Posts Tagged ‘ History. ’

PRETTIEST MOM ON CRESCENT HEIGHTS BLVD. PASSES ON AT 100.

RUTH CHANNON SHOWED TRUE COURAGE DURING ‘THE BIG

WAR.  THROUGHOUT LIFE SHE EXUDED GREAT JOY.

     Not long after Nazi dictator Adolph Hitler’s attempt to conquer the world, obliterate Judaism, slaughter millions of Jews, invade Poland, Czechoslovakia, occupy Austria, bomb the hell out of Britain using der Furor’s powerful Luftwaffe air force, the Japanese launched its December 7, 1941 sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

     They struck with carrier-based planes sinking or damaging 19 ships, killing or injuring 2,200 American servicemen, and destroying 188 planes with negligible losses to the Japanese.

Not only did that devastating attack on Pearl get the U.S. into World War II, it revealed a dormant spirit within the men and women of our nation. It was a wake-up call that made us realize that now was the time for all courageous women to radically alter the course

they’ve been living a comfortable existence as housewives, mothers, daughters, administrators, clerks and community leaders to come to the aid of their country. It was a time for great sacrifice; a time to fight an enemy that’s threatening the freedom of what we continue to call the land of the free and the home of the brave.

     And for those reasons, I’d like you to meet Ruth Channon who was one thousands of American women to abruptly change their lifestyles to support their nation which must go to

war against a well-trained, goose-stepping enemy known as the Axis.

     At that time, hundreds of thousands of men left the workplace and joined the U.S. armed forces to combat a mortal enemy. That’s

when thousands of women from all walks of life and levels of

society, forfeited personal and professional comforts to take over the jobs

men had vacated..

     So Ruth Channon, an ambitious young woman, gave up her dreams to become what she whimsically and proudly called herself, “Ruthie the Riveter.” What makes Ruthie unique, is her positive attitude,

her sense of being a woman, and the fact that the mother of my late childhood friend, Richard (I called him Bumbo, he called me Boots) turned 100 years old on April 1, 2015.

     For at least two years, Ruthie worked as a riveter at Hughes Aircraft Co. in Culver City, Calif. During the war, her mother would baby-sit with Bumbo and his sister Sheila while riveted away helping build fighter planes and bombers to battle a powerful enemy that would make Darth Vader look like a kindergartner.

     When I asked Ruthie if by chance she worked on a bomber that actor Clark Gable served on as a tail gunner, she had no idea. As the story went, when German field marshal Hermann Goering learned that Gable, a well-known motion picture star has enlisted in the American Air Corps and was a tail gunner, the notorious field marshal had offered $5,000 to kill him.

     When Gable learned of the price that was put on his head, he was quoted as saying, “Tell Goering that, ‘Frankly, I don’t give a damn!'” Of course, that line was taken from the 1939 Civil War epic, “Gone With the Wind” when Gable as Rhett Butler told Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh), “Frankly, Scarlett, I don’t give a damn!” “Gone With the Wind,” is considered one of the most famous films in Hollywood history.

     Back to Ruth Channon and reality: In their own way, close to 19,000,000 women went to war replacing their male counterparts who became U.S. warriors. In 1942, the original Rosie the Riveter was discovered. Her name was Rosie Ronavita. She was a welder building planes for Convair in San Diego. To land such a riveting job, the government would explain to female applicants, “If you can use an electric mixer, you surely can operate a drill.”

     Working for less money than the men they replaced, women were proud to become active members of the war effort. When posters showing a sturdy female with the slogan, “We Can Do It!” became quite popular. The significance of Rosie the Riveter became as popular as the Uncle Sam recruiting poster pointing under the slogan, “We Want You!”

     When I asked Ruthie about her going to work, leaving her two young children at home, she explained that as a single parent, her mother would baby sit with her young son, my childhood pal Richard (I always called him Bumbo), and her daughter, Sheila.

     Was doing a man’s job difficult? “Not really,” she said. “I was young and strong.” Ruthie was also one of the best looking mothers residing on Crescent Heights Boulevard. She was a young mom, with raven hair, dark brown eyes and Pocahontas cheekbones.

