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Uncle George’s amazing life was written in my blog in 2013, the year he died.
Part Two is the story of finding a home for Uncle George’s PT boat replica model. This was something both my cousin, Carol Wilson, and I promised our Uncle George in the final years of his life. He was always so humble and would say, “No one will want it. A lot of people have done these models.” We would always say, “No one has done a model to scale 40 inches long with movable guns, and the inside also done precisely to scale with a movable top.” It was unique and had to find the perfect home.
We tried to find it a home, but nothing ever worked out. It was sitting in my cousin’s garage with its plexiglass cover for 8 years. The only time it was publicly shown in the last eight years was at Uncle George’s funeral.
How this PT Boat Model found a home was a very serendipitous event. My cousin and her two friends were on a boat trip on a Lake in Mt. Dora in Florida last spring. Wanda overheard the captain talking to someone and saying that he also gives boat rides on Sandusky Bay off of Port Clinton in the summer. He mentioned the Liberty Aviation museum, and the fact that they had just purchased a full size PT boat. Well, anyone in the family or close to my family hears PT boats, and their ears perk up. Wanda told my cousin, “You need to talk to that captain.”
So of course my cousin talked to the captain and the more he talked the more she knew this was a good lead for the PT model. Well, if you fast forward to my visit in Cleveland last July, the right connection to the museum had still not come to fruition. But Carol looked up the museum directly and contacted the curator. He was indeed interested because of course there is Uncle George’s interview about his PT experience that could be tied into the exhibit on the internet from The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Carol and I had intended to visit the Port Clinton, Marblehead area of Ohio and check out the museum, but now, the visit included transporting the PT Boat and seeing if the museum wanted it. Before we went to the museum, we were still in awe of the fact that we never in a million zillion years would have thought to look for a home for a PT model in an aviation museum.
But as it turned out, this museum is full of now only aviation planes and more, but also many other World War I and II armed services exhibits. http://www.libertyaviationmuseum.
The Liberty Aviation Museum turned out to be an incredible place. There it was, the PT boat they floated to Port Clinton and were fixing up so they could give tours on Sandusky Bay.
The Curator and Assistant took one look at Uncle George’s model and said “we want it.” It was music to our ears. And we posed for a final picture with Uncle George’s PT 167. We both had tears in our eyes as they rolled the model away.
And then they took us on a private tour of the museum.
After the Private Tour it was time to say a final goodbye to Uncle George’s PT 167.
Now came more tears. I kissed the boat goodbye, and Carol and I left the museum. I said out loud to Carol, “Uncle George would be so happy since we followed through on his wishes. His PT model of PT 167 found the perfect home, and they promised us an interesting exhibit.” They were especially interested in adding the Cleveland Plain Dealer video of Uncle George’s own words.
Carol made another trip to the museum with her friends, to take the rest of Uncle George’s memorabilia. His PT hat, books etc. The next time I go to Cleveland, we will have to see what they have done.
As I write this blog, it is always with tears in my eyes on missing the entire Holasek family. They were all incredibly kind, loving, and generous people. The last two Holaseks I need to write about are Edward Holasek, and Theresa Holasek Wellenburg. And then the writing part of honoring the Holasek family will be done, but the rest of us that are still alive, honor all of them each day in our hearts.
My uncle, Joseph Holasek, was a constant gardener. Every decade of his life from young adulthood onward involved a garden. He was my father’s brother closest in age even though they were seven years apart. He is standing on the left next to my father and was born in 1914. He was closest in age to Josephine and his younger brother was Fred, far right. There was another child born between Joseph and Josephine, Florence who died very young.
Joseph worked in the store with my dad as soon as he was of age. But I am sure but don’t have anyone to verify the information, that Uncle Joe had some kind of garden going next to the family store/butcher shop. And from the second picture, you can see is was interested in agriculture for sure.
As I have mentioned before, My grandfather had a dilemma on his hand during the depression. No jobs were to be found, so he made the decision to buy a small farm, and sent Uncle Joe and Aunt Josephine out there to tend the farm year around. It was fairly primitive, but that is really where Uncle Joe’s love of gardening fermented. But when I really studied more writings, it wasn’t just Uncle Joe’s love of gardening that was fermented here. It was his brother, Fred, who also loved growing things, and in the future would want to make it a career. I would imagine a lot of the produce in the summer was taken to the store, and years later he and Aunt Josephine would still work together canning the summer vegetables he grew. Below is a picture at the farm with all the siblings and grandma.
The United States was gearing up for war, and many Americans were drafted. Uncle Joe was the first to be drafted in the family. When this happened in 1941 before Pearl Harbor, the family auctioned off the farm, and then one by one all the sons were drafted. My father, the oldest, enlisted, but was rejected for bad veins.
Uncle Joe was drafted into the army and trained as a cook. He had some really great pictures of those days. He was stationed in Hilo Hawaii after Pearl Harbor.
And then one day he was put on guard patrol. Now that was a serendipitous moment.
A young Hawaiian boy started to talk to him. Now if anyone knows anyone with Holasek blood in them, we like to talk. And we can talk to anyone about anything at anytime or place. And Uncle Joe with his constant smile won over this little boy who invited him home. There he met the Johnston family, mother, father, and two sons. They loved my Uncle Joe. And from then on, they had him over for dinner every Sunday and Mrs. Johnson washed his clothes. They all became life long friends.
The native Hawaiians like the other native Americans were a discounted people and they lived in poverty. They shared what little they had with him while he was there.
Uncle Joe was then sent to Japan to cook with the army.
Uncle Joe was gone for four years. He missed my dad’s wedding, but was sent a letter describing it which I mentioned before.
Uncle Joe never forgot the Johnson’s kindness. As soon as he was able to travel to Hawaii after the war, he visited them. And after the war, he sent them money on a regular basis. He visited many times, and as did my entire family. Even I visited Mrs. Johnson in 1968 and gave her a lei to thank her for her kindness. I still have many letters she wrote to the family over the years.
He also left her sons money in his will, and my generous Uncle George continued to send them money after Uncle Joe died. (By this time there were grandchildren, and they all lived in poverty.) The Holasek generosity had no bounds. . . .
After the war, the family settled into their new jobs, since the store was out of the picture. They still lived on Nursery Ave. and my dad lived on the West Side with his wife and soon to come first born. By this time Aunt Lillian had also married.
Dad, Uncle Joe, and Aunt Theresa went to work for White Motor Company making White Trucks. They were part of the United Auto Workers. Dad kept the supply room for the engineers, and Uncle Joe worked closely with him delivering the supplies. Uncle Joe and Dad got to see each other everyday. They were very close, eating lunch together, and playing cards for about 15 min. of their lunch hour.
This picture was taken in 1953. Notice the calendar in the background.
Because this was a Union job, the workers got a paid two week vacation every year. And the Holasek family learned to love to travel. They started small with car trips to Michigan, Wisconsin, fishing in Maine, Florida, and then they branched out to Hawaii, the West, Northwest Canada, and Europe. They took Tauck tours and came back with family friends they met in the tour group. Carol has the list of all their travels that two weeks every year and the list is two pages long.
Besides travel, this is how the middle class thrived under unions. They could afford to take a vacation, buy a home, live simply, but have food and shelter and a good life.
