It seems every year the politically correct trot out a growing list of indictments against the great explorer Christopher Columbus. As we observe Columbus Day in the United States this October 12, some will claim Columbus was an oppressor. Others will wrongfully accuse him of racism. To get a real sense of why Columbus is under constant attack, remember that while he was a great explorer, he was first and foremost a faithful Catholic.
Some of the greatest minds in the history of the Church and the have spoken eloquently about the meaning of Columbus and his discovery of the New World in October 1492.
Father John M. Naughtin, who served as Wisconsin state chaplain of the Knights of Columbus in the opening years of the 20th century, preached an eloquent sermon on Columbus on October 16, 1910 at St. Rose Catholic Church in Racine. Naughtin’s audience at that 8 a.m. Mass was a large gathering of Racine Knights of Columbus and their families. (See below for the full text.)
“The very name Christopher is symbolic of the man’s character and deeds — Christopher mean- ing ‘Christ bearer’ — a messenger of peace,” Naughtin said. “Our great patron was a messenger bringing the knowledge of Christ from the old world to the new. What better name could God have selected for the man who was to do so much good for the universe?”
Pope Leo XIII issued an encyclical, Quarto Abeunte Saeculo, on the 400th anniversary of Landing Day. The Holy Father said this of Columbus: “The greatness of his mind and heart can be compared to but few in the history of humanity.”
The late Father John Hardon, S.J., an expert on Columbus, said the Genoa native “was the instrument of extraordinary grace.” “It is one thing to say that Columbus discovered America,” Hardon said in 1992 on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the New World. “It is something else to realize that he opened the door to the most phenomenal spread of Christianity since the time of St. Paul.”
Hardon said Columbus’s “phenomenal career on earth was a heroic response to a sublime vocation. He was the destined herald of the true faith to half of the human race.”
Let’s remember this year to celebrate the real Columbus and ignore the nattering of the revisionists.
Homily of Rev. John M. Naughtin, October 16, 1910:
In the annals of history and tradition, no man stands forth more prominently than the man whose deeds we are commemorating today. For although Columbus has been dead about four hundred years, he is just beginning to be appreciated now. Only the infinite knowledge of God himself can grasp the meaning of the work of Columbus.
Think of what this western world has developed into since Columbus’s time — the home of millions and the homes of millions yet to come — all the work of a simple, practical Catholic man, Christopher Columbus, the Genoese. A man who was not understood in his own country; who many times did not have enough to eat. Italy would not have him; it jeered at him and practically turned him out to find in Spain a welcoming hand and the substantial aid that made his great work possible.
America owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Spain. We are told of the deeds of the Caesars, of Napoleon and of Wellington, but all these figures were simply national — striving for one country, but Columbus is a worldwide character; he worked that the whole world might benefit from his deeds.
The very name Christopher is symbolic of the man’s character and deed: Christopher meaning ‘Christ-bearer’ — a messenger of peace. Our great patron was a messenger bringing the knowledge of Christ from the old world to the new. What better name could God have selected for the man who was to do so much good for the universe? In his youth, Columbus often sat by the seashore and wondered where and whence the great white winged ships came from. No doubt some had been on trips to the Holy Land and the Sepulchre and to follow in their footsteps became his one desire and that one thought dominated his life.
Columbus did not belong to the 20th century class of explorers; he did not seek for material gain, but his great Catholic heart was filled with an overwhelming charity and love of God. He founded a home for people from every part of this world’s surface—for all colors, all races and conditions of men. His first act, upon reaching land, true, to his faith, was to fall upon his knees in devotion, dedicating this new world to the Almighty God. He did not crave acres of this new country, but rather that to the souls of these strangers might be brought the knowledge of God. Columbus was great — there have been none greater — but Columbus the Catholic was still greater. It was his faith which gave him the strength and the courage to undergo the trials of his explorations; to undergo, as Christ had undergone, the misrepresentations, the calumnies, the backbiting of his enemies and even to his returning to Spain in shackles after his wonderful trip which resulted in the discovery of a new land.
It is a good thing in this world of ours to have some model. The model we, the Knights of Columbus, have to imitate was, to be sure, a mere man, but great enough and powerful enough to do as God willed. The name Knights of Columbus is very appropriate—the word “knight” typifying everything that is admirable in a man, embracing all the manly qualities and this coupled with the name Columbus, has a wonderful significance.
Even as the attention of the stranger entering New York harbor is arrested by the Statue of Liberty towering for hundreds of feet and standing for the freedom of the new land, so does the greatness of Columbus tower im- measurably above that statue so that the whole world may gaze upon him, and gazing upon him, do him honor.
