Sunday, October 19, 2014
Remembering One of the Greatest Generation
by Pa Rock
My father, Garland Eugene Macy, were he still living, would be ninety-years-old today. He was born on October 19th, 1924, in the Westview area of Newton County, Missouri – approximately halfway between Seneca and Neosho.
Dad was the second of four children born to Charles Eugene “Chock” and Hazel Josephine (Nutt) Macy. Dad’s older brother was Wayne Hearcel Macy, and his two younger siblings were Tommy Dean Macy and Betty Joan Macy (Lankford). My Dad passed away in the wee hours of Christmas morning in 2009 at the age of eighty-five. With the passing of my Aunt Betty last fall, all of the children of Chock and Hazel are now gone.
My father married my mother, Ruby Florine Sreaves (also a native of rural Newton County, Missouri) on March 31st, 1946. Mom passed away at their home in Noel, Missouri, on December 8th, 1986. They had two children – me and my younger sister, Gail.
My parents and their siblings were part of what Tom Brokaw famously called “the greatest generation.” They came of age in the Great Depression, a time in our history that necessarily forged values like thrift, conservation, and self-reliance, and many of them entered adulthood helping to shoulder American efforts in World War II.
My father attended school at Westview. He was a good student, and the teacher promoted him from first to third grade, an act that apparently caused some resentment among his cousins and friends. Westview only went through grade ten, so when Dad finished tenth grade he moved to Neosho and got a room with relatives – and a job – so that he could complete high school. He graduated from Neosho High School in May of 1942 – just in time to join the war effort.
Dad enlisted in the new Army Air Corps (the precursor to the United States Air Force). One of his primary duties was to fix the sights on aircraft machine guns. He served in England and in France where he attained the rank of Staff Sergeant. He was the only one among his cousins to obtain the rank of Sergeant, and most of them continued to call him “Sarge” even after the war. Dad received a serious wound in a training exercise in France in 1944, an act that led to his receiving the Purple Heart.
(Dad's best friend in the military was Joe Spake of Memphis. Within the past few years I have enjoyed re-establishing contact with Joe's sons and daughter.)
Many in my father’s generation had grown up in poverty and desperate circumstances, and after the war their attention turned to making money so their their families would have a better quality of life than they had experienced in the Great Depression. My father was always proud of the fact that he had seldom had to work for a paycheck. He and my mother had a variety of businesses in their lifetimes, and Dad was out working as a landlord on the day he died.
(Dad and Mom also bragged about being homeowners – stating that they had only paid rent one time in their married lives.)
My parents were both good family people, but if there was one outside force that shaped their lives, and especially drove my father, it was it was an obsession to continually be making money. Money, in fact, was almost his exclusive measure of success. And it was more than just making money – it was saving, putting money aside for those “rainy days” or the potential needs of old age. Money was not wasted: clothes were bought too big so that they could be “grown into,” nights on vacation were either spent sleeping in the car or in the homes of relatives, and treats for the drive-in were prepared at home and brought along to the movies. Making a big purchase, like a vehicle or major appliance, would involve a “haggling” process over price that could last for hours. Money was to be accumulated – not wasted.
My father was born poor when the American economy was “roaring” under President Calvin Coolidge. He grew up in the poverty and neglect of the Hoover administration and the social and economic experimentation of FDR, and he matured in war. He got his business footing and began climbing the ladder of success while Ike and Mamie were in the White House, and he passed away during the first term of America’s first black President.
During my dad’s eighty-five years he went from trapping and selling rabbits for pennies to buying, renting, and selling homes. He listened to radio when it was a new medium, and as an adult he was able to sit back and enjoy television – particularly the westerns like “Gunsmoke” and “Have Gun, Will Travel.” By the time of his death he had mastered such modern marvels as the VCR and the microwave oven. Even though my dad’s father only drove a car one time in his life and often traveled to town in a horse and buggy, my father owned and drove many vehicles over the years, he even had his own airplane for awhile. (He got his pilot’s license after the war through benefits from the new G.I. Bill.)
When my father was born students were using hand-held slates in the classrooms. By the time he passed away they were using laptop computers and hand-held calculators.
The old guy saw a lot of change in his lifetime. He witnessed all seven of his grandchildren reach adulthood, and was even around to meet several of his great-grandchildren. Those grandchildren and great-grandchildren are all good people – and that is a legacy of which he would be very proud.
Happy birthday, Dad. You are remembered and missed!