My goodness, people now just don’t get the benefit of unions. They are maligned and put down because the corporations have to actually take care of the workers with unions. And the powers that be, like the petrol gods, HATE unions and anything to make the middle class strong. (White Motor Company ceased to exist in in the 80’s, but Uncle Joe got paid his pension til his death in 2000. Dad’s wife, Joan, got paid her widow’s benefit 25 years after the company ceased to exist. How is that possible? UNIONS!)
After my mother died, dad and I lived with Aunt Lil and Uncle Jack before moving back to Nursery Ave for one year, but in 1948 the family made the big move to the West side, and the house on Archmere they would call home for 60 years.
What astounded me was the amount of pictures of Uncle Joe with me as a baby. The first three picture are at the Wilson’s.
Then Carol was born 8 months later, and Uncle Joe had two little ones to love. This picture was taken at Archmere.
Here is another picture I loved of Uncle Joe and I sitting in the garden when I lived on Archmere. My dog Skippy is in the picture. Uncle George won Skippy in a card game. He was a runner and unfortunately always had to be on a chain or a leash.
The family had these wonderful dinners with family and friends. In this picture was their friend Zoila.
Another wonderful event after the war was the marriage of Uncle Fred to my Aunt Evelyn Loucka. This event is where my mother’s and father’s family came together. Evelyn was my mother’s first cousin.
I must add that Uncle Joe walked with a brace crutch and had ankle braces because he had a back operation. (And we know how they turn out. It gave him foot drop.) His taking care and lifting Aunt Theresa for her 8 year disability with Parkinson’s took its toll.
And finally we come to Uncle Joe as a constant gardener. Cleveland winters can be brutal, but even then he worked on his garden. He mapped out his garden plans, decided on what seeds to order, made lists of what new was added, and waited until early spring.
At that time, he would till the ground, and start the seedlings in the basement. Of course, he was always weeding, and he made his own compost. That yard on Archmere had soil of gold with his 50 years of composting.
Next was planting season. He planted one vegetable just for me, the peas. And I would patiently wait to eat them right off the vine. Of course, I didn’t have to worry about pesticides poisoning the plants and the ground.
When I was a child living in that house on Archmere, I was always photographed in the garden by the azalea or snow ball bush.
Uncle Joe was also a bee keeper. So not only did he make his own fertilizer, but he had his own bees to help with pollination. He was this all encompassing, extraordinary gardener.
Aunt Lil helped Uncle Joe sometimes with the maintenance of the flowers. When his mobility was even more compromised, he gardened from his chair.
No matter what the year, we always went back to the garden. Fred Holasek , my cousin, and his children loved the garden too, and Fred is quite a gardener himself. He takes after his father, Fred, who was already packed up and ready to go to California to start a life of growing things when his untimely death happened at at 39 probably from war injuries.
Here is a picture of my cousin Fred with Uncle Joe in the garden. They spent hours talking about growing things.
Here is a good picture of Aunt Lil holding her great niece, Josephine during Jonathan and Leslie’s visit. The snowball bush is about 50 years old. And the next picture is of Stacy and me early in the growing season.
Harvest time was special. He mulched his corn for the compost pile. A framed picture on the Holasek table in my hour is Uncle Joe with his pumpkins.
Stacy loved Uncle Joe too. And this is my favorite picture of Uncle George, Uncle Joe, and Stacy in the year 2000.
When one talks about the love of family, Aunt Lil and Carol went above and beyond after Aunt Josephine died. Every Sunday they had the uncles over for Sunday dinner, starting with appetizers and their Manhattans and ending with a wonderful full course meal. Then the leftovers would be packed up to take home. (Aunt Lil and Carol always made a lot of extras so they would have food for a couple of days). After Uncle Ed died, it was continued with Uncle Joe and Uncle George, and then Uncle George alone. By this time, Carol was doing all the work because of Aunt Lil’s mobility problems.
Here is a cautionary tale. Uncle Joe would have continued gardening forever except medicine goofed with him. A simple thyroid blood test would have shown his thyroid was failing. Well, it failed. When that happens, a thyroid controls muscles and guess what? One’s heart is a muscle and he had a heart attack in his sleep. His heart became so compromised that he was sent as an emergency to the Cleveland Clinic.
We were all right there when the doctor said, “We have to slowly give him thyroid hormone so his heart is not overwhelmed.” Well, they did not do it right. The Cleveland Clinic overwhelmed his heart with fluids and thyroid hormone, and threw Uncle Joe into Congestive Heart failure. Now that can be managed, but they also did something that is often done to old people. They let him lie in bed for a week. Anybody with limited mobility in the first place and then weakness will not be able to walk. This is repeated over and over with old people every day.
IF AN ELDERLY FAMILY MEMBER IS IN THE HOSPITAL, MAKE THE DOCTOR ORDER THE NURSES TO WALK THEM AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!
The next thing the hospital did wrong was discharge him when he was too weak to walk. Carol had a terrible time getting him into the house. It was such a burden and danger placed on her. Once the visiting nurse came, he was back into the hospital, and then had to be transferred to a nursing home. Now since the Holaseks took care of their own like Aunt Theresa, grandma, grandpa etc., they were devastated. Everyone cried and cried.
And for the next six months of Uncle Joe’s life, Uncle George visited with him everyday. Aunt Lil and Carol came most days. He never went a day without a family member there. That was the best they could do. And when summer came, he was always taken outside in the courtyard to be near the flowers, and he always had a smile on his face.
I got to visit him in the fall. Carol and Aunt Lil always kept flowers by his bedside and so I brought him flowers too.
Uncle Joe was very ill by Christmas. I rushed flowers to him as a Christmas Present. He died the last day of 2000. These days people say it is a waste to buy flowers for the funeral home. We said no such thing. It was a fitting tribute to Uncle Joe to have beautiful flowers there. I came to Cleveland and gave his eulogy. Carol and I played music. First In the Garden:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=59yKqBhyrFg and then Aloha Oe
As a writer, these blogs are very difficult to write because just looking at all the pictures makes me cry. But Uncle Joe lead a remarkable, but quiet humble life, devoted to family, and to his garden. And of course, there was his generosity. His money to the great nieces and nephews, was just enough to put a modest deposit on a small starter home for Holly and Will 15 years ago. Holly’s first house was a townhouse with the prettiest garden in the back of the property. Uncle Joe would have been so happy, and they had a garden sign that said, Uncle Joe’s garden.
Every time I enjoy a fresh organic vegetable, or see a snow ball bush, or roses, or azaleas, or dahlia’s, I think of my Uncle Joe and his beautiful smile and his beautiful gardens. God blessed us all with Uncle Joe. He was an amazing son, brother, and uncle and great uncle and even great great uncle. We all still miss him so much!
As you can see, I turned 70 in February. I had my mother in my life for a few precious weeks, actually 65 days. I just noticed this year that April 22, 1946, falls on a Monday. Mildred Chylik Holasek died on Easter Sunday around 11PM. But probably by the time the doctor arrived it was the next day.
It seems very fitting that I write more about my mother today. Previous writings can be found here: The first one is the love story of my parents which I know because of the letters and the conversations:
The next writing is the story of my mother’s life
And the third essay was written about her death.
