Saturday, May 19, 2012

Uncle Delbert: The Boys Go To War

Was talking to Uncle Delbert yesterday about going off to WWII. What was the mood, I asked? Looking at the photos taken before the boys in his family went off to war, they show a group of people smiling (perhaps bravely) hugging each other for dear life, together and not knowing what the future held. Here's what Uncle Delbert said about that.

He framed the mood: he was born in 1920 and grew up mostly in the Great Depression. His Dad, my Grandfather, was a coal miner. Dad, he said, came home from the mines with his week's pay of a 50-cent piece. That was it. Groceries were bought on credit at the store a couple of houses away and each week the tab would be paid off. His Dad made extra income by cutting the other miner's hair in a tiny barbershop in back of the house for 25 cents a cut. His Dad, I know, had learned to cut hair from his father-in-law, Gus Zeller, the notorious barber (and Drinking Man) often mentioned here. They really "lived on that extra income" he said.

Uncle Delbert described home life with six kids as fun, and happy with a solid sense of home justice which kept the boys in check. They never thought of themselves as being "poor" even though times were tight. (Mom has said almost the exact same thing of her home life growing up.) It's a wonderful thing that none of the three boys ended up in trouble with the law, he mused. They could be full of bedevilment, I know, from the storied my Dad told about growing up with three rascal brothers! Boys will be boys.

He had never been out of Frostburg when the attack at Pearl Harbor took place changing all of their lives. He was called up for duty, passed the physical and off he went on possibly the adventure of his life. His brother Bernie went too. Dad was called up, as I've mentioned here, but couldn't pass the physical due to severe burns to both hands when he was but two years old. Instead, he served by working in Allegany Ballistics Laboratory nearby. The brothers wrote as often as they could. The war years passed and fortunately they were all reunited after the war.

Uncle Delbert has told me three stories so far about his service years and I hope that there will be more to come. The next to come will be about him meeting up with his brother on VE Day. It brought a tear to my eye.

Photos from the archive:

Uncle Delbert in uniform.
Looks like a photo booth picture to me.

Uncle Delbert, 1942

Uncle Bernie, in uniform, about 1942.

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