I wish I could get you a big birthday gift this year, like prepaid college tuition or a new car. But I can’t. I think I have something much more valuable to share, though. I wrote the letter below almost 23 years ago, when you were barely two weeks old.
Much has changed in our lives and in the world since then. You grew up and overcame big challenges on your way to high school, and then college. You’ve gone out into the work work and supported yourself as you pay for your own education. I know that has been hard, but it is a great credit to you, and I’m very proud of you.
When I wrote the letter, we had no idea who you would become. You were at times a cranky baby, with lots of colic. But you were mostly happy. It was a sheer delight watching you grow up. As I see you ready to celebrate your 23rd birthday, I can say that I could not be a more proud Dad of my only son. Just like the letter says, you’ve grown up to be a good man. I love you.
Feb. 2, 1992
Dear Stevie —
You probably don’t like us calling you Stevie anymore, but right now, it fits you perfectly. It’s 10:30 p.m. on a Sunday. I’m watching a rerun of M*A*S*H on television as your Mom naps on the couch. You are asleep in your crib down the hall. I can hear you breathing over the nursery monitor.
There are a lot of things I want to say to you. The first is that your Mom and I love you very much. You’re only 2 weeks old, but you’ve added so much to our lives. And now we sit and imagine what kind of a person you will grow up to be. We know you’ll be a good boy, and eventually, a good man.
First, some history. You were born at 8:41 p.m. on Jan. 20. You weighed 7 pounds 13 ounces. I’ll never forget your little hand clutched around my finger as you lay on the incubator table. You were so alert as you waited to be put in a blanket.
The day you were born, George Bush was President of the United States. Tommy Thompson (a good friend of your great Grandpa Carl) was governor of Wisconsin. Your Dad works as a reporter for the Racine Journal Times, covering state government and politics. Your Mom works for Communications Concepts in Racine, doing graphic arts on a computer. The top TV shows are Cheers, Murphy Brown and L.A. Law.
You are a beautiful baby. You have dark eyes, red hair and soft, rounded cheeks. You’re only 2 weeks old, but already you can lift your head in the crib. I wonder what you are thinking when you gaze up at us while you’re feeding or playing. We nicknamed you “Popeye” because when you want your bottle, you look up with only 1 eye open and open your mouth.
You were conceived at the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Your Mom was in the Army Reserves and was called off to war in Dec. 1990. She was stationed in Augsburg, Germany, as a food inspector. When she came home from war in April 1991, we had you. You were part of what was called “Operation Desert Stork,” named after the war, “Operation Desert Storm.”
As I write this your Mom and I are looking forward to seeing you crawl, take your first steps, and all the things that come after. But for now, there’s one thing we’re sure of — how happy we are you’re here.
At Christmas 2014 with Mr. Puggles.
A 2008 image of Stevie.
Stevie with one of his patented expressions.
We used to stuff pillows in our sweatpants and hip check each other around.
One of my favorite photos, taken at Wisconsin Dells.
By Joe Hanneman
For more than 25 years, the University of Wisconsin-Parkside’s two duplicates of the famed “Sifting and Winnowing” plaques that memorialize the Richard Ely academic freedom trial sat in a corner of the archives, virtually untouched. On at least two occasions, efforts were made to put the plaques on display, but to no avail. Then in 1998, with the university’s 30th anniversary looming, Interim Chancellor Dr. Gordon H. Lamb decided the time had come to give the plaques their proper due.
Old trophies line the shelves inside the former Madison Brass Works on the East Side of Wisconsin’s capital city. Just feet from where craftsmen over the years made everything from airplane parts to torpedo components sit icons of more leisurely pursuits: a bowling champion from 1949, boat-racing trophies from the former owner. They sit seemingly untouched since the day they were placed there nearly 50 years ago. Much about the wood-frame foundry seems in a time warp. Old foundry patterns hang along the side walls like suits in a closet. The floor is stacked with flasks and jackets for pouring and forming molten metal. A huge green muller sits in the center, used to mix sand and carbonite. It all looks straight from the 1940s.
It’s a good thing this place lives in the past. This building where the University of Wisconsin’s “Sifting and Winnowing” plaque was made in 1910 came to play a big role in UW-Parkside’s project to restore and display its versions of the 255-pound plaque in 1998.
The Madison Brass Works technically no longer exists. Now called Celestial Stone Foundry and Forge, the company and its one employee/owner helped repair and restore UW-Parkside’s two sifting and winnowing plaques and cast a rededication plaque using the very same pattern-maker’s letters from the original.
In 1910 when UW-Madison student Hugo H. Hering made what he later called the “purely hand-made” wooden pattern for the sifting and winnowing plaque, he couldn’t have intended for it to survive much beyond creation of the one plaque.
