|FDR circa 1933, Wikimedea Commons|
House. I, of course, have no independent recollection of the event but soon acquired a strong awareness that I had somehow robbed my mother of her shining moment.
THE THREE WITCHES FROM SHAKER HEIGHTS: For some strange reason, my first clear memory was entering a cemetery with my mother's two hated cousins Rachel and Charlotte. I have no clue as to whose grave we were visiting, perhaps President Garfield's.
|By Greg via Wikimedia Commons|
MY MOTHER'S WAR HERO:
I was two and a half years old when the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor. Then life became a series of strange events none of which meant much to a two-year-old. Hardly anyone drove automobiles, and we sold ours, since there was no gasoline. All of a sudden, toys were made of paper and we spread grease on our toast and called it butter after we squeezed orange -colored food coloring into it to turn it yellow. When I was a little older, coloring the Oleo was my job. In my family, the war had not begun on December 7, 1941. It began just after I was born, when my Godmother Helen Cooper Patterson died. When I was older I realized that she was part of the kind of bittersweet love story that F.Scott Fitzgerald should have written. I still have her photograph. She was a tall, regal blond heiress from Chicago, the daughter of a man who owned a chain of theaters in the Midwest, and that was how she met my mother's cousin Guy Algae Patterson, who played base fiddle in George Duffy's Band. Right out of the script of the Eddie Duchin Story (Tyrone Power and Kim Novak, 1956) came lovely Helen to listen to him play every night in every city, except during the season when she had to check into the sanitarium. Unfortunately, lovely Helen had what my mother called T.B. Her doctors told her she could come to see me when I was born and could participate in my Christening, but she could only kiss me by brushing her lips on the back of my neck. Towards the end, my parents would drive Helen's Stutz Bearcat from Cleveland down to Saint Louis and carry her inside the ballroom so she could watch G.A. perform.
|Photo GeorgeDuffyBand , G.A. Patterson in car at right.|
THE FETTERLY BOYS:
On December 8,both of my father's younger brothers enlisted, one in the Navy and the other in the Army Air Force. My father had been born in 1909, already a little old for a buck private. And he was working in what was called a 'war plant', a company that made valves for aircraft engines. I of course had no idea what a valve was, but it seemed that knowing how to price them was keeping my accountant Daddy from the war. But I was aware that the draft could change all that and I was convinced that if he left, I would die. Even as a four year old child, I knew my mother did not like children all that much. In all fairness, there were reasons. She was afraid of us, and she was jealous. Her firstborn, my brother Robert, was a SIDS death. Mother later told me that she was certain than if she had stayed up all night and watched him sleep, she could have saved him. But there was more to it than that. While my mother had been an only child, Dad was one of five, and there was a large spread in ages. When my father's father Thomas left Grandma Dick (another story there) for another woman, he left my nineteen-year-old father to serve as surrogate father to his unborn child, her toddler sister, and my father's two younger brothers. Dad put off marrying my mother until he was 25 and she was out of patience. Even after I was born, when my aunts Edna Mary and Ruthie needed him, he was there for them. There was a lot of jealousy and resentment in that situation. Mother also envied my father's competence in child-rearing. He was the one with hands on experience with measles, mumps and chicken-pox , and I benefited from his experience in raising his sisters. It was Daddy who diagnosed my Whooping Cough when May McKinley was treating me for Scarlet Fever. And he was the one who took me to his mother's house and let me raid the candy store that had been there when he was a boy. That's is where I developed my life long love of licorice, although I soon outgrew the Horehounds. If Mom had known he let me eat French fries when he took me to his bowling league meets, she would have collapsed. I was terrified that he would be drafted.
|FDR signs Selective Service Act of 1940, aka The Draft|
|Jack Fetterly, courtesy of Dean Fetterly|
Letters that came to our house in the mail from the draftboard were colored coded. I've forgotten what the color scheme was, but I know that I was barely tall enough to reach the mailbox on my tiptoes, and I recognized the letters from the draft board immediately, because they were written on the cheapest paper imaginable, and they were produced on an Addressograph. The Addressograph-Multigraph Company was down the hill near the railroad yard that I could see from my upstairs window. Someone told me that as long as both of my father's brothers were classified as Missing-in-Action, Presumed Dead, that Dad could not be drafted by Presidential Proclamation. Finally my Uncle Ralph came out of a coma and was shipped to Crile Hospital in Ohio, and Uncle Jack appeared on the list of prisoners in one of the Stalags. Ralph learned to make little wooden toys during his rehab and he sent one to me. We received letters from Jack, censured by the Germans who cut out the words they thought might reveals locations or plans. We were allowed to purchase pre-packed packages to send to him through the Red Cross. I remember him telling us later that on the day his stalag was liberated the International Red Cross set up a canteen and actually charged for the donuts, although the coffee was free. After months in a hospital he too returned to the states. By then Ralph was out of Crile and had married a nurse from Cleveland to whom he had been writing. I have a wonderful picture of the five Fetterly kids all lined up, Ralph and Jack in uniforms, there sisters grown up young women. Now only Ruthie is left. She is 85 and sends me off color jokes regularly. She has a wonderful boyfriend.
THE DENT IN THE PIANO AND OTHER WAR WOUNDS: I remember the day that FDR died. The Spangs Bakery Man brought the news to my mother and he was elated. She threw a loaf of bread at him, and that was the end of our bakery delivery. If he had been the milkman, he would have been concussed.
|FDR Funeral at Hyde Park, NewYork.-Wikimeda Commons|
The injuries to the piano occurred three years before when one of my grandmother Julia's friends whose name I do not recall since it soon became anathema in our house, informed my mother that between Mom's Steinbacher bloodline and my father's Fetterly surname, she could approach friends of hers to help my parents smuggle me into the Third Reich to be among my people before it was too late. She had forgotten, apparently,that my mother's temper was pure Patterson Irish and her politics were one hundred percent American. We never saw that woman again, but the dent was in the piano where the tines of the meat fork missed the fat lady's leg. Mother would not permit anyone to polish over it as a reminder of where my mother's loyalties were. And to boot, the Fetterlys were from Nancy and like many Lorrainers, my father considered himself more French than German. His grandparents had bilingual arguments when he was a boy. If he had been home and thrown the fork, it would not have missed the far lady and hit the piano.
THE SOLDIER AND THE PIN UP GIRL: Other than her brief venture into politics in 1939, my mother was never comfortable in crowds. She was quiet and withdrawn when she ventured outside of the house, which she ruled with a velvet fist. Even as a child of six, I found it amazing that one of Cleveland's best known glamor girls, Miss Ann Swanson, was her closet friend. Ann was a natural blond, a Swedish beauty who always had two romantic interests, one who was way too old and way too rich and another who was younger than she was, usually dirt poor, and better looking than Errol Flynn. Not surprisingly, the most handsome soldier in Cleveland was in love with Ann, and a frequent visitor at our house on the evenings when Ann was dining with whoever was heaping her with luxuries that only the wartime Black Market could yield. Of course, I fell madly in love with Sergeant Pruitt and had no idea what he saw in Ann.
|Levdr1lostpassword (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0|