With the Memorial Day last week and Father’s Day coming soon, I have often thought of my dad. Like most of his buddies he enlisted in the military during World War II. He had always dreamed of flying so he became a pilot in the Army Air Force. He was a tough disciplinarian, sometimes moody, and often taciturn. He didn’t talk much about the War. He kept those memories locked up tight, only to be silently remembered, late at night, with his pipe, a high ball, and his omnipresent symphony music. I loved and feared him. Now, as a father and grandfather, I regret not making more of an effort to ask him questions about his childhood and the War. I would love to hear what dreams he had as a boy and what trials he faced. There are so many questions I would ask if I could turn the clock back.
Like so many young pilots in the early years of the War, my dad had that earnest, “let’s go get them” exuberance!
During the Korean War his reserve unit was called up and was stationed in Germany. My family joined him shortly afterwards. During the famous “North Sea Flood” of 1953, he flew relief flights over the few parts of Holland that were not flooded. The Queen of the Netherlands gave him a special award. He definitely loved the adventure and esprit de corps of his fellow pilots.
One of my fondest memories of him was when I was in college at the University of the Pacific. I dropped by a small landing strip in California’s Mother Lode region. He was on a contract for the U.S. Forestry Service, flying a PBY Catalina “Borate Bomber”. That old swagger was back, with a pant leg tucked into one of his Wellington Boots, and wearing Bausch & Lomb Aviators. I’ll never forget it!
Marla’s father, Harry Weiss, served as a Navy officer in World War II. He dreamed of one day starting his own business with his wife, Joline. With big dreams, a little saved up cash, and plenty of hard work, they founded Wesco Fabrics in 1946. While he was on a trip to San Francisco to visit Marla, he offered me a position in Denver. The rest is history.
Red shirted Edgar Silberman & George Lichter in New York.
If there was ever a living character that could fit right into an Alan Furst novel, it would be George Lichter. Raconteur, bon vivant, art lover, and seeker of knowledge, George is a quite a piece of work! I met him on my very first buying trip to New York City. George was one of our suppliers. After his fabric presentation he asked if I would like to accompany him to see an opening of his friend’s erotic feminist art gallery. I had three more appointments that day so I had to say no. I should have gone. Today, Marla and I enjoy visiting George in Boulder for cocktails and dinner.
George flew P-47s and P-51s in World War II with the U.S. Air Force’s 361 Fighter Group. He had 2 confirmed kills, 3 probables, and 1 damaged, over Germany. After the war he met a group of like-minded volunteers in Czechoslovakia, and trained pilots on Messerschmitts and Spitfires that would eventually be flown to Israel. George’s real life story reads like a spy thriller! His biography entitled, “Ups and Downs and No Regrets”, by Boulder author, Vic Shayne, will be published in early 2012. I can’t wait to read it.
I am terrible about giving advice, but please DO ASK QUESTIONS of those you love! Life is an incredible tapestry that must be continually worked on and added to.