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I had a draft deferment due to my work on the farm, but when they started drafting fathers I volunteered. I was never one to follow the crowd, so I didn't join the Air Force. I couldn't swim so the Navy was out, so it had to be the Army. My guardian angel must have intervened as I ended up in the Field Artillery.

My basic training was in Camp Shelby, Mississippi. For some reason the mosquitoes didn't bother me like they did every one else, but I had more chiggers than the rest of the outfit (720th FA Btln C) put together. After basic training the Field Artillery was sent to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma for additional training.

My guardian angel was still with me. I was in the communications section which was responsible for laying wires for field telephones. The forward observers would estimate how far off from the targets the test firings were landing and calling it in to the direction center where they would calculate adjustments for re-laying the howitzers and from there call them to the gun crew for another test shot. If a test shot landed 200 yards to the right (estimated) the next one would be calculated to land 200 yards to the left. The target was considered bracketed when two successive shots landed equal distances from the target. The standard technique was to bracket the target by deliberately aiming shots to hit on the opposite side but at the same distance. When the target was bracketed, they would lay all guns to hit halfway between and fire for effect.

My job was to lay miles of wire along side the roads or wherever we could go with a wire truck which had reel of wire mounted so it would turn as we moved, leaving the wire strung along side the road. When we had to move the guns forward to a new position we would drive along the line turning the reel with a crank and retrieve the wire. We had pole climbers strapped to our legs so we could climb trees to make overhead crossings when we encountered streams of water.

The battalion consisted of three "batteries" of four guns each (155 mm howitzers) and Headquarters battery. I was in C Battery. On one occasion we did not have enough wire so Headquarters Battery generously loaned us a reel of their heavier wire. These wires consisted of twisted strands of steel for strength and cooper for conductivity. I should have been suspicious of their generosity. I laid my wire and when I tested it, I discovered that though I could talk over the line I could not ring the other end. So the next step was to go back half way and connect the test clips of my field telephone and see which end I could ring. Then, I would go halfway toward the end that did not ring and try again. I was splitting, the bracket so to speak. Eventually I came to an overhead crossing. On one side of the stream I could ring one end of the line and on the other side I got the other end of the line. So to split the bracket I drove the wire truck into the middle of the stream and checked again. Continuing to split the brackets I finally narrowd it down to six inches of wire. I cut out this six inches, untied one end of the overhead crossing, spliced the wire and tied it again. Mission accomplished!

I kept the six inches of wire and at first opportunity I dissected it, attempting to find out what was wrong, expecting to find copper wires broken, but to no avail. I don't doubt that Headquarters Battery had been having problems with that reel of wire. But by some strange trick of fate, the overhead crossing had put enough strain on the wire that I was able to isolate it. Of course they never thanked me for fixing their wire. I was on the POR (Port of Replacement) list. My best friend Al Balogh and I had the same job qualifications.

In addition to wire connections we had radios that were used in the same way. They had an opening in the radio school that I was selected for. Evidently this was due to my correspondence course with DeForest's training in Chicago, which included two weeks of laboratory work there. While I was involved in the course I came up for POR shipment, but Al Balogh, who was supernumerary went in my place. He was in the battle of the Bulge and stepped on a land mine. My guardian Angel?

I completed the radio school training and was returned with the rest of the field artillery to Camp Shelby. From there, the whole outfit was shipped to England where our winter supplies were, but the enemy submarines were so bad that they disembarked us at Le Harve, France where we subsisted at Camp Lucky Strike - a tent city. That is a separate story which I will skip for now.

Later we joined George Patton's 65th Division. When we broke through the Siegfried Line, Patton kept the Krauts on the run by playing leap frog with the artillery and the infantry. If the enemy had launched a counter attack while the artillery was in front, I am sure I would have had it. I did have one exciting night. Anyhow, every time we moved up, we would go out with the wire truck and reel up miles and miles of wire, then move up to the new position and re-lay miles and miles of wire. We were in the vicinity of Linz, Austria when the Germans surrendered followed by the historic Nuremberg Trials. The only reason this was possible is that by treaty we were able to put men on trial for war crimes which had occurred before any such laws existed.

Before long I was separated from my outfit and shipped back to the US for a month furlough before heading to Japan. I stopped over in Salt Lake City for a visit with my sister. I called my mother in Rupert, Idaho, 200 miles northwest and learned that she was going to the hospital for surgery and asked her to wait until I saw her, but she did not comply. While I was in Salt Lake City, VJ day arrived. We were all out in the streets celebrating, despite the rain. In the meantime, we got the news that the surgery was completed (successfully) and she was doing fine. But later, we received another phone call informing us that she had died. When my sister and I went to the bus station to go to Rupert, they could tell by the look on our faces that it was an emergency and we had no trouble getting seats. I am thankful that my mother knew I did not have to fight the Japanese

Fast forward: After discharge, going to college on the GI Bill, and getting married I ended up in defense electronics work involving computers. Every few years a contract was completed and I always ended up with a job in another state. But now that I was on my own, I could run wires to suit myself so I had many years of experience doing my own power and telephone wiring.

