Sunday, March 2, 2014

Quiet Water Symposium 2014

Had a good day at the Quiet Water. Met Joe Root for the first time. Ron Sell had an exhibit of his canoes. 




Greeted by a lot of people I've known over the years. Recognized all their faces but couldn't remember all their names. Talked to many exhibitors. The Quiet Water has grown by leaps and bounds.


Matt Turner showed me the full-size Hinsdale archaeological map of Michigan he had made up. Impressive. 

Met with all the Verlen Kruger Award winners who were there and was in a group photo.
 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

New Year's Day for Family Veterans

Jim showing off his military scrapbooks to family
Our family has ancestors who fought (and some died) in the Pequot War, King Phillip's War, and the Revolutionary War but I haven't tried figure out where they might have been on New Year's Day. Here are the the more recent family veterans' New Year's Day stories:

My Dad, 2nd Lt. Allen Woodruff, was in a Field Artillery unit at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, on New Year's Day of 1919. On New Year's Day of 1945 I was in Hawaii getting ready to ship out for Okinawa. Tough time at Waikiki Beach as I remember. T-4 Dick Woodruff was a forward observer radio man with the 911th Field Artillery Battalion of the 86th Infantry Division on their way to fight across Germany on that same day. We also know he was an MP in Manila on New Year's of 1946. That day in 1946 I was the Commanding Officer of an Engineer Topographic Company in Seoul, Korea. On New Year's Day of 1945 Seaman (eventually Gunner's Mate) John Woodruff was probably on an as yet unidentified troopship on the Pacific on the way to Ulithi where he boarded the Destroyer USS Bebas. His son Allen thinks that John was in dry dock at Pearl Harbor on New year's Day 1946. He was then assigned to the Minesweeper MS 107 that had a collision with an Army ship off Waikiki. On New Year's Day 1969 son-in-law Pvt. E-2 Ken Stock was on leave at home during a break between Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri.

My late sister-in-law Mary Ryan Woodruff's family served their country in spades. On New Year's Day of 1969 her nephew then Marine Pfc.Mike Ferris was on a hillside in Vietnam on radio watch in "Operation Dawson River". He had only been "in country" 65 days. He and I have an ongoing Email conversation going telling each other war stories. Her brother Tech Sgt. "Snub" Ryan of the 104th Infantry Division spent New Years Day of 1945 in Germany where he had just been in the awful Battle of Hurtgen Forest. He was reported to be the sole survivor of his platoon. Her brother "Uncle Pat" Ryan was probably at Elmendorf Air Base in Alaska on New Year's Day during a Korean War year but I just recently found out that Pat was in the Army so I will have to research his career. The saddest story is that of her brother Tom who was killed in a flight training accident at Douglas Field, an Army Air Force training base near the Mexican Border in Arizona. The accident happened in February, 1943, so I figure that's where he was on New Year's Day of 1943.

Nephew Richard's son Major Jason Woodruff is career Air Force. He was in Massachusetts at Hanscomb Air Force Base on New Year's Day of 2010. My nephew Lt. Col. John Woodruff is also career Air Force but since he has not been forthcoming with information on his career I'm going to leave him in limbo until he produces.

Ensign Uncle Tracy Shane was on the training ship SS Nantucket off Pellham Bay New York (or maybe on shore) on New Year''s Day of 1919. On New Year's Day of 1945 his son Lt. George Shane was at the Lemoore Army Flying School in California waiting for the B-24 bomber which he would fly in the U.S. during the rest of the war. On that same day Tracy's son-in-law Cpl.? Howard Elliot, a mortar man in the 102nd Infantry Division, was in a hospital at Bathe, England, recovering from two wounds received in battle in Germany, which earned him dual Purple Hearts. He would return to combat as a machine gunner with his Division before it crossed the Rhine River. On New Year's Day of 1954 George's brother First Class Petty Officer Bob Shane was at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on the Destroyer Gatling (DD 671) after an around-the-world cruise with three other destroyers following the Korean War armistice. They had been active with Naval Task Forces both east and west of Korea during the fighting. On New Year's Day of 1955 Cpl. Phil Shane was at Ft. Knox with the 74th Signal Company of the 3rd Armored Division.

My late wife Elaine's family had interesting military involvements starting with her great Grandfather Pvt. John George of the 1st Michigan Volunteer Artillery Regiment during the Civil War. On New Year's Day 1863 he was somewhere near the Clinch River in Tennessee, having been involved in the Battle of Walker's Ford in December of 1862. Her three Belke brothers and two Karstens cousins all served in the US Army. On New Year's Day 1945 Master Sergeant Russell was at Ft. Francis E. Warren, Wyoming. Tech Sergeant (later First Sgt.) Jerome was in England with the 9th Air Force. The previous New Year's he was in Egypt with that same 9th Air Force. Sergeant Richard was at the McCook Army Air Base in Nebraska on New Year's day of 1945. Brother Jerome signed up with the reserves after the war which got him a tour in Germany with the Army Engineers during the Korean War. Cousin Ron Karstens was at Ft. Dix, New Jersey, on New Year's Day 1958 on his way to Germany. Cousin Don Karstens left for basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood on New Year's Day 1960. He would spend the next New Year's Day in Korea. Elaine's nephew, Jerome's son, Wayne Belke was an Air Force Lieutenant on a US air base Taiwan on New Year's Day of 1972.

Cousin-in-law Chief Warrant Officer Darrell Floro, Mary's husband who had a 40 year career in the Ohio National Guard, was at home in Oak Harbor most New Years (unless Mary can inform me differently). Cousin Lt. Don Thayer was at Johnson Air Base in Japan and Cousin Sgt. Rod Thayer was at Kadena Ar Base on Okinawa on New Year's Day 1952. Mary and Darrell's son Chris was in the Army Special Forces so we are not supposed to know where he was all his service years but we know enough to say he was in Ft. Bragg, N.C. on New Year's Day 2006. Mary and Darrell's daughter Betsy was in ROTC at Michigan State for a while, but I don't know if she was still in it on any New Year's Day.

