Tuesday, November 29, 2011

'Tis the Season - The Christmas Gift

Tom Jones
Guest Blogger

Let me introduce you to my brother, Tom. I think he is a "closet" blogger. He is the President of Bryan Equipment Co. here in Cincinnati, a distributor of Stihl Chain Saws and related products.

For the past decade, Tom has written a Christmas letter that has been published on the cover of the company newsletter reflecting on the meaning of Christmas. Of course I've been a fan as he often refers to memories I have of growing up in a special family.

From now until Christmas, Tom's annual letters will appear in this space. In a couple of cases I will take the liberty to insert pictures from Christmases past of the Jones Family.

So have a cup of hot chocolate and enjoy!

One Year in early adolescence, it happened!  I discovered where my parents hid the Christmas gifts that they had accumulated throughout the fall in anticipation of that great morning.  I was the second oldest of seven children and our suburban home was modest. There just weren’t any hiding places that “the kids” could not find, but somehow my parents managed to keep this place a secret.  I suspect dad set the location as he was an expert at this and other tricks; like hiding Easter baskets in impossible locations behind the shower curtain suspended from a clothes hanger up high, just for sheer orneriness.

For a few days I delighted in the knowledge of the hiding place and was very careful to distract the site from my younger brothers and sister as they still believed in Santa.  Of course I could not tell my older sister, because she would tell Mom and Dad.  Day after day I would peek just to be sure the gifts were still there and would be surprised to see that the stack had grown, almost magically.  I was on lookout now, like an Indian Scout, and it became clear that my parents had become experts at this scheme.

Photo Credit: boyscoutstore.com
In the irksome boredom of the days just before Christmas when youthful anxiety makes you feel like you could scream, I gave into temptation and carefully peeled back the tape on the shopping bags containing the gifts.  Before long, I had experienced my own Christmas morning beforehand alone in the attic room.  It sure felt hollow but there was one overwhelming satisfaction.  The Boy Scout ax, the good one with the sure fit handle, was there in my stack of gifts.  There was nothing else in the world I wanted more than that ax! 

Christmas Eve was a bit of a let down, the anticipation was gone.  Sure I was excited for my brothers and sisters, a lot of the gifts they had their hearts set on were going to arrive by sleigh but my surprise was over, or was it?  Christmas morning, we all flooded into mom and dad’s bedroom at the appointed time, not before 7:00 AM were our instructions.  As we ripped through the gifts, something was wrong.  The items that I had seen were there, the new sweater, shirt, socks, and pants were all there YUK! But were was that ax?  I couldn’t say anything yet I knew it was missing.  I scoured the empty boxes and wrapping paper in a panic, but could not find the missing treasure, it was gone.  Later that morning my father pulled me aside and explained “Tom, I know that you went through the gifts in the attic and your mother and I discussed it and decided to return the ax that we had purchased for you.  You have many other gifts that you should be happy with but we both felt that we needed to teach you a lesson.” 

It has been more than 40 years since that Christmas morning.  And I thank God for my parents and the integrity they instilled in me and all of my brothers and sisters really that was their greatest gift.  They also taught us the true meaning of Christmas that is the gift that God has given us in his Son.   I am also glad that the scripture tells us that “God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.” Romans 11:29
First Five Jones Kids:  Kath, Karen, Tim, Tom (the author) and Ted

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Flying 8 Balls - 44th Bomb Group

On Veterans' Day, I posted about the World War II service of my Dad and his two brothers.  It made me wonder what I really knew about his service.  I have the following items in my possession:
  • His Notice of Induction dated October 5, 1942.
  • His Diploma from the Air Forces Technical School dated January 23, 1943.  He completed training as an "Aircraft Armorer."
  • A copy of a Christmas Card from the 44th Bombardment Group cryptically sent from "Somewhere in England."
  • A few photos of him on the base, including one with his brother, Bob.
If you asked my Dad what he did during the war, he would say that he "loaded bombs on planes."  I called my brother Tim, our family's oral historian, to see what he recalled.  Tim said that Dad would always used to say that a lot of guys who belonged to organizations such as the V.F.W. wanted to "relive" the war.  He just wanted to move on from it. So we didn't know much.

With the few clues I had, I found out that the internet has far more information than what I was able to find a few years ago.  For one thing, there is a website devoted to the 44th Bomb Group.  It has a wealth of information including video clips, newsletters, photos and biographies.  The site includes a history of the unit with this important information:

On July 25,1942 the 44th was assigned to Will Rogers Field, OK in preparation for deployment to an overseas theatre of operations. At this time the 44th was manned by 77 officers and 900 enlisted men. The group consisted of four squadrons, Headquarters and headquarters squadron (506th), the 66th squadron, the 67th squadron and the 68th squadron. The stay at Will Rogers field was brief.

On August 25, 1942 the ground echelon left Will Rogers Field, by troop train, for Ft. Dix, NJ to prepare for overseas shipment. On September 4, 1942 the 44th ground echelon, consisting of 62 officers and 819 enlisted men boarded HMS Queen Mary for transport to Greenock, Scotland and duty in the United Kingdom for "the duration" of World War II. They disembarked on September 11. 1942.

Initially the ground echelon was housed at the British air base of Cheddington, Bucks.  On October 10 they moved to Shipdham, Norfolk.  This new "lend-lease" base, Officially AAF Station 115, was to be the home of the 44th until the end of the war in Europe.

You can even view a video clip which includes a segment with the ground support team attaching bombs to one of the B-24s, an interesting bomber that was able to carry heavier bombs than the more popular B-17. (Click on the clip labeled "Original Footage" and watch the first few minutes).

I was able to find a job description for an "Aircraft Armorer."

Source: http://forum.armyairforces.com/Description-and-Responsibilities-of-Various-Armorer-Rating-during-WWII-m197640.aspx

The more I read the more I realized what a critical role this group played in the war in Europe. You can read a summary of their major accomplishments here.  The link contains exerpts from a book that was written about the 44th Bomb Group.

I've already made contact with a woman whose father was a pilot with this group who was killed nine days before her birth.  The successes this group experienced did not come without cost.  Many planes, pilots and crew were lost following their many missions.  My new contact told me that I may be able to get specific information about Dad's service through the National Archives and/or members of this group.  I'm hooked -- so stay tuned.

Photo Credit:  nationalmuseum.af.mil
Sources:  http://www.8thafhs.org/bomber/44bg.htm

Sunday, November 13, 2011

You're in the Right Place -- Changing the Blog Format

View of Cincinnati and Ohio River from Anderson Park
Yesterday I had the pleasure of working with some fellow genealogists who are creating their own blogs for the first time.  I've had trouble teaching them to use the new blogger template because Family Matters was designed with a template that was developed in 2004.  It had limitations.  I could not add "pages" to my blog using this template.  Those are the tabs at the top of the blog where I hope to add information not suitable for a post but that may be of interest to my family members over the long term. I also discovered that I was having difficulty posting in the old format if I was working in the new dashboard interface. I kept getting error messages I never used to get.

So I'm experimenting with a new format.  One of the BIG advantages is that I will be able to post extra-large pictures because I was able to make the width of the posts larger. I could not adjust the width in the old template. The flip side is that some of the careful formatting I used in earlier posts no longer works.  Things are not positioned where I would like them to be.

Having made the plunge, it will be easy to change it from this format to a different one should we decide we don't like it.  I'd be interested in your opinion of this format.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Honoring the Jones Boys on Veterans' Day

I have written about the service of my Dad (Johnny) and his brothers, "Bud" and Bob, in earlier posts. Yesterday my brother, Ted, asked me to post the pictures I have in my collection of my grandmother and grandfather standing on the steps of their Eastern Ave. home as each of their sons left for World War II. I've written before that I cannot imagine what it would be like to send each of my three sons off to war. I don't know how they did it.

In honor of Veterans' Day, I decided to go through my picture library and create a collage for my Dad and uncles to honor their service. Since "Bud," Uncle Charlie to me, was the oldest son, here is his collage. Notice the banner in the window. It has three blue stars representing each of the sons who served.

Fred, "Bud", Norine and Peg
Bob was the second oldest brother. The picture on the front porch includes Bob, Margaret Ann, Norine and Fred. I'm amazed how many pictures in my library include my grandfather posing proudly smoking a cigar. I don't know how they did it.

Bob, Margaret Ann, Norine and Fred
Finally, I was surprised that I do not have a "traditional" picture of my Dad on the front porch on the day of departure. He served in England during the war loading bombs on the planes that later were dropped on the Germans. I wish I knew more about his service.

In the top picture, Dad (Johnny) is the third from the left.  The middle picture shows him on base playing with a couple of dogs.  I can't help but wonder if they were permanent residents of the base.
So thank you, Jones boys, for your service. You were definitely part of "The Greatest Generation."