Tag: American History

Leora’s Dexter Stories

The new release by Joy Neal Kidney.

I just got my signed copy in the mail! Joy is a great author and I count her among my author friends. I am looking forward to digging into this book. So far, I have only read the back cover, the reviews, and the Foreward by John Busbee, but I can already tell it is going to be great.

I read Joy’s earlier work, Leora’s Letters, which is an amazing tale of this same family’s patriotism, struggle, sacrifice, and pain during World War II. All five of Leora and Clabe Wilsons’s sons went off to serve in the military. They did not all come home. It was a story that broke my heart, made me smile, and stirred my pride all at the same time. If you haven’t read Leora’s Letters, you really should. It is an American story about an America we all need to be remind of these days.

In Leora’s Dexter Stories – The Scarcity Years of the Great Depression, Joy Neal Kidney now shares with her readers the lives of Leora and Clabe Wilson and their displaced Iowa farm family during a time of great struggle and sacrifice. It is an American history, a history of hardworking common folk in America’s heartland during the Great Depression told through the memories and stories of Leora Wilson. And it is, by all accounts, a great collection of stories about love, survival, determination, sacrifice, and perhaps most importantly, hope.

Of course, when I finish the book, I will be posting a review here. I just could not wait that long to say something.

But, of course, you don’t have to wait for my review. Check it out. I promise it will be good.

July 4th – It’s the Least I can do …

Growing up, my family used to spend several weeks every summer at Raquette Lake in upstate New York. We started out camping at Golden Beach Campground. I was 6 months old on my first camping trip. Later we purchased a lot in Burketown, essentially a marina and restaurant on the south bay of the lake. Lots had also been purchased by both sets of grandparents and a great uncle. Many of the other lots were bought up by other employees of Remington Arms Co. of Ilion, NY. So, on our sandy dirt road, almost every knew everyone. Summers at Raquette Lake were almost always a large friend and family get together.

We would typically go to the lake in late July or early August to avoid the black flies and the worst of the mosquito season. One year, for some reason, we had gone earlier, and we’re going to be at the lake for the fireworks on the Fourth of July. I was maybe twelve years old or so. We drove down to watch the fireworks at Old Forge, NY; about twenty minutes south of Raquette Lake on Route 28.

I’m not completely sure who was there. I know myself, my brother, and my Mom and Dad were there. And my Nanny and Grandpa Klippel were certainly there, because my Grandfather is the key figure in this tale. I do remember others being there and suspect my Aunt Carol and maybe my Uncle Ken were there. Grandma and Grandpa Gilbert may have been there, as well as various other cousins, aunts, uncles, etc.

We had found a spot to sit on the hill overlooking Old Forge Lake, or Fourth Lake (being the fourth lake in the Fulton Chain). It is not a particularly large lake; really more like a rather big pond. We were sitting there talking and waiting for the fireworks to begin when it began to cloud up and look like it was going to rain. I remember people trying to figure out if the fireworks would be canceled if it rained. The consensus was that it would depend on how hard it did rain, which seemed fair enough.

Once it got dark enough, the fireworks began. It was positively glorious. However, very shortly thereafter, the rain began as well. I remember being so disappointed as people began getting up to leave. My family, too, was getting ready to leave; everyone that is, except my Grandfather Klippel. He remained seated and simply took his handkerchief out and put it over his head. We had been hurrying to the car, but I had stopped and looked back. I watched as my Grandfather took the handkerchief, which by now had become soaked, and wring it out and place it back on his head. I was stunned, What was he doing? Even at that age, I knew my Grandfather was a bit of a character, but this was like nothing I had seen before. I walked back to where he was sitting.

“Grandpa, what are you doing? It’s raining.” It was actually raining quite hard by then.

“Well,” Grandpa replied, “if our ancestors could fight a war for this country and our freedom, the least I can do is sit through a little rain to thank them for doing so.”

That statement struck me, and I sat down next to my Grandfather. He asked me if I wanted the handkerchief, but I shook my head. It was too much fun watching him periodically wring it out and put it back on his head. We sat there together waiting for the rain to stop.

To be honest, I don’t remember if the rain ever did stop, or if the fireworks were canceled. I just remember sitting there in the rain, being proud as hell, and watching my grandfather once more wring the water out of his handkerchief, and place it back on his head.

Happy Fourth of July!

A Wonderful Civil War Art Exhibition

Today I drove up to Russellville, TN for the opening reception of a Civil War Art exhibition. The collection consisted of a number of really beautiful original paintings by Marie Merritt covering the civil war, and included one painting of General Longstreet Marie painted for the museum and which was unveiled at the showing. And you could not have a better location for the showing than an antebellum American house that General Longstreet occupied during the winter of 1863-1864.

The historic Nenney House served as the winter headquarters for General Longstreet just after the Battle of Bean’s Station in December of 1963. Russellville became the winter camp for his Confederate army. The house has been painstakingly restored by the Lakeway Civil War Preservation Association to serve as a museum. It is the centerpiece of the Civil War Trail in the Lakeway area. The museum’s gift shop also contains an excellent Tennessee Civil War history reference library and Civil War related souvenirs and publications. The museum hosts several special events throughout the year. A reproduction of an 1860’s era tailor shop features both Confederate and Union uniforms and other period dress. It is a perfect setting for an exhibit like this one.

Paintings by Marie Merritt

That is Marie Merritt standing on the staircase in the Nenney House with some of the “reenactors” who were present for the event. I first met Marie at a gallery on Gay Street in Knoxville, TN through my friend, Vicki Goforth. I met Vicki back in my ballroom dancing days and we have remained friends over the years. I enjoyed Marie’s paintings at the gallery, so when I received an invitation to attend the exhibition at the General Longstreet Museum, I had to go. I am a military history buff after all. To be honest, I had no idea this little gem of a museum even existed. What a great surprise. It is definitely worth a visit and I recommend stopping by if you are in the area.

Here is a picture of several of the paintings mounted on a wall in what was probably the sitting room of this historic old house. That is my friend, Vicki, in the red jacket.

One of my personal favorites was this painting below of a Confederate sharpshooter.

Sadly, I must confess that at the time I was taking pictures, I did not know about the special painting of General Longstreet Marie did for the museum which sat to the side on an easel. And somehow, I missed getting a picture of it. But on the bright side, that gives me an excuse to make another trip up to this great little museum in the not-to-distant future.

And here is one picture that might be a little off topic, but I still had to share it. General Longstreet’s staff probably sent messages on this very telegraph. This is probably one of the earliest known predecessors to the smartphone!

Rockin’ Through the Decades

History is often where you find it, sometimes even in old rocking chairs!

The story of this rocking chair essentially begins with the Barringer family for whom Barringer Road in Ilion, NY is named. The Barringers were one of Ilion’s wealthier families and lived in a mansion in the village of Ilion. They also owned a dairy farm out on Barringer Road. I assume the road was named Barringer Road because of the farm. However, the Barringers were not farmers, so they hired a family to live on the farm and work it. My great grandparents, Irving and Kathryn Klippel, worked that farm for years.

In fact, during the depression, my great-grandfather, Irving Klippel, would save the butter milk left over from the process of making butter, and try to deliver it for free to poorer families in Ilion with young children. While some would thankfully accept it, others would not. Since it was essentially a by-product and was often fed to pigs, many were scared to give it to their children, which was too bad.

My grandfather, Erwin Klippel and his brother, Wagner, helped work the farm for many years. After my grandfather married Eileen Gardinier, they moved into a tiny house farther down Barringer Rd, and he eventually went to work for Remington Arms because he wanted a more steady paycheck to support his family than working the farm provided.

My great grandmother, Kathryn Klippel, received several pieces of furniture from the Barringers including a very nice hand-carved oak bed and dresser which my brother, Dan, has in a guest bedroom to this day (The few times I have slept in it over the years, I had to sleep diagonally across it, because, back in the day, people were a lot shorter. Another piece of furniture given to Kathryn Klippel by the Barringers was this old Queen Anne rocking chair.

A historic home

The house my Grandparents moved into on Barringer Rd was built in the 1700s, and survived the Revolutionary War. It was tiny but we still had many great family gatherings there for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We all got quite adept at maneuvering through tight, crowded areas. I remember fighting for a spot on the couch to watch football games with my grandfather. This was when I became a Vikings fan … it was the Fran Tarkington era!

This is a relatively current picture of the house, but it hasn’t changed much. My Grandfather and his brother, Great Uncle Wagner, rebuilt the stone fireplace with stones they hauled back from the Ilion Gorge. And back then, most of the houses currently found on Barringer Rd were not there. When my mother was a little girl and growing up there, it was surrounded by woods, fields, and a pond they would skate on on the winter when it froze over. When I came along and got old enough, we used to ride snowmobiles in the fields behind the house.

You can’t tell because of the tree, but the only real difference in the house today, is that there was once an old wooden “fan” pattern decoration over the front door that also dated back to the American Revolution. It was taken down by the family who purchased this house from my grandparents. I am sure by then it was pretty-well rotted and needed to come down. It is still a bit sad.

The Old Rocker

My mother always told me that my Aunt Carol once rocked me to sleep in this rocker when I was a baby. I guess Aunt Carol would have been in her teens at the time.

Years later, I held my very first baby in my arms, sitting in that very same rocking chair. I was maybe 10-or-12-years old at the time, and the baby was Aunt Carol’s daughter; my cousin Kristine.

This picture was taken in my grandparents house on Barringer Rd. I still remember the old rocking chair with this fabric. Over the years, it has been reupholstered a few times. I seem to remember a blue and gold pattern, maybe a red velvet, and the floral print it currently has.

The foot stool doesn’t match the rocking chair. I vaguely remember a foot stool that did go with the rocking chair, but I have no idea what became of it. The foot stool that is currently used with the rocking chair was made by my great Grandfather Gilbert, my father’s grandfather. But, that is a story for another day.

So, here you go, Joy. Just for you. One more picture of the rocking chair. And this time, I am smiling!

Remembering a WWII Veteran

I got an email from my dad this afternoon telling me his Uncle Bob passed away today. He was 95. My Great Uncle Bob was a WWII veteran, serving in the Army Air Corps on Okinawa at the end of the war.

In the email, my dad mentioned that when he was born, the whole Widmer clan lived in the same house in Herkimer, NY. By the time my father was a toddler, he’d identified Bob as his favorite uncle. Bob would take my dad to the playground and kept a watchful eye on him as he grew older. All the time Uncle Bob was in the Army, he would send my dad a dollar each month to put in a bank he had given him. When he returned from overseas, Uncle Bob took my dad and the money, bought my dad’s first bicycle, which he taught him to ride.

Uncle Bob was not drafted until July of 1945, and Japan surrendered in August of 1945. Hence, the war was over before he arrived at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, where he served as an aircraft mechanic. As I understand it, he worked on B-29s and P-47s, which continued to fly air defense and other missions during the occupation. Bob received a commendation signed by President Harry Truman for his service.

I still remember going to my Great Uncle Bob’s house as a very young boy and playing with his two girls, Ellen and Ruth. We would also see them at Raquette Lake in upstate New York and at family reunions. I guess Ellen and Ruth would be second cousins. Uncle Bob and Aunt Lillian were wonderful people, and these are such great memories. American has lost another one of its heroes.

He was truly a wonderful man.

Revolution 2016: Take Back America

This “entertaining” read is based on a satirical plot where Democrats win control of the House and Senate in 2014 and pass sweeping gun control and greenhouse gas legislation. Unintended consequences soon follow.

Events are similar to what is occurring in 2019. Anarchists step out of the shadows. Constitutionalists and gun owners rally to defend their Second and Fourth Amendment rights. States begin to defy the federal government and clashes occur. The military must choose between obeying their Commander in Chief’s illegal orders or supporting their oath to defend the Constitution against domestic and foreign enemies. Resistance begins in various locations and then spreads across the nation. Patriots rally to take back America.

Could this happen in post 2020?

My thoughts …

First, let me again point out that this is a satirical work, and as Lee Boyland states himself, it is clearly over the top. It is also a great read!

The author spins current events into a prophetic tale that can’t help but make you say, “hmmmmm.” This book has it all … political correctness run amok, destroying the 1st, 2nd, and 4th Amendments, and crooked Teflon-coated “deep state” politicians that put their agenda over the welfare of the country.

The narrative reads well, and I finished it in a couple of days. I did not want to put it down, but as you know, life sometimes gets in the way. I had to take a few breaks from reading.

The story does have a potentially happy ending but takes the reader through a scenario that I hope America will not have to endure. Sometimes I do wonder, as I look at the devolution of our society today if our America will continue to exist for future generations or will we simply devolve into another failed nanny state.

Many American’s will enjoy this excellent read. I also found it a bit reassuring to see that others view the current political situation in this country like I sometimes do. I give this book 5 Stars.

Vietnam Veterans Day

March 29th

I have counted several Vietnam Veterans among my closest friends. Sadly, several are no longer with us. Please remember our Vietnam Veterans today as you go about living your daily lives.

They sent me

and my friends

and my generation

To Vietnam to die

and some of us did.

The rest of us have been dying

in bits and pieces

since the first day they sent us

home.

Unknown

New Book Review Page

I have done a significant number of book reviews over the years, and it dawned on me that they become too easily lost among the other blog post in a typical blog feed.

Therefore, I created a new book review page called DC’s Book Reviews and will display images of the books I have reviewed on the page. Each image will contain a link to that book review in my blog. I have been working on this for several days, and it is now ready to go live.

Voilà! A lot less searching.

I guess I’ve done about 40 or so book reviews. However, 16 have been added to date. I will keep working at this until all of them are on the book review page.

I do enjoy good books and reviewing them for other readers. However, lately, whenever possible. I have turned to audiobooks. I guess my eyes are getting a bit older, and too many years of working at the computer have taken its toll. Audiobooks are a great way to enjoy books, even with tired eyes!

While I only review books I have an interest in reading, anyone interested in having an honest book review done by me can contact me through my contact form. I will reply as quickly as I can.

Click here to view my new book review page. It is also a menu option a the top of the page.

Also, please check out Serpents Underfoot and Adirondack Bear Tales available on Amazon.com. Montagnard is now in the hands of my editor and will be released later this summer.

Thanks for stopping by!

WWII Documentaries Available On-Line for Free

It might be fun to learn a little WWII history while staying at home and helping control the spread if Covid-19! John Purvis provides some great links to documentaries on the subject that are free to view.

John's Notes

If you or your students, kids, adults are looking for things to do to stay occupied, please know ALL our World War II films are available to watch for free on your computer, tablet or smart phone @WWIIFoundation 2020-03-20 at 9.32.34 AM

I saw a tweet from @WWIIFoundation a short time ago that I thought was worth sharing. It said:

If you or your students, kids, adults are looking for things to do to stay occupied, please know ALL our World War II films are available to watch for free on your computer, tablet or smartphone.

If you visit their website (https://wwiifoundation.org/) you will find nearly 30 documentary videos covering WWII. This website offers something to fill some of the time while we are confined at home and to learn more about WWII.


If you are interested in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Sources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 360 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and other sources with information on the World War II-era in history.
  • The “

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Leora’s Letters

The Story of Love and Loss For An Iowa Family During WW II

by Joy Neal Kidney … with Robin Grunder

The day the second atomic bomb was dropped, Clabe and Leora Wilson’s postman brought a telegram to their acreage near Perry, Iowa. One son was already in the U.S. Navy before Pearl Harbor had been attacked. Four more sons worked with their father, tenant farmers near Minburn until, one by one, all five sons were serving their country in the military. The oldest son re-enlisted in the Navy. The younger three became U.S. Army Air Force pilots. As the family optimist, Leora wrote hundreds of letters, among all her regular chores, dispensing news and keeping up the morale of the whole family, which included the brothers’ two sisters. Her fondest wishes were to have a home of her own and family nearby. Leora’s Letters is the compelling true account of a woman whose most tender hopes were disrupted by great losses. Yet she lived out four more decades with hope and resilience.

“Joy lets us see her grandmother’s personal family correspondence through letters. It is heart-tugging. Be ready to be moved by this true story.” –Van Harden, WHO-Radio Personality

Joy Neal Kidney, the oldest granddaughter of the book’s heroine, is the keeper of family stories, letters, photos, combat records, casualty reports, and telegrams. Active on her own website, she is also a writer and local historian. Married to a Vietnam Air Force veteran, Joy lives in central Iowa. Her nonfiction has been published in The Des Moines Register, other media, and broadcast over “Our American Stories.” She’s a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, and her essays have been collected by the Iowa Women’s Archives at the University of Iowa.

My thoughts …

In Leora’s Letters, Joy Neal Kidney provides her readers with a genuine and heartfelt glimpse into the life of an American family during one of our nation’s most trying times. Five Wilson brothers leave their family farm in Iowa to serve their country during WW II, two in the Navy, and three in the Army Air Corps.

Through a well-crafted combination of letters, photographs, and narratives, Joy Neal Kidney draws you in and makes you feel like a member of the family. I found myself caught up in the daily experiences of all five young men and hoping each of them made it home safely. Unfortunately, war is never that kind.

Leora’s Letters is more than a story about one family’s sacrifice. It is a story about America and the kind of people who helped to forge this great nation. Our nation owes Clabe and Leora Wilson and their family a debt it can never repay. However, in reading this incredible story, perhaps we can regain a sense of what kind of people Americans were, and hopefully again, will be.

Do yourself a favor and read this book!