Lefty’s View of WWII, by Wild Bill

OK, straight up apologies, Dear Q-Treepers & Friends, for this likely stream of consciousness post very loosely inspired from our dear Daughn’s nostalgic posts. This is going to veer about in personal family history domains so is meant as a bit of a slice of Americana…

Detroit’s skyline as viewed from the Ambassador Bridge

Grandpa S. came to stay with us at some point for an extended stay while I still lived in my parents’ home. I think it was after my grandma had died but before I went away to college. Grandpa had been sick and so lived with us for a season as he regained his health & his strength. There were times he’d watch Price is Right with my brothers & I & encourage us to make guesses on the various games, which we all thoroughly enjoyed.

Grandpa was a bit of a gruff man having grown up in the Motor City & having a Northwoods lumberjack for a father. He was a self-made man of limited education, never having finished high school. An avid outdoorsman and good with his hands he knew how to work hard and he was respected and even loved by many people from practically all walks of life. He had deep practical wisdom & was even flexible in his lifestyle deciding to take up new hobbies as a widower, like candle AND candy making. He had a zest for life & perpetual twinkle in his eye!

Ty Cobb in 1913 in Detroit, the era when he let Grandpa & other kids into the ballpark by the back fence to watch the games for free!

Well one day while he was staying with us the phone rang unexpectedly. Being the oldest kid it fell to me to answer the call, as my parents weren’t home at the time. Some gravelly male voice on the other end of the phone was looking for a “Lefty” & I was concerned. The only “lefty” I could imagine would be some fictional gangster or ne’er-do-well. Anyway with tremulous voice I mentioned to Grandpa that someone was looking for “Lefty”. He snatched the phone from my hand & bellowed out in his own testosterone truncated tongue “Lefty here!” I was beyond flabbergasted, My Grandpa Was Lefty!!!

Obviously this was a pretty basic nickname for a man who was left-handed, especially growing up in an era when being left-handed was a “sinister” condition. Both he, my dad’s dad, AND my mom’s mom, were left-handed & suffered the indignities that went along with being different & the punishments typically meted out for errant usage of the “wrong” hand in those bygone days. Both of these grandparents had less than beautiful handwriting but were surely more ambidextrous than most. My youngest brother is also blessed with this left-handedness & it definitely contributed to some of his sporting successes, especially his ability to be a switch-hitter on his high-school baseball team! I think he was also more competent with both feet as a soccer player than were most teammates too.

Grandpa had been a pretty poor student during his formal education. In fact, after his death, when my parents were going through his things they discovered a lone report card saved from nearly 8 decades before. Apparently this “all S” card was the best he ever did. That was based on a grading system of U=Unsatisfactory, S=Satisfactory, & E=Excellent, I believe. Basically grandpa got the equivalent of an all-C, straight average report card & that was the treasure of the ages. How easily did the high marks of so many in our family line become blasé. We didn’t really understand what it was to suffer ridicule for poor marks, well most of us didn’t…

My dad is going over my post with me & said that on Grandpa’s report card there were 12 things to be graded on per marking. In the 1st card marking he got 4 S’s & the rest U’s. 2nd marking was 8 or 9 S’s the rest U’s. The final card marking he got all 12 S’s. My grandpa wrote on that report card “Best report card I ever had” & saved it all those years. Neither my dad nor his sister knew about that card before grandpa’s death.

Not Grandpa’s report card, but one from the era when he first attended school

Grandpa did throw things away, including stock certificates for companies that went belly up during the Depression, per my dad. He provided for his family during his lifetime & had less than $1,000 to his name when he died…& a new car that he called “my second to last car”. My brother got that late ’80’s Tempo after Grandpa’s passing.

Now according to my dad his dad had one of his grade school teachers as a regular customer at his gas station & garage in the heart of Detroit. Some three decades after she taught him she would berate him with “see I knew you’d never amount to anything” when she came to fill up or get some car service from him or his employees. Imagine being dogged like that as a self-made business man, yet Grandpa didn’t stint on the service in spite of the disrespect.