Cousin Vincent Pratt served on the Aircraft Carrier USS Saratoga. After a cruise in the Mediterranean in the summer of 1962 the Saratoga was involved in the blockade of Cuba during the Missile Crisis. Thus on New Year's Day of 1963 Vince was down in the boiler room of the Saratoga which was cruising on patrol in the Caribbean. Uncle Henry Pratt was in the horse cavalry ROTC at Michigan Agricultural College in 1916 so I calculate that he was back at the family home south of Watervliet on Christmas break on New Year's Day of 1917. Cousins Harlan and Bob Pratt were in the ROTC at UCLA in 1926 so on New Year's Day of 1927 I imagine they would have been home with Aunt Louise. Marj Pratt Ingram will have to straighten me out if that guess is wrong.

If I have messed up any of the years in this account, I assume you will correct me. This started out as a New Year's Day project but it grew like my Military Scrapbook project. Like I always say, it keeps me out of the pool hall.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dynamite Stories: Episode 3 - Guarding the M



In September 1940 I became a member of the pledge class of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at the Colorado School of Mines* along with seven other freshmen from Illinois, Mississippi, and Oklahoma, and various towns in Colorado. We were given the duty on the night before the Colorado College football game to guard the "M," a large lighted stone assemblage high on the side of Mount Zion in the front range of the Rockies (above Golden) that could be seen for many, many miles out towards Denver and the prairies. We were given a pack of fused dynamite to use as a signal to alert the campus below if any Colorado College vandals showed up.

It was a long trudge up the mountain to the darkened "M" that night, but we were honored and alert. A road block at the bottom of the mountain intended to deter any invaders was manned by other Miners so we confidently settled in, not expecting any action. Then over the other side of the mountain from the direction of Buffalo Bill's grave on Lookout Mountain came several automobiles with their lights out. CC Invaders! 

We were obviously outnumbered but we ran around in the dark, throwing stones and shouting hoping that the CC guys would think there were many of us. I was in charge of the dynamite so I lit the fuse and threw the pack over the side of the mountain. It exploded with a glorious "BANG" that rang across the entire valley below.

The CC guys were obviously startled and spooked and jumped in their cars and roared down the mountain. I learned that most of them avoided the roadblock but one carload was captured. They were treated to an application of fast-evaporating carbon tetra-chloride to their privates, had their heads shaved and an "M" drawn on their bare scalps with hair-growth inhibiting silver nitrate.

I don't suppose that kind of activity would be tolerated these days.

At least one of the unsuccessful Colorado College vandals who got captured and dosed with carbon-tet and silver nitrate was a good sport. At the following football game at Colorado Springs he was vending popcorn or peanuts or something in the stands on our side of the stadium. Some of our guys recognized him even though he was wearing a cap to hide his shaved dome. We all started yelling for him to take it off. With a smile and a laugh he doffed his cap and bent over to show the audience his heard with the "M" plain to see. The cheers and laughs were loud and gratifying.
*Being a mining school with Army Engineer ROTC mandatory explosives were part of the curriculum. We didn't ring the school bell to awaken the campus, we would set off dynamite over the face of Castle Rock which would reflect the sound far and wide.
© Arthur Lakes Library

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Dynamite Stories: Episode 2: Don't Try This at Home

When I was a kid on Paw Paw Avenue in Watervliet, we had an old red shed out back full of tools and junk and one wooden box mysterious to us boys. It turned out that it was a box partially full of old sticks of dynamite. Now dynamite is actually sawdust-like "fuller's earth" or diatomaceous earth soaked in nitroglycerin and wrapped in a kind of wax paper. When it gets old and sits around too long it leaks some of the nitroglycerin. That was the case with this old box. The wood of the bottom and lower sides of the box were soaked with nitroglycerin.

As you can imagine, this creates a tricky situation safety-wise. How do you get rid of old dynamite in a nitro-stained wooden box? You sure don't haul it to the town dump.

Our solution was for Dick and I to gingerly lift the box and carry it down to the woods in the river-bottom behind the house. Then Dick got his .22/250 varmint rifle with the telescopic sight, assumed the prone firing position on top of the hill, aimed at the box, and fired.

The result was tremendous blast that reverberated up and down the Paw Paw River Valley, and, as we later learned, scared the hell out of the people in the house nearest across the river. 

Obviously, we didn't publicize the incident.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Dynamite Stories: Episode 1 - The Lombardy Poplars

Conversations with my nieces and nephews about trees in the yard at the old home place on Paw Paw Avenue in Watervliet reminded me of a number of stories involving dynamite. This is the first in the series.

Episode 1 - The Lombardy Poplars


If you've been to the Woodruff family compound in Watervliet, you might wonder, "what Lombardy poplars?" There are none anymore. Their demise is the story.

Between Mother and Dad's house (now owned and occupied by Pat and Geoff Geisler) and the field where my brother Dick built his house were a number of trees. From north to south: an overly mature sugar maple out by Paw Paw Avenue, then two mature Lombardy poplars just east of the house, a big spruce tree, and finally two Catalpas.

One of the Lombardy poplars died a natural death--they are relatively short lived--and soon after the other just gave up and died too. Dad cut it down or had it cut down (I don't remember which), then decided to get rid of the stump. This was before you could get somebody to come in with a "stump grinder" to make the stump go away.

Dad's choice for stump removal was dynamite.

The problem was the trees were pretty close to the house, and Dad didn't want to splatter the house with dirt and wood chips. (I don't think Mother was around when Dad decided on dynamite.) So he came to us and asked for our favorite pup-tent to smother any debris.

We boys objected strenuously to that idea but Dad convinced us that our tent would be alright. So he dug in around the roots of the poplar stump and inserted what turned out to be an excessive number of sticks of dynamite.

He lit the fuse (we boys were in the house observing out the dining room window) and BALOOEY!! Our shredded tent sailed all the way over the house and dirt thoroughly splattered the east side of house. 

Mission accomplished, you might say--the stump was completely disintegrated--but we were not privy to the discussion Dad eventually had with Mother about the whole episode.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Battle of Okinawa, Part IV

The noise of battle was continually moving south and 10th Army Headquarters was being established around us. My men drew sentry duty on the perimeter which consisted of hunkering down after dark with a rifle and a "snooper scope," which was an early version of night vision equipment. Most of the movement at night was by natives trying to get away from the fighting and cattle wandering loose, but one night it was Japanese soldiers trying to get through our lines and get to the north where there were still pockets of Jap holdouts. When they were confronted by our sentries two of them committed suicide by holding hand grenades to their bellies and pulling the pin. How many got through I don't know. There was no question that nasty battles were going on down south. The Japs were dug in on a line of hills called Shuri Ridge and our soldiers and Marines were paying an awful price. Cemeteries were established north of us. I will never forget the sight of a truck full of dead Marines on the road.

