Guest blogger: Fran … Part I

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(editor’s note: You guys asked for it, and here it is. Our story-telling friend Fran has agreed to tell some more stories. He said he’s scouring his place for some old photos. If we get them in time, we’ll post those too. Until then, enjoy Part I of his musings).

—————

I spent seven years in the military woven between three wars, and had lady luck with me all the way… or perhaps the hand of God.

I haven’t the NY experience of you folks’ and all I can do is relate things that have happened to me over a life time. And I’ll send them all to you for the Bonehead society, and feel free to blog them. I’ve nothing to hide or be ashamed of, and some of them seem unbelievable (how I felt when they happened), but true to a fault they are as best my memory serves me. If the folks find it all interesting, then that is gratification enough for me, for I’m actually a happy man, and I read avidly the comings and goings of each of the Bonesters, rookies and old timers as well. I marvel at the breadth of hockey lore and knowledge that they all have and I spend quite a bit of time reading their inputs.

This first one relates to the period right  after returning from Chicago in l950, ‘51 following two years at Southern New Haven State College, via the GI Bill of Rights given to all veterans of WWII. A lot of people believe that WWII ended in l945 but that is wrong. The “Period of the Emergency” was not closed out until Dec. 31 of l946, because there were still Japs in the islands who held out, and the die hard Nazis in Europe were still loose under the title of “Werewolves” as they called themselves, and gunning GIs and shooting and lynching Germans who cooperated with the allies, and also ambushing GI’s from the hidden enclaves. Most of them were SS. All photos are copies of the originals. I have no need for them.

A good friend of mine, who I grew up with, went into the 1st Cavalry div. and was sent to Japan with the occupation troops there. Prior to that he’d taught himself to speak and understand Japanese and he was wiz at languages. He spoke it so fluently that he became accepted by the Japanese people whom he came to like and admire…and they accepted him. He got in trouble there with the black market and got himself given a general discharge, (still got GIBill but they’d had no evidence against him.)

I went with him to the railroad station in New Haven where they plied their business. A small stainless diner called the coffee pot was nearby and a phone booth was their office. They were three Italian brothers whom I’ll not name, but they were right out of the Sopranos.  I went up to one of them — I’ll call him Jimmy Mattz — told him I was a driver (never had even sat in a semi before this.) He said, “O yeah, well take that unit over there and lemme see ya park it between the other ones there.”

Now I’d been around other guys who operated semis and I saw how they did it, and knew about double clutching and all that, so I hopped into the big beast of an Autocar, and started it up, drove in a big circle, double clutching all the way, and backed up in low gear and while with one foot on the running board, the other on the accelerator but near the brake and slid it right in. He said “not bad, not bad ….but you ain’t no fu’in driver … you look like a college boy to me.” (From that time on all he ever called me was college boy).  I told him , yeah I was a college boy, but nobody’s hiring them now, so now I’m a Gypsy. He laughed his butt off and said, “OK kid, here’s the deal. You take a load of spuds from Long Island, deliver them to North Carolina, then dead head to Florida, and Winter Haven, pick up a load of citrus and bring it to the NY market. I pay 100 bucks round trip and 50 bucks a day expenses.” (Now this was back when the minimum wage was about 50 cents an hour. I took it and next day away I went in his brand new Ford tractor. Thus began my life for the better part of that year as a gypsy driver. (You see I’d just spent a year in Chicago in school, and driving taxis for Checker and Yellow Cab Companies. Still got my teamsters union honorable withdrawal card.) So I was confident I could handle anything on wheels. So that’s how it all began.

His parting advice was, “Look, watch how you talk down there among those cousin f’ers, cause you’ll get yourself killed and everything else.”

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102 Comments

  1. Great job Fran! Thanks!

    Best Tweet Ever found in Waseks: “@wyshynski@ Annoying boy at daycare to woman holding Baby Wysh: “Stop kissing babies or I will destroy you.”

  2. cool story fran, but just as i was getting into it, u went to commercial. ha j/k, but yea i wanna know what happens next. i like ww2 stories and am very interested in history in general. loved teh part at the ed about the cousin byfugliers!!

  3. Fran you and my 14 year old son could sit and talk for hours. He loves anything to do with WWII. Yes he plays video games and he plays them to much, but when he’s not he loves to talk about or even read (but only once in awhile) about WWII. The story was great, and it nice to hear about America when it was at it’s best, that being after WWII. We were a strong county then, and WWII made us even stronger. But look at the news today, what are we getting our selves into. Here’s to hoping everyone the best!

  4. Hey Fran do you still have some of your WWII stuff?? Would you sell anything? No I’m not a collector or anything, but I buy stuff every once in a blue moon, just to shock the boys with a cool gift. One year I got them Army helmets, brand new still in the boxes, that were apparently from some army in Columbia or something. Don’t ask don’t tell LOL. They were on the internet so I bought them, not sure of their history, but that’s what the web site said.

  5. My grandfather brought a good deal of stuff home from WWII. I love it. So much fun to play with all that stuff.

  6. I remember my parents finding some medals at a garage sale when I was young. I was the only kid on the block who had medals on his army shirt. Cool stuff. I hope you didn’t mind me asking Fran, after I thought about it I figured some might take it as being a little awkward and I shouldn’t have asked.

  7. can any of you guys sign into your facebook account? it’s weird… my mobile fb works fine but from the PC it says that the page is not available. I’ve tried all possible browsers.

  8. That’s awesome Latona. I have a LOT of Nazi crap. I have armbands and swords and helmets and lugars…stuff like that. Odd stuff to have in my Jewish household but wearing that helmet and running is hilarious. I don’t know how anyone ever fought in helmets.

  9. FRAN!!! You never disappoint – we are all waiting for the next chapter…

    My parents were both in the service, met and married during WWII, and used to tell occasional stories. I’m sorry I didn’t ask more back then…I still have their uniforms but not very much in the way of how it was to be there, or what it was like when the war ended.

    Thanks for writing for us…you have the best stories!

  10. Eddie Eddie Eddie on

    Fran – thanks for a great part 1. I appreciate the peek into your past. As others have said, the rest of best is yet to come…. Great job.

  11. Boom Boom Bathgate on

    Nice story, Fran, and good moral point re watching your own behavior down south, or wherever you happen to be where cultures are colliding. My best childhood friend growing up in Pennsylvania was a “freedom fighter” in Mississippi, in the summer of 1964. He was down there encouraging and helping black people to register to vote. Happily, he came back alive, and is still with us to this day, but as many will recall that three of his colleagues did not fare so well, as their young lives were sacrificed for that cause. Frankly I am glad I never had the stomach to challenge life on its own terms the way you did, and more power to you for that.

  12. Good afternoon all! Great job fran, I love your stories…keep ’em coming.

    As for FB, hartnell you!
    Warning to ALL …ALL THE PHONE NUMBERS IN YOUR PHONE are now on Facebook! Go to the top right of the screen, click on Account, then click on Edit Friends, go left on the screen and click on Contacts. All phone numbers are published! ! Please repost this on your Status, so your friends can remove their numbers and thus prevent abuse if they do not want them published.

  13. Loof folks thanks for the comments but let me explain something to you about WWII.

    Yes , it is true that technically I was a veteran of WWII only because I enlisted during the “period of the emergency” It was summer of l946. But I saw no combat or even anything resembling it. You have to realize that at that period they were still drafting guys into the army, and I wanted no part of army because I didn’t trust their training methods. ( But good friend Robert who got me the trucking job, was drafted and went to Japan as a private with 1st Cav. I wanted to go into the Air Force ( Army that is in those days), as I wanted to fly. But AF was glutted with guys who tried to get in too. So I had a choice of Navy or draft to Army. I signed with Marines who guarateed me assignment with Marine Air Arm. And they made good on it. I wound up at Cherry Point NC USMCAS home of the 2nd Marine AirWing, and in support of the 2nd Marine Division base about 20 odd miles south of us near Washington NC. Now the west coast has Camp Pendleton home of 1st Mar Div, and their Air arm was at El Toro, USMCAS 1st Mar Div. And that was just about it, except for guys who went to embassy duty, and guards at DC (you see them every day in the news). Got real lucky and qualified for GI Bill. Now you have to understand that when your tour of duty is up, they make every effort to have you re up, for they’ve already spent quite a bit of time and dough training you, and they want you back. But I made Corporal ( 2 striper) and that was it. never got higher . But I was soon to find out that unlike the Army a Corporal with Marines is a much more significant rate than in Army ( at least in those days). But like everyone else, I just wanted out and to go off to school. So when they find out that you’re not gonna re up they then try to get you into the reserves. you know, one meeting a month and two weeks summer field retraining etc That was a good deal because you would eventually retire after 20 yrs and get a life pension of one half your rate at the time you get out, ( I was and still am in fear of blue water), and didn’t stop to realize that Marines spend almost as much time at sea as sailors do.

    And we’d just finished to end the last of the wars right? Never gonna be any more after this …right.

    Already the N Koreans were moving against the south and Chjairman Mao was still struggling with Chiang Kai Czeck in China. So off to school I went and forgot to sign up for reserves.

    Every one of the guys who signed up for reserves, got called back into the service for another “period of emergency”. they wound up in
    Korea. Wanna know who one of the guys was who got called back? Ever hear of the great Red Sox star Ted Williams? He’d been a Marine Fighter pilot during the war and he went back and flew sorties thru the Korean War. He still had to use the old bent wing Corsairs ( F4U,s) and then our night fighters were leftover F6F Grumman Hellcats. No Jets at this period, they came a bit later on…and very primitive.

    When I got all the old jar heads that were in my unit to Vegas for a really great reunion, I had to admit that I admired the hell out of them. They all had their wives with them. And one of the wives was bewildered by it all ..she said something to the effect of : these guys were only together for a few years how come they’re so happy to see them again, they hardly knew each other? One of the wiser wives pulled her aside and explained. that they we were thrown together in a situation here they were teen agers for the most part and we grew up so to speak, “together”……….I had to admit to the vets there that I found out about Korea while in school, and felt like I really should have been there with them. I felt that somehow I let them down. To a man, they all threw that out. They said no way…you did what was right. You did your part, and you’ve got no reason to be ashamed.

    I admit that I felt a bit overcome. As to old uniforms etc, they did pile on the clothing. We had undress khakis, dress khakis, ( with an IKe Jacket, Dress blues, winter greens with the full blouse and waist length Ike Jacket, and I had them for a time packed away, but in all of our many moves they eventually got mislaid and apparently discarded.

    One thing that I found out quickly however is that every guy I knew who smoked, has passed away.
    And as I,ve said, these reunions took place
    only during the past 10 years.

  14. If any of you would be interested in the debacle that was the Korean War should read the book Chosin. By Eric Hammel. It graphically reveals the sacrifice of the 1st Marine Division and the Army units that were sent over there with no training to speak of and the stupidity of the Army Generals
    under MacArthur ( like Almond), and why the Army units suffered so badly. There were a number of Marine Regiments within the Division, and they were really well led by their officers. But those Army engineers were magicians. They probably saved most of the guys who made it out.

    Marines never use the term “Regiment” When they say 1st Marines, or 5th Marines, they are referring to regiments.

    One of my closest friends Cal Dunford, got called back and he was assigned to the 11th Marines, which was their Artillery regiment. We still communicate with his widow by e mail, now and then. Great guy. Went on to become a big mover and shaker in Boeing. Unfortunately he was a smoker. His wife sent the notice that Cal had passed away quietly in his sleep. God preserve him. At least he made it to our reunion.