Since I have written those first three stories and included all the pictures, having exhausted every family connection, there does not exist a picture of my mother holding me on the day of my Christening. In fact, looking closely at the pictures in my childhood album, there seems to be only two there from my Christening. One with my Godmother, Mrs. Gund.
And another picture with with my grandmother, Theresa Vanek Holasek. My goodness, she was only 63 years old in this picture.
The pictures of my dad and me which I always thought were taken at my Christening, must have been taken right after my mother’s funeral. The date says April 26, 1946.
I know there must be at least one picture somewhere of me and my mother. It would mean everything to me to find it. Is it any wonder why I hoard pictures and they are considered my most prized possession. I have about 80 albums all categorized now, and over 25,000 pictures since I went digital. And yet that one picture alludes me. But at least I remain determined to keep writing my blog to put down for the record my autobiography a little piece at a time, and include the important pictures.
So besides the three previous blogs, related to all the stories are two letters, one written by my mother, and the other written by both my mother and father about 4 days before her death. Having a family that kept everything, especially the letters is a wonderful thing. (Making them her last letters). My mother’s friend gave my dad her letter, and my Uncle Ed kept his letter and gave it to me.
They were writing describing my christening. My mother’s letter was to her best friend Eleanor Gibson who was with her husband in the service in Kansas. She wrote: Marilyn is growing so much. . . . she weighs 9.5 pounds now, (I was 5 pounds 15 ounces at birth) and is beginning to smile. . . she sure is cute! And I was so proud of her last Sunday, Palm Sunday. It was her baptism day. . . . Marilyn looked like a little angel in her long white satin dress. In fact, she had a complete outfit given her by a friend of Bill’s family last December. Long white sweater coat, bonnet, booties, slip, stockings. and Mrs. Gund also gave Marilyn a dainty cross lovelier. This Mrs. Gund is a widow who has charge of the linen room at Hotel Cleveland. (She lived in the Terminal Tower.) Well, she sure took a liking to our babe and was so happy to be the sponsor.
I took a picture of the last part of this letter to show my mother’s beautiful penmanship.
And then my dad wrote to his brother Edward in the navy on Lake Erie: Dear Edward, Well, the big day for Marilyn has passed into history as a great day. To begin with the weather was perfect and sunshiny and warm. . . . Now Marilyn must have inherited some of those traits after her mother, meaning poise, lady like, reserved, quiet, well-mannered and just adorable. . . (I only wish that were true) Maybe Marilyn knew she was in church. . . .Mrs. Gund was the sponsor of Marilyn and was she proud. After services so many wanted to see our little off spring and of course your truly, stuck his chest out and said I’m Pa Pa. Ha Ha. Milly was so proud of her little girl. Then mother and uncles and aunts namely, Joe, Fred, George, Jack, Lil, Terry, Josie and Bob came forward from their pews to say congratulations to us.
Every time I have read those letters in my life, I have cried. I can’t help it. So I did my share of crying today. Except for those 65 days, as long as I have been alive, my mother has been gone. But she left an incredible legacy, ME. And I have yet to write that letter to myself at 70, but that needs to wait till another day. But the rest of the story is her life did not end with me.
And so dear mother, here is your daughter and your grandchildren Holly Lloyd Saunders, and William Stacy Lloyd in February, 2016.
Today is my brother, Jonathan Holasek’s sixtieth birthday. February 13 was my son’s fortieth birthday, and tomorrow will be my seventieth birthday. The letter writing continues.
You will always be viewed as my baby brother no matter what your age. I was almost ten years young when you were born, and in my naivetivity, I asked mom if she could wait another day so you would be born on my birthday. We had different mothers since my mother died soon after I was born, but we had the same wonderful father. And I never viewed you as anything less than my brother. I wanted to document some of my stories about you for a long time.
Your older brother Dennis and you shared the same mother, and he was 13 years old when you were born. So Dennis and you lived in the same house only five years before he went off to college. And when he went to New England, he fell in love with that area of the country and never returned until medical school.
Jonathan, you and I had 8 years in the same home, and when I went to nursing school I came home on the weekends when I could. We spent a lot of time together. You were the cutest kid I had ever seen. Those big brown eyes, the curls, and that smile. You had everyone enthralled just looking at you and we had a very large extended family.
I remember you were kind of late walking, but then when you started, you went from just walking to running and never stopped. I also remember you not saying that many words, and then all of a sudden, I was carrying on long conversations and remember saying you never shut up!
Many of those years consisted of my being a built in baby sitter. I really didn’t mind but it was a lot of responsibility for a kid. And I was bound to fail since you were a runner. I remember the car being all packed and ready to go on vacation and you ran to the garage, and bam hit the pavement. You had to be patched up big time before we even left. This picture is the infamous Florida trip in 1957. Grandma, grandpa, you, mom, dad, Dennis, Aunt Lil, Uncle Jack and Carol went to Florida for two and a half weeks. We went in a two car caravan. Notice you have a saved head. Dad was told get you a haircut and he had your head shaved. You had to wear a hat most of the rest of the trip.
Here are some other pictures when you were young.
Many times when I was watching you even at someone else’s house, things didn’t work out too well. I remember visiting our friend’s farm and you said, “look at that sand pile,” and started climbing. Well I didn’t know it was a manure pile and as you sank down to your neck, I pulled you out and you needed to be hosed down.
Another time you got loose was around Garfield’s grave. You squeezed through the bars and we couldn’t convince you to come out for at least 15 min. Another time you ran to the edge of a dam and I was terrified of you falling off. To this day, I have a fear of drop offs.
Another remnant of watching you that lives with me forever is another visit to the farm, and dad picks up a rifle laid up against the wall. Those irresponsible friends left a loaded rifle with 5 little kids in their family and the gun went off and bullet went right though the ceiling. I didn’t know where you were at the time, and was terrified. A lifelong loathing of guns happened to me right then and there.
When I also cared for you in the summer and mom also threw into the mix the two other boys down the street I was somewhat resentful. That was a different time however and kids ran loose in the neighborhood. I must admit I was not that responsible that summer and didn’t know where you all were some of the time.
While you were growing up, dad did something for you he never did for me. He taught you how to build things. Here is your first experience building something, a dog house for Checkers, and this started a love of building things which included using your dad’s amazing shop smith and his other tools.
Now Checkers “Your” dog was always a tug of war for us. To get the dog, I had to convince mom a boy needed a dog, but really I wanted that dog. It was the only way to get her. So Checkers was really was our dog. I wrote her story in my book Bless the Beasts: Pet Parables, because our dog got me through some very rough times.
As it happens to all children, once they hit school, the years come rolling by really fast.
This picture shows your age when I graduated from nursing school. You, mom, and dad took Norma and I to Cedar Point and dropped us off. That was our graduation gift and we stayed there three days before it was time to start our working career.
I got married the first time in Cleveland in 1969. You were to young to be a usher, so I made you a junior usher. This was the first time you wore a tuxedo. Here is one of the few pictures with both of my brothers.
We did not graduate from the same high school because you and I are both Baby Boomers. They had to build two more high schools before you graduated. So I graduated from Parma High School (1964) and you graduated from Normandy High school in 1974.
