Talking about Aunt Pauline’s Date Pudding got me thinking about my Uncle Herbert, My mother’s brother, Herbert Guy Anderson (1908-1963).
Ken and I had moved to Arizona just before Uncle Herb died. I was devastated by the news. A friend asked if we were particularly close. I had to honestly reply, “No” because I had never spent a great deal of time with him, and yet I loved him for his fun-loving, ornery personality. He always called me “Monkey” when he saw me, and it seemed a term of endearment. One moment shines clearly through the fog of years.
When I was in 2nd grade, my cousin Jim Anderson was called out of class. That was no surprise because Jimmy, a chip off the Herb block, was always getting in trouble with tricks like jumping out of the coat closet to scare the girls. Then I was called out of class, too. When I went into the towering hallway with its dim dark wooden floors, and smell of sawdust and recess sweat, I saw all my cousins gathered around my Uncle Herbert, still in his navy uniform. My heart was bursting with love and pride. He had included me in the circle of his family to meet with when he returned from World War II.
When Herbert Guy Anderson was born, the family was living on the Anderson Farm outside of Killbuck, and he made an appearance when he was about one year old at a large family gathering.
Isabella McCabe was Scotch through and through, and there was a thread of the Scottish sense of humor that ran through the men in that family. Don’t you imagine a thin, spry man with a twinkle in his eye, stopping for a pint or two? I always see my Daddy Guy or my Uncle Herbert.
Harriette, Bill and Herbert were very close. When Herbert was old enough to join the fun, he and Bill must have totally tested the patience of their mother, Vera Anderson, because they were life-long jokesters who liked to stir things up and have fun.
I remember a later family ritual at Thanksgiving time. After dinner, while everyone else was helping “redd up”–clear the table and clean up the kitchen– Bill and Herb would race for the living room sofa. After a little nap, (the loser in the overstuffed chair) they would start a cut-throat game of 500 Rum, in which they would gleefully cheat everyone else–including their own mother and hapless little niece (me)–ensuring that they were always the winners. They thought this was absolutely hilarious.
The family had briefly moved to Columbus Ohio in the mid 1920s, where Harriette was in school, and Guy, Herbert and Bill thought they could find better jobs during tough economic times. That may explain why Herbert did not finish school. But it didn’t take long after he returned to Killbuck, for him to find Pauline McDowell.
Herbert married Pauline McDowell (1911-1989) in 1927 when she was 16 years old and he was 19. They jumped from high school into adult life. In 1930, they were living with my Grandmother Vera and Grandfather Guy Anderson in Killbuck, with their one-year-old son, Herbert, and Herb was working as a laborer at the stone quarry.
You’ve met Herbert Guy Anderson, Jr., known to the family as “Sonny,” here before. That was when my grandmother and grandfather were running a boarding house, so it makes me wonder if Pauline might have helped out with the cooking and cleaning. At any rate, this picture shows how young they were, and the attractiveness that drew them together.
Herb was skinny and lively, much like his father. And like his father, he moved quickly from job to job, most involving driving some sort of vehicle. This Stutz Bearcat belonged to his mother and father, and you saw it in a piece about traveling.
Ten years later, by the time she was 26, Pauline had given birth to four more children besides “Sonny”, my cousins Romona , Joann, Larry and James (Jimmy). Uncle Herb was working in a low-paying government highway job and they lived in a rented property in Killbuck, Ohio. Times were tough for everyone in those depression years
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the world changed for most Americans. Both of my uncles soon signed up for the Navy SeaBees (C.B.– Construction Battalion), and were sent to the Pacific. So Pauline was left at home to care for 5 children and make do.
Even though I was very young, I remember the worry among the adults, mixed with pride at their contribution to the war effort. Everyone avidly read the newspapers, and followed the news reports on the radio. We tried to figure out from the highly censored letters where the men might be, without success.
My grandfather, Daddy Guy, died in 1944. Uncle Herb was home on leave for the funeral. The adults wanted the children out of the house for a while (the body was on display in the living room with visitors streaming through), and Herb packed us in his car and drove out of town. We all screamed–in real fear–as he raced across the Killbuck bridge and across the bottom land at top speed. His devil may care antics just were not funny to that car full of kids at that moment.
Herbert operated heavy equipment (bulldozers and the like) while in the SeaBees, a skill that helped him find employment at a stone quarry when he returned home. But like so many World War II veterans, Herb hid whatever demons haunted them from the war with heavy drinking with his friends and general merry-making at the VFW post.
So it was very sad, but not totally unexpected when he died in a one-car accident around midnight in December 1963. He was only 55 years old.