Category Archives: History

“Best of Enemies” – Still a good movie 55 years on

I have mentioned the old David Niven flick Best of Enemies half a dozen times now in the blog. It is not to be confused with the more recent movie chronicaling the several decade-long feud between conservative icon William F. Buckley and his liberal alter-ego Gore Vidal.

Well, as with the Coach Klar posts my recollections proved faulty. The Italian and British soldiers did switch sides being captors and prisoners but there were no German Armies that brought them together. Their battles took place in an even more remote theater of the African War than the Sahara. This story was placed in Ethiopia. After years of looking for the movie I discovered over the weekend that someone uploaded it to youtube in the last year. Its free to watch although it was broken up into two halves. I presume this was done to more easily upload it.

The movie came out in 1961 when I was ten and I’m sure that when I watched it on television it was in black and white and cut down from the letterbox format to a squarish size to fit on our old tv.

There was an third force that upended the Brits and the Italians but it wasn’t the Wehrmacht. It was the Ethiopians themselves. In case anyone is inclined to search it out I won’t offer any further spoilers.

I enjoyed the movie this time too but I enjoyed it as much for its historical perspective. In the real war there would have been no love lost between the two European powers but by 1960 Great Britain and Italy were allies not enemies. You see much the same generosity of spirit in American movies set in post war Japan that were filmed in that Era. The old hostilities were being smoothed over even though plenty of American And British soldiers had deep scars from their encounters with the Japanese and other members of the Axis.

On the day that President Trump will give his first speech to Congress…

… I was fixing old posts. One of them was this short post from JANUARY 23, 2012. Richard Nixon’s simple explanation for why America should have two political parties reaching for the center instead of the periphery demonstrates the wisdom he had and that he ignored in order to become President in 1968.

Today the Bernie Sander’s diehards are hoping to do to the Democratic Party what the Tea Party did to the Republican Party. Break it.

From that post:

In 1959, Vice-President Nixon, speaking to members of California’s Commonwealth Club, was asked if he’d like to see the parties undergo an ideological realignment, the sort that has since taken place, and he replied, “I think it would be a great tragedy . . . if we had our two major political parties divide on what we would call a conservative-liberal line.” He continued, “I think one of the attributes of our political system has been that we have avoided generally violent swings in Administrations from one extreme to the other. And the reason we have avoided that is that in both parties there has been room for a broad spectrum of opinion.” Therefore, “when your Administrations come to power, they will represent the whole people rather than just one segment of the people.”

A change of subject-

If I was going to squander my Saturday afternoon blogging it was to be on the MSBA conference but that may end up being a very short post mentioning a few highlights.

One of the things which I intended to report was unrelated. It was my drawing close to finishing the Old Testament which I began to read a few pages at a time over a year ago after my return from Israel/Palestine.

I woke up in the middle of Thursday night and couldn’t sleep so I waded through about thirty pages of the Minor Prophets. I have two of the twelve left or about 12 pages of Old Testament. I think about Trump and the GOP a lot when I read the Bible.

I’ve decided to postpone digging into the New Testament for a little while. I think it would be worthwhile to start from the beginning but I want to start writing that book on my Grandfather so I need to pack up a few distractions. That includes a devilishly hard jigsaw puzzle that no one wanted to help me with during Christmas. I carefully put it away about one fourth done to resume at Thanksgiving.

I have also added a distraction and a fairly big one at that. Claudia and I decided to travel to China this summer. We’ve already paid for it so I hope Trump doesn’t provoke a war. I chose a date to travel that will allow me to file and run for the School Board. Once again we intend to do some reading to prepare and even some study of the Chinese language – online mostly.

I read a short contemporary novel out-loud to Claudia already and she is plowing through Chinese novels. We didn’t get very far on a book by Simon Winchester who has written some great histories.

Coincidentally, I read today’s obituary of a remarkable Chinese economist who lived to age 111 and who simplified the Chinese language so that China could challenge the rest of the world. He got no thanks for it, of course. As is all too common in China no good turn goes unpunished.

MY most enjoyable MSBA convention ends

The image below helps cleanse Lincolndemocrat after the previous post.

I jotted down titles for about ten posts I wanted to write through the School Board conference which ended at noon on Friday. It remains to be seen if I will get around to any of them. I snapped this pic of our key note speaker, retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice, Alan Page.

Thirty years ago he also spoke to the MSBA Conference. That was 1987 which was a pivotal year for me. I was sacked from my last teaching job. We moved to our current address. I made my first “public” snow sculpture. I began thinking seriously about running for the school board. I told my Father this in his last few days of life just after telling him I’d lost my third teaching job then “softening” this with the preposterous notion that I was thinking about running for the school board. It was a futile attempt to cheer up a dying man whose oldest son had just been fired for the third time in a short, disastrous teaching career. He told me solemly that he wondered if I had “will to fail” which broke my heart and caused me many years of deep self reflection. Then my Dad died during one of the most beautiful autumns I’ve ever experienced. My Dad used to pile us into the car to visit Hiawatha and Olathe, Kansas, to marvel at the sugar maples turning red.

I used to watch Alan Page with my Dad but only in the playoffs where the “Purple People Eaters” couldn’t quite lift the Vike’s to a Superbowl victory in four attempts. As a college kid I was aware that Alan Page and the other Vikes drank at Mankato’s downtown bars where my future mother-in-law met and dated one of the coach’s who were using the state college’s facilities to train in the pre-season. Page was famous for carrying a huge purse like bag over his shoulders to the bars. Trust me, no one made fun of a people eater wearing a purse. Besides it was the “Age of Aquarius.”

I love to tell people that I threw a glass of water on Page. Then I explain:

The first time I ran across Page was at one of the earliest Grandma Marathons while Page was still a Viking. Claudia and were out near the Northshore mostly oblivious of the tiny new Marathon’s progress when we drove past a table on Hwy 61 just out of Duluth. We had already noticed other such tables on London Road loaded with water-filled cups for the Marathoners. No one was manning the table as a couple of runners were jogging up in the distance. For the heck of it we pulled over to hand the cups to the stragglers. One of them was Page who was running against the wishes of the coaches who didn’t want him running off any of his massive tackling poundage. As I lifted a cup to him he said, “throw it on me.” I didn’t argue.

