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WWII Timeline – Winter 1936

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at January – March 1936 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Winter 1936

February 10, 1936

The German Gestapo, under Heinrich Himmler, assumes absolute control over internal German security, placing them above the law.

March 1936

SS-Totenkopfverbände (SS-TV) – in English, the SS Death’s Head (skull and crossbones) division – is established to administer the Nazi concentration camps.

March 7, 1936

In violation of the Versailles Treaty, Nazi troops occupy the Rhineland.

March 29, 1936

Ninety-eight percent of Germans vote for Hitler’s policy of re-militarization.

Sources:

This series of posts is based on a compilation of timelines from:

The Holocaust Encyclopedia

The History Place:

The National WWII Museum Interactive Timeline

World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

Most recent post from the series:

Fall 1935

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

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Let us be thankful for…this possum?

Daddy’s family never had much money when he was growing up in Atlanta. My granddad was a printer by trade and had trouble finding work during the Great Depression. After that, he owned his own print shop for a while, and even invented a printing press, but family lore says the patent was stolen from him and he never realized any money from his invention.

Granddad and Grandmother didn’t see a lack of money as a reason to limit their family size, though, and over twenty-seven years had nine children.  They kept a big garden, raised chickens and rabbits, and all the kids except the youngest, Beverly, left school after the tenth grade to get jobs to assist with the family finances.

The Farrar children were great story tellers and had a lot of interesting family memories to draw from, so when my Aunt Beverly told me the story of the most memorable family Thanksgiving, it stuck in my mind.

This particular Thanksgiving may have occurred in the 1920’s or 1930’s or as late as the early 1940’s, either before Beverly was born or when she was too young to remember the day herself. Her knowledge of that Thanksgiving was the story told to her by her mother, my grandmother, Raleigh Mae Farrar.

Beverly told me the story a couple of times and small details changed between tellings.  This is my version of the day compiled from my recollections and recordings of the events as told to me by Beverly. The quotations are Beverly’s words.

Grandmother had what the family called “the vapors.” Back then, having the vapors were at the very least described as having spells of light-headedness, flushing, or fainting, to the opposite end of the spectrum of hysteria, mania, or depression. It could involve mood swings and loss of mental focus. Having had her last child at the age of forty-seven in 1937, for Grandmother, the vapors may have been menopause. She would have turned fifty in 1940.

During the period of Grandmother’s vapors, she was sometimes bedridden and a woman came in every day to take care of the family. That year when Thanksgiving neared, the family didn’t have money for a turkey and all the fixings.

Grandmother said, “I don’t know what we’re going to do, we don’t have money for a turkey. We’ll just have chicken.”

The woman said, “Oh, no, Miss Mae, don’t worry about that. I’m going to take care of Thanksgiving.”

Soon Thanksgiving Day came and Grandmother said the smells wafting from the kitchen were just absolutely fabulous. The family could hardly wait to get in there and eat Thanksgiving dinner. When the woman announced dinner was ready, they opened up the door and all rushed in to gather around the dining room table.

In the center of the table was a great big possum on a platter. The possum had an apple in its mouth and was surrounded with potatoes cut to look like flowers, with English peas scattered among the potatoes. Everyone sat and stared at that beautiful display and that possum. But just for a moment, before the room filled with laughter.

After composing themselves, my grandfather and all the children told my grandmother they weren’t eating the previous night’s roadkill for Thanksgiving. Then every one of them got up from the table and left the dining room.

In 1909, President William Howard Taft and his family reportedly enjoyed a twenty-six pound possum alongside the traditional turkey for their Thanksgiving Day meal. Maybe the woman who cooked Thanksgiving for my grandparents and their children that year thought that if a Thanksgiving possum was good enough for a U.S. President and his family, it would be good enough for the Farrar family who, that year, couldn’t afford a turkey.

Though the Farrar’s were poor in money, they were rich in family. Family is what Thanksgiving’s all about, isn’t it?

I’d like to think if that generation of my family had been aware of the centerpiece of President Taft’s 1909 Thanksgiving dinner, they might have given that possum a taste.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

WWII Timeline – Fall 1935

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at October – December 1935 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Fall 1935

October 3,1935

Benito Mussolini, leader of the Fascist Party and Prime Minister of Italy, ordered his troops into Abyssinia (the historical name of the Ethiopian Empire in Africa). The invasion was known as the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. The League of Nations called for economic sanctions against Italy, but there was no enforcement.

December 1935

The Hoare-Laval Pact was proposed by British Foreign Secretary Samuel Hoare and French Prime Minister Pierre Laval for the purpose of ending the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. The proposed pact would partition Abyssinia, which would achieve Mussolin’s goal of making it into an Italian colony.

According to the pact, France and Britain would each give Italy part of Abyssinia with guaranteed access to the ocean. The proposed pact was strongly opposed in both Britain and France and was never finalized. British Foreign Secretary Samuel Hoare lost his position.

December 12, 1935

Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler founded the Lebensborn (source or fount of life) program. The program’s purpose was to produce a German “super race” by selective breeding between young German women demonstrating the idealized Aryan characteristics, and SS officers and others who were considered to be racially pure. Once pregnant, the women were provided with excellent medical care in special medical facilities.

Sources:

This series of posts is based on a compilation of timelines from:

The Holocaust Encyclopedia

The History Place:

The National WWII Museum Interactive Timeline

Wikipedia: Second Italo-Ethiopian War

Wikipedia: Hoare-Laval Pact

Wikipedia: Lebensborn

World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

Most recent post from the series:

Summer 1935

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

2018 384th Bomb Group Reunion

When I returned from the 384th Bomb Group’s 2018 reunion in Dayton, Ohio, I posted a few photos here.

I have now had a chance to sort through the three hundred-plus photos I took and have posted about five dozen in the group’s photo gallery. The link is to the main album, which contains all photos contributed by reunion attendees. My photos, at least for now, are in the sub-album “Cindy Bryan’s Photos.” These may be rolled up into the main album in the future, so if you don’t see my sub-album, you can assume all my photos have been moved into the main album.

Here are just a few more of my photos from the 2018 Reunion in Dayton, but you can see lots more using the photo gallery link to the group’s online photo gallery.

Friday, October 19 – Our visit to the National Museum of the US Air Force

After a short bus ride from our reunion hotel, we gathered around the 384th Bomb Group memorial outside the museum. An honor guard presented the colors and taps was played.

Honor guard at the 384th Bomb Group memorial at the National Museum of the USAF

The five 384th Bomb Group veterans who attended the reunion posed for a photo on this cold Dayton morning.  Attending were (left to right):

  • Peter Bielskis, Ball Turret Gunner, 27 Missions
  • Henry Sienkiewicz, Navigator, 35 Missions
  • William Wilkens, Engineer/Top Turret Gunner, 30 Missions
  • John DeFrancesco, Pilot, 35 Missions, POW
  • Donald Hilliard, Radio Operator, 16 Missions

Veterans of the 384th Bomb Group pose behind the group’s memorial at the Museum of the USAF
Left to right: Peter Bielskis, Henry Sienkiewicz, William Wilkens, John DeFrancesco, and Donald Hilliard

Never missing an opportunity to photograph our veteran heroes, our group posed inside the museum in front of the Memphis Belle (see previous post), and with UK friend of the group, Neill Howarth, in front of the museum’s soaring stained glass backdrop.

In the Museum of the USAF, left to right: Peter Bielskis, Henry Sienkiewicz, Neill Howarth, John DeFrancesco, William Wilkens, and Donald Hilliard

Saturday, October 20 – Our visit to the Champaign Aviation Museum at Grimes Field, Urbana, Ohio

Our group got a close look at the restoration work on the museum’s B-17 Champaign Lady, getting a hands-on educational opportunity in our favorite subject, the Flying Fortress. We held parts in our hands, crawled through the work-in-progress fuselage and ball turret, and, of course, took more photos.

We even had the opportunity to meet two local WWII Army Air Forces veterans from different bomb groups, Red Ketcham and Art Kemp, who were also based in England during the war. You can see their photos in the gallery.

At the Champaign Aviation Museum, left to right: Neill Howarth and John DeFrancesco

Our 384th veterans gathered in front of Champaign Lady

At the Champaign Aviation Museum, left to right: William Wilkens, Henry Sienkiewicz, John DeFrancesco, Peter Bielskis, and Donald Hilliard

The obvious “stars” of our group are our veterans, but as the number of surviving veterans dwindle, it is up to the next generation of children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews in our group to carry their memory forward.

In addition to our five veterans, twenty-seven family members and five friends of the group gathered in Dayton this year. It is not just our country’s history we celebrate when we gather, it is our family history, too. Others like me seek to learn everything we can about our relatives’ involvement in that time long ago, not just for ourselves, but so that we can pass this knowledge down for generations to come.

Left to right: Fred Preller (son of 384th pilot Robert Preller), Cindy Farrar Bryan (daughter of 384th waist gunner George Edwin Farrar), John DeFrancesco (384th pilot), and Keith Ellefson (nephew of 384th ball turret gunner Raymond Orlando Wisdahl)

It took several days for me to return to “normal” from the travel between Florida and Ohio, and the reunion itself. But after my immersion of several days into the WWII air war over Europe, it will take me much longer to return to 2018 from 1945. Part of me is still there in that different world in that long ago time.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018