Patricia Craig Johnson --- Searching for My Ancestors --- Sharing My Life Stories

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Gerald Vuhr Craig -- A Young Man In 1943-1944

Gerald Vuhr Craig, A Young Man In 1943-1944

8-15-1943 to 12-15-1943; Title: Journeyman ironworker & layout Man, Peter Kiewit Sons Co; Salary: Union Scale; Area: Cheyenne, Wyo; Project: Erection of Modification Center; Immediate Supervisor: C.G. Metcalf; Duties: Fabricate & install all misc iron, install ornamental iron; Reason for leaving: Job complete. This job description is from a work history that my Dad wrote many years later. In December 1943 my Dad finished this job in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

When the job was done Dad hooked up the Prairie Schooner (our home on wheels) and started for Ottumwa, Iowa to spend Christmas at my Grandparents house. Somewhere between Cheyenne and Pine Bluffs, Wyoming, Dad hit some ice and the trailer hitch broke, the Prairie Schooner rolled over and crashed on the side of Highway 30. I remember to this day the Christmas presents scattered and broken along the highway. Dad handled the catastrophe and had the trailer towed back to Cheyenne and we continued on to Iowa.

My parents didn’t know that my grandparents had up and moved to Florida to be with my Aunt Ruth and her daughter Nancy. When we arrived in Ottumwa the only place to stay was at grandma’s sister’s house. This was Frances and Joe McKelvey. I remember so well the kids in her family having all sorts of Christmas presents, but David and I had none. I could still see them scattered along the highway in Wyoming.

Dad had to report by January 1 to Omaha, Nebraska for his next job. Housing in 1943/1944 was really hard to come by. Dad did manage to rent a two room apartment in an old apartment house at Locust & Florence Streets in Omaha. Dad could always come up with an answer, mainly because he had a way with words, especially if the landlord was a woman. The old house was crammed with families all living in very close quarters. David and I had to be very quiet as dad had told the landlady that he only had one child.

My Mother told me the story of Dad and the Oyster Stew. It was New Years Eve 1943 and Dad had 9¢ to his name after paying the rent. We would have to get by till he got his first paycheck from the job, so it was pretty slim for us.

Mom said that Dad left that night to “get some oysters”. It was a tradition, having oyster stew on New Year’s Eve. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before Dad returned with a can of oysters. Mom was amazed and wondered how he did it. He told her he went to the nearest Safeway and talked the manager into giving him a can of oysters, on credit, until he got paid. He explained to the man that he only had 9¢ but it was important for his family to have oyster stew that night. I told you he had a way with words. Mom said it was the best oyster stew she had ever eaten!

When payday came, he sent Mom to pay off his “oyster bill.” Dad was only 29 years old, but wise in handling life and its problems. One thing I always knew about him was that he would always find a way when a problem came up. Little did he know, he was just starting in the problem solving business, but at 29 who thinks of such serious things.

I can remember various other places he found for us to live and they were usually very unique. We were not destined to live together as a family for many more years. My parents separated when I was age 12 and divorced when I was 13. The world at that time was so different and hard, but we managed to keep family ties through all of the following years. I am proud to be my father’s oldest child and oldest daughter. Because I knew him when he was so young, I know a special side of him that no one else knows. In spite of his faults he was always my hero. Rest in peace Dad and know that I love you still.

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