In fact dad is quite sure that Grandpa accepted Scrip during the war years, and my other grandpa, being a teacher, was paid in scrip too. It is quite likely that Grandpa S’s cruel elementary teacher paid in scrip AND much of that payment never was converted to Actual Money (I don’t know all the social reasons for that) so Grandpa took care of that teacher’s material needs even as she maligned his interpersonal & self-esteem ones. He truly was the bigger man.

Not my Grandpa’s gas station, but his brand in his era

When looking for possible images of Grandpa’s old Sunoco gas station at Junction & Toledo in Detroit I ran across this nostalgic discussion of old Detroit area gas stations.


During the Second World War, at some point rationing was on. This meant that even in the Motor City it was hard to get what one needed to maintain functional transportation for the masses. Dad said that Grandpa had an old vulcanizing machine, that could be used to patch tires, and that his dad practically single-handedly kept Detroit on wheels! If he could have brought that machine with him to Northern Michigan when he retired it should have ended up in a museum, how significant was it’s contribution to keeping Detroit moving!

1945 Ration Book from the region, this example from Illinois

Speaking of Northern Michigan let’s segue a bit. My Grandpa’s dad had grown into manhood in the Northern Michigan lumbering industry, though he himself was a mid-Michigan farm boy. He left home, possibly even before his teen years to work in lumbering. He drove the horse-drawn wagons, worked as a lumberjack, and later was some type of foreman.

The company he worked for was owned by a Mr. Lowrey and at one point Lowrey’s son made his way into the woods to get his lumbering chops with the working guys. Apparently the lumberjacks were a pretty rough group of customers & Great-Grandpa took the boss’s son under his wing, showed him the ropes, AND protected him from the brutish thugs. This was noticed by the boss so later on when operations were moved South into Detroit Great-Grandpa was invited to come along and manage the lumber yard. That’s what he did for the rest of his working life. AND that is how that side of my family came to Detroit, right about 1900!

Logging in Michigan, 1890’s, when my Great Grandpa was still working in the Northern Michigan woods

Apparently Great Grandpa S. was a pretty tough customer too. He was tall, over 6 feet, with a fairly slender build. Even so, he was incredibly strong. One time Grandpa, as a young man, or even teen, had occasion to do some work at his dad’s lumber yard. There were train cars to be loaded or unloaded of 50 pound bags of cement, I believe. Grandpa would carry a bag in each hand & fling them in a smooth motion up to stack even over his head. Dad said that his father had very strong hands & even used to play handball at the Y in Detroit. Anyway G observed GG breaking up a fight amongst some unrulies in the lumber yard. When they wouldn’t stop the fight Great Grandpa stepped in & with One Blow Each felled each man. My grandpa was in shock that his dad could or would do that, this was someone not to mess around with!

Ironically my dad & his friends also experienced Grandpa’s physical & character strength for themselves. There was a time in their teen years that dad & his buddies took out the family car joy riding, over 50 miles of driving without ever leaving the Detroit city limits. Apparently Dad didn’t think to put more gas in the car so the next day as Grandpa was headed into work at His gas station, he ran out of gas. Grandpa somehow got a hold of Dad’s buddy & lifted him one handed off the floor & stuck him to the wall. What happened to Dad during that timeframe has always been rather murkily glossed over. I know my dad inherited this skill set for I once witnessed him lift up one of my brother’s cocky little friends up off the floor & stick him to the wall, though he used 2 hands in this surprising intervention on the now more subdued teen!

So we’ve had Michigan’s North Woods in our blood for a number of generations. Now fortunately my Grandpa S. married my grandma, the daughter of a railroad engineer–both of her parents were children of immigrants from the British Isles. Grandma’s dad had a fairly cushy job that he’d worked into on the Michigan Central Railroad. One of the perks of working for the railroad was getting the family to ride the rails, for free, I believe. Grandma’s family used to regularly travel Up North and enjoy Summer vacations in Michigan’s beautiful North Country, far from their native Detroit.

