Guest Blogger: Cowboys and Flyboys

By Dr. Micah Murphy

(Flyboys in training at Navy Air Station Corpus Christi, 1943-44, Grandpa Springer is in the front row on the far right.)

My grandfather, Donald Springer, lived through the depression and that experience taught him to work hard and be very frugal. I don’t think the frugal part caught on with us, his grandchildren, but he did pass on the importance of hard work and above all doing your duty. That duty could be to country, to company you work for, or your family. Doing your duty wasn’t really seen as a burden it was just life. Life and duty were the same. Duty was more like purpose and one thing he couldn’t stand was anyone who shirked their duty. Duty wasn’t just one way though. You owed others and they owed you. You owed your employer and your employer owed you. You owed your country and your country owed you. He once quit a job as an engineer with a wife at home, on the spot, when he learned of unfair pay practices. He’s probably single handedly responsible for one automaker not selling 100’s of vehicles because they wronged him and he told everyone for 30 years. Generations may not purchase from that automaker now.

Like lots of men in his generation, he was excited to do his part, his duty, in WWII. He joined the Navy and became a pilot hoping to go straight to war to fight the enemy. He did not see combat and it’s something, I know, he always regretted. Some Navy pilots needed to stay here in the U.S. though. His assignments involved going to airfields, usually on the east coast, and flying damaged or otherwise decommissioned planes to a junk yard called the boneyard. The yard was somewhere north of western Texas, I think. The job gave him plenty of experience flying all types of planes and working on them as a mechanic and he later used this experience when he taught flight lessons, worked on aircraft, and lived at and managed the Hastings Airport where he met my Grandmother, Maxine, while giving her lessons.

He had several stories of crashing in fields and walking miles to find a phone or a ride and sometimes a meal with a family somewhere. One of my favorite stories did not involve a crash and it seems more like a comedy show than real life.

I don’t remember the plane he was flying but I know it was a larger single prop plane. He landed near Dallas for fuel for the last leg of his trip. He hit the head, got some lunch, and went to start up the plane. He had power but the prop would not crank. He tinkered a bit but decided the engine might be seized up. By flying these planes to the boneyard he was saving a lot of manpower. If it couldn’t be flown it would be sitting on this pavement for awhile taking up space and eventually it would need to be partly disassembled and trucked to the junk yard, so he would put some considerable effort into getting to the boneyard by air.

While he was standing staring at the plane trying to figure out what to do a jeep drove up with a Captain driving. (I think Grandpa was a 1st Lieutenant at this time). The Captain asked him, “What’s the problem, let’s get this plane out of here?” Grandpa explained that he couldn’t get it to turn over. The Captain told him to get in the cockpit and turn the key on, he’d get it started. Grandpa, a little confused and about to argue watched as the Captain pulled a rope out of the back of the jeep. He formed a lasso and rodeo style lassoed the top of the prop. Grandpa climbed up in the plane while the Captain tied the other end of the rope to his Jeep. I should mention this jeep did not have a top; it was just an open Jeep. The Captain got in the Jeep turned and gave a thumbs up which Grandpa returned. I don’t know how long the rope was but the Captain gunned the Jeep and took off. When he hit the end of the rope the Jeep seemed to completely stop and the Captain went flying out the front onto the pavement. The prop, though, turned and the plane started up immediately. Grandpa saw the Captain get up, brush himself off, pull in the rope, get back in the Jeep and drive away. Mission accomplished.

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Micah Murphy is an Associate Professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management Marketing at Eastern Michigan University.

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The Greatest Generation Goes to College

 

With April Fools’ Day just around the corner, I decided to share a classic prank from my mom’s notebook collection.  Over several years, Mom rode the California Zephyr to Denver each month to take care of Grandma Clare.  She always had a notebook with her to keep busy during the long journey.

Long journeys provide the ideal time for reflection.  This past winter, in particular, provided many afternoons to remember, reflect, and record.  My blogging adventure started 4 years ago.  The journey has given so much, healing during tough times, direction and focus when challenges emerge, improvement as a writing instructor, and keeping up with old friends while making new  with each post.  From time to time , I will share some of the earlier, more memorable entries.

Thank you, readers!

The Greatest Generation Goes to College by June Bernard Roche

Originally published November 22, 2012

…While horses were not my favorite animal, I grew up around horses because of my Uncle Bill and other horse people who were trained to invade Italy at Anzio because the invasion was too rough for a mechanized assault and would be completed with horses and mules. I grew up with Cavalry jokes like, “a pack of Horse Dropping Cigarettes–untouched by human hands.” (Which hit me as great humor in 4th grade)

The cartoons of Bill Mauldin were part of my life after the war. I loved the one of the old cavalry sergeant shooting the disabled jeep. Willie and Joe were a good impression of my thoughts about WWII.

Bill Mauldin jeep

Later in life I got to know the real Willie and Joes who came home and went to college on the GI Bill. At my school, they would tell the tale of these men who had survived the Battle of the Bulge, had shot at Kamikazes coming at their ships and survived the war often with wounds both physical and mental.

They came to campus and among the adjustments were things like getting in trouble for lighting a cigarette. One group of them presented a little surprise at chapel one day. They had filled all the pipes at the Hillsdale College Baptist Church with chicken feathers. The next morning the school assembled for mandatory chapel. The opening hymn began to the accompaniment of a flurry of poultry feathers. As these feathers floated, sometimes in little puffs powered by crescendo from the organist, the chapel became a very scene of collegiate glee as the prank was one of the greatest ever dared.

Our ex-GI’s paid to have the organ cleaned, graduated and went on to become successful in all sorts of endeavors. Eventually one became the President of the Board of Trustees at Hillsdale College as well as numerous trustees. They were the greatest supporters of our little school as were their wives, many of whom they met at the school.

At homecoming they always returned, and I felt privileged to work with, travel with, and party with this greatest generation. They have been leaving us slowly over the last ten years, but the spirit of these boys who weathered the depression and then were sent into the hell of war was the example set for my generation who followed them. We are still trying to live up to your noble sacrifice and courage.

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June Bernard Roche was born in Brooklyn, NY, during the depression and spent her early years growing up in Pennsylvania on the campus of Lafayette College. Ironically, she was to live on college campuses for nearly forty years. In 1955, she married George Roche III. They lived in Virginia and Florida while George completed his years of service in the Marines. Later, June taught high school French while George completed his Ph.D at CU Boulder.

They moved to New York in 1965 when George was named Director of Seminars at FEE, the Foundation for Economic Education. June taught French at Dobbs Ferry High School. In 1971, they moved to Hillsdale, MI, where George became the President of Hillsdale College. In June’s words, “We were at Hillsdale until 1999, and we worked very hard to make the college the best institution possible. Since 1999, I’ve dealt with cancer, much memorable travel with family and friends, open heart surgery, the joys of grandchildren and now my first great-granddaughter, and learned how to deal with the winds of change that buffet our lives.”

The Greatest Generation Goes To College

I have been spending time taking care of my mom after some health care issues. I asked if she had a story to share for my next blog. She produced several notebooks full of possibilities. Mom has many stories to share, but this one stood out from the rest…Enjoy!

The Greatest Generation Goes to College by June Bernard Roche

…While horses were not my favorite animal, I grew up around horses because of my Uncle Bill and other horse people who were trained to invade Italy at Anzio because the invasion was too rough for a mechanized assault and would be completed with horses and mules. I grew up with Cavalry jokes like, “a pack of Horse Dropping Cigarettes–untouched by human hands.” (Which hit me as great humor in 4th grade)

The cartoons of Bill Mauldin were part of my life after the war. I loved the one of the old cavalry sergeant shooting the disabled jeep. Willie and Joe were a good impression of my thoughts about WWII.

Later in life I got to know the real Willie and Joes who came home and went to college on the GI Bill. At my school, they would tell the tale of these men who had survived the Battle of the Bulge, had shot at Kamikazes coming at their ships and survived the war often with wounds both physical and mental.

They came to campus and among the adjustments were things like getting in trouble for lighting a cigarette. One group of them presented a little surprise at chapel one day. They had filled all the pipes at the Hillsdale College Baptist Church with chicken feathers. The next morning the school assembled for mandatory chapel. The opening hymn began to the accompaniment of a flurry of poultry feathers. As these feathers floated, sometimes in little puffs powered by crescendo from the organist, the chapel became a very scene of collegiate glee as the prank was one of the greatest ever dared.

Our ex-GI’s paid to have the organ cleaned, graduated and went on to become successful in all sorts of endeavors. Eventually one became the President of the Board of Trustees at Hillsdale College as well as numerous trustees. They were the greatest supporters of our little school as were their wives, many of whom they met at the school.

At homecoming they always returned, and I felt privileged to work with, travel with, and party with this greatest generation. They have been leaving us slowly over the last ten years, but the spirit of these boys who weathered the depression and then were sent into the hell of war was the example set for my generation who followed them. We are still trying to live up to your noble sacrifice and courage.

June Bernard Roche was born in Brooklyn, NY, during the depression and spent her early years growing up in Pennsylvania on the campus of Lafayette College. Ironically, she was to live on college campuses for nearly forty years. In 1955, she married George Roche III. They lived in Virginia and Florida while George completed his years of service in the Marines. Later, June taught high school French while George completed his Ph.D at CU Boulder.

They moved to New York in 1965 when George was named Director of Seminars at FEE, the Foundation for Economic Education. June taught French at Dobbs Ferry High School. In 1971, they moved to Hillsdale, MI, where George became the President of Hillsdale College. In June’s words, “We were at Hillsdale until 1999, and we worked very hard to make the college the best institution possible. Since 1999, I’ve dealt with cancer, much memorable travel with family and friends, open heart surgery, the joys of grandchildren and now my first great-granddaughter, and learned how to deal with the winds of change that buffet our lives.”