His effort not only survived his time, but it may still exist today. When contacted in early 1998 about making rededication plaques, Tom Pankratz, the owner of Celestial Stone Foundry, located the old wood pattern buried under others at the foundry. He can’t be sure it is the exact version from 1910, but it is a distinct possibility it is original material from the Class of 1910.
“It was accidental that it survived to this day,” Pankratz said, surveying the old pattern, which was badly singed by a fire at the foundry in the 1960s. “It was buried under something.”
Dave Olson, a retired Madison Brass foundry worker who volunteered his time to work on the UW-Parkside project, said it was unusual for patterns to survive so many years. “Most places would either return it to the owner or get rid of it,” he said.
Pankratz carefully lifted letters from the historic pattern to create a plaque for UW-Parkside that states: “Rededicated 1998.” It has the look and feel of the first sifting and winnowing plaque with the added historic flavor from the original letters.
Pankratz also found a master copy of the bronze anchor covers that adorn the original plaque on Bascom Hall in Madison. The ornate, 1.25-inch square tablets were used to cover the holes where the anchors were inserted to hold the plaque in place. Using the master, Pankratz created matching anchor covers for UW-Parkside’s plaques.
“Originally it was probably made by a hand carver,” Olson said.
Artists Martha Glowacki and Mary Dickey of Sylva Designs of Sauk City worked with Pankratz to repair and restore the two 4-by-4-foot plaques. The UW-Parkside plaques were cast in 1964. The holes drilled in the plaques when they hung at the old UW Centers in Racine and Kenosha were welded and new holes drilled to match the original plaque. The black surface under the brass letters was repaired and repainted. The brass surfaces were machine- and hand sanded and polished. At completion, the restored plaques had a luster probably matched only by the original sheen.
Glowacki also created plaques that include explanatory text briefly telling the sifting and winnowing story. Those exquisite bronze plaques have etched letters and an etched photo of the UW-Parkside campus. “We enjoyed the project,” Glowacki said. She, Dickey and Pankratz, all UW-Madison graduates, said it was a privilege to work on a project of such historic importance to the university.
In the case of the Sifting and Winnowing plaques, the third time was a charm. A committee of the 20th anniversary first attempted to find a suitable location for the plaques, but that effort was never completed. In 1992, UW-Parkside Interim Chancellor John Stockwell expressed desire to install the plaques, but the project didn’t happen before he left the university.
In 1998, Interim Chancellor Gordon H. Lamb saw an opportunity to install the plaques, tie them in to the 30th anniversary and promote a longstanding tradition of academic freedom. “The plaques symbolize such tradition,” said Lamb, who went on to lead the University of Missouri System after leaving UW-Parkside. “I felt it was important the campus embrace the history and the tradition.” Lamb headed a committee that oversaw the restoration and planned for the new displays at UW-Parkside. The group included UW-Parkside Archivist Ellen Pedraza, who called new attention to the long-stored plaques in 1993.
At the rededication event held at UW-Parkside in late November 1998, new Chancellor Jack Keating expressed gratitude for the work to “free the plaques from the archive.” He said the plaques are an important reminder of free intellectual discourse.
W. Lee Hansen, professor emeritus of economics at UW-Madison, called the 1894 Regents report that led to the plaque a “forceful and vivid expression of a university’s commitment to the search for truth.” Hansen is editor of the 1998 book Academic Freedom on Trial: 100 Years of Sifting and Winnowing at the University of Wisconsin. The statement on the plaque, Hansen told the assembly, “affirms the right, indeed the obligation, of faculty and students to pursue the truth through the Sifting and Winnowing process.” (Dr. Hansen’s entire talk from the event is available on his UW-Madison web site.)
The plaques were installed just outside the UW-Parkside library near the portrait of founding Chancellor Irvin G. Wyllie, and outside of the Admissions Office in Molinaro Hall.
And the rest, as they say, is history. ♦
(A version of this article appeared in the winter 1998-99 issue of Perspective magazine at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.)
Pankratz and Olson prepare the form for the molten metal.
Pankratz moves the bucket of molten metal with the aid of a hoist.
The load is steadied before the pour.
Pankratz pours molten metal into the form while Dave Olson watches.
The anchor covers were used as give-aways at the rededication.
Martha Glowacki and Mary Dickey do finishing work on one of the plaques.
Tom Pankratz examines what is believed to be the original wooden “Sifting and Winnowing” plaque form.
After a year leading UW-Parkside during its search for a new chancellor, Dr. Gordon H. Lamb was named interim head of the University of Missouri System. He later founded his own consulting firm in Missouri doing executive recruiting. Dr. Lamb was a renowned expert on choral music and the author of Choral Techniques. As a music professor and choral conductor, he conducted concerts in 17 states and in Europe. He spent 10 years as president of Northeastern Illinois University, preceded by 16 years as a music professor and administrator at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Dr. Lamb was a skilled leader, a true gentleman and a great man — the best boss I’ve ever had. He died on February 6, 2012 in Columbia, Missouri.
Mary Dickey is curator for River Arts on Water, a gallery in downtown Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin. She recently designed and created a roadside shrine, “A Call to Beauty,” part of the Fermentation Fest Farm/Art DTour in fall 2014.
Martha Glowacki is recently retired from her role as curator of the James Watrous Gallery in Madison, part of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences Arts & Letters. She was previously director of the Design Gallery at UW–Madison. She and Tom Pankratz worked together on the 1999-2000 restoration of the World War I Doughboy statue in West Bend, Wisconsin. Pankratz sold his Madison foundry in 2014 and moved out West.
W. Lee Hansen, professor emeritus of economics at UW-Madison, has been conducting research on the UW System’s diversity programs. He is writing a book that will, among other things, examine the costs vs. benefits of diversity programs, arguing the university should have an admissions system based on merit and academic promise. He has also written extensively on the issue of academic freedom.
By Joe Hanneman MAJ. JOSEPH SMALL III GREW CONCERNED as he peered out the windshield of his U.S. Marine Corps OV-10 Bronco reconnaissance plane, cruising low over enemy territory just inside Kuwait. It was early afternoon, Feb. 25, 1991, the second day of the Allied ground war. It was an all-out assault against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces, who held the tiny oil-rich nation with an iron grip. But unlike the clear skies on the first day of the ground offensive, the weather had turned ominous.
Small lowered his twin-engine turboprop plane to about 4,500 feet. He was just beneath the low, stormy cloud ceiling and in the midst of thick, sooty smoke from the oil-well fires that scorched the earth below. He didn’t like being this low in a plane that flew only about one-fourth the speed of a U. S. fighter jet. He’d been the target of two Iraqi surface-to-air missiles on a previous mission, but was never low enough to really worry about being hit.
Today was different.
Small and his aerial observer, Marine Corps Capt. David Spellacy, were searching for an Iraqi tank column that had slowed the advance of the 1st Marine Division’s 1st Tank Battalion into southwest Kuwait. They set up a search pattern, and planned to call in air and artillery strikes on the tanks once they found them. While Spellacy surveyed the desert floor below, Small kept “jinking” the plane in erratic movements, hoping to make the aircraft a difficult target for Iraqi gunners.
After a few minutes of searching, they came upon a large, trench complex dug into the sand below. They were close enough to see soldiers moving about on the ground.
SMALL QUICKLY REALIZED HE’D STUMBLED ONTO a hornet’s nest of Iraqi troops, and was flying low enough to get stung. While Spellacy took down target coordinates, Small thought about getting the plane out of there. It was too late.
Screaming from the ground at 5 o’clock, a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile ripped into the right wing, killing Spellacy and crippling the aircraft. “I remember a loud explosion,” Small said. “It felt like a giant hand came out and smacked the airplane, like swatting a fly. I remember a brilliant, white light, coming from somewhere. The airplane was instantly, completely out of control.”
Not knowing Spellacy’s condition, or that the plane’s right wing had been blown off, Small tried to regain control of the craft. It didn’t work. Racing against time, Small pulled the eject handle. Within a second, both men rocketed free of the crippled airplane, 3-5 miles inside enemy territory. “I don’t remember any noise,” Small said. “My next conscious thought was when I was under the parachute.”
Small’s duty in Operation Desert Storm was the first combat assignment for the Racine native and 1975 UW-Parkside graduate. He’d arrived in Saudi Arabia on the first day of the air war, Jan. 17, with Marine Observation Squadron 1 from New River, N.C. Typically, he flew one mission per day. He’d leave the airstrip near the port city of Jubayl each day for a 4-hour flight, mostly patrolling the Kuwait-Saudi border and mapping enemy tank and troop locations.
IT WAS A LONG WAY FROM TINY SYLVANIA AIRPORT in Racine County, where Small fulfilled his dream of earning a pilot’s license on the day he graduated from UW-Parkside in December 1975. During his 17 years in the Corps, he’d flown other dangerous missions. He flew a helicopter on search-and-rescue missions to aid survivors of Hurricane David in the Dominican Republic in 1979. On one mission, his helicopter ended up belly-deep in mud as survivors rushed the craft to get at relief supplies.
He also flew drug interdiction missions in cooperation with the U.S. Customs Service and the Coast Guard in 1987. On one mission, he stumbled onto an air-to-boat drop of drugs, and guided law enforcement to the scene. The dealers were caught and convicted. Another time; another enemy. Now, floating into the hands of the Iraqis, Small pulled his survival radio from his vest and got off a quick mayday, noting his location. Now all he could do was wait to hit the ground.
When he landed, Small tore ligaments in his knee, and suffered a deep cut on his forearm. He laid on the ground, facing up. Within seconds, a dozen Iraqi soldiers were all over him. There was no running. “Evidently, the sound of my aircraft crashing got them out of their holes. Why they didn’t shoot – to this day I don’t know.”
After disarming him and removing his survival vest at gunpoint, the soldiers put Small in a land rover and drove north. A soldier in the front seat had his rifle pointed at Small’s face. A rival group of soldiers in another vehicle tried to run them off the road. Small looked to one of his captors for a clue to what was happening.
“He looked at me and said, ‘They’re crazy. They want to kill you.’ ”
SMALL WAS TAKEN TO AN UNDERGROUND BUNKER complex several miles away. He waited about 45 minutes as the Iraqis figured out what to do with him. One of the soldiers held a cigarette to his mouth for a few puffs. After taking his flight suit and gear, they dragged him up the stairs and stuffed him into another vehicle. This time, the destination was Kuwait City. At a building in the center of the Kuwaiti capital, the soldiers sat Small in the center of a room for another round of interrogation. The cloth strips used to bind his hands dug into his wrists, causing deep lacerations. The beating started off with cuffs to the ears and back of the head. They administered what Small called “a pretty good whooping,” but they never struck him in the face. After being led into another room, he was whipped with what he believed was a fire hose. One soldier hit him in the back of the head so hard it knocked him out cold.
“I figured they were going to beat me, then shoot me,” he said.
Small remembered what he had read about POWs in Vietnam, and how American soldiers answered questions by being vague or telling lies. It was a technique he would use often during his interrogation; a technique he later credited with saving his life. When the Iraqis found his flight map among his belongings and began questioning him about what it meant, Small said he told the “biggest, grandest lie I think I’ve ever told in my entire life.” It worked.
After that session ended, Small was again loaded into a vehicle and driven from Kuwait City to Basra in southern Iraq, headquarters of Saddam’s elite Republican Guard. They traveled up a darkened Highway 6, which would within two days become known as the “Highway of Death,” as Allied pilots destroyed scores of retreating Iraqi vehicles.
During the next interrogation, Small was not beaten, but was threatened with death if he didn’t cooperate. The next morning, Small was put into a car and driven to Baghdad. He was afraid during the daylong drive – afraid that U.S. planes might spot them on the highway and bomb the vehicle. Luckily for him, the weather was bad and no planes were visible. “Again,” Small said, “God was on my side. He kept the weather bad. Had the weather been nicer, I’m sure we wouldn’t have made it.”
SMALL ENDURED ONE LAST ROUND OF QUESTIONING before being sent to a POW prison. Guards who led him to the questioning hit him in the head, and purposely made him walk into walls or trip on the stairs. He was unsure what the Iraqis had in store for him. He had seen the pictures of captured Allied soldiers on CNN, soldiers who’d been beaten bloody and forced to read statements condemning the war. He knew what could happen. Then the questions ended. Small was taken to a dark, cold prison and left in a cell by himself. It had been 30 hours since he was shot down, and the impact of his ordeal caught up with him. He sat in his cell and wept.
He found only restless sleep that night, on a small square of foam padding that served as a bed. The night was interrupted by U.S. air raids that drew loud anti-aircraft fire from inside the prison compound. Having hit rock bottom emotionally, Small sat in his 12-by-12 cell and prayed. It was about the only comfort he’d found since being captured. He was making peace with God. “I figured that was it; I was done.”
Although his cell door had a blanket draped over it to keep him from seeing out, Small on occasion heard muffled whispers from other cells. At one point, he heard his name whispered. Someone must have heard him announce his name to the guards when he came in the night before. In between visits by his captors, Small discovered there were five other Allied pilots in his wing of the prison. Slowly, they exchanged information in whispers. He filled them in on the progress of the war. A couple days later, two more prisoners were brought in. The men worked to keep each others’ spirits up. On occasion, Small’s guard would give him a cigarette. He even brought him some hot tea on evening. “That was a good day,” Small said.
THE FIRST HINT THE WAR WAS OVER was when the bombing stopped. The prisoners heard the report of small arms fire in Baghdad, a traditional Muslim sign of celebration. On the night of March 4, all the prisoners were gathered, put on a bus and driven to another prison in Baghdad. A representative of the Red Crescent (similar to the Red Cross) was taking down everyone’s name. Prisoners were allowed to shave, then were blindfolded.
They were loaded onto a bus, and told they were now in the custody of the International Red Cross. It was finally ending. “That was the first time I really believed it,” Small said. They were put up at a luxury hotel for the night, and treated to hot showers and good food. The next day, they were loaded onto a Swissair plane and took off for Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Near Saudi airspace, the commercial jet was joined up by two American F-15 fighters, which flew in tight formation as an escort. The pilots raised their helmet shields and gave a thumbs up. They broke away and were replaced by two British Tornado fighters. Their first official welcome home was a stirring sight for all on board. “It was the happiest day of my life, boy. We let out a whoop.”
When Small descended the steps at the Riyadh airfield, U.S. Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, the Allied commander, was waiting to greet the POWs. The big, burly four-star general had tears streaming down his face.
AFTER A CHECKUP ABOARD A U.S. HOSPITAL SHIP near Bahrain, Small and his comrades flew a VIP plane to Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Waiting there were thousands of people, including his wife, Leanne, their children Lauren, 10, and Michael, 8, his son, David, 17, and his parents, Joe and Dolores Small of Racine.
Despite his valor and bravery, Small refuses to call himself a hero. And it’s not just modesty. He says many other soldiers have withstood much worse than he, including Vietnam POWs who didn’t come home to the adulation of the American public. That’s a message he’s carried to dozens of speaking engagements since the war ended. He’s also had difficulty dealing with the death of Spellacy – known as “Hank” in his unit – who left behind a wife and three young children. Small described his partner that day as the “greatest guy you’d ever want to know.”
Small has experienced “survivor guilt” and wondered if there’s anything he might have done to change the outcome. He knows there are no answers. “He was sitting three feet behind me. He got hit and I didn’t. God had something for me to do and God had something for Hank to do.”
Small, 41, was stationed in Florida after the war, training future Navy and Marine pilots at Pensacola Naval Air Station. (He retired from the Corps in early 1994 and started life as a civilian.) Small hopes his POW experience and willingness to talk about it will one day help some future soldier survive imprisonment in an enemy camp.
“If I can have some influence at some time on someone who may go through this 10, 15, 20 years from now … that’s what’s going to make it all worthwhile.” ♦
This story originally appeared in the Spring 1993 issue of Perspective magazine at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside
This is a blast from the past of the author of this blog. Reporter Joe Hanneman (skinny guy with hair at left) takes notes at a press event in Racine, Wisconsin, held by Wisconsin Gov. Tommy G. Thompson. The photo was taken around 1988. Hanneman covered Wisconsin state politics and the Wisconsin Legislature for The Journal Times, Racine’s daily newspaper. The event was likely some kind of economic development announcement from the governor’s office. Also visible in the photo are Racine County Executive Dennis Kornwolf, State Sen. Joseph Strohl of Racine and State Rep. E. James Ladwig of Caledonia. Some 27 years later, Hanneman has neither thick hair nor thin waist.
Milwaukee was a key industrial production hub during World War II, and there was concern that spies or saboteurs would attack defense contractors or the public utilities that supplied them with power. As a master mechanic at Wisconsin Electric’s huge Lakeside Power Plant in St. Francis, Earl J. Mulqueen Sr. worked under tight security to ensure the war effort continued uninterrupted.
Nicknamed “The Governor,” Mulqueen was well known around his home in Cudahy as a Mr. Fixit. Whenever the boiler would go out at St. Frederick’s Catholic Church or school, they would call the Governor to come over and get things working again. When World War II broke out in late 1941, Mulqueen was just starting his third decade working for Wisconsin Electric. He put his mechanical skills to work keeping the turbines and other equipment at Lakeside in good working order.
Signs on and around the Lakeside plant carried a warning: “National Defense Premises. No Entry.” Armed agents guarded the plant 24 hours a day — part of a force of more than 1,000 men providing security at Wisconsin power utilities during the war. Because of his key role in keeping Lakeside in operation, Mulqueen received his own security protection. He often stayed at the plant for long stretches. When he came home to fetch clean clothes and pay a quick visit, he was accompanied by FBI agents. On occasion, an agent came alone to pick up clothes or other supplies for Mulqueen.
The security precautions were warranted. Milwaukee factories were converted to war production of artillery, fuel storage, engines, turbines and all sorts of mechanical parts. The build-up created huge demand for power. The nation could ill afford an attack that shut down a key plant like Lakeside. Even before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Wisconsin Electric officials expressed security concerns, and fears the Lakeside power plant could be attacked with explosives by boat from Lake Michigan.
Nazi Germany launched just such a plan when it landed eight special agents on the shores of New York and Florida in June 1942. The German agents carried explosives and were tasked with blowing up U.S. defense industries and terrorizing population centers. “They came to maim and kill,” said FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Codenamed Operation Pastorius, the plot was foiled when one of the saboteurs turned himself in to the FBI. Federal agents arrested the men and recovered high explosives disguised as pieces of coal.
