a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Monday, November 30, 2009

A lucky soldier

A silly Christmas card James R. Beveridge received while serving in the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps during World War II.

Part V: On the edges of combat

By Scott Beveridge

My father arrived in Le Havre, France, during the second week of February 1945 with shattered nerves.

James R. Beveridge was then just 22 years old and assigned to perform office work for the U.S. Army’s 38th Infantry Regiment’s Quartermaster Corps. His unit would later set up tents to feed soldiers, as well as starving German refugees, sometimes serving baked beans for breakfast from clean galvanized steel garbage cans.

His unit soon marched across a U.S.-secured Normandy as more than 1,200 Allied bombers raided central Berlin. Dad said he worried all along that he would soon be called into combat.

“If the troops were trapped, you had to put down the typewriter and grab a gun and fight,” he said.

“If they overran that front line, then everyone was fighting, no matter who you were.”

Dad said he witnessed bombers en route to Germany so thick overhead that he could barely see the sky. He cheered the planes on, hoping they would bring a quick end to the war.

On April 4, 1945, his unit was dispatched to Dinslaken, a small industrial city in the Ruhr area of western Germany, a distance of two miles from the front line.

Meanwhile, American troops were marching through Germany, greeted by Germans waiving white flags of surrender.

The nights were frightening, pitch black with practically every window blind pulled shut in the houses and buildings. Frequent bombing raids had also taken out the electricity in many areas.

“You could see the shells like fireworks in the next city,” he said.

In a last-ditch effort to protect the Ruhr pocket, Nazi troops were sending “buzz bombs” across the sky toward England, dad said. “They sounded like motorboats.”

Many of the bombs malfunctioned and fell to the ground, hitting the wrong targets.

But, within a month, the war with Germany was over.

“The surrender traveled by word of mouth,” dad said. “Everybody cheered. They wanted to go home.”

Yet, President Harry S. Truman warned America the war was only half won because heavy fighting was taking its toll on U.S. troops stationed in the South Pacific.

Looking back on his life, dad said he sometimes suffered a guilty conscience because he survived the war physically unharmed, having known that was not the case for many veterans. He often overlooked, too, the value of his unit, brushing it off as woman’s duty.

The Quartermaster Corps was under the command of Maj. Guy I. Rowe, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in France during World War I. The Corps’ main mission in dad’s war involved feeding, clothing, and equipping the troops.

Its members also were trained to fill specialized roles in every theater.

By the end of the war, the corps had handled 70,000 different supply items and prepared and served nearly 24 million meals.

It also had been assigned the grim task of burying nearly 250,000 bodies in temporary graves. Meanwhile, 4,900 corps soldiers were killed in battle.

Dad said he found himself sorting mail in England, refueling vehicles and clearing out houses in bombed out houses in Holland and Germany to make them temporary barracks for his commanders.

“If the platoon sergeant said he wanted that house to stay in, we threw out all of the furniture, put the furniture in the yard to make room for cots,” he said. “We destroyed it. The American people didn’t give a shit.”

He said he never fully understood how the army determined which soldiers carried weapons into battle or how others like him were spared such duty.

“I didn’t understand it then and I don’t understand it now,” he said in 2005. “I was lucky. That’s the only word for it.”

After Germany fell to the Allies, he relaxed in the South of France where he was able to swim daily in the Mediterranean Sea.

The vacation wouldn’t last long because his orders soon called for him to board The Ainsworth on July 15, 1945, to backup troops a world away. The merchant ship was about to join a massive convoy of military vessels to assist in a war halfway around the globe against Japan.

(Click here to return to Part 1: Preparing for a battle dad would never see)

(Click here to move on to Part VI: The second war ends)

(This oral history was written in 2005 to fulfill my graduate studies at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. It is being edited and published here as a series.)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The moose mobile

Pennsylvania rifle deer season starts tomorrow. Here's hoping none of us end up with a set of whitetail antlers on our vehicles' hoods. I've hit seven over the three decades I have been driving in this neck of the woods, and don't want to add another trophy to my car fenders.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Granny Sheila needs her meds

What good would the holidays be without such kids as Kenzie and the kooky and creative things she pulls out of her head?

Friday, November 27, 2009

A lucky soldier



Part IV: Dad's secret World War II letter

By Scott Beveridge

My father in declining health gave me a stack of letters he saved from World War II with a warning there might be something embarrassing in them.

James R. Beveridge was approaching 82 that summer of 2005, and I responded by saying he didn’t need to worry about being ashamed at his age over anything the yellowed letters might contain.

So we went on talking for hours about his service in the U.S. Army, as I took notes without ever mentioning the one startling letter written by his mother holding a secret dad carried with him to his grave in March 2007.

His mother, Madge, had intercepted a bill he received in the mail in January 1943 from a physician in Monongahela, Pa., for delivering a baby he fathered to a married woman living in that small city south of Pittsburgh.

Madge Beveridge was writing her son, a private stationed in Danville, Ill., to proudly announce that she had solved this problem.

Mrs. Beveridge, who became my grandmother 13 years later, was not regarded for having been graceful, compassionate or genuinely kind to others.

She stated in the letter that he could not have fathered the woman’s full-term baby delivered July 15, 1942, because they hadn’t known each other long enough.

“So I told this Dr. she wanted a ‘goat’ and thought to pick on a 19 year old boy, who had lost his Dad, but she forgot the boy had a mother who knew her son was worthy of a good woman,” she stated in the letter.

Mrs. Beveridge further stated she visited the physician and told him to forward the bill to the mother’s father. “So Jimmy, I had never (really) been quite happy until I found out for sure that the Beveridge blood wasn’t in that baby.”

She was humored at having solved such a serious dilemma. Meanwhile, the date she indicated her son became intimate with the woman also made it quite possible he could have fathered the child.

The subject of the letter quickly turned to dad’s mother shopping for new shoes and making plans to visit his military base. The problem was forever behind them; so she thought.

Never knowing the full truth about the child would trouble my father for the remainder of his life, according to my mother – the former June Hart - who didn’t meet or marry him until well after the war ended.

His indiscretions before they married were not a concern to mom, she said, yet he never told her about his receiving the bill for the baby. She had been told two versions about the pregnancy from people they knew in Charleroi in the 1950s. One story involved the baby – a son - dying following a premature birth while the other had him being put up for adoption.

