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Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

Yoshie (hopefully I’m spelling that right!) – was my parents’ Japanese maid while they were living in Japan. I have heard a lot of stories about her. I do know that I heard everyone talk about her fondly. For many years, she and my parents exchanged Christmas cards and letters. I wonder what happened to her and her family.

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leaving battlecreek

When my dad got orders for Japan in the early ’50s, he went ahead of the rest of the family.  Mom had to get from Ohio to the Pacific Coast in order to sail to Japan. 

The photo at left was taken when my mom, brother and sister were leaving my Uncle’s home in Michigan headed west.  They drove 450 miles in one day and got to Fargo, North Dakota about 6:15 p.m.  In a postcard to her folks, Mom said they stayed at a cabin for the night – the cost: $4.  They traveled through Montana and went to Oregon in order to visit my great-grandmother for a short time.hughgaffey naval ship  Then north to Seattle to Fort Lawton where they had to wait a few days before sailing to Japan on June 9, 1953. 

The trip, aboard the USNS General Hugh J. Gaffey, would take 12 days – although by crossing the international date line, they lost a day.  While on board, my sister tap danced in a Variety show and my brother – when not seasick – made friends.  The ship carried 2400 troops – all on their way to Yokohama. 

dad_nash

trainMy parents were in Japan for two tours and while there, they drove the Nash that had been transported via ship with them.  Sometimes they jim school busrode a train like the one pictured (left) and my siblings rode a bus (right) back and forth to school or on field trips.

While on their 2nd tour in Japan, my parents and brother all learned to fly courtesy of the Tachikawa Aero Club.  They even “starred” in a short film promoting the Aero Club Family Plan.  Back in the States and after I came along, my parents still flew every once in awhile.  Here’s a picture of my Dad in ’72 getting ready to fly.dad by plane

My parents had some very interesting adventures in the air and on land.  I feel very blessed that not only do I have stories and pictures, but memories of when I accompanied them on some of their adventures!

Written for the 18th Edition of Smile for the Camera – Travel.

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japanese-clothesline

Clothesline on the outskirts of Tokyo, Japan – mid 1950s
Photographer: Gene Amore
Original photo property of Wendy Littrell (Address for private use)

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Audio Tapes

In the 1950s when my parents lived in Japan, they bought a reel-to-reel tape player and recorded oral letters which they sent to my grandparents in Ohio.  There weren’t many that survived as they were erased, recorded over or became so bad no one could understand what was recorded on them.  Those that did survive were compiled into CDs by my cousin and sent out to those of us who were there.  I really wasn’t there as it was many years before I was born.  I’m on one or two tapes that were recorded at my dad’s family reunions. 

Yesterday I received these seven CDs in the mail and hurriedly put one in to listen.  I had never heard my sister as a young girl or my brother’s voice as a young man.  All of them – including my parents – sound so young.  Then today I listened to another CD that included the voices of my grandparents. 

To say that this is like Christmas for me would be an understatement.  I’m hearing people whose voices I haven’t heard in many years.  Even though I have dozens of handwritten letters, there is something to be said to actually hear family speak about their day to day activities.  I hear the excitement of being in a new country, the sadness of being so far from family, the laughter from being silly, and the fear when my aunt became very sick.

My cousin probably doesn’t really understand just how much these CDs mean to me.  It’s a piece of time that will never come again – yet it’s been captured forever in the lilting words of my family.

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For the 48th Carnival of Genealogy the theme is: Mom, how’d you get so smart?  The challenge was to write about how Mom got so smart whether it was through book learning, self-study courses, or the school of hard knocks. 

My mother is primarily a very private person, and it took me three tries to write something that I think she would approve of just in case someone she knows reads this and tells her!  She hasn’t always been a hero to me – just ask my teen-age self 20+ years ago!  But as a mother with four grown children now, I look back on what my mother has endured over her 80+ years and realized just what a hero really means.  So here’s my take on what made my mother so brilliant in my eyes.

Highest School Attended: High School – received diploma in 1939.

 Domestic Skills: Learned the basics from her mother – cooking, cleaning, sewing, running a household

 

Parenting: Dr. Spock wasn’t around when Mom started having babies so she learned on the spot with some sage advice from her parents.