Then you were off to Kenyon College on scholarships and student loans. You were very bright just like your older brother.
This picture was taken in college in 1975.
You had a mind of your own, and gave dad and mom some sleepless nights. The funniest was when you were in college, dad called me up and said he was weeding the tomato plants. He wondered how in the heck you actually volunteered to help with the garden planting that year. But in the middle of those tomatoes were the weirdest looking weeds, and he saw a television special that day, and it was indeed “weed.” I thought dad handled it great. He just told you there were some giant weeds in the garden and he got rid of them.
While you were in college you used your love of building and your love of science and psychology to build a deprivation tank. The local paper ran an article about it.
Little did we know within two years, while you were in college, and while Will was being born, we would lose our father. I was lucky in that respect that I had dad 30 years and you only 20.
Around the time mom went to live in Florida, you went to make your way in New York. That started the second chapter of your life. With your fantastic wife, Leslie, of almost thirty years, and your two beautiful grown daughters, Josephine and Phoebe, and your transition of your career to the healing arts, your great life continues!
Happy 60th Love your big sister, Marilyn
Today is my son, Will Lloyd’s fortieth birthday. In two days, my brother will be sixty, and in three days I will be seventy. Let the letter writing begin.
The best way for me to wish you a Happy Birthday would be in writing and pictures. So here it goes.
As you know, you were born William Stacy Lloyd around 4PM on February 13th, a Friday. Your were named after my father and your dad, and there was great rejoicing. The world became a better place with your birth. We had you Christened at two weeks so your grandfather could attend since he was so ill.
Here are three pictures: One the day of your birth, your Christening picture with your name sake grandfather, and a picture I loved with you and your father.
At the time of your birthday party last week, your wife Kara asked me for some favorite pictures. These are the ones I sent her and a few more
When any child is born, responsible parents do the best they can, and just live their life as a family. And indeed we did. With three older half siblings and seventeen months later a sister, and the age of your parents, there were real almost four generations in one family at the time of your birth.
Your dad was always so proud of his five children!
But that is you original Fredericksburg family. The large extended family in Cleveland we spent a lot of time visiting through the years. And your Uncle Jonathan’s family in New Jersey.
I could be here all day writing and posting pictures of all the fun times we had. The first twenty years filled about fifty photo albums.
And if I started listing all the vacations, the trips to Myrtle Beach, On the QE2, to Florida and Walt Disney World, to Bermuda, to Europe twice this blog would go on forever. And this is just your first 18 years.
Then you went to Randolph Macon College, and your sister attended with you the next year. At the end of the first two decades, your mom had a medical crises going on. It was then that I realized just what kind of man you had become. The support you gave me, and the essay you wrote about my illness while you were in college makes me cry every time I read it
which leads me to the second half of your life.
You met the love of your life in College and Kara and you built a life together from that time forward. So the second 20 years was filled with graduating from Randolph Macon College, and doing jobs in the sales field that not every person can do. Whether it was with the Richmond Times Dispatch early on or medical type of sales, your personality was a perfect combo with your career.
Your father was so proud as was I watching you mature and find your way in the world. We were so overjoyed with your marriage and Holly’s wedding.
Now the last ten years alone would fill another 20 photo albums and 25,000 digital pictures but through it all.
I left out the part of your father’s passing. But you gave him such joy with your family, with your support when he was ill. I know he is looking down and smiling at you and wishing you a Happy Birthday too!
And he is proud of the way you all take care of your mom!
So now I am back to the beginning. Wishing you a Happy Birthday my son. I love you dearly. And I can’t help notice that you look and act very much like your grandfather. He was an honorable, kind, friendly, smart, well loved man, and great father just like you.
There you both are at the same age. I love you Will. My firstborn son! Happy 40th Birthday!!
P.S. Your wife gave you a terrific birthday party! It was so wonderful seeing your old high school and college friends again.
How is it even possible that I graduated from high school 50 years ago? But the fact is that time marches on, and my class is now close to 70. Having lived in Virginia for 45 years, my friends here cannot comprehend a high school as big as PSH. There were 767 graduates in my class, and the high school held only 10th, 11th, and 12th grade. We were the first year of the baby boomers and there were a lot of us. Our graduation was held in the 10,000 seating of The Public Auditorium. At graduation, I didn’t even know those that walked near me.
For me, PSH was a blessing! A high school a blessing some might ask. WHY? The answer is that I was bullied in junior high school: Hillcrest Junior High. Having moved from Schaaf in the middle of the 8th year, this gangly, teenager with acne and not the perfect teeth stood out like a sore thumb. To add insult to injury, the bullying started at my new church and extended to school from there. It was terrible! Name calling, pulling out chairs in cafeteria, squished egg salad in my Latin book, a horrible nickname, and walking on the other side of the hall like I had ebola was just some of the indignities. At least they didn’t extend after hours like the poor bullied children face today. It was a life changing experience, and the outcome was a story that was in a graduate school project, and will be a book this winter. In this pet parable a girl and her dog walked to a church cemetery everyday to pray and cry because her life was miserable. In that parable, the moral was, “Spell it forward or backward, God is still man’s best friend.”
So I welcomed this huge high school. My strategy was get lost in the shuffle and so I did. I kept a low profile, had a few close friends and that was it. I belonged to the future nurses club and biology club. In such a big high school, the only people I actually saw were the H’s in homeroom, and the college prep kids in class, and my friends. The bullying came to an abrupt halt, and I was relieved.
Boys for the most part ignored me completely. I was not shy, but it seems like I was very successful in fading into the woodwork. Because I was a late bloomer, I only went out on a date in high school several times with an old family friend. I did not get to attend any of the big dances or any of the proms. As my life unfolded, there didn’t seem to be a good chance to attend a reunion until the 30th.
I thought then, what if I see my tormentor. What would I say to him? And having come into my own by that time in my life, I wouldn’t let it go. I thought the same thing this time. What if I saw him again? And some of the torturer girls too? Well, he did not attend either reunion, and I didn’t recognize any tormentor girls at either reunion so all was well. I think I would have said to them, I hope that your own children didn’t torment kids too and your grandchildren either. I know I have already told my grandchildren how bad it is to be on the receiving end of bullying. I had a feature in the local paper about the subject.
The only real torture I experienced in high school was gym class. Apparently, the establishment just didn’t get it that some of us were not the athletic type. And frankly, the gym leaders did their best for the establishment, but it was not a pleasant experience. In fact as a senior, to get a C in gym, students had to climb half way up a rope. Now, I was not going to let stupid gym class drag down my average, but I was too weak to climb a rope. I had to improvise. When the teacher wasn’t looking, I had a friend, get down on her knee so I could stand on it, and she could give me a boost. Mission accomplished.
I have to say that it gave me a little pleasure to see some of those gym leaders and cheer leaders with a few extra pounds by the 30th reunion. I don’t think any of them realized how much a person like me hated gym class.