The woman’s parents had visited the Beveridge home in Charleroi, Pa., while she was pregnant, demanding a shotgun wedding. The pregnant girlfriend had left her husband in 1941, taken back her maiden name and was living with her parents when she met my father, according to the stories he later told my mother.

“He said he told his mother he probably should marry (the woman),” mom said last week. His mother asked her son if he wanted to get married. “He said, ‘No.’ She said, ‘Don’t worry about it then, I’ll take care of everything,’” said my mother, who turned 80 this summer.

Like me, mom has been expressing interest in finding out the truth now that I have made this letter known to our family.

In some ways I believe dad was trying to relieve some of his guilt by giving me those letters as age was weakening his heart and eyesight. He surely knew then, that as a curious reporter I would feel compelled to dig further into the story.

But, in 2005, I was under a tight deadline to write dad’s oral history of the World War II era for an assignment to finish graduate school.

We turned the clock back to February 1945 when he arrived to a war torn Normandy, France, as Allied forces were advancing on Germany.

(Note: At this time, we have decided not to reveal the identity of the woman whose physician billed my father for fathering her child. The obituary of her brother indicates she died prior to 1986. However, little else exists about her on ancestry.com or other Internet searches. By revealing her name, it might cause embarrassment to any children she might have had after my father left for the war, never to hear from her again.)


(Click here to return to Part 1: Preparing for a battle dad would never see)

(Click here to move on to Part V: On the edges of combat)


(This oral history was written in 2005 to fulfill my graduate studies at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. It is being edited and published here as a series.)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Spreading around Thanksgiving

Josh Smith of Bethel Park, Pa., was among a core of caring volunteers who prepared nearly 500 Thanksgiving dinners at St. Anthony's Roman Catholic Church for the poor and lonely in the Monongahela area. The leftovers were then shared with police officers and ambulance service employees who left their families on the holiday to go to work. These cooks and servers even went to a dive bar to feed the local drunks.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blue crab for Thanksgiving


Crab meat, originally uploaded by Scott Beveridge.

By Scott Beveridge

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – A stranger turned to me this afternoon while shopping at the local fish market for canned blue crab meat and asked if I knew the difference between the brands.

It was a strange encounter for me, a guy who was raised in a humble blue collar family that associated good seafood with Tuna Helper or Mrs. Paul’s Fish Sticks.

“It all tastes the same,” I responded. And then I pointed to the more-expensive cans of lump meat and said, “That just looks better in a crab cake.”

He appeared to be relieved by my advice, buying every bit of it as I grabbed what was on special – if you could call it a deal at $13 per 16 oz. can. He then picked up a can of the lump meat that cost an additional $10.

Now I confess to not being anything close to an expert on blue crab meat. I spent just one afternoon several years ago crabbing along Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and watched with amazement while a local kid plucked every last bit of meat from our catch of while I fumbled over the few crabs I attempted to gut.

When it all went together as stuffing for fresh-caught flounder, no one was dissecting the dish to identify the backfin. Blue crab, whether canned or fresh, is always a delicacy.

Our family long ago bought the story about the Pilgrims dining with friendly Indians during their first harvest celebration on turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. That story defined our Thanksgiving dinners even until the day a decade ago when my young niece told us a story about the Pilgrims arriving in America aboard “The Sunflower.”

Historians today know better, and assume that seafood was plentiful and typically on the menu when those honored settlers dined before, during and after the first Thanksgiving in 1621. After learning that lesson, I decided to honor the Pilgrims by introducing the blue crab to our Thanksgiving meals several years ago, first in a she-crab soup and later in a simple snacking dip.

Tomorrow, we will try crab-stuffed mushrooms while giving thanks for those of us who have weathered this recession while still being employed. A few of the kids don’t know it yet, but they will be stopping by a soup kitchen to make a donation.

Here is the recipe for the mushrooms that will be on our table:

Ingredients

2 packages of large stuffing mushrooms
½ can of beer
2 tablespoons of butter

Stuffing mix:

1 16 oz. can of blue crab meat
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 5 oz. package of garlic and cheese salad croutons
½ pound of shredded domestic Parmesan cheese
2 small packets of mayonnaise
Juice of ½ lemon
Season to taste: old bay seasoning, chili sauce or ground red pepper – whatever floats your Mayflower

Instructions

Remove stems from mushrooms and set them aside

Smash croutons and combine stuffing ingredients into a medium sized bowl. Save some of the crouton dust to sprinkle atop the mushrooms after they are stuffed. Generously stuff the mushrooms and place them tightly, face up, into a lasagna dish. Add around the cold butter and pour in the beer to a depth of about ½ inch. Cover with foil and cook in a 350-degree oven for about hour or until you think they look done. Tip: form leftover stuffing into cakes and freeze them to cook and eat at a later date

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pies to drool over this Thanksgiving

Joann Vennare grabs a blackberry pie at The Pie Place of Houston for our Thanksgiving dinner.

By Scott Beveridge

HOUSTON, Pa. – All it took yesterday was a whiff of a stack of boxed pies to add that brand to my growing list of food addictions.

It happened at a high school in Washington, Pa., when I went to take a newspaper photograph of its band members who were picking them up for delivery in their Thanksgiving-timed fundraiser.

The aroma of the goods from The Pie Place of Houston was mouthwatering. I mean the few of us there were growing so hungry for a slice of one of those pies that some were consider shoplifting or upping the price the musicians were charging to offset their upcoming trip to Disney World.

The urge to steal one of these precious deserts only intensified after we learned that the 180 pies with fillings that include red raspberry, pumpkin and apple were pre-sold and there weren’t any leftovers to salvage.

So today I used my lunch break to drive to the pie shop at 737 W. Pike St., Houston, Pa., to pick up two for Thanksgiving dinner.

There was an older guy immediately behind me who was in such a hurry to place his order that he blurted out his before I had a chance to place an order. As a gesture to gain some badly needed Karma points, I bowed to his urgent need for sugary fruit sandwiched in dough.

In short order he realized he was being rude and turned with a smile. Someone in the universe was paying attention other than the especially polite clerk behind the counter.

“You’ll be lucky when you buy one today if it lasts until Thanksgiving,” he pronounced.

He also said there is a Web site that has deemed these pies the absolute best in this corner of southwestern Pennsylvania.

Well the jury in this family’s kitchen is still out. I bought two; a blackberry pie – one of my favorite kinds – and another overflowing with coconut cream. But, judging again from their smells, you should be jealous that you are not invited to dinner this Thursday with those of us who travel with the Beveridges.

