Musings with Max
A Family Collection of Experiences and Short Stories
By Max Ephraim
- Chapter 1 — What Kinds Of Father Was Max?
- Chapter 2 — Who Wants To Buy Some Uranium Rocks?
- Chapter 3 — This Is A Story About My Secretaries Over The Years
- Chapter 4 — Navy Life
- Chapter 5 — How Not To Become An Executive Of A Television Station
- Chapter 6 — At Bethany Beach
- Chapter 7 — Mother and Dad
- Chapter 8 — Growing Up Through The Neighborhood And School
- Chapter 9 — Audrey’s Stroke
- Chapter 10 — My Role in the Birth of our Nine Children
What Kind Of Father Was Max?
First I would like to dispel any rumors that Max was not a good baby-sitter, I know you have heard some stories about kids running away and all of that sort of stuff without proper supervision, but I assure you that it is not quite right. There may be a few things out of order. Let me refresh my memory.
My first experience of losing a child happened to be Philip when he was about 4 or 5 years old, we were at 63rd and Halsted, and I think I had Janet with too. Of course I was running around at the Five and Dime store and Philip was nowhere to be seen after a while. Promptly the security people announced his name over the PA system, I claimed Philip so he got home completely unharmed. But, you know those things do happen once in a while, particularly if a father is not watching. I can cite many other instances. I’ll tell you a little about Paul. Paul, was a nice, innocent looking kid. He liked to wander away at night and Audrey used to go her girls meeting once a month, and she would get home very late. One time she was on her way home and believe it or not she saw some lady (after midnight) walking a little boy down the street, and she thought, “that looked like one of my children” and sure enough it was Paul. The other thing I can recall about Paul. Paul as I said liked to get up and wander around a little, so he climbed out of his crib one time, and went across to the neighbors, the Hielbrones, the Hielbrones were home alone with two women, the mother and daughter-in-law, and the men were at work. Paul had went over there, opened the basement door and then it slammed, so they knew there was a stranger in house and of course they were scared to death. Then they started hearing steps, honk, honk, honk, and footsteps coming upstairs. Fortunately they didn’t have a gun in those days, who knows what would have happened. Anyway when he got near the top they swung the door open and said “we are going to shoot you, or do something” They tried to do something to try and scare this invader, and it was poor little Paul. Don’t ask me where his father was, he was supposed to be taking care of the kids at home, and he was probably reading a book or some silly thing like that. Now, even Lois got in trouble once. We were at the New York World’s Fair and there were quite a few people there, and I remember I went with the boys and was waiting at the Ford exhibit to go in and Lois presumably was with us. Well there was a long line. We got near the front of the line when one of the kids asked that horrible question “Where is Lois”? Well I thought maybe I better go find her before we go to the Ford exhibit. So I made a great sacrifice and gave up the Ford exhibit and went over and asked the policeman. He said, “Oh, there was a lost girl here that they took to the police station, which was about a mile away. So I walked all the way down to the police station and I thought poor Lois would be scared to death. Well when I got there Lois was sitting right by the captains desk, drinking milk or something, and playing checkers with him. Worried, absolutely not, she was very happy.
Another time Phil was with me, and we went to Navy Pier for some sort of show, after walking all over, at closing time we went to the entrance, and somehow Phil had disappeared. Now you don’t think that is the father’s fault I’m sure, but anyway we didn’t know what to do, and we had to take some of the kid’s home so finally I left him there and went home. Well later on I went looking for him and found him near the elevated train, where he had just got off the train at 63rd and Loomis. He said, “Dad you told me to stay there, and I stayed there, and I had forgotten all about it. He borrowed some change from a policeman to get home. Now you don’t think that I was a poor father for doing that, do you? Really you have to forgive me for a few absent-minded things, when you have nine kids you are trying to keep track of, you know. Well I can tell many other stories, I’ll continue on a few others. Steven was probably the “worst” one. He was always late. The janitor used to take him home for church almost like a regular thing because Steven was somewhere being late and not in time to catch the car ride home. Well it was New Years Eve and they had last night service that ran until about 12:30 or 1:00 and old brother Howey was there, how he got there I don’t know. Brother Howey was legally blind and I thought I have to take him home, down by the stockyards. Well we got in the car and started out and I heard that horrible question come up again. Dad, where is Steven? Well, yes we had forgotten Steven. So I went back to try and find him, he wasn’t at church, the church was locked up and I didn’t know what to do. So I had Daniel stay at the church lock the doors and make sure that if Steven came there, he could take care of him. Well we took brother Howey down by the stockyards, and got home about 1:30 or 2:00. We thought we better call the police right away, and tell him to look for a boy. Somebody went upstairs in the attic to see if Steven could be there by chance, and sure enough there he was sound asleep. Yes he had walked home the mile and a half by himself; I suppose he was six tears old and had no problems at all. Some boys came up and said, “Boo” but he didn’t pay any attention to them. He got home safe and sound. Another time, we were in Pennsylvania, at night, it was getting late and we had to find a motel. We went to a gas station, and while we were in the gas station got filled with gas and thought we’d find a place now. We drove off, it was dark out, and as we came down the road a car came whizzing by us blinking his lights. I thought what is this crazy guy up to, as he passed us he said you left your boy back at the gas station. So again Steven was left and we had to go back and round him up again. So let me assure everybody in the end all of the children got home safely. So you see I wasn’t such a bad caretaker after all. After all you must forgive me for a few, little mistakes, or absent mindness, but we got them all home safe and sound and we are thankful for their guardian angel because he worked overtime many times for us. Please don’t accuse me of being a poor father, even if I was. Thank you. There were some other times too, which I won’t bore people with, but I hope to tell more stories to tell how responsible of a father I was. Our first child Janet was born on January 1, 194_ well, I won’t tell the year, but anyway it was a cold winter night and I took Audrey to the hospital and I was totally unprepared at what to expect. I got to the waiting room and there were two men there, one was there over 24hrs and the other one 12hrs. They said you might as well go down and get something to eat as it closes in a very short time, and you’ll be here all night long. Thus it was I found out what the cartoons always showed waiting rooms where the
fathers were there for hours. So I left Audrey and went down there to the cafeteria and I believe I got a milk shake and a piece of pie, although I had eaten dinner just before we got there. Well after a little time out I went up to the waiting room and the doctor told me it was a baby girl. I was down eating while Audrey was delivering. What a wonderful husband I’ve turned out to be. Everything worked out o.k. for she was a healthy baby. I recall we took her home after a few days. As I said we weren’t prepared for some things and put her to bed, we were tired. In those days Audrey stayed in the hospital for 5-10 days recovery time. This is probably good for the wife because when Janet got home that first night I still remember, we put her to bed and early the next morning we didn’t hear a peep, and we wondered if she was still alive? Is she o.k.? We rushed in there and sure enough she was in great shape. Another birth that I missed was because every year my company Electro Motives Division of General Motors took over Riverview Park for a day and this was a great resort in those days. The kid’s looked forward to it eagerly as that day they got to ride all of the rides that they wanted there was no limitation. It was a wonderful day and the day before Audrey was in the hospital and she said “Max take the kids and go to Riverview, because nothing is going to happen. She was so disgusted. Audrey hated to be in the hospital and not deliver right away. Now after she pushed me out, I said “I’ll call you from Riverview”. When we were at Riverview I called, and she said “don’t call again nothings going to happen”. So I went with the kids and we had a great day. Around five o’clock I thought I better call again. So I called again and they told me, it was wonderful baby girl, which we ultimately named Lois. So you see I was not there for her birth, and Audrey thought that she did the right thing sending me away. I was sorry I wasn’t able to be of any comfort to her. That’s the story of the absentee father. I missed several other great events, when Lois graduated high school I was somewhere, South Africa, or Russia I don’t remember and I missed her graduation. I think she has forgiven me though. We were happy with a wonderful girl.
Who Wants To Buy Some Uranium Rocks?
I would like to relate a few stories concerning a western venture that I got involved in. The years were the early 50’s and we introduced a new line of GP Locomotives operating on the Union Pacific running between Las Vegas and California. We had problems and I went out there to try and solve some of them. I had a young man named Irv Ziemann with me and he was a friend of mine for many years, still is. We rented a Motel in Las Vegas and the owner was a friend of mine from Chicago named Louis Smith and he owned the Del Mar motel in Las Vegas. Shortly after we got there we were involved in riding trains between Las Vegas over the hill half way to Los Angeles. One night Irv went over and was talking to Louis Smith and he came back very enthusiastic. He said that Louis Smith was on the Board of a uranium company and everybody was out looking for uranium. Well Louis Smith was on the board and Irv said, “Max I am going to invest in that, that is a great deal” and so he put several hundred dollars in to buy some stock in what was Universal Uranium Co. After Irv came back and I thought I better get involved and see what they are doing. And with that I became much more deeply involved than I ever thought possible with the uranium industry. The price of the stock at that time was $ .25 a share and word got out in engineering and amongst my own family also about the great uranium buy that there was at that time. Everybody expected to get rich quick. Mr. Knolton who was on the Board was a lawyer from Salt Lake as and was coming to town and had some stock that he could sell. We announced it throughout engineering and, we had a small luncheon planned. The room was hardly big enough. I think there were 30 to 50 people there and even though they were encouraged not to buy unless they could afford it, everybody wanted to get even more stock. I was quite a day, quite a day! Well in the months ahead we kept getting reports that stock was up to $ .40 and then up to maybe $ .50 a share. They encouraged us not to sell it yet. Sometime later, matter of fact it was in April 1955, I had to go out to Utah for some other business. We had several power plant units, three of them as a matter of fact, in the city of Vernal, Utah. One of the politicians close to the power plant said, “it made too much noise and if we didn’t get it fixed he was going to ban our engines from the state of Utah”. Well, I thought I would go out there and try to settle that at the same time look up the uranium mine and milling operation that they were building. During these days “everybody” was getting interested in uranium, people were out on their horses or Jeeps and looking for uranium, because they all expected to make a lot of money. I left Chicago on a Saturday morning, flew to Salt Lake City and met with Mr. Knolton. We started a long drive from Salt Lake City down to the edge of the North rim of the Grand Canyon where the mine was located. After leaving Salt Lake City we went to a few towns that you probably would not know, Thistle, Priste, and Cresent
Junction, and then on to Moab. It was a dusty, unpaved, very rough road. At Moab we visited with the Assayer and also the President of Universal Uranium and Milling Co. I also visited a large buying station where there was a large stockpile of uranium. In the afternoon we left Moab and took the local road to Dead Horse Point in Mineral Canyon. We drove into the canyon, but there is very little activity late Saturday afternoon. I looked at the camp, the mill, and the mining area around which we drove. As in most uranium mines there was no outward sign of wealth or riches and it is a rugged existence in a canyon. Right now they were stockpiling uranium waiting for the mill to open. In the morning, (early Sunday morning) we left Moab and went to Monticello where we visited Fletcher Bronson who was written up in Life magazine as he supposedly had the richest uranium find. Fletcher gave me some very active uranium rocks and I actually used one of these with Danny on his atomic experiment in grade school and he won 1st prize in his class. Let me a say a word right now about Mr. Horace Knolton. He is a lawyer and lived in Salt Lake City in a very large house, which is probably the most desirable location in Utah, as it overlooks the state Capital. He had twelve children at this time. He represented a Mormon group that lived in polygamy. He said he wasn’t an active member of that group, but he thought they should have legal representation. So when we traveled, we had Mr. Knolton to help us. There were so many claims at this time. Universal had at least 800 of them and they continued to make more claims every day. It was hard to know where everything was going to end up at this time and certainly the big companies were moving in and buying out the smaller ones as fast as they could. I should mention that on our trip through all of this area we had a baby in the car. Mr. Knolton said he got the baby when they had a court suit about the Mormon sect he represented and somehow he had to take care of the baby. It was interesting through all of this rough ride and everything else, actually the baby behaved very well. The only problem was for us to buy milk for him. Our drive through Utah was very scenic as we went through Canyons, Indian reservations, and the famous Monument Valley. On Sunday night we ended up in a small town called Short Creek, actually this was a city that was very much involved in the polygamy aspect of Mormonism. Since Mr. Knolton represented these people in court he was most welcome there and at night we went to the church in Short Creek. It was interesting meeting some of these people who just recently were written up in some of the major magazines as there were many people wanting to rid this community of these people. Actually Short Creek is off the main highway and is practically on the borderline of two states, and therefore when one state decided to clamp down on the Mormons they would move to the other state. They had two churches, two schools, and everything else, at least one on each side, so they would be ready for any eventuality. They had some problem later because both states decided they were going to stop their polygamy; however, they were not successful, and to this day they are not successful. Many years later Audrey and I were out west and we went to a place very close to Short Creek, and I asked the State Policeman about Short Creek? He said the name is now changed, I believe it is Mineral something. I asked him if it is still known for what is was known for before, he said, “yes, it is known for that but let me tell you this”, “the best kids in the state of Utah are raised there”. Interesting.
We left Short Creek with the idea we would drive away and try to get to Salt Lake City, by morning because Mr. Knowlton had a court date the next day. It was hundreds of miles away and I said, “I will sleep in the back of the car, while he drove for a way”. We started out from Short Creek on one of these horrible roads. It wasn’t long before there was a horrible upheaval in the car. Mr. Knowlton had fallen asleep and went over a 2-½ foot ridge and fortunately just missed large rocks in the area. Someone was coming from the Mormon meeting driving a truck and finally pulled us out. It was quite an ordeal. We stayed at some friends house in Hurricane to get few hours sleep, and that night I had drove all the way back to Salt Lake City. In the meantime, Universal Uranium looked very promising. The prices of stock which started at $ .25 a share went up to $ .40 and maybe $ .50 and were encouraged not to sell because it would go up even higher. Well, needless to say in most cases like this pretty soon a number of companies were in to the uranium business. Very soon the stock had a reverse split. Then we received a letter saying that the reporting was too costly to keep writing letters. That was almost the end of Universal actually; it was no longer Universal it was taken over by Anschutz and then later on by Del Webb Resources. With that many people declared there stock worthless and threw it away. I had several thousand shares, and thought I might as well keep it; it was not worth anything but we would see what happens. Another gentleman in engineering had also several thousand shares, and every so often he would get a report from Salt Lake City that the stock was worth $5.00, $ 6.00, $ 7.00 $10.00 actually when it got to be about $12.00 we saw a gain on our investment. When it got to $14.00 a share I finally sold it, and gave it to the church. That was an interesting experience; most money investments will never pay off, but fortunately this one did pay off eventually. After I got back to Salt Lake City I still had the problem of solving the noise problem out there in Vernal Utah, which is east of Salt Lake City. I did go out there immediately and that night took a lot of sound readings. It was amazing how quiet it can be in the desert, and certainly the diesel engine noise did penetrate through the night. That night they worked at putting intake mufflers on and the next morning at the motel where I was staying I woke up and all the sudden that whining noise from the diesel engine was gone. I thought either our tests were so good and successful or else they shut the engines down. The test was very successful, everybody was happy and they are not going to shut us down. That was the end of a very interesting weekend and busy weekend.
This Is A Story About My Secretaries Over The Years
My first secretary was of course my wonderful wife and I can still remember how that started. I was finishing my second year in college and since I had to make up a ½ year it was a very strenuous year. I was standing at the street corner talking to some of the boys in the neighborhood when Audrey walked by and, they said that Nelson girl is really growing up. At that time I was 18 and Audrey was 17 but she had graduated High school, and it was though a cloud had been removed from my eyes. She was a beautiful girl and, finally woke up to the fact that here the girl of my dreams, the woman that would become my wife, was living on the same block I was and I wasn’t paying any attention to her at all. So from that day on I decided I better get friendly with Audrey and hope she doesn’t have any other fellow after her. She was a very beautiful girl with her blonde hair. Shortly after that I had to look through the Nelsons in the phone book, to find John Nelson (Audrey’s father) and I called up and asked her for a date. That started it, and where did I take her on a date, she doesn’t go to shows, she doesn’t go here, she doesn’t go there, but she can roller skate, so believe it or not the first few dates we had we went roller skating. Somewhere along the line she offered to do some typing for me and this was a great benefit, because I was very slow in writing and making my writing very clear. As a matter of fact I remember how difficult it was; it took me 15 minutes to write a single page out. As a matter of fact I probably would have had A’s in my freshman English instead of B’s if I had a typist like Audrey a year earlier. Incidentally, those were the only 2 B’s I had in 4 years of college (freshmen English). Well, from that day on, Audrey did my typing for me, and never had any qualms about doing it, she was a wonderful typist, very good. She had an old typewriter that sat in the dining room of her house. It made a noise similar to a tractor (I think) and sometimes when we would be typing late at night, and right next to the dining room (next to the typewriter) was her mother’s bedroom; so her mother couldn’t sleep very well as long as we typed. When the typewriter quit her mom got suspicious, what are you doing? And I can assure you that everything was copasetic. Over the years I have appreciated what typing has done for people, I have encouraged people to take it, as a matter of fact I made it mandatory for all of our nine children to take typing, and some of them are very proficient at it. Also my younger brother who is 6yrs younger than I am, when he was in High School, I said, “Charlie, you have got to take typing”, and so he took typing and he later thought it was a wonderful idea. Maybe it was fortunate in some ways, I never learned to type. We didn’t have a typewriter in the house, boys did not take typing in High School, and thus I never had an opportunity to type. I am so happy that I had some wonderful people to type for me including my wonderful wife Audrey. Over the years God has blessed me with some wonderful people as secretaries. Before the war, I had Mabel and Eleanore who were top typists at Electro Motive and I
had a boss that knew how to use secretaries. He taught me an awful lot on how to do business using secretaries. In the Navy I had a secretary named Peggy and she was a very good secretary also. When I got home from the war the department I once worked in was no longer there so I had to start all over from scratch. I think I had the worst secretary imaginable when I came back. Her name was Barbara and she was either the dumbest or most stupid person I ever knew. If I wanted to write a letter it would take at least one day to get that letter out. The normal routine would be for Barbara to take the letter, which I would give her in long hand so she wouldn’t make too many mistakes, and perhaps by noon I might see a draft copy of what it would look like. Usually it had numerous mistakes and it would take her several hours to go over it, if I was fortunate I might get that letter out in one day. One day, I suggested that we put a phone in the woman’s washroom, and her comment was “that would be a good idea”! As I moved up the line at Electro Motive I thought I have got to have a good secretary and there was a girl that was laid off from another GM division who came to work for me. Her name was Roberta Wight. Roberta turned out to be probably one of my most unforgettable characters. She was an excellent secretary, the only thing wrong with her, was she was always late. Matter of fact sometimes when she would miss giving me something, she would drive all the way from her home, in Hinsdale, all the way to our house in Chicago, to make sure that I got it. She could never do things on time! She had a crippled sister and an ailing father in a big house on the main street in Hinsdale. Well, as the years passed, they had a General Motors contest, in which anybody who was not a supervisor, could enter and write a story about why they liked working for General Motors. The department I had control of at that time had about 10-12 people, they had a thermometer that showed how many people had already submitted their letter, and you can be sure Roberta’s was turned in the last day, at the last minute. I under stood she stayed up the night before to write her story. Time marched on, and one day someone came in and said, “Max, Roberta may win one of the prizes”. You have to understand, that these were very nice prizes. The grand prize was a $35,000.00 home, which was equivalent to far more than that today, plus $42,000.00 in cash, to pay the taxes. Then they went as follows: Cadillac, Buick, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Chevrolet, and so on. Many cars were given away and they also had many smaller things such as stoves, refrigerators, and things like that. There were many winners in the contest. It took some time before I heard anything about how Roberta did, and one day someone called me and said, “ Max, Roberta may be one of the winners.” I told them, “ You better tell me now, because she is getting ready to go on a long trip with her sister and I don’t have any idea where they are going.” Well, they said I couldn’t tell her, so I didn’t tell anybody. Then some weeks later they said they have to get in contact with Roberta, they have to get her up to Detroit, where they are giving out the grand awards. Well they finally tracked her down to Florida, and they flew her home, got her a new outfit and so Roberta went up to Detroit. The awards were announced and all the smaller awards went first, and there was a newsman at the table with Roberta and he was bored with the whole thing, and finally he woke up and said, “they haven’t called that girls name yet”, so to make a long story short, Roberta won the grand prize of all General Motors employees. The $35,000.00 house and a $42,000.00 cash prize. Apparently Roberta decided to take it all in cash and take care of it that way because she was happy with her old house and, all she wanted to do
was put a new roof on it. It made all of the newspapers in Chicago at that time. So, you might say, that that year Roberta was one of the highest paid people in General Motors, and certainly the highest paid secretary. She was still my secretary for several years later. As events happened there was a fellow name Joe Horvath, who worked for me, and somehow he and Roberta began to hit it off. One day it came to me that they are going to be married, thus Audrey and I went to the wedding, which was in Hinsdale, and I told Audrey at the time Roberta is going to be late for her wedding. Audrey assured me that girls are never late for their own wedding, well o.k. We’ll see. The wedding was scheduled for 4:00 pm, so we got to the church, and a number of people were at the church. What happened? We all waited and waited for 15 minutes, ½ hour, 45 minutes, the priest came out and said, “there has been a slight delay, the wedding will take place, just be patient”. I think she was a little over an hour late for her own wedding! Roberta’s habits were still not very good, I was promoted to Chief Engineer and it was getting very difficult to have her there in the front office if she was always late, so I had her transferred to another department, and I don’t think she ever forgave me for that. It was the only thing I could do. In replace of her I hired a younger girl who was Beth Morgan, and she was an excellent secretary, excellent in many ways. She worked for me for 24 years, until I retired. So you can see that not be able to type did not really hurt my career or my development as I had someone else to do the work. I did take a typing course later at the Junior College, and I finally got up to 15 words a minute, and when they wanted to give me a passing grade, I said, “don’t give it to me, I really haven’t done a good job”. Typing is something you should learn when you are young, not when you are old, and thus I never developed any abilities in typing. Now that I look back, One of the problems is as I get old, many of the people that I worked with and were so wonderful such as my secretaries, have passed on before I have, so that is the story of my life I guess. This story may have been considerably different if I had learned typing in High School, like our kids did, but I am glad that I encouraged them and now they are very appreciative of the fact that they did take typing, particularly in the computer age. That’s my entire story, a man that encouraged others to take typing, but never took it himself.
My first experience on board ship going from Key west to Canal Zone was a memorable one. I was seasick the whole time (about 3 days). Later on when I got my sea legs and knew how to handle the rough seas, I would no longer get sick at sea. It was January of the year when I went onboard ship and shortly thereafter we sailed for the Pacific Ocean. There were some repairs that needed to be done to our ship, so we were held up in Canal Zone while they replaced some parts. We left the Canal Zone in January heading for a city that nobody seemed to know much about, although it is more popular today, namely Bora Bora in the Society Islands. Today it is a vacation area for some people, but in those days it was nothing except a few natives living there. It was a welcome sight; because it was a place we could refuel and obtain plenty of water. I recall as we went into Bora Bora, three other ships similar to ours which were part of our squadron were pulling out, and gave us the bad news, “no mail”. We had been gone from home for about 2 weeks at the time, and of course everybody on ship was anxious to get mail. From Bora Bora we then headed west to what in those days was known as New Guinea to a town called Hollandria, which was headquarters for General McArthur preparing for the invasion of the Philippines. I will comment a little about my experiences in the Navy: I was one of the older people in the Navy at the time, since most of my crew was less than 21 years old. I had 27 men report to me and I was the engineering officer. Later on I volunteered to be the navigation officer, since I didn’t have confidence in some of the people who were trying to navigate. In the Navy I did not have many friends on board ship, since their lives were different from mine. The typical Navy officer looked forward to the Officers Clubs whenever possible and they seemed to enjoy drinking until they fell over, which was not my type of life. Sometimes people would have to help them back to the ship when they had lost their ability to stand up and I thought what a shame that is for people who should know better, but that was more or less the Navy life at the time for many people. My facilities included a bed at the top level. Our ship was designed for only two levels, but because of the space requirements they added a third level, and I was on it. My head was about 18” from the deck when I laid down, and it was so hot you didn’t want to touch the beams. I was glad when I got enough seniority to move to the lower beds. I had excellent rapport with my engineering crew “black gang” I did find a nice place on board ship where I could relax and read; it was a small deck behind the main mast but lower than the top deck where nobody seemed to go most of the time. It was a place for the flag bag, the place where the stored all of the flags that they used at various times. I would sit here and read at the same time I was giving tests to my people who were always trying make a better grade for themselves. New Guinea was a tough place;
it was hot, rainy, and in general miserable. From New Guinea we went on convoy duty to the Philippine Islands. I will say a few words about sea duty: We had watches and it was important for us to know what watch we were on and to be there on time. The times were every four hours except evening between 6 and 10 when they dogged “the watch” in order that every day you changed to a different watch. The toughest watch was of course the mid-watch, when you would stand watch from 12- 4 (midnight to 4am) and then get a couple hours sleep if you were lucky and be awakened for morning call, then be awake most of the day before going on watch again at noon. When I took on the navigation task it also meant that I had to be up before sunrise every day in order to take morning sights. I might mention that on standing watch you were expected to be on deck, standing up, for four hours although you could sometimes lean against some of the equipment. There was no shade, and therefore the only protection from the sun you had might be a wide brim hat. You stood out when it rained and I can assure you that it rained very hard at times. It was hard for me to imagine how many ships there were, being a land lover from Chicago. When we got delayed in Leyte Gulf, they had groups of thousands of