Historic Arbutus Beach, on Otsego Lake, MI in the era when my grandma’s family vacationed there

Eventually Grandma’s parents settled on a small community in Gaylord and bought a Cottage, being the first such building in the newly platted resort community of Arbutus Beach, along the beautiful sandy shore of Otsego Lake. Nearly all of Grandma’s siblings and many cousins ultimately obtained cottages in that community. My grandparents married in the late 1920’s and somehow acquired one of the existing Cottages in Arbutus Beach, as its second owners. My dad & his sister, along with their mother, spent virtually Every Summer of their childhood in that Northern Michigan paradise. Surrounded by family & friends they’d leave Detroit the day after school let out & only head home the day before school started in the Fall. Grandpa would join them for both journeys, I think because there was only one car. Grandma & the kids either caught the train to/from town or perhaps bummed rides from relatives with transportation.

How my great grandparents moved their cottage to Arbutus Beach, details here: https://specialconnections.wordpress.com/2017/06/29/josiahs-story-about-the-4th-of-july/

Now that same Cottage ended up becoming my grandparents’ retirement home, somewhat unexpectedly. Up until the Race Riot era of the late ’60’s both sets of my grandparents expected to live in their Detroit homes for the remainder of their natural lives. However during that season of social upheaval block-busting real estate agents put the pressure on & ultimately both sets of grandparents winterized Summer cottages to become their then retirement homes.

The simpler times of my dad’s youth saw Otsego Lake rarely shackled, as it is now, by excessive docks or boats

The Gaylord Cottage would figure largely in my own life too. When my new husband & I decided to come to Michigan–we had met & married in Oklahoma, though I was a child of the Motor City–we ended up living temporarily in The Cottage that was now in my parents’ possession after Grandpa’s death about a half decade previously. Michael & I lived in The Cottage as newly weds AND as new parents. Our first child, Nathaniel was born while we lived in The Cottage (his height is marked on the 4 generation height-recording doorjambs between the dining & living rooms at just One Day Old!) & was gifted the nickname “The Jack-Pine Savage” because of this northern naissance. In fact I believe our son is the Only family member in 6 generations of our extended family associated with this Northern Michigan community who was born in Gaylord, though several have died there. Though our twins were born while we still lived in that community–we had bought our own house in town by that time–they were in fact born downstate because of the high-risk nature of that pregnancy & their anticipated medical needs…

If you’d like to see a Newspaper article from back when Michael & I and the Boys lived in Gaylord in the 1990’s check it out here, on pages 1, 4, & 5:

Anyway, at one point when Michael & I were moving into The Cottage we boxed up some things to make room for some of our belongings. One day we were going through some old kids books and discovered some doodlings & writings by my dad. Apparently Dad had fancied himself some type of cowboy AND given himself the moniker Wild Bill! I absolutely Loved It!!!

Whenever watching that perennial classic A Christmas Story, I can imagine my dad as a lad in the 1940’s into the ’50’s with his admiration for all things cowboy & his gun prowess. I’m pretty sure that he was Up North when practicing targeting some strategic mushrooms on top of a log. However, unlike Steve’s important Saturday reminders, he forgot to notice what was Behind his target. So successfully hitting mushrooms with his BB gun sometimes meant tagging one of his playmates inadvertently as the projectiles maintained their forward trajectory. Simpler times…

Boy with gun in the 1950’s, not my dad but similar to his era

It’s impossible to anticipate what type of gems one might unearth in an old family home! Years ago there was a major garage cleaning undertaken by 3 generations of the family. At one point an old scorched ironing board cover, complete with it’s “scorchless” packaging was unearthed. After much conversation it was returned to the archeological dig to be unearthed years, or perhaps generations from now, so the joy & consternation at our family ways can continue!

Saving that old ironing board cover reminded Dad about his mom’s dad, the railroad engineer. Apparently Great-Grandpa T. used to collect stamps. He would meticulously organize them into small piles and tie them together with small pieces of string & place them strategically in old cigar boxes. Well he kept some container labeled “String Too Short To Save” for this stamp-corralling work, apparently because that was about all such short lengths of string were good for! If you knew how much my packratedness AND that of some other family members has tormented those who are more comfortable with much less physical (& other) baggage, you would recognized that “String Too Short To Save” isn’t always a badge of honor here!