Happy Thanksgiving

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bring on the sappy holiday flicks

“Where do you think you're going? Nobody's leaving. Nobody's walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We're all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We're gonna press on, and we're gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny Kaye.” - Clark Griswold

Cheech Marin: No, aw, man, you don't know who Santa Claus is, man!

Tommy Chong: Yeah, well, I'm not from here, man. Like, I'm from Pittsburgh, man. I don't know too many local dudes.

By Amanda Gillooly

About this time of year, I think everybody needs a shot of Christmas. The retail stores know it. They’ve been pimping red-and-green merchandise since they started stocking the shelves with the season’s first candy corn.

Every year I try to wait as long as I can to once again make myself a toadie of The Christmas Spirit, which for me usually means multiple viewings of “It’s a Wonderful Life” a date with my soul mate, Cousin Eddie and a mistiness about the eyes.

Whether it’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” or George Bailey running through Bedford Falls hollering, “Merry Christmas, movie house! Merry Christmas, Emporium! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!” if I am watching, I’ll be sobbing.

But it isn’t Christmas to me, not even close to Christmas, until I hear “Father Christmas” by The Kinks and “Santa and His Old Lady” by Cheech and Chong.

I hadn’t heard them yet, so I sought them out on YouTube and had a good chuckle. And that’s what reminds me of the so-called Christmas spirit more than most anything else: Unrepentant jolliness. Silly, crooked smiles. Natural merriment and uncontrollable nostalgia.

At least that’s what I like most about this time of year. Thanks to those guys, I’m ready for twinkling lights wound around pine trees, visits with old friends, wrangling with wrapping paper and the wishful thinking that comes free with mistletoe.

And all those things will help me cope with holiday traffic and people who have huge cutouts of Santa holding signs that say, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” (now THERE is a mixed message).

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The scared sick


MONESSEN, Pa. – A long line stretched for a third day around a Pennsylvania health department office in Monessen where the nervous waited for free swine flu shots.

Thousands of people in that neck of Pittsburgh Steelers country left their televisions sets Sunday afternoon for an inoculation, missing a disappointing nail-biting football game against Kansas City that went into overtime.

A clerk at a nearby pharmacy said people had been waiting in line as long as 3 ½ hours to receive a shot.

The health department was expecting nearly 12,000 people to show up at the clinic.
As of Sunday afternoon, there were 10,252 confirmed swine flu cases, resulting in 41 deaths.

(Scott Beveridge photo)

Mon Calendar Girls

video

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Crawling drunk in Snuggies

The warm bar scene Saturday night at Double Wide Grill in Pittsburgh during a Snuggie bar crawl hosted by the Kiss radio Freak Show.

By Scott Beveridge

PITTSBURGH – It’s a stretch but there might be a logical reason to wear a Snuggie blanket on a mission to get drunk.

A stoned Snuggie wearer would stay warmer while cuddled in one of the silly polyester robes after falling asleep in a curb.

Outside of that it doesn’t make sense for a guy to belly up to a bar wearing one of the latest television hawk-advertising sensations to take America by storm.

“You have to pull up your skirt to piss,” a fellow next to me said Saturday during the Snuggie Bar Crawl 2009 hosted in Pittsburgh by 96.1 Kiss morning Freak Show hosts Big Bob and Mikey.

Nearly 100 people showed up for the party that started at the Double Wide Grill, a restaurant that appropriately has a white trash menu in the city’s trendy South Side District.

Who knew there were so many varieties of that kooky blanket that probably is better suited for a community of monks.

Some of the bar crawlers were wearing Steelers Snuggie while others came wrapped in leopard patterns. There also were people draped in gray, pink and beige.

Meanwhile, Kiss DJ Mike Ryan wore a Snuggie box over his head lit by two miniature reading lamps.

That’s so weird and funny wrapped into one.

The Pittsburgh Steelers Snuggie model pauses for the camera while crossing E. Carson Street in Pittsburgh, en route to the Lava Lounge.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Some things I saw at Pittsburgh Light Up Night 2009

A lonely Santa lounges on the Boulevard of the Allies during an otherwise crowded Light Up Night in downtown Pittsburgh.

1. A man urinating in plain view into the street behind Macy's. Yuck.

2. One well dressed old world Santa Claus at Point State Park. I nicknamed him Santa Crooner because he sounded a bit like Perry Como when he sang "My Favorite Things." Not a Christmas song the last time we checked. Weird.

3. The same Santa appeared to toss a ball of light across the sky in the park to light up the Christmas tree. That was uber cool.

4. My toes getting run over at least a half dozen times by SUV inspired baby strollers pushed by rude people. Ouch. Please watch where you are going the next time.

5. The most amazing LSD inspired fireworks display ever. It was close enough to the ground to sting my eyes with fallout ashes.

6. A pretzel sticks tiki hut gingerbread house with a blue icing roof on display at PPG Plaza. To the kids at Evergreen Elementary School in Monroeville who crafted it - now that's creativity.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bunny ha ha

Dot Krol, 74, a fitness technician, left, and Peggy Savadeck, 82, a Senior Olympics gold medalist, were Miss March and November, respectively, in a 2008 calendar.

You've seen the Monongahela calendar girls here before, many times, including this shot of two of them at a fireman's parade in their hometown. For those who have not, they are the older women from southwestern Pennsylvania who posed semi-nude for a 2008 charity calendar only to become a global media sensation. Well Travel with a Beveridge has exclusive footage of their recent debut on Japanese TV, and the segment will appear on this blog this weekend. Word; it's belly-rolling funny. Now if we can only find someone who can translate Japanese to fill us in on the jokes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Folksy toys made in USA are big this Christmas



By Scott Beveridge

NORTH CHARLEROI, Pa. – The Christmas season began in the heat of the summer at a toy factory in Pennsylvania that has been bucking the soured economy.

Channel Craft in North Charleroi had to hire 17 temporary workers in July to keep up with the demand for its time-tested, affordable toys at a time when many mainstream retailers have been closing their doors.

“Stocking stuffers are the name of the game now,” said Dean Helfer Jr., founder of the business that sells such old-fashioned playthings as boomerangs, kazoos, wooden whistles and jacks. “Our customers, they’ve got to make Christmas happen.”

The company has become a novelty in the toy industry because it didn’t follow its competition out of the United States to Mexico or Asia in a market in which 80 percent of the toys sold in this nation are produced in foreign countries.