Page read a thoughtful, sober-minded speech about his growing up in the shadow of the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, with no childhood thoughts of a football career. Instead, Page, a 70-year-old like Donald Trump, recalled the impact of Brown vs. Board of Education on him as a black kid. (a frequent subject of this blog) Page told anyone who asked him that he intended to be a lawyer. (He probably has pre-law books in the handbag he took into Mankato’s bars)

During training camps his coaches did their best to “educate” their rookies by requiring them to the NFL playbook together. Justice Page told us that the hardest words in these book were “tackle,” “defense,” and “offense.” He recalled how six of the ten recent college graduates on the team struggled. It left Page to ponder their betrayal by an educational system that insured them a poor future after their star turn in the NFL.

Page also mentioned his thirty year old educational foundation which has spent $13 million to get struggling kids to and through college. In thirty years its helped 6000 kids.

He said he was distressed by America’s turn to Trump and alluded to the Trump Empire’s long legal fight to keep its apartments segregated in the good old days. Page is building bridges while Trump is building walls.

Melania

A family member recently Facebooked a Fake news story about the 700 Club’s smarmy Pat Robertson. In it Pat was accused of disparaging a sleveless dress worn by Michelle Obama while heaping praise on a semi nude pic of Melania Trump. Didn’t happen!

I thought I might have referred to a similar story in a previous blog post although it might have been a reply to an email. There was a story about Trump’s wife starting her career in America as an escort. If I mentioned it on my blog a cursory search doesn’t seem to have revealed the allegation.

Melania was born in the old Yugoslavia of my youth. After I moved to Northeastern Minnesota I became aware of the various slavic peoples of that nation who settled in the Iron Mining regions. When, after Rudy Perpich’s term as Governor, Yugoslavia broke up the first area to secede was Slovenia the most prosperous part of the nation. The Range had is share of Slovenes.

I regard our new first Lady as an interesting, if nontraditional, addition to the roll-call of First Ladies. She came here to take advantage of the beauty industry and she married a rich man I’ve never respected. The latter point is irrelevant to this discussion although not to my blogging in general.

Because my Father inculcated a love of Geography in me early on I was aware of “Trieste” the major city of Slovenia which has been contested between the Italians and Slavs for a very long time. Before I set out for Duluth forty years ago one of my Mother’s best friends and a business partners was a woman whose Mother was an Italian woman born in the City. In fact, Daria’s Mother never learned English and spoke Italian in her inner city Italian neighborhood for the rest of her life.

Daria was not a supermodel and she wasn’t “Slovenian.” She was a wonderful person and, like Melania, I would never blame her for anything her husband might have done.

But Melania is on a ride she never planned for. After reading the Snope’s correction I got curious about the much talked about photo shoot in GQ. I wondered if the January 2000 Issue with Melania on the cover had raised in value since November. I checked Ebay out. No Kidding! I’ll bet they only get more expensive as the Trump year’s continue.

The Big Short

I put this movie in my memory bank over the last year when some economic analyst on NPR gave it a big thumbs up. Last night I saw that it was available on Netflix and Claudia and I watched it. It was Economics made fun and every bit as disgusting as a Zombie Apocalypse movie.

The Housing meltdown roughly coincided with the start up of the Red Plan and its purveyors shared many similarities to the get off scott-free, big money folks who pushed replacing almost all our facilities at a single stroke. They got rich and left the District to draw down its reserves, cut teachers, and compound it all by sucking millions of dollars annually out of our local tax levies in the General Fund to pay off Red Plan borrowing. Their supporters herd-like thinking reminded me of the people in the Big Short who stood back in disbelief as investment bankers cost six million Americans to lose their homes.

I’ve mentioned this before but that meltdown was part of the reason I had a heckuva time fighting the Red Plan. My family got caught up in the housing mania and a massive loan was taken out on my Mother’s house even though it was only a decade away from being paid off in full with very modest house payments. I’ve recently patched up my differences with the family members who lost that house and left me to spend months and months trying to get City Bank and Wells Fargo to let us short sell the house at a loss (for the banks) who eagerly permitted the misguided loan to go through. Our “short sale” took my brother and me months of calling the banks daily to find a human behind a phone. It was all I could do to find time for two simultaneous battles. When the sale neared completion and I finally pulled out of the Red Plan fight I took a vacation with Claudia. I faxed the last papers to the bank while traveling through, Lincoln, Nebraska, on our way to the Colorado Plateau. I was desperate to get out of town. I was so worn out that I got violently ill at the Grand Canyon. One morning Claudia heard an elk bugling outside our cabin and she thought it was me in my deaths throes. That’s what you get for burning your candle at two ends.

This post needs a good editing but that can wait. Claudia and I are going out to see Hidden Figures. That should be a good film too.

Editing is now complete…….

Hidden Figures is great.

Bleeding Kansas


This is one of my Mother’s paintings. Its called “Lilly White Town.” She painted it to symbolize the new world we had moved to when we left Kansas and my Dad began teaching business law at Mankato State. It was a different world where some of my new school mates took to calling me “reb” because they thought my Kansas accent was a southern accent.

When I moved from Topeka, Kansas, to Mankato, Minnesota in 1963 to start junior high school I left a classroom in which there were as many black kids as white kids. My new school had never seen a single black child in a hundred years.

The fellow I call “my Buddy” likes to send me emails calling be a “bigot.” He also calls me a “race hustler.” This is a person I once teased when I discovered he wrote a civil rights rule for a municipality back in the day. I don’t think that when he calls me names he means that I am prejudiced against white people although its likely he thinks I’m guilty of “liberal guilt.” This is a term used by “conservatives” who also like to call liberals “bleeding hearts.” Liberals are supposed to be driven by guilt to rectify old wrongs by accepting the blame for them. This is what Jesus did when he “died for our sins.” How dare libs take on a Jesus complex.

Well, of course, this self righteous attitude would rankle. The equally dim “conservative” reaction goes something like this: “Don’t blame me and don’t expect me to apologize. I never owned slaves. The Civil War is over. Move on. And for your information – just because I’m white doesn’t mean I got any privileges handed to me.” I suspect, but can not prove, that all this goes through my Buddy’s head when he calls me names.

After the Herculean multi-year task of putting 40 years accumulated paperwork in some sort of order in my attic office I’m sitting with a floor completely free from boxes, folders and piles of documents. There are just a handful of items within reach of my clean desk. One of them is the book, Bleeding Kansas, I ordered recently after spotting it in the Kansas City Library.

Its one of the books I plan to consult as I write about my Grandfather, George Robb, next year. His father settled next to a black former slave eighteen years after the passage of the Kansas Nebraska Act.

Long time readers of this blog may remember my past references to my Grandfather’s ties with his neighbor the ex slave and my Grandfather’s service with black soldiers in World War 1 and maybe even the black maid my Mother hired to take care of him when he became infirm.

