Thanks entirely to Citizen’s Voice reporter Elizabeth Skrapits, I have been looking high and low on a very limited basis for all memorable things associated with Sandy Beach (Harveys Lake) back before the advent of most of which gives us fleeting joy these days.
X-box? Internet? High-falootin’ 6-G phones? Sure, that’s exciting and all. But for me, none of that will ever rival the wonderment that was being a youth caught in the right place, at the right time and with the right elders.
All of this needless circumlocution is a follow-up to this previous post of mine…
Don’t blame me. Blame her. She’s the one who insists on making people such as myself remember what once was, and what can never be again. Anyway, as part of that previous posting, I wrote the following…
Ben and his wife Barbara were tight with my grandparents. To this day, I don't know how or why, but they were and that resulted in Ben being like another grandfather to me.
That would be Ben Rood, the guy who once owned everything opposite Sandy Beach at Harveys Lake. Anyway, here’s what Elizabeth managed to force me to eke out of my many memories of those fun-filled days.
Ben (my other grandfather) and his wife Barbara had a daughter named after her mother. And Barbara (the daughter) had a husband, or a fiancee or a boyfriend (I cannot remember which), Ray, that had just returned stateside from the jungles of Vietnam. I’m not entirely sure of the time frame, but it had to be during the summer of 1969, possibly 1970.
As a little kid raised on both the black-and-white movies in which Americans valiantly fought off the invading Japanese hordes, and later news blurbs from the front lines of Vietnam, I was excitedly gushing at the thought of meeting one of which I considered to be America’s unsung heroes.
Ray, our returning Vet, was engaging, he was appreciative of my enthusiasm and still, he was somewhat forlorn. I could see it. I could sense that he was happy, but not really at peace. In retrospect, it’s obvious to me that he put in his 365 days, he was happy to be back and that he would never wear the uniform of any country again. He was done.
And as a result, he showered me with riches from his suitcases. Medals. Service bars. Military garb. And military-issued trinkets that stayed with me until the tumultuous divorce in 1971.
I never saw Ray after that day. And I never forgot being in what I considered to be his long shadow.
Enter Ben Rood, my “other grandfather.”
I figure Ben knew I was absolutely captivated by the medals, the service bars and all of that which were given to me by a returning veteran. And I was. It was then that I decided that I had to one day insert myself into those jungles and have at them, and I was telling as much to anyone who would hear me. Something, in fact, that distracted me all through my high school days. My mindset was, good grades are cool and all, but what’s the point when all that I really needed going forward was a true aim.
Anyway, I can only speculate that Ben wanted to short-circuit those thoughts of rushing off wild-eyed and adrenaline-fueled to some remote part of the globe still undiscovered by most Americans.
So he presented me with yet another “medal,” a hat pin, as he told it, that his grandfather had worn during the height of the Civil War. I cannot recall any of the many details he told me that day, except for the fact that the hat pin was worn by his grandfather during the Civil War, and that not many of the boys and men that marched off to that bloody war ever saw their homes again.
And with that, the first tinge of doubt settled in. As in, do I really want to go off to some faraway mosquito-ruled land and dodge tracer rounds? Why, sure I do! Uh, maybe. Er, maybe not so much. Okay, culinary studies at L.C.C.C. will do very nicely, grandma.
I know Ben Rood had a brother named Vernon. I do not recall his father’s name, nor do I remember the name of the man--his grandfather--who’s Civil War hat pin I am still in possession of.
Yet, somehow, oddly enough, I will never forget Ben Rood’s grandfather.