Such an attack could have been devastating. Manufacturers like Allis-Chalmers, Falk Corp., Ladish, Bucyrus Erie, Case, Heil Co. and many others produced components and finished goods for the U.S. military. Everything from engines, to fuel trailers, to cargo and transport ships were built in eastern Wisconsin during the war. Wisconsin utilities scrambled to add generating capacity to keep up. Opened in 1920, Lakeside carried the burden of power supply as the other generation plants were being built.
Mulqueen left his job as a machinist at the Case plow works in Racine in February 1920 to work for the Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Co. (later called Wisconsin Electric) as a machinist helper in the utility’s Racine operations. In November of that year, he married Margaret Madonna Dailey at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Racine. A former teacher, Miss Dailey had graduated in June 1920 from Northwestern University. Earl worked in Racine until 1925, when he was transferred to the Lakeside Power Plant. The Mulqueen family then moved to Cudahy. The couple had 11 children; six of whom served in the U.S. military.
For a child growing up in the 1930s and 1940s, big adventure often came in small packages. Like many boys his age, David D. Hanneman (1933-2007) was an avid collector of Big Little Books. These chunky mini-books allowed adventure-seeking children to follow the action of Buck Rogers, Dick Tracy, Flash Gordon, Tarzan and other characters. All for 10 cents a book.
The original Big Little Books concept was pioneered by the Whitman Publishing Company of Racine, Wisconsin. Whitman was a subsidiary of Western Publishing, the creator of the famous Little Golden Books (think Poky Little Puppy). Big Little Books were roughly 3¾ inches wide by 4½ inches high. Thickness varied by page count. For example, the 1934 Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express had 380 pages and was 1¼ inches thick. The layout was one of the classic features of Big Little Books. Each page spread had text on the left side and a black-and-white illustration on the right.
Whitman Publishing came out with its first Big Little Book in 1932, The Adventures of Dick Tracy. Soon after, Whitman had titles with comic strip characters like Wash Tubbs, as well as a range of Walt Disney titles. The 1934 series alone included titles such as Chester Gump Finds the Hidden Treasure, Buck Rogers in the City Below the Sea, Reg’lar Fellers, Betty Boop in Snow White, Kayo and Moon Mullins, Mickey Mouse in Blaggard Castle and Dick Tracy and the Stolen Bonds.
Most of the books had hard covers, although my Dad had one Buck Rogers title that was softcover and in a slightly smaller format (only 4¼ inches high). This book had no page numbers. The inside back cover spread was a two-page ad for Cocomalt drink mix. The 1935 Tom Mix and Tony Jr. in Terror Trailwas a larger format (4 5/8 by 5¼ inches) and featured real photographs inside.
For my Dad’s 8th birthday, he received a copy of the 1941 Tarzan the Untamed by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Ever the historian, my Grandma Ruby V. Hanneman wrote the particulars down in blue pencil on the inside front cover: “David Dion Hanneman, March 27, 1941, for 8th birthday, from Dad, Mother, Lavonne and Donn.” This title was from the Better Little Books series, also published by Whitman. In addition to the story and illustrations, it had a flip-book feature that showed an animation as the reader flipped the pages through his thumb and forefinger.
Titles in the 1941 Better Little Books series included Big Chief Wahoo and the Magic Lamp, Mickey Mouse on Sky Island, Popeye and a Sock for Susan’s Sake, G-Man and the Gun Runners, Dick Tracy and his G-Men, Red Barry Undercover Man, Ellery Queen and the Adventure of the Last Man’s Club, Inspector Charlie Chan Solves a New Mystery and others. By the time he was in high school, my Dad stopped adding to his collection. But they clearly held a special place in his heart, since he kept and safeguarded them for more than 50 years before passing them on.
As any serious genealogist will tell you, a visit to a cemetery can provide a wealth of family history information. But it can be much more than that. Each year as we approach All Souls Day (November 2), the season presents an opportunity to renew and maintain family connections, just by walking through a cemetery.
One of the most touching scenes I’ve encountered was at a small cemetery in Augsburg, Germany. Walking past after dark, I looked through the small gate to see dozens of flickering vigil candles. These were not solar lights but real candles. Someone cared enough to visit there each night and light the votives.
A 20-minute walk through any cemetery will provide you access to family stories. Parents who lived long, full lives. Others who died much too young. Babies, some just one day old. Some who were never born. John and Jane Does, victims of murder. And in many older cemeteries, some of the departed rest with no visible monuments. Their markers were damaged or swallowed up in soft ground or by encroaching woods.
