Category Archives: Holiday

The Steve McQueen Connection

Maybe you’re one of those hard-to-shop-for people who already has  everything.  So, for a holiday gift this year, maybe you got a DNA test kit from Ancestry.com or another company that was advertising them at a cut rate.  You spit in the tube, send it off, find out what the pie chart of your ethnicity shows by way of percentages European, Asian, African, etc., then what?

We did the test a few years ago, after I was charmed by an Ancestry.com vendor at Rootstech.

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test kit

Oddly (to me), most of the DNA connections I’ve found through ancestry.com  have no pedigree listed on the site at all, so I have no earthly idea how I’m related to them. You can go and see what matches you have in common with them, and then presume that you’re related to them through a common ancestor from the match in common. But when you have some Smiths, Williams’s, and other such very common names in the various ancestral lines, it could be any one of them.

For one thing, my parents’ few siblings had no children, so I have no first cousins. The second cousins should be the descendants of my grandparents’ siblings.  So I would have at least 4 common ancestors with a DNA match who is a second cousin. Third cousins: we would have 8 common ancestors to be descended from.  Fourth cousin: 16 common ancestors.  Unfortunately, in the majority of my matches, I have to guess which one of the 32 common ancestors the match is descended from. That generation (5th cousin) is my great-great-great grandparents, and most people haven’t gotten that far in their research. But, some people have gotten far. And maybe they can help me, because when you go back many generations, there weren’t  as many people in the world.

Another quirky thing about the DNA test, is that a person inherits 50% of his or her DNA from their mother and 50% from their father. So it is actually possible for a brother to have a DNA match and his sister to not have that match. I have seen that first hand, since my son and daughter both had their test results registered on the site. The DNA match I’m referring to would be at the level of distant cousin.

Ancestry also has an affiliated phone app called “We’re Related.” You also have to link up with Facebook somehow, to get matches. And DNA has nothing to do with these matches, they’re all based on the pedigree you’ve entered on the site, and enhanced by information from other people’s pedigrees, I guess.  So every now and then, we get a notice from “We’re Related” telling us who may be a cousin, and exactly how we are possibly related. This week, for me, it was Steve McQueen.

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Me & Cousin Steve

When we first get the notice of a match, it’s fun and interesting to see who is our distant cousin, but I never took it very seriously, since practically everyone in the US who has colonial ancestors, is related at the level of tenth cousin or so, right?  [Or, as one friend put it, “we’re all brothers and sisters when you go back to the beginning!”]

But it wasn’t until I was reading a blog called A Tree Grew in Oakland that I realized I should be checking the connections given in these notifications, to see if they are feasible. I knew by clicking on the 10 in the notice above, and seeing the ten generations the site came up with for my lineage, that I only had an ancestor for the prior 5 generations. It ended with my furtherest-back ancestor, a great-great grandmother, but they listed 5 more generations previous to hers. You could say that I had a brick wall. I didn’t know where she came from. I still don’t know for sure, but these new connections are feasible, and when I entered some of the information, hints popped up to show that there are historical records that confirm the data.

Another coincidence is that a few days before, I’d gotten a notice that Derek Jeter is possibly my 8th cousin. When I clicked on the 8 to see what they came up for our common ancestor, the lineage included that same great-great grandmother, but this time it showed  three previous generations in her maternal line, rather than paternal like the Steve McQueen connection.

Amazing, do you think that great-great grandmother wanted her lineage to be found? Time to stop all the fun speculation and actually follow up on some of these leads.

As Pat Shaul, the author of A Tree Grew in Oakland, says, not all of the connections on “We’re Related” are correct. But when he wrote that he had some checking to do, it hit me that those speculative relationships from Ancestry.com can be a gold mine of a starting point for research!

The Allez Gators Quilt

Thanks to Google, I was able to quickly find out that the French word for quilt is courtepoint. I have to admit, I’ve never ever seen or heard the word courtepoint before! Not that I have much of a working vocabulary for French anyway; my formal training in French words is limited to 2 years at Herndon High School back in the seventies…“Où est Phillipe? Il est a là piscine….”