 

What College Might Have Meant: Had Mom gone on to college, she probably would have made one heck of a great CPA.  She could do bookkeeping and math in her sleep.  During her employment in Civil Service she moved quickly up through the job grades because of her accounting ability.  It also meant that later in life when she had to leave a job she didn’t want to leave, the company had to replace her with two people.

 

Unique Skills and Talents: Mom was the best seamstress I have ever met.  I didn’t say “designer”.  She could look at a pattern and know how to tweak it to make it fit a person the right way.  Shoulder seams where they were supposed to be (not halfway down the upper arms), the inseam just right (not too tight or loose), the hem perfect all the way around.  Nothing she ever made fell apart or ripped at the seams (unless the person tried really hard to rip it).  She’s the only woman I know who will walk into a department store, turn the clothes inside out to see if they are “made right”.  Most of the time – they weren’t.  She made most of my clothes when I was growing up.  I’d complain because I wanted to wear “store-bought” clothes.  True to Mom’s word, when I do that now – I see myself coming and going.  Most of my clothes became hand-me-downs to my niece, who is 6 years younger than me and some of those clothes I got back for my own daughters!  And the seams and stitching were all still in perfect condition.

 

Other Handicrafts: Mom wanted to knit so my dad bought her this big knitting machine that she had to take classes to learn to use.  But the things that she produced from that machine were amazing!  She taught herself needlepoint as a grown woman and that became a passion for her.  She didn’t just stitch “samplers” – she’d find the most elaborate needlepoint designs and when they were finished, had my brother frame them.  They truly are works of art!  She was also making all sorts of things when I was growing up: a Christmas wreath in pinecones or folded newspapers spray painted gold, hand painted Christmas ornaments, embroidered items, she’d arrange flowers like a professional florist – she was like that home decor goddess with the initials of MS – only BETTER!

 

Flying: Mom learned to fly when my parents lived in Japan (Dad was stationed there twice in the ‘50s).  At that time and in that place and thanks to the NCO Flying Club, lessons and pilot licenses weren’t that hard to obtain.  It was amazing to watch an insurance salesman almost fall off his chair when he asked her if she had a pilot’s license and went to mark the box “no” when she said “yes.”  He stared at her in amazement until she produced said license for him.  True, by then, she hadn’t flown in a number of years.  But it was still amazing and I was filled with admiration that she could “awe” someone else!

 

Fixing a Car: When Mom faced the future without a husband (or a male family member who knew much about auto engines), she enrolled in an Adult Community Class that taught basic mechanics to women.  No mechanic was going to pull the wool over her eyes.  It came in handy a few times when she actually showed the mechanic what was wrong for him to fix!

 

Pop Culture: If I hadn’t been a late in life baby, Mom would probably still be ignorant of so many pop culture influences.  I was (and still am) a huge fan of Alice Cooper.  Of course in the 70s, most parents thought he was evil incarnate.  I actually made my points clear enough that Mom not only likes some of his softer songs but watches him whenever he plays golf! 

 

Sports:  Mom played on her high school basketball team (still has the scars to prove it!), played golf for recreation, tunes in to pro baseball and college football and basketball games.  She is up on the all stats and knows who the up and comers are.

 

 

 

Religion: Mom was raised in the Evangelical and Reformed Church (which has since merged with the Congregational Christian churches to become the United Church of Christ).  She attends every Sunday that she is able to and has attended many adult Bible or study classes.  She’s served on the church’s council and as a delegate to their association and conference meetings.  She reads her devotionals every morning and has listened to or watched services on the radio or television. 

 

Languages: During their years in Japan, Mom learned quite a bit of the Japanese language.  I grew up hearing phrases that became standard vernacular in our household.  She learned more about the culture, language and people of Japan by living it.

 

Teacher: Without college or a degree, Mom couldn’t be a teacher.  Yet, she served as a substitute teacher many times at my elementary school and was a Girl Scout leader for many years.  My friends always wanted to be at my house instead of their own because Mom, through her words and actions, cared enough about them to teach them right from wrong.  Even after I’d left home for another state, many of my friends continued to visit Mom seeking her advice and counsel.

 

My mother may not have gone on to college or higher education, but she has learned through doing and experiencing.  If not for the low points in her life, she wouldn’t be the same person she is today.  If not for the happiest moments of her life, she wouldn’t have raised three children to “live today like it’s your last”.  She is a storyteller, a confidante, a friend, a teacher, a world traveler, a cook, a seamstress, a pilot, an accountant, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a grandmother, and a wonderful Mom!

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Yes, YOU!  Where have you gone?  This post has to do with traveling or relocating somewhere besides the area of land you’ve always called home.  My challenge to you is to write about the places you’ve traveled or lived (or at least one!) and send me the permalink so I can share with everyone. 

A bit of background first: I was the baby of the family and not just because I was the last child born but because my brother was 21 and married and my sister was 16 when I was born.  My parents, brother and sister had already lived a family life way before I came along.  I was the “oopsy” baby.  Just when my folks thought they’d be empty nesters soon, wham – there I was!  My mother tells me my dad used to joke and say they’d put the dog in the house and the baby in the garage!  I’d like to say I can’t imagine what they felt like, but I can.  No, I didn’t have a “later in life” baby but we have been raising our grandson since he was 9 months old.  When he first came to live with us, I was almost the same age my mother was when she had me.  My children were basically grown – I had three left at home.  One starting college, one a year and a half away from graduating and a middle schooler. 

Back before I was born, my father was in the Army Air Corps (which later became the US Air Force).  My family lived in Japan during two tours in the 1950s.  They lived in Florida upon their return to the states the end of the 50s before my dad retired from the Air Force to take a civil service position and move to Southwestern Ohio.  The place I was born and raised.

As a young child, I’d see slides and pictures of my family’s travels and their homes in Japan. Yes, I was jealous.  I never got to live anywhere “cool” like overseas.  It didn’t matter that my sister told me she really didn’t have any close friends.  Why bother getting close with someone when you just picked up and moved three years later?  The place she calls “home” is the same place I call home – even though she was born in a Western state and lived in a lot of places prior to that. 

However, because of my dad’s job with the civil service, he had to go on lots of business trips.  Before I started school, Mom and I were able to travel with him.  So I got to see the Arch in St. Louis, Missouri; the Empire State Building in New York City; and the Hancock building in Chicago.  One of my favorite memories is when we went to New York.  We saw the “Odd Couple” movie (Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon) at the movie theater, walked along the New York city streets, shopped in the amazing department stores, and rode the city buses.  I saw Rockefeller Plaza.  We took a fairy boat ride around the Statue of Liberty.

Empire State Building

Independence Hall, Philadelphia

  

 

When I was a year away from starting (what my school called Kindergarten), my dad took a lot of vacation time and we traveled to Disneyland.  No, we didn’t board an airplane.  Nor did we drive straight there.  We took an overland excursion!  From Ohio we went to visit my aunt in East Central

Niagra Falls

Ohio first, then up to Michigan to my Uncle’s home.  We cut over to Canada to see the Niagra Falls from the Canadian side and then down to Montana.  My parents had lived there when my sister was born and their friends were still there so we spent a couple days with them.  Then on to Idaho where we saw the “Craters of the Moon” and then into Washington to visit my great-aunt and friends of my parents they had been stationed with in Japan.  We took a fairy boat ride to Victoria, British Columbia where the town looked to me out of a story-book.  Then down to Oregon and the great forests and into California.  We saw the Giant Redwoods, went to Marineland, Knotts Berry Farm, and then Disneyland. Me and Pluto!

 

 

Talk about feeling like a fairy princess.  It was more wonderful than anything I’d ever imagined.  I met Pluto, the three little pigs, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Snow White! 

After a few days at the magical kingdom, we traveled south to the desert and stayed with another family my parents knew.  Saw my grandparents who were also traveling out west about the same time!  Then on through Arizona where the majesty of the Grand Canyon took my breath away and the beauty of the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest enthralled me.  Up to Colorado to the Air Force Academy.  Through the midwest back home.Grand Canyon

 

 

When we got to Kansas I kept repeating that I wanted to see Dorothy’s house (Wizard of Oz).  So my folks picked out some random farm and told me there it was!  Of course it was real!  I had just been “over the rainbow” so I believed with all my heart that Dorothy had been too! 

So in the course of my very short life, I’d been to: Michigan, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New York.  Canada was the only “foreign” country I’d visited.

Since that time I’ve also gone to (or through!) Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas.  I live in Texas now.

I’d love to go to New England, the Dakotas, Virginia and Washington D.C.  For foreign travel I’d love to see Great Britain, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Austria, Germany, and of course where my family lived in Japan. 

So where did you go?

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