Observe the different monuments. Some are massive obelisks, others plain, square markers. A few are made from unusual materials. Some display incredible artistry. In many German cemeteries you will see monuments with engraved hands pointing to Heaven. Angels, crosses and even anchors are common subject of monument carvings.
Some cemeteries are known more for their infamy, such as Oak Grove Cemetery in Eagle, Wisconsin. We chronicled that story earlier in “A Sad Resting Place for Little Ida.” It is sad to see a cemetery fall into neglect and disrepair. It’s especially angering when a cemetery is targeted by vandals. A few years back, thugs toppled more than 100 monuments at Calvary Cemetery and Old Holy Cross Cemetery in Racine, Wisconsin. My Knights of Columbus council spent several weekends righting the monuments and making extensive repairs. Most of the damage was fixed, but some especially old stones were beyond repair.
Military cemeteries and the graves of soldiers are especially touching. I recall walking row after row of World War I grave markers in Ypres, Belgium, where the famous poemIn Flanders Fields was composed in 1915. All of those young lives cut short by “the war to end all wars.” Such sacrifice. World War I cemeteries dot the landscape in Belgium; some in the middle of farm fields.
While our loved ones are gone, they can teach us still. There are great resources available to help you find where your relatives are buried. My favorite online database is the Find A Grave web site. Take a camera along on your next trip to the cemetery and help your fellow genealogists document history.
I have nothing but good memories of Halloween. Growing up in the late 1960s and early 1970s, October 31 was a date we looked forward to. Whether we got to buy a costume at the dime store or made our own, it was always an exciting night.
One of my most vivid Halloween memories was documented in my book, The Journey Home. I recall Dad tearing out the front door in his sock feet. I wondered what was happening. We figured it out a few minutes later when he dragged two teenagers into the front door and made them apologize for smashing our lit pumpkins. He then turned them over to Sun Prairie police.
We had one sad Halloween when my brother David fell into the neighbors tree well and spilled all of his candy. We all shared to make up for it. Another year, we went across town to “trick or treat” at a few houses of family friends. At one door, I was shocked that the lady who answered called me by name. “How does she know me with this costume on?” I wondered. My brother chimed in, “You forgot to put your mask down.” D’oh!
Perhaps the most fun we had was creating our own costumes. Lighting the end of a cork on fire, then using the charred remains to paint black whiskers on our faces. Stuffing pillows up an oversized shirt helped complete the hobo look.
It wasn’t until toward the end of my trick-or-treating days that the scare over supposed razor blades in candy apples occurred. Hospitals offered to X-ray candy bags to check for pins or razor blades. That made me wonder if the candy would then glow? Ah, as it turned out the whole thing was a fraud that took on the sheen of urban legend.
Once I had my own children, Halloween took on a new dimension. Our firstborn was too shy to go door to door, so we made our main stop at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Eventually, Halloween became a major event. French onion soup or chili simmered in a crock pot while we took the kids around the neighborhood collecting goodies. Then we retreated into the warmth of the house for good food, warm apple cider and pie. The kids also ate candy.
With the more recent controversies claiming Halloween as un-Christian or even satanic, it was refreshing to read this article on About.com regarding the Catholic roots of Halloween.
CRACK! The sound of the first rifle shot left an echo that trailed onto the horizon. We flinched just a bit when the first volley was fired, then heard the barely audible jingle of the ejected brass shell dancing across the pavement. Then silence, followed by orders to fire again. CRACK! A third report rumbled across the landscape. Men and women alike clutched tissues and dabbed tears at the sights, sounds and emotion of the military honor guard that paid tribute Tuesday to my father-in-law, Ronald C. LaCanne.
Darkness had already fallen outside of the Draeger-Langendorf Funeral Home in Racine, Wisconsin, adding to the drama. Everyone stood motionless as two uniformed veterans folded the American flag and presented it to my mother-in-law, Eileen. The slow, steady salute they gave before the flag was a sign of deep respect. It was followed by the playing of Taps. Everyone was choked up to witness such a moving ceremony.
Ron served in the United States Army in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the height of the Cold War era. He was an intelligence officer stationed somewhere in the hinterlands of Alaska, within listening distance of the Soviet Union. He never talked about the work he did there, not wanting in any way to betray national secrets, even 50 years later. He took his commitment that seriously. That is a man of honor.
If you know a veteran, take time today to thank them for serving the United States of America. It’s important that they know our nation is grateful for their sacrifices.
John Chapter 16 offers encouragement to those who have watched a loved one struggle with terminal illness. Jesus said, “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage. I have overcome the world.” Matthew Chapter 25 seemed so fitting as we turned to leave the memorial service. I could almost hear the words echo from Heaven: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. …Come, share your master’s joy.”