“We’re the last of the Mohicans,” said Helfer, 47, of Bethel Park. “We need to get back to inexpensive, American-made stuff rather than the plastic things that have a gimmick,” he said.

He got his start by making boomerangs in 1983 and selling them on weekends at craft festivals while attending West Virginia University,Morgantown.

He did that by traveling around the country in a 1972 Ford van, where he set up a makeshift factory with his grandfather’s saws. His boomerangs became so popular that he was netting $65,000 a year in sales by the time he graduated from WVU in 1985.

His factory since has expanded to having 32 employees who work in an old U.S. Army Corps of Engineers boatyard along the Monongahela River.

The toys are not typically sold directly from the factory to the public, but are distributed through such outlets as museums, Bass Pro Shops, Cracker Barrel Old Country stores and restaurants and national parks. A deal is in the works to sell them across the country at TravelCenters of America.

The toy line has expanded as well to include small board games in tin boxes and a line of IQ tester peg games introduced this year. Also new are wearable scarves – Fundana Bandanas – that can be spread out on a table or lawn to play such games as tic-tac-toe, bingo and scavenger hunt.

“Our customers are directing their purchase orders to things that are going to retail,” Helfer said.

He also had to expand his assembly line to make items – tops, whistles and kazoos – that he used to purchase from other manufacturers that folded because of the economy.

“It’s more work for our people,” he said.

Yet the boomerang remains his No. 1 seller. They are made with thin layers of laminated birch and finished with colorful silk-screen designs.

“Boomerangs: That’s what we keep seeing coming up on the reorders. Everybody does jacks, yo-yos and pickup sticks.”

In fact, Helfer’s company is the largest worldwide producer of that boomerang, said Joe Kirk, executive director of the Mon Valley Progress Council.

“He is a nice guy,” Kirk said. “It’s a trite thing to say, but he is a prime example of someone who had a dream in college of starting a successful business, and he had
the vision and commitment to hard work to build that vision.”

(This story originally appeared in Living in Washington County, a publication of the Observer-Reporter. It was reprinted with permission.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Headless Moggy


The Headless Moggy, originally uploaded by Mr. Ducke.

If I'm not careful, this might become another cat blog.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A new light shines on an old church



By Scott Beveridge

WEBSTER, Pa. – There was a friendly and long forgotten sound in the form of a church bell that chimed in my village a few weeks ago.

The clanging originated from a steeple atop the old Webster Presbyterian Church where I learned about God as a child growing up in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The new pastor there said he just discovered the bell rope that sunny autumn afternoon when I approached him to say it was cool to once again hear the ringing. Our conversation then drifted off in passing as he went about his task of repairing the church.

I’m not sure why the many church bells were silenced in this neck of the Monongahela River valley about 30 miles south of Pittsburgh. They used to echo off the hills in Webster, Pa., and nearby Donora to announce Sunday services when I was a kid in the 1960s.

The bell ringing seemed of die out, unnoticed, as flocks of people relocated for better opportunities after the mills began to slowly disappear. And many other local churches would close, too, and fall into disrepair as the jobs vanished.

The Webster church stood out, though. It was built in 1888 before the steel mills overshadowed the area, becoming the first church in a town with six saloons that once satisfied the thirsts of riverboat captains and their likes. It was a landmark for a village whose residents wanted to establish a solid foundation when the United States was rapidly expanding to the west.

The women of my generation who belonged to the church did their best to set a positive example and make Sunday school fun and interesting for children. Kids were not allowed inside the sanctuary until they turned 10 or 11 and could prove to the adults they wouldn’t disrupt the sermons. By that age, though, most of the children quickly became bored by the services and soon lost interest in church.

It wasn’t until many years had passed that I discovered the church was an antique, built in a style more common to New England. The clapboard building was a museum in itself, especially on the inside that contained its original pews, wainscoting and doors. A preservationist on a drive through town later said the church’s Gothic-style, green stained glass windows were rare and priceless.

Sadly, the last time I was inside the church 15 years ago the pews had been replaced by 1970s-style seating that clashed with the architecture. The organist, she gasped when I said something about being surprised by the new look that also included beige wallpaper. She huffed before saying the congregation had grown tired of sitting in uncomfortable pews.

The Presbyterians would dwindle in ranks, abandon the building last summer and sell it to the Mon-Valley River of Life congregation. The new members, while strangers to town, appear to be working hard to fix the place up because they have been repairing the windows and roof and making other visible renovations.

That’s a good sign for an old church that was built at a time when the residents of Webster had high hopes for a future that would never come to fruition.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A lucky soldier

Part III: Dad's friends and relatives weren't so lucky

By Scott Beveridge

The letters my father sent home from World War II were nowhere near as troubling at first blush as those he would read from friends and relatives who also were serving their country in battle.

Those men were less inhibited to express the ugly side of a war that dad surely experienced, too, but would never discuss even until the day he died in 2007.

Shortly before he left Charleroi, Pa., for the Europe, his friend who was serving in the U.S. Marines encouraged him in one letter to join anything but that branch of the military.

“Stay the hell out of the Marines ....,” the friend, Frank “Gula” Galanzosky, penned from boot camp. “There are three guys in our platoon who have to go out and pick up one thousand cigarette butts and string them on a needle and thread,” Galanzosky stated in the letter written in August 1942. “One guy dropped a rifle and had to take four to bed with him that night.”

Dad would end up faring better in the Army.

Standing a slim six feet, two inches tall, he had a handsome grin and thick, curly black hair that made him popular with women on the dance floor.

He felt a cold shiver and a rumble in his stomach, however, as he stepped onto the deck of the Queen Elizabeth en route to Europe as World War II was in full gear.

To lighten the mood and bond with his unit, he and the seven other soldiers in his squad decided to shave their heads and grow beards as the ship crossed the Pacific Ocean.

“I felt silly,” he said, remembering how surprised he was to see a red mustache above his upper lip.

He had never seen something as beautiful as that ocean liner even though it had been worn and damaged by the steady stream of soldiers it was smuggling to the war. Years after the war ended, he remembered seeing a story in a newspaper that stated England required the United States to pay for the damage its troops caused to the ship.

“There was a crap game on every set of stairs,” he said. “You could see how the guys ruined it ... carved their initials on the expensive woodwork.”

When he arrived in Hale, England, two days before Christmas, he would soon learn U.S. troops were surrounded at Bastogne as the Battle of the Bulge was being fought in Belgium. The following day, a German U-boat sank a U.S. supply ship, the Leopoldville, in the English Channel, killing 819 Americans.