I think I’m the perfect person to talk about race. I think my Mother suffered from a little guilt where race was concerned. The painting at the beginning is evidence of this. The schools she attended were segregated until she got to junior high school. The Civil Right’s movement was going full bore when she was a young mother. Then she moved to Mankato at its height where there was precisely one black resident among 40,000 locals. He was Dr. Boerboom a veterinarian.

I, on the other-hand got the benefit of Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, another frequent topic in this blog. These were my classmates in sixth grade before I left Topeka for lily white Mankato.

In many ways attending school with so many black kids inocculated me from thinking of them as a sterotype. They were individuals and I can understand how and why the 8% of blacks who voted for Donald Trump might have justified voting for man I consider an amoral, race-baiter.

Standing next to me at the top left is the only other Harry I knew growing up, Harry O’Neil. I vividly remember watching him round third base on our elementary playground after he lofted a kickball way into the outfield and looking over his shoulder to make sure he could run to home plate. A split second after he turned his head forward to run into home he smacked into an immovable six-inch-wide tether-ball poll that the Topeka Schools had inconveniently placed on the path from third base to home. He lost his incisors.

On the other end of the top row is Cynthia Robinson. What an annoying girl. She insisted she had another last name that belonged to her real father. There was a divorce or something going on. She was a tattle tale and a religious scold. She once tried to get my favorite teacher Mrs. Criss to kick me off a science club for some infraction. When she overheard me say something she disapproved of she grandly told me that if I ever took the Lord’s name in vain he’d strike me dead on the spot. I took great delight in looking up to the heavens and shouting to God to kill me. Poor Cynthia could only tell me reproachfully that God would oblige me but do it in his own good time when I least expected it. To my delight God has been in no hurry to expedite her prediction.

There’s Sherman a couple rows below me. I remember Mark Knickerbocker telling everyone with great enthusiasm, when Sherman showed up in sixth grade, what a cool kid he was because Mark had known him at a different school years before. My first interaction with Sherman was after school when he snatched my folder of artwork and proceeded to dump the pictures I’d made out to blow around on the playground.

I remember Vicky Bryant who is not in this picture because she was sent to Mrs. Muxlow’s sixth grade class where all the smart kids ended up. (Mr. Ross taught the losers although at the time I thought it was simply the luck of the draw that had separated me from so many of my friends) I invited Vicky to the cool Halloween Party my Dad organized for me in our basement. She was outgoing, smart, friendly and one heck of an athlete.

I passed some of these black kids houses on my way to school next to “Tennessee Town.” Some of them had 12 siblings and lived in tiny rattle trap houses propped up on cement blocks. Leslie Lewis was one of them. She was an Amazon who my Mother thought was becoming quite mature while I only saw her as a goofy giantess. I remember quiet studious black girls from middle class families who were too dignified for me to get to know. Thinking back on it I suspect there was a powerful incentive for them to protect their dignity by having as little to do with dangerous white people than they absolutely had to.

The five years I spent at Loman Hill Elementary School were like an inoculation against white cluelessness. It didn’t make me a champion for civil rights (which I think I am) but it gave me the sense that no one should be stereotyped based on the color of their skin. Heck, only a handful of my black classmates were really dark. A lot of them were much lighter skinned and represented a lot of white genetics. Gotta love the one drop rule.

Among my many finds in the Kansas State Historical Museum Archives was a paper my Grandfather wrote about James H Lane. I have yet to read it and fully expect to learn more about Kansas History as I write a book about my Grandfather. I think America is in the midst of a new Come to Jesus movement where race is concerned. I think that sharing what I know of my Grandfather’s experiences could give us a new perspective and help us move on. If nothing else writing it will help me sleep better at night.

A little historical digging

I found my Great Grandfather Thomas Robb’s farm home on Google Earth yesterday. You can see its right angles hiding in a grove of trees in the picture above which I copied. In a wide field image you can see the Smokey Hill River bending around it to the west (left) This screen capture shot shows that you reach the farm by the Lapsley Road. Larry Lapsey was my Great Grandfather’s neighbor a former escaped slave who reached Salina, Kansas during the Civil War and found the area settled with folks who had dug “bank” houses into the hillside. Thomas Robb, eventually built this now abandoned house and my Grandfather being the youngest of six siblings was the only child not born under the sod. I visited the wreck ten years ago and have heard that it has since been torn down.

I have two sources of information on Larry Lapsley. The first is a speech my Grandfather wrote for a long time literary organization in Topeka, Kansas called the Saturday Evening Literary Club and the second is a reprint of the story Lapsley told a young neighbor girl which was reprinted in a Kansas Historical Quarterly.

Pantle, Alberta, editor. “The Story of a Kansas Freedman.” Kansas Historical Quarterly 11 (November 1942): 341-369. Larry Lapsley’s story of his escape from slavery during Civil War and settlement in Saline County.

I don’t know which was written first. I suspect my Grandfather’s speech led to the later publication.

Long time readers will know that I am in a lather to write a book about my Grandfather. I recently organized the last of the personal correspondence I copied in Topeka chronologically. I’ve nibbled at the reading and keep making interesting discoveries which cry out for follow-up research. For instance, my Grandfather’s closest sibling in age, Bruce Robb, wrote him shortly after it was apparent that his little brother George had survived the war albeit shot up. In that letter Bruce asks lots of geopolitical questions. What did George think of the abdication of the Kaiser, How were things in France, and then mentions he has just read William Allen White’s book The Martial Adventures of Henry and Me I knew of White but had never heard of this book. Its not listed on White’s Wikipedia Page but it must have gotten into the public domain because I found it on the web along with its light-hearted illustrations of White and his fellow Kansas newspaper editor, Henry, as they take a tour of the Western Front before the Armistice.

William Allen White was the publisher/editor of the Emporia Gazette who parlayed his small town writing into a nationally recognized force. He was one of Teddy Roosevelt’s muckrakers. He earns many mentions in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit about TR, William H. Taft and the progressive journalists of the turn into the 19th century.

Over the past year I’ve wondered if White ever wrote about my Grandfather’s war experiences. The answer seems to be yes and no. The White book talks about the military hospitals the publishers visited on their tour. My Grandfather spent November and December recovering in those facilities although I’m sure the two didn’t meet there. Later when my Grandfather was appointed the the post as State Auditor of Kansas every newspaper in the state had to mention his war experience and White’s Emporia Gazete was no exception. The Gazette is one of the most completely available Kansas newspapers on Newspapers.Com. and I’ve printed out many of the Gazette election stories that mention my Grandfather.

