story of our life,
My childhood was for the most part uneventful except that I had a speech defect that lasted through my early elementary grades. This problem resulted in one of my parents favorite stories. I was sent to the grocery store alone when I was six years old. The lady who worked in the grocery store also had a speech problem. This resulted in a considerable problem of communication. I came home thoroughly disgusted and exclaimed to my parents, "That big boob at the grocery store can't talk any better than I can".
I went to our local school and played basketball and football, participated in class plays and other school activities. In a small school all able bodied boys were able to participate in these activities and it didn't mean that we had much talent.
Then on to Hiram College for two years. At Hiram I didn't do much to distinguish myself although I did make the basketball team my sophomore year. The one event that came to mean a lot to me was pitching softball which I first started at Hiram. It was in the summertime between my years in college that I had my greatest success. I really became interested in pitching softball and worked hard at improving my game. I became the pitcher of the Paulding County "All Stars". The biggest thrill in my life was pitching a no hit game against our biggest rivals, a team from Van Wert. This was not all wasted time as the next summer I was able to talk my way into a job at Magnavox in Ft. Wayne. I checked the papers for the softball team in the industrial league that had the most runs scored against it. I knew that the employment office would not even talk to me so I approached the guard at the gate. He seemed friendly and I said, "looks like you need a pitcher for your softball team". He responded, "boy, do we ever." I showed him my clippings of my exploits with the Paulding County All Stars. He called the manager of the Magnavox softball team and I was hired on the spot. It was not an easy job but I was able to earn enough money to pay my tuition at medical school.
Then I transferred to Miami University. After two years at Miami, I was
accepted at CWRU medical school and toiled there for the usual four years.
The most memorable event of my medical school years was meeting the girl
who eventually became my wife. We met on a hayride and all went to dinner
after the ride. She remembers some of the details of this event better
than I do. She swears that on being introduced to her as Merrily Bill
that I retorted, "Merrily Bill, what kind of name is that".
I do remember juggling hard rolls at the dinner table. I think that it
was my juggling that won her heart.
Then on to an internship and after that, I reported to the Army Air Corps which turned out to be a four year stint. After one year in the service, I was sent to the School of Aviation Medicine in San Antonio to be trained as a Flight Surgeon. I returned to my original base and after a few months, I was sent back to the School of Aviation Medicine to be trained as a high altitude physiologist.
After another year in the States, I was assigned to the 401th Bomb Group which consisted of about sixty B-17's (Flying Fortresses) and after training for a few months, we were sent to England. Most of the 401th support personal were sent via the Queen Mary. It was not a lonely trip as fourteen thousand troops were packed into that ship. We arrived in England in November 1943 just as the air war against Germany was really heating up. Soon after we arrived in England, we flight surgeons were sent to the Eight Air Force headquarters for a series of lectures. Here we were told that out of 1000 men flying their missions about 375 were expected to finish. That was a pretty grim picture. However, we had a wonderful group which was borne out by the fact that we had one of the best bombing records in the Eighth Air force. Of course, our losses were many.
We had an outstanding commander of the 401st Bomb Group, Colonel Bowman, who was not at all the type of person we envision in stereotyped top brass. He was intelligent, kind, and compassionate. It was the policy of the Eighth Air Force to have a commander of one of the many groups lead the raids on Germany. It was his responsibility to determine whether weather conditions were such that a mission should be carried out. This usually required an all night vigil. Once he decided that the mission should go forward, he flew in the lead plane, and once in the air, he was supreme commander of all of the planes (up to 1000) on that mission. If the weather turned out to be worse than expected, he could call off the mission (we called it "scrub the mission") or change it in any way he chose.
I often wondered how a man as kind as Colonel Bowman justified leading a bombing mission when he knew so many innocent people would be killed. I finally screwed up enough courage to ask that question. He had a good answer. He stated that he couldn't allow himself to think about that aspect of the operation. He had to regard it as his duty to his country and make it a scientific endeavor. He then did his best to accomplish the assigned task.
Following the war both Kile and I went to the graduate school in Philadelphia, he in radiology and I in ophthalmology. I bought a four bedroom row house in Phidelphia for six thousand dollars. I probably don't need to tell you that it wasn't a palace. We had saved $1500 during the war years which we used for a down payment. I had negotiated the purchase of the house all by myself and I was so proud of my business acumen. Soon we moved to Philadelphia and it was with great pride that I showed Merrily my wonderful acquisition. We entered the living room, Merrily took one look around and began to cry. "Oh, Hiram can't we buy another house." I have to admit my house was pretty horrible. It was an old, old house and the painters had painted the walls and around the windows with many layers of paint. They hadn't even bothered to scrape the paint off the window panes. The walls between our house and our neighbors was not very soundproof. We were occasionally awaked by the couple next door who were having a terrible fight. There was always much screaming followed by a big thud. On the first occasion, we felt certain that the man had killed his wife and debated whether or not to call the police. Next day we saw the wife on her porch and we could see no sign trauma. We never did solve that mystery.
Well, we did survive a year in that house despite having bed bugs and being told by a coal company that they would not deliver to us because we were not regular customers. Explaining that I had been in the service for four years and had two small children fell on deaf ears. I finally, after much begging, found a coal company that leluctantly delivered us a load of coke. Incidentally I sold the house for $6500. Once again I permitted myself to feel like successful business man.
Then back to Cleveland and an uneventful two year residency in ophthalmology.