He was worried and scared, knowing his unit could easily be separated at any time and reassigned to battle.

“You never knew if your unit was going to be busted up, made a replacement,” he said. “Those guys were the first to get killed because you ended up in a unit that you didn’t have training for. Those guys didn’t stay alive.”

The news dad would soon be receiving about his only brother, as well as his best friend and cousin, was far more frightening.

Thomas L. Beveridge, who was a radioman in the U.S. Army Air Forces, would become missing in action for five days after his airplane crashed in Burma in July 1944. Tom Beveridge another crewman survived the crash with nothing more to eat than an ant-covered chocolate bar.

They used a machete to cut their way out of a jungle to a stream and followed it downstream to a U.S. military base. He suffered a brief period of amnesia before bumping into a relative who jarred his memory.

Meanwhile, dad’s best friend from home, Joe Yoney, was wounded in friendly fire by a bullet that traveled through a letter in his pocket. Dad had sent that letter to Joe, and would eventually receive a copy of it for proof.

Dad said war movies from that era wrongly led some in the States to believe there were many soldiers who enjoyed the war and liked to kill.

“I didn’t meet any of those kind of guys,” he said. “My friends who got shot, they patched them up and sent them back.

Yoney later told dad he bawled like a baby when he was shot across the stomach in Sicily.

“They shot him up with morphine to shut him up,” dad said.

Then in February 1945 dad received news in a letter from his mother that his school chum, Dale Covin, had been killed by Japanese fighters in a parachute jump over the Philippine Islands.

Covin was either shot to death while in the air or tangled in a tree.

“He was dead before he hit the ground,” dad said. “That happened a lot.”

Dad’s cousin, Dale Faux of Morgantown, W. Va., also was witness to tragedy while serving in the Army Air Forces in India.

“As for Jim, he has had a lot of good breaks and I hope he continues to get them,” Faux wrote in December 1944 in a letter to dad’s mother, Madge Beveridge.

Faux relayed to his aunt that he watched from a barren hillside while the remains of eight of his fellow soldiers whom he had befriended like brothers were being buried in makeshift graves.

“And if there was a trace of moisture in my eyes, I’m not ashamed to admit it,” he wrote.

As Faux penned the letter, he and his comrades were collecting money for an Indian boy whose stomach was swollen from malnutrition, hoping the boy would use it to buy a bit of rice to keep him alive. “What would we ever suffer that would even compare to that?” Faux expressed.

Another letter eventually turned up in my dad’s war mementos that concerned me, even to this day.

(Click here to return to Part 1: Preparing for a battle dad would never see)

(Click here to move on to Part IV: Dad's secret World War II letter)


(This oral history was written in 2005 to fulfill my graduate studies at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. It is being edited and published here as a series.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A hot fireman at night


JEFFERSON HILLS, Pa. – There is a new edition to the collection of odd roadside attractions in the Pittsburgh area.

It’s at life-sized Fiberglass statue of a fireman holding a hose at rest beside a town square clock along Route 51 across the highway from the Large Volunteer Department in Jefferson Hills, Pa.

As you can see by the photo, above, it’s brilliantly lit at night with enough voltage to require an onlooker to don sunglasses.

In most cases, though, the many motorists who speed through this area probably don’t catch more than a glimpse of the monument. A pedestrian can’t even get there on a sidewalk to tell time from the four-lane highway where it meets Wray-Large Road.

The decoration is an attraction that, chance are, a reckless motorist will soon crash to bits.

Here’s hoping it endures nearly as long as Stephen Foster’s slave’s famous big toe in Oakland or the headless Pittsburgh Steeler in Greensburg.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A lost gem of a house in watercolor



By Scott Beveridge

ROSTRAVER, Pa. – Architecture nerds like me had grown to love this old redbrick house that loomed large above a sharp bend in the road approaching a county park in Pittsburgh’s hinterlands.

You couldn’t miss it while slowing to a crawl to negotiate the curve on a drive to Cedar Creek Park in Rostraver Township, Pa. Only a driver wearing blinders would have missed that opportunity.

Its red bricks were softened by age and neglect, but it seemed to still be in solid shape when someone came along and had it torn down nearly 10 years ago.

So I’m especially happy to have taken the time two decades ago to stop and snap a photo of the house, and later use that image to paint the watercolor of it, shown above.

Shortly before it was razed, I sneaked inside to take a closer look at the place at Lynn and Port Royal roads.

Its last occupants had left behind some of their useless belongings, including clothes that were spread in heaps about the rooms. Yet there was no evidence the roof leaked because most of the plaster was still attached to the interior walls. The house was nearly intact down to the original hand carved woodwork.

Even more interesting was a functioning trap door on the living room floor that opened to the basement. It made me pause to wonder if the passage was used to hide fugitive slaves on the Underground Railroad from the people who were in their pursuit prior to the Civil War.

It’s a shame that someone didn’t come along more than a century later to save this house from demolition.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A burger worth defending



By Scott Beveridge

WEST ELIZABETH, Pa. – A buddy and I stumbled upon a small-town bar on the outskirts of Pittsburgh more than a decade ago and immediately became addicted to its food that could satisfy a linebacker.

Tim’s Corner Bar in West Elizabeth, Pa., continues to be a regular haunt for us because this business has great food and even better conversation among the mix of regulars unless one of them dares to reach for our plates.

The bar with a tin ceiling and loud jukebox probably is more popular among the locals for serving delicious chicken wings, but its house burger has no rival in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

The TCB burger is topped with a slice of American cheese, a few thick slices bacon and Russian salad dressing, of all things, oozing onto the plate.

As I snapped the photograph, above, the fellow seated on the adjoining barstool drooled at the sight of this sandwich. Had he reached toward my plate, I would have considered stabbing his hand with a fork. This grub is that worthy of a steel-curtain defense in Pittsburgh Steelers country.

You could ask my friend about the quality of Tim’s food, but I won’t name him here so not to further embarrass the guy on the Net. He once swallowed there a half-dozen center-cut pork chops that members of the bar’s baseball team couldn't finish. It’s nothing for him to down two of Tim's burgers, either, on top of a salad and fries. For those reasons alone, his photograph should be hanging in a frame as a trophy there for the biggest eater.

