I would like to thank the editors at Firedoglake.com/MyFDL for retrieving the code for the photo of the USS Lacerta.

USS Lacerta (AKA-29). The Lacerta was decommissioned in March, 1946, upon her return from the Pacific theater. (photo: wikipedia)

1945: It Wasn’t Just The Poverty

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
– Mark Twain

There was a time in our history when everything changed. People did not know what to do. There were no classes on how to raise children. Everything in the world had vanished and no one knew what to replace it with.

There was a time when right and wrong all got changed, a time when the rules of war and the international laws all went up in the air and generals fought with one another about how to fight.

There were no rules, no guidelines, for the farmers, for the industrial workers or even for the newly rich. There were no norms. No one fit in anywhere.

Poverty was everywhere. But it wasn’t just the poverty. It was the confusion.

Prior to this and during the Great Depression, a man, a poor man, approached my grandfather, another poor man, at a farmers’ gathering. Radio was a recent invention. The man asked a question. It was not a question about finance. The man asked simply, “Can you help me understand the world?”

Family At Last: 1946-1949

by Letty Owings

With the USS Lacerta back from the Pacific, Ray’s discharge could only be a matter of when and where. His parents thought it would be neat if he reenlisted, but I did not consider that an option. I had waited quite long enough for us to begin life as a family. The Lacerta went all the way down the West Coast from Seattle, through the Panama Canal and up the East Coast to Norfolk, Virginia. Ray’s trip through the canal convinced him that someday we would do that together, which we did a few years ago.

Ray had one health issue he wanted to have taken care of before he left the Navy and that was tonsil removal. When he was a kid, some family doctor removed his tonsils in such a botch job that they grew back. Free surgery in Norfolk would delay him a few days. I was not about to wait. With June in my arms, I talked my brother into a drive to Kansas City to the train station. Again the family considered me impatient and foolish, but again their worries did not deter me.

Service people coming home from the Pacific and Europe jammed every train car. They were dead asleep in the aisles and even on the floor in the women’s restroom. Many of them were coming home to wives and new babies, so June became a star attraction. They looked at her and wondered what their own babies might be like. In Cincinnati, I left one train for another and had some time to wait. I lay down on a bench, dead from fatigue and holding June next to me. Next thing I knew a man was shaking me. He assumed I was between trains and that mine might be leaving the station. His assumption was correct, so eternally grateful to him for shaking me out of my deep sleep, I ran for the departing train.

Our meeting in Norfolk I remember little about except that spring was in the air in February, and June took her first steps reaching for daffodils in a park. For our return trip, Ray was able to get me on a service aircraft. Of that trip back to Missouri, I remember how miserably cold it was in Chicago where we were shifted here and there. Also I recall June crawling up and down the aisle in the small plane with service men holding her and playing with her. She was dirty as a pig when we arrived. Back in Kansas City I stayed with Ray’s Aunt Beulah and Uncle Alfred for a few days. June had not one stitch of clothes that were sanitary to wear, so we pinned Alfred’s undershirt on her. He was about a size 46, and she was a tiny size one.

Ray went through Great Lakes Naval Station to muster out. That is when our life as family began in earnest. He had only three years of college and needed to get back to the university forthwith. The problem was that so did thousands of other returning service men. Since the GI Bill provided some benefits, returnees who never considered higher education went to universities and colleges by the droves. We could not find a place in Columbia, so we rented a farmhouse in the country outside of Wellington. Ray took a job as principal and math teacher at a tiny high school in Henrietta, Missouri.

We bought an old pickup truck to get to and from. The house we rented had no indoor bath or anything that fancy, but we were glad to have it. We planted a garden and raised some chickens. Soon I was pregnant again and we felt even more of an urgency about Ray’s finishing his degree.

End Note: The woman sharing this excerpt of her story is my mother, Letty Owings.

The quote, “It wasn’t just the poverty. It was the confusion” belongs to her.

She emphasizes this clarification and identifies this theme as central to the Great Depression, the war, and the post-war eras. She believes that we are currently in a time of great confusion where the question “Can you help me understand the world” is appropriate.

  1. ed nelson says:

    That’s is a nice biographical look back in time, which is helpful, to get a grip, where we are and will be, in our own times of confusion.

    Reminded me of a book if you might be interested, to do with in earnest accounts of folks telling of their lives: Studs Terkel’s “Working… “. And others too, which give an unvarnished reality, and reveal interesting sides to things.

    PS: thanks for your good works, and great interpersonal helps, now and again.

