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#815 – Dick Bernard: What we did on our vacation: A not-so-ordinary Road Trip from North Dakota to California, 1941

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

“We did some visiting in North Dakota before we left for California…June 22, 1941 at Long Beach. The first time we had our family together for seven years, and also the last….”

Merry Christmas! This blog quite naturally follows two previous blogs about 1940: here and here. UPDATE Dec. 24 post, also related.

Today would have been my Dad’s 106th birthday (born Dec. 22, 1907). Today, his daughter, my sister Mary Ann, arrives on the Big Island of Hawaii from Vanuatu for a visit with her kids and grandkids and our niece Georgine and partner Robert. Her last 15 months in the Peace Corps is chronicled here, the most recent post, Dec. 18, at the end.

It seems a perfect day to recall a June, 1941, trip I took with my family from rural North Dakota to Long Beach California. The narrator is my Dad, Henry, RIP Nov 7, 1997.

I was one year old at the time. The travelers were Grandma and Grandpa Bernard, Mom and Dad, and I.

We traveled by car.

Here’s some background and the “cast of characters”: my parents were age 33 and 31 at the time of the trip; my oldest grandparent, Grandpa Bernard, was 69 (I’m 73, as I write); the youngest, Grandma Busch, was 57. Grandpa Bernard had a love for machines. Fixing a car enroute would have been no problem for him. Mom’s siblings, my Uncle Vince and Aunt Edith, were 16 and 21…. Dad’s sister, Josie, would have been 37; his brother, Frank, 25.

By 1941, Bernard’s were no stranger to travel: Grandpa migrated to North Dakota from Quebec in the 1890s, and in 1898, sailed to the Philippines via Hawaii to be a soldier in the Spanish-American War. Grandma and Grandpa had first gone to Los Angeles in November 1935 for daughter Josie’s wedding. They likely traveled by train, visiting people they knew in Oregon along the way. Beginning in 1937 they became a regular part of the North Dakota winter community in the Los Angeles area, living in Long Beach.

Josie’s husband, Alan Whittaker, had died after surgery only three years or so into their marriage, about 1938. In 1939 she took a major cross-country automobile trip with friends, documenting the route on a 1939 American Automobile Association road map (see below).

For the geographic inclined, here’s a map for reference. The Red and Blue lines are explained here: Josie Bernard trip 1939001

(click to enlarge any photos)

U.S. map showing the 1939 trip route, and the beginning and end points of the 1941 trip.

U.S. map showing the 1939 trip route, and the beginning and end points of the 1941 trip.

In 1940-41 Dad was a school teacher in rural Rutland ND. His parents home was Grafton, but since 1937 they had spent a lot of time in Long Beach/LA area where there was already a relatively large North Dakota population.

Mom’s parents lived on a farm near Berlin ND.

Invited by Dad’s parents to go west with them, the decision was made to go to California to visit their daughter and sister, Josie Whittaker, who had lived in Los Angeles since the early 1930s, and was widowed. An apparently unanticipated bonus was to also be able to see their son and brother Frank Bernard, whose ship, the USS Arizona, berthed in nearby San Pedro June 17 – July 1, 1941.

A first stop on the 1941 trip was at the farm of Mom’s parents, Rosa and Ferd Busch:

Henry Bernard, Rosa Busch, Richard Bernard, Josephine Bernard, Ferd Busch, at the farm June, 1941

Henry Bernard, Rosa Busch, Richard Bernard, Josephine Bernard, Ferd Busch, at the farm June, 1941

Many of Busch family, and neighbors, pose with the Bernards June, 1941.  Note particularly Edith, 3rd from left; Mary, 4th from left, and Vincent 2nd from right.  Dad, Mom and Richard (me) are roughly at center.

Many of Busch family, and neighbors, pose with the Bernards June, 1941. Note particularly Edith, 3rd from left; Mary, 4th from left, and Vincent 2nd from right. Dad, Mom and Richard (me) are roughly at center.

Dad, Henry Bernard, recalled the trip in a written memoir in February, 1981. Here is his recollection:

“The grandparents Bernard had not yet seen Richard so in the spring of 1941 they came from California to see us [at Rutland Consolidated school in SE North Dakota].

They spent a week or so with us and then said that they would buy us another car if we would drive them back to California and spend some time there. We were happy to get this gift so we managed to get to Fargo with our old ’29 Chevy and went to Ford and Dad bought us a ’36 V8 Ford*. It was used but in good condition. It even had a radio in it. [Note the so-called “suicide” back doors. This was our family car for the next 10 years.]