For the most part, this high school gave us a good education. There were some deficits. High school chemistry was my nemesis. Never good in math, I just didn’t get it. However, the teacher gave standarized tests, and one could get a C by just guessing. Well, that was fine for getting through high school with three C’s gym, algebra II and chemistry, but awful when I got to college chemistry in nursing school. Oh boy, the instructor freaked because three of us did not know how to balance an equation and had to be tutored to catch up to the beginning of college chemistry.
My elective in high school served me well: typing. I actually took it twice. Who would know that everyone would use typing everyday of their life when computers came into our lives.
The high school put in a new class in our senior year which was a correlation between art, music, and literature. That was definitely the beginning of my love of the liberal arts. I took a detour with my career in nursing, and was glad to end up with a degree and then an advanced degree in the liberal arts to teach various subjects in a community college.
However, nursing in combination with liberal arts helped me immensely with my writing about medical subjects. To this day, if you google Steve Jobs and Marilyn Lloyd, it takes you straight to my blog. I write a lot about integrative medicine which has kept me alive for 18 years.
Like our yearbook pointed out, the big thing that happened during our senior year was the assassination of President Kennedy. Each one of us would have been in a class that day. I was a biology lab assistant that time in the afternoon. That memory is seared into our neurons.
All this background, and I am just getting to the 50th Reunion. My cousin went with me, a Rhodes graduate, for moral support. I was sitting with a small circle of friends. Ironically, my husband could not attend the 30th reunion with me, and I asked Dan Wagner to dance. He was brought to this reunion by Lowell my friend, so we got to dance again. I missed having a chance to catch up on people’s bios and the pictures taken of everyone.
After all was said and done, I think my fading into the wood work in high school worked too well, because not that many people at this reunion even knew me except for some of the H’s. Somehow, the last one had more people I knew. Ellen was there, and I hope to meet up with her in Virginia sometime.
I know that no one recognized me with long hair for sure. It was good to at least get to thank one Vietnam hero. I was surprised to learn that no one in our class died over there, because certainly 58,000 of our generation did.
A big thanks to everyone who did the organizing. The food was great. Next time they might need an elevator to get people more comfortably in the room. Which leads me to the dancing.
With ankle and feet arthrits, dancing is difficult, but then the DJ played “That Ol’ Time Rock and Roll”. I was going to dance if I couldn’t walk the next day, but it was fast, so I had to hold onto the support beam to do it. I told my children I did a pole dance at my reunion. I wish my cousin had gotten a picture of that.
It occurred to me after I was going over all the details of the reunion, that the reunion was like a “Happy Days” reunion. A “Fonz” type was sitting at our table : one of the cool kids with a fast car and that curly front hair do in high school. The Richie type, the well loved kids were there, as well as the well represented Joanie’s, Potsie’s and Ralphs. A sixties high school was definitely for the most part, “Happy Days.”
So thank you classmates for the memories. I thank all of those people that were kind to a wall flower type in high school, people like Marty Wolf, James Noble, and James Horvath. The girls were too numerous to mention. It is always sad to look at that growing memorial list. But to those of us who attended, it seemed to be a good time had by all. I told my family all about the reunion and my step grandson said it best: “Oma, it doesn’t matter that you kept that low profile in high school, and not that many people knew you. It was what you did with the last 50 years that counts!” That put it all into perspective. Til, the next time. . . .
Through God’s guidance and grace, forty years ago today, Stacy and I stood on top of Lee’s Hill on Lee Dr. And pledged our love forever. We wrote the ceremony ourselves. And we chose Lee’s Hill because it was near our home, and for our love of history. We asked Reverand Davies, and a minister/therapist, Kenneth Johnson to perform the ceremony.
I had 3 weeks to plan the wedding, and only members of the family were invited (those that chose to come) and the office friends. My dad and mom, Aunt Theresa, Aunt Lil, and Carol came from Cleveland. The day before, Stacy enjoyed showing them around town, and giving them a jeep ride in his used Toyota jeep that got him to the hospital in the winter. We chose August 23, because it was Aunt Lil and Uncle Jack’s Anniversary and I admired them so. And that year it was a Friday and about 95 degrees up there. He wanted his boys to stand by him and they did. Philip was 15, and Scott was around 20, a student at VMI.
Stacy was so proud of that white linen suit, and he fit into it many times after the wedding. Here are some family pics. The first thing Stacy did after the kiss, when the ceremony was over was light up his pipe.
After the ceremony, the reception was at The Lebanese restaurant downtown at the time, and we all sat on pillows.
We started our married life with travel. I told Stacy after the stress of the previous two years, we needed a really nice honeymoon. So, we went to San Francisco where I came down with a GI bug and was so sick we had to delay the trip to Hawaii a day. Then we spent a week in Hawaii, and ended up in Las Vegas where I sprained my ankle. Life as we know doesn’t always run smoothly.
Through the last 40 years, I hiked up many times to Lee’s Hill, but it has become harder and harder. So this time, I asked Will to make sure I got up and down safely. Will, Peyton, Carter, and Meredith came over, and I showed them the wedding pictures, and explained how we were going to walk to Lee’s Hill where General Lee watched the Battle of Fredericksburg. And explained that is where Opa and I got married a long time ago. I knew once the kids got up there, their fascination would be the cannons, and rightly so. But they humored Oma and posed for pictures.
The boys at that point were throwing rocks and it was time to leave, but I so appreciated Will going up there with me several weeks ago.
I did the reflecting of those events of 40 years ago after my time on the hill. Stacy and I were very well matched. We had the same values, we were raised by practically the same age parents, (my grandfather and father had their first child at 39), and we loved doing the same things. Our life together was a life of children, their activities, and many pets. Our home was well lived in because of that fact.
We loved intellectual pursuits, and would have deep conversations. We enjoyed going to the beach, and travel of any kind. We regularly went to the movies, almost once a week when he retired. But most of all we respected each other’s space, and didn’t interfere.
Stacy gave his all to his work, and his public service, but when at home, that was our time with him. I cherished every minute! All we both wanted was for the person we loved to be happy, and that was our secret to a good marriage. Because in making someone else’s life the best it could be, the benefits are 100 fold. Jack Nicolson’s character in the movie, Somethings Gotta Give, said in response to the love still felt for him by the Dianne Keaton character, even though he gave her a really hard time, “If it’s true, (you still love me) my life just got made.” For Stacy and I that just about sums it all up. Our life and love were made! I miss him everyday. But it brings me a lot of joy to remember just how much I was loved, and how much Stacy was loved in return. Anyone that really knew us could see this and feel this. It was the greatest gift to give to our children. Love like that gets a marriage through not just the good times, but the roughest of times as well. And that type of love lasts for an eternity.
An earlier blog tells a different slant to the story. https://copingmhl.wordpress.com/2011/08/23/happy-anniversary-my-love/ Here are some pictures of our 30th Anniversary with Will, Kara, Holly, and Jeff, going on the cruise on our beloved river, The Rappahannock.
Every year when my cousin, visits, we take some kind of trip. This year we chose the Virginia mountain area, because there were items from my “bucket list” there, and I was invited to a celebration in the area, and as timing turned out, we left early to attend the funeral of Granny Ward, my son-in-law, Jeff’s grandmother.