To avoid his stealing your food, it might be worth calling ahead to the bar at 700 Fourth St. to reserve a seat at the furthest end of the bar away from that man.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Penguins attire suggested at this fundraiser


Pens Fans, originally uploaded by hockeymom2524.

Here’s a shout-out to the new Damon’s Grill that will be opening next month in Peters Township, Pa.

The restaurant is hosting a pre-grand opening party in two weeks exclusively to raise money for a literacy program as a show of appreciation to its tutors for volunteering to teach people how to read.

It will benefit the nonprofit Washington County Literacy Council that is using the gesture to throw a family friendly Pittsburgh Penguins party there from 6 to 9 p.m. November 24. The organization charges no fees for its services, which also include tutoring English-as-a-second-language students.

There will be a silent auction for a Penguins jersey autographed by player Jordan Staal, as well as other donated items.

For tickets to the party at the Damon’s, 102 McDowell Lane, McMurray, Pa., call the council at 724-228-6188, or e-mail WCLC4literacy@yahoo.com

Team attire is the suggested dress code.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Elvis hawking Margaritas


Elvis hawking Margaritas, originally uploaded by Scott Beveridge.

A Las Vegas Elvis always make me laugh, and never is that more needed than on a long day such as this one.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A World War II vet barely survived Burma

Thomas L. Beveridge, standing second from left, and his flight crew pals posed for this photograph with residents of India during World War II.

It’s been four years since I wrote this newspaper column for the Observer-Reporter in Washington, Pa., and an appropriate time to publish it again here with Veterans Day approaching in two days. It’s about my uncle, Tom Beveridge, who was assigned to what has been called the most-dangerous duty in World War II. It’s important to remember people like him who struggled until his death to put the war behind him, especially because so many years have passed since this war ended and people are beginning to look at it through rose-colored glasses. There were thousands of stories such as his which didn’t make the pages of Tom Brokaw’s 2004 book, “The Greatest Generation,” that tended to glamorize the post-war lives of these veterans.

By Scott Beveridge

World War II was over, and Sgt. Thomas L. Beveridge was ready to put the U.S. Army Air Forces behind him.

But returning to the real world stirred more anxiety in the young Charleroi, Pa., man than did his flying the most dangerous airplane missions in the war effort.

“I'm more afraid of facing civilian life than I was ever afraid of facing the Army and a war,” he wrote in a letter to his mother, Madge, while awaiting his separation papers after the war ended in 1945.

It was a profound message from a man who would never come to terms with the demons that haunted his soul.

The 1942 graduate of Charleroi High School, and my father’s brother, was eager to serve his country as an extension of his boyhood fondness for airplanes. He was so anxious that he lied about his age to enlist at age 17, one year shy of the minimum age to serve.

“From the looks of the situation, it seems that we are really getting on with the war. I wish to hell I would get my chance to fight it,” Tom Beveridge wrote home June 10, 1943, from his station at Tomah, Wis.

“I'm a radioman and I know my job and all I want to do is to get my chance to do it,” he boasted in the letter sent just before he was deployed to Delhi, India.

At the time, his call to arms was top secret. It soon would have him intercepting enemy radio transmissions while aboard cargo planes delivering supplies to China's forces engaged in battle with Japan.

With the Burma Road cut off by Japanese troops in early 1942, there was no way to supply China’s defense other than from air bases in India. It was the worst flying route ever assigned to air transport, according to Air Force Magazine Online.

The duty over the Himalayas was dubbed, “Flying the Hump,” with planes loaded to capacity and struggling to maintain safe altitudes in thin air above the mountain range.

They crew typically faced “extreme turbulence, thunderstorms and icing,” the magazine reported in March 1991.

In late 1943, there were 155 accidents and 168 fatalities in just one month. Downed airmen were exposed to thick jungles, temperatures of more than 130 degrees in the shade and headhunters.

The flight crew work was especially demanding, with some pilots in the air as long as 165 hours a month.

“Sometimes I think I'm more in the air these days than on the ground,” Beveridge penned in a letter home in June 1944.

Conditions on the ground were not much better.

“Everything is a total mess,” he wrote five months later, describing his garbage-filled and ant-infested barracks. A nearby comrade named Mac had been flying all night, “and he looks like he is dead,” Beveridge wrote.

That letter, meanwhile, was written about two months after he was missing in action when his plane crashed in Burma. He and another airman parachuted to the ground, becoming the only two survivors of the crash.

They used a machete to cut their way out of a jungle, spending five days with nothing more to eat than an ant-covered chocolate bar. He also experienced a brief period of amnesia after being rescued by Allied troops, and, ultimately, returned to duty.

“I am OK now and in the best of health, just a few scratches,” he wrote in an Aug. 11, 1944, letter to his mother.

On the surface, Beveridge might have appeared healthy.

But he would spend the rest of his life as an alcoholic, known to drink hard liquor by the iced-tea glass as the years went by. He managed to earn a business degree from West Virginia University, Morgantown, after being discharged, and went on to carve out a successful career as a finance executive in Los Angeles.

Unlike today, though, veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam were simply given their walking papers to civilian life.

Post-traumatic stress disorder was not identified as a diagnosis until the 1970s, said Chuck Williamson, director of veteran affairs at California University of Pennsylvania.

“We know millions of World War II veterans suffered various degrees of PTSD,” Williamson said.

The disorder, he said, can lead to depression and self-medication with drugs and alcohol as a way to deal with their stress.

“We've learned that from my generation” said Williamson, a Vietnam War veteran.

A more-recent Army study indicated that about one in six soldiers in Iraq reported symptoms of major depression, serious anxiety or PTSD, The New York Times reported in December 2004.

With the number expected to rise sharply, the Army deployed combat stress control units to Iraq to provide fast treatment to shell shocked soldiers and keep them close to their units, the newspaper reported.

Beveridge, as a survivor of a plane that crashed in a jungle, would have had similar issues to resolve, Williamson said. War flight crews such as his spent countless hours together, and were known to form close, family-type bonds, he said.

“In fact, they were kids going off to do the most horrible things a man can do,” he said. “That's severe trauma.”

Soldiers who survived such experiences could spend the rest of their lives questioning why they lived when their best friends did not, Williamson said.

“You can't reconcile that,” he added.

My uncle twice attempted detoxification to no avail. He suffered a fatal heart attack at age 65 in 1989 in a liquor store in Los Angeles.