One of the little treasures I discovered during that period of hospitalization was a letter to my eventual Grandmother, Winona McLatchey (they would wed six years later). He had met her in the Iola, Kansas schools and she was one of a couple women he coresponded with during the war. In the letter he describes being “grooved” by a bullet or shrapnel. He makes what must have been a hideous injury sound like a flesh wound. In the medical reports he had an internal infection perhaps peritonitis that sounded a lot more severe than he described.

I have a couple particularly areas I’d like to emphasize in any book I crank out. For one thing I’d like to emphasize the less blood thirsty partisan divide my Grandfather experienced and secondly his thoughts on black/white relations.

Lately I’ve had a hard time sleeping through the night because I wake up to stew about national politics. Perhaps that’s an improvement. For much of my first three years back on the Duluth School Board it was Board politics that kept me sleepless.

Some of our most disagreeable Presidents have been our most productive. Woodrow Wilson who my Grandfather lamented voting for in 1916 is a case in point. I’ve just been reading about Woody again in a book I bought a couple years ago by David Pietrusza. Its called “1920 The Year of the Six Presidents.”

1920 would see the Wilsonian dream fade and the beginning of three straight Republican Administrations in the Roaring Twenties. If my Grandfather had been willing to entertain some political heresies in his youth he would become a confirmed Republican during this decade. Being selected by three successive Republican presidents in a row to serve as the Postmaster of Salina, Kansas, cemented that loyalty. Here’s one of three certificates in the Kansas Archives to attest to this. They have one for Harding and Hoover as well.

I started Pietrusza’s book last night after reading a couple chapters of the prophet Ezekiel. I got a better night’s sleep thinking about past presidents than future ones.

The wrong lessons from our history

Donald Trump reads no books. His history is heavy with whatever lessons he learned at someone’s knees about the America First Committee which had no appetite for confronting Nazi Germany.

His minions have raised the example of the internment of Japanese American Citizens in World War II as an example of how we might deal with Muslims in America.

As reported here a couple hours ago I know of one Medal of Honor recipient who would roll over in his grave at Salina, Kansas’ Gypsum Hill Cemetery if he heard that. Maybe we can send the Gold Star Kahns to one and shut them up.

Here’s the Blue Star flag my Grandfather’s parents put up when he went off to fight in the Great War.

And here’s my grandfather’s helmet which hung in his entryway from the garage for the last ten years of his life. Now its in an exhibit in the Kansas State Historical Society where others can gawk at the bullet entry and exit holes and marvel that George Robb came home to tell the tale.

Generosity and trust 2016 and on Aug. 29, 1942

I mentioned the magnanimity and solidarity of Duluth’s students yesterday particularly at Denfeld with its post-it note campaign started by its student rep on the Duluth School Board Johanna Unden. Today the DNT has another wonderful story confirming the class and thoughtfulness of our students, this time at East High. Shanze Hayee, a freshmen, found other students to join her in wearing a hijab an Islamic scarf that makes many Westerners nervous.

I’ve made much of my Grandfather, George Robb, in this blog. I’d like to share a letter I just received from his old Alma mater, Park College, in Missouri yesterday. It comes from the time following Pearl Harbor when American-Japanese were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. My grandfather was asked by the college’s president if it would be wise to enroll some of the Nisei as students during this time of war. Here is what he wrote:

Here’s an enlarged image:

Rhinocerous

Rhinocerous

Whether President Elect will attempt to rule like an autocrat remains to be seen. He ran as a demagogue. I expect that he will attempt to persuade the public as a demagogue when things aren’t going his way. I hope I’m wrong.

In any event I think this NY Times piece demonstrates my thinking. Contrast the current Republican President Elect with my grandfather’s Republicanism in the previous post to get a sense of how deep my feeling’s run.

Veterans Day 2016

These were given to me on Veteran’s Day when the Philip Billard VFW Post 1650 of Topeka, Kansas, honored George Robb on the 99th anniversary of Armistice Day. I gave this speech for the occasion:

I would like to begin by thanking Andy Olson for inviting me to speak on this Veterans Day in memory of my grandfather George Robb a humble recipient of the Nation’s Medal of Honor. For years I have wanted to write a book about my grandfather. And this week in Topeka while rifling through the archives of the Kansas State Historical Museum I have discovered so much new information that I think that my wish will be far more likely to become reality.

My grandfather began a short lived diary upon setting out to New York City for embarkation to the trenches of World War 1. It began like this:

“On the 28th of December 1917 the author of this diary arrived in New York City over the Pennsylvania line.”

“He left his home in Salina Kansas on the morning of December 19th at 2 o’clock a.m. He could not help but wonder as he set forth for the station WHEN he would see that home again and what experiences he would meet with in the meantime but he could not help but feel that whatever they might be he would move equal to them – he MUST move equal to them for his for his home folks sent him forth, with expectation and full confidence that he would be a real Soldier and Home Folks are under no circumstances to be disappointed.”

I knew my grandfather was a very big deal starting at a very tender age when I would fall and scrape my knee and come to my mother crying. She would tell me “Harry, you’re grandfather was shot in the war and he didn’t cry.”

As time passed I would grow in awe of his reputation for courage, honesty, modesty and one other quality I had only heard about from my Mother – George Robb’s ability to write a good letter. Until Andy Olson arranged this little gathering I hadn’t read more than one example of such. Over the past 2 days I have copied a thousand of them at the Kansas state archives all left to the state by my Mother Georganne and her sister Mary Jane.

I will read one of them to you at the conclusion of this speech.

One of the first lessons I learned from my grand father was of humility. You can’t read any account of my Grandfather in the newspapers without their mentioning that he didn’t want any fuss made about his Medal of Honor. If I ever had any doubts about his worthiness they have been laid to rest after several month’s reading and research. In my estimation  George Robb was eminently  worthy of the Medal of Honor that was bestowed upon him.

Although I do not have time to elaborate now I’ll mention 4 related moments of his life and Kansas experience. 1. His next door neighbor in Assyria Kansas in childhood was an escaped slave. 2. He served as a white officer in the storied 369th Infantry a unit whose soldiers were composed of African American soldiers. 3. His study of history was such that he understood better than almost anyone else the role that African-Americans have played in defending this nation. And lastly, While living in Topeka his grandson (speaker points to himself) was one of the first to experience the new world after Brown vs. Board of Education when Loman Hill Elementary welcomed the students from the segregated Buchanon Elementary. All of these circumstances concerning my Grandfather have played a large part in my life and my thoughts and have continued so to this day.

If you check the files at the Historical Society you will find the speech that George Robb delivered to Topeka’s famous Saturday Evening Literary Club written about the time that Harry Truman integrated the United States armed forces.

He laid out all of the arguments that have been given by white politicians to dismiss the ability of African Americans to fight in the armed forces. He knocked them aside one by one. And of course there was his service in the trenches and his first-hand observation of his fellow black countrymen as they faced death at the hands of a determined enemy.

My grandfather was a man of his time as well as a man ahead of his time. I believe that he was trying to tell his fellow white Topekans to be comfortable at the prospect of black men serving with their sons in the United States military.

To reassure his audience he suggested that African-Americans were not yet equipped to be officers but that was years ago. Today, I can’t help but imagine my grandfather looking down from heaven much gratified to see that the Commander in Chief of today’s Armed Forces is half African-American just as I am gratified  that, like me, President Obama’s mother was a Kansan and a white one at that. 

In light of our nation having endured one of its most divisive presidential elections I should mention one more thing about my grandfather. He liked Democrats even while he did everything he could to make sure they wouldn’t make a hash of the nation or the state of Kansas.

All of us would benefit from George Robb’s example as we move into the future. Much remains to be done to heal our wounds just as it was the case in my grandfather’s boyhood with Jim Crow and the denial of voting rights to most African Americans.

Upon returning this week to bury myself in the state’s archives concerning George Robb I had a couple of other things on my wish list. I wanted to visit my paternal grandmother’s old grade school now the sight of the Brown vs Board of Education National Historic Site.  I only got there with 25 minutes to spare of their opening hours yesterday. As brief as that stop was I was brought to tears listening to the voices of hate I remember  from my childhood coming from some of our Nation’s political leaders broadcast from a powerful display. In many ways they were tears of satisfaction comparing the state of America today with the conditions in my grandfather’s lifetime.

As you veterans know the integration of America’s military has had no small role in our progress.

As I  left the Historic Site I craved a dinner at Bobo’s Drive Inn which I remember fondly from my childhood. On the way to that restaurant I passed by the Stormont Vale Hospital where my brother and sister were born. As I approached the hospital I could see a dozen police vehicles lights flashing hugging the side of 8th Street. On the other side of the street people were holding up cell phones taking movies. Of course, I had to crane my neck to see. I saw a man the color of one of the non commissioned soldiers in the 369th Infantry lying on the curb surrounded by a dozen policeman. I did not watch the news last night so l do not know what transpired. It was a sobering reminder of the progress we have yet to achieve today.

At the beginning of this little speech I told you many of the reasons why my grandfather, George Robb, is worthy of the honor bestowed on him today 99 years after the end of World War 1. I told you I’d always heard he wrote a damn fine letter. Yesterday I read parts of a great many damn fine letters. I’d like to leave you with the letter he wrote to my mother who was a newlywed living with her husband in Arkansas City where I would be born about one year later.

This letter was a revelation to me. I have read many of the speeches my grandfather wrote and they were academic, proper and forbidding. I never got a letter quite like this and I can’t imagine many other fathers writing a letter to their daughters shortly after their marriage quite like this one. I hope you enjoy it.

But first I should preface this letter with this information. This was 1949. My Rock ribbed Republican grandfather had endured 20 years of Democratic Leadership by Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. He hated it. And yet as my mother told me George Robb liked Missouri’s Democrat Harry Truman. It was a different age. Here’s the letter:

Mrs. Dan M. Welty 
501 North B Street
Arkansas City, Kansas

Dear Mrs Welty,

I take my Pen in Hand to indulge in some congratulations. I congratulate you upon having successfully navigated 21 years of democratic rule. With all those years upon your shoulders you should have the wisdom of a hoot owl.

I congratulate you upon being the daughter of Mrs. Robb and the sister of the globe-trotting Mrs. Sage.

I congratulate you that your father has not been in jail recently.

I congratulate you upon having a handsome husband. Feed him well so that he may remain sleek and and pleasing to the eye.

If there is anything else upon which I should congratulate you, let me know and I will be glad to fill in the gaps.

Your aunt Mae recently underwent a very romantic experience. One of the nights when it was about 6 below, at 4 o’clock in the morning her telephone rang. She got out of bed and paddled over the icicles in her bare feet to the phone. On the other end of the line and inebriated voice said, “Is Dorothy there?” Your aunt said, “To whom do you think you are talking?” The Jolly chap replied “Wake up the other girls. I have a couple of friends who want to be entertained.”

I do not exaggerate when I say that “Madam” Peppmeyer poked his eyes out of the phone and then threw scalding water upon him.  In fact, her vocabulary became so heated that the next morning the company found two or three telephone posts burned to the ground. I also congratulate you on your aunt, but it would seem to me that that was rather an abrupt and unsympathetic way to greet romance. No doubt had your aunt been sweet twenty-one instead of seventy-six she would have been a bit coy with the poor chap.

On the morning of the 10th, I will stand up your mother and Edith and have them sing “Happy birthday” to you.

Sincerely yours,

Pop

May we all face our uncertain  future with such good cheer. That will be a little easier knowing that the defenders of our Nation’s military are composed of such as George Robb. I thank you all for your service and for remembering on this 99th Armistice Day one of your best and our nation’s best, my Grandfather 1st lieutenant, George Seanor Robb.

Manchurian Candidate

My daughter Facebooked me to tell me that she (young as she is) knows what the Manchurian Candidate is. For those who haven’t heard of it it was a movie based on a book. The plot was about how communists North Koreans had brainwashed an American POW to assasinate an American politician. Its appearance in theaters ironically and infamously coincided with the assassination of JFK.

I haven’t seen the recent remake. Sinatra’s version was good enough for me.

Coincidentally, PBS aired a two-hour American Experience tonight on the fighting at Korea’s Chosin Reservoir and the perilous, frozen escape of American soldiers surrounded by tens of thousands of Chinese troops. Some of the first American POWs came from that fighting.

My Uncle, Frank, was in a MASH unit during the war. I know virtually nothing about his actions but I know he helped a Korean from his camp immigrate to the US after the war. I wrote about Frank once for the Reader in an anecdote about Grandfather. Its one of my favorite family stories.

Frank must be about 88 now. I had originally intended to travel on to Colorado after visiting Topeka, Kansas, next week and ask him about my Dad’s side of the family in much the same way that I’m researching my Mother’s side now. I decided against it because he lives at 8,000 feet and winter is coming. I’ll come back for the next school board meeting instead. Maybe I’ll try Colorado next spring.

After watching the program I ordered the third book in a trilogy. I collected the first two of the books better than a decade ago but never read them. Maybe its about time I do. Its about the “Forgotten War.”

After my post on the Manchurian Candidate I got an email from my Buddy and we proceeded to have a testy exchange. My characterization of FBI Director James Comey as worse than a “communist dupe” struck my Buddy as “unhinged.” Nevermind that Presidential candidate Trump – the butt of my exageration, has said far worse about a great many other people on television over and over for the last year. Nevermind that he leads his audiences in inflamatory chants of “lock her up. lock her up.” No, its me that’s unhinged.

I could have confessed to being a tad excessive to my Buddy but I didn’t feel like it. He had just sent me a story about how the lastest polls show Trump up over Clinton by a point and I’d just been stewing about Comey and the part he may have played in this last rough week for my preferred candidate Clinton. I thought he was trying to goad me so I let myself be goaded. It never pays off.

As a bit of a concession I sent him a commentary that was anything but unhinged in finding fault with Comey. My Buddy made no reference to it when he sent me another snappish email.

What is indisputable is that Vladimir Putin would love to see American politics lose its lustre for the rest of the world even if it means that an unpredictable narcisist takes the reigns of power perhaps as disasterously as when Trump plunged his Atlantic City Casinos into bankruptcy. Putin would have the office once presided over by Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, the Roosevelts and Ronald Reagan handed to a man who flushed Reagan’s “eleventh commandment” down the commode. In other words, Putin wants a lying, uninformed, lucky, idiot billionaire to be America’s next president. My Buddy reminds me incessantly that standard issue Presidents, like he’s sure Hillary will be, got us into the Vietnam War. How could Trump be any worse? he asks. I only write back to him out of sheer cussedness.

Hemingway said that courage is “grace under pressure.” Perhaps mine failed me. Ironically, Comey’s dubious last-minute, non revelation has been defended by none other than President Obama. I doubt that my Buddy will give him credit for being more rational than me even though Obama is busting a gut to get Hillary Clinton elected. My Buddy twitted me a few years back about how Obama was treated as the “Messiah” by his early adoring fans and how he let them down by not providing them utopia. I keep reminding by Buddy that from a minute Obama was elected Republicans made it clear their only real priority was to make sure he was a one-term president. They didn’t dare let America be run well for the next four years if they hoped to depose him. The result eight years later a is Donald Trump now the titular head of the Party of Lincoln. And who can forget his constant threats and taunts to his fellow Republicans. That’s what six years of Republican gridlock got America. If Trump is not a Manchurian candidate I don’t know what the hell he is.

By the way, an hour ago I had to run to Wallgreens and get a fresh 9 cell to stop a fire alarm from shreeking at me every twenty seconds. My Manchurian Candidate sign was still standing. I give it fifty/fifty odds of making it through the night.

Topeka homecoming

In 2002 I visited my old Topeka home with my Mother just as Alzheimers was beginning to intrude into her life. I asked her to drive me around town to show me the seven houses her family moved to, one each year, for the first seven years her father was the Kansas State Auditor. I took their pictures, where they still stood, except for the house on Clay Street that may have fallen victim to the tornado in 1966. In two weeks I’ll be heading back to Topeka, this time as a guest of the local VFW to participate as they memorialize Mom’s father on November 11th. It will be the 99th anniversary of the battle that made him a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

For the past couple months I have been sorting and organizing documents related to his life. They fill five three-ring binders. I’ll probably come back with even more documentation because I plan to spend a couple days at the Kansas Historical Society where my Mother and her sister took his letters after his death. At the time she was quite irritated with one of the archivists who panned their gift of my Grandfather’s Medal of Honor telling them that the Historical Society had more of that kind of stuff than it knew what to do with. When I visited Topeka with her in 2002 the medal was hanging in an exhibit about my grandfather. Here’s Mom bending down to read the captions:

That helmet in the case used to hang on a wall between the garage and Grandpa’s kitchen. My cousins liked wearing it with the bullet hole next to the temple.

I also took pictures of some Topeka schools. The one on the top is Loman Hill Elementary where newly integrated students were sent to our classrooms when I was in Second grade. The photo in the middle was the segregated Buchanan School whose students were sent to Loman Hill. How appropriate that it was named for the least competent President in the Nation’s history. The bottom school was Monroe Elementary now the site for the Brown V. Board of Education National Historic site.

Breach Birth of a Nation

There was an article on the movie title turned on its ear “Birth of a Nation” in yesterday’s DNT. The original “Birth” gave birth to modern Hollywood and also helped rebirth the Ku Klux Klan. DW. Griffith’s movie was unlike any movie audiences had ever seen and it made unprecedented scads of money. Think Star Wars Squared.

It looks like I’ve mentioned the movie a couple times in this blog starting with this post. To cap off my recent labor of Hercules – cleaning my office stables – I shuffled thirty year’s worth of family memorabilia into discrete piles for each of several familial lines and put them away for future reorganizations. The pile I kept out for further work is on my Grandfather Robb who has been a constant reference point for this blog and especially so this year on the eve of the centenery of his earning the Congressional Medal of Honor.

On February 29th, Leap Day, I attended a presentation by Dr. Jeffrey Sammons at the World War 1 Museum in Kansas City who spoke about his recent research on my Grandfather, George Robb.

Dr. Sammons wrote the book on the premier American Infantry Regiment in World War 1 called the “Harlem Hell Fighters” after the German assessment of their fighting abilities. White American officers didn’t want anything to do with them, didn’t want them to fight and earn “glory” and perhaps pick up dangerous uppity notions upon their return to America. General Pershing’s solution was to give the American unit to the French Fourth Army where they managed to accomplish two things 1. win a unit citation from the French which awarded the regiment the nation’s highest military medal the Croix de Guerre and 2. single handedly bring American Jazz to Europe making it an overnight sensation.

Sammon’s, an African American himself, was more interested in the black history of the regiment rather than the white second lieutenant Robb who helped fill the regiment’s depleated officer corps on the eve of its signature battle at Sechault, France. (for year’s I mispronounced it. It’s Say show)

Anyway, my blog was out of order for three months from December 15 until the beginning of March this year so I wrote little about my preparations for our trip to Jerusalem, our travels or my subsequent trip to Kansas City, Kansas to hear Dr. Sammon’s talk. In a month I’ll travel to Topeka, Kansas where the local VFW will dedicate a small memorial to my illustrious forbearer.

So this is pretty discursive of me. Whatever happened to Birth of a Nation?

As luck would have it my Grandfather earned his Master’s degree in History from Columbia University in New York City in 1915 the year Griffith’s Birth was born. There was a huge ruckus in that city with black Harlemites fighting to prevent the KKK inspired story of Civil War Reconstruction from being played in that City’s movie houses. What I wouldn’t give to be able to ask my Grandfather about that occurence.

Well this new version of Birth of a Nation is about an infamous 1831 slave uprising led by a black minister, Nat Turner. I wrote “infamous” but that would be a white slave owner’s interpretation of events. The aftermath was every bit as appalling.

The story in the DNT mentions the book by Richard Schickel “D.W. Griffith An American Life.” I happen to own a copy of the book although its 600 pages have kept me from anything more than a little nibbling at its corners. I bought the book some years ago when I thought I’d like to write a novel treatment merging my Grandfather’s story with the infamous history of Duluth’s tripple lynching in 1920. The prospective movie Hatestorm makes that a much less likely job for me to tackle.

I’m sorry to say that the principle writer/director/actor of the movie has a Woody Allen-Roman Polanski-Bill Cosby type past. I doubt that his riposte to Griffith will leave anything like the original Birth of a Nation’s mark on the world. I can only hope that it doesn’t inspire legions of black audience members to immitate the white audiences who watched its namesake – forget the Ku Klux Klan’s sordid reputation, give it a rebirth and spread it to the North. Even to Minnesota.

One of the reviews of the book I linked to about the Klan in Minnesota says this:

The Klan embraced Protestant Christianity, and small town values. It sought to preserve America for white, Christian, Protestants and resisted what it saw as threats to this vision of America.

Sounds a little like how some voters are looking at today’s presidential election.

We are all doomed so excuse me while I tidy my office

I used my election to the School Board in 2013 as a mental rationalization/justification to fix up my attic. A year after being seated renovation began in earnest. When it was complete I moved massive quantities of paper that had squirrled away all over my house to my new “study.” What I did not count on was being so busy over the last three years that I would drastically add to the fire hazzard with new paper work. Everything is in the Attic now except for photographs which take up a closet on the second floor.

I’ve been busy for most of the summer trying to corral living, breathing, migrating piles of clutter. If I stick to it today I might actually have my floor free of debris for the first time since carpet was laid. Strangely having some control of all this dusty data keeps me from being too paranoid which I’ve long associated with the Duluth School Board in particular and politics in general.

My Buddy has sent me three emails about the as yet unedited “Crap Sandwich” post none of which I’ve allowed myself time to read – yet. I’m afraid they will distract me from my slow progress. Besides, if I start responding to every slight I’ll end up like like Donald Trump sitting in his Manahattan Apartment at all hours of the night tweeting about disagreeable former Miss Universes. I must stay focused. I must stay focused.

That said, I listened to an interesting MPR broadcast this morning with some academics who studied Conspiracy theories from the Illuminati to the theory that the CIA blew up the World Trade Towers. Paranoia has a long illustrious history in America.

My Buddy is far more sanguine about America’s surviving a President Donald Trump than I am. I have mentioned before that I told him that half of America will want to move north if our candidate loses.

But it may not be the Canadians building a wall. In the cleaning out process I discovered a couple old news clippings that bear on this topic. Apparently 41 percent of Americans want the US to build a wall along the Canadian border once the Mexican wall is complete.

My fear of Trump is the mirror image of how Republicans view Obama and no doubt Hillary Clinton which I found in this clipping which says one third of Republicans regard President Obama “as an imminent threat to the US.” I’ll have plenty of company no matter who wins this November but it might take me a couple of days to crawl out from under my covers. Until then I’ll cheer myself up with the Simpson’s take on the secret societies who call the shots:

homage to the Philippines

For the past couple months the Philippines, or probably servers in the Philippines have been sending out robots to investigate my blogsite. Their “hits” have eclipsed hits from the United States in my blog stats. Other contries have taken the lead before and they have usually been Eastern bloc nations. I don’t think that many real humans from these nations are looking at Lincolndemocrat but I don’t know for sure. It usually is not noticible in the actual count of “Visitors” to the blog which for this month averages 241 a day. In months with especially high school board commentary it can average a hundred more than that.

Here are the US and Ph statistics for this month so far.

Stats…………………pages…..links…..Bandwidth

ph….Philippines…..15,322…16,582….152.18 MB
us….United States…5,882….10,354….337.24 MB

If there are visitors from the Philippines who visit the blog its not because I often write about their fair land. My search engine only counts four such occassions. I also recently mentioned the new Philippine President Duterte who has a ninty percent popularity rate after inaugurating a vigilante mentality in his country that has led to the murders of 2000 people extrajudicially by people who targeted them for being drug peddlers. So much for the rule of law.

One of those previous posts mentions my father’s good friend, Narcisso (Norgic) Tenorio who as a student in an American college found an encyclopedia with a picture of what it said was the typical Philippino wearing a loincloth and holding a spear. Norgic was an attorney and, sans spear, he ripped the page out in a rage.

The Tenorios once invited a number of young Phillipino nursing students to our home and they preformed some native dances for us with bamboo poles snapping together while they jumped between them jump rope style. They also placed plates on their heads and rolled on the floor without the plates falling off.

In my college years I was assigned to write about the government of another nation and chose the Philippines. It had a federal system modeled on the United States government from which the Philippines won independence after World War II. By the time I was in high school a dicator, Ferdinand Marcos, and his shoe infatuated wife, Imelda, had taken over as dictators. Any of a number of other nations might have been their model but not the United States.

During those years tens of thousands of Philippina nursing students, like those who paid a call on our home, emigrated to the United States. In 1966 Richard Speck murdered eight of them one evening in Chicago. That year one of my new favorite music groups, Simon and Garfunkel, recorded Silent Night over the background of the evening news which included a brief description of Speck’s murder. He was only sent to prison because all the Philippinas looked the same to him so that when one of them hid he didn’t notice her missing when he raped and murdered the other eight. His defense attorneys did everything they could to discredit her testimony because they said it was as hard for her to identify the American white man as it was for Speck to identify the Philippina nurses as individuals. A few years later in another southeast Asian nation our soldiers would come to call the natives “gooks” in large part because they all looked the same to the Americans.

My parents would often read to each other much as I read to Claudia. I recall stopping and listening to one of the books being read once which was written by an American GI who fought in the Philippines in World War II. It was one more brutal theaters of war and is probably best remembered for the treatment of American and Philippine soldiers during the Bataan Death March.

The book was set some time after this when Army Rangers or some other special forces snuck into the rural areas of the Philippines to organize a resistance to the Japanese. This organization was much easier because of the brutality of the Japanese Army towards Philippinos. In the passage my mother read the GI was describing how the Philippine insurgents gathered a number of forest deer together outside a Japanese compound they were preparing to attack. The Philippino troops poured gasoline on the stag’s testicles aimed them at the Japanese and set the deer on fire. |

That kinda reminds me of the Trump campaign.

The abandonment of true journalism

Donald Trump is, among other things, a fellow who has profited mightily by the faltering of twentieth century journalism. In its place is a dizzying array of Internet data dumps available for inspection by the curious and curated by interested persons from the honest to the nefarious. Somewhere in between are all the organizations which have a special interest in winning the public to their side. For the unwary and for people without the luxury of time to deeply investigate this inexhaustible library of data its far easier to let their tribal pals spoon feed them formulas.

My buddy is always telling me I’m being tribal when I bad mouth the Republican Party. I’m not sure what tribe this makes me a part of. I did attend Democratic precinct caucuses for about eight years never really becoming part of their machinery. For ten years before that I played gadfly in an increasingly purge happy Republican Party. Prior to that I quietly voted for Democrats when unappetizing Republican candidates won the primaries or GOP nominations. If I have a tribe to a large extent it could be called the tribe of the “Man without a Country.”

Here’s Wikipedia’s summary of this famous short story’s plot:

The protagonist is a young United States Army lieutenant, Philip Nolan, who develops a friendship with the visiting Aaron Burr. When Burr is tried for treason (historically this occurred in 1807), Nolan is tried as an accomplice. During his testimony, he bitterly renounces his nation, angrily shouting, “I wish I may never hear of the United States again!” The judge is completely shocked at this announcement, and on convicting him, icily grants him his wish: he is to spend the rest of his life aboard United States Navy warships, in exile, with no right ever again to set foot on U.S. soil, and with explicit orders that no one shall ever mention his country to him again.

I was haunted by the story which I read in an English class. That was the hope of the author Edward Everett Hale. Until perusing Wikipedia just now I had no idea who the author was or the circumstances for his the writing of the book. It was composed in the middle of the Civil War, a ripe time for an American to agonize about national identity. Lincolndemocrat takes particular note of the author’s being the nephew of Edward Everett, the orator and statesman, famous for the long forgotten speech that preceded Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and being the “grand-nephew of Nathan Hale (1755-1776), the Revolutionary War hero executed by the British for espionage.”

If I have a tribe its probably confined to my office. I will admit that it is a bit more capacious than the ship’s stateroom to which the story’s protagonist is confined for the rest of his life. Like the protagonist I have bits and pieces of evidence of my nation tacked to my walls. BTW – here’s the story long out of copyright. I didn’t reread it in full but just cut to the end to compare it to my memory of it.

About that end. I was probably 15 when I read the book and far less knowledgeable about the American history that had taken place prior to the story’s conclusion. That it was written during the Civil War and contemplation about what the union meant may not have registered with me quite as it does now.

My Buddy is no doubt right when he tells me the US will soldier on if Donald Trump is elected President. I suppose we would have survived if Huey Long had been elected or Joseph McCarthy but what a shame it would have been. The Presidents they would have supplanted were superior individuals. Its true that neither of these men were Adolph Hitlers but neither was Hitler early in his career. The great irony of Germany and the Reich was that a nation of such cultivated and sophisticated people could descend to the gas chamber, the charnel house and ruin. We seem to have past the time for a nuclear holocaust but our technology certainly leaves room for an even worse case scenario than that which transpired at the end of World War II. I can’t help but see seeds of destruction in today’s political tribal culture and campaign rhetoric and, frankly, its probably too late to stop Greenland’s icecap from melting.

I am troubled that the notion of American exceptionalism is often waved about by folks who mistake it for America’s wealth and power and not for the intangibles locked into our Bill of Rights. One of those intangibles is the right of a free press. Donald Trump can’t wait to get elected President so that he can change the libel laws like he plans to change the Generals and sue every newspaper that looks at him cross-eyed. Then he can enjoy the sort of freedom his good buddy Vladimir Putin enjoys behind the Kremlin’s walls. Donald Trump is just an eight hundred pound Albertson.

Yeah, compared to electing Trump, elevating Hillary Clinton to the Presidency would be a disaster. Remember Benghazi – or at least what the pretend newsman Roger Ailes wanted you to think happened there. That way you will be anesthetized to the coming of a White House with five letters tackily emblazoned on it in Gold leaf.

3 PRIORITIES DOWN

At least three of my priorities are done now.

The first was simply putting yesterday’s post in the blog.

A second was catching up on my January resolve to read at least a page of the Bible a day. I’d brought the NIV with me last week with my Grandsons but just never had the strength to read nightly while traveling. I fell about ten pages behind but just made that up. Trust me, Psalm 119 was an uphill slog at 2,345 words. Its here on the Internet and this site explains that the first words in each line forms an acrostic at least in the original Hebrew. Ugh!

The third was finishing one of the several books I’ve started this year but got hung up on. This one was Dark Horse about Wendell Willkie who was probably the fellow who ignited my Dad’s passion for politics when he was 15. The similarities between 1940 and this year are striking with a Republican presidential candidate that horrified party regulars and who barely qualified as an elephant – the chief difference being that Willkie was a genuinely articulate, honest and attractive candidate compared to the trash talking fourth-grader running his mouth this year.

I gladly put the book on my reading list which I’ve been keeping since 1979. Its my fifth completed book this year and this one filled in a big hole in my understanding of the politics as my Dad first experienced it. I’m also hopeful to discover what my Grandfather made of Willkie. Born in 1887 my Grandfather Robb was a sober sided 53 when Willkie appeared and one of the party regulars having been appointed State Auditor by Kansas Governor Alf Landon six years earlier.

I recently learned that my Mother and her sister donated reams of my Grandfather’s personal correspondence to the Kansas State Historical Museum. Dr. Jeffrey Sammons spent five days going through it in to make a fascinating presentation bout him last May at the World War One Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. I have only mentioned Dr. Sammons twice in the blog with very little explanation of what he did or discovered. What a shame. His work has been a considerable preoccupation of mine for a year and a half. What he discovered gives me hope that I might fill in some blanks about my Grandfather’s thoughts on the politics he lived through from Grover Cleveland to RM Nixon. I’m heading to another presentation in Grandfather’s honor in Topeka this coming Armistice Day – 99 years after his actions won him the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Writing a book about him is not one of my immediate priorities but it is a longer range ambition. And golly, I just found a new picture (to me) of him in uniform on Wikipedia: