Friday, November 14, 2014

Honoring Our Veterans By Telling Their Stories

Did you thank a veteran on Veterans Day?

To all who are serving and have served in our country's military, we thank you and honor you. As the song says, we can "sleep in peace tonight" because you do what you do. We can't thank you enough.

GranFran and I had the privilege of sharing several times during the week surrounding Veterans Day.  We were invited to Corner School, where Librarian Jennifer Harris led the way to provide an AWESOME program and breakfast honoring veterans, then we spoke to their fifth and sixth grades.

That night, we attended the National Veterans Day dinner in Birmingham (which is the birthplace of Veterans Day, BTW), where Mother sat at the head table as the founder of the American Rosie the Riveter Association.

On Veterans Day itself, GranFran was on the program for the Senior Adult Veterans Day Lunch at Dawson Baptist Church in Birmingham. Her part was presented as an onstage interview with Channel 13's news anchor, Mike Royer.

And the next day, we had a different kind of treat - she was asked to speak to second graders from Trace Crossings Elementary at Samford University School of Education's Centennial Day, a day of learning and special activities about education in the last 100 years. She told them her experiences as a first-year teacher in rural Mississippi in 1942 - she was 20 years old with two years of college, teaching on a World War II "defense certificate," with 52 students in Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades.

It was a busy but happy week, honoring our veterans and telling the Rosie story! (Did I mention that GranFran is 92?)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

They did it! They saved the Willow Run building!

    Imagine a huge, mile-long building with tens of thousands of workers - including lots of Rosie the Riveter women - working 24 hours a day to make one main thing for the war effort - B-24 airplanes, known as Liberator Bombers. That was Willow Run Bomber Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan in the 1940's.
    The 2014 plan was to tear down the huge building, which hasn't been used in many years. But the Yankee Air Museum has officially bought part of the building - the end with the huge bay doors where the finished planes rolled out and took off on the runway - and plan to move the museum there. Read about the sale here.
    It wasn't easy to buy the building, though. It took years of fundraising to secure the 8 million dollars that was needed. And GUESS WHO helped with that effort? The women! Well, the Yankee Air Museum does a lot to include the role of the women - the Rosies - in their displays, and the women had a heart to help.
     Recently, 776 women and girls dressed as Rosie the Riveter and set a record for the Guinness Book of World Records for "The Largest Gathering of People Dressed as Rosie the Riveter." Don't you know that was a fun event?! And they raised awareness and money for the effort to Save Willow Run. There were several actual Rosies present who had worked at the Willow Run plant in the 1940's. The look-alikes ranged in age from 97 years old to 3 months old. To qualify for the record, they had to hold their "We Can Do It!" pose for 5 minutes as a group. No problem! The ladies spontaneously sang "God Bless America" and "Yankee Doodle Dandy" to pass the time!
    Here's a 1945 video of how one B-24 plane was produced every 55 minutes at the Willow Run Bomber Plant. Another piece of history preserved!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Rosie the Riveter Goes to Convention

    What a fun group of Rosies, their daughters, granddaughters, husbands, sons, and other guests gathered in Omaha, Nebraska recently for the 2014 Convention/Reunion of the American Rosie the Riveter Association! Even though these ladies are now in their late 80's and early 90's, there were 20 spry and spunky Rosies present, and 18 states were represented in the group. It was my privilege to join them with my Rosie mom!

     Besides lots of good times for sharing and comparing stories, we also heard the amazing story of a Holocaust survivor, who thanked the Rosies for their work that helped win the war sooner. The Nebraska Governor's wife brought greetings and read a proclamation from the Governor, and we learned about the North Platte Canteen, an incredible volunteer effort during the war to feed thousands of soldiers and sailors every single day, as their troop trains stopped in the tiny town of North Platte, Nebraska, which happened to be a railroad hub. Never heard of it? Watch a video about it here.
     Another highlight of the weekend was a tour of the Strategic Air and Space Museum, which houses several WW II aircraft. Imagine how much these ladies enjoyed seeing these planes that many of them had riveted, wired, and helped to build!
     As always, I was captivated by the stories of these ladies and their willing spirit and their dedication to their jobs. When WW II began, they were not expecting to go to work as welders, mechanics, riveters, electricians, or drivers. They didn't ask to take on all the work of the farms as the men went to war, and make the sacrifices that became necessary as the war wore on. But they said, "We Can Do It!" and they did it! It was a pleasure and a privliege to hang out with them!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Remembering Dad

      Today is Father's Day, but one that is different from any my family has ever experienced. We are missing my wonderful dad, Dr. John T. Carter, who passed away on March 2 of this year, at the age of 92. But how fortunate I was to be able to call him my dad!
     We had a precious Celebration of Life service in his honor a few weeks ago, and afterward - according to his wishes - everyone was invited for taco salad. So typical - he didn't want sadness!
     There were many ways that my dad was special to the world - from the many students he touched during 30+ years as Professor and Dean at Samford University, to the thousands he touched through his mission trips and writing projects.
     But his family knew him in some other ways, too. Growing up, our family was my mom (to whom he was married for almost 68 years), my brother Wayne, and me. Daddy was The Great Explainer, a teacher to the core, whether it was introducing me to algebra at a young age (and it made sense!), or showing us how to dip boxwood cuttings in a special substance so they would root better (and paid us 10 cents for every cutting that rooted, BTW!), or being always ready to tickle our brains with a riddle ("A hunter left his cabin and walked 1 mile due south, 1 mile due east, then saw a bear, then walked 1 mile due north and ended up back at his cabin. What color was the bear?"), or set us on an adventure, like the around-the-world trip our family took when I was ten, so he and Mother could teach at Hong Kong Baptist College while on a semester sabbatical from Samford ("Well, we have been advised to change our plans and not go to Athens tomorrow because of riots - what do you say we go to Pompeii instead?"). 
      He was a farmer (with a doctorate in agricultural education), as well as a scholar (with a doctorate in agricultural education). He was a writer, a poet (you should see the poems he wrote for my mom!), a patriot, and an inventor, with a dry wit that caught a lot of people by surprise. My children dubbed him "hard core" because of episodes like the time one Saturday that the wheel rim fell on his hand while he was changing his own tire (in his 80's) on a deserted Samford campus, but after about 20 minutes, he was finally able to flag down a student to help him get the car off his hand, then he insisted on driving himself to the emergency room.
     He had occasion to preach once in a while, and he would say, "I'm a bootleg preacher - I'm dispensing the gospel without a license." My 10-year-old self has never forgotten the sermon he preached at a church in Egypt on that trip around the world - his text was Hebrews 12:1-2. I learned to love God through my godly parents, and I am so very grateful.
    For the last 16 years, Dad helped Mother as she began a national organization called the American Rosie the Riveter Association, which honors women who worked during World War II. He faithfully helped her plan conventions and send out publicity, and he typed her correspondence and newsletter articles so often that she started taking him to lunch during Secretary's Week. He wore his original paratrooper uniform to give presentations with Mother called "Rosie and Her Paratrooper" in several states across the country.
     Dad rode a glider plane into the 1944 invasion of southern France that followed D-Day. He became rather famous in veteran circles for telling "The Turkey Story" (watch it here on YouTube) about the time he volunteered to cook a Thanksgiving turkey with no kitchen or mess hall on the Italian border. So he typed that one and some more WW II stories on his computer last summer and bound them into a little tablet, even though he had had a stroke by then and it wasn't easy. He called it Some Side-Lights of Operation Dragoon and enjoyed giving it away at a Dragoon reunion last summer. Last fall we added some photos, formatting, and additional stories, and made it into a book, which he continued to enjoy giving away, especially to veterans.
     Dad had a favorite saying: "I want to live 'til I die." And he absolutely did. The song says, "May all who come behind us find us faithful." Thank you, Daddy. Those of us coming behind you have certainly found you to be faithful.

Friday, May 23, 2014

First Graders Help GranFran Celebrate Her 92nd Birthday!

     Recently, after I read my mother's book, Manners for Me, to the seven First Grade classes at the school where I am librarian, I showed them her picture and they talked to her on speaker phone. "Her name is Fran Carter," I told them, but all her grandchildren call her GranFran, so you can call her that, too."
     They were super-enthusiastic when I asked if they would like to (shhhhh!) make birthday cards for GranFran's 92nd birthday! We made a class list of words and phrases they suggested - awesome, I hope you smile, Happy Birthday, I like the page in your book with the monkey, etc. and then they started the happy work of drawing pictures, writing messages, and attaching stickers to some very personalized construction paper cards.
         And boy, was GranFran surprised when I gave her the basket of cards! Then came the big news -- GranFran was coming to visit them on her actual birthday! You would have thought I had just announced that Sophia the First was enrolling in our school!
      The night before her birthday, GranFran spent the night at our house and the whole fam took her to dinner. Then we went to school together on The Birthday, in time for her to be on our live, closed circuit Morning Show, which another teacher and I produce with Fourth-Grade crew members. Our daily Morning Show themes that week were about fun things to do during the summer -- riding bikes safely, exploring local attractions, etc. -- and that day happened to be "Grow a Garden Day." GranFran was our special guest as she told about the Victory Garden she and her students grew on the playground during World War II (she also told them how she taught 52 students in grades K, 1, and 2 in one classroom, for which she received $56 a month pay -- whew, we can count our blessings, teachers!) I loved introducing my mom to our whole school!
     Then we went to each First Grade class and she spent some awesome face time with each group, answering questions, reading some of their cards, and presenting each teacher with a classroom copy of Manners for Me. Every class sang "Happy Birthday" to GranFran (and every class automatically shouted after the last line, "Hi-yah! Eat more chicken!" -- where do these traditions come from???) A reporter from the local paper even came to interview her. It was an incredible day that none of us will forget!

      In case you don't know the story, Mother wrote Manners for Me in 1957 while teaching a Child Development class at Samford University (then Howard College). A student in the class, Marie Smith, asked if she could draw illustrations for the couplet rhymes, which she did in just a few days. Then the original pages were put into a drawer for more than 55 years, but were brought out in the fall of 2013 to become a cool picture book -- good manners for a new generation, in retro style!
      So Happy, Happy Birthday, GranFran! We love you lots!