But I have a family member who majored in French at the University of Florida. In fact, her grandfather was a French scholar and chairman of the languages department.  Owing that French words and being a gator are dear to her heart, I designed a lap quilt around those two elements.

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la courtepointe est finie

The design is based on the chants they make you do when you go to a football game. “Orange!” “Blue!” “Orange!” Blue!” et cetera.  So in French it would be “L’Orange! Le Bleu!”  Not exactly rocket science here, but… we’re talking…college football. Then, I added “Allez Gators!” Get it?  The standard greeting in Gainesville, if you come across anyone who is dressed in orange and blue, no matter what the occasion, is “Go Gators!”

The stripes in the quilt were made after the manner of Edyta Sitar’s Mix ‘N Match Inspired Scrappy Quilting class from Craftsy. Fabric is cut into strips, then pieced together, then cut into the desired shapes: in this quilt, the shapes were cut from the Rick-rack template on an Accuquilt Go! Big cutting machine. And the green gator was just a freehand sketch.

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strips into stripes, the orange version

Sitar has a recommended mix for this type of assembly, with 5 types of fabrics that blend well with colors, including a large print, a small print, a polka dot, a stripe,,,but I used fabrics that match up with the gator licensed collegiate fabric. Florida has a distinctive paprika-colored orange and a royal blue; you wouldn’t want to end up with, say, a Tennessee orange which has more yellow, or the Auburn orange and blue, which is burnt orange and navy blue. Totally different orange and blue. Oh, yes, there’s more to college football rivalry than prowess on the field, you have to get the true colors right. There’s room for some creativity, but one must uphold the standards, as set forth here.

Ah, for the lettering…I could have used one of the cool Rivermill machine embroidery appliqué templates, but the problem there, is getting the individual letters sewn onto the quilt top one by one, with a pleasing amount of space in between each letter. If you’ve ever done calligraphy, using a Speedball pen and ink guidelines book, you’ll recall that every letter has a standard dimension, and the spaces between the letters are not the same. When you are appliquéing letters on a background fabric using machine embroidery, you’d have to know the exact dimensions of each letter and how far apart to space them.  I thought it would be easier to just draw out the letters, then attach Wunder-under to the back of the lettering and glue it onto the fabric before satin-stitching around the edges. Easier said than done! Wunder-under consists of a piece of paper that has glue on both sides, one side having an additional backing paper. The idea is to iron it on to a piece of fabric, then peel off the backing, exposing the glue on the other side, then flipping the appliqué over and ironing that side down to another fabric. But to use that “easy” procedure, you’d have to draw the word backwards on to the Wonder-under first, which is something that the left-brained aspect of me, was unable to pull off.

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ironing Wunder-under to the back of a fabric

So what I ended up doing, was sketching the word on the back of the Wunder-under, the crinkly, textured side that has the first application of glue to be ironed on, then ironing it onto the wrong side of the fabric, then cutting out around the sketched letters with embroidery scissors and an X-acto knife, then peeling off the backing of the Wunder-under and ironing it down to the quilt top.

After all the appliqué pieces were backed with the adhesive sheets and ironed onto the quilt top, I stitched around them with zig-zag or satin stitching to anchor them down. Then I starched both top and backing (both fabrics being white cotton), and quilted them together in random stipple stitching with orange thread,  with a layer of poly-cotton batting in between. I sent off for some pre-wound orange bobbins on Amazon from a dealer who had originally bought them from Superior Threads, and I had no trouble with tension. Then I squared up the edges and applied a binding strip 2 1/4 inches wide, also cut with an Accuquilt die. I bet it would have looked great with rick-rack shaped edges, but I was chasing a deadline at this point, so straight edges it was.

Happy holidays, and though they didn’t even get a bowl game this year,  Go Gators!

