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The StoryTeller and his stories .

Lt. Harold Wilder

Lt. Harold Wilder 1945


Hal... 2008


Billy Mitchell and

Eddie Rickenbacker,

friends of my father

Hal Wilder 2005

The 'Crew' in Venosa

Hal is also active in

the Ventura Power Squadron

at Channel Islands Harbor

and as a counselor at the

Brain Injury Center

of Ventura County

The StoryTeller's Stories

Stories from WWII

Reviews and excerpts

Beyond the stories

The Bottom Line


The Early Years

I was born at an interesting time, June 1918 to be exact. At the time my father was in Brittany, France, serving as Commandant of Training at a field near Issoudon. There they were teaching artillary officers to trust aerial observers. His Commanding Officer was Maj. Carl Spaatz. The field Adjutant was Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, whom I grew up knowing as Uncle Rick”.

After the war, The surviving Pilots, so few that they all knew each other, would visit in our home whenever they happened to pass through Chicago. Mother and Dad entertained such people as Spaatz, Uncle Rick, Maj. Hap Arnold, and Billy Mitchel. There were others, but I was a boy of 8 or 10, who didn’t pay much attention, I do remember that Uncle Rick showed up unexpectedly one time for Sunday dinner with his friend, Jimmy Doolittle in tow.

I was born and raised in Winnetka, 18 miles north of Chicago. Anyone north of Madison Street, Chicago’s base line, was surely a loyal Cub fan. Those south of Madison rooted for the White Sox. If this seems nutty to my readers, you're just not with it. You may be right, but this is Chicago we're considering.
I am old enough to remember winning teams.  While not yet a teenager, in the 1920s, I was faithful to such players as Charley Root, Hack Wilson, Rogers Hornsby, CuyCuy Cuyler, and Gabby Hartnet. Teams built around these heroes won games' and someday, perhaps, even seasons.  Again, after the War, there were Santo, Kessinger, Banks, Beckert, Williams, Hundley, Fergie Jenkins.  On and on, a truly great team, playing a great game. But then, the Cubs could break your heart.
In most years they would start with a rush in April, scoring in the top ranks of the league,  By July and the All Star game break in the season, they were cooling off.  It was heartbreaking; start off with a rush, leading in the fifth, then commit errors and lose the game. Finally end the season in last place. And all the time we could remember glory days. We were sure our Cubs could win it all- - someday.  It requires a strong character to continue as a Cub fan  . .

As a teenager I spent several summers working on a ranch.

After graduating from school, i worked in a munitions plant. Later, I decided to become a pilot in the 15th Air Force during WWII, in which Spaatz was commanding the 8th Air Force in England and Arnold commanding the U S Army Air Corps.

Ours has been spoken of as the greatest generation. If we were, perhaps it was the strengthening effect of the Great Depression that may have conditioned us.

Now, as an old man, I have compiled my reminiscences of an interesting life. Growing up in America during that Depression and before WWII was unlike anything since. This story, “GRANDFATHER STORIES is broken into several parts, because this life has seen so very much.

Other readers have enjoyed my stories. I hope you will, too.

Travelling in Mexico

Only twice did we visit Mexico, but that was more than most of our Mid-Western friends did.  Mostly they played in Florida or the Caribbean. But now that I'm in Southern California, so many are speaking of the wonders of Mexico.  In spite of the awful stories of what the drug lords are doing to their Country, it seems Mexico is becoming modern.
But in 1955 and '57,  Mothers, hide your Children!  What we saw was prehistoric!  We had been advise by the tourist agency of the Consulate to go to Puerta Vallarta, But when we spoke to TWA, they couldn't even find it.  Pan Am could, and did serve it through Mexican Americana, a subsidiary of TWA!  Traveling in Mexico was pretty iffy then.  We must first fly to Mexico City, then to Guadalajara. Only then could we fly to Puerta Vallarta.  The aircraft involved was a Douglas DC3.  Not new, it may have been a converted C-47, which flew soldiers and paratroopers all over during WWII.  At least it looked like it.  The pilot may have learned somewhere in the military.  Whatever. FAA officials would have called for his arrest.
The flight from Guadalajara to the coast was over untracked jungle.  It was the only connection between Vallarta and the rest of Mexico. Even more isolated were Ameca and Carro Desmonado.  These were a cluster of huts, hiding under grass-thatched roofs, and served by a flight strip that should have been a foot path.
I had a window seat, and could see the ground.  As a pretty seasoned pilot myself, when I realized he was going to land there, my stomach siezed up.   I closed my eyes and prayed.  Somehow he got over that hill and still got to the ground with enough runway left to stop the plane before it hit the huts.   They conducted whatever business had brought them here.  Then a bunch of natives took hold of the tail assembly and pushed and pulled until the plane had turned around.
Good God. If he had landed against the wind,  now he was going to take off with the wind.  Oh Boy!  Maybe the Co-Pilot will overpower him and stop this nonsense.  Golly, was there a Co_Pilot?
But no.  He raced his engines, lifted off after a short run, made a climbing bank away from that hill and climbed out of the valley and headed for the coast.  I headed for the rest room.
More jungle.  Guadalajara is only about 100 miles from the coast.  This should be quick.  But then he began circling and I could see Carro Desmonando.  No hills this time, rather a generally circular clearing in the jungle with a silly little strip of cleared land that he was going to try to land on.  And that's what he did.  He continued circling until about 100 feet up, then straightened out and just throttled back.  When the wheels touched down he was barely moving forward. 
Take off was much like the last one.  I was relieved to see that Vallarta had a no-nonsense runway that seemed to be several hundred feet long, and this guy may have trained as a carrier pilot.  I didn't even clo
se my eyes.

Burglars in the Daylight

People have been inviting me to speak publicly on my favorite subject; “you, too, should be writing your memoirs”  Some complain that they haven't done anything interesting.  My response is that “ you'd be surprised.  And don't forget  that you are still living.  Your story goes on and on as long as you live.”
My story did not begin nor end with the War.  I keep on remembering incidents that I'd forgotten, such as that burglary back in the 1960s, before the rise in popularity of home security systems.  As an Insurance Agent, it was obvious that none of my clients or prospects would welcome a visit on the day after New Year's day.  Might as well make use of an open day.  We had been wanting to look at new laundry equipment.  The nearest Sears store was in Elgin, 30 miles away.  So right after lunch we took off for Elgin..
We left our dog in the house, locked the doors, all of which constituted our home security system, and drove off.   We arrived at Sears about 2:00, and spent over an hour deciding which washer and which dryer would meet our needs and fit our budget.  We stopped for coffee, then headed home. 
As we turned in the drive we were greeted by our dog, happy to see us back.  Then we noticed that the garage door was open.  Strange.  We must not have been as careful as we thought.
January 2nd, it was about 4:00 and the sun was setting.  We went in and resumed normal activities.  Rosie was straightening up stuff neglected before we left..  I brought in some logs and laid a fire.  Then I poured a drink and went to turn on the T V.  Strange; it wasn't there.  Then I saw that our 3-piece stereo system wasn't there, either.
Rosie stopped what  she was doing and joined me,  We looked around.  The typewriter was missing.  I had had an old comptometer.  I'd been using it before we left.  No, I had not put it away; I looked..  For Christmas, Scott had gotten a nice 12-sting guitar.  On his bed were several sweaters he hadn't put  away.  But we could see the indentation where the guitar had lain on them. 
We supposed several things  but finally decided we had had intruders.  Burglars.  They let the dog out when they left.  We called the Sheriff, and started looking around.  Yep we found evidence of intrusion.  Some one had opened each dresser drawer, each desk drawer and rummaged to the bottom.  A tin of Christmas cookies had been disturbed. [ someone looking for jewels, or cash ?] Only the appliances, all of them. TV, stereo, toaster, waffle iron, typewriter, comptometer, and the guitar were missing.  Highly focused  burglars,  There must have been $60 worth of new sweaters still on Scott's bed.
The Sheriff came, took our report, looked about, then questioned us again for forgotten facts.  Before he left he commented “ I suppose now you'll get one of these home security systems”.
The Sheriff never found a thing.  We did get insurance money, which meant a newer TV, stereo and typewriter.  Funny thing, living in that rural neighborhood, with such nice, caring neighbors, we seldom locked our doors.  This time we did.  This time we were burgled.  We never did buy a home security system.  We were never burgled again.


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