a replacement training center." 

At some point, after the D-Day invasion, and on the heels of the Battle of the Bulge Uncle Bill and his battalion were in France and possibly fought their way as far as Belgium.  His job was manning a machine gun attached to the back of a Jeep. During heavy fighting against the Germans, Uncle Bill and several  other men were forced to take cover inside a barn.  The Germans destroyed the barn with canon fire and a beam fell, pinning Uncle Bill at mid-section to the ground.  The other men were killed.  He remained there for 2 days and was near death by the time he was rescued.  He recuperated in Colorado for about 18 months, was awarded the Purple Heart,  and then returned home.

Mom spoke once of the day the telegram came informing his mother, Julia that Uncle Bill was injured. Other than a short telegram, families had no way of knowing anything further about the fate of their husband, brother or son.  

Today, wars are fought right on television.  Soldiers keep in touch on cellphones and computers. At that time, communication except by the soldier himself, was non existent.  Since Uncle Bill was badly injured, it may have been weeks before they received further word about his condition.  They could only wait for a letter or for another telegram informing them of his death.  Luckily that 2nd telegram never came.

(A very special force of WACS went to France in the heat of battle to make sure mail moved to and from the US.  The Army knew how important communication was for morale here and abroad.  I'll tell you all about them next week.)

Fizsimmons Army Medical Center, Aroura, Colorado
A little more detective work:  The Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center is most likely the hospital where Uncle Bill was treated and rehabilitated. It was built during WWI primarily for soldiers with TB and malaria and has always been considered an excellent hospital. It closed just within the past few years, is being updated and will reopen as a private hospital. 

The only thing Uncle Bill ever mentioned was that he had to eat pureed "baby" food for months and -he never explained this one- he came to despise raisins to the point that he would shiver if he even had to look at one.

Joe and Del and Del's baby brother Bill

Uncle Bill is standing on the steps of my Grandparent's house on Holcomb St. in Detroit in this photo. He is with my parents, Joe and Del. The photo is undated, so I don't know whether he was on leave before going overseas or had just returned from Colorado.  My best guess is that he was given leave after he completed his training. February/March 1944 would make sense - based on the winter coats, and the fact that Mom's coat is unbuttoned as opposed to everyone else's.  Which means she's probably a few months preggers with my brother Joe. 

Uncle Bill was my Godfather and a really wonderful Uncle.  He had a great sense of humor and was the main instigator of fun and frolic among the children at the dinner table.

Although he was fortunate to survive the war he, like most soldiers, suffered memories of the horror of it for the rest of his life.  Along with a strange fear of raisins.

While we enjoy this long Memorial Day weekend, let's take time to remember those who died in and of War.

Those incredibly brave men ... men ... they were, many of them just 17 seeing and doing things that we can only imagine. Tossed off of ships by bombs, thrown out of foreign skies, marched in weather we won't think of going out in. Giving their all for freedom for all. The brave soldiers from WWII in my family are gone now - but they came home, every one of them. They kept their promise to my Grandmother. Many never spoke of it. None could forget it. We'll never forget these brave men.

For more Postcard Friendship Friday go HERE

For more Sepia Saturday stories go HERE

Friday, May 20, 2011

Postcard Frienship Friday and Sepia Saturday: See you later, Alligator

 American Alligator
"Beautiful Florida Alligator in Native Wilds"

 These guys have been around since the Cretaceous Period which is between 145.5 and 65.5 million years ago.  Cretaceous is derived the Latin work for "chalk".  There was a lot of chalk around at the time.

 Alligator Fossil

This alligator did not make it much beyond the chalk age.  Neither did the European varieties.  Today you will find Alligators only in China and in the South Eastern United States, which includes the pond in my back yard. The word "alligator comes from the Spanish word for lizard.  Quite an understatement, but that's what we call them.

Alligator planking "just for the halibut" c. 1925

This alligator is one of the first ever to be caught on film "planking" which is one of the latest stupid stunts to appear on Facebook and Youtube.

Mating, which can be rather raucous, takes place in the spring.  The mom builds a nest and lays 20 to 50 goose egg sized eggs that take a little over two months to hatch. . The temperature at which alligator eggs develop determines their sex. Does too! Those eggs which are hatched in temperatures ranging from 90 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit (32 to 34 °C) become males, while those in temperatures from 82 to 86 °F (23 to 30 °C) become female. Intermediate temperature ranges have proven to yield a mix of both male and females.  The hatchlings look like little replicas of mom, and stay with her for about 5 months.  This a period of time you really want to leave mom and the kids alone.  Mom is very protective.  Kind of like an alligator with lipstick.

Alligator hunting c. 1925

For years, alligators were hunted for their hides and tail meat, and just because they were there.  Although you wouldn't know it today, they eventually made it on the endangered species list. It was thought, in the late '60's that the population would never recover and that they would soon become extinct. But, recover they did, and they are no longer endangered.  Florida state law "prohibits killing, harassing, or possessing alligators.  Unless they become a nuisance, and then all bets are off.

These are professional trappers.  Do not try this at home.

 This was the case for Elvis the Alligator who made his home in our pond for several years.  He apparently was menacing a neighbor and her dog, and she called the Nuisance Alligator Hotline. Yes it is true.  Yes we do have a hotline for gator's in Florida.  

When you call and the Fish and Wildlife Commission determines there is a problem they call one of several licensed trappers to come and lure the alligator out of the driveway, backyard pool, kitchen, doghouse, highway, or school parking lot that he has decided to inhabit. 

He hissed a lot. 

 In this case, and we were sad to see him go, Elvis was lured from the pond and got to take a ride in a Ram truck.  With a Hemi engine.  But not before I touched him.  He felt like a really expensive handbag. He had reached 6' and was about 8 years old.  His unwanted exuberance was probably due to the fact that he had become sexually mature, and it is spring, after all. 

