NDANG 119th FIG – 1967 – Jim is standing on the right
Does everyone have one persona for public display and another for personal use? 1965 was a long time ago, and I wasn’t terribly perceptive, but I do remember Jim moving from the AFRES to NDANG. Jim exuded confidence. He was ready for the transition, looking forward to weekend drills in Fargo with a larger unit. I didn’t doubt his enthusiasm for a moment.
Today I read through this letter and got a glimpse of the trepidation he felt, sitting across from a superior officer, waiting for a decision. The Captain had probably decided long before the two of them met in that spare office at Hector Field. Jim didn’t know. All he knew was that his future was on the line. Jim’s plans for the eighties and nineties were in the hands of one man.
Jim taught me many lessons in the forty years I knew him, and one of them was a positive outlook and memory. Whatever decision the captain made that day, Jim would survive and succeed. He could look back on the experience and know that he had done his best, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. In this case, everything worked.
I had the benefit of a couple of tours of the NDANG facilities, some weekends in Fargo, and being proud to say that I knew one of the men who kept the Air Guard fighter planes in the air, roaring off the runway past my college dormitory every day.
Capt. James N. Buzick, Personnel Officer, 119th FIG, NDANG, Hector Field, Fargo, ND … My records were open and before him on his desk. Before the old unit was totally disbanded the command had checked into possible openings other units, especially the Air Guard and at that time there were about 15 or so positions available in various career fields and ranks. Of 75 men and officers about 20 or so were recommended for enlistment in the 119th FIG.
1995 Christmas Letter
Not that long ago I was cleaning out a file drawer that hadn’t seen daylight in years. I found a treasure trove of paper, including our Christmas letters from the nineties. Better yet, there were letters from our friends with their Christmas news. What a joy to read through some of those old letters, partially renewing friendships that have long since faded.
When we first got a computer in the house, in the early eighties, one of the first tasks I gave the machine was an address book application, primarily to keep track of our Christmas card list. We sent and received dozens and dozens of cards each year. We spent hours fretting over what to put into the letter, much as I do today writing these blog entries.
Differences in Christmas letter style were obvious then, and stark today. Far too many were the stereotypical good news missives. Some letters were all about how their award-winning son was traveling through Europe this semester, with news of their intelligent daughter giving a concert for the fund-raising gala. Reading them now gives me a chuckle, they apparently felt the need to upgrade their status. Other letters were replete with whining. Daddy had a stroke, daughter broke her arm, grandma had surgery. They needed sympathy more than the average Joe, maybe more than we had to share.
My job was writing the Christmas letters, with the direction that I neither brag nor complain. As Joe Friday used to say: “Just the facts, ma’am.” It was a tough balance, but we had both joys and challenges to fill our lives, just like today, and just like the families who highlighted the good news or wallowed in their sorrows.
The attached letter is from 1995, just twenty years ago. On one hand, I am shocked at the amount of change in our lives since then; although I shouldn’t be, it’s been twenty years, for God’s sake! You be the judge on how well I did avoiding the stereotype good and sad versions of Christmas letters.
In the fall of 1947 Grace gets to know the Havelick family, but somehow manages to elude meeting the man who would become the love of her life. Her best friend is Dorothy, Louie’s little sister. You’ve heard about her and seen her pictures in Louie’s previous letters. In that small town, living in the same neighborhood, I don’t know how she could avoid meeting Louie, but that meeting will have to wait for another letter.
Mary Jane McCurdy
One reason Grace and Louie didn’t meet was that Louie was married to Mary Jane McCurdy. They had a daughter, named Sunnie Jane. Grace mentions the baby in this letter, but does not go into the back story. The received history, not written down, but shared occasionally, was that daughter Sunnie Jane died because of complications of an instrument delivery by an incompetent doctor. She is buried in the family area of the Highland Home Cemetery just north of Jamestown.
My daughter had a spiritual connection with her grandpa Louie and her would be aunt Sunnie Jane. It’s something beyond my understanding, but if you ever send Mara an email, you’ll have a clue as to the depth of her feelings.
On a lighter note, I find it pleasing that twenty years later I went to high school in the same building as my mother, perhaps going to classes in the same rooms. In the last sentence of this letter Grace ends her high school career. She adds a little more detail in the next letter.
The fall of 1947 I started my junior year of high school in Jamestown. I got acquainted real soon with the girls that lived southwest where we did. We all walked to school together + would go to the teen canteen together after school + sometimes to White’s Drug.
Singing with the Sweet Adelines was an important part of Lucy’s life. In earlier letters, you’ve read about how much it meant to her. Judy sang with SA choruses, too, in Fargo and Rochester. Both of them joined quartets, vying for honors at competitions around the country. In Lucy’s case, they went to Europe, too.
There’s another societal change noted in this letter that needs explaining. Lucy describes her part in a quartet called the “Sugar Beats.” When they formed the quartet three of the gals were single. In this letter Lucy talks about how two of them fell in love and had to quit the quartet, even though they were fun and prize-winning.
Maybe I’m stretching it a bit, but did husbands keep tighter reign on their wives in the fifties? Did they break up the quartet just so the newly married could stay home to cook and clean?
I ask this because even in the seventies being female was a challenge. In 1976 Judy worked for a dental office. The day the dentist realized she was pregnant, becoming obvious by the swelling belly, Judy was out of a job. That doesn’t happen today. I bet women don’t have to quit the chorus or quartet just because they got married, either!
Ken was gone – Judy and I had settled into routine. I decided not to work full time as long as Judy was home and so small.
Ken had decided mother should retire so he built a small appt on the side of our home. It had a bath, kitchen, small bottle gas stove, a small closet and a Hide-A-Bed. After Ken was gone we cut a hole in the wall so Mother didn’t have to go outside to come to my house. She spent very little time in her room after that. She kept candy on her dresser for Judy. She was 72 at that time. I felt it was too bad she had to start raising another at which point she said “She is my Purpose.”
Betty Wroe + I belonged to Sweet Adelines and the chorus had a quartet and Betty said “If they can do it – so can we” so start we did. We had our first quartet with Pauline Argenziano and Shirley Johnason and Shirley got married so we had to start all over.
NDSU Bison Court after a major blizzard
You may recall that we got married in June of 1971. Our first apartment was the upstairs of an old four-square house on the near North Side of Fargo. It was a nice old place, much like the house we live in today. When school started that fall we moved to the campus of North Dakota State University (NDSU) into a little place called Bison Court.
In 1971 Bison Court was the newer student housing. The previous year the university had torn down the old Quonset buildings that had housed veterans coming back from WWII. That neighborhood had a lot of mature trees and some landscaping, but the buildings were ancient by 1971. Metal Quonset buildings were not designed for longevity. Bison court was bleak by comparison. While we were living in Bison Court they built some modern (70’s modern) apartments further northeast of Bison Court.
We loved living at Bison Court for several reasons, mostly that it was within easy walking distance of the engineering department, so there was no need for a second car. There were reasons to not like the place, too. Cinder blocks. Lots of them. The walls were concrete block. All of the walls were block.
Memories are strange things, they don’t flow like a river. They’re random, showing up when you least expect them, often when you least want them. This jog backwards in the story happened because Louie and I spent some time talking about his stories after he had finished the project. He then realized that he hadn’t talked about something that apparently made a difference in his life.
Louie describes a milk, or cream, separator. In the forties farmers separated cream from the milk right on the farm, before putting the milk into ten gallon cans to ship to town by train. Now farmers store whole raw milk on the farm and take it to the city in 10,000 gallon trucks. (OK, a trailer truck only carries 7,000 gallons, but to make the story sound good I said ten.) Everything is automated, there’s no need for a green horn teenage boy to run the machines and carry milk cans.
Louie describes the machine’s parts and that triggers my memories of taking apart alarm clocks when I was a kid, then memories from just last week when my grandson attempted to put a square toy into a round hole. Some things just don’t change.
Louie in 1959
You asked me about the milk separator – it was, at one time, my alarm clock.