The Greatest Generation: Part II

Ann “Grannie Annie” Berg

Ann “Grannie Annie” Berg

1930s to 1960s

I stated last week I was born in 1937. Families did not have much money and worked hard to put food on the table. We were barely coming out of the Great Depression when World War II started. Our thoughts turned to our loved ones — who were in the draft and classified by their type of work and age. My Dad was a farmer and was classified as 4-F — because he was essential in helping the war effort by providing crops.

Dad always mentioned that he was sorry he could not join his brothers who were in the service. Uncle Guy was in the Army, and so was Uncle Evan. Uncle Lester was in the Army Air Corps and stationed at times in India, flying the “Hump” over the Himalayas. They all made it back to America safely. Uncle Lester contacted malaria and spent many months in the hospital in Denver. Uncle Guy and Uncle Evan never mentioned what they did. And often mentioned there was no place like home.

We subscribed to Life Magazine during that part of our lives. It had many graphic pictures of the “horribles” of the war. It was read and re-read all month until the next copy came out. I studied and studied that magazine. Probably that is where I learned most of the history of WWII

I also wrote to my Uncles and my cousins, some of the Stonebrakers boys were in the Navy. My Dad’s sister, Aunt Laura, had eight boys, some of them old enough to defend our country. I waited months and months for a reply and sometimes the envelope had been opened and some words were inked out and censored, such as where the location of their service and what they were doing.

The Korean War was just as devastating, and most of the time Dad would say it was so, so unnecessary. The Vietnam War took place while my kids were small, and I worried if it lasted forever, if they would be drafted.

When I met Bob in 1985, I learned he was drafted at 26 and sent to Fort Bliss for training. On his way overseas the plane stopped in Anchorage. He told himself someday he would be back to live there. His dream is a true story. He came to Alaska in 1983. I am so lucky to have met him. Now, 33 years later, we are in our late years.

Bob was the oldest of the group going overseas. He was based during the Vietnam War in Okinawa, on a missile base. Some of his group went on to Vietnam and other outlying areas. He maintained missiles and kept them in tip-top shape. He had a secret clearance, which he has to this day. It has helped him with jobs living in Alaska. He and his forever friend John JT worked on a missile base — just about the windiest place in the world. His military career has helped him secure jobs through the years. He was hired by Raytheon after he was out of the service, but he did not want to live in a big city. He is a Wyoming, open-range-loving, person. He did go to college after the service and majored in electronics.

So, I salute Bob and all the veterans this November. So we NEVER forget that they all sacrificed to keep our America free.

During Vietnam period, Eisenhower was sent to Vietnam as an adviser. Castro took over Cuba. During the Bay of Pigs and Kennedy’s failure at this adventure, I thought I should go to Alaska, because it was far away from any invasion from Cuba. I think that was in 1962, so it took me five years to get to Alaska. And this is where I have been for 51 years.

Our generation has experienced some times when there were no threats to our homeland. Our age was in the 40s and 50s — the war was over and terrorism, global warming had yet to raise their ugly faces. So, for a while, we felt secure in our economic world. We can remember the Great War, and the security of a bright future loomed. We have lived through all of these and more. Yes, we lived in the best of possible times — when we thought the world was better and full of peace.

Our generation saw an explosion of growth. My Dad took advantage of college at Colorado State University — whose mascot at the time was the “Aggies” — in Fort Collins, to improve on the 80 acres that he bought in the late 40s. He turned his 80 acres of alkali soil into a productive land that produced sugar beats and qualified him to be in the “Big Ten Sugar Producers” category. He was so proud to be in the Soil Conservation Bank also. He worked closely with the college. He thanked Roosevelt over and over again for all his help giving agriculture a boost.

He turned his little farm into a ranch and eventually bought two other farms almost adjacent to ours. Then he bought two ranches up near Red Feather Lakes on the Wyoming border for a cattle raising. This is the generation I remember — and how successful our own Dad was in the Greatest Generation. Farming and ranching is “on-hands,” hard, 24-hour work. Our farm was an irrigation farm and he irrigated up all his crops, a round-the-clock job in the summer.

Yes, in ways there was an overflow of opportunity and a world of plenty. We welcomed it!! And so did my Mom and Dad and people that grew up during the Great Depression.

We now live in a society of wastefulness, in my opinion. A time of throw-away clothes. I had three dresses and two pairs of shoes in grade school. One pair for school and the other for church. In high school we wore black-and-white Saddle Oxfords, with our pink poodle skirts that we made ourselves. We polished the white on our shoes every night.

We hand-washed our skirts and blouses if we had to, if it was not wash day. We bobby-pin curled our hair each night — at least I did because I was not blessed with auburn, naturally curly hair like my two sisters. My blonde straight-as-a-string hair barely held a curl all day long. I loved Dippity-do gel, which you plastered on your hair, then pinned the curls to your head and hoped that it dried overnight. It was my best friend. I brushed and combed out the stiff curls in the morning and finally got it to look just right. Then I sprayed it down with cheap hair spray. We all smelled the same in school — like hairspray.

Boys wore Saddle Oxfords too, or Penny Loafers. You put a penny of your birth date in the top of the slot on the shoe. Boys also wore “duck-tail” hairdos. Long hair, combed back to a point that looked like a “duck tail” in the back. I still like that style. They wore white starched shirts tucked into Levi’s and a nice leather belt. They looked so handsome.

On Fridays girls could wear jeans to school. I wore my Dad’s white shirt with the tail out to school. We all looked alike that day in school!! We took pride in ourselves and were polite to everyone. Teachers were to be looked up to. The principle KNEW all the answers.

In high school I learned to be an editor of our school paper. My English teacher was very important to me. She spent lots of time getting me from a shy farm girl to an almost-confident person. I had a hard time learning to type and learning to speak correctly, not to revert to my slow Kansas drawl that I inherited from our Dad.

I am blessed with his pleasure of telling stories and jokes. I can’t remember too many jokes anymore, but I do have a great memory of the past. Now, if you ask me where and what I did yesterday — that is a different story. I have learned if I have lost anything in the kitchen, look in the refrigerator first!

So the Greatest Generation is in its 70s and 80s now, and we are not sure that history will repeat itself or go back to the Great Depression. I think there are ways to stop the spiral of some things nowadays, but the threat of war always looms.

I feel safe where I am, and will always be grateful I moved to Alaska. (I reserve the right to change my opinion with the winter months setting in!!)

Thanks for all the calls and emails concerning my last article. I love what you have to say and appreciate all the nice compliments. Thank you!

MAC AND CHEESE

If I ask Bob what he would like to eat, he will reply Mac and Cheese. He loves this cheese concoction just as much as granddaughter Cecile Jordan, with “broccoli please.”

Prepare: Locate and have ready all the ingredients and this will come together fast.

3 cups of uncooked Elbow Roni cooked according to directions. Drain and set aside.

In a very large saucepan:

1 can evaporated milk

1 1/2 cups milk

Warm and add:

2 cups of Mexican-type shredded cheese

2 cups shredded white or yellow cheddar cheese

1 16-ounce packager of Velveeta cheese, cubed*

Heat slowly and stir constantly until all is melted.

Add a pinch of cayenne and two pinches of turmeric.

Slowly add the cooked Elbow Roni. Stir to coat Roni. Serve with broccoli.

Better call Bob and Cecile!

*If you are going to bake this, add 3 eggs that you have tempered first.

Place in large dish. Grate hard bread over top and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake at 350 degrees for half hour or until top is nicely browned.

This makes a lot — so I proportion it in large servings and freeze. Excellent in a pinch, thawed in microwave. Steam broccoli in microwave also.

POTATO SOUP

Now if you ask Bob what soup he would like, he will say potato — make your favorite potato soup recipe.

I use canned milk to make it taste richer.

Prepare

Sautee onions, celery small amount of carrots.

Add a handful of cheese, Velveeta or what is on hand.

Add small broccoli florets to hot soup.

I add diced ham or bacon to Bob’s, but I like to add leftover cooked salmon or canned to mine. Don’t confuse the dishes. NO fish for Bob!

Top a large bowl with a teaspoon of butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the crackers and butter beside Bob’s plate. Mom served dill pickles with her potato soup.

SOUTHWESTERN CHICKEN SALAD

Bake 2 flour tortillas cut in strips on a baking sheet sprayed on both sides. Bake at 350 degrees for 4 or 5 minutes. Watch closely. Or deep fry in oil.

In a large skillet — nonstick preferred — sautee in oil until cooked through:

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast and thighs cut in 1-inch cubes

(You can sprinkle a small amount of taco seasoning on the cooked meat).

Set aside.

Combine in large serving bowl:

About 6 cups of preferred salad greens

1 cup of drained whole kernel corn

1 can rinsed and drained black beans

2 cups chopped tomatoes

1 medium diced green bell pepper or a combination of red and green

1/2 cup sliced thin red onion

1/3 cup chopped green onions

1 small can of sliced black olives

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Toss and plate greens on individual plates.

Arrange chicken and tortillas on plates.

Sprinkle with cheese.

Pass the ranch dressing in a bowl that you have mixed in 1/2 cup Barbecue sauce.

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