Holiday Brunches

WARNING!! If you have gluten sensitivity, are vegetarian, pescatarian, vegan, Paleo,  or have any other dietary limitations or qualms about eating fattening food, just pass on over this post, nothing to see here…<

I love the idea of having a late breakfast -slash-early lunch during the holidays. As craftspeople, we like the satisfaction of making things when it comes to meals, too, or just basking in the glow of other people’s creations.

We had brunch at the local breakfast house, 43rd Street Deli, Saturday. Take a look at their creative specials menu:

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holiday specials

I had to go for the Crabby Patty special, needless to say.

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Crabby patties for breakfast

Those curvy-shaped fried things with the green undertones are fried avocado slices. Pretty delicious! And their toaster was on the fritz, so I had to get rye toast that had been grilled in just a thin even layer of butter…savory-crisp on one side…

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Skip always gets pretty much, this

Skip’s usual: 2 eggs, any style, with sides. Amy went for the creative and exotic.

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Cajun Persuasion Benedict

Noele liked the decked-out Holiday Waffle.

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waffleicious

Amy asked for a sample of the blackberry-thyme topping that went with another menu item we passed over, and tasted as good as it sounds.

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Berry Thyme

We got a Swiss Colony breakfast  box as a gift from James and Danielle, so we decided to break it out for Christmas morning.

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Swiss Colony Christmas gift breakfast

The part we enjoyed included peppered bacon, Canadian bacon, marmalade and strawberry preserves, but there’s much more for another day’s brunch….

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bacon, eggs, toast and orange marmalade

I got the recipe for this Olive Shortbread from a recent magazine; it’s a sweet-salty nibble.

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Kalamata Olive shortbread

We still have a little bit of mini-canolli and cherry-topped cheesecake leftover from the family party, for dessert. Oh, did I mention, breakfast comes with dessert at Christmas?

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desserts

This was Amy’s Christmas morning brunch.

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Amy’s Chicago-style Deep Dish Pizza brunch spread

Is that spiced cider in the lower right? Mmmmm.

John and Amber had biscuits and gravy after opening presents. I didn’t get a picture, but I can picture it in my mind, with hot sausage,  big flaky buttermilk biscuits, thick-sliced crispy bacon on the side…

Merry Christmas everyone!

Simple Holiday Sewing with Buzzkill Fears and Trepidations

Which is better, cotton or polyester?

It used to be cotton all the way, however, there are so many cool polyester fabrics, it would be a shame to miss out on them. Am I right?

The idea for this Santa blanket came from looking through my fabric stash. The stash includes a big box of polar fleece, minky, minky dot and velour-type fabric remnants, mostly polyester or cotton-poly blends. Our local JoAnn store will roll up some fabric remnants for sale at 50% (sometimes 75%) off.

Most apparel remnants are less than a yard, but most Home-Dec items, including blanket-type material, can be a yard or more. I figure that one yard of fabric 50 to 60 inches wide is a good size for a lap quilt or a baby blanket. If less than .8 of a yard, it would look better pieced with some other fabric.

The main part of this Santa blanket is a high-pile red minky that’s velvety soft on both sides. I think it’s the ideal fabric for a soft blanket. The edges are trimmed with thick bands of white minky dot fabric sewn on right-side edge to back edge of blanket, folded over and sewn down, which are supposed to be reminiscent of the trim on Santa’s hat and suit.

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Santa blanket

The next is a takeoff on the Santa blanket, except the center part is pieced and backed. The top is made of 3 pieces of flannel (flannel is a cotton fabric) in red, black and white. The top was sewn, right sides together at two edges, to a piece of red minky dot fabric (polyester). Actually, the back is two pieces; I had to add a strip because the back wasn’t quite big enough. The big fabric cylinder was then turned inside-out. Then two wide strips of black minky dot fabric were sewn on the two ends with still-raw edges, folded over and sewn down, à la Santa blanket above.

I wasn’t very happy with the way it looked constuction-wise, so I decided this one is going to be kept on our couch, ain’t nobady’s business if I do. If I decided to give this as a gift, I probably would have put a layer of polyester batting in the center and quilted it together.