     Was working as a riveter on fighter planes and bombers exhausting? “Only when I got home at night. But my kids made everything alright.”

     Near the end of the war, Ruthie married an ex-GI named Saul Channon. Lucky for Bumbo and Sheila, he adopted them.

     Saul Channon looked like an husky leprechaun. Actually, he was a Russian Jew and the son of a rabbi. I can’t remember him without a cigar sticking out the side of his mouth.

     Mr. Channon never talked about the hell he went through as an infantryman with the 45th Armored Division; never mentioned the wounds he suffered during a firefight in Messina, Italy, in 1944. They were severe enough to buy him a ticket home. I loved the guy.

     For a long time after his return to civilian life, he remained traumatized like the combat infantrymen who return from the Middle East today. Ruthie told me, a thump in the night would send the former sergeant diving under the bed. Even action scenes in a movie, like “Return to Bataan” would cause Saul to hit the deck in a movie theater, taking cover behind rows of seats.

     To get the trembling ex-GI back onto his seat, Ruthie said she would have to remind him that it was only a movie they were watching in a darkened theater.

     “Most of the time it worked,” she said. “What Saul went through, made me realize how important it was for me and all those other women, to do our duty. Although Saul is dead, I still talk to him. He was a great father and husband. I’ll never stop loving him.”

     As I always told her, “You were the best looking mother in our

neighborhood.” She loved that compliment. It was the truth.

     I once told her, “Ruthie, you come with a button on your shoulder. I could press it any time and you’d register joy.

     “One day,” I went on, “that darned button stuck. There was no turning off your joy button. You’re such a loving and joyous person.”

     Ruthie died on Friday Oct. 30, 2015. Lucky for St. Peter,

although he’s not Jewish, she’ll greet him with a smile as he opens those

pearly gates. No matter who she met, she always had a constant abundance

of love and joy to give. And she was so easy to make laugh.

     I’ll love her forever. Ruthie the Riveter truly was the best looking mom on

Crescent Heights Boulevard. And that’s the truth.

     — Boots LeBaron

BEAUTY QUEEN TELLS ABOUT HER ADVENTURES IN LIFE

THE HUMAN RACE

LIFE’S REALITIES FROM A FORMER BEAUTY PAGEANT WINNER

 

     Lee Turner was one beauty pageant queen who wasn’t afraid to tell her true story,  looking at life and death as she lived it.

     Here’s the still-timely interview I wrote 26 years ago:

     Despite their years, the expressive brown eyes are youthful and unmistakable trusting. As we sat across from each other in a corner booth at Buffy’s coffee shop in old downtown Torrance, California, Lee Turner revealed what those eyes had seen in 74 years of life.

     I’ve never used the word sweetness to describe a woman’s face. But in Lee’s case, it was a perfect fit. Even before she spoke, her eyes would reveal the emotional thoughts behind them.

     It wasn’t all good. It wasn’t all bad. Yet there were moments of terror that still lingered in her memories. There were moments of love, restlessness, confusion — and times when she felt “on top of the world.”

     For Lee, motherhood was one dream that never materialized. After several miscarriages, she could never have a baby of her own.

     The last pregnancy lasted six months.

     “It broke my heart,” she remembered. “But looking at the world today, maybe it’s just as well.”

     Although she shrugged away those memories, she recited “My Great Desire,” a poem she wrote after she lost her last child, as if it happened just yesterday.

     “I wish I had a darling boy to tuck into his bed,

     To put away each baby toy and smooth his tousled head.

     I’d walk so proudly down the street

     And take his chubby hand

     And smile at ever one I’d meet

     And look upon his face so tan!

     God, is that too much to ask,

     A favor which seems quite small?

     I would try to master the heaviest task

     If you would heed my call.”

     A half-century before we met, in the former Torrance Auditorium, Miss Leila (Lee) Mae Combs, a striking 24-year-old brunette paraded across the stage in a one-piece swimsuit and high heels.

     In competition with nine other young women, she won, selected as the first Miss Torrance in that city’s history.