In June of 1998 I had an ISDN (Integrated System Digital Network) line installed so I could surf the web without tying the main telephone line. As usual, I did all of the wiring within the house. As I was making connections to those little copper wires that enabled me to send and receive e-mail (electronic mail) all around the world and have my own web page, I recalled my first electrical experiment - and all the wire laying I had done since my mother compromised and let me run an extension speaker line to my bedroom.

Windmill Story
What an exciting era to live in.

Rewind: When I was a boy we did not even have a telephone. We lived four miles from Rupert, Idaho-population and elevation being a little over 5,000, on an irrigated farm one mile from the Old Oregon Trail and one mile from the Snake River. I remember that when my dad needed to make a phone call, he went to the Hadenfelt farm, a half mile north of us. These telephone were similar in construction to the field telephones I used in the army. They consisted of fixed permanent magnets and an armature with a coil of wire which was turned with a hand crank to ring the phone at the other end. By the time I was a teenager we had one of those contraptions, but the quality of sound was so poor that I avoided using it. One experiment I performed during recess at school was to tie a string to a V-shaped magnet (from a Model T Ford?) and drag it around the school grounds and pick up tiny pieces of iron. I would remove these iron filings from the magnet and lay it on the ground with a sheet of paper on top of it. Then I would scatter the iron filings on the paper, tap it, and see the filings outlining the magnetic field of force. Also, we had a shocking experiment we performed at recess. I believe it was Buzzy Duffin that somehow acquired one those telephone magnetos and we entertained ourselves during recess by maybe six of us joining hands in a circle with those on the ends, holding the terminals. One outside the circle would turn the crank which made the rest of us jump and dance but we couldn't let go.

Elsewhere I spoke about my first invention-a wind charger which could be used to charge batteries to operate radios or even electric lights. Of course I ever constructed one, but a few years later propeller driven generators for charging batteries were available by mail from Popular Science and Popular Mechanics. The first phonograph I was aware of was a strictly mechanical "acoustic" machine. You used a hand crank to wind up a spring that would rotate the turntable at 78 rpm (revolutions per minute). The needle was placed in the groove on the record, transmitted the vibrations to a metal diaphragm and the resulting sound came out of a horn.

The first electric phonograph used an electric motor to operate the turntable at a constant speed of 78 rpm. In an Allied Radio electronic parts catalog I noticed an electronic pickup. All I needed was a motorized turntable from an electric phonograph and an electronic amplifier. So, I bought a used table model radio and put together an electronic record player which had much better quality than the acoustic players. I think I was in high school at the time. Before long, I was making good use of my record player. Somewhere my dad got some square dancing records. On Friday nights we would use my record player for neighborhood square dances. Eventually I learned that my parental grandfather, James Douglas, was a fiddler and called for square dances. I had not really explored square dancing, but Earl and my wife Rosalie and I went every year to the Kutztown Festival in PA where they had bagpipe bands and demonstration square dancing. However, Rosalie was not interested in it. Eventually after Rosalie passed away, I found an opportunity to get into square dancing. Recently (1998) I found myself being drafted into dancing the woman's part, so I decided I had just as well learn it as they were short on women at the Gerrymanders Dance Club. A lady friend of mine in that club can dance the man's part, so I made my debut with her there as the Odd Couple. She wore slacks that night and her "boy" sash. I wore her ladies scarf on my head to help the men realize I was doing the ladies part. Late in the evening a guest (man) was impressed by what I was doing and told me of his experience in "all position dancing". I told him that my grandfather was a caller and fiddler for square dances. He said, "Oh, yes, I have heard about that. What they would do is give a 64 step call, then fiddle away."

But, back to electronic record players; Columbia came out with the 12 inch 33 1/3 rpm LP (long playing) records, but RCA used a 7 inch 45 rpm record with a 1 1/2" center hole. The Columbia LP records are now standard, but RCA type records have seen extensive use for square dancing since one side of the record is just right for one "dance" (tip). Also, the large spindle with the cone shaped top makes quick changes of records easy. A variable speed turntable is used by square dance callers which enables them to play the LP and 78 rpm records as well as 45 rpm. The 78 rpm records contained two dances on each side. Often the same music was recorded on each side, but without the calls on one side.

In addition to the size being convenient, the large spindle had a cone on the top facilitating quick record changes virtually by reflex action. I have always been a high fidelity enthusiast, and for me the "boom boxes" so popular today are a step backwards. My preference is for audio tapes. Most people now prefer CD's (compact discs) which are fine except that I don't want to invest in new equipment. I discovered recently that a square dance friend, who likes classical music, still uses the LP record player. He had a three foot shelf of records which he gets for 50 cents a piece. Like me, he is not so quick to cast the old aside.