If not tacked together in the center (which this one isn’t), these layers of fabric will probably crackle with electricity when you shake out the blanket. I always worry about stuff like that. For instance, you see along the selvage, on really cute children’s pattern flannel and other fabrics, the buzz-kill warning: Not to be used for children’s sleepwear.

You can google this and find that there are several points of view: that some of these fabrics could catch fire easily. But then, commercial pajamas for kids have chemicals in them to serve as flame-retardants to the fabric in case it does catch on fire. I can remember my kids wearing sleepers that, when they’d been washed about a zillion times, really did crackle and spark with static electricity when they were romping around in them. Wonder if the flame-retardant chemicals washed out after a while? Wonder if the chemicals contributed to eczema? Wonder if shaking out these blankets full of static electricity could cause a fire?

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take off on Santa blanket

And while we’re on the subject of polyester fabrics, there’s a new contraindication going around: shellfish are eating little pieces of plastic that they find in their natural habitats, which are in turn passed on to us at the dining table. Researchers have found that one source of the tiny plastic particles in seafood is run-off water in which polyester clothes are washed. Here’s one article.

We could wall ourselves off from all polyester and acrylic contamination: wear only organic fibers, eat only organic foods, wash with soap that doesn’t contain exfoliating pellets of man-made whatever.  Or maybe it’s too late for that? Maybe it’s a step in the ultimate direction of The Singularity, where mankind becomes one with machine…it starts with our food sources ingesting plastic, and then little by little, those plastic components creep into our metabolisms, our anatomies, our selves?

I think I like cotton better.

 

Simplifying Holiday Decor

Decorating for the holidays: I’m all for simplifying!

Last year, the kittens were less than a year old at Christmas, and we knew that if we brought an 8- or 10-foot tree into the house, it would get crazy in here. This year, Ponyboy has beefed up to about 16 lbs and when the three cats go racing around the living, dining room, and kitchen, he can be a formidable projectile.  So we don’t think we’re ready to go back to a real tree, and got the plywood cat-loving tree we made previously, down from the attic.

The coffee table needed some bright color…lucky for me, I had a cache of remnants that would fit the bill.

I started out with a whiteish piece of fabric, which I thought might work for a center square to machine embroider something on. I ended up giving this Urban Threads design a go: it’s a dirigible-driven sleigh for a steam-punk Santa. Then I squared up the fabric to the design, trimming the block to about 9 inches.

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Santa’s dirigible, an Urban Threads design

Of all the suitable remnants I had lying around in the hoard, I chose a bright red glitter cotton one, a polyester plaid shot through with gold metallic threads, and a polyester shiny metallic green fabric with diamond-patterned raised stitching.

For the lining or backing…I thought something gold would be good–preferably something I had in the stash that was already wide enough so I wouldn’t have to piece it. I brought out several…

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gold fabric for backing
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or maybe one of these?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jackpot, of course I picked the one that was wide enough. I pinned it, right sides together, to the pieced and stitched top, sewed around the perimeter, leaving a fist-size opening, then turned the inside out and pressed the edges. Then I stitched around the edge of the finished square.

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this was the backing we ended up with
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coffee table cover being snagged by cat
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under the cat-proof tree

On the wall above the mantel in back, is what Skip calls…the Family “Palm” Tree.

 

 

 

Most Lame Halloween Ever

It’s even more depressing to talk about it.

We didn’t even have one trick or treater come to the door.

And I hurt from the knuckles up from my three-hour visit to the dentist to get prepped for a crown.

So the thought of “more candy for me” doesn’t even sound good.

I tried to “friend” my dentist on Facebook a couple of years ago. She was like “hell, no.”

Because I am the worst patient ever. I woke up this morning (All Saints Day, la la!) with crumbles of that rubbery material they use to make impressions of your teeth, two trays of which I barfed up onto the reclining chair of doom, stuck in my hair. Ew.

But here are some pics that capture the spirit of the holiday, at best…

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neighborhood hi-jinks
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Who are the people in your neighborhood? Ghouls.
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Our Sheenah and the new 99 cent Publix shopping bags
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in your space decorations
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open front door, see butt of 12-ft tall scary cat

Thanks to Danielle for the last two pics of their decorations, they were so funny I had to share them. The skull, with its rotating eyeballs, is maniacal!

Bats, Bats and More Bats! The Halloween Type!

by Skip…

Inspired by David Picciuto’s Rockler-sponsored video on making puzzles using a laser, we decided to download his puzzle template, fire up the Full Spectrum laser and make a puzzle. In the past couple of years, we have produced holiday-themed puzzles using the laser (2016 Ghoul,  2015 Christmas Tree, Thanksgiving 2016, Halloween 2015  ).  So with Halloween approaching, it was time to put out another puzzle.

Bat puzzle

 

I searched the internet and found a Halloween image with some bats, and sized it to fit in a 10 inch by 7 inch space. Then, using the laser in raster mode I burned a light image of the subject on a piece of 1/8 inch thick Baltic plywood.  I then loaded up the puzzle template, sized it to fill the 7 inch by 10 inch space, and in vector mode with 100% power and 60% speed, cut out the puzzle. Oh, before laser cutting, I covered the raster image with painters’ tape to reduce burn residue from collecting directly on the wood surface.  I peeled the tape off after the puzzle was cut.

So why did I pick bats this year?  I like bats. They are high tech, insect-eating machines.  If you get up close and personal, they are really kind of cute.  We have several bat houses on our UF campus and it is really fun to watch them come out at dusk to do their thing…. eat insects!

In a September 2016 blog post by Christina Wang, Spooky Symbolism: The History and Meaning Behind Iconic Halloween Images, Christina writes

“Bats have long been associated with mystery, evil, death, and the supernatural. They’re only active at night, plus they live in caves (which evokes the underworld). Vampires are also often said to transform into bats, a connection popularized by Stoker’s novel and the many Dracula films.  One theory for the link between bats and Halloween has to do with the festival of Samhain. When the Celts celebrated the end of the harvest on October 31, they would light bonfires to keep evil spirits at bay. This practice would attract insects and, in turn, bats.

For some great Bat Facts (and to see baby bats in blankets) go to Brandon Keim’s Wired article, October 31, 2012 entitled: Tricks and Treats: 12 Amazing Things About Bats.”

Back to the puzzle: after removing all the tape and cleaning up the parts, I turned the puzzle pieces over to my wife for PLPPP (POST LASER PUZZLE PIECE PROCESSING).  I thought the image I laser-printed on the puzzle would make it easy to put the puzzle back together before painting…NO! It took my wife a couple of hours [days, actually…J]  to reconstruct the puzzle. The image was too light and the puzzle pieces are so uniform that it made it really difficult to put the puzzle together.

Once it was together, I sandwiched it between two boards and flipped it over. I covered the back side with painters’ tape to hold it together while my wife painted it, using acrylic paints and glitter. I followed this up with a couple clear coats of acrylic spray.  My wife decided to extend the challenge she had undergone, and painted the puzzle in a fashion to keep the difficulty at a high level.  Nobody is going to quickly solve this puzzle like a bat out of you know where!!

 

Interdependence on Independence Day

Happy Fourth of July!

Been busy and my little projects are humble! But I’ve had other things to do.

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new old bedspread

This red satin (polyester) comforter was old and the batting inside had gotten all bunched up. I was going to throw it away, but the top of it was really a very savory huge piece of fabric. The bottom layer was a nasty old threadbare rag covered with fabric pills; if the skin of my foot ever accidentally touched the backing during the night, I would wake up recoiling in disgust. (My feet are very sensitive to substandard fabric!)

While shopping at JoAnn’s, I spotted a bolt of that extra-wide (108″) fabric that can be used as backings for large quilts, without having a seam.  So I slashed the quasimodo comforter, removed the hump of bunched up batting and the nasty backing, and replaced both with something new.  I thought of my grandmother, who told me that when she was young (in the Great Depression) they would cut the worn bedsheets down the middle and then re-sew them with the outer sides now seamed together in the middle. Waste not, want not!

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with new cotton backing

For quilting, I loaded it up on the king-size Grace frame, and I mostly traced over the embroidery on the satin top, and experimented a little with the Qnique.  I didn’t care about making it perfect.

I still haven’t mastered getting the bobbin tension right with the Qnique.

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quilted back of patriotic table runner

If you look closely at the quilted back of this table runner, you can see the ugly bobbin stitches.

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flag and eagle machine embroidery from Embroidery Library
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finished table runner project

This Fourth of July table runner was made from a cute little remnant, a remnant piece of fusible fleece for batting, and a collection of red, white and blue remnants die cut into tumbler shapes with an Accuquilt template. Binding is Wright’s double fold bias tape.

Are you watching fireworks tonight? Be safe.

 

Early Morning Walking in Central Florida

Sometimes known as Paradise on Earth…

We spent the night at Loew’s Portofino Bay hotel in Orlando, and these are pictures I took on my daily 30-minute walk after sunrise, except for the first one, which was the night before. The lighting is distinctly different! Also, we’ve been having a few days of seriously needed rain.

As we discussed in a prior post, traveling makes you also notice and appreciate more about your own home and surroundings. As I took my 30-minute walk this morning back at home in North Central Florida, I passed by this beautiful etched glass door on a professional office building I walk by every day, but I never really noticed it before!

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etched glass doors

Reflections on “The Ultimate Sacrifice” at Memorial Day

As a historian for the family, I was racking my brain to think of any relative I actually knew, who got killed while serving. And I apologize in advance for that: if anyone in the family reads this and brings to mind a fallen hero cousin–please comment or message me and I will update this post. Sadly, many fallen soldiers were young and unmarried when they served and died, and so their ancestral line ended with them. 
Here’s a story of my 3rd cousin twice removed, who was shot down in 1943 (the war ended in 1945). This came from an old newspaper clipping, which didn’t include the date or the publication name, but from some clues, I think it was in the Belvidere (IL) Daily Republican  7 Nov  2007.  The code number after his name is a Personal Identifier Number for him on the Familysearch.org web site.  If you already have a free familysearch.org account with a pedigree chart in place, you may be able to see some pictures of your ancestors’ tombstones using this link , which  represents a collaboration between Familysearch and the BillionGraves sites. 

Europe’s Air War Kills 3 BHS Pals; Another Is POW

by Dave Grimm

As the nation’s “Greatest Generation” breaks ground on the long overdue World War Two memorial in Washington, D.C., tomorrow, Nov. 10, in time for a Veteran’s Day 55 years after the end of that crucial conflict, it is time to reflect on one of its most poignant chapters. It is the tale of three young men, two from the Belvidere High School class of 1937, and another a few years behind. Another from the class of 1937 was a friend who was to serve as courier of news about the others. All were members of various units of what was, in that era, the United States Army Air Corps, now the United States Air Force. Three of the four never returned to Belvidere, another was imprisoned for more than a year, until September, 1944, in Rumania, which was until early 1945 under the occupation of Nazi Germany before liberation by the Russians moving their Red Army juggernaut westward to finally crush the Third Reich and its 12-year reign of terror in Europe. Three of the classmates were crewmen on B-24 Consolidated “Liberator” bombers, huge, four-engined, twin-tailed aerial behemoths capable of carrying a minimum crew of eight, more than half a dozen Browning .50 caliber machine guns and over a ton of bombs long distances at high altitudes. These cigar-shaped monsters with their 70 feet of tapered wingspan were chosen to fly into Rumania to a place called Ploesti (pronounced approximately plo-yest-ee) north of the the nation’s capitol, Bucharest.

Few people in America outside the petroleum and international transportation industries had ever heard of the place but it was indeed famous, not only in Europe but worldwide as the center of the world’s oil production, indeed the birthplace of the oil industry, since it had contained the first producing petroleum well in the world a decade before the same feat was accomplished in 1859 in Titusville, PA, in the United States. In the intervening years, the area became the center for oil production for not-only Europe but also various other markets abroad. For this reason, one of the first items on Adolph Hitler’s timetable of aggression was the seizure, occupation and, most important, defense of the mammoth oil-producing and refining area. At the height of its usage by the Nazis, Ploesti was to become the supplier of the gasoline, diesel and heating fuel, lubricants and aviation gas for one-half of the German war machine, ground, sea and air. Many multinational oil companies had refineries there, including a French firm with the highest production capacity in the world. Standard Oil of Indiana also had a refinery which American engineers had built several years before the war. Following several months of planning as well as one ill-fated and rather ill-advised air raid into Ploesti as well as several raids by Russian aircraft prior to America’s entry into the European fray, it was decided that a lowlevel raid by heavy bombers would have the advantage of surprise as well as accuracy in an attempt to deprive Hitler of his most valuable non-human resource. This raid would take place Aug. 1, 1943.

The major problem with the strategists’ theory was that the Allied forces were still in North Africa, having just defeated the Afrika Korps and had yet to invade Sicily and Italy to provide bases 500 miles closer to Rumania. This raid was to take off from Benghazi in eastern Libya, fly across the Mediterranean to Greece, then Albania, then Yugoslavia, then Bulgaria and finally into Rumania. Once inside that country’s borders, the bombers would take a course indicating a raid on Bucharest, then take a heading to the oil center, do their grisly work and return the way they had come. Planes in trouble would continue east- ward to land in Turkey, Bulgaria and Cyprus. There would be no fighter protection, since no fighters or fighter bombers were available with the range capable of accompanying the bomber stream. The 178 planes and crews would be on their own and once arriving at the target, they would fly in at smokestack level, deliver their deadly loads on preselected targets which had been drummed into the heads of both pilots and bombardiers and hopefully, fly out with minimum casualties.

In three separate planes in three separate bomb groups, two members of Belvidere High School’s class of 1937 and one from the class of 1942 took their places in the predawn dark of Aug. 1. They were First Lieutenant Jack Lanning and technical sergeants Kenneth Holroyd and Arthur White. Lanning was a co-pilot and the enlisted men were flight engineers who also served as tail turret gunners. Lanning, back in bucolic Belvidere, had been president of his senior class and Holroyd had served as vice-president. Lon Byram, another member of the class was to provide news back to Belvidere of the fate of both men. He was later killed in an air crash in England. Both Lanning and Byram were members of th Bucs’ varsity football team. The two Ploesti raid participants weren’t to return to Boone County. Lanning went down in his plane, ”Wingo-Wango,” in the Ionian Sea. Witnesses said the plane crashed on the way to target for no apparent reason, just beginning to spin out of control and crash without communication with his fellows. Holroyd survived the raid but died several weeks later in an air training crash. White, however, lived a saga which is almost beyond belief in its content of luck and courage.

The raid, contrary to plan, produced no surprise as it had been tracked by both German spotters and radar nearly from its point of takeoff. Ploesti, in addition, had the most heavily defended anti-aircraft system in the world, thanks to a commander whose genius at defending against air attack earned him a twelve-year imprisonment in Russia after WWII ended. Also, contrary to plan, the lead bomber group made a wrong turn and headed for Bucharest rather than Ploesti to its north. Following groups changed the flow of the bomber stream, although it was a breach of orders, and made the proper approach to the target and made their bomb runs according to their navigators’ flight plans, leavmg the miscreant group to correct its error and arrive at Ploesti to find its targets in a high state of smoking ruin. But, in the process, many of the raiders themselves were in smoking ruins from the murderous crossfire thrown up by the German defenses which ranged from flak towers atop the tallest of the distillation plants to machine gun and cannon emplacements camoflaged as haystacks in the fields surrounding the ring of refineries and supporting pipelines and storage tanks which ringed the city of Ploesti proper.

Medals of Honor were given posthumously to pilots who flew their bombers into flaming storage tanks while gasoline streamed from their long-range fuel tanks which had been ruptured by the flak. Miraculously, other aircraft returned to Benghazi unscathed despite an almost constant attack by fighters of German, Rumanian and Bulgarian air defense squadrons. 55 aircraft returned out of the original 178 which mounted the raid. One of those which didn’t return was “Boilermaker 2” which was shot down and landed in a field north of Ploesti near the village of Timisul which was a prison camp although much different than what most Allied prisoners of war were used to. It was a castle belonging to a noble Rumanian family named Kantecazine and a princess of the royal family took the survivors under her wing, protecting them as well as survivors from several other aircraft and interceding with both the German and Rumanian military administrations for good treatment. Art White was one of these prisoners. As a member of the BHS class of 1942 he entered military service in that year, shortly after graduation from high school. Life, according to White in a statement to his wife, could have been worse. “There are a lot worse prison camps to be in,” was his assessment, she recalled. – This imprisonment, from which he was released when the Russians overran the area in September, 1944, included visits to the neighboring village, marching outside the barbed wire enclosure to chapel services for both Catholic and Protestant prisoners, and access to not only locally produced foodstuffs and spirits, was a far cry from the morning of departure when, his widow recalled, when the assembled crews nearly all felt that the mission was suicide and that none of them would be coming back. White had the honor of being interned with a wartime celebrity, British airman Douglas Collins, whose escape exploits from various POW cams took him from the Arctic Circle to the Black Sea and became the backdrop for several British and American movies about wartime prisoner of war camps. With Collins, he managed to escape by tunneling from Timisul beneath the wire but was recaptured, beaten and returned to incarceration. According to his daughter, Barbara Feltz, he always remained quiet about his exploits and experiences during WWII until 1980 when a grandson approached him about an interview regarding his wartime experiences for an emergency assignment. White related his story on tape and caused quite a stir among local historians in area schools and the tale was finally told to the Chicago Historical Society. Needless to say, the story earned the grandson five A’s for the effort. Arthur White died in 1981 at the age of 56, shortly after his story was told. He-was a carpentry contractor until his death.

The Ploesti raid did little immediate damage to Hitler’s oil supply lthough it is believed to have caused a shortage enough to induce the German war machine to begin turning its attention to much greater dependence on synthetic oil research, many products are still sold today when their formulae were taken from German scientists following the Axis surrender. By the time White was released, the Allies were bombing Ploesti night and day, much as they did Germany. By the time of the Russian liberation of Rumania, there had been 23 heavy bombing raids with 9,173 individual fighter and bomber sorties logged and 13,709 tons of explosives had been dropped. To the credit of the Rumanians, the Ploesti plants were still able to produce 20 percent of their full capacity.

TELEGRAM FROM WAR DEPARTMENT SAYS BOMBARDIER WAS IN ACTION IN MIDDLE EASTERN AREA –BELIEVED CERTAIN TO HAVE BEEN ENGAGED IN RAID ON OIL FIELDS IN RUMANIA IN WHICH 20 BOMBERS WERE LOST. Lieutenant Jack B. Lanning, son of .Mr, and Mrs, A .J. Lanning, 921 East Lincoln avenue, Belvidere, is reported “missing in action” by the war department. The forenoon the following telegram was received: Washington, D. C. Aug. 7, 1943. Mrs. Abe J Lanning, 921 East Lincoln Avenue, Belvidere, Illinois, Regret to Inform you report received your Son, First Lieutenant Jack B .Lanning, mlssing in action in middle eastern area since Aug. 1. If further details or other information are received you will be promptly notified. ULIO, The Adjutant General.

Sorry that it makes for such a long read, but there’s some pretty fascinating history there.

Our son was thinking of staying home today, rather than getting up at sunrise and putting on his dress blues to march in a parade. But in all good conscience, he did. Happy Memorial Day, and if you feel like entering a comment about your relative who made the ultimate sacrifice, we do appreciate it!

Mission BBQ jenny skip
[photo taken last November; son is the one in the dress blues 3rd from left] and grandson at the front