     “The country was still very poor then. The Torrance Moose Lodge sponsored the beauty contest. I came prepared to sing a ‘song poem’ I wrote. But it wasn’t necessary.

     Lee walked away not only as Miss Torrance 1939 but was awarded a new swimsuit, a beach towel, a robe, a free hair shampoo and set at a local salon, and the opportunity to compete in the Miss California beauty pageant in Venice, Calif.

     “I lost that one,” she said, smiling.

     Beauty contest winners, Lee noted, “have it made today. If they were asked to compete for the kind of prizes I won, they’d say, ‘Forget it!’ In my day, the honor of being selected as a pretty woman was important.”

     As a young women, her favorite actress was Clara Bow. “I wanted to be like her,” Lee said. “In 1940, she moved into a girlfriend’s apartment in Hollywood, worked as a waitress and taught ballroom dancing while pursuing an acting career. But Hollywood never beckoned.

     “A couple of producers offered to show me their etchings,” she said, giggling. “I told them, ‘No way!'”

     She would never forget the Sunday morning of Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. “Even now when I think of it, I break out in goose bumps.”

     On that fateful day, Lee and her first husband, Eddie Guillow, a crane operator, were newlyweds living in a small house near Honolulu Airport.

     “I was sitting at a breakfast table writing a note to my mother on a Christmas card when I heard the sound of a plane,” Lee recalled. “It kept getting louder and louder. Suddenly, the house seemed to explode.”

     A Japanese Zero riddled her home with machine gun fire, the bullets penetrating the breakfast nook only a foot from where she was sitting. “I ruined the note,” she said, laughing at the irony. “I dove for a door jam, thinking it might be an earthquake.”

     Then a second plane zoomed overhead, dropping a bomb that exploded across the street, sending chunks of shrapnel into her house. About the same time, her husband was operating a crane near the battleship USS Arizona, which was under heavy attack. “When the Arizona exploded and sunk, Eddie had to dive off the crane and swim under the burning oil to safety.”

     A year later, back in the U.S. while walking with her sister-in-law, Lee said she “hit the dirt” when a plane passed overhead. “I felt embarrassed. But when my sister-in-law started laughing, I told her, ‘It’s not funny!'”

     Her husband was killed in a crane accident in 1947. Five years later she married Ken (Buck) Turner. A maintenance supervisor for the Torrance Parks Department, her husband died several months later.

     “It seems that everywhere I go, something drastic happens,” said Lee, who grew up in Torrance in a family of eight children and graduated from Torrance High School there.

     Another calamity she found herself in the midst of was the devastating Long Beach earthquake in 1933. “It was a very foggy Friday afternoon,” she recalled. “I was in the kitchen of my second-story apartment fixing french fries when the building began to sway and shake.

     “Polytechnic High School was right next door. It’s tower collapsed and fell onto my front yard. I was 18 years old and terrified. When I sat down at the breakfast nook, a second temblor tore the gas stove from the wall and knocked me out! When I came to, I was covered with french fries.

     “I was trapped in the kitchen. Rescuers had to break into the room to get me out. Other than a bump on my head and being scared half to death, I was fine.”

     At that time, I asked, “At your age, with all these experiences, what have you learned about survival?”

     “I live today as if it were tomorrow. I have girlfriends. I like to go places. I was a liberated women long before my second husband died. I don’t like to see what’s happening in the world. But I love visiting downtown Torrance.

     “I plan to be around long after everyone else is pushing up daisies,” she said with  that sweet-faced smile.

     Suffice to say: Lee Turner, if she’s still alive today, was my favorite beauty queen.   Ever!

 

                        — Boots LeBaron —

 

 

THE SYMBOL OF BLACK SLAVERY ENDS TODAY (JULY 10, 2015)!

THE HUMAN RACE

 

SOMETIMES A LITTLE POLITICAL RISK IN LIFE WORKS!

If you experiment with life,

Undoubtedly you’ll suffer strife.

Failure can be remorseful

But lessons learned resourceful.

To gamble on a bright tomorrow,

Procrastination may result in sorrow.

Without risky experimentation,

How does one weigh true jubilation?

Symbolizing the brutal act of black slavery,

today the Confederate battle flag comes down

Ending its metaphorical reign of savagery.

After 150 years, fueled by political myopia, no longer

Shall it wave its toxic message across our  U.S. Utopia.

Challengers of fate’s perplexing test

Now have a chance to be politically  the best.

Too unpatriotic to endure, the prejudicial gambol

Has trapped  such ruthless aspirations in a bramble.

Never knowing your true potential

Doesn’t mean you’re inconsequential.

Even evildoers who’ve survived on sheer luck,

Their bullyrag has finally become mired in the muck.

 

Boots LeBaron —

WARTIME MEMORIES OF ‘GEN. ‘BLOOD AND GUTS’ PATTON

THE HUMAN RACE

 

NAVAL COMMANDER TAKES ON  GEN. GEORGE S. PATTON DURING WWII

 

     Naval Commander Lloyd J. Ellis wasn’t about to let “Old Blood and Guts” intimidate him. As Gen. George S. Patton boarded the troop carrier, anchored off the coast of Southern Italy, Ellis stepped forward and snapped a salute.

     Only then did he notice that Patton had a pit bull terrier on a leash. “Hey, sir! You can’t bring that dog aboard this ship. Dogs are nothing but bad luck!” barked the husky young officer.

     “Is that so?” growled the legendary general pleasantly.

     “No animals allowed aboard this ship, sir! That’s the rule.”

     “Let’s you and I go to your office and we’ll talk about that… rule,” said Patton.

     Ellis was 78-years-old and living in a convalescent home when he told me this story in 1989.

     Of course, the confrontation with Patton took place aboard the USS Thomas W. Hyde, a troop carrier. It was in the midst of World War II and marked the beginning of what Ellis described as a shipboard friendship with the famous general, transporting him and his Third Army troops across the Mediterranean.

     Twice, recalled Ellis, he brought Patton into two major battles in Southern France. As he stood barring Patton and his bull dog from boarding the ship, he recalled these words of old Blood and Guts: “Let me tell you something, mister Admiral. A smart man will sometimes change his mind. But a fool never will.  What are you????”

     “I gave in,” said Ellis. Let him keep the damn dog, but made him promise that he wouldn’t let it eat in the dining room. That was a laugh. He fed it scraps at his table.

     “It was quite a sight. Patton marching around the deck with those pearl-handled Colts and that dog at his heels. I think he called him Willie. It was the ugliest pooch I’ve ever seen. A steward would follow them around, cleaning up its messes.”

     Ellis said he developed a “close friendship and respect” for Patton. On land and aboard two troop carriers, he transported the general and his GI’s into two invasions in Southern France. He also helped evacuate Patton’s troops from Southern Italy.

     “We did get into a lot of quarrels. But he always chose to ride on our ship. I guess that was because he liked to argue. We did a little bit of drinking, too. He drank nothing but Scotch — White Horse — out of the bottle.”

     Ellis recalled teasing Patton about his pistols. “Aboard ship, he usually wore a campaign cap, infantry boots, with them guns on his hips. One time I told him something like, ‘I figure the only reason a man would carry two pistols is that he’s scared!’      “He didn’t appreciate that. He told me, ‘If you’re so fucking brave, how come you didn’t join the Army?'”

     Having seen so many of his shipmates die, and having lost a younger brother in the war, Ellis a times was embittered about the mounting Allied death tolls.

     When he brought the subject up, he quoted Patton saying, “Don’t tell me any stories about death. I’ve seen too much of it!”

     Another time Ellis laughed when Patton told him that he wanted to personally shoot Hitler. “He said, ‘Don’t you laugh! That son of a bitch gave me trouble in North Africa, Sicily, and all over Italy. I’m personally going to shoot his ass — in Berlin.”

     Aboard the USS Thomas W. Hyde, Ellis and Patton were present when a dog,smuggled aboard by Patton’s troops, gave birth to three pups — a male and two females.

     “The next morning at breakfast, he named the male Thomas, and the females, W. and Hyde after the name of our ship. When we landed the troops in Naples, they [infantrymen] took them ashore.