Our first stop was The Natural Bridge of Virginia. I already saw this bridge when Matthew (Grandson) graduated from VMI. We stayed there with Scott and his family in 2005. Not only had Carol never see the Natural bridge, but also she had never seen VMI, so that was the first stop. Both Scott and Matthew graduated from there, and I had been there many times.
We had to sit quite a while waiting for dark, but something quite extraordinary happened. A young couple sat in front of us with 4 children, and they intrigued me, so we began to chat. (Anyone knows I can make a friend out of a stranger) and this was no exception. They were from Australia and their children were ages 3 months, 2, 3, and 5. They were planning on being in the country three months and were touring by RV. In Australia both mothers and fathers get maternity leave and it was 3 months. They had already been to Disney World and were headed to Niagara Falls. It was absolutely fascinating asking questions about life in Australia, since my Uncle George loved it there.
Of course free health care is a given, as is money from the government to everybody, because Australia saves for emergencies. The last economic downturn, every family got $2000 to boost the economy, or $25,000 if you bought a house. The cost of living is high in Sidney my new friends said.
The next day we headed to Buena Vista to Granny Ward’s funeral. Her grandson, Frank, gave a beautiful eulogy, in her Methodist Church. http://www.roanoke.com/obituaries/ward-elizabeth-keiser/article_dccb2acd-8711-5754-ba2b-6bb607b06550.html
After the funeral, our destination was Waynesboro where we would spend the night after attending a Memorial Celebration of Fritz “Duke” Zeller. (I knew him from many years ago when he ran for Congress and Stacy and I got to meet Elizabeth Taylor and John Warner at the Plantation house on Northside Dr.) His partner, Stu, and I had become friends after his death. The celebration was a wonderful thank you to all their friends that helped when Duke was ill.
Getting to Afton where the celebration occurred was of course mountain driving, and the first of many episodes on this trip. I hate drop offs and windy roads. Oh boy, at this point we didn’t know what loomed. (I cannot understand why I have always enjoyed roller coasters, but driving with a drop off freaks me totally out. I am not prone to panic attacks, but I swear I had several on this trip.)
From Waynesboro, we headed toward The Homestead Resort in Hot Springs. I thought it would be that simple trip that occurred last year going to the Greenbrier. Well, it was 15 to 20 miles of the worst windy, drop off-road I ever driven. I was a complete stressed out person on arrival. And I kept asking “is there anyway out of here that is not mountain driving”? Answer, of course, was “no”. It was a bucket list check, but I will never be seeing that place again.
We spent three days there, and I enjoyed the unusual swimming in body temperature spring water in the huge indoor pool.
The last picture is Carol with The Casino restaurant in the background. It is really the golf center, because Virginia doesn’t have real casinos.
Our next stop was Appomattox, Virginia. I always wanted to see where the Civil War ended, and where my hero, Joshua Chamberlain, saluted the troops. So that drive was in the mountains to get out of The Homestead, but over other mountains to get to Lynchburg. Well, I am so thankful I am still here to write this. Some horrible, irresponsible driver passed me and the person behind me on a curve, across the double yellow line, with no guard rails and a drop off, and a car was coming up the mountain in that same lane. I slammed on the brakes and that horrible driver squeaked in front of me, and all 5 cars, did not crash and go off the mountain. After that experience, no more mountain driving for me. The following is a map of how the little town of Appomattox looked at the time, a replica of The McLean House, and the salute by Chamberlain to the Southern troops as they laid down their arms and then went home. http://www.nps.gov/apco/index.htm
We spent the night at a delightful combination of a bed and breakfast and hotel called Acorn Hill Lodge in Lynchburg. It was family built and managed, and a terrific place to stay either a night or long term if business takes you to Lynchburg. http://www.acornhilllodge.net
Our last stop was a visit to Poplar Forrest, Thomas Jefferson’s second home and retreat in Forest, Virginia. It is a work in progress of renovating the inside. Jefferson’s hexagon house was beautiful, but from the history standpoint, they sort of glossed over the truth of this house greatly. It contributed to his overspending and ending up in bankruptcy. When I asked about Sally Hemmings visiting there, since her other brother lived there, I found the answer to be somewhat evasive. I would recommend the book, “The Twilight at Monticello,” which really is a good read of Jefferson’s whole life, but especially his later years. It was that book that intrigued me to see Poplar Forest. http://www.poplarforest.org
When we finally arrived home, I was grateful for a fun, safe trip and flat land! (And three things crossed off my bucket list) Carol and I finished our traveling the next weekend visiting with Holly and Will and their families and attending a soccer and T ball game.
Carol, my beloved cousin and I spent two weeks together. We certainly did reminisce a lot about all the family members that are no longer with us, and all the family stories. It was a wonderful time. And right after dinner, on our last night together appeared this rainbow in the sky. What a wonderful end to our adventure.
My uncle, George Holasek, would not consider himself amazing. He was much too humble for that. He would agree that he did some amazing things in his lifetime as you will see. This blog is a part eulogy and part tribute, because I do not want to say word for word what I said at his funeral. As when anyone passes on, comments come that were not known at the time of his death.
One of the most important came from my cousins who visited him the day before his 90th birthday. As they were leaving, Uncle George simply said to them, “I am the last of the Mohicans,” and everyone at the time knew what he meant. He was the last of his nuclear family, the family you are born into. Two parents and nine children and he was the last one. Florence died at age 2 and is not in the picture.
I wrote a lot about the Holasek family in my blog about my father who was the oldest. https://copingmhl.wordpress.com/2013/06/16/william-john-holasek-1907-1976-my-daddy-a-fathers-day-tribute/
What I found to be so very interesting was Uncle George’s own words. He was an incredible writer, and had spent his retirement writing and rewriting his memoirs on his youth, on his military service, and on his travels. Of course, I had copies of his writings, but when I was reading again the account of his childhood, his words jumped off the page, and I told my cousin, we need to copy these quotes, and hand them out at the funeral. His life lessons are too valuable not to pass on.
He said about his father, my grandfather: “My father taught us to honor our parents, and to show respect to all others. To treat others as we wished to be treated, and to have a concerned understanding of their short comings and needs. His compassion for other was a virtue that I admired, and I proudly chose to to and follow his ways.”
I can say I was raised the same way. When you read the above paragraph, it is like reading a working “Golden Rule.” Bible words are empty unless they are put to action. We were taught to practice our religion in our everyday life. My Uncle did not go to church, but he practiced his religion every day, even in his assisted living. They loved him there both the staff, the patients, and even some of the patient’s families. 90 years of practicing one’s faith is no little thing.
Uncle George also wrote, “We were taught and often times reminded the importance of having a good character, so we always enthusiastically practiced to achieve that goal. Self respect of ourselves and others was utmost in our minds.”
His last quote on growing up was again on the theme of “actions speak louder than words.” Uncle George said:
“It is a misconception to believe that good health, love, personal achievement etc. are granted through prayer alone. Hard work, a strong will, desire, determination and sacrifice will only bring about these meaningful goals.”
Uncle George had to work at a very young age as did the rest of the family helping with the store. However, he also delivered papers, and gave his money back to the family. When he was 89, he told me this story I had never heard before. Since his money went back to the family, he didn’t have any, and he found a used bike for sale for $1.50 in 1931 or so. He begged his father for the bike, but the answer was “No.” He told me as he was relating the story, he was really angry. But such was life in the large Holasek family. Uncle George and my dad had to sleep in the part of the house over the garage. When they woke up, the floor had ice on it in Cleveland winters.
He also told me many times that after his father’s death when he was around 15, my father stepped in as his father figure and “kept me on the straight and narrow.” He would often say “I don’t know what would have happened to me if it weren’t for your dad.”
When World War Two began, my eldest uncle was drafted into the army as was his younger brother Fred. Uncle George at 17 went to join the Marines, but they wouldn’t take him for some physical reason like his eyesight, so he joined the navy instead. It was the Marine’s loss and the Navy’s gain. He and all my uncles lived up to the term “The Greatest Generation.” He was proud of going to diesel school at the University of Illinois, and then on to Rhode Island as a Third Class Petty Officer to learn PT boats.
Uncle George spent all of his time after training on a PT Boat. In his own words,“P.T. Boats were speedy, maneuverable and expendable, therefore their credibility was unmatched.”
It was considered hazardous duty because they were and made of just plywood mahogany hulls, 3/4 inch thick, they carried two depth charges, 4 torpedoes, three Packard engines, and 3000 gallons of one hundred octane diesel fuel. They burned 185 gallons per hour, and he was one of the 4 engine machinists that rotated their time of duty. I talked to his two surviving crewmates, who have been in his friend for over 70 years. Uncle George wrote in his memoir Navy Days, that “there was no dress code, no saluting, no inspections, the food was terrible, water was scarce, and they would beg for food from larger ships.” One of his friends was the cook, and the other the radio man. Everyone had their own battle station, and Uncle George’s battle station was one of the big guns on the side. Uncle George said they passed the time by singing songs, telling jokes, talking about loved ones at home (And yes he did get a Dear George letter), and he mentioned Tokyo Rose. He said that “they related to her by laughing at her, using profanity, and that she instilled a greater desire to fight.”
My uncle almost died on that PT boat tending the engines. He told me the fuel lines had leaks and if one ignited there was a big POOF. He started screaming to open the door and let him out. He was smoking and all the hair was burned off his body.
There was something I forgot to mention at the eulogy. My uncle was the only Holasek to have curly tight hair. So on the ship, the only way the Black crew in the dark could identify their friends was touching the heads, but Uncle George always fooled them with his hair.
The Plain Dealer the Cleveland Newspaper, came through when I called them to write a story about his travels. Instead they interviewed him about the PT boat experience. We can forever hear our uncle’s voice.
Here is a link to his specific PT Boat. It was nicknamed “Who Me?”http://www.pacificwrecks.com/ships/ptboat/PT-167.html
40 years ago, my Uncle George built his own replica to scale out of balsa wood. He built a case, and a removal top so you could look inside the boat.
The last public showing of his PT Boat for our family and friends was at the funeral home. Carol and I promised Uncle George we would find this ship a home in some museum.
In his retirement when he still had his mobility, he would go to Falls River Massachusetts and work on the ships that needed upkeep. He remembers one Fourth of July, sitting on the deck of an aircraft carrier after working all day and watching the fireworks. He was a lifetime member of The PT Boaters, and went to many conventions. His time in the Navy, although short, was a life altering experience for him.
Uncle George was very proud of being a member of the Veteran of Foreign Wars post 2079 for 70 years.
When he returned from the war, he worked on the family farm and at the arsenal at Ravenna before finding his life’s work as an operating engineer and was life member of local 18, Union. They built and resurfaced roads in Ohio and even into Pennsylvania. Whenever you are the Ohio or Pennsylvania Turnpike, think of my uncle. He operated the biggest of the big heavy equipment. One of his fellow workers came to his funeral and told the family how much Uncle George was admired by his coworkers which of course was no surprise.
This road work job was seasonal. Someone who worked like this needed to budget their money, because they did not work in the winter months.
Uncle George did just that and every year he went to Florida for three months, and admitted to me when he was around 85 that he always had a girlfriend down there. He never married, but women always were attracted to him. Carol and I had the privilege of meeting one of his friends that grew up across the street from him on Nursery Ave. Even the woman who wrote the Dear George letter and her sister were life long friends of my uncle. He had girlfriends his entire life, but just never made that leap of faith into marriage.
He never had children of his own, but that didn’t stop my Uncle from loving all his nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews like we were his children. I had the privilege of growing up in the house with him from age one to almost 9.
I found this picture at Carol’s house and I love it so much:
All through those 8 years I lived there, Uncle George was a constant in that house. He lived there 4617 Archmere Ave. for 60 years. Another funny thing I asked him at 80 was “Where did you sleep Uncle George? There weren’t enough beds for everyone, and I didn’t remember him sharing one with my dad. I thought he slept in the sunroom. He couldn’t remember which I thought was funny. Uncle George, of course, was the last sibling that lived in that house after Uncle Joe died in late 2000
Many early lessons were learned in that house, but Uncle George taught me a big one. The kids in the neighborhood went out at daybreak in the summer, came in to eat lunch, and went out til dinner. No one had to worry about us. One summer we decided to put on a play and charge admission. Of course, the neighborhood children wanted The Holaseks to attend since 7 adults lived there. We pulled in a lot of money at 10 cents admission for the times. Uncle George came home late as usual from his road work, and missed the play but gave me 50 cents. Wow! Now I was rich! Later that night he saw me counting my money and asked, “Did you share your 50 cents with the rest of the kids?” Head bowed, sheepish voice, I said, “No Uncle George.” ” Go out there immediately and give each child their fair share, and don’t do it again.” “Yes Uncle George, I said.” Big lesson learned.
There was so much joy in the house. Friday night pinochle games, Sunday picnics at the ledges, and lots of love for all of us. When Fred and Don’s father, Fred died so young, Aunt Evelyn brought the boys over often to know their uncles, which was the closest they would get to knowing what their father was like.
Birthdays and Sunday dinners were always in the dining room with the fine china. I have that china now, and it will be passed onto Holly.
A big part of Uncle George’s life was the time he spent traveling. He wrote in his journal:
“I always had a desire to travel and visit with people and the exotic countries of the world. For years, I was what could be called an armchair adventurer. Reading interesting accounts of other adventurers inspired me to want to do the same.”
Uncle George eventually saw all 50 states in the union, no easy task. But he was ready for more. He wanted to see the world. He and Uncle Joe went to Hawaii, and there he announced he would not be going home with Uncle Joe. He told the family he was going on a trip around the world and he did. He went at age 48, 20,000 miles and hitchhiked 10,000 of them.
“I was convinced that the most prudent way to learn more about a country and its people was to live among them. Purchasing a back pack, sleeping bags and all other essentials, I was soon on my way heading westward.”
“It was most rewarding to seek out the many outstanding fine museums and other points of interest, but most of all it was living and traveling with the kind and humble people en route. I will forever be grateful to those people and the Youth Hostel Association that contributed so much to this great experience.”
In his video, Carol and I added a lot of his travel pictures. I wish I had picked the music The Happy Wanderer. I just didn’t think of it in time. It suited him so. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=kIslA_ZCcxU&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DkIslA_ZCcxU
He woke up one morning having slept next to a bed of crocodiles, met aborigines, Sherpas, and was always interested in his traveling companion’s stories. ** Actually, my Uncle George did something very few people ever did. And if they did do it, they can never do it again. He hitchhiked through Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan without incident. This was a truly amazing task.
As I said in his eulogy, my uncle was like a mini ambassador, much like Johnny Appleseed, spreading the seeds of kindness and love all over the world. America needs 10,000 Uncle George’s and the world would be a better place. I know the people he met viewed America differently after he talked with them.
Uncle George made a second trip to Australia, because he loved it so. He again hitchhiked and worked, and this time was accidentally picked up by drug dealers. Much to my uncle’s personality, even after he accidentally saw the whole operation, instead of killing him, they just took him to his next destination. My Uncle George made friends no matter what the circumstance. He was an amazing human being.
To be continued: Time with family, and our last memories.
My cousin, Carol Wilson, visited me this spring and we usually go on a mini trip. We chose the Greenbrier because it was always on my “bucket list” and the warm spring water sounded inviting along with the beautiful inside pool when it was still too cold to swim outside. It is about a 3 hour ride from Richmond, and we went after a stay at my daughter’s house for Mother’s Day.
Carol and I are more than just cousins. We’ve been close since early childhood, since her mother was my second mother for a year, until my third mother took over, another aunt. We did everything together til about 9 years old and remained close all our lives. Here is a favorite picture of my cousin and I that my dad carried in his wallet until the day he died.
This is a picture of us right before we left for the Greenbrier
The Greenbrier is a resort in White Sulphur Springs known for the healing spring water. People began coming there in 1778, and through the years many famous people have stayed there including 26 presidents. First they came by stagecoach, then by railroad, and in the 20th century by car. During the Civil War, the resort was a hospital and in 1962 a secret bunker was built to house the Senate and House of Representatives during a nuclear crises and it was in operation until 1992 which I will write about later.
So off we went on our adventure which was about as packed full as any 3 days can be. When we arrived, we were told the room that I requested had residents before us that got sick, so they gave us another room with a lot more walking, but believe me, I didn’t want the remnants of someone’s illness. I always call ahead to make sure they don’t spray anything or have any smells in the room, because of my chemical sensitivities.
The room itself was glorious and huge, and I wish we had taken a picture of the room, but we got a special deal and the room looked something like this http://www.greenbrier.com/Accommodations/Room-Types/Deluxe-Rooms.aspx
Our room overlooked the back of the property, and some of the meeting rooms. In the distance is the wing where the Bunker lies.
The first thing we decided to do the next morning after the buffet breakfast was see the bunker. It is still used as a deposit for “data” by a private company, but is open for tours. With my love of history, it was very interesting. Here is a good link to read about the bunker, but I recommend the tour for anyone. http://www.npr.org/2011/03/26/134379296/the-secret-bunker-congress-never-used
Just think about the tax payers money that went into this for 30 years with provisions for all of them including staff for 60 days. When the secret of the bunker was busted in 1992, it closed the next day. But since it is still there, the thought that crossed my mind, is take Congress there, put them in the darn bunk beds, feed them rations, lock them in with the three steel doors and don’t let them out until they fix the nation’s problems and compromise!. But that’s me.
They have a lot of pictures in the bunker that depicts how everything was during that active 30 years it was ready for action.
One of the things I really wanted to do at the Greenbrier was swim, and the 1913 pool is still there. It was glorious, and I practically had it to myself to swim laps.
Of course, The Greenbrier is known for its gourmet food. That presents a problem, because I am not a fan of gourmet food. I eat simply and follow the genotype diet from Dr. Peter D’Adamo for the last 16 year. The buffet breakfasts were not the problem, but the dinners were. My cousin and I studied those menus for at least an hour to decide what would be the best restaurant and what I could possibly eat. I ended up with fish both nights which was fine, but too fancy. Needless to say it is not an inexpensive place to eat. They have about 4 restaurants to pick from, but the oriental one that would have given me more choices was closed the two days we were there.
Every afternoon, they serve tea in the dining room, another “Greenbrier” experience.
Here is a picture of the chandelier from “Gone With the Wind.” It is near the one of the bars in the hotel.
This is a picture of just one of their grand rooms you walk through looking at the hotel.
The next day, since our walking ability is somewhat limited, we opted for the carriage ride to look around the grounds and the beautiful golf courses. Of course, they are already preparing for the Greenbrier Classic on July 4th weekend. Sam Snead a famous golfer, was hired in 1936 as the golf pro. In 1978 Jack Nicklaus redesigned the Greenbrier course, and I bet my cousin who plays golf would have liked to play there, but I don’t play golf.
After swimming on the second day, I had a spa appointment to take in the sulphur waters. If you want this, they pipe it in to a big bath tub where you can soak for 30 minutes. That was interesting to say the least, and then I followed that with a message. My muscles loved it.
Under the Greenbrier are a lot of shops which were added by the current owner, Mr. Jim Justice. He also added a Casino in 2010. I think you all would enjoy my casino story. Carol already had made her small donations to the casino while I was swimming, but I didn’t bother going there. But our last night they advertised the “Greenbrier Waltz” at the casino at 10PM and I wanted to see it. So I went down there by myself and was wandering around thinking I might as well give them a small donation, so I cashed a 20 dollar bill and asked for 20 silver dollars. They gave me real money not tokens, but there is probably not much silver in them anymore. I made a beeline for a machine I had decided was the one I was going to use, and no one down there was playing the machines. I said to myself, “forgive me Stacy,” because he hated gambling of any kind, but he knew I did it on some cruise ships. My deposits were never much.
So anyway, I put my first silver dollar in, and 5 come out. Then I win some and lose some, but I decided my Greenbrier deposit (they must hate gamblers like me) would be ten dollars so I counted that aside, and said I would lose the 3 to 4 in my hand. I put in one and pulled the lever and two sevens came up. That never happened on any cruise ship, and 170 silver dollars came out with a lot of dings. No one even noticed. Now, being the non gambler I am, I filled the bucket and cashed in. It took 5 times longer to count them than to win them. I kept 20 for my children and grandkids, and went upstairs and dumped the 20 on the bed. My cousin was speechless, and said “I knew you were taking too long down there.” It was then I shocked her with the cold cash making up the $160.00. The next day, I splurged and spent the money on a hand painted leather wallet and check book, so I could see my winnings everyday:)
The last day, I invited my daughter-in-law’s grandmother to meet us for breakfast. She lives in White Sulpher Springs, and worked there herself in the dining room for 25 years. Oh, that was such a joy. She hasn’t worked there in years, but many people came up to her and gave her a hug. It was a precious moment.
After breakfast on the last day, we wanted to visit the president’s cottage. Now that was loaded with the history of all the famous people who came to the Greenbrier. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor came many times. Rose Kennedy and her husband spent two weeks there for their honeymoon. It was fun to see all the pictures of the many presidential guests. President Nixon came 5 times and Ford visited 6 times. Actually George W. Bush visited 7 times, the most of any president.
All in all, my cousin and I had a grand time in a once in a lifetime grand place. The next place we should visit next year is The Homestead, God willing, another resort 30 miles away and another “bucket list” destination.