They declared Okinawa secured on June 21. We held a parade-ground type ceremony at 10th Army Headquarters in recognition. General Buckner had been killed while observing the fighting and General "Vinegar Joe" Stillwell had taken command. Our outfit started receiving maps for "Operation Olympic," the planned invasion of Kyushu in November of 1945, and "Operation Coronet," the invasion of Honshu (the Japanese main island). I was able to look at those maps and figure out where I would probably be. Not a happy prospect.

Then they dropped the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima. Then they dropped another on Nagasaki, and the Japs surrendered. The whole island erupted in gun fire as the Americans celebrated by shooting their guns in the air. Me, I retreated to my roofed foxhole until the firing died down. Several soldiers were reported wounded, one nearby right in the buttocks as he dived for his hole. You could hear stuff hitting as it returned to earth.

Epilog

In September my unit was ordered to leave all our stuff and board ship with the XXIV Corps troops and go to Korea. On October 6 Okinawa was hit by an enormous typhoon which wiped out our Map Depot and reportedly spread our maps all over the island and nearby ocean. On the way to Korea our ship was battered by high seas generated by the typhoon. I remember marveling at how we bucked and rode the huge waves, but I didn't get seasick.

Posted by the editor: BONUS VIDEO of selected photos and drawings (including cartoons by Jim) of Jim's military service.

Read Part I     Part II     Part III

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Battle of Okinawa, Part III

Back row: Glenn Skousen (AZ), Craig Deardorf (PA), G.P.Starr (AL), Author (MI), Art Johnston (MI), Stuart Bean (OK), George Brayman (NY)
Front row: Kazimiesz "Rosie" Rozoff (MI), Donald Treglia (NJ), Johnny Mason (PA), Louis D. G. DeGeneris (MI), Lynn Foltz (MT), Stanley Lalko (NJ)






Map Depot Operations

Soon GIs and Marines started arriving wanting maps. We were really a sort of retail store out in the boonies. I had made a sign out by what was becoming a busy road pointing to us. They would ask for whatever maps they wanted and my men became like clerks at a mall store, except everything was free. Sergeant Foltz from Montana and I had our own small headquarters wall tent out front. 

We kept improving our setup and eventually had a small narrow-gauge railroad running through a line of tents full of map boxes. We had taken the Weapons Carrier out to a sugar cane mill and "liberated" some track and a couple of small hand carts. It turns out that the mill was being guarded by an MP with a Doberman who almost caused me to wet my pants when it "greeted" me (I distracted the MP and his dog while my men made off with track and carts). Tenth Army Headquarters started growing up around us, much to our dismay because that introduced Chicken Shit in the form of Colonels and clerks.

When we first arrived, combat operations were uncomfortably close to our south and the noise of explosions and artillery and gunfire quite plain. The 7th, 27th, and 96th Army Divisions and the 1st Marines were pushing the Japanese southward. The 6th Marines, who had come with us, were clearing out the north end of the island. Eventually they came back south and replaced the 1st Marines. 

My old Beta buddy Jim "Dogbutt" Brown from Bluefield, West Virginia, was a lieutenant with the 6th Marine Engineers. He used to come visit me and tell me war stories. He would invite me to go back south with him but I always politely demurred. He eventually won a medal for building a Bailey Bridge under fire across a creek north of Naha, the island's capital. One time he brought me a Japanese "Horn Mine" he had cleared from a beach and deactivated. I steamed out the picric acid explosive and painted it up and set outside my HQ tent. 

When Major Fullerton, to whom I reported at 10th Army HQ, found out I had been playing with Japanese explosives he gave me hell. A number of of the men in my outfit swore they were going to hunt down Major Fullerton after the war (he was from Detroit and worked for Detroit Edison). Two of my guys were from Michigan, Art Johnston from Owosso and Louie DeGeneris from Flint. Louie came and visited me a few years ago.

Next: Part IV

Read Part I     Part II     Part IV 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Battle of Okinawa, Part II

U.S.S. Cepheus (photo courtesy of NavSource)
On the Way

On the way we had to cross the Equator where an elaborate ceremony was held by the Coast Guard sailors who had already crossed the Equator someplace. One of them was dressed as Neptune, God of the Sea, wearing a wig made of a cotton mop and a toilet plunger for a scepter. There was dunking of initiates in a pool on deck and hair cutting. I was especially singled out because of my luxurious, wavy hair, the result of dating girls at Waikiki. They cut swaths two ways down to my scalp. When they were done I had one of my men finish the job and my hair has been short ever since. A lot of time was spent on that long voyage watching flying fish in the bow wave. There was never a sign of sea-sickness then or on any of my other trips on the Pacific. All-in-all I spent 51 days on various ships on the ocean.

Our first stop was the little island of Tulahgi, located across the Savo Strait north of Guadalcanal. There was an American naval establishment on the Island complete with with an Officer's Club. The Naval officers offered the officers aboard the Cepheus a ride to shore and drinks at their club. We readily accepted and a few hours later they put us back on our ship, woozy from their free booze but absent all our money from playing poker. Then the ship moved across the strait and anchored off Guadalcanal. We had a chance to go ashore and see where the battle had been fought and so many men had died. It was really strange and sort of haunted. We went swimming off the beach one day until we were spooked by the sighting of barracuda.

After loading some equipment on deck and the 6th Marines loaded on Navy transports the convoy headed for Ulithi. As you probably know, the atoll of Ulithi in the western Pacific is the one place in the world that all three of the Woodruff boys visited during and after the war (Google it). From there we moved to join the invasion fleet. "L" Day was scheduled for April 1, 1945. The invasion beaches were on the far side of the main island of Okinawa. Some of the Top Secret maps we were carrying showed the location of these beaches. So the invasion fleet assembled on the west or China side to hit the beaches. In my mind's eye, I still picture us coming in on the East side. I was always somewhat disoriented on Okinawa for that reason.

Off Okinawa

It was an awe inspiring sight to see that enormous invasion fleet spread out over the ocean but soon the Jap Kamakaze planes and bombers were swarming. I liken it to becoming somewhat like a huge but deadly ball game, all the ships shooting at the Japs and when one would get hit and spiral down to the ocean every one on board would cheer. I remember wishing I could dig a fox hole in that steel deck.