     In Toulon, a seaport city in Southern France, Ellis claimed he brought Patton and an Army lieutenant to brothel. “It was above a bar. There were two armed Germans hiding in a closet. The lieutenant wounded both of them. I don’t want to say anymore.

     “After they hauled them away, Patton called me a sap and said they could have killed us. Then he joked: ‘It wouldn’t have mattered if they shot you. But I’m not ready to die.”

     Ellis described Patton as “an intelligent man, He cared about his troops. He was hard headed with a good sense of humor. Told a lot of jokes — the kind you’d never tell in a Baptist Church. He had this thing about being the ancestor of ancient warriors. I never took him seriously about that.

     The last time Ellis recalled being with Patton was aboard the Hyde. “We shook hands. I told him that I was going to try to get a pass to Berlin; that I wanted to go to Hitler’s funeral. He thought I was serious. But I was just ribbing him.”

     General Patton, whose military career began under  his “mentor” John J. Pershing fighting Poncho Villa in 1916, died in Germany on December 21, 1945.  Ironically, the cause of death wasn’t from a bullet or bomb. He suffered fatal injuries in an automobile accident.

     The reason I met the retired Naval and Maritime commander Ellis was when the then-mayor Katy Geissert) of Torrance, California, told me about an old serviceman in a convalescent home who had his American flag stolen. She said it had been autographed by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

 

    — Boots LeBaron

NAVAL/MARITIME OFFICER REMEMBERS THE HELL OF WAR

THE RING OF LIFE

 

COMBAT STORIES RECALLED BY U.S. NAVAL/MARITIME COMMANDER

     In 1989, then Mayor Katy Geissert told me about a 78-year-old Naval veteran whose American flag autographed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt was stolen from a convalescent home. At the time, I was working as a free-lancer writing everything from human interest stories and essays to light poetry.

     Katy was serving as the first female mayor for the city of Torrance, Calif. What began as a brief interview with retired Naval/Maritime Commander Lloyd Jasper Ellis, stretched into days. I saw his credentials, believed his words, and wrote this story. It was carried on the front pages of a few newspapers, including The Daily Breeze, a Copley paper. Although I didn’t work

at The Breeze, I was there when his wife, Maureen, brought him into the newsroom on a wheelchair. In full uniform, he struggled to his feet and stood proudly for a photo that made the front page of The Breeze.

     Although I edited the feature slightly, meet the crusty old U.S. war veteran whose wife said she “rescued” him from the convalescent facility where she had cared for him, married him, and finally brought him home where he recalled his wartime adventures.

     Believe it or not, here’s the story he told me during a surprisingly long interview which I wrote about the ancient warrior:

 

     Birth is a gift. Life is an adventure. Death is a tragedy that even the courageous might welcome with open arms.

     “Many times,” retired Naval/Maritime Commander Lloyd Jasper Ellis admitted wishing “the sun would never come up, at least for me.” Not while serving his country during World War II, Korea and Vietnam, but over the decade he was being shuffled from one hospital to another, winding up at society’s last stop: a convalescent home in Torrance, California.

     When a bomb explosion blew him off the bridge of a cargo ship as it headed down the Saigon River in 1971 during the Vietnam War, Cmdr. Ellis suffered a serious head injury.

     “I was in a coma for months,” he told me. “When I finally came to, I couldn’t talk, think, and my legs were paralyzed. The surgeons must have left a couple of loose wires in my head.

     “When I was younger, I felt that a man who’d commit suicide has gotta be a coward. I was wrong,” said he sat in a wheelchair with his caretaker-wife, Maureen, 48, at his side.

     What I had anticipated to be a brief interview stretched into hours. Although dates escaped him, the stories he’d recall was far more than a old seaman’s yarn. For Ellis, with memory fading and a body that was anything but shipshape, hell appeared hard for him to forget.

     I first learned about the commander from Torrance mayor Kathy Geissert who told me about an elderly man in a convalescent home where his American flag which was personally autographed for him by President Franklin D. Roosevelt was stolen.  

     The second eldest in a family of 5 sisters and 4 brothers, Ellis grew up on a fruit farm in Garfield, Arkansas. In 1928, right out of high school, he enlisted in the Navy. Following his discharge, he remained in the Naval Reserve and went on to college studying mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland.