Several books had similar titles, so this metaphor goes well beyond just our family perspective & experience–yikes!

So back to Lefty AND World War II. Dad & his sister have some direct memories of the war years, though they were still Very Young when it ended. Apparently they kept a pail of pure sand in the attic in case the house were ever bombed or hit with incendiary devices. They employed blackout curtains. Grandpa was sometimes involved in some type of neighborhood patrol, well Dad says that actually the next-door neighbor Mr. Bush was the Warden, who’d knock on your door if any light showed through the blackout curtains. They sounded an air raid siren for a drill in getting into blackout conditions & the Warden would patrol the neighborhood looking for any errant lights during that drill. Ration Books were in play & plenty of food was hard to get. Street Signs were removed to prevent the enemy, should he land on our shores, from easily navigating these foreign roads. And of course rationing meant deprivations in many arenas.

One place of deprivation was in the use of gasoline. Even Grandpa, who owned his own gas station business, could not get extra gasoline. That meant that when hunting season rolled around he wouldn’t be able to head Up North to the Hunting Shack to do the traditional annual deer hunting pilgrimage, or wouldn’t he? Actually he had some cousins who were farmers and apparently the government wasn’t rationing their access to gas in Any Way. So some of these cousins arranged to leave cans of gas strategically along the side of the road, hidden in the ditch, so Grandpa could gas up sufficiently to make it to his war-time limited hunting camp!

teaser historic post card from Luzerne, MI our guys rarely see this many deer in the region nowadays

By the way, how The Shack came into the family is a bit of an interesting tale too. Grandpa, his cousin, uncle, & some friends used to hunt the state or federal lands adjacent to a farmer’s land Up North. They’d done this for some years in a remote area in Oscoda County near the Very Small Town of Luzerne. Many times these hunters had begged the farmer to sell them a small amount of land so they could put up more permanent hunting camps than their tent-based camps of yesteryear. One time they invited the farmer to join them for a meal in the large dining tent. Their camp stove gave off a spark that ignited that tent AND it completely burned before they could un-stake all the ropes & drop the canvas to the ground. The farmer decided it was no way to live so relented & sold them One Acre, which was subdivided into 2 plots & 2 hunting shacks were built there, both still standing.

The shack across the street used to have a custom-made wood burned sign (recently stolen) claiming “Piscopalian Valley”, which is what our original hunters used to call the area since the piss would go in the pail before the hunting shacks AND outhouses were put in. In fact Grandpa’s uncle Will was known as “the Mayor of Piscopalian Valley” since he would make the rounds of the many nearby hunting camps AND the “blue horse trail” camp (the blue horse trail marks an equestrian path that traverses the fingers of Michigan’s Mitten–no NOT that Mitt!–from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron and makes navigating “our” hunting zone much more interesting) & pick up all the news of the hunt & the community–what a rich history abounded there & many tales live on!

Blue Horse Trail near Luzerne passes through the family hunting grounds

Speaking of news AND WWII the way Lefty learned about the end of the war was pretty amazing. Now I don’t ever recall hearing my grandpa tell this story, but Wild Bill has good recall of it. Apparently as The War was waning Grandpa went on an extended hunting or fishing adventure in the wilds of Canada, dad said that it was a fishing trip. He was walking along a portage trail in the woods & came across a carving on a tree trunk declaring the date & time of the end of the war in Europe AND he ran across this within two hours of someone carving it, literally out in the middle of nowhere! What an amazing world!

If only that WWII was the war to end all wars & love reigned supreme

Boy were our forbears hearty & blessed people. We are blessed to carry their blood in our veins & some of their quirkiness in our behaviors & of course some of their personality & physical traits in our beings, as they continue to live on, in a manner of speaking, in & through us.

From C.S. Lewis in his Chronicles of Narnia, as recounted here: https://silo.pub/pocket-companion-to-narnia-a-guide-to-the-magical-world-of-cs-lewis.html. HONOR — To seek honor in obedience and to behave honorably may be said to be one definition of a true Narnian. In PC [Prince Caspian]15, Caspian is ashamed that he comes of such a dishonorable (Telmarine) lineage. Aslan replies, “You come of the Lord Adam and Lady Eve. And that is both honor enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar and shame enough to bow the heads and shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”

Veteran’s Day Addendum

Honoring our warriors, especially on Veteran’s Day!

We all owe so much to the many who have made tremendous sacrifices to fight for & ensure ongoing degrees of freedom for their fellow man. The complexity of the tapestry of lives, lifestyles, & social & family dynamics can never fully be done justice. So many different ways our warriors & their families & friends have laid down their lives for the family of man. Thank you!

I come from a family without direct modern experience in military service & warfare. However I know of numerous serviceman in the extended family who answered the call. This listing is to honor their service & sacrifice & that of so many others who have stood in the gap on freedom’s and our nation’s behalf.

  • Orringh Stoddard, Captain Massachusetts Line, Revolutionary War
  • Husband Michael’s Hagerman ancestor, United Empire Loyalist
  • Friedrich Bluemle, Mom’s birth great grandfather, compulsory German military service before immigrating to America mid 1800’s
  • Michael’s relations, both sides service Civil War, fractured family & fractured nation
  • William E. Curren, US Army Signal Corp, late 1800’s
  • Clarence E. Curren, Virginia Ship Building Co., WWI Navy
  • Patrick L., Husband’s father’s uncle, WWII Nave Sea Bee, construction battalion
  • Verner R. Shoup, Hubby’s grandfather & son of CO governor Oliver H. Shoup, WWI Army
  • David O. M., Mom’s birth grandfather, WWI Army
  • Robert D. M., Mom’s birth father, WWII Marine, action in Tarawa & beyond
  • Avis B. B., Mom’s birth mother, WAC WWII, service in Alaska & beyond
  • Thurman T., Grandma’s brother, WWII, machinist, Manhattan Project
  • Hugh T., Grandma’s brother-in-law, WWII Army medical doctor
  • Maynard K., Mom’s brother, Korea-era Naval service, injured medical discharge
  • Zachary S., my nephew, Marine in modern service
My ancestor Orringh Stoddard’s letter February 3, 1780 preserved in George Washington’s papers, https://www.loc.gov/resource/mgw4.064_0179_0180/

May the Lord continue to equip us all with the tools we need to keep fighting the good fight!

Vignette of my Uncle Hugh’s military service, from his obituary “Dr. Thompson was a US veteran, serving with the US Medical Corps for three and a half years. He was captain of the 32nd Field Hospital in Italy. After VE Day, he was sent to the Philippines and Japan.” He moved his wife & kids into their Northern Michigan cottage while he was overseas during WWII, being concerned for their safety had they remained in their Detroit home during his extended absence. Service & Sacrifice!

http://otsego.advantage-preservation.com/viewer/?k=hugh%20thompson&i=f&d=01011903-12312013&m=between&ord=k1&fn=herald_times_usa_michigan_gaylord_19911024_english_23&df=1&dt=10&cid=2955 has further details on Dr. Hugh Thompson’s career & photos.

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Valerie Curren
What a wonderful history and tribute to your family! May these stories and history never be forgotten.

On 11 November 1918, the very first Armistice Day, my late husband, then 8 years old, was in bed with the measles. This was in Mill Valley, California. The entire town knew that the Armistice was going to be signed and that World War I would be over. Everybody who could, got to the town square by the old courthouse to await the news of the signing, which would sent by telegraph.
The Armistice was signed. The news was telegraphed to the postmaster in Mill Valley. My husband remembered that there was suddenly a great silence. Then, he heard a man, a Belgian operatic tenor living in the area, start to sing — “The Marseillaise.” His voice was so strong that my husband could hear the song through the open window of his bedroom at his family’s house. There was complete silence while this man was singing. Then my husband heard the crowd start to yell at the top of their lungs that the war was over.
My husband never forgot the sound of the man’s voice as he sang.

Last edited 1 year ago by RDS

What an amazing time, when the whole town would assemble together, and experience something together, on such an important occasion.

The way you expressed it, I could imagine it as I read along.

Thank you for sharing that, RDS.


Are blue horses anything like blue oxen?

Gail Combs

Yes, they are ‘blue’ because of a mix of black and white hairs.

A Blue Roan Quarter Horse. (I had a strawberry roan and two blue roans.)
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I was thinking more like Babe, the Blue Ox, of Paul Bunyan (which would tie into logging).


Good to see you, BTW — are activities winding down for you?


You are in my prayers, Valerie. Everyone here is, but I try to remember specific people or situations as I become aware of them.

I’m glad your family is strong and you have each other for support, and the Lord above all 👍


I’ve never seen one of those!

Gail Combs

I knew Ty Cobb’s son. I boarded my two Saddlebreds at his farm. He raised Tennessee walking horses.


I had this Ty Cobb baseball card when I was a kid, part of a 1976 Topps baseball card series 😁


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Last edited 1 year ago by scott467

Seems like I remember the term ‘whacky packs’, but it’s hazy 😂


“This was 7 decades ago, & a big enough deal to Still recall!”

Yep, nobody forgets. I had my Dad’s 1955 ‘Bowman’ baseball cards when I was a kid, and somebody stole several cards, including a Mickey Mantle and Ernie Banks 😒


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Pretty sure I was the only one who suffered the indignities, I don’t think I ever told my Dad that a few of the cards had been stolen.

I was just about positive who did it, but there was no way to prove it without finding the evidence in his possession (or a snitch).

As for value, today they would have to be graded. They were in perfect physical condition, i.e., straight corners and sharp edges, no surface abrasions, etc., but professional grading companies expect that of cards submitted for grading.

If I understand correctly, what they look for is things like whether the image is centered / off-center and other printing anomalies, and I have no idea how they would have graded in that regard.

If I had to guess, I would say they might be worth $100 to $200 each today.

I just checked eBay. Looks like prices are higher than I expected. This ungraded 1955 Bowman Mickey Mantle is in similar physical condition to mine at the time, and recently sold for $750:

This high-grade (professionally graded) example sold for $2,599. 😲

A graded Ernie Banks sold for something less than $1,530 (best offer)

An ungraded example in nice shape sold recently for $687 winning bid.

Whoops, hit the wrong button and posted when I meant to insert the link 😁

Last edited 1 year ago by scott467

“I hope the person who stole from you, whoever they might be, is confronted with their guilt so that they turn to the Lord for redemption & forgiveness…& perhaps even approach You for your forgiveness too.”


I do hope they seek and find the Lord, but no apology to me is necessary. 🙂

I’m sure I have wronged many people during my life, too many, whether I realized it at the time or not, and the best I can do is hope for forgiveness.

I always liked the way Leonard Cohen says it, in his old song Bird on a Wire:

If I, if I have been unkind,
I hope that you
Can just let it go by…”

And so I always try to forgive others, too.

This is my favorite version of the song (link below), live in 1993 at the O’Keefe Center in Toronto. I wish there was video for this particular performance, but if there is, I haven’t found it.

Leonard’s back-up girls always make his songs shine.

The two ladies who sang back-up for this performance are Perla Batalla and Julie Christensen. Sharon Robinson sang back-up for Leonard at times, and Jennifer Warnes, and in more recent years, sisters Charley and Hattie Webb, who also sang back-up for Tom Petty, if I remember correctly.

Perla and Julie sang with Leonard from at least 1988 to 1993 (the songs on this live album span 1988-93).

I just looked Perla up on Wiki and found this:

“Batalla told an interviewer from the Los Angeles Times in 2001 that she had been attending law school when she took a friend’s advice to follow a career in music instead. She was introduced to Leonard Cohen by her friend Julie Christensen, when Cohen was auditioning for backup singers for his I’m Your Man tour. 

Batalla said in 2001 that meeting Cohen was her “big break and the opening of everything”.”

It’s a great old song, at least to me 😁




I’m sorry you had so many thefts, especially at church and during church related activities.

Doesn’t seem very CHURCH-like!

Now that you mention it, I may have seen your old firearm when I was snorkeling one time in a shallow area at Walloon Lake.

It didn’t have “This heater belongs to Valerie Curren” inscribed on the barrel, did it?



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