The man with a fascination with flight was purchasing booze at the time in bottles the size of those served on commercial airlines.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Columbus was bigger than the Internet

Students from Christ Lutheran Church and School in Forest Hills, Pa., tour replicas of Christopher Columbus' Pinta, foreground, and the Nina this week, ships that have been drawing huge crowds in Pittsburgh.

By Scott Beveridge

PITTSBURGH – A friend sparked a mild controversy about Christopher Columbus Sunday morning when she posted our plans on Facebook to tour replicas of the explorer’s famous ships that are temporarily docked in Pittsburgh.

One of her other friends quickly chimed in that he isn’t much into Columbus, who stumbled onto the West Indies in 1492 by mistake while looking for a sea route to Asia.

“I don't buy into the Columbus BS. He didn't discover anything,” this guy added to her thread.

He must have missed the part of the story that modern historians pretty much accept the notion that Viking explorer Leif Ericson found his way by boat to America 500 years before Columbus raided part of the continent. Back then, no one remembered the Ericson story anyway because the world as nearly everyone knew it was stuck in the Dark Ages until Columbus assembled a crew for long distance travel.

And then there are those who have been lobbying to repeal the U.S. Columbus Day holiday that falls on the second Monday of each October. They are upset over his brutality toward the natives, acts that paved way for the advancement of slavery.

OK he was not a nice guy, but let’s get over it after all these centuries.

Columbus’ biggest accomplishment involved the fact that his journey ushered the world into the Age of Enlightenment by shattering beliefs the Earth was flat and he was leading his three ships off the edge of the planet.

His navigational skills then helped to convince mankind to look to science for answers rather than put all of its trust within leaders of the church.

That was huge, bigger than the discoveries of the Internet and cell phone, combined.

The Nina and Pinta are owned by the Columbus Foundation and have been traveling the Western Hemisphere since the 1980s. The foundation never completed the third Columbus ship, the Santa Maria, whose original sank off the coast of Haiti. The new boats are docked alongside North Shore Drive beside Heinz Field and open for tours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily until they shove off Nov. 15 and head down the Ohio River to the Mississippi and Gulf of Mexico for the winter.

A painting of Queen Isabella of Spain seeing Christopher Columbus off on his voyage that would lead to the discovery of the New World.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Snooping around porches

One could safely make the argument that I am curious to the point of being downright nosey. Maybe that explains my fascination with the things people park on their front porches. Follow this link to a sideshow of my photos that include such things as a pink flamingo on a party house porch at West Virginia University, Morgantown, to a district attorney posing outside a crack house in Washington, Pa.

Friday, November 6, 2009

At half mast


0120 HALF STAFF, originally uploaded by JRmannn.

A moment to pause in dignity for the Fort Hood massacre victims.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Newspaper launches photo blog

WASHINGTON, Pa. – We’ve started a new blog at the Observer-Reporter newspaper as a place to showcase interesting vintage and antique photographs with a hyperlocal focus on our circulation in Washington and Greene counties.

For now the blog is named the Picture Box, and it’s designed to be a place for local historical societies and museums to share their old photos while also winning some much-needed publicity on the Web for their organizations. Readers also are welcome to send along their favorite photos from their scrapbooks. We're also tossing in photos from our newspapers archives and occasional goofy shots of ourselves.

Many people, including myself, are fascinated by studying such old photos and the one, above, is among my favorites.

It was shot in an unidentified glass factory in Charleroi, Pa., a borough that grew up around that industry and the many Belgium immigrants who came there for work a century ago.

The shot captures the well-dressed and seated managers there separating themselves from the dirty laborers with a wooden fence. But, the picture is especially interesting because it’s among just a few old local photos I’ve come across that included black people in the image.

The photo survives thanks to the Charleroi Area Historical Society .

Anyone interesting is participating in this project is welcome to send good quality, larger format digital images with some background information to: E-mail Scott

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

This town really is nowhere



By Scott Beveridge

WEBSTER, Pa. – It would seem today as if little has changed in my hometown since a photograph was snapped as a joke five decades ago of a sign here welcoming traffic to the village of Nowhere.

My neighbors in our tiny town otherwise known as Webster, Pa., will agree that most utilities and ambulance and delivery drivers still can’t find our houses even in this high-tech era when Google maps can almost locate an ant hill.

Yet, global positioning systems routinely take newcomers to the wrong addresses more a mile away as if Webster is situated on some distance island in the Pacific Ocean. It comes to those drivers' surprise when they eventually get here to find the town sits in the midst of 10 or more municipalities along the Monongahela River with a combined population of more than 40,000 people.

My problems with deliveries yesterday, last week, last month and over the years have been so small in comparison to those here who have either suffered heart attacks or other serious health concerns that required immediate medical attention.

The Internet in my house died Tuesday for 10 hours during a great recession when it has been critical to my ability to continue earning a paycheck as media employees like me rely more and more on the Web to avoid the breadline.

So I turned to a cell phone to call Comcast, my Internet provider, only to discover that I can’t get through the first prompt because the robotic voice on the other end doesn’t recognize the telephone number linked to my account. I call again only to be disconnected by "her" for a second time in this era of outsourced customer service supplied by impersonal rudeness.

Tonight, I finally got through to the company on a cell after many precious minutes count down and am greeted by an especially kind service representative. However, she is unable to handle this issue because of a number of glitches, one of which includes my account having an address that does not match the one that I furnish. No surprise there.

She then nervously tells me we cannot discuss anything else on the line because the last four digits of my social security number she needs as a gate to my account do not match the company’s records. That is really scary, given the growing threat of identity theft.

Then she instructs me to visit a Comcast center in person with photo identification to correct these problems 20 years after this company hasn’t had one single problem with accepting my money for its services. I also have to submit a DNA sample to get through the door. OK that last sentence is a joke now that an online connection has been re-established at this destination.

The next phrase is a mild exaggeration: I still have to stand on my head at the front door with one leg pointed due west to place a call on my Verizon cell phone.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lovely art, slow art

There is so much I want to say about this beautiful Shepard Fairey print on a building in Pittsburgh's South Side district, art he had permission for a change to hang on private property.

But my home Comcast internet connection has been dead to me today. And my Verizon wireless Internet connection is always so slow here in the decaying urban hinterlands where high-speed wireless doesn't exist.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Amanda's musings: Put down your dukes

“When kindness has we left people, even for a few moments, we become afraid of them as if their reason had left them. When it has left a place where have always found it, it is like shipwreck; we drop from security into something malevolent and bottomless.” Willa Cather

By Amanda Gillooly

When I was 5, I had a sneaking suspicion that super heroes walked among us in plain clothes. I believed in Super Man because of my cousin.

Fifteen years my senior, I remember him as a young man visiting from Ohio. A weight-lifter, he tossed us cousins around and teased us good-naturedly. Some of my earliest memories are laughing with him as he’d pretend to guess my middle name.

“Wait, I remember now,” he would tell me. “You’re name is Amanda Green. Wait, no. It’s Amanda Orange.”

But as it does, life happened. He got married and started a family. I graduated from high school and then college. These days, we only manage to get together about once a year to celebrate our favorite holiday: Halloween.

And so last weekend, the male members of my family descended on my Neville Island home (as they have done for six years) to watch slasher/supernatural/dark comedy/so-cheesey-it makes you-laugh movies. Titled the Hallowscream Fest, the weekend is about kicking it and having fun.

I never expected to be hit – to be bruised – by the man I’ve always considered my own personal superhero.

But that’s what happened Friday night after I made an offhand comment. Using a string of profanity that would have made me proud had it not been directed at me, he suggested I shut up before he shut me up.

I told him where to shove that sentiment, and then he outright threatened me physically (I would use the actual dialogue, but there may be children reading) and I was flabbergasted. I stood up in disbelief from the kitchen table where he was sitting opposite and said:

“Come on. You’re gonna beat me? I’m your cousin. And a woman.”

And that’s when he charged me, warned me again to shut up as he took both hands and shoved me as hard as he could. Had my other cousin not jumped up and pushed him back, he would have hit me again. He struggled to throw a punch even as three men in my family drove him back into the kitchen and out the back door.

This should have been the part of the story where I called 911. But to my shame and dismay, the first thing I thought was: If I hadn’t stood up, he wouldn’t have hit me. If I would have just shut my mouth, my left shoulder wouldn’t be aching and I wouldn’t have a bruise blossoming on my left calf, where I slammed backward into the chair.

Then I remembered myself. And I remembered all the times I couldn’t really understand how my girlfriends had stayed with a man who beat her so often that she had to go buy new blouses to hide the marks. I remembered not understanding how she thought, as she often did, that somehow she might have deserved it. Or, at best, thought there was something she could have done to prevent it.

After all these generations of growth and learning, we have still not evolved far enough to settle conflicts with words instead of fists. And the point is, nobody deserves it. There is rarely an effective use for violence, and it certainly should be a last-resort method of keeping the peace.

Which leads me to the kicker: After being confronted by one of the more out-spoken women in my family, his mother explained how the incident had happened.

She told her: “Well, Mandy did get in (his) face.”

Yes. We’ve come a long way – as a species and a society. But as long as there is anyone who thinks like that aunt, we still have a long way to go.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A lucky soldier

A stack of yellowed letters, parts of a U.S. Army uniform and a Nazi armband are among the items my father, James R. Beveridge, saved from his participation in World War II.

Part II: Stirring the memories of war

By Scott Beveridge

The pay earned by a U.S. Army private during World War II was not attractive to my dad when he enlisted in the military and earned that rank after leaving a steel job in Monessen.

Industrial work was picking up in America in the early 1940s because President Franklin D. Roosevelt had promised England he would supply its defense with steel and other war supplies in place of troops to fend off German invasion.

Dad said he would have preferred to continue working at Pages Steel and Wire Corp, a Pennsylvania mill that wove fence from steel billets produced at the blast furnaces at the nearby Pittsburgh Steel Co. The mills paid quite bit more money than the $50 a month he would earn each month in the military after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and brought the United States into the war.

By 1943, dad valued a good-paying job, having been raised during the Great Depression and suffered the difficulties of moving from one town to the next while his father, Robert, found work in any number of temporary jobs.

His family was always met an unwelcome outsider to a new town at a time when one in four men were jobless. His father was seen as being there to steal a job opportunity from a local man. As a result, dad had to quickly learn how to do battle with the other boys his age and older.

Dad's family finally arrived in Charleroi, Pa. when was in the ninth grade, and he immediately felt at home there after attending as many as 20 public schools in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Charleroi, though, was a money town with two long downtown streets lined with expensive shops and department stores. The town was nicknamed the “Magic City” because it developed so quickly in the 1890s, and would later break records for having some of the highest retail sales in Pennsylvania. Located upwind from a string of dirty mills along the Monongahela River, its air was clean and sidewalks were filled to their brink with only the best-dressed people from throughout the region.

Even though work was picking up and his father had found work as a welder at a Monessen steel mill, dad's parents were quick to consider packing up the family once more for a move to another town. Dad said he threatened to drop out of high school if they moved, so they stayed.

His father would live long enough to see him graduate in 1940 from Charleroi High School before dying, unexpectedly, from a stroke. His mother, Madge, was about to become all alone in her world after the war called away her two sons.

Dad's only sibling, Thomas, was three years his junior and he joined the Army, too, in 1944 after lying about his age.

Their mother received regular allotments from them, money that was withdrawn from their military salaries and matched by the government because she was without a husband and dependent on their incomes to survive. She also took jobs as a housemaid to get by and regularly kept in touch with her sons via a steady stream of letters they exchanged and would keep for the remainder of their lives.

These old memories surfaced again in May 2005 when dad retrieved a white gift box he used to store his tokens from the war to tell this story.

His collection contained a red, white, and black cotton Nazi armband, something he rarely pulled out because of what it represented, and because it was against U.S. law to bring home such items seized from the enemy.

He also kept his olive green and moth-worn Army hat, routine military paperwork, and a number of letters his friends and relatives mailed his mother from the war.

The bulk of those letters were written by dad to reassure his mother that he was fit, “in the pink,” and safe, words he purposely selected to keep her free from worry.

Yet, some of them spoke to these soldiers longing for such luxuries as a warm bed, home-cooked meals or dates with a hometown gal as they dealt with the insanities of war.

Their words also carried with them profound war experiences, details that had been stored away for decades before dad retrieved the mementos from his dusty closet.

My dad, James R. Beveridge, left, and his brother, Thomas, with their mother, Madge, in 1940 after they arrived in Charleroi, Pa. With the Great Depression ending, World War II would soon be calling the brothers to the U.S. Army.

(Click here to return to Part 1: Preparing for a battle dad would never see)

(Click here to move on to Part III: Dad's friends and relatives weren't so lucky)

(This oral history was written in 2005 to fulfill my graduate studies at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. It is being edited and published here as a series.)