On this day, 97 years ago, my grandfather Edwin Drake was born. This precious photo is him as a baby with his mother, Emma (Medine) Drake.
Today is the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I. My great-grandfather, Glenn Kaiser, joined the army in September of 1917. He served overseas, fighting in Germany in the 127th Infantry, 32nd Division, eventually being discharged in May of 1919. To remember the 100th anniversary of America’s engagement in WWI, I will be sharing some of his intriguing photos from The Great War.
For Women’s History Month, this is Part II of a series dedicated to my grandmother’s WWII military service. Click here to read Part I.
My Nana, Millie Kaiser, joined the Navy WAVES in 1944 when she was 21 years old, in the middle of WWII. She joined the WAVES because she felt it was the right thing to do for her country. After Basic Training in New York, she had a few days leave at home, and then she was stationed in Pensacola, Florida. Millie had never been that far away from home before. For her, it was an exciting new adventure.
Daily Life as a WAVE
In early summer of 1944, Millie arrived at Saufley Field Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida. She and the other WAVES that arrived with her were the first girls to be stationed at Saufley. Millie was a Seaman, Second class, and was assigned to Tower Two. Her primary job was to log each plane that went in and out of the airfield, looking for the plane number located next to the propeller. Because the pilots had to log a certain number of in-flight hours for training, Millie had to log each minute that each pilot spent in the air. Some days she was pretty busy, but other days, the hours went by slowly.
It was usually a pretty uneventful job, but occasionally she had a scare when a pilot “didn’t land quite right.” Although a couple of the accidents were severe, very few of the pilots were badly injured while she was there. The rest of the time, the WAVES in the control tower would pass the time listening to Millie’s radio. One Christmas when she was home, Millie’s father gave her a small radio as a gift. They were not supposed to have personal radios in the barracks, so she kept her radio in the control tower to keep herself and the other girls entertained during those long hours. However, radios were in high demand and it was eventually stolen from the tower one night. She had figured that some of the male soldiers stationed there were eager to listen to the radio and helped themselves to it. Her precious radio was never recovered. After that, they had to keep themselves entertained with stories from home.
Life in the barracks was pretty routine, and everyone would rotate chores. Millie did not enjoy sitting up at night for the overnight watch. She recalled, “We also had a 24-hour watch in the barracks. There would be two of us. Everyone had to be in at a certain time, and then the doors would be locked. If someone was late, then of course we had to let them in. We rotated shifts, and I would have to work nights every so often.” It was not a glamorous life, but it was an important part of the training base. I know that she missed her family and friends back home, but she always felt safe on the air base, and she always knew that she’d make it back home. She was aware that many of the pilots that she met and helped train would not make it home. Her family was very proud of her!
Free Time on Base
Millie made several close friends while she was stationed in Pensacola, and they would make the most of their free time! Stay tuned for Part III to learn more about their adventures…
- Interview with Mildred (Kaiser) Drake, conducted by Eva Weil, 2015.
- Interview with Mildred (Kaiser) Drake, conducted by Eva Weil, 2005.
- Photos from private collection, Mildred (Kaiser) Drake’s Pensacola photo album, 1944-1946.
- Women of WWII website
This blog turns one year old today! This year has certainly gone by fast! To celebrate, here’s a photo of my first birthday. I guess the frosting was better on my face, rather than in my mouth.
This semester I’m elated to be taking a course in Genealogy and Library Services. As part of the class, I’ll be focusing my research on the Medine family in Illinois. An introduction to their story is below.
Our family has been researching our roots for over 15 years now, and most of our ancestral lines have been traced back to the immigrant ancestor. I’ve just started doing some research on our ancestors in the Old Country. Lately, I’ve been tracing the lives of my great-great grandfather, Gustaf Medine, his siblings, and his parents in Sweden and America. This has certainly been a puzzle!
I love the family photo above. Gustaf’s sun-darkened, stern face shows the years of hard work behind him. He is leaning forward, as if eager to get back to work. His children look a lot like their mother, and have softer, more humorous looks. Fred, who will turn out to be the most mischievous character in years to come, looks especially devious. Katharina appears to have her hand behind her back, perhaps to hold onto his knee so he doesn’t fidget. The three sisters were very close, and opt to stand next to each other instead of close to their husbands. Overall, you can tell that there is a lot of love between all of them, and through any struggles that they had, they were there for each other. In their faces I see weariness from the toughness of life on the farm. However, I also see determination, strength and a resolve to survive.
Gustaf Medine was my grandfather’s grandfather, and he came to DeKalb County from Sweden in the 1880’s. He was married to Katharina Schroder, who was from Germany. They had met in Germany and married either there or in Sweden. They had six children, and they lived on a farm in Mayfield township in DeKalb County, Illinois. Gustaf eventually purchased a farm from the local abolitionist Ira Douglas. My grandfather knew Gustaf when he was very young, and spent a lot of time on that old farm. Even through troubled times, the Medine family was very close-knit. However, we didn’t know hardly anything about their time back in Sweden.
Through Ancestry.com, I recently connected with a Medine cousin. After sharing stories and a couple photos, she mentioned that when the family came from Sweden, they changed their name from something else to Medine. Bingo! I had never been able to locate any immigration records under their Medine names. Now I had a lead! I combed through some old local DeKalb County newspapers and found Gustaf’s father’s obituary. His last name: Danielson!
So, where did Danielson come from? After some investigation, I discovered that it was Swedish surname custom to add “-son” or “-dottr” to your father’s first name to create your surname. So, Gustaf Medine’s original name was Gustaf Andreasson, and his father’s original name was Andreas Danielsson. When Gustaf and his siblings each arrived in DeKalb County, Illinois, they began using “Medine” as their surname.
I eventually located Andreas’s immigration records to the USA, giving me his hometown in Sweden, which lead me to church and household records from their hometown. Andreas Danielson was married to Lina Stina Svensdottr (women didn’t change their surname when they married) and they had eight children: Kristina (b. 1846), Johann Daniel (b. 1851), Gustaf (b. 1853), Ingrid Maria (b. 1856), Peter Sven (b. 1858), Johannes (b. 1861), Helena (b. 1863), and Otto (b. 1872). Sadly, Otto died on Christmas Day when he was just a few months old. (Source: Ancestry.com)
They lived near a tiny village called Mexarp, in Mistelås parish in Smöland, Sweden. That area of Sweden has rocky soil and forests of thin trees. The trees and rocks are cleared to make way for farmland or grazing. Andreas was a farmer, but when his children became of age, opportunities for work must have been difficult. The countryside was becoming more and more overpopulated, and there weren’t enough farming jobs to go around. In the late 1860’s severe weather caused several crop failures and famine was widespread in the area. The first mass emigration was between 1868 and 1873, exactly in the time frame of the Andreasson family dispersal (source). Most of the Andreasson children left when they were in their 20’s, moving to Germany and America.
About 1871, Johann Daniel and Gustaf moved to Germany after spending some time in Denmark a few years before. Kristina briefly moved to Germany and had a son out of wedlock. Mary and Peter Sven both moved briefly to other towns in Sweden, then home again. Mary had a daughter as a single mother in 1882. Between 1881-1885, many of the siblings had moved to North America, most ending up in DeKalb County, Illinois. Peter Sven, Mary (with her daughter Amanda), Gustaf (and his new German wife Catherine and their new baby Amelia) and Helen all settled in Mayfield township in Illinois. Johannes and Kristina’s son Anders also apparently moved to North America, but I’m not sure where. Johann Daniel stayed in Germany.
Life was better for the family when they arrived in America. Gustaf and Peter eventually purchased their own farms. Helen and Mary got married and lived nearby. When their mother Lina Stina Svensdottr died in 1897, the children must have convinced their father to move to America with them. In 1899, Kristina traveled with her father Andreas to Mayfield township to live. They arrived in the USA with $5 in their pocket. He lived for a couple years with Gustaf, and later with Helen, where he passed away in 1907.
Life must have been difficult for Gustaf and his family. Both in America and Sweden, they lived in a very rural community where they were dependent on the land for survival. They certainly lived in poverty in Sweden, and were forced by crop failures to leave their homeland in search of a better life. Gustaf moved to Germany to start a new life, then about 10 years later, started over again in Mayfield township. Gustaf spoke Swedish, and his wife spoke German, and when they moved to America, they had to learn English. They were poor in America too, but eventually saved enough to buy their own farm. Life wasn’t easy for others in his family, either. His sisters Kristina and Maria were single mothers, and were likely supported by others in the family. While her siblings were able to venture off to other countries, Kristina had to stay in Sweden to take care of her aging parents. Andreas likely had to sell the farm when the crops failed, and by the time he moved to the USA, he was a pensioner still living on the farm.
This semester I hope to learn even more about this family. What was their life like in Sweden? Is there more family in Sweden that I haven’t found yet? When exactly did Gustaf and the others come to America? Why did they decide to settle in Mayfield? Where did the rest of the family go? Why did they change their name when they arrived in Mayfield, Illinois? Why did they choose Medine as their new last name? Stay tuned for more stories from the Old Country!
- Newspaper clippings from the True Republican, digitized and found at Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections
- Swedish Household Examination, Birth and Emigration records found at Ancestry.com in “Sweden, Church Records, 1451-1943” database
- Passenger list found at Ancestry.com in “Gothenburg, Sweden, Passenger Lists, 1869-1951” and “Massachusetts, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1820-1963” databases
- Other information taken from vital records, newspaper clippings, family interviews and family photos.
American lives were changed forever when Pearl Harbor was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941. My grandmother’s stepfather, Wally Jordan, served in the Navy later during WWII, and was stationed at Pearl Harbor for a brief time. He was not there during the attacks, but had photos of the attacks with his other military photos. I’m guessing the prints were offered by the military. Let’s not forget those who died defending their country 75 years ago.
Sometimes you live through history. I am blessed to have witnessed the Cubs winning their first World Series in 108 years. Being a Cubs fan is just in my blood.
When I was growing up, we’d try to go to a Cubs game once a year. As a kid, Chicago seemed very far away, and traveling to a Cubs game seemed like such a trip. Most of these trips were organized by a local bank, who sold tickets to its members and would take us to the game on a big fancy Cubs bus. We’d usually sit on the third base side, under the balcony so we were protected from the sun and the rain. My grandfather (Papa) would buy tickets for the whole family, and we’d spend the day at Wrigley. I’ll never forget sitting next to Papa during the game while he explained who everyone was on the team, and gave us some light commentary.
The rest of the season, Papa would often listen to the Cubs games on WGN while he worked. He’d always know the score of the day’s game, and could tell me all the stats if I asked. In his own quiet way, he loved the Cubs, and loved to see them win. He remembered the last time they were in the World Series in 1945. He played baseball on a community team about that same time. I’d imagine that he listened to those games intently on the radio with his brother and dad, or gathered at a teammate’s house to cheer them on.
The love for the Cubs runs deep on my dad’s side of the family too. My grandmother’s side of the family lived on the North side for several generations, and her uncle Ed lived within blocks of Wrigley Field. Great-Uncle Ed and Great-Aunt Edna were like grandparents to my dad, and he loved to go and visit them. Some of my dad’s earliest memories are visiting them over summer breaks and holidays, and of Wrigley Field. Uncle Ed and his son Jim were devoted fans who hardly missed watching or listening to a game. They’d watch the home games on WGN every afternoon and absolutely loved Jack Brickhouse and Lou Boudreau, and respected humble players like Ryne Sandberg, Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, and others who were happy just to play the game.
Going to a Cubs game was probably the best part of the summer for my dad when he was growing up. They would get General Grandstand seats, usually just off center of home plate. They’d walk to the stadium early, watch the end of batting practice, and then usually waited for the crowd to leave after the game. Probably the best day at the park came when he was about 10 years old. It was a double header day. The first game was something like 18-16 (Cubs win) and the second game was 1-0 Cubs.
Even though the Cubs were not “winners” in the usual sense, they embodied the good things about many people around the country. You loved them because they continued to play well (not great) and were popular. Even in their worst years, they packed the place day after day. Wrigley is a comfortable pleasant place to visit. Most people who cheer for the Cubs are life-long fans. There hasn’t been much to draw the people who cheer only winning teams. So the loyalty is there. For the people who aren’t baseball fans, they probably know someone who is a Cub fan.
The Cubs have certainly made history this year. Many of their fans are devoted, lifelong fans who love their team and their city. Through many years, the Cubs embodied the good things in life, like hope, loyalty and commitment. Even in their worst years, fans turned out to watch the games at “the friendly confines.” Many lifelong fans hoped and prayed for this day, but never got to see it happen. This year many new Cubs fans were born, but I am proud to say that Cubbie Blue runs deep in my blood. I’m so happy to say that I’ve seen this day, and I’ll never forget it. We can finally say again, The Cubs are World Series Champs! Go Cubs Go!
“Hey Chicago, what do ya say, Cubs are gonna win today!”