Grandma and Grandpa with Richard and car for the California trip May, 1941

Grandma and Grandpa with Richard and car for the California trip May, 1941

We did some visiting in North Dakota before we left for California…then on through the Black Hills of South Dakota and then on through Wyoming where we saw our first oil wells, and continued on to Salt Lake City and I remember stopping at a motel at St. George UT. Early in the morning I could hear water running and I got up and behind the motel there was an irrigation ditch running full of water. That was the first irrigation I had ever seen.

We continued on and reached Las Vegas after dark. We saw all the neon lights of the gambling dens but we were interested only in rest. Had a good supper and then to bed. We had heard that the desert crossing was an adventure and were warned to get started early so we did and made the crossing with any great incident. I remember stopping at a filling station about the middle of the desert and among other things asked for a drink of water This was reluctantly given as water had to be hauled in from miles away.

We reached Long Beach in due time and stayed with the folks in their small apartment. I recall that it had three rooms and a bath and also a front porch. It was set in the alley and there were several attached apartments somewhat like the modern condominiums. It was about two blocks from the beach and we could put on our bathing suits and walk to the beach with ease.

Richard on the beach, Long Beach CA June 1941

Richard on the beach, Long Beach CA June 1941

[My sister] Josie was living in Los Angeles and we saw her frequently. We were surprised one day to hear that “the fleets in” [San Pedro] and shortly after my brother Frank [crewman on USS Arizona] came over. He had leave and several times he was in port we had a chance to visit with him and go on trips here and there. Little did we realize that Pearl Harbor was only six months away. [Grandma wrote on the back of the iconic photo of the trip, below: “Taken June 22, 1941 at Long Beach. The first time we had our family together for seven years, and also the last. This is where we lived.”]

from left, Henry and Josephine Bernard, Josie Bernard Whittaker, Frank, Richard, Henry and Esther Bernard

from left, Henry and Josephine Bernard, Josie Bernard Whittaker, Frank, Richard, Henry and Esther Bernard

I remember one time we were riding around the suburbs of Los Angeles that we came by an area of Japanese homes. Each one had huge radio aerials and Frank said that was sure they were in communications with the home land. he already felt that we were going to be in the war soon. Security was heavy with the fleet and we did not get a chance to visit the Arizona, the ship on which Frank was stationed. We would be just curious but not spies like the Japanese.

We left Long Beach on July 5 for the long trip back home. Up the California coast to Oregon and Portland where we visited the Krafts and also the Battleship Oregon [then in repair at Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton WA] and on through Montana and then stopped at Amidon [ND] to visit people we had met there while teaching [1937-39] and then back to the Busch’s before getting on back to Rutland Consolidated where I would be teaching a second year.

I had a chance to do some shocking of grain and threshing before school started. This little bit of extra income was certainly welcome.”

Little more than three months later, Frank Bernard lay dead in the hulk of the USS Arizona.

War was on for the U.S.

Lives had changed dramatically, instantly.

POST NOTES:

How long a trip was it? Assuming Jamestown ND to Long Beach CA, Long Beach to Seattle WA, and Seattle back to Jamestown, and just doing Mapquest as a guide, that single trip was 4268 miles, under far different driving and vehicle conditions than we’re accustomed to today. It is unknown the exact number of days enroute, or in Long Beach, but the assumption is we were gone at least a month, at least ten of these days basically in the automobile, no air conditioning, seat belts, gps, automatic transmission, cruise control, four-lane highways…. It would not have been a simple trip.

Dad was 73, my present age, when he wrote his memoirs in 1981. If you’re thinking you should do something similar, it’s not too late!

Esther’s brother, George (not in the family picture), finished college at Mayville and became a Naval Officer on the Destroyer Woodworth in the Pacific 1943-45, docking at Tokyo Sep 10, 1945. Melvin Berning (the 13 year old to my left in the family picture above, double cousin to my mother, next farm over) saw his brother August off to the Army. August Berning became a Captain in the Pacific theatre.

Unknown to everyone in the pictures, the summer of 1941 was to be the last of peacetime for over four years….

Twenty-five years later, in the summer of 1966, my parents essentially duplicated the 1941 trip with their two-year grandson, my son, Tom. His mother had passed away a year earlier, and I was in summer school at Illinois State U (Normal), and my parents were the sitters-in-residence for Tom. They, along with my brother John and sister Flo, drove to LA (by a different route, if I recall right), thence up the coast and back to ND across Montana as before. Florence was about to begin two years in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic, as her older sister, Mary Ann, is now past half way in her own later-life tour in the same Peace Corps.

George Busch and Jean Tannahill wedding Thompson ND May 20, 1944.  Vincent Busch, George's brother, was best man, 19 years old at the time.

George Busch and Jean Tannahill wedding Thompson ND May 20, 1944. Vincent Busch, George’s brother, was best man, 19 years old at the time.

Josie (Bernard) Whittaker and group at Hilo HI May 2, 1969

Josie (Bernard) Whittaker and group at Hilo HI May 2, 1969

Models of the USS Arizona and USS Woodworth, Frank Bernard and George Busch's ships in WWII.  The Arizona was 608 feet long; the Woodworth, 381 feet. The models were made out of wood blocks by good friend and colleague Bob Tonra in 1996.

Models of the USS Arizona and USS Woodworth, Frank Bernard and George Busch’s ships in WWII. The Arizona was 608 feet long; the Woodworth, 381 feet. The models were made out of wood blocks by good friend and colleague Bob Tonra in 1996.

#585 – Dick Bernard: Visiting History

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Some months ago a cousin I’d never met in person, JoAnn (Wentz) Beale, wrote from California, suggesting that we get together when she came to an event in her home town of Grafton ND. It was a great idea. Her grandmother, Elize Collette Wentz, and my grandmother, Josephine Collette Bernard, were siblings, raised on the home farm, still owned by Maurice D. and Isabell Collette, just west of Sacred Heart Church in Oakwood. Maurice is the son of Elize and Josephine’s youngest sibling, Alcide.

JoAnn and I spent the better part of an afternoon and early evening visiting the sites of our Collette family history.

It was a most enriching day.

Maurice D showed us around, and JoAnn posed on the site of the Collette home which was occupied from about 1885 till 1978, when Collette’s built a new home just to the south. Here’s JoAnn, June 25, 2012, on the site of the old house. (click to enlarge)

JoAnn Beale on the site of the Octave and Clotilde Collette home, Oakwood ND June 25, 2012

I found a few earlier photos from that same farm yard a few years earlier:

1954 photo, Unlabelled photo summer lunch in the farmyard just to the south of the old house. Apparent identities as known. Isabel Collette probably took the photograph. At right: Bonnie and Maurice Collette; at the end Margaret (Krier) and Alcidas Corriveau; (couple in between not known); at left Beatrice and Alcide Collette; at end of the table Josephine and Henry Bernard. The other persons are not known, and the photo is not labelled.

Alcide and Beatrice Collette with Donald David, in the farmhouse, probably in 1956.

Photo old Maurice D Collette house with new house in background. Photo taken in 1979, looking southeast; new house was built in 1977-78. Old house was torn down about 1981.

JoAnn and I spent time, of course, in and around the magnificent Sacred Heart Church, which is due to be closed within the next two years. I’ve put together a small Facebook album of photographs taken on June 25 here. That’s Maurice D. Collette with JoAnn in one of the photos in front of the church. (The entire Centennial History of the parish, from 1981, can be accessed here.)

I’ve been to Oakwood many times, but until June 25 had never actively sought out the site of the old St. Aloysius School, and found it, at least as represented in the driveway and the flagpole, and the lumber used to build two homes on the site, about a block north of the church. Across the street remains the Grotto. All these are in the Facebook album.

We had a cool drink with Maurice in the tavern across the street from the Church, then took a little tour and back to Grafton.

Before dinner, I took a solitary drive to see the little house at 738 Cooper, the only place I ever knew as my grandparent Bernard’s home.

This time, for the first time in my life, there was no house there.

former 739 Cooper Avenue, Grafton ND, June 25, 2012

It caused me to think back to other photos of other times at that little house down the block from the Court House in Grafton.

Henry and Josephine at 738 Cooper Ave, Grafton, probably early in the 1940s

Grandpa and Grandma on the front porch, probably late 1940s. Here's where they watched the world go by, at least on Cooper Avenue.

Grandma Bernard "myself in the kitchen" at 738 Cooper.

Undated photo of a meal in the living room at 738 Cooper. Note photo of their son Frank Bernard on the wall behind them.

In the last photo, I can’t help but think of the time, at Thanksgiving I think, where Grandpa, among other occupations an old lumberjack, taught we kids how to clean our plates…by licking his own plate clean. My guess is that Grandma Josephine had a bit of advice for him later, but the memory was cemented in our mind. Ah the memories….

Grandpa had an immense amount of pride in his service in the Spanish-American War in the Philippines, 1898-99. Down the block from 738 Cooper was the monument to his unit in that War. Five of his comrades died in a battle at Paete P.I., and apparently two more died shortly after returning home. They are reflected on the monument, which was raised in 1900.

Here is one photo of the monument. A few others are here, on Facebook.

Spanish-American War monument at the Walsh County Court House, June 25, 2012. In front of the monument is a smaller monument to those who served in other wars. Let us work for Peace.

There is a necessary postnote to this post on a family history.

We cannot escape the reality of getting older. The wonderful lady who really helped give me much impetus to begin this family history years ago is very near going into a nursing home at age 92. I visited her on this trip. When I began this journey 32 years ago, she was a huge resource. Now she is completely vulnerable, confused, cannot live alone, and is obviously scared of what is a necessary change for her.

Others who helped with the history have died; still others are very ill.

This trip, and the great meeting with my cousin from California, remind me that if there is work to be done on family matters, now, not tomorrow or next month or next year, is the time to do it. We just don’t know when it will be too late.

Thanks, JoAnn, for the idea of (as my Dad liked to say) “a face-off”!

Winding down after a most enriching day travelling the "roots road": center is JoAnn (Wentz) Beale, at right, Dick Bernard, at left JoAnn's cousin Kasey (Kouba) Ponds. At the Market Place on 8th in Grafton, June 25, 2012

#582 – Dick Bernard: The Street

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

“Back in the day”, my Grandpa Henry Bernard (born on a farm in Quebec in 1872) spent most of his adult life in Grafton ND.

He came to Grafton area with a first grade education and carpentry as a trade but had a particular gift for figuring out how mechanical things work. For years he was chief engineer of the local flour mill, and long-time volunteer and President of the local fire department and the guy, the Grafton history notes, who drove the first motorized fire truck to Grafton from somewhere.

Both my Grandpa’s had inquiring minds – Grandpa Busch was a farmer with a couple of patents – but he didn’t have easy access to the streets of any big town.

Grandpa Bernard did, and in retirement he loved to “kibitz” or be a “sidewalk superintendent” in his town of several thousand. Most times it was on his bench on the front stoop of their tiny home at 738 Cooper Avenue. Sometimes it was watching the action elsewhere in town.

There exists a wonderful film clip from a day in 1949 which includes him watching a crew lay a concrete section of street in Grafton (here, beginning at about 4:15. He even merits a subtitle!). In the fashion of the day, he was dressed up. He was a common man, but when you went out, you dressed up!

Paving that street in Grafton was the ‘street theater’ of the day!

I think of that vignette because for the last week or so the crews have been in our neighborhood rebuilding our street – the first time in about 20 years.

(click on photos to enlarge)

Romeo Road, Woodbury, mid-June, 2012

Such projects are essential nuisances to folks on the street, but a change in routine.

Kibitzing a few days ago, a neighbor and I were wondering why they replaced some sections of curb and not others, so we went to look (cracks were the villains, mostly).

Some unlucky folks had the entryway to their driveway blocked for a few days because their section of curb had to be replaced.

As I write, the street is prepared, and repaving is about to be begin, but early Tuesday morning came another inconvenience. The neighbors across the street – the ones who couldn’t get into their driveway for a few days – had another unfortunate happening.

Early on June 19 came those violent winds, and one of their trees blew over, blocking that driveway again….

Early morning June 19, 2012

Its all better now. The tree was rapidly removed, and life goes on.

We have assorted complaints, of course, but work crews are doing their work very efficiently, and somebody somewhere in our communities did the planning, letting of contracts, etc., etc., etc. None of us had to worry about this planning and implementation.

Yes, we’ll have to pay an assessment, but it’s a small price to pay as part of our community.

And a bonus is the chance to re-view Grandpa Bernard in action at 77 years of age, now 63 years ago.

I wonder what he could have been able to do had he been able to pursue an education.

He died in 1957 when I was 17.

I’ll visit his and Grandma’s and others graves in Grafton and Oakwood ND next Monday.

Thanks for the memories.

#573 – Dick Bernard: Three Memories on Memorial Day 2012. Frank Peter Bernard, Henry Bernard and Patricia Krom

Monday, May 28th, 2012

SEVERAL UPDATES, INCLUDING PHOTOS at end of this post.

I’m at the age where death is an increasingly regular visitor to my circles. This Memorial Day three deaths come to mind.

The first came when I was 1 1/2 years old, when my Uncle Frank Peter Bernard went down on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor HI. He was 26 years old, and I had “met” him in Long Beach CA five months earlier, at the end of June, 1941.

(click on photos to enlarge them)

Henry Sr, Josephine, Josie, Frank Peter, Richard, Henry and Esther Bernard, Long Beach CA late June, 1941

I’m the family historian, and I recall no talk, ever, about any kind of funeral or memorial service for Frank.

He was from Grafton, ND. On Dec. 7, 1941, his brother, my Dad, was a teacher in the rural ND country school called Rutland Consolidated; his sister lived in Los Angeles; and his parents were wintering in Long Beach CA. Indeed, according to my Dad, they were not sure, for some time, whether or not Frank was dead. His good boyhood and Navy friend, John Grabanske, was reported to have died, though later was found to be very much alive (and lived on, well into his 80s). Here’s my Dad’s recollection, as recounted by myself 50 years after Pearl Harbor: Bernard H Pearl Harbor001

The closest I have to a “memory card” about a formal remembering of Uncle Frank is a long article in the February 17, 1942 Grand Forks (ND) Herald, reporting on a large ND picnic somewhere in the Los Angeles area on about February 12, 1942. Such picnics were common in those days – a gathering of winterers and transplants.

There is a poignant passage which I quote here in part: “A touching incident occurred during the program. [The counsel for the Republic of Poland in Los Angeles] read a press report telling of the death of a young man of Polish descent at Pearl Harbor, the young man being a native of the Grafton area. When he had finished reading a man and his wife arose in the audience, the man asking if he might interrupt for just a moment…the man [my grandfather] said the report of the boy’s death later was found to be in error, but that the man actually killed at Pearl Harbor was the pal of the boy mentioned in the first press report. “The boy killed,” said the man, “was our son!”…The entire audience arose and stood in silence for a moment in honor of the dead hero and the parents who made the sacrifice.”

Uncle Frank’s grave, on the USS Arizona, is probably among the most visited cemeteries in the world. I know his sister, my Aunt Josie, visited there in 1969, but my Dad and his parents never had that opportunity.

The next funeral I remember is for that same Grandfather of mine, who died May 23, 1957 at age 85. I was 17.

His funeral was in Grafton, on May 25, 1957, and many people came to his funeral.

Grandpa was a Spanish-American War Veteran, Philippines, 1898-99. We still have the flag in recognition of his service.

It has 48 stars. Alaska and Hawaii had not yet been admitted as states. It is the flag we raised on a flagpole the family purchased at Our Lady of the Snows, Belleville IL, after Dad died in 1997. We raised the flag on Memorial Day, 1998, dedicating it to Grandpa’s sons, my Dad and Uncle Frank. (Here’s an interesting piece of research about percent of Americans who actually serve in the Military)

Dedication of flagpole with Grandpa Bernards 48 star flag, Memorial Day, 1998, Our Lady of the Snows, Belleville IL

Plaque for the Our Lady of the Snows flagpole, 1998

Time passes on, many more deaths and remembrances of all assorted kinds.

The most recent came on May 19, 2012, in Langdon ND, a memorial service for my cousin Patricia (Brehmer) Krom. Pat actually passed away in Las Vegas on January 25, and there was a memorial service there at that time, but the Langdon area was her home, and my Uncle Vince and I went up for the Memorial Service.

All funerals are alike; all funerals are very different. Pat’s was no exception.

I doubt I will ever forget the eulogy at Pat’s Memorial, given by her husband of 42 years, Kent.

He retraced two lives together in a truly memorable way, one which any one in any relationship for any length of time could immediately relate to; from the first awkward dance at Langdon High School, to her death at only 62 years of age.

Pat Brehmer Krom's life, May 19, 2012

The details are unimportant, except for one which I will always remember. As I recall it, regardless of how their day might have gone, it was a frequent occurrence for exchange of a simple expression of affection: “I love you Kent Krom”; “I love you Pat Brehmer”.

Can’t get better than that.

Arriving back in LaMoure, before I left for home, I picked up a new flag for the flagpole at Vince and Edith’s residence, Rosewood Care Center.

Friday, May 25, at 10:30, they dedicated the new flag to the memory of Patricia Brehmer Krom.

Happy Memorial Day.

Spring at Redeemer Cemetery near Dresden ND May 19, 2012 near the grave of Mary and Allen Brehmer

UPDATES:

Memorial Day, which began as Decoration Day in post-Civil War times, has a long history. Ironically, it was born of what was likely America’s deadliest war ever (in terms of casualties related to the entire population). Americans slaughtered other Americans.

Here are some impressions of today received from individuals. Possibly because the day has an over 140 year history, and because the means of war has changed so much in recent years, making war almost impersonal (see the Pew Research above), there are differing interpretations of what Memorial Day means: is it an event to be solemnly remembered, enjoyed, celebrated, etc.?

How we look differently at the meaning of Memorial Day is good reason for increased conversation among people with differing points of view.

From Susan Lucas: Dick, at the end of your blog you say, “Happy Memorial Day.” I’m afraid I don’t find this day a happy one. The three flags represent our three sons. I’m just so sorry that so many in our society regard Memorial Day as the first day of summer and a three-day weekend to go to the cabin. Anyone who visits Fort Snelling or any other national cemetery can truly appreciate why we have a Memorial Day. While Tom did not die while actually in the service, as the original “Decoration Day” was meant to be, the day should honor all who have been in military service. It’s a day to honor their memory. I question whether it should still be a national holiday when, as Pew Research suggests, so few families are actually impacted by military service anymore.

May 27, 2012, at Ft. Snelling Cemetery from Susan Lucas

From Carol Turnbull: Beautiful!

Scouts observing Memorial Day at a Cemetery in South St. Paul MN, doing upkeep of graves, and placing flags at the stones of veterans.

Scouts at So St Paul cemetery May 28, 2012

Daughter Heather and granddaughter Kelly at grave of Mom and Grandma Diane in So. St. Paul May 28, 2012

The annual commemoration by the MN Veterans for Peace at the State Capitol Grounds, St. Paul MN. Many Vets for Peace, but no means all, are Vietnam Veterans. I have been part of Veterans for Peace for over 10 years.

Veterans for Peace near MN Vietnam Vets Memorial on the MN Capitol Grounds May 28, 2012

Local VFP President Larry Johnson at the MN Capitol area observance May 28

Gita Ghei, whose father was caught in the conflict in western India (a civil war of sorts) at the time the British transferred authority to Indians.

Vet Jerry Rau performs a composition on May 28

Commentary here from Digby related to a Veterans for Peace event in southern California.

Other commentaries on the label “hero” as a topic of contemporary political warfare are here and here.

Of course, such a term is a moving target. In the 2004 Presidential Election, candidate John Kerry, whose military service and heroism in Vietnam was ridiculed by “Swift Boating” negative ads, was made to seem the opposite of what he was: a serviceman who had done his job above and beyond the call of duty. I agree with the assessment that the word “hero” is often misapplied in todays political conversation. Personally, I’m a lucky Vietnam era veteran. I served during the first Vietnam War years 50 years ago, and can prove it. I did everything I was asked to do, and I never left the United States. Indeed, we were preparing a reactivated infantry division for later combat in Vietnam, but in our frame of the time, we had no idea that such a war was developing. We simply did our jobs. If that is heroism, so be it.

But, then, John Kerry was far more a hero than I every thought of being, and he was viciously ridiculed for his service….

President Obama spoke at the Vietnam Memorial on Monday. I had the lucky privilege of having been at that Memorial the very weekend it was dedicated in the Fall of 1982. Vietnam Mem DC 1982001

A little photo album of my service time as a “hero” at Ft. Carson CO can be found on the internet, here. Note my name in the first paragraph, click on the link to the album, and open the link to a few of my “Photographs of 1/61….” in 1962-63.

#510 – Dick Bernard: A Memory of a long-ago Ground Hog Day

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Today is a pea-soup fog day in my town, and the temperature is about 32 degrees, so any of the resident Woodbury groundhogs have no worries about sunburn, or freezing to death. They will not see their shadow, at least not from sunlight.

But the place for groundhogs today is Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Punxsutawney Phil has been on the job since 1887, telling us about the rest of winter. Here’s something about him, and what he predicted today….

There are, of course, other groundhogs, and twenty or so years ago my Dad, Henry Bernard, recalled a story of his Dad, circa 1912 at their home on Wakeman Avenue in Grafton, North Dakota.

“I must have been four or five [Dad was born Dec 22, 1907] when this incident occurred.

My father, Henry Bernard, was the chief engineer at the flour mill. During the summer the fellows caught a woodchuck (groundhog) and put him in a cage. He was named “Pete”. Pete gave a lot of amusement to visitors. His ability to peel and eat a banana was a source of awe to visitors. However, his ability to eat a soda cracker without losing any crumbs was remarkable.

Pete was kept in the cage until fall when he became very drowsy and slept almost all the time.

Dad decided that Pete was ready to hibernate and took him home and released him in the unfinished basement that we had. Pete got busy and dug a hole in the dirt wall., “stole” bananas, apples, carrots, etc., and took them inside the hole and sealed it from the inside.

Dad remembered the story about the groundhog and on February 2nd told mother to watch and if Pete came out to send the “boy” (that was me) over to the mill to tell him.

Sure enough Pete did come out, saw his shadow and went back into the hole for another six weeks. We must have had more winter.

Then he came out again but was sickly and died shortly after. The veterinarian said it was because he lacked certain things for his diet that he would have picked up if he has run wild. Dad had Pete mounted and kept him for many years. This story was often repeated and even I have repeated it many times since that time.”

Thanks Dad.

#481 – Dick Bernard: Thanksgiving 2011: An old car and family ties

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

My family letter for this Thanksgiving included this photo, and the content which follows. This began with a very recent correspondence with my relative JoAnn, who I’ve never met in person, and who had sent me the photo with a request to help identify the date it was taken. (click on photo to enlarge)

Willard Wentz and Grandma Josephine Bernard, 738 Cooper Avenue, Grafton ND, sometime in the 1940s

“As informal keeper of the family history of Mom and Dad’s ‘sides’ of the family, I am always open to new surprises, of which the above photo is the most recent.

The photo is of my Grandma Bernard and her older sister Elize’s son Willard (Sonny) Wentz (born 1915), sitting in the Bernard’s 1901 Oldsmobile at 738 Cooper Avenue, Grafton ND, sometime in the 1940s. [The 1901 survived because they kept it indoors, in storage, for most of its life. Its appearances were very rare – once in awhile it was an attraction in the local July 4th parade.]

[My relative] JoAnn is Willard [Wentz] and Dorothy Ann (Altendorf’s) daughter. They married in 1942 in Grafton.

As with ALL family stories, there are mysteries here. The most specific one is when the photo was taken. JoAnn notes her Dad is very thin in this photo, and about a year after his marriage he had almost died from a ruptured ulcer. That would have been in 1943.

My grandfather lost his leg due to diabetes about 1946, and (probably) somewhere around that time they added the bench to the porch. Initially (from other photos), the bench was beside the tiny house. The only dated photo I have which includes the porch seems to have been from Easter, 1947. Henry and Josephine probably bought the tiny house in the very early 1940s, and the early pictures do not show a porch. The bench in the photo appears to be fairly new.

During that time – the 1940s – the 1901 car was stored in the little garage behind the house; later it was stowed in the City Hall downtown. (The 1901 still lives on with Tony Bowker in Ramona CA, inland from San Diego.) Here’s the cars story.

“Family”, with all its ins and outs and ups and downs and narrowness and broadness, has always been “Thanksgiving”.

Hopefully you have a great day today, AND RESOLVE TO LABEL YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS!!!! : – )

HELP on more identification of this photo is solicited.”

Of course, there is always more to any story.

Willard’s parents (William deceased February 11, 1919, and Elize June 4, 1920), and two of his father’s siblings, died of tuberculosis when he was young. After his mother’s death, along with his older sister, Clarice, he spent several years in the Catholic Orphanage in Fargo. When Clarice reached 18, she stayed in Fargo. Sonny, then 13, came back to Grafton to live with his eldest sister and her husband.

Willard’s daughter, JoAnn Beale, in an accompanying note as we discussed the history of the photo said: “They [doctors] were so worried that he [Willard, then about four years old] would come down with TB, that he was made to sleep in the backyard, summer and winter, in a big sleeping bag. Jo [Josephine, his older sister] didn’t like that much, but Doctor’s word was law….

I wrote back to JoAnn: “Dad once in awhile would tell the story of his relatives with TB (he was born Dec 1907) and he was old enough to know the fears, etc., that went along with this disease. He was a teacher, and every year had to take the Mantoux test, and always tested positive, so he must’ve been exposed to TB, but it never actually made him sick.”

So, this Thanksgiving, my personal reminder to myself is to take nothing for granted. We are all, every one of us, in one big family.

Happy Thanksgiving.

#306 – Dick Bernard: Frank Peter Bernard, U.S. Navy 1935 – 1941, USS Arizona

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

It was on a Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, that my Uncle, Frank Peter Bernard, was killed on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor HI.

Each December 7 I remember that day, and indeed, am reminded of that day, as the iconic film clip of the Arizona being hit by the bomb is shown.

Dec. 7, 2010, was no different, until an e-mail arrived late in the afternoon from Dave Calvert, someone unknown to me. The e-mail included two photographs of his Dad, Max Calvert, and my Uncle, taken in 1938 at Long Beach CA. The photographs (below) seemed familiar, and I looked in my collection and found two photos taken at exactly the same place on the same day, one of them identical to the one of Max and Frank; the second with my Uncle and his Dad, my Grandpa Henry Bernard.

The miracle of the internet!

Max Calvert and Frank Bernard, Long Beach CA 1938

Max’s son and I met each other through the ‘twin’ photos. His Dad, he said, was an Iowa farm kid actual first name Howard, who had joined the Navy and at the time of the photo was secretary for the Commander of the Pacific Fleet, Adm. Husband E. Kimmel, on the USS San Francisco. Uncle Frank, two or three years older, was a small town kid from North Dakota. How Max and Frank became friends is unknown; as is why they happened to show up at the same place as my grandparents were then visiting. But it was a fascinating story.

The handwritten caption on the back of Max’s photo said it was taken in November of 1938. The mechanical stamp on the back of my photos identified the date the film was processed as August 15, 1938. Such small discrepancies are common in history work. Most likely, because of the photo processing date stamp, the photos were taken in August in Long Beach. The Arizona was in port at San Pedro August 12-15.

The surprise event caused me to write an e-mail to the National Park Service at Pearl Harbor, telling them I had some photos to share of Uncle Frank. In late December, I received a reply, and sent jpeg’s of all of them for the National Park Service Library at Pearl Harbor.

Last night I decided to post the collection on Facebook. You can view them all here. Double click on any photo to get a larger version. Hold the cursor on the photo to see the caption.

Not at Facebook, but also provided to the Park Service, are three text items relating to my Uncle Frank who, in his short 26 years of life, became, unintentionally, an actor in World War II: Arizona014; Memory017; Fam History015

Frank is at peace; May we all be at Peace as well.

Model of USS Arizona hand-crafted by Bob Tonra ca 1996; goblet, one of six made by Frank Bernard on USS Arizona (size 6 inches high); leaves are Hawaiian, gift from a friend in 1998.

A newspaper column I wrote in 2005 about the end of WWII is at this link:Atomic Bomb 1945001

#292 – Dick Bernard: “Remember the Maine”; USS Arizona; “Never Forget” LPD 21 USS New York

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

December 7, 1941, my Uncle Frank Bernard was minding his own business on the USS Arizona, berthed at Pearl Harbor, HI. Without doubt he was awake at the time a Japanese bomb destroyed his ship and snuffed out his life. 1176 shipmates also died that day. Frank was definitely at the wrong place at the wrong time. Every year on this date, no doubt today as well, I will see a photo or a film clip of the Arizona blowing up.

I am the only one of my siblings old enough to have ever actually met Uncle Frank; the last time at the end of June, 1941, in Long Beach, California.

Bernard Family Reunion at Long Beach CA late June, 1941. Frank is in the center, Dick, 1 1/2, is next to him.

Frank had served on the Arizona since 1936. Though he seems to have been engaged to someone in Bremerton WA, he likely intended to be a career man in the Navy.

Frank Bernard, Honolulu, some time before Dec. 7, 1941

Wars are never fought without reasons, or consequences. They are collections of stories, often mythology masquerading as fact. One war succeeds the last war. That’s just how wars are.

Frank’s Dad, my Grandpa Henry Bernard, 43 years earlier had enlisted to serve the United States in what he always called the Spanish-American War in the Philippines. He was very proud of this service, which lasted from the spring of 1898, to the summer of 1899. The pretext for this war was the explosion of the USS Maine in Havana harbor. Whatever actually caused the explosion was blamed on the Spaniards, and led to an outpouring of patriotic fervor in the U.S. “Remember the Maine” was the battle cry.

Grandpa’s unit, one of the first to the Philippines, never actually fought any Spaniards – he and his comrades were hardly off the boat near Manila when the Spanish surrendered. His battles were with the Filipino “insurgents” who were glad to be rid of the Spaniards, and just wanted the Americans to go back where they came from. That war is now called the Philippine-American War – a term Grandpa wouldn’t know.

In Henry’ company was his future wife’s cousin, Alfred Collette. Some years after the war, Alfred returned to the Philippines, becoming successful, later marrying and living the rest of his life in the Philippines.

After Pearl Harbor, the first major conquest of American territory by the Japanese was the Philippines…. Alfred was imprisoned at the notorious Santo Tomas. During the final battle for the liberation of Manila in 1945 his second child, named for my grandmother Josephine, was killed by shrapnel from either the liberators or the Japanese. She was only four years old, in her mother’s arms. Her two siblings witnessed her death.

Seven of Uncle Frank’s cousins in Canada, all from the same family, went to WWII, three in the Canadian Army, four in the U.S. Army. One of the seven died in combat. Others from my families served as well, as did neighbors. Most survived; some didn’t.

Alfred Collette, 1898, Presidio San Franciso CA

Henry Bernard, middle soldier, in Yokahoma Japan, enroute home1899

Which brings to mind the USS New York LPD 21.

On Thanksgiving day came one of those power point forwards celebrating the launch of the Amphibious Transport Ship the USS New York, a ship partially manufactured out of the wreckage of the World Trade Centers September 11, 2001. The internet is awash with items about this ship, commissioned in November of 2009.

A key caption of the powerpoint said that the New York’s contingent was “360 sailors, 700 combat ready Marines to be delivered ashore by helicopters and assault craft”, apparently roaming the world at the ready to do battle with the bad guys wherever they were. The transport has “twin towers” smokestacks,

I could see the attempt at symbolism in the power point: “don’t mess with the U.S.”. The boat plays to the American fantasy that we are an exceptional society, more deserving than others.

But, somehow, I failed to see the positive significance of this lonely boat, roaming the world, looking for opportunities to do battle against our enemies.

It doesn’t take a whole lot of geographic knowledge to know how immense this world is, and how tiny and truly insignificant is a single ship with about 1000 U.S. servicemen, no matter how highly trained and well-equipped they might be.

It seems we have better ways to use our money.

Uncle Frank was technically a peace-time casualty – War wasn’t declared against Japan until after he was dead. He and his comrades at Pearl Harbor who also died were only the first of hundreds of thousands of Americans, who joined, ultimately, millions of others who became casualties of WWII. A few of Grandpa Henry’s comrades were killed on Luzon, and till the end of his life in 1957 in Grafton ND there was an annual remembrance at the monument in front of the Walsh County Court House.

The triumph of war is what we seem to remember.

The horror of war is what we best “never forget”.

Peace takes work, lots of it. Let’s work for Peace.