     The day after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, he was called back into active duty. Eight months later, serving aboard the USS Edgar Allen Poe during the invasion of Guadalcanal, a bomb struck the ship, rupturing steam pipes in the engine room severely scalding the young engineer.

     Months later, he was aboard another ship that was sunk by German torpedoes in the North Atlantic. “This was early in the war before they started using convoys,” he said. “We floated around for four days before a Dutch trawler picked us up.”

     He described the feeling of watching your ship sink as “helpless, sad and depressing. Your ship is your home. Down with it goes all your personal belongings, your letters, uniforms, pictures of loved ones, and some of your shipmates.”

     Ellis vividly remembered the nine invasions he participated in during The Big War: Guadalcanal, North Africa, Sicily, Anzio, Naples, Normandy, Toulon (a seaport in southeast France), Marseilles and Okinawa.

     After the death of his younger brother, Harold, a B-17 pilot who was shot down over Germany, Ellis described himself as “bitter.”

     That, combined with experiencing the loss of shipmates with the sinking of the USS Poe, caused Ellis to volunteer “to make the first wave of any invasion the military cared to send me to.”

     In 1943, off the western coast of Italy, Lt. Com. Ellis was aboard another troop carrier, the USS Georgian. “They had bombed us pretty heavy and we lay dead in the water,” he recalled. The Germans boarded the ship, captured five officers, including Ellis, and transported them to a prisoner-of-war camp in Czechoslovakia.

     “Every morning the Germans would come by and say, ‘You goddamned Yanks, this is the day you’re going to get it!’ One day they loaded us into wooden boxcars. We were jammed together. There was no velvet seats in those cars. We knew we were headed for the gas chambers.”

     As the train sped along the tracks, Ellis and a chief petty officer, Felix Bond, broke a hole in the side of the boxcar and jumped off “in the middle of nowhere. My arms, knees and face were badly scraped up and Bond broke his leg.”

     The two men hid in the brush during the day and, using the stars to navigate, traveled at night. “We didn’t want to go west. That led to Germany. If we were captured we knew we’d be murdered.”

     A distant light led them to a small farmhouse where a Czech

couple and their teen-age daughter lived. “The girl spoke almost fluent English. They had no love for Hitler so they hid us in the stable, fed and doctored us as best they could. They were scared but very brave. They knew they’d be killed if they were caught harboring allies.”

     Although Bond was too injured to travel, Ellis somehow had to get to Prague, which was about 10 miles from the farm. He claimed he had to locate the underground by reciting the code word, “Mickey Mouse.” The problem was how could a 200-pound Yank, who didn’t know a word of Czech, find that needle in the haystack?

     “The woman shaved my head. She cut off her long hair and glued it to my head. They gave me an old dress, a hat and a walking stick. Oh, and two shoes that didn’t match. I was some sight.

     “They put me on the road and pointed me to Prague. I hitched a ride part way on a horse-drawn wagon. But most of the way I walked. I spent hours on the streets. My feet were killing me. I find somebody and whisper ‘Mickey Mouse.’ Most of them thought I was a crazy old lady.”

     Finally, he said, a man responded with another code name which Ellis no longer remembers. “He took me into a cellar, dressed me in a French uniform and got me to the French border.”

     When he made it back to England, he volunteered to participate in “commando-type missions to help evacuate Jewish and Slav refugees across the English Channel.” Months later, Ellis found himself on another mission aboard the SS Benjamin Contie, a troop carrier which was wired with high explosives.

     On June 6, 1944, the Contie was part of the first wave to hit Ohama Beach during the massive allied invasion of Normandy. He claimed it was the sixth invasion he participated in.

     “We pulled up so close to shore we scraped bottom; unloaded our troops, blew out our hull, turning the ship into a permanent bunker,” he recalled. “There were four other ships in that invasion just like us.”

     Two battleships, the USS Texas and USS Arkansas, were firing their big guns from a distance so close to the Contie “the concussion would knock some of us down. I lost my helmet and my right eardrum because of those damned 16-inchers.”