    PPS: Fred brought up a thing couple a days back, the inner demon, or id, or what was it…? the Widget within… sort of a shadow thing, reminded me of the theme of ” Forbidden Planet” where the monster from the id takes over the technologie.

  2. ed nelson says:

    well I was in my… usual… “cups” but really, it is a work of, a thing that has been promoted, or something from my conversations with my old childhood friend, who though he may be… a little… weird, ( he is way weird to see, and he plays that card to the hilt… ) the guy is a scource of a lot of info, and he knows all the stuff about our past little community that I naively never put together… he schooled me on massive amounts of: who is who, and who was related to who, and so forth. Never heard a word from Ken Nordstrand, my best freind in school for thirty years, at that time in 1964, me and Ken and his best friend… Paul Joses, piled up all Ken’s belongings and took him up to go to college. To his little dorm or wtf.

    Never heard a word from him after that, even though we were so great friends more or less in the elementary school, declining in High school, poor ole Ken, fell in with some not too cool characters in high school, I didn’t, I went towards… “(social isolation)” that was my little deal.

    I am so glad to hear you talk on these subjects… and Jesus, let’s us be able to see this crap.

    When you say the “nest ended last night”, what does that mean… tick tock tick tock, sounds like you had a fight, well, there ain’t no better ……… than make up……. and Even a little piker… or non combatant like me knows that…!

    [”The nest ended last night.”] Balongia- balloney… same thing I don’t think that is real… take a breather… as they say.

    PS: all I had to do was go back and figure what Fred had said, as to the spelling of that thing the, Widget, even now it is right there at my fingertips…. Ok I am going to retrieve it:

    I am going to try to bring it up… , oh I inadvertanly purged Fred’s site, so I can’t go there now, cause I don’t remember it. That doesn’t mean I won’t remember it , but now I don’t.

    I really tried to pull up that

    • Let’s see. The nest ended. It’s a WordPress thing. The nested format. FDL is a WordPress site. It just recently went to the numbered format at MyFDL. So, you know the nest thing, right? Anyhow…The nest ended!

      The long-time-ago-really-close friends- I have reconnected with some through Facebook. Don’t exchange that much that often, and have not seen these people in many, many years…but oddly, I feel like these are the folks who truly know me and if we got together today, we would be the same friends.

      Also, Fred’s website:

      As always, good to hear from you!

  3. ed nelson says:

    Hi Crane sta…. I just want to say HI!,,,

    You are wonderfull, and your great husband is outstanding… I am here in Northern Cal, and I am one of your followers, and I hope we will meet some day, but if we don’t, we have met in a way… and we are friends…. Hey what is that thing there… where that they say: so and so is now,,, “friends”… I don’t like that shit…. to me you are friends” if you are a good person, and a good “Joe” you are thus: a good guy, or a good friend,,,

    I am a littlle discusted with that shit thing: friends, for Christ’s sakes,,, you mean to say:

    • Good point, Ed, and it would be nice to meet someday. You live in a beautiful place.We have considered relocating there, just don’t know if we could ever afford it.

  4. ed nelson says:

    Ok I got that,, finally I get it.. for Christ’s sakes, why did they change the thing in the first place?

    I wonder if I personally was one of the ones who… made some problem, because reallly got off on using those writing things…. I loved that shit…. you could make Italics… strike-through… bold… etc. etc.. and then all of a sudden, not… just a little thin little nothing kind of deal… I didn’t think much of that.

    Of course I didn’t think much of being canned from commenting either! like days after I sent them my 45$ and you know the poor little dweeb that answers the “phone” there, hell he is completely at a loss.. Jane is a bitch. and I think, to tell the it… I think she is using some of those less than nice “people/psedonamees… (margaret, pheneox woman, ) my guess, is those are Jane going in drag, as)) I think those are Jane doing her thing, going “incognito”.. she could be any of the many idiot bot assholes that… who knows who these bastards are… if I was in charge, hell I would do that too, I would do that. not.!!

    No I would not do that… but I see how cool it might be…. power corrupts.

    • LOL! OMG. Well, my mother always said, “To each his own.” I do not personally know anyone you mention here, and have not had an issue. But, I’m just kind of a nobody over there. Not sure Jane has even read a single essay I have ever written. Sigh. As for the nests, I think a lot of folks at MyFDL did not care for them.

  5. ed nelson says:

    Well, my mommy is dead,,, How are you supposed to feel about that? I don’t know, my onliest mommy is gonnersville to the max.

    Even though we were sometimes…. kinda at … odds….Tell you what! I loved my mommy

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