Category Archives: Babe Ruth

July 4, 1944 (WAR TIME)

Babe Ruth and Baseball an American Sport's Past time. Photo owned by your blogger.

Babe Ruth and Baseball an American Sport’s Past time. Photo owned by your blogger.

There is irony in knowing that half across the world July 4th, 1944 was celebrated by a number of American POW soldiers at Stalag 17B by playing baseball. In America on that very same day, those soldiers’ loved ones were not so celebratory. There were no fireworks going off in the small towns that many of these soldiers grew up in.
Roy and his wife Hilde McGinnis enjoying a summer day in 2014.  Quite different from his POW days 70 years ago.

Roy and his wife Hilde McGinnis enjoying a summer day in 2014. Quite different from his POW days 70 years ago.

As a matter of opinion, the understanding of individual experiences as related to collective memory of the past have always interested me. There is no other way to describe a day in the life of a POW soldier unless you have asked him. As a way of remembering what July 4th should mean to all of us, I spoke with my dad POW Roy McGinnis. Here is his take on what he was doing on July 4, 1944:
Roy was 22 years old and had just been woke up by the usual prison guards making their rounds and yelling at the soldiers. The treatment at Stalag 17B was never good and at times brutal. It was a beautiful summer day and besides being July 4th, it was a great day to play a competitive game of softball. The Wehrmacht (German soldiers) had much friction with the Americans, but they did let them play their games.
The GIs’ loved playing ball. It passed the time by and it was one of the only real morale boosters the soldiers did have. The International YMCA almost always fulfilled requisitions for sports equipment for the American soldiers in prison. It is also noteworthy that the Wehrmacht let the Americans have their things to play and enjoyed watching the fierce competition of the American GI with his brother in captivity!
“We formed our teams. You know the North Versus South. I was of course on the southern side since I grew up in Alabama.”
I laughed with Roy and said, “Yes. Alabama would certainly make you a southerner. No doubt.”
“Well, the game was very competitive. We bet our rations from the Red Cross. This was serious business and you better believe I wanted the south to win!” Roy stated as if he could still hear the crack of the ball being hit by the old wooden bat.
Chuckling I said, “Seriously, you did not take the other soldier’s food over a game.”
Roy said sternly,”You damn straight we did.”
I guess that answered that.
In fact, the rations were like betting your life’s savings. The normal ration included:
Bread, Potatoes, Cottage cheese, Sugar, Jelly, Coffee, and Raisins. The International American Red Cross would try their best to supply what the soldiers needed at that time.
There was a large recreation area in the camp that sports did take place. Pride was taken in teams formed and thus the first POW baseball league was born.
On the playing field that July 4, 1944, the south and north began their game.
“Who won?” I asked
“Well of course, we did. You know the south.” Roy stated.
“Did you really take the Northerners’ rations?” Half seriously I wondered.
“Yes we did. They lost.” Sternly Roy stated as if the war could still be going on.
In fact, as he and I talked of a time that was over 70 years ago, I could see in Roy’s eyes that he was taken back to that ball game and that ball field. It was still war-time to him at that very moment when we spoke. There was nothing else going on at all.
Happy July 4, 2014 to all my readers. May you know how free we are because of many who fought and gave their lives for us. America-what would you have been if not for the brave soldiers of times gone by? Would you have been at all?

Genealogy With A Twist

This is a special blog entry written by my son for a genealogy project and I thought you all would enjoy it:

The year was 2077. A special presentation was about to begin by an elderly gentleman who walked into an old-fashioned diner on a beautiful evening overlooking Lake Washington near Seattle. Inside the diner, the tables were full with school-age children getting ready to listen to this special old man. They knew he was a great story teller and the children were eager to listen. With great anticipation, the man excitedly stated, “Welcome to the unique stories a friend of mine shared with me about his life. This friend is Elijah. Elijah’s stories were told to me by himself so I galloped all the way here to tell them to you today.” The children clapped loudly for the action to begin.

Elijah’s stories began with a European ancestor on his father’s side. This man was Baron VanDorstan who was ruled by a German King almost 250 years ago. It has been told that the king became very furious with the baron because the baron felt the poor people were being taxed to heavily and he refused to collect the money for the king. The King therefore ordered Baron VanDorstan’s execution. The execution never happened because the baron escaped on a boat disguised as a homeless man. He eventually emigrated to America! WHEW! That was a close one.

As the elderly man shifted to the next ancestor in Elijah’s life, the children listened intently. The next story was about Elijah’s great-grandfather who was a semi-pro boxer in Chicago, Illinois.  His name was Alex.  Alex  had the opportunity to meet Babe Ruth, a pro baseball player, and he played catch with him.  Another interesting point about Elijah’s great grandfather was that he washed laundry for a living.  One of his customers was the infamous criminal, Al Capone!

As the time was passing, the elderly gentleman knew the children would want to know his identity, but he explained he wanted to stay a mystery until the end of his story telling.  The children grew with excitement, but agreed to wait.  It was at this point the man began sharing about another ancestor who was Elijah’s great grandmother on his mother’s side.  When Elijah’s grandmother was born in Berlin, Germany in 1939, Elijah’s great grandmother with her grandmother were forced to flee because of World War II and all the bombing going on during the war.  They walked all the way to the southern part of Germany to find  safety.  When they travelled they worried they would be caught by the Russians, but thankfully they were not captured and they did make it to their destination several months later.  Elijah would not be here today if they had been killed.

Another ancestor on Elijah’s mother’s side was great, great, great uncle Senator Kenneth Douglas McKellar.  Senator McKellar was born in Dallas County, Alabama in 1869.  He later moved to Tennessee where he became one of the most powerful politicians during the 1920’s-1940’s.  He assisted President Franklin D. Roosevelt in getting the money to build the atomic bomb!

As the evening was coming to a close, the elderly story teller paused to capture the moment in his mind of all the children looking at him admiringly.  The time had come to tell the children the truth about his identity.  He softly stated he was indeed Elijah and all the stories were about his own family.  The kids clapped loudly with this news, although they were flabbergasted.  It was a great night for all.

PLEASE note extra information/photos in regards to Elijah’s genealogy story above:

Babe Ruth  This photo was given to your blogger of Babe Ruth about 30 years ago.  I have treasured it.  This story my son wrote refers to the Babe whom his great grandpa met.

 

This photo depicts your blogger's Oma and Mother. This story speaks of my mother and grandmother's escape from WWII bombing.

This photo depicts your blogger’s Oma and Mother. This story speaks of my mother and grandmother’s escape from WWII bombing.