I Googled USS Cepheus to find out what our ship was doing. Wikipedia says: "Cepheus arrived in the transport area off Okinawa on April 1, 1945, and since her cargo was destined for use after the initial assault, sent her boats for use in unloading three other transports. She retired seaward for the night, and came under enemy attack while returning to the island the next morning. During that raid she fired upon seven Japanese enemy aircraft and aided in downing three."

I vividly remember one tragic happening. A Marine Corsair was shot down by our own gunfire as for some unknown reason it flew over the beach parallel to shore during a Japanese attack. I thought I saw him waggle his wings for recognition but in vain.

The day of the invasion my most distinct memory is of battleships bombarding the landing beaches. o back out to sea for the night and then return the next morning. On the third day the 1746th unloaded and landed on shore. The Japanese had chosen not to defend the landing beaches so our Coast Guard landing craft just put us onshore and we drove off and were on Okinawa. The most excitement of our unloading from the Cepheus was when Johnnie Mason, our oldest soldier (30), fell off the landing net as he was crawling down to get in the bobbing landing craft. Some sailors grabbed his pack and rifle as he plunged into the sea between the ship and the boat. He popped right up and avoided getting squashed between them. The sailors took him back on board and after a while here came Johnnie, grinning. They had fed him some whiskey in the process of de-watering him. I was afraid he would fall in again to get another shot.

Onshore on Okinawa

Our Detachment had but one vehicle, an open Dodge Power Wagon known as a "Weapons Carrier". I always felt dissed because I didn't have my own Jeep. How did we look as we landed onshore on Day 3? A Lieutenant and 10 enlisted men and a Weapons Carrier loaded on an LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle Personel) manned by a Coast Guard Coxswain. I don't remember what else was on that LCVP. It drove right up on the beach and we drove off and headed for the area where we were to set up. I also don't remember who was our guide but he took us to a spot in a field that turned out to be off the end of Kadena Airfield. We had long Army tents known as Squad Tents. My Dad sold hundreds of them out of his War Surplus stores after the War. We set up the tents and the boxes of maps started arriving. We arranged them around the inside perimeter of the tents about shoulder high like a fort. When we were all set up and admiring our work a couple of Japanese planes showed up high overhead. All of a sudden the most God-awful racket commenced and scared the crap out of us! We didn't know that out of sight on top of the hill behind us was a 90 MM Antiaircraft Battery. You understand that whatever is fired into the air, whether a 30 caliber rifle bullet or a 90 MM shell that explodes, has to come back down to earth? And that according to the laws of physics it is accelerating and the rate of 32 feet per second per second?

I had a canteen cup full of hot coffee in my hand when this started, but no place to hide. So I ran for a nearby shallow ditch and hunkered down until the firing stopped. When I got back up the battery started firing again so I repeated my sprint for the ditch. When the Jap planes went away (unharmed) I got back out of the ditch, the coffee un-spilled but stone cold. We checked back at the tents and found several very nasty shrapnel tears in the roofs so we stopped and all dug fox holes, something we should have done immediately on arrival. Over time I kept improving on my hole until eventually it was sort of a luxurious hideout with a sandbagged roof.


Daughter Karen made a video using this cartoon--you can watch it by clicking here.

Next: Part III - Map Depot Operations.

Read Part I     Part III    Part IV

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Battle of Okinawa - Part I


For the record: Here is my story of the Battle for Okinawa, the last great battle of World War II. I have already told humorous parts of this in "Grandpa's Stories" for the entertainment of my immediate family.

The Secret Orders

In the fall of 1944 as a brand new Second Lieutenant training Engineer troops in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, I received orders marked "S E C R E T" to proceed to Ft. Shafter, Territory of Hawaii, and report to the Commanding General, Pacific Ocean Area, for duty. At the bottom of the order was this ominous warning:

YOU ARE DIRECTED TO TAKE EVERY PRECAUTION TO SAFEGUARD THESE INSTRUCTIONS. THIS SHEET WILL NOT BE PLACED IN THE SAME CONTAINER WITH OTHER ORDERS AND RECORDS. YOU ARE PROHIBITED FROM DISCUSSING YOUR OVERSEAS DESTINATION EVEN BY SHIPMENT NUMBER OR SHIPMENT DESIGNATOR. IN CASE OF EMERGENCY THIS SHEET WILL BE DESTROYED.

Well, that was scary. What kind of a secret mission was I being sent on? The mystery deepened as I reported to Hamilton Field, an Army Air Force base north of San Francisco, and became the only passenger on a four-motored C54 transport plane heading for Hawaii. In those days the way you normally got from California to Hawaii was by troop ship. Well 11 hours later the C54 touched down at Hickam Field near Honolulu. I was met by an officer and handed assignment orders to an Engineer Spare Parts Platoon! How glamorous was that? Worse, after a couple days I was reassigned to an Engineer Dredge Company! Some secret mission....Then I reported to the 64th Engineer Topographic Battalion at Scofield Barracks (where eventually "From Here to Eternity" was filmed). It turns out all this was all an elaborate cover for the assignment of a replacement officer in an outfit which was making Top Secret maps for the next invasions, the Phillipines and  Okinawa. I ultimately was told that I replaced an officer who had committed suicide in remorse over losing Top Secret maps for the planned invasion of Yap. We never did invade Yap.

My first assignment was to spend every night at the printing plant of the Honolulu Advertiser, the local newspaper, where I was armed with a 45 caliber pistol and watched printing press operators (who looked Japanese) print large scale Top Secret maps of the island of Luzon. I was to see to it that none of these maps strayed and to destroy any spoiled copies. A side benefit of this job was that my days were free to swim or surf at Waikiki Beach...tough duty. 

My roommate at Schofield was Lt. Al Jacobsen, a handsome First Lieutenant from Chicago who was a champion swimmer in college. This almost led to my drowning in a rip current off the North Shore of Oahu where the TV shows of surfing contests are now made (I tried to keep up with him as he did a Johnny Weismuller-type crawl through the surf). He and I met and dated a couple of girls at Waikiki (mine was "Bubbles" Jones from Texas).

The 1746th Map Depot Detachment



One day I was was called in to see the Battalion Commanding Officer and he informed me that I was to form a separate detachment for the purpose of taking a large supply of Top Secret maps to Okinawa and establishing a central map depot on the island. He said he regretted losing me but orders were orders. I was delighted at the prospect but I did't let on that I would be happy to quit baby-sitting Advertiser printing presses. Ten men from the battalion were assigned to my detachment. I ultimately became suspicious that the various company officers were passing off their malcontents and goof-offs to my new 1746th Engineer Map Depot Detachment. However, I was happy to have them and determined to form the best damned Map Depot Detachment in the Pacific Theater.

First we were carpenters. My men built a humongous number of heavy-duty wooden crates from plywood and dimension lumber. Then we packed them full of maps, all Top Secret, and so stenciled the boxes. When we had all the maps crated we loaded them on a long flat-bed semi-trailer and headed for the Honolulu docks, a jeep with armed MPs leading and another following. Riding on top of the load was yours truly brandishing a sub-machine gun. At the docks we saw our conveyance for the next few weeks, the Coast Guard-manned USS Cepheus. If you saw the movie "Mr. Roberts" that's how we looked after loading and heading out across the Pacific in a large convoy. On board I learned that we were headed for Guadalcanal to pick up the 6th Marine Division.

Next: Part II - On the Way

Read Part II     Part III    Part IV 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Burning Couches

see the article on MLive.com - annarbor.com photo

I wondered if they burned any couches in Ann Arbor. Now I know. Burning couches is tame compared to what we used to do in Golden with dynamite.

Being a mining school with mandatory Army Engineer ROTC, explosives were part of the curriculum. We didn't ring the school bell to awaken the campus; we would set off dynamite over the face of Castle Rock, which would reflect the sound far and wide.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Fiasco on the Paw Paw

Jim and Dick Woodruff
One crisp fall day in 1951, two brothers went drifting down the Paw Paw River hunting ducks. The younger brother was in the stern of the 18' wood and canvas Old Town canoe using a paddle to steer, while the elder brother sat in the bow, shotgun at the ready. Suddenly a duck flew up! The bow man followed the duck's flight until his shotgun was pointing 90 degrees to the long axis of the canoe at which time he fired (missing the duck). In accordance with Newton's Third Law, the canoe promptly tilted the other way, dumping the unprepared steersman, his paddle and his 16 gauge double-barreled shotgun into the river. To the elder brother's amazement, the younger brother demonstrated that it is possible to swim to shore, even weighed down with hip boots full of frigid water. The younger brother and his paddle were recovered; but, alas, his pet 16 gauge remains forever at the bottom of the river.

The rest of the story now needs to be told: My wife Elaine was visiting her folks in St. Joe at the time. My father Allen Woodruff was busy in his barn behind our Paw Paw Avenue house selling war surplus to multiple customers. Younger brother Dick and I pulled out of the river at Riverside and went into the local tavern to warm up, get a couple of beers, and call for help. There were no cell phones in those days, of course. We tried several times without success to reach Dad on the pay phone. Running out of coins I called Elaine at her folks' home and asked her to keep trying to reach Dad. She was eventually successful but Dad was abrupt with her, suggesting that he was too busy with customers to leave the store to rescue his two grown sons. Elaine didn't take that well at all and said that we could rot in Riverside then. Eventually Dad relented and drove to Riverside and picked us and the canoe up. The photo shows Dick and I and the canoe on Dad's pickup truck back at the barn on Paw Paw Avenue. Note Dick wearing his sweater upside down over his legs in lieu of wet pants.

Monday, May 28, 2012

I Remember Memorial Day (re-posted)


In remembrance of those who served and gave their lives for our country, I am re-posting my father's 2008 blog post about the speech he delivered on Memorial Day, 1987, at the Watervliet cemetery. The photo above is of the Memorial Day parade in Watervliet, not long after WWII. My Uncle Dick is second from the left.
--Karen Stock (Jim's daughter) 

May 25, 2008

During my professional career I made a lot of speeches, mostly about energy. But the last, best and probably shortest speech I ever made was at the Watervliet Cemetery on Memorial Day 1987:

                                I REMEMBER MEMORIAL DAY

I seriously doubt whether I can get through this program without breaking down, so strong are my feelings for this cemetery, this town, this state and this nation.

Buried in this cemetery is my great-grandfather, who came to Michigan before it was a state 150 years ago. And buried in this sacred plot is a native American veteran of World War I whose ancestors lived in this beautiful peninsula for a thousand years.

Up there is the grave of Uriah Wood, Watervliet's last living Civil War veteran. He survived the horrors of the Confederate's Andersonville Prison knowing that his sacrifices were not in vain, since his war ended slavery and preserved the Union. In my mind's eye, I can still see Mr. Wood as a white-haired, feeble old man, dressed in blue, riding in the back of an open touring car in the late 1920's or early 1930's. It was called "Decoration Day" then---and then we could decorate the graves of the veterans of but three wars---the Civil War, the Spanish-American War and World War I.

Back in 1868, General John A. Logan, the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, which was the Union veterans' equivalent of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, designated May 30 of that year "...for the  purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion and with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year." May 30 was known as Decoration Day until 1882 when the G.A.R. urged that the proper designation be "Memorial Day". By that time, however, the term Decoration Day was fixed in the people's  vocabulary.

I suppose it is an apt commentary on our times and values that by Congressional decree Memorial Day is now observed on the last Monday in May rather than May 30 each year, so that people and commerce can benefit from a three-day weekend in which to do just about anything other than honor this country's war dead. However, by whatever name or on whichever day, I am proud to be in my hometown on the 120th of these days which are set aside to decorate the graves and remember and honor those who served their country---and most especially those who gave up their lives in that service.

One of my most poignant memories of this day is that of watching and hearing my father, the first Commander of Watervliet's American Legion Post, reading the names of all the town's deceased veterans---three names at a time---pausing after each three while the bass drum sounded three solemn, mournful beats. Each year throughout my childhood, until it came time for me to go away to college and then to my own war, the list grew longer and longer; as it has each of the forty-odd years since I left Watervliet.
I remember as a grade school kid walking with my schoolmates---spring flowers in hand---along old US12 from the old school house to the cemetery; with a stop at the bridge down there to throw some of our flowers into the water of Mill Creek in honor of the sailors who died for their country. How proudly our local police stopped all traffic between Detroit and Chicago to allow the people of little Watervliet to parade in honor or their departed veterans.

I remember marching in parades with the Watervliet High School band in our maroon and white uniforms--and that the best trumpet player always had the honor of playing "Taps" for the cemetery ceremonies. I especially remember after I became a veteran myself, marching with the American Legion firing squads and honor guards--with two generations of proud ex-soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen--brothers, cousins, friends and comrades-in-arms.

With all of these memories I am particulaly grateful to the new Veterans of Foreign Wars post for reviving and preserving this fine and patriotic tradition.

Two hundred eleven years ago this summer, in 1776, the American Colonies declared their indpendence from Great Britain---but it took six more years of struggling, starving, fighting and dying by Washington's soldiers to make that declaration stick.

However, the overthrow of tyranny does not automatically create a viable nation or even lasting freedom, as we have often seen to our bitter disappointment. In their revolution, the Russians escaped the tyranny of the Czars only to be ensnared in a worse tyranny, that of Communism under Stalin. The Cubans overthrew the dictator Batista only to fall victim to the dictatorship of Castro. The Nicaraguans overthrew the dictator Somoza only to have their revolution pre-empted by the Communist Sandinistas. These are but a few of many examples throughout history of revolutions gone awry.

After our revolution Americans were either uncommonly lucky or uncommonly blessed, it seems to me, when in 1787 the 13 newly independent but weak and quarelling states chose their wisest men to gather in convention in Philadelphia to work out a framework of a republic, based on democracy, as an alternative to chaos or monarchy. The resulting document is our precious Constitution, and this year we thankfully celebrate its 200th birthday and its continuing vitality.

Although the Constitution created a nation, by itself it could not preserve that nation in the face of the awful dilemma of slavery. As was the case with the birth of this country, the preservation of the resulting union required the shedding of blood in armed conflict among men and armies. It should be remembered that the Civil War of 1861-1865 cost more American lives than any war since--percentage-wise far more. But although a civil war is a particularly bitter type of war, our Civil War--or the War Between the States, if you are of southern heritage--at least had lasting benefits. Slavery was abolished (though discrimination and racism persist). The union of the states which makes our country great was preserved (although crisis after crisis seems to be our national way of life).

As I have said, Uriah Wood and Watervliet's many other Civil War veterans who are buried here had the satisfaction, pride and peace that comes from knowing their struggles were not in vain. They did much permanent good for their county; and, by example, for the world
.
Contrast that with the situation of the Vietnam veterans. Much has been said and written about the futility if the sacrifices of our Vietnam veterans, but not having been able to share their experience, or to know first hand their anger and frustration, neither I nor others of my generation are really qualified to pass judgement on the worth of their sacrifices.

But what about those who 70 years ago in World War I fought "The  War to End All Wars", the "War to Make the World Safe for Democracy", and then little more than two decades later endured the heartbreak of sending their sons to fight and die in an even more deadly war against the most powerful totalitarian forces ever assembled?

What about those patriotic and eager Spanish-American War volunteers who in 1898 fought yellow fever and the Spaniards to liberate Cuba and the Phillipines? What would they think today about Communist Cuba or the Phillipines in chaos?

And what about the veterans of the Korean conflict? In 1945, I was with the U.S. occupation troops in Korea which expelled the Japanese after their defeat in World War II. That year, Korea was split in two at the 38th parallel--communists to the north, non-communist to the south--Russians occupying the north, Americans occupying the south. Yet only five years later after victorious, triumphant, foolish America had naively dismantled the mightiest military force in world history, out-numbered, out-gunned American soldiers were rertreating and fighting for their lives in Korea in a war they were not allowed to win--a war which was was not even dignified by being called a war.

What about the veterans of my war, World War II? We are probably most like the Civil War veterans in that we knew why we were fighting--for survival and to keep civilization from being submerged in totalitarian madness. Also we saw some real results--the destruction of German Nazism, Italian Fascism and Japanese Imperialism were triumphs of gigantic historical magnitude.

Our generation dared not fail in war, but let us hope that history does not find that we failed in peace.
Thus far, I have spoken about veterans who survived their wars and lived to remember and to learn what became of their cause. But what about those who did not live to become veterans, but who instead died violently in battle, or agonizingly from wounds or gas, or miserably from sickness which often killed more soldiers than lead or gunpowder or shrapnel? Surely nothing could have--or ever did--erase the hurt and sorrow and grieving of those whose sons died for their country. But who is to say that such a death, in the vigor of youth, fighting for a cause or fighting for each other is, after all is said and done, a worse fate than that faced by many survivors? True, they were denied the unmatchable pleasure of watching their children grow and the joy of grandchildren. But also they were spared many sorrows and miseries. Having died young as the consequence of war or service to their country, they could not die of the ravages of tuberculosis or cancer, or miserably abandodned in old age, or from alchoholism, drugs or A.I.D.S.

It can certainly be argued  that many did die in vain, particularly those who died in the long Viietnam agony. But do those tens of thousands killed year after year in automobile accidents not also die in vain? What has been accomplished by their deaths?  At least those who died for their county's cause (whether history judges that cause to be just or unjust or merely irrelevant) died for something, not for nothing! And they deserve to be remembered. That we are here today proves that they are remembered and that they are honored.

Thank you.

IN MEMORY OF MY BROTHERS DICK AND JOHN, WORLD WAR II VETERANS

L to R  Dick Woodruff, ?, Dick Bridges, John Woodruff, ?

Jim Woodruff

Monday, May 21, 2012

So what are two Watervliet boys doing in the Denver city Jail?


After the Pearl Harbor attack on December 6, 1941 several Watervliet boys signed up with the armed forces. Among these was Lewis F. "Louie" Long, a graduate of WHS with me in 1940. Louie had always dreamed of flying, and had nicknamed himself "Wings" and decorated his high school notebooks with flying symbols. Thus he naturally applied for flight training in the then Army Air Corps (now US Air Force). The Army sent him to Lowry Field east of Denver for some sort of pre-flight training. 

At the time I was a Sophomore at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden up in the mountains from Denver. One day Louie got a pass from Lowry and he and I got together in Denver for some good ol' Watervliet-type hoot-and-hollering. 

Among other indiscretions, he and I made dates with two bar maids in a disreputable drinking joint in downtown Denver. The only problem was they didn't get out of work until 1 a.m., while Private Long's Army curfew was midnight. I had the brilliant idea for Louie to take off his Army cap and put on  my civilian overcoat to hide his uniform. So we are waiting in front of the bar for the girls to come out when a Denver police car slowly passes, the cops eyeballing us. I said to Louie "Let's get out of here!" so we cut through the alley and guess who's waiting for us at the other end? The cops, of course. 

Well they put us in their car and haul us to the City Jail, Louie and I protesting innocence all the while. At the jail they discover Louie's camouflage and turn him over to the Military Police. Me, I'm protesting that they should do to me whatever they were going to do to my buddy. Not smart. A kind police sergeant (larger than me) takes me aside and suggests that I go the hell back to Golden. Humbly taking his advice I go to the Interurban Station and lay down on a hard bench until the first streetcar to Golden leaves in the morning.

So what happened to poor Louie? The MPs deliver him to his Company Commander back at Lowry, who had just got a promotion and was feeling so good that he just let Louie off with a lecture. Louie went on to become an expert Army pilot and after the war had a career in the Air Force. I don't know the details about what he did but I know he flew transport planes in the Berlin Air Lift and flew 100 missions during the Korean War.   

Monday, May 14, 2012

My Operatic Career, Part 2


The next show, Gilbert & Sullivan's "The Mikado", was performed during my sophomore year in 1938. I played the role of Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner of the Town of Titipu, again the comic baritone lead. Contralto lead Darlene Selters played the ugly old bag Katisha whom I had to romance, otherwise I would be beheaded and/or boiled in oil.

Cast of The Mikado,  WHS, 1938 (author 5th from right - the tall guy)
This led to me singing the sorry song about the poor little birdy who committed suicide by drowning. It is my family's favorite since
they sweet-talked me into singing it at my 89th birthday party. It goes: "On a tree by the river a little Tom-tit, sang willow, tit willow, tit willow...." etc. etc. for six choruses ending with "...an echo arose from the suicide's grave; willow, tit willow, tit willow."

Pete Yancich again played the tenor lead as Nanki Poo, son of the Mikado of Japan, Leonard Krall. Pooh-Bah, the Lord High Everything Else, was Ed Hawks. Pish-Tush and Ping-Pong were Bob Curtis and Bob Brown. The "Three Little Maids from School Are We..." were Betty Geisler, Lydia Pitcher, and Frances Webster. The entire cast included 78 WHS students, many probably progenitors of current Watervliet Facebook fans.

The third Gilbert & Sullivan operetta was "Iolanthe," performed in the spring of 1939. I was the Lord High Chancellor, my most difficult role. In it I was required to sing the song "Love, unrequited..." that included nine stanzas of of four-line rapid patter starting with "When you're lying awake with a dismal headache and repose is tabooed by anxiety; I assume you may use any language you choose to indulge in without impropriety..." First problem was memorizing the damn thing, the second was to sing and breathe at the same time. I deliberately cracked my voice a couple times for comic effect. When I finished the audience applauded spontaneously. That had to be the high point of my operatic career.

"Iolanthe" was mostly about fairies, including Helen Jackson as the queen, Maxine Ray as Iolanthe, and fairies Natalie Smith, Lillian Muller, and Rose Koshar. Then there was the Sheperd Jim Palmer and the Shepherdess Helen Warsko. Others with prominent roles were John Palmer, Ed Hawks, Harvey Faram and Tony Sweeney. The entire company was only 64 students for this operetta.

Monday, May 7, 2012

My Operatic Career, Part 1


While in Watervliet High School I performed in several musicals including three Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, "The Gondoliers," "The Mikado," and "Iolanthe." In my senior year we did a hokey musical I think was called "Hollywood Bound." Earlier in junior high or sixth grade I vaguely remember being in a minstrel show, complete with burnt cork makeup and fake Negro accents. That I remember so little of it may be the result of a subconcious guilt at being involved with something so politically incorrect by today's standards. 

I sang the baritone lead in all three Gilbert & Sullivan operettas and the hokey "Hollywood Bound." That was the result of kind of a fluke. My freshman year for "The Gondoliers" I was the understudy to upperclassman George Keiger for the part of the Duke of Plaza Toro, not expecting do do anything except sing in the chorus. But George came down with scarlet fever, thus thrusting me into the comic baritone lead of the Duke. I did such a good job that I was ever after the automatic choice for the baritone lead every year.

Here is the Watervliet Record write up about me in that role: 

"James Woodruff will sing the baritone role of the impoverished but gay Duke of Plaza-Toro, [gay didn't mean in those days what it does now] a Grandee of Spain, and is expected to gain the favor of the audience from the start with his interpretation of this difficult but interesting role. He is one of the youngest members of the Glee Club, this being his first year with the organization, but his keen appreciation of subtle wit, together with his capacity for hard work and his newly developed voice are all factors which point to success for him". 

The News Palladium said: "James Woodruff carried the honors as a character actor in his role of the Duke."

Author (L) with fellow cast members
The contralto lead, the Duchess of Plaza Toro, was played by Viginia Keefer. The tenor and soprano romantic leads were played by Pete Yancich as Luiz, my attendant, and Betty Geisler as Casilda, the daughter of the Duke and Duchess. Ed Hawks was the Grand Inquisitor. Ken Shimer, Bob Curtis, Ferris Norman, Warren Willmeng, and Leonard Krall were Gondoliers. The Venetian Maidens were played by Lydia Pitcher, Lois Doolittle, Darlene Selters, Helen Curtis and Isabella Crumb. In all, there were 79 students in the cast.


All of these shows were chosen and directed by Mildred Shelters, the school's excellent music teacher and the wife of Superintendent "Buck" Shelters. Marion Scherer accompanied us on the piano.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The First Thanksgiving Part 3 (re-posted for 2010)

(This post was originally sent as an email to family and friends in 2008.)


You all remember Squanto from grade school, don't you? He was the English-speaking Indian who helped the Pilgrims by teaching them to put a dead fish in every hill of corn they planted. He and Samoset, another English-speaking Indian, were both at the three-day harvest feast in the fall of 1621 and acted as interpreters so that all the communication between the Pilgrims and Massasoit's tribe didn't have to be confined to sign language.
 
Samoset was actually the first Indian to help the Pilgrims. In March of 1621 he walked into their compound and asked if they had any beer. He was an Abneki from Maine who had learned some pidgin English from some fishermen (and had learned to like beer). It was Samoset who talked Squanto into coming to Plymouth to help the Pilgrims. Squanto was fluent in English and had been Christianized.
 
Squanto, whose real name was Tisquantum, was a member of the Patuxet sub-group of the Wampanoag tribe who had been captured in 1605 and taken to England as sort of exotic curiosity to prove that his captors actually had been to the New World. He got back to his native land in 1612 only to be captured again in 1614 for the purpose of being sold into slavery in Spain. He was saved by some religious types who converted him to Christianity (I'm sure he preferred that to slavery in Spain). He was able to get back home again in 1619 only to find that his tribe had been decimated by a plague, probably smallpox. So it was that he was in the neighborhood and able to join up with the Pilgrims in 1621 at Samoset's behest.
 
I am now going to indulge in some more speculation about what went on during that three-day FirstThanksgiving fest. Winslow said "..whom for three dayes we entertained.." and "...amongst other recreations..." Thus it is plain that there was more going on than eating and sleeping.
 
How about the Indians playing a demonstration game of Lacrosse? The game was more than fun. It was also important to the Indians for conflict resolution, the training of young warriors and as a religious ritual. Certainly the Pilgrims would have been interested, probably fascinated.
 
And foot racing, I can imagine white girls vs Indian girls and white boys vs Indian boys. My Mother, who could outrun any of the three of us, said young girls loved to run and race despite long skirts. Maybe Joseph Rogers raced.
 
And how about the Wampanoag braves demonstrating their archery prowess with their bows and arrows? The Pilgims had probably already "...exercised their Armes..."
 
And Captain Miles Standish surely put his small troop through some close-order drill to demonstrate their marching and manual-of-arms proficiency.
 
I can also imagine a race between the Indians in their canoes and the Pilgrims in their long boat. Plymouth was located right on the water.
 
I can even imagine a wrestling match between two muscular Pilgrim youths. I think I read one time that wrestling was popular in those days. Improbably, one of the Pilgrim boys was named Wrestling Brewster.
 
Can you visualize ceremonial groups of Indians doing their shuffling tribal dances around campfires? And super-devout Pilgrims hym-singing? And a long-winded Pastor intoning    seemingly endless invocations, benedictions and prayers of Thanksgiving? I can.
 
Well, there's my story of the First Thanksgiving. I hope it adds to yours.
 
Elaine and I wish you all a happy Pratt-Woodruff Thanksgiving
 
The Patriarch

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The First Thanksgiving Part 2 (reposted for 2010)

(This post was originally sent as an email to family and friends in 2008.)

I am trying to visualize what that first Thanksgiving at Plymouth was really like. You all have seen illustrations of immaculately dressed Pilgrim families: men, women and children, sitting around neatly set tables outdoors. So where are the Indians? And it was the Pilgrim custom for men to eat first, served by the women (I don't know where the children and adolescents fit in). Indians normally ate sitting on the ground on skins and just used their hands to eat with, and Indian men and women ate together. Some accounts have the Indians joining the Pilgrims at the tables. Did the squaws sit with the braves and Pilgrim men while the Pilgrim women still stood behind? Another question, where did the 53 Pilgrims get enough tables to seat 90 Indians? Pilgrims ate three meals a day, their big meal being at mid-day and their breakfast being leftovers. Indians just ate when they were hungry from continually simmering kettles rather than having meals (that is when they had food). And we know the Pilgrims had beer. Did they share with the Indians?

The accounts by Winslow and Bradford that I sent you yesterday are the only primary sources of information on the First Thanksgiving so everything else that has ever been written about that three-day harvest celebration is second-hand speculation at best. Thus I feel free to make up my own account (with the help of a lot of Googling) and share it with you.

My guess is that it was more like a three-day tailgate party than a sit-down banquet. I would also like to think the Wampanoag women and children were included ( Winslow said "...some nintie men..."). Probably it was a sort of long-running buffet interspersed, as Winslow indicated, with "rejoycing'", " Recreations" and discharge of "Armes". Certainly some prayers of thanksgiving.

Massasoit's hunters went out with their bows and arrows and brought down five deer (probably fat does instead of bucks in rut). They had to have been butchered and roasted outdoors. Did that much venison all get devoured in three days? Probably, there were 143 mouths to feed plus the dogs (the Pigrims had a female Mastiff and a small Spriger Spaniel that survived the Mayflower trip. Did the Indians leave their dogs back at the wigwam with no food for three days?)

In addition to venison the Indians would have contributed corn (as meal and cornbread) and beans and turkeys. Lobster, eels, clams and mussels were plentiful as were fish. Winslow indicated that the four men sent "fowling" were very sucessful. The"fowl" would have been migrating waterfowl; ducks, geese, swans and maybe cranes. They were probably shot on the water. The Pilgrims' "fowling pieces" were muzzle loading, funnel shaped matchlock shotguns, not hardly suitable for shooting birds on the fly like in skeet-shooting. Wild turkeys were very plentiful.

Wild food collected by the Pilgims in the fall season would have included grapes, both red and white, plums and rose hips. Strawberries, raspberries and blackberries would have been gone by then. I think that the huckleberries would have been gone too. Cranberries would have been avilable, but not for cranberry sauce (they had no sugar). Likewise they had pumpkins but no pumpkin pie (not only no sugar, but also no shortening or wheat flour or ovens). They collected walnuts, butternuts, hickory nuts, acorns and maybe chestnuts. Indians harvested wild onions, wild garlic and watercress to jazz up their diet.

What else did they not have that are part of traditional Thanksgiving menus today? No mashed potatoes. White potatoes were not yet in cultivation anywhere. No yams or sweet potatoes either. Sweet potatoes were rare, thought to be aphrodisiacs, affordable only by the wealthy. No apples or apple sauce. Apples were not native to North America. (Also no ham or bacon. The Pilgrims had no hogs).

So what did they have? They grew corn, onions, garlic, parsnips, collards, carrots, parsley, turnips, spinach, cabbage, pumpkins, squash, beans, sage, thyme and marjoram. Maybe radishes and lettuce. And they had salt and pepper but they didn't put a pepper shaker or mill on the table, using it only for cooking. In Pilgrim houses, all cooking was done in the fireplace.

As for table manners: As I said, the Indians used their fingers. The Pilgrims did not use forks. Their "silverware" consisted of a spoon and a knife. At that early stage they used wooden plates. It is said that they also handled food with a piece of cloth. I can't quite figure out how that went. Did they reach over and pull off a drumstick with the cloth? (I devour drumsticks with my bare hands and then use a piece of cloth to wipe my mouth and fingers).

NEXT: Communication and Recreation