Wednesday, July 3, 2013


THE MURDER THAT SAVED DADDY FROM THE DRAFT: We did not have an automobile until I was almost eight,because there was no gas available during WWII unless you were a doctor, a baseball players or a politician. One of the deans at Western Reverse who lived next door left his house at dawn and rode a bicycle to work. At the time of my parent's wedding in 1934 my father worked for Socony-Vacuum Oil Company at one of the service stations with pumps bearing the logo of the Flying Red Horse called Pegasus. The company was later renamed Mobile Gas and given a new red, white and blue banner, but the old logo can still be found in isolated locations on back roads.  In 1934, the popular service station manager who was my father's boss was convicted of   murder and executed in June 1935, four years before I was born. My father had discovered incriminating press clippings hidden in a crawlspace above the service bays, but he did not call the police immediately. He did what everyone in the family did when they needed advice from someone who knew how the system worked. He called his Aunt Nanny, Edna Jameson. Because she controlled ticket sales and access to season tickets and box seats to Indians games and had a link to the Cleveland Arena, she knew everyone with power in Cleveland and most other cities where the American League had ball clubs. With her encouragement and willingness to walk him through the mine fields of a  major crime investigation, he made a police report. My father was never convinced that the true story of what happened came out at the trial. The defendant was known for his generosity and had extended kindness to our family, but he was equally popular with the men who chauffeured the capos of what Eliot Ness and other law enforcment officers dubbed the Mayfield Heights Mob. My father had been instructed by the prosecutor not to speculate  about any organized crime connections hidden under what was packaged  as a rape-murder, but there were implications that the rape might have been a cover for a mob hit of a household employee who had seen or heard too much, or at least that was the rumor  bantered about years later when my parents thought I had gone to bed. In any case, after his boss was convicted my father  began scouting for a different job, hopefully one that gave him a chance to use his night school degree in accounting and kept him far out of Mayfield Heights.  Aunt Nanny encouraged him to seek work in a defense plant, because by the time he was ready to make his change, a European war seemed inevitable, and America was its principle arms supplier. It was that fortuitous career move that got him his initial deferment. But his status was re-evaluated every six months--often enough to cause terror in me whenever I went to the mailbox on the porch and found a letter from the Draft Board. Long before I knew what the Axis was, I considered the  Draft Board my personal  enemy. When my two uncles enlisted on December 8, 1941, there was tension in the family that I did not fully understand until much later. I bore the brunt of being the only one of the Fetterly grandchildren whose father was not at risk. At the time I simply thought they liked my cousin Marcia  better. Later my Aunt Ruthie explained that I had a father at home and Marcia did not.

A planning meeting of air raid wardens in the US
 BOMBS AND OTHER SCAREY THINGS: Before we moved up into Colonial Heights, an enclave of the City of Cleveland ironically located just east of the City of East Cleveland, we lived in a part of town where every street had an Air Raid Warden who walked past the house during blackouts and did something horrific to any householder whose lights shown at the edge of the blackout curtains. When I was five and we moved to the house in Colonial Heights we still had blackouts, but the Air Raid Warden was less officious and often lingered in the kitchen when tea or coffee was offered. Ours was an inveterate gossip, which is how news traveled from everyone else's house to ours over tea and biscuits. That is how I learned that the children two houses down and across the street were Russian, which at the age of four I considered something disabling but tolerable, akin to us being Protestants in a predominately Irish-Catholic neighborhood.I do not remember much else about the warden other than he made sounds imitating Zeros, Japanese dive bombers like the ones which sunk our ships at Pearl. He for some reason thought they were entertaining.I knew enough of current events to be aware of the attack on Pearl Harbor and to assuage, my fears my father found an old Atlas and showed me how far away it was from Cleveland, which did not seem as far away when the warden made his dive bomber sounds.  

There were all sorts of rumored spottings of Japanese aircraft carriers and submarines off the California coast and unidentified aircraft overflights of Midwestern cities. When I was five father engaged my interest in aircraft identification. We spent our evenings building cardboard model airplanes when other girls in kindergarten were playing with Cut-Out-Dolls. Suffice it to say that by the time I was six I could tell a B-17 from a Messerschmidt 109 and  had no idea what Shirley Temple wore. After school I played war games with the Quandt kids, who had the best toy soldiers. Theirs were metal of a quality impossible to find at the Dime Store. I was not particularly afraid of Germans because there were Germans in our family, but I had never seen a Japanese person other than in the war posters. My mother's friend Dorothy Chapman worked as a teacher in the internment camps in Arizona and my mother, not the most enlightened creature on the planet, refused to answer Dorothy's letters or speak to her on her visits to her family. At first I considered Hitler a very bad man who was bullying the German population into doing his bidding, until I saw the newsreels of the rallies.
 The puzzlement it caused me then is one of the vestiges of that dark page in history. I understand it little better now than I did then.

At the end of the war  when I entered first grade at Euclid Park Elementary, I signed up for a Pen Pal and was paired with an English girl named Ellen. My parents suggested that we send Holiday gifts to Ellen and her siblings and I wrote to ask what they would like. She responded that bedroom slippers were not a good choice for her older brother who only had one leg, but pajamas were ideal because he pinned up one leg at the knee and flannel did not make his stump itch. Her little sister would prefer something she could either smell or hear,but Victrola records would not ship well. I sent her Orange Blossom perfume from Florida, little fake oranges made of the new material called plastic and packed in miniature orange crates. She had lost one eye in the blitz and her vision in the other was impaired. My father brought out the trusty Atlas and showed me  and how far Cleveland was from Japan, but it did not help. I still stayed awake nights listening for Japanese dive bombers and German rockets and Messerschmidts.

 HOMECOMINGS OF THE HEROES: Being liberated by the advancing American and Russian armies did not release prisoners of war from further military service, but it might earn them a trip home. My Uncle Jack, the one who was in the credits of the movie Stalag 17(1956){See Part I} had survived being shot out of the air over France, being sold to the Germans by French farmers in exchange for money to repair a plow, and many months in a POW camp living on weak potato soup, but he barely survived his homecoming. He did not announce to his wife that he was coming home because he wanted to surprise her, and when he appeared in her bedroom in the dead of night, she fired away with her trusty.45. She did not miss him by much, as attested to by the blister in the furnace that was next to the doorway where he was standing.

My mother's tragedy-driven cousin Guy Patterson (see Part I) had come home earlier to a ticker-tape parade in Manhattan and a stint with the Air Ferry Command at Floyd Bennett Field in New York, but not long afterward he was assigned to the Naval Air Ferry Command in Texas , flying new Lockheed and Grumman aircraft delivered to Naval Air Station -Corpus Christi, Texas to the Pacific and returning to repeat the deliveries again and again.  It sounds like a milk run but it was a very dangerous assignment and required him to fly a variety of airplanes, some of which were barely out of the flight test phase.

The heroics of my Uncle Ralph Fetterly were not disclosed until years later when crew members of the Destroyer USS Longshaw shared their war stories with my grandmother. Ralph was a tall, lean easy-going man who did like to talk about himself very much. Apparently Uncle Ralph had spent many hours in the water rescuing injured crew mates until he nearly died of hypothermia and we would not have known about it had it not been for my Grandma Dick's open door policy to any young man who had served with her sons and looked as if he could use a good home-cooked meal. Grandma Dick cooked the best pork roast on the planet.  86 crew members including the ship's newly promoted commanding officer COMMANDER BECKER were killed when the Longshaw went down, and 85 more were wounded, many of them seriously.  The ship had run aground close to Japanese shore batteries that blew the superstructure off the ship. There was nothing left to salvage, so other USN ships shelled it until it sank.   Uncle Ralph was not listed as wounded initially because of some sort of glitch in identification,  but later he was airlifted back to the states to be evaluated and was hospitalized at Crile Hospital for therapy.  He was shown on the roles as an unwounded  survivor because at the time they had no idea how to deal with such a thing as  PTS.  While he was recuperating, he began corresponding with a nurse.  She became my Aunt Anne Fetterly on Uncle Ralph's first weekend of shore leave.  I remember what she wore-- a slim black shirt and a white eyelet top with a peplum and a huge black picture hat. It may have gone against tradition, but it highlighted her incredible sense of style.  I found this today in my web trawling: CREW USS LONGSHAW (DD-559) May 18, 1987 THIS IS A RECORD OF THE CREW OF THE DESTROYER USS LONGSHAW (DD-559) COVERING THE PERIOD FROM THE COMMISSIONING (December 4, 1943) TO THE SINKING (May 18, 1945) BY JAPANESE SHORE BATTERY NEAR OKINAWA DURING WORLD WAR II. THIS INFORMATION HAS BEEN PREPARED FROM NATIONAL ARCHIVES RECORDS BY LEO E. SCOTT, REUNION SECRETARY....And then came a very long list, including
The USS Longshaw in better days.
.FETTERLY, Ralph Francis 550-51-24 MoMM1c S. The little 's' at the end of the entry meant that he had survived.

My charismatic Uncle Jack's first marriage t my aunt Thais did not survive the War, but even that story had its happy ending. My Aunt (by marriage) Thais found a less flamboyant second husband who was my adopted Uncle John who I loved fiercely, and Uncle Jack found a saint for a second wife. Those two second marriages produced a batch of my favorite cousins, some related by blood and others like my cousin Sue by love. Aunt Thais still lives independently at the age of 97 close by my cousins Marcia and Sue.  She is the last member of my parent's 1934 wedding party. 

 MORE THAN ONE KIND OF SHORTAGE AND MORE THAN ONE KIND OF SURPLUS: My father was skipped over by the draft board, but he did not avoid being recruited by the scores of female co-workers whose husbands were oversees. Today's modern woman would find it hard to believe how many of their predecessors did not know how to turn off the water when the toilet overflowed, how to balance a check book, how to change a fuse or how to replace a light bulb, and were no doubt the inspiration for the slogan "Real Girls Don't Pump Gas". They rang the house with emergencies even on the weekend which is probably why I remember the names Marie  and Connie They did not want my admittedly handsome father as a replacement for their GI husbands, but they certainly wanted a plumber and a carpenter. My mother was livid when he leaped into the breech so frequently. Often when he went off to save a cat caught in a tree or fix a leaky faucet, I went  with him. I think he felt safer with me along. We still did not have an automobile so we took the streetcar. It was on those rides that I saw how very many boys not much older than my Aunt Ruthie boyfriends (she's 84 and has a fine one now) had come back missing arms and legs. The ones who did not come back at all were far less visible, but everyone had a neighbor or a friend with a wreath draped in black ribbon hanging on their front door.  Some houses posted War Department telegrams in the window. 

V-E Day (Victory in Europe)came first, on May 8, 1945, a month before the sinking of the Longshaw. The last stages of the war in Europe constituted  a race between the Allies powers to see who would be first to reach Berlin, and which army would net the most German scientists. I would not have understood the story, but there was a movie made about it.  I was still a first grader, but by then their was no dissuading me from listening to war news on my father's crystal set.  When we went to movies, few children other than me enthusiastically watched RKO-Pathe, but I could recognize Churchill's voice and I had a sense of who he was. I knew that my Pen Pal Ellen had a king, but it seemed that she also had Churchill, who was something like our president. Whether Uncle Joe was friend or foe was already more difficult to define but I marveled at his mustache. There were no movies on V-E Day. That evening my parents took me on the long walk from our house to Nela Park, the home of General Electric. GE usually saved its light display for the huge fir trees at Christmas, but it was aglow that night. The sky was criss-crossed with competing searchlights. My father stopped to light a cigarette for a red-headed boy with his arm in a sling. Even the wounded who could make it out to the streets were celebrating that night. Many of them were singing.  Not all of the songs were bawdy.  Some of the more sober boys were singing God Bless America. But the saga wasn't over yet.  My grandmother  received a sombre message from the war department concerning Uncle Ralph that was soon followed by a retraction.  There had been some sort of glitch in Ralph's identification when he was first pulled from the sea.  But Grandma Dick trusted her WeegeeBoard (See part I) and knew that both of her sons had survived.

 I thought that President Harry Truman seemed like a nice man who share my passion for the piano, but both my staunchly Democratic Patterson  grandparents and mother  and my stalwartly Republican Grandma Dick and most of the Fetterlys thought that he was probably an excellent haberdasher, but as a President of the United States was likely over-employed.  Then the Japanese did some more sabre rattling, and Give 'em Hell Harry decided to end it. He sent an airplane named the Enola Gay on a mission that changed the world. 

Not everyone agrees on the date when WWII was over.  If you lived in Hiroshima, it was probably on August 6.  In Nagasaki it was August 9.  But the informal capitulation of the Japanese Empire took place on August 17th.  However, the date that sticks with me and is recorded in most history books is September 2, 1945, the day of the formal Japanese surrender that ended the war.  In Cleveland, school did not start until after Labor Day.  All of us were home.  There had been reports of an important  radio address.  My incredible grandfather had somehow acquired rolls of crepe paper streamers in red white and blue and distributed it among the elementary school age children.  We had our bicycles all lined up in ranks and had woven the colored paper through the spokes.  I still rode a tricycle, a beautiful Schwinn in a burgundy, still a favored  color of mine.  Those of us who had horns on our handlebars could hardly wait.  Others wore whistles or brought pots and pans.  Even in the suburbs above the lake, there were myriad sources of din.  My father came home from work early. The plant had excused its non-essential employees and sent the rest home. Someone gave Daddy a ride.  Then sirens sounded and horns honked and people came into the street and shouted. My grandfather came outside."It's over, Honey," he said.   We  paraded along the street in front of our house on Hillsboro Road, and many adults joined in.  That night our family and our upstairs  tenants the Bekkadahls all crowded into Beck's car.  He had a small produce farm outside of the city which entitled him to gasoline coupons so he had a car complete with gas.. We rode down Euclid Avenue into downtown Cleveland.There was confette coming off the rooftops like snow flurries in a winter storm. People were dancing in the streets. Men in uniform were everywhere.  Even the boy on crutches were dancing.  It took hours to make the ride as far as the river and back, fording a sea of unmitigated joy and limitless pride.

The next week we went back to school.  I do not recall whether it was during the first week or the next,  but early in the semester, Mrs. Dutton announced one morning that we were having a new exercise.  Then a man in a uniform and appeared and smiled.

"We have a simple exercise, but pay attention because it is important.  All you have to do is remember that as soon as you hear the bell, you get down on the floor and bury your face in one arm and cover the back of your beck with the other."

Visit this site for my next blog post, another Memoir of the Refugee from Cleveland.  Thanks for tuning in.