  15. Wicky(grating PIBG)© (The she/it on our D is sofa king SOFT!!!) on

    Morning ILB and all!!

    Fran
    thanks for serving and thanks for sharing!!

    These Del Zotto tweets are making me thirsty!!

  16. LMAO @ Toothpaste unsuccessful….

    People still do that? Maybe he should try dental floss instead.

  17. The funniest thing just happened – I copy web address from FB and tried, like 10 times in a different ways to paste it here to post and couldn’t get thru. What’s up????

  18. I just can’t do it. Totaly denied. Why? Is it our blog or somehow coded web address? Who is more internet savvy and litterate? Explain, please…

  19. I don’t like how all these young Rangers are doing all this non-hockey stuff. It’s pissing me off!

    Slats and Torts should lock these guys in cages. They could eat, drink, and exercise all day, like Hamsters.

  20. Fran, if I would only have 1/10 of your literature talent, memory, longevity (may God give you much more)….Everybody, who thinks that they have kind of non-descriptive life, have to read this and take notes by fat marker.

  21. Listen, I’m not here to set Guiness Book record or beat Wicky’s…,so, to quote Mama: ta-ta!

  22. Fran,

    What a great read! Thanks for writing it!

    I worked in pizza place while at home during the summers of my freshman and sophomore years of college. I was notoriously known by the Italian guys who ran the place (Sopranos wannabes) as “college boy”. So I know how it feels to have that nickname. LOL!

    —-

    Del Z has a pimple? Bring the Amberlamps!!

  23. fran – Thanks for the great stories. You were fortunate in not seeing combat but even luckier to have missed Patrick Kane during your Chicago cab driving days. A truly charmed life. :)

  24. I’m only able to score the empty netter for the hattie because I’m on the ice protecting a 1 goal lead.

  25. ZzZz NYR ZzZz© " Don't stepan the logo!!!"...says Greg L. on

    Way to go Fran !! Nice stories , Me personally hate war games ,war stuff and war this and war that. Im from Canada and we really try not to war . Its like ” hey man get outta my face!!” , ” what!!?? sorry man !!” ” no problem we dont want any war do we?? ” no man , peace , we want peace . Love and peace and maybe a few F14 bombers is how we roll over here.

    Fran you make these stories interesting , have you ever thought about writing a book?

    I WANT RANGERS BACK!!!

    RANGERS!! RANGERS!! RANGERS!!!!!

    LETS GO RANGERS!!!!! HOLEY HELL YEAH RAAAAANGERSS!!!!!

  26. Wicky(grating PIBG)© (The she/it on our D is sofa king SOFT!!!) on

    hey zzzz,
    whats up??

    I always liked the liberty sweaters!

  27. Wicky(grating PIBG)© (The she/it on our D is sofa king SOFT!!!) on

    not bad bro, just working a lot!

    You getting NHL12?

  28. Ria(the silent bonehead) on

    This is off topic but i’m posting with a heavy heart my daughter lost the love of her life suddenly on Sunday leaving her & my 2 beautiful young granddaughters to carry on without him. Tomorrow we will celebrate his life rather than mourn his loss ,so please take a moment to hug & kiss the ones you love don’t put off till tomorrow because we only have today tomorrow is not promised.

  29. Ria,

    I’m terribly sorry to hear about your loss, but I am also glad you are looking at things with the right attitude and perspective. You and your family will be in my prayers.

  30. Mister Delaware on

    I never knew either of my grandfathers so I eat this stuff up. Keep going, Fran …

    (That’s awful Ria, sorry to hear.)

  31. Ria(the silent bonehead) on

    Thank you “boneheads” it means a lot .Fran really good reading you make feel so young just reading about your past

  32. ZzZz NYR ZzZz© " Don't stepan the logo!!!"...says Greg L. on

    Ria , no words can express the pain you all feel. My heart go out to you and your family.

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