Five Star Bulletin

During World War II, five members of my immediate family served in the U.S. armed forces.  My oldest uncle, Lewis Staton, was a Seabee, an abbreviation for “Construction Battalion,” the branch of the Navy that built and maintained airfields, ports, roads, and other war-related infrastructure.  My youngest uncle, Joe Staton, was an infantryman in the Army who was captured by the Germans in North Africa in March 1943 and spent the rest of the war in German P.O.W. camps until they were liberated in May 1945.  My mother’s cousin, Wallace Tutt, was a pilot in the Army Air Corps and flew “the Hump” between India and Burma.  My uncle, Marv Krenk, served in the Air Corps as an intelligence officer in the Pacific.  And my father, Larry Fischer, was a career Air Force (then called Air Corps) officer assigned to personnel duties on several air bases.  Fortunately, all five of them survived the war and came home.

In September 1943, my grandfather and my aunt Mary decided that the best way to keep all the family up to date on events affecting the servicemen and those on the home front was to publish a weekly newsletter.  Letters from the five members of the family in the military were summarized, and Mary added her column of “Home Front Gossip,” which contained news about everyone else, from babies to grandparents, from family in Eugene, Oregon, the home base, to those in South Dakota and Tennessee and points east and west.  My grandfather typed the newsletters (with multiple carbons on onionskin paper), and copies were mailed to dozens of recipients eager for news.   Luckily, Mary was well organized and kept copies of every bulletin, as well as some personal messages.  There was a strong artistic strain on all sides of my family, which showed itself in many ways: Grandpa and Marv wrote poetry; Lewis was a cartoonist; Joe, who had studied architecture before the war, had the penmanship of a calligrapher; Mary and my mother, Ruth, were singers; and my father was both a musician and an artist.  In the Five Star Bulletin, these traits lend warmth and realism to the descriptions of daily life.

In the days before email and texting, people wrote actual letters; and to read the words and thoughts of those living through the hazards and deprivations of the war, facing terrible uncertainties with courage and fortitude, brings those people to life.  And more important, it keeps them alive in the memories of those of you who never knew them.  No one from the generations before mine still survives; I am the oldest member of my generation, and one of the few who remember any of the extended family outside Oregon.  But you will know them all when you’ve read these pages.

To see sample pages, click here.  Note that these are sample pages only and will be difficult to read without a magnifying glass.  The last image in the gallery is of my grandparents and their five children in the living room of their house at 570 West 10th Avenue in Eugene, taken on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary in 1954.  I’ve identified everyone in the picture and given the names of their spouses, although during the war years Joe was unmarried and Lewis and his wife were divorced.  (They later reconciled and remarried, but this explains why Lydia does not appear in the Bulletin, and why their daughter Sue is rarely mentioned.)

To read individual pages of the entire Five Star Bulletin, download the PDF file here.  You can print any pages that are of special interest to you from the PDF file.  This file is quite large and will take about three minutes to download, depending upon the speed of your computer. If you are a member of the family, or are simply interested in sharing the contemporaneous accounts of some wartime experiences, I think you’ll find the time required to download and read these pages was well spent.

The Five Star Bulletin is an account of one family’s personal war and is not intended for publication other than in this blog.  Any publication rights are reserved to the estate of Mary Krenk.


Hargis boys visit; take Sarasota by storm

Hunter and Nathan Hargis, along with their mom Marcy, paid grandparents Gerry and Lolly a spring break visit last weekend.  Sarasota rolled out its very best weather for the occasion, with bright sunshine, cool breezes, and warm temperatures.  We spent one full (very full) day at Busch Gardens, our favorite theme park just up the road in Tampa.  We can attest to the fact that the Cheetah Hunt, the park’s newest roller coaster, is as exciting as it looks in the advertising — three minutes of non-stop high-speed loops, twists, turns, climbs, and plummets.  At age nine, the boys weren’t tall enough to ride SheikRa, the most extreme of the coasters in the park; but we’re pretty sure the next time they visit we’ll really be in for it.  Just visualize a ninety-degree drop from 300 feet above the ground, feet dangling in midair, followed by an endless series of loops and rolls and one breathless rush through a pool of water.  We all enjoyed the wildlife safari experience, where we became very good friends with a pair of romaine-loving giraffes and saw the park’s resident rhinos, wildebeest, impalas, kudus, zebras, elephants, and other African creatures in their free-roaming habitat.

The next day we went on a two-hour cruise in Sarasota Bay aboard LeBarge, a big tour boat with four big palm trees growing in pots on the upper deck.  An onboard marine biologist served as our guide, and we saw several of the bay’s bottlenosed dolphins fishing for their lunch, as well as three manatees swimming over beds of seagrass near shore. We preceded this with a visit to the Saturday Market, just outside our door, where  Gerry bought shrimp and fish, while Nathan and Hunter scoped out the ubiquitous dogs and the market pastries, opting in the end for Pastries as Art offerings, just around the corner on Main. (Good choice!). Coming home, they spotted Mattison’s City Grille, an open air dining spot, and it was decided that Saturday night’s dinner choice was made, especially after Nathan learned that there was dancing with a live band every night. Also, there was an Arts and Crafts Fair along two blocks of Main, which the boys perused after the boat excursion, buying custom visors  and foam coasters, while Marcy and Laurie were unable to resist a Tennessee vendor’s ingenious grill cleaning tool.

Back at our condo, late Saturday afternoon, we spent an hour or so at the pool, but cut it a little short to watch our horse, In Lingerie, run in the Bourbonette Oaks Stakes on NBC ( see previous post). Much cheering and screaming ensued as In Lingerie coasted to a 6 length win that probably sends her to the Kentucky Oaks, the filly equavalent of the Kentucky Derby. Look for posts related to the Oaks, which we will attend if possible.

The dudes finished off their visit with dinner at Mattison’s City Grille Saturday night, a downtown outdoor venue with a band, dancing area, bar, and many, many tables for dining. After our dinner, Nathan proceeded to the dance floor, where he wowed the assembled crowd and danced the night away, carefully monitored by his mother. His grandparents faded back home with Hunter, who finished off his visit with a killer poker game with Lolly.

For more photos of the visit link here.

Ask Hunter who won the poker game.

Gerry and Lolly