     He recalled a grisly memory aboard the Contie during the invasion: As an Army sergeant was supervising the debarkation of troops, a cable snapped, decapitating him. “He body took a few steps then fell forward into the arms of two soldiers.

     “A soldier picked up the head. I’ll never forget. The G said, ‘Look, he’s trying to say something.’ I looked. The eyes were open. The mouth was moving. I said, ‘Let him talk. Maybe he’s talking to God.'”

     Listening to the old commander, I was convinced that he was telling what he remembered was the truth. Hard to believe, it was not a yarn designed for Hollywood and John Wayne.

     But his adventures continued.

     Expecting to be transported to a hospital ship on the second day of the invasion, Ellis climbed onto a British minesweeper. In less than ten minutes, the sweeper was struck by a bomb, split in two and sunk. He was knocked overboard. Soon an amphibious landing craft plucked him out of the ocean and carried him into the thick of the invasion.

     That same day, he said, a jeep driving past him hit a landmine and Ellis suffered serious injuries, losing part of his stomach and chalking up a second Purple Heart for his war chest. After spending time in an English hospital, he traveled aboard the Queen Mary, which had been converted into a hospital shop, to New York where he was discharged from the Navy and re-enlisted in the Merchant Marines.

     As a Maritime commander, he returned to the wars. Following the invasion of Sicily, he transported Gen. George S. Patton and his Third Army troops on a few occasions. During that period, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt invited him to meet her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt at a hospital in Warm Springs, Georgia.

     “He was very sick,” recalled Ellis. “But he was sitting up in bed puffing on that long-cigarette holder. That’s when he shook my hand. The president, said Ellis, tried to write a brief tribute

on presidential stationary. His handwriting was illegible, prompting his wife to write the note. In part, it read, “…

knowing your military history, I consider you a brave man and a great credit to the United States.” Right then I told him that the real heroes are the men who never make it back. I still believe that.”

     The president managed to autograph an American flag, which he presented to Ellis. After it was displayed in Torrance, Calif. on Memorial Day 1988, the flag was stolen from the convalescent home where he was being cared for.

     On May 13, 1989, dressed in his Maritime uniform, Ellis married Maureen Buckley Kerger, who had “rescued” him from the same convalescent home where his American flag was stolen. Thus began another chapter in the life of an Arkansas farm boy who went to war so many years ago and had seen his share of hell on Earth.  

               END

    NOTE: Tomorrow, July 4, 2015, (Independence Day), I’ll tell Ellis’ story about the day the commander refused to allow Gen. George S. Patton to bring his pit bull terrier aboard the USS Thomas W. Hyde, a troop carrier. It was in the midst of World War II.

 

 

HITTING AN ABUSIVE BOSS WITH TRUTH WAS A SOUL SAVER

THE HUMAN RACE

OFFICE OGRES  DESERVE TO SUFFER  EXASPERATION, TOO!

 

Even bosses are not immune to exasperation.

Subjected to bullying from abusive bosses,

guys and gals who vent their own wrath against

such higher-ups,should think twice before

they perform  the honcho pounce .

For any working stiff,  uncompromising honesty

could result in political suicide.  Here’s my story:

Although I had a family to support and bills

to pay, I had no alternative than to leave a bitemark

on an office executive’s conscience. When my boss

invited me into his Century City office, closed

the door, sat me down across from him  and asked,

“What do you think of me?” my guard was down.

The corporate vice-president had taken

me to lunch several times and had confessed 

his personal woes.  So innocently I crawled into his

ring, dropped my dukes, and naively asked if he wanted

the truth? When he shot me smile and shrugged

disarmingly, looking more like Jimmy Stewart than

Godzilla, I gave him a dose of honesty:

“You are a sonuvabitch, Jake.

You mistreat employees. Throw tantrums.

Slam your office door so hard that pictures

fall off the wall. You phone your secretary at

five sharp every afternoon. For fear of losing

her job, she can’t leave even three minutes early.

You have her bring in Starbucks in the morning,

lie to clients about your availability.

On her own time, you have her pick up your

laundry and buy gifts for your wife.”

Although he didn’t bat an eyelash, the veins in his

neck looked like they were going to explode.

Jonathan didn’t speak to me for several weeks.

Finally, he fired me. A few days later, I was told,

the president of the company sent him a memo

telling him that he couldn’t attend a showbiz

conference in New Orleans because he was needed

to make a new business presentation. In a tizzy fit,

Jake marched into the president’s office,

 tore up  the memo, and tossed the shreds into the

secretary’s face. “Tell the boss,” he snapped, “this is what

 I think of his memo!” When the supreme commander

returned that afternoon,  Jake, his irreplaceable

vice president, offered: “I’ll give you four weeks

to replace me.” Almost instantly, he fired

Jake, which wasn’t his real name,

and rehired me. The object of this true

 story is: In any business environment,

think before you reveal a painful truth to any

workplace superior who is capable of

suffocating you professionally. If the ogre is leading

with his chin like Jake did, you have

a couple of options: Think defensively, be creative and

polish your self-assertive candor. Only then will you be capable of

delivering a verbal punch that might knock some

ruthless, intimidating, egotistical

taskmaster on his egotistical butt .  Always keep

in mind that stark truth may  land 

you in the unemployment line.

Like my actor-stuntman dad used to say,

“Never telegraph a punch unless

you’re sure you can knock your

opponent out of the ring.”

Quite often, such  has

no clout in the workplace.

Yet, if intrepidity — strength of

mind to carry on in spite of danger,

that kind of fearlessness reveals that

you’re mentally fit to tangle with any

fire-breathing dragon who thinks

he’s invincible.  But equip yourself

before going into battle.  Remember,

no matter how sharp your tongue,

come equipped with integrity

and the heart of a warrior.

As the bumper sticker warns,

SHIT HAPPENS!

— Boots LeBaron —

MY DAD BERT LeBARON: A MOVIE STUNTMAN WITHOUT A FACE

THE HUMAN RACE

 

  THIS  STUNTMAN HAD A LOVE AFFAIR WITH HOLLYWOOD

imageStuntman Bert LeBaron, with arms spread in flight,

was about to knock out a machine-gun nest manned

by prison guards in the 1947 Burt Lancaster classic

movie “BRUTE FORCE.” Esquire Magazine ran a full-page

photo of my airborne dad without giving the Hall of

Fame stuntman-actor credit. That’s the way it was

in Hollywood back then. Although today their names

are entombed with crew members in end-credits, stunt

people are still ignored by the motion picture and

television academies. Since more than 50 stuntmen

and women have died for Hollywood over the years,

don’t you think the survivors deserve Academy

recognition? At least for valor? What pisses me off

is to hear actors ooze B.S. (Don’t tell me they don’t!)

taking credit for “gigs” performed by athletes like

my old man. And now, digital animation is replacing

the acts of such stalwart guys and gals. After

35 years of proudly calling himself an actor-

stuntman, Bert LeBaron, who would never qualify as

another Laurence Olivier or Tom Hanks, developed

a heart problem that put him out of action physically

and financially. (His last stunt was doubling actor

William Bendix in a TV sitcom) When the film capital

of the world showed no compassion, he tried selling

encyclopedias. When that failed, he couldn’t even

support himself peddling newspapers on the streets of

Hollywood. Having nowhere to turn, he stepped into a

handball court at the Hollywood YMCA where he was renting

a room for $10 or $15 a week and purposely popped his

heart playing the game he loved more than women. He

died in 1956. I call Bert and his unheralded comrades

“stuntmen without faces.” I loved that womanizing rogue

whom my mother shed twice in divorce courts. My father

had so many ex-wives and girlfriends, they were lost

in the midst of his mind. Nevertheless, stuntmen and

women deserve to step up to the podium and accept a

golden statuette for their sensational athletic feats.

So tell the actors who, for the sake of publicity

or self-aggrandizement, to: Put A Cork In It! Their

crime is they continue to take credit for stuntwork

achieved by filmdom’s “faceless” others. In my book,

that’s a felony punishable by truth.

 

Boots LeBaron

%d bloggers like this: