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My Blog - Inspired By My Pictures

Years ago I heard the advice, "Don't take pictures while on vacation, just focus on the experience."  This turned out to be terrible guidance for me.  In my late 30s I started taking more pictures.  This activity helps to cement memories that would otherwise be lost whether on vacation or just going somewhere on the weekend.  In this blog I share the memories and stories inspired by my pictures.  

The most exciting part of what I received from my grandfather is the letters which he wrote to my grandmother while he was in Europe. They saved them and eventually gave them to me after my grandfather passed away. They're in a nondescript cardboard box labeled "Letters from Jack: WWII. Give to Scott."

I've opened the box a couple times over the last decade and gone through a letter or two. They aren't easy to decipher. They're in cursive. They reference family members who I don't know or cultural phenomena I'm not familiar with. Who knows what conditions they were written in, both physically and mentally. Still, I need to go through these and capture my grandfather's experience. This is why they were left to me.

My grandfather was in the 489th Armored Field Artillery Battalion. The description below is of September 17th,1944.

The tanks and infantry started a forward movement at 0800 on September 17th. The weather continued bad and progress was correspondingly slow. Artillery missions were relayed to higher headquarters, but enemy counter-battery continued throughout the day. By 1800, the CC supported troops occupied their line of departure, Marieulles.

My favorite thought in my grandfather's letter below is the comment about candy. My great grandfather was a candy maker and my grandparents have an amazing caramel recipe which I took for granted as a kid. Towards the end of his life my grandpa returned home from the hospital after a battle with cancer which he won for a couple years. I was there to see him return. He sat in his favorite chair in the family room.

After sitting the first thing he did was ask where the candy jar was. It was usually on the end table right next to his chair. Grandma said the doctors told her that he needed to stay away from candy so she'd moved it. Grandpa looked disgruntled and then said something along the lines of, "No problem. I've got my secret stash." He then put his hands underneath the cushion of his chair, pulled out a couple pieces of wrapped candy and smiled as he ate them.

September 17, 1944

My darling;

Believe it or not, I’m keeping a promise by writing today. I’m also going to write mom as it has been some time since I wrote her. I received three letters you sent yesterday. One of your letters claims that uncle Charlie has written me. I can’t remember receiving a letter from him since I’ve been over here.

Betty, it started to rain at five this morning. It’s now almost 5 pm and it has rained hard throughout the day. I sure don’t know what I’ll sleep in tonight because everything is wet. It reminds me of Tennessee.

Maybe I should tell you certain things, maybe I should not. Tell me whether you want to hear about the different people in the unit. Some time ago Captain Maise was killed. I don’t know whether I spelled his name correctly. He’s the one that lived in the downstairs apartment while we were in Tennessee. I know your mother had met him and you can write that he’s gone. Everything is okay with me. Only this rain sure does get me down.

I had Irish hamburger for all three meals today. I’m really getting to be a meat eater again. Honey, go to South Bend and go to the Philadelphia shop and get me some chocolate covered candy. I believe it’s cool enough now, you can send it to me. I sure miss my candy. I got a box the other day and I think I’ve done pretty good. I only ate four pieces of it although I nearly ate more. I sure could have. You can send that as often as you like.

I’m glad you went to Chicago but Betty all those stories you heard about Elaine may or may not be true. Anyway, it is water under under the bridge by this time. If you like her and she is nice to you, what do you care what she did a year or so ago. Now don’t take this as me being too liberal. I don’t want you to get any ideas so you understand.

Did or didn’t Warren get his commission? Nobody has told me anything. Let me know which way it is will you? What is this system of discharging the Army has? I haven’t seen anything about it. I sure would like to know where I came in on it. So in your next letter you can explain it all to me.

I’ve got to get started on a little work now so I’ll close and come back to this letter in a few minutes.

I’m back but I can’t think of much more to say. You know exactly how I feel about things for sure.

A little French girl came over a dozen times yesterday. I gave her everything I got I didn’t want. This morning she brought over a pie. I gave her four packages of cigarettes for it for her papa. She left all smiles.

Honey, this is all for today. I’ll try to do better in writing. Maybe I won’t get a chance tomorrow but if I do, I’ll write.

All my love


Upon initial exploration of my grandfather's war locker I've discovered several items from prior to World War II. I discussed this with my dad and he believes these may be from family members on my grandmother's side of the family. I'll need to explore further but this won't keep me from writing about them.

One of the small books near the top of my grandfather’s World War II locker is titled Where Do We Go From Here? This is the Real Dope. The back cover makes me feel awkward in this day and age but I have to remember that this was written for the men returning from war and it was a different time.

The title of the booklet seemed appropriate not only for me as I transition from my employer of 19 years but for the country as a whole. While I’m at a place where I can and need to start thinking about where I go from here, I don’t think the country is yet. As a whole we’re just starting to enter the scary phase of this pandemic and we need to get through it and understand where we are personally, psychologically and economically before we can make educated guesses as to next steps. But "Where do we go from here?" is a question we’re all going to need to ask ourselves in the near future if we aren’t already asking it.

The book is a fascinating glimpse into the questions a soldier returning from home might have and what the government put in place or was trying to put into place to address the uncertainty.

“It is meant to be your “Handy Andy.” It was prepared especially for you, by direction of Col. Arthur Woods, Assistant to the Secretary of War. Its single purpose is to bring you in the simplest, quickest, and most accurate form the things which every man who has served in The Great War must know to put him in touch again with God’s Country.

Some of the topics included are; getting discharged, financial support, disability, purchasing land and finding a job. The finding a job section has some direct advice, some of which seems appropriate now for the country as a whole. It's also contrary to my choice to leave my job.

“The best advice that can be given to any man leaving the military establishment at this time is to get in touch with his old employer at the earliest possible moment. Industry in the United States is in a state of flux. There have been many dislocations as a result of reversing the machinery which was going at full tilt in one direction on a war schedule, and sending it full tilt in an opposite direction on a peace programme."

To the man whose college or university life has been broken by the war there are but two words to say: Get back. Don’t let a Gypsy heel, or the smell of wood fires, or the call of a winding road lead you astray until you’ve finished college. There’ll be time enough when that’s done to go Gypsying. After the Civil War, and even after the fracas of ‘98 there were ever so many who thought it was too late to go back. Talk to them about it. They’ll tell you it was the mistake of their lives.

Life expectancy in the US in 1925 was 57 years. Today it’s roughly 79. That’s an increase of 24 years. If there was time for Gypsying later in life in 1925 then there’s definitely time today for me as 40 year old with half my leaf ahead of me. The problem is that our timeline hasn't been promised to us. The odds may be with me but it isn’t guaranteed and I’m tired of waiting. I wonder if in a couple years my decision to leave my previous employer now was the biggest mistake of my life or the best decision I ever made. Like most things the reality will probably be somewhere in between.

I finished The Castle of Kings this past weekend. I can’t recommend it. I’ve had a rough time with books this year. My history with literature is an on again, off again love story. I initially started reading for pleasure in middle school when I started consuming comic books. My interests transitioned into Fantasy and Science Fiction novels in early high school. As I write this I’m looking at the Dragonlance Chronicles which were the first series of novels I ever read. Fantasy will always have a place in my heart.

In late high school I transitioned to classics. I was the weird kid who read Shakespeare for fun. In this day and age I think that enjoying classics and fantasy may be cool. Believe me, it wasn’t in the 90s. You can be guaranteed that anyting I touched or enjoyed wasn’t cool. By the end of high school I entered my beatnick phase as I read On the Road and multiple books of Kerouac’s poetry.

In college I stopped all educational development and focused on social development. I didn’t read a single book in four years. It was the right choice. While taking a four year vacation to work on getting comfortable with myself seems self-centered and wasteful, I left college a better person than I was going in.

When I joined the real world after college I decided to take on reading again. Much like my childhood I started with Fantasy. At the time Stephen King’s Dark Tower series was in its prime. I continued to read different genres until I had my daughter.

Having a child interrupts so much and for me, reading was one of those things that dropped to the wayside. I never completely stopped reading. Having a child wasn’t as disruptive as college to my literary needs but it never returned to the status of a primary hobby.

This year I want to change that and I’ve done a good job so far. I’ve read 4 books over three months. Now, I’m obviously not lighting the world on fire with that quantity of reading but it’s good for me compared to the last 10 years. It’s especially good because the books haven’t been that good. I started the year with a book from my old boss, How Will You Measure Your Life? It was a good, quick read. I took away some things. There are a couple of takeaways which I’ve written down and I need to spend some time answering some key questions about my life.

The next book was a science fiction book who’s title I’ve already forgotten. It was on sale at a book store and it was a New York Times notable book a couple years ago as well as a recommendation from Oprah’s book club. It was well written in terms of the use of the english language ( I wish I could say the same about this blog.) But the story didn’t capture my attention at all and I just slogged my way through it until finished. At that point, I said to myself, I’m glad that’s over.

Then I decided to take a break and do some easy reading. I read a fictional murder mystery which took place in Glacier National Park. I’ve been to Glacier once. I absolutely loved it. The location of the story was one of two reasons I purchased the book, the second was that it was on the clearance rack. (You’ll start to notice a theme about the price of the books I buy.) It was quick and lighthearted and I enjoyed it not for the story but for my own ability to see Glacier and the surrounding area in my mind after not seeing it in person for over a decade.

Next was a western. Generally speaking, I love westerns. Both on the big screen and in the written word. This one, not so much. Where did I find it? You can guess. The book’s main character was supposedly a strong feminist heroine. I found her weak and racist. Thumbs down.

That brought me to The Castle of Kings. Now for once I did not get this off of the clearance rack. That being said, I did buy it from a Read it Again books so I was purchasing a second hand novel. Based on the cover it was historical fiction with a hint of fantasy. Just what the Dr. ordered after a litany of meh. Unfortunately, I got more meh. It was 644 pages that landed no where.

Ending a story is tough. It’s tough for that ending to satisfy a majority of consumers let alone all. That being said, I don’t mind things being left up in the air. I don’t mind having to finish a story for myself. There are those that hate how the Sopranos ended and those who love it. I fall into the second camp.

Well The Castle of Kings did something so much worse than leave things up in the air. The story might as well have ended with the final sentence, “There was no point in this story.” The first two hundred pages were strong enough. It set up the main characters, the heroes, the villains and it also was a little heavy handed in social hierarchy and the strife that results because of it. The next two hundred pages was a random side quest for no reason. It pulled the heroes apart in space and time just to put them back together again. But don’t worry there was no character development in those two hundred pages.

The final two hundred pages wrapped things up, but the epilogue was infuriating. Everything the main characters suffered for over multiple years was all for naught. They gave everything up. Society and destiny pushed everything on them and after getting it, they decided, “no thanks,” even though they had the opportunity to make a difference in the world. Just to reiterate the first third of the book is about societal strife and when the main characters have the ability to do something about this, they don’t. In other words, this book is another disappointment.

So I’m off to the next book and I’m returning to where I started the year. It’s another non-fiction book which I hope gets me to be self-reflective, The Algebra of Happiness by Scott Galloway. Maybe I’ll write about it when I finish it. I’m 10% through it according to my Kindle and so far so good.

I do think it’s a good sign that I continue to read even though my choices have been less than stellar. I want to, need to, keep it up. It’s meditative, relaxing and I’d also like to think that I grow a little with every book I read.

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