Generally, if you leave roaming alligators alone, they will go back where they belong. They usually keep to themselves and are not a threat just because you can see it in your pond.  However, when they show signs of aggressiveness it often results from folks being transplanted from pigeon feeding states who decide feeding the cute alligators is even more fun.  Problem is, alligators have a brain the size of a walnut.  About the same size as a person who feeds an alligator.  They don't have the capacity to know where the food ends and the body begins and will start lunging at anyone who appears at the edge of their habitat. 

Many folks unintentionally feed alligators by letting their dogs and cats run loose.  Alligators are all about eating.  They don't care if it's your prized poodle - it looks like food. Recently an alligator attacked a police car.

This has nothing to do with this week's Sepia Saturday theme, unless you take note that alligators will inhabit any "pool" of fresh water and you had better go to the "hospital" if you are bitten by one.  They carry bacteria that will cause a dangerous infection if left untreated. Things might start to fall off, so go see your Dr.

For more Postcard Friendship Friday go HERE and Sepia Saturday can be found HERE!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Poetry Bus Takes the Cake!

We're waiting For TFE. We're not gettin' on the bus without him.  Except....we've been promised a birthday celebration. Does that mean cake? If there's cake we may board.  We WILL board, in fact, if there is cake.  Mildred is hoping for gluten free, and Albertus has issues with eggs.  Bertrand is on a lactose free diet, and Portia is hoping for chocolate. Lemon gives Martressa the vapours. But I like cake - any kind. Mmmm cake.

Vick at Poetry Jam has graciously offered to manage the Poetry Bus Station.  His is the last office on the left.  Next to the water cooler.  The sign on the door says POETRY JAM. Hmmm reminds me of jam cake and jelly rolls....where's that bus!

This poem may be just the ticket for this week's birthday themed poetry bus ride:

On Aging

I once thought that my mom was old
Oh yes, my father too
In retrospect I made that claim
When they were 32

I've long surpassed that golden year
I just turned 59
And look with reconditioned eyes
Upon these peers of mine

With each decade old gets older
I re-negotiate my gauge
And live well by the rule of thumb:
Age is relative to age

Cynthia A Conciatu

I've missed the last two or three bus rides!  I thought by riding each week I might write many new poems.  As always though, my poems come when they are good and ready.  They are inspired by a few words, a scene, an event, an emotion and when that happens, the poem practically writes itself,  beginning to end with few revisions. Strange but true.  It's very rare that I can just sit down and write on command, or write because I want to. I've tried it and I usually end up with something I'm not the least bit happy with. It sounds forced, lacks the stuff of poetry, and I end up submitting (like today) something that I've already written - an inspiration that I managed to get on paper when it arrived. But I'll keep on trying and writing and Poetry riding.

Some exciting news: I submitted several  of my poems for  publication in the annual Eckerd Review.  The poems were submitted anonymously and were among several hundred poems, short stories, writings and art work submitted by students, alumni, staff, and several organizations from my Alma Mater, Eckerd College, St. Petersburg Florida.  Two of my poems were chosen for publication and I've been invited, along with the others to read at a reception on Wednesday, May 11! The poems are Chapters and Forget-Me-Nots.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sepia Saturday - A Bridge of Mothers

 Frank and Julia Kujat c. 1927

Our Sepia Saturday Host, Alan Burnett, suggested a theme of something old - people, marriages etc.  The picture I have chosen is of my maternal Great Grandparents, Julia Percha Kujat and Francis Kujat.  They were probably in their late 50's or early 60's here.  That was once considered old.

I know very little about them, but I knew their daughter, my grandmother, also named Julia.  I knew she loved to grow flowers, sewed and crocheted beautifully, and cooked delicious meals.  She raised her children with love, instilled the love of God in them, and was delighted with all of her 27 grandchildren.  So, I knew my great grandparents through the traits and gifts passed down to Julia.

Julia Percha was the youngest of 6 children born to Michael and Magdalena (Hintze) Percha in German Poland in 1864. Julia came to America when she was 15.  Her family settled in the Polish neighborhoods of Detroit, Michigan. She was 20 when she married Frank.  They had 13 children, 3 of which died in infancy.

By the 1930 census, Julia was a widow living in a home she owned with several of her children. I've not located a record of her death. Julia always wore the Mother Hubbard style dress shown in the photo.  Good for her - it looks comfortable and far less constricting and restricting than the styles of the day. She changed the color to black after Frank died.

In the picture, Julia and Frank are smiling and walking close to each other - though not touching. They both look content and both appear to smile easily.

Julia had a daughter, who had a daughter who had a daughter (me) who has a daughter.  Think about this:  In order for you or I to exist today we came from an unbroken line of mother's stretching back to the first human mother that existed on the face of the Earth. You are part of a bridge of mothers who survived plague, epidemics, famine, childhood illness, medical practices that were dangerous, poverty, war, storms, travel, hardship and incredibly difficult circumstances of life long enough to birth the next generation and the next and so on.  You life depended on hundreds of mothers.  Perhaps thousands. The time and place of the first mother, our mother Eve, is still being sought by science.

This poem, written by Dorothy Hallard is a reminder of the bridge of mothers:

The Bridge

The way I walk
I see my mother walking
My feet secure
And firm upon the ground
The way I talk
I hear my daughter talking
And hear my mother's echo
In the sound
The way she thought
I find myself now thinking
The generations linking
In a firm continuum of mind
The bridge of immortality
I'm walking
The voice before me echoing behind

Happy Mother's Day to all of the mothers echoing behind us!