The Greatest Generation and a Misspelled Name

My husband and I have always taken pride in our fathers’ World War II military service. Both served in the US Army Air Corp (now the Air Force). Bill, my father-in-law, was a gunner flying B-24s over Germany (in the “waist” of the plane, the middle side behind the wings); my father, Murray Zimney, was a ground crew engineer performing maintenance on the same planes before and after their bombing runs.

Bill’s last name was Beasom. My husband Buck Beasom (he says he kept his own name when we got married) is actually Bill Jr., but has been Buck since his Vietnam-era Navy days. Buck grew up hearing tales of Bill’s flying adventures, mostly (but not always) sanitized for the ears of the four children. My father Murray was far more reserved in sharing information about his days in the military. Perhaps, according to the norms of the 1950’s, his two little girls needed to be sheltered from all disturbing things.  (More…)

Baseball and the Atomic Bomb

Bharat Pathakjee

While researching for my class on the Atomic Age, I came across a little-known human interest story about a man named Moe Berg. The son of a Jewish pharmacist, he was born in New Jersey in 1902.  He loved baseball and was quite good at it, much to his father’s displeasure. He excelled at his high school, won a scholarship to Princeton, and played ball in the Ivy League. He majored in Romance languages and became fluent in no fewer than six.

After Princeton he was recruited by the pros—the Brooklyn Robins–for $5,000 a year ($71,000 in today’s money). More success was soon to follow, and in 1926 he earned $50,000 ($700,000 in today’s money) playing for the Chicago White Sox.  (More…)

Dad’s Dog Tags

Diane Henrikson Russell

A week into 2021, I received a short message from Alan Carlson, the OLLI Connects Editor. Somebody had written a comment on my 2018 OLLI Connects story about Santa Claus. Who would comment on it two years later? Alan sent the comment for me to read before posting it.

The comment read: “Dear Diane, I try to contact you on your Facebook message about your dad. Hope you can see and read it! Kind regards, Sam.”

I checked Messenger and, sure enough, there was a message from Sam with two blurred images. In this age of mistrust and online scamming, I did not open the images and chose not to reply through Messenger.

Instead, I emailed Sam with the following message:  (More…)

Struggle for Freedom

Junia Ancaya

Chapter One: Lodz, 1942, Ghetto at Baluty

Like the shattering of my family and Poland due to Hitler’s and Stalin’s ruthless power ambitions, my first impressions of life in Lodz in the midst of WW II, my awakening, emerged not as a continuum but as fragmented images and episodes. . . .

I was six. I held her hand and through her fingers felt my mother tremble at the approach of an SS man, but he passed us by on the street. A menacing sky hung close above Lodz’s numerous factory chimneys. Bulky ashen clouds and snowflakes crowded the air as my mother, brother and I stood waiting at a street corner for the trolley. Around us more and more people were caught in the whistling wind. It blew one way and the other and swept in mad pirouettes.

The trolley barreled toward us growing to enormous proportions before it squealed to an abrupt stop. A door opened in front of me, so I freed myself from my mother’s hand and hopped onto the stairs. But the next second she yanked me backwards by my collar. I slid on the snow, and before I had time to think she picked me up and rushed to the last trolley car. My brother raced beside us. We boarded. Mother sat on the one available seat.   (More…)

England During the War Years

Jack D. Plimmer

At the age of 12, I was not prepared for the war. It was a dark cloud that cast its shadow over what promised to be an enjoyable part of my life. I had just passed the 11-plus exam and had a scholarship to the local grammar school. My future looked rosy, but there were clouds on the horizon.

In England, we knew for some time that war was on its way. As I grew older, I read the national newspapers. They convinced us that Hitler’s aggression soon would be directed against England. The papers were full of news about Mussolini’s conquest of Ethiopia and the Spanish Civil War. The Spanish Civil War was a harbinger of what was to come. It polarized European thought and opinion. The newspapers gave detailed reports of the aerial bombing, sieges, battles, massacres, the flight of civilians and all the terrors associated with the war. The nightmare grew closer.  (More…)