This book is a discussion of evolving challenges played against a backdrop of exciting adventures that made up my life. While growing up in Southern Illinois, and later while serving in the U.S. military and working in the corporate world, I visited 35 countries on five continents; yet, I have never been anywhere I would rather live than right here in the United States. In the military, my buddies and I often talked about “home,” which was not the place from which we enlisted. It was anywhere in the U.S. As soon as we stepped down off an aircraft onto the tarmac anywhere in the continental United States, we were home. The most important influences in my life were my God, my wife and my mother, combined with outside influences from the military and corporate environments. This book explains how all of these factors combined to make me who I am.
|Publisher:||Black Rose Writing|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)|
About the Author
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Life in the Midwest
As mentioned in the Preface, I was born and spent all of my formative years in Alton, Illinois. It is just one of many small communities "across the river" from St. Louis.
I have survived cultural changes that were unimaginable then. There were no smartphones. We had a party line, with several neighbors sharing our telephone. Before we could place a call we had to listen to see if anyone else was using the line.
It was a time in which there were no air conditioners, ATMs, ballpoint pens, clothes dryers, contact lenses, copy machines (Xerox), credit cards, dishwashers, electric blankets, frozen foods, pantyhose, penicillin, polio shots, televisions, radar, fuel injected engines, or space exploration.
We dated, became engaged, got married, and had babies, in that order. Two people living together without the benefit of marriage was scandalous. We were one of the last generations to think that a woman should have a husband to have a baby, and that a father was an essential role model for the family. Having a meaningful relationship meant getting along well with your in-laws.
Divorce and pregnancy out of wedlock carried a severe stigma, as did filing for bankruptcy. There were no day care centers or nursing homes. Families took care of each other, and family doctors did everything else. Medical specialists were rare.
There were no electric typewriters, word processors, or computers, and hardware was something you got at the hardware store. Software was not even in the dictionary. Before refrigerators we had "ice boxes" that stored ice to keep our food fresh. Before oil and natural gas we heated our houses with coal, and had to "bank" the fire every night so it would still have embers in the morning.
There were no McDonalds or pizzas, but you could buy things in the five and ten store for 5 cents, get a two scoop ice cream cone for a nickel, and buy gasoline for 11 cents a gallon. There was no air conditioning. When it got hot we simply opened our windows and turned on fans.
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"Made in Japan" meant junk and the United States was recognized as one of the world's leading manufacturers. We made most everything we used and grew most everything we ate.
Coke was a cold drink and pot was something you cooked in. If you couldn't get what you needed at the hardware store you probably had to order it from Sears & Roebuck or Montgomery Ward and wait several weeks for delivery.
There weren't any "no solicitation" signs in neighborhoods. Fuller Brush and Avon representatives knocked on doors regularly.
Weekend entertainment at the movies consisted of a Warner Pathe Newsreel, previews of coming attractions, a weekly serial, a cartoon and two feature length movies, all for less than 50 cents.
By today's standards we had a tough life, but we survived very nicely. We weren't as mobile a society as we are today. But, families were supportive, helped each other, and celebrated holidays together.
People born today will have more diverse problems and a much different look in their rearview mirror. Also, Midwesterners see life in the United States much differently than most American citizens see it. States that are part of the Midwest are generally considered to be Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
According to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, "the old trope that Midwesterners are the friendliest people on earth might actually be rooted in truth." In my entire life I have never met anyone from the Midwest who is not friendly, even when they disagree with you politically. However, I still recommend not discussing politics and religion with people you don't know, unless you are comfortable with the prospects of rowdy and argumentative discussions. Being friendly doesn't mean being tolerant of opinions from loudmouths with whom you disagree.
As reported in "This is Why It's So Great To Be A Midwesterner, According to Science," by Sara Boboltz, Huffington Post, June 18, 2014, "We merely jumped at the chance to explain precisely what makes the midwestern region so wonderful, according to certain probably unbiased sources."
Here are their reasons: "It's been proven that Midwesterners are super friendly. They're eager to help out. International tourists find them charming. They have the most state pride. They're super interesting. Everything's so cheap! Midwestern air practically sparkles. Midwesterners' kindness extends even to their cars. They appreciate their teachers. They're a thrifty bunch of people. They're leading a pretty major linguistic change. Midwesterners value family, and keep them really close."
In addition, researchers found that people who live in the more friendly and conventional Midwestern United States are also more likely to be conservative, less healthy, less educated, and less affluent. Researchers also noted that Midwesterners have more traditional values and that family and the status quo are extremely important.
The word Midwest has been in common use since the late 19th century. According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Midwesterners are sometimes viewed as open, friendly, and straightforward, or sometimes stereotyped as stubborn and uncultured.
It goes on to say Midwest values were shaped by religious beliefs and the agricultural values from the people who settled in the area. While other religions exist in the Midwest today, such as Catholicism, the Midwest is generally "a mix of Protestantism and Calvinism, untrusting of authority and power. "
Politics in the Midwest are divided, with many states leaning liberal and others conservative. The Great Lakes area, which has more large cities than the rest of the Midwest, tends to be the most liberal area of the Midwest, while the rural Great Plains states are more conservative.
Alton, Illinois, which is an amalgam of all of these values, was incorporated on October 10, 1877. Its elevation is 520 feet, its land area encompasses 15.6 square miles, and its population density is 1,737 people per square mile.
According to Alton's web page its ancestral make-up in 2013 was primarily German, followed by Irish, English, and pure United States, with some Italian and French. Incidentally, my wife and I are both mostly Irish, although I am also British, Cherokee, Dutch, and French, with an Irish name. Incidentally we visited Ireland for 10 days in 2012 and discovered there is an entire clan of Gillelands there, but there are also some in Scotland.
Alton has remained fairly static over the years. When I was born in 1935, the population was about 30,000. According to Alton's official web page its population in 2014 was 27,177. As cities go, it's an average and fairly representative example of the Midwest.
Further evidence of Midwestern values in Alton was the annual 4th of July celebration. As a child growing up in Alton, I cherished that celebration. Alton residents lined up on Broadway, the main thoroughfare, at what then seemed like a huge parade came through town. The parade included marching bands and all kinds of patriotic participants that enchanted young boys and girls. It was always an exciting time to be living in Alton, and we eagerly anticipated that parade.
The only rival to that annual parade was the occasional carnival or the Ringling Bros or Barnum & Bailey Bros. circus that came to town. It didn't matter to us which it was; both were always exciting to see. We loved watching elephants and horses and other animals parade through downtown on the way to their ultimate destination. It was especially exciting for members of my family because we couldn't afford the entrance price to actually see the carnival or circus performances. Occasionally we were able to sneak into the circus grounds to look around but we couldn't afford to buy a ticket to any of the shows or exhibits. It was just grand to look around at all the seemingly wondrous stuff.
In 1954, a year after I graduated from high school, the city of Alton was named as one of the three finalists for the location of the new United States Air Force Academy. Eventually, Alton lost to the winning site of Colorado Springs, Colorado, but Alton residents still remember all the excitement generated by the prospect of having the new Air Force Academy located there. Nobody did anything foolish like investing in prospective land sites or anything like that. Everyone dreamed of the potential boost it would likely have been to Alton's economy.
Alton was also known for being the site of the last Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas debate in October 1858, and the location of a state penitentiary that was used during the Civil War to hold up to 12,000 Confederate prisoners of war.
Other notable celebrities for which Alton has been known over the years include: Miles Davis, jazz musician; Ezekiel Elliott, running back for the Dallas Cowboys; Mary Beth Hughes, movie actress; Elijah Lovejoy, abolitionist; John M. Olin, inventor, industrialist and philanthropist; Edward O'Hare, Medal of Honor recipient; William S. Paley, founder and CEO of CBS Corporation; James Earl Ray, assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr.; Phyllis Schlafly, conservative author, constitutional lawyer and activist; Paul Tibbets Jr, pilot of the Enola Gay, which dropped the Atom Bomb on Hiroshima, Japan; Lyman Trumbull, U.S. Senator from Illinois and coauthor of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; and Rick Yager, cartoonist.
During the 1980s and 1990s many of Alton's manufacturing facilities closed and with their closing Alton lost a lot of jobs as it shifted from being a manufacturing center to becoming a tourist attraction with its Mississippi River floating casino.
During my formative years, Alton was an interesting little city, and I didn't venture outside its city limits by more than 50 miles until after my high school graduation. But I did own a car I loved. My Grandfather, who was actually my step-grandfather because my Grandma had divorced my grandfather and remarried, helped me finance my first car by extending a loan to me with scheduled payments to him until I paid it off.
It was a wonderful learning experience for a 16-year old boy. My step- grandfather knew that I was industrious and always had a job, so unless something dramatic happened to me, he could depend on me to repay the loan. He kept a record of the loan and payments in a log book in his Justice of the Peace office. I made weekly payments to him until I repaid his loan. I loved that he was willing to help me buy my first car. Actually I loved him and my Grandma a lot. They were both especially kind to our family and often had us kids over to spend the nights with them. But I always remembered how gracious he was in helping me buy my first car.
I first bought a 1940 Plymouth that didn't last long. While waiting in a left turn lane on Broadway, our major thoroughfare, I was hit from behind by another car, and it totaled my car. I next bought a 1938 Ford that my friends and I fell in love with. It served me well throughout high school until my graduation when I joined the U.S. Navy. I'll cover more on that in Chapter 2.
To put southern Illinois into a regional perspective, keep in mind that Illinois is 373 miles long and borders on Kentucky. It has been my experience that when people think of Illinois, they generally think of Chicago and have little or no idea that Illinois borders on Kentucky to the south. They rarely think of Carbondale, which is where Southern Illinois University is located or Cairo, which is at the southern tip of Illinois, as areas significantly different than the greater Chicago area. In truth, the southern tip of Illinois had more in common with Kentucky than with northern Illinois.
Over the years I've discovered that a lot of people don't known that southern Illinois has very little in common with northern Illinois. Even today, southern Illinois is agrarian and is made up of farmland and coal mines. You can drive for miles without seeing anything but farmland and cows. On the other hand, northern Illinois is industrial. It's made up of factories and larger cities such as Chicago.
What this means is that people who think of Chicago have no real feel for what life is like in southern Illinois. Chicago has a faster pace, while southern Illinois is more laidback and casual.
My father was a brute of an alcoholic who spent most, if not all, of his paychecks on booze. By brute I don't mean he was big. He was barely 5' 8" tall and weighed about 160 lbs. until late in life when he climbed to over 200 pounds.
But he was mean-spirited and when he drank alcohol, especially beer, he thought he was tough. He was a beer alcoholic and would start fights in Alton's bars and take on all comers. He rarely won, but that didn't keep him from believing he could. The consequence was that he spent a lot of nights in the local jail. His stepfather bailed him out of jail more times than any of us could remember. His mother, our grandma, always made excuses for him, even knowing of his problems. She would send her husband, our step-grandpa, down to the local jail to bail him out, but our dad never seemed to be embarrassed by his constant problems.
He had a caring brother with whom he had nothing in common. His brother was a sober, reliable, family oriented Christian who carried mail for the U.S. Postal Service. He also had a wonderful sister who made a living throughout her life as a hairdresser. Both his brother and his sister were especially loving toward our family, as was his mother and stepfather. I frequently stayed at the home of my Grandma and Grandpa, as they were affectionately known, throughout the year. I loved visiting with them because they seemed wealthy contrasted with our family, and they lived on one of Alton's main streets with wonderful views of a constant stream of traffic. For as long as I could remember, Grandpa would use me as an underage witness whenever he married someone in a civil ceremony in his office. He would give me about 50 cents as an unofficial payment for being a witness.
Whenever I visited with them Grandma would immediately send Grandpa to the grocer store to buy a pound of hamburger and buns that she always prepared for my lunch. I can't explain why, but her hamburgers always tasted better than hamburgers I ate anywhere else. To this day I still salivate whenever I think about those hamburgers. Some 60 years later I still have never found anyone else, private or commercial, who can make hamburgers taste as good as those made by Grandma. I always wondered why my Grandma and Grandpa couldn't do anything to control my father.
The problem was that my father continually embarrassed his siblings and his parents, as well as his own family. As if that wasn't bad enough, my grandparents on my mother's side of the family constantly distanced themselves from us because they believed, rightfully so, that my father was a deadbeat. I had trouble understanding why they treated the rest of us badly because of their disrespect for my father. Even as a child it never seemed fair, either to us or to my mother. But it never changed over the years. Most of the aunts, uncles, and cousins on that side of the family died without ever embracing anyone in our family. They just could never get over the fact that according to them, my mother married down from them on their social ladder. Why they felt as they did about us kids I never understood.
On the other hand, besides making his living as a union house painter, my father was an extraordinarily gifted artist who painted landscapes and other scenic pictures that showcased a spectacular talent. He painted in oils and while painting he was so single-focused I could walk up and stand right next to him and he wouldn't even know I was there.
His paintings didn't sell for much, but always seemed to be in demand. Some of them still hang in regional galleries in and around Alton. He also painted detailed landscapes on the sides of buildings. At another time in history he might have become a great artist, but it just wasn't to be! Booze got in the way of his talent.
Before the start of World War II, while my father was in his 30s, he was funny and animated. He constantly did funny things to amuse me and my siblings, as well as other kids in our neighborhood. In some ways the kids viewed him as a neighborhood clown. He constantly entertained us and all the kids loved him.
For instance, he would carve apples or various pieces of fruit to form protrusions out of his mouth to make funny faces to amuse or scare the kids. He had other talents too, which I'll get to in a moment.
Our neighborhood was fairly small. Our street was barely a half-mile long and ended at what was then a 27acre farm that grew tomatoes, asparagus, and various berries. Eventually the farmer's house burned down from a cause I never knew and he sub-divided his 27-acres into lots that he sold to housing developers. Today the street on which I was raised is longer with all 27-acres of that farmland built out with homes.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Stars, Stripes and Corporate Logos"
Copyright © 2018 Donald L. Gilleland.
Excerpted by permission of Black Rose Writing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Other Books by Donald L. Gilleland,
Things I Wish I'd Said,
Chapter 1 - Life in the Midwest,
Chapter 2 - Life in the U.S. Navy,
Chapter 3 - Southern Illinois University,
Chapter 4 - A Bad Career Fit,
Chapter 5 - A Career in the Air Force,
Chapter 6 - An Exciting Life in the Civilian World,
Chapter 7 - Retirement in Florida,
Chapter 8 - Writing Satisfies the Soul,