Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Tragedy of War

by Bob Laudie

War creates many strange and odd situations as I found out on my arrival in England in May, 1943. I was a Bombardier-Navigator on the six man crew of a Martin B-26 bomber named, "Little Lulu." We were "Marauder" men, as the bomber was called. It had other names: "The Widow Maker," "The Flying Coffin," and "The Flying Prostitute" (because it had no visible means of support due to it's small wing surface).

Twenty-nine crews of us left Barksdale Field, in Shreveport, Louisiana, the late afternoon of Sunday, May 2, 1943, for the long hot train trip to Savanna, Georgia. The train was old, humid, crowded and dirty, and the soot filled smoke from the engine fogged into the open windows. We finally arrived at our destination at noon, Tuesday the 4th, tired, sweaty, dirty and excited. We were off to new adventures and uncharted, unknown places. I had conned the engineer of the train to let me ride in the engine with him one day on the long trip which was fun, however.

We dubbed our assigned, brand spanking new Marauder, Little Lulu. Friday, May7th, we headed north to Presque Isle, Maine, and WAR. Little Lulu's crew did manage to stay in Time's Square, New York, for four days on the way because the crew made certain, or thought they saw saw a "cloud" over the hotel, and so better to wait a few days. We finally left New York and spent two days in Presque Isle while we waited for the weather to clear for the next leg of our long trek to England.

Sunday, May 16, we flew the few hour trip from Presque Isle to cold, snow covered Goose Bay, Labrador. After much scrutiny of films, maps and briefings, we departed for BWI, located on the glacier ice cap at the end of a long narrow Fjord in southern Greenland. Finally, the weather was right and we were cleared to fly over the ice cap and on to Meets Field Iceland. The last stop on our way to Harham, England was Prestwic, Scotland. Little Lulu's crew was sent on to Rovington, north of London for a week to become familiar with British communication systems and it was here I experienced by Tragedy of War.

One evening while exploring the local area, I happened on a festival of some kind with dancing and a small bar with chairs or stools next to the bar. Wanting to learn more about the activities in progress, I sat down next to a man in a British uniform and struck up a conversation with him. We exchanged the usual small talk that people engage in first meeting such as exchange of names and where you are from. I had expected a location in England from him so I was very surprised when he said he was from Poland. As we sat drinking our warm English mild and bitter beer, he continued his story. He was in the Polish Army when the German tanks rolled through and overran the Polish Army on September 1, 1939. He had been captured and conscripted into the German Army. In time, his unit was sent to North Africa with Rommel's divisions to fight against the British forces there as France and Great Britain declared war against Germany when Poland was attacked.

As his bottle was now empty, I bought both of us a new warm beer and urged him to continue. It was in North Africa in late 1942 and early 1943 that the Allied Forces finally defeated the German military and captured many of the units. My new beer drinking friend was on of those rounded up and in time offered to don a British Army uniform and fight against the Germans again.

He had fought against, with, and now against the German forces. I asked him if this had created a problem of loyalty for him as I guessed it would have. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a very worn, faded picture of a pretty young woman and a young baby. "This is my wife and baby-I have not seen them since I was captured in 1939 by the Germans," he answered in a soft voice. "I will fight in any military just to get this war over so I can return to my wife and daughter. That is my loyalty!"

I had no answer but I understood, and have wondered many times if he ever returned to His Loyalty.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I Love a Parade

by Pat Brokaw

With the annual Homecoming Game and Parade coming in a few months, I began to reflect on the many parades I have enjoyed over a period of more than 80 years. As I think back, I have only a hazy memory of most of them, but they certainly were an important and interesting part of my life.

The Macy's Thanksgiving parades have a long history, and many people all over the country have been able to enjoy them since the TV screen has been displaying spectacular floats as the bands and marchers make their way down the streets of New York City every Thanksgiving Day. I grew up in East Orange, New Jersey, and an associate store of Macy's in Newark matched its NYC counterpart with a parade of its own. Bamberger's Department Store was a very popular store in Newark, and people from neighboring cities and towns turned out to watch the local marching bands and floats for many years while I was growing up, and even when I married and had a family, we continued the tradition since it was a great introduction to the Christmas season. Also, all that fresh air stimulated our appetite for turkey dinner! I guess the local parade faded into extinction once Macy's was shown on national TV.

In 1954 we bought our first house in Edison, New Jersey. Nearby Metuchen had its own parade to introduce the Christmas season, and we excitedly lined the streets downtown on our first holiday season there. The parade lasted about 10 minutes. We were terribly let down. Somehow things improved greatly in the ensuing years, and it became an exciting event in our own lives for a long time.

Then, of course, there were the 4th of July parades, when Brokaw girl and boy scouts as well as Little Leaguers marched on a sunny (hot) day, and we parents cheered them on. Dad usually had a tear in his eye and a lump in his throat as the young people marched by. the United States flag had the same effect on him (probably because of his four years in the Marine Corps).

Our youngest child, Jean, took baton twirling lessons while we lived in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and, of course, there were weekly parades all summer long in the nearby towns on Friday afternoons. The marchers had to be very careful when they followed the horses that sometimes participated in the parade!

When we moved to Iowa City in 1976, we were introduced to the University of Iowa Homecoming Parade. While the children were growing up, we faithfully attended those parades- sometimes in the cold or rain- and kept our tradition alive.

Now that I am living at Oaknoll, our group of 13 or so goes in style on the Oaknoll bus, attends the Chili Supper at the Methodist Church, then sits on folding chairs (brought along on the bus) and eagerly awaits the start of the parade. One year the groups that usually decorated a float with "disposable" theme-oriented items, voted to do something different. With the theme "The Excitement is Building," each float contained a section of wall, which would later be donated to Habitat for Humanity to help victims of the recent flood. This seemed like an inspired way to participate with a purpose.

What makes parades so unique and exciting? Is it the band music, the marchers' enthusiasm, the fresh air, the candy thrown to waiting but impatient children, or the general atmosphere of celebration? I would guess it is a little bit of each!

So, I hope parades will continue to thrive and give old and young alike the thrill of bands and marchers.

Monday, July 18, 2011


by Jonni Ellsworth (excerpt from her memoirs)

I have always lived in or near hospitals and sometimes it seems my life has been ruled by them. I was born in February, 1944 in the Philadelphia Naval Complex at the shipyard as my father was in the Navy. It would be over a year before he returned from the World War II pacific theatre. He had been educated first at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, and then medical school at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec and residency at Cornell Medical Center in New York City. When the war broke out he was working as an internist at the state tuberculosis sanitarium in Ithaca and not so long after I was born, my mother and older sister, age 2 1/2, returned to Ithaca to live.

When he returned in the summer of 1945, we moved from our apartment on Buffalo Street to one attached to and opening into the hospital and he resumed work with TB patients. I remember little of this period up to that apartment but I do remember it. By then, I was 2 1/2 years old and walking and talking. I discovered-most likely by following him- that he sometimes didn't pay attention to quiet children below a certain height and that exploring the wards and getting to know the patients was a matter of staying close to the high desk that the receptionist sat in at the hospital's front hall so she couldn't see me and when she was distracted, darting through the glass doors into the wards. I usually didn't get very far until one of the orderlies spotted me and I was escorted firmly back to my apartment. The patients who were contagious were kept behind locked doors in separate wards so I wasn't in any real danger but I became quite used to large people in white coats, the smells of the wards and labs with their interesting equipment.

What I didn't become familiar with was other children my age to play with except when my mother made the effort to contact the families on the grounds for a play date. Most of their children were older so often my sister Ann (11 months older than me) and I played with each other. When she went to kindergarten, it was pretty lonesome. Mom would read to me and I could go visit the head of the hospital maintenance who lived in a building we called the "H" building. He had a female beagle who regularly supplied the hospital environment with puppies. The visits were cut short when one of the physicians acquired a German shepherd trained as an attack dog to, "teach his son responsibility." The dog was disposed of after it bit a policeman called out to investigate and had to be euthanized.

When I was old enough to attend kindergarten, my life perked up a bit.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Jazz in the Afternoon

Photo essay by Claudine Harris
(taken at the Iowa City Jazz Festival, July 3, 2011)

 They came early, well prepared to wait.

 The main stage struck a sharp silhouette.

 Listeners clustered under the trees, sprawled
 on blankets, chatted with friends, wandered over
 to the many food stands on Iowa Avenue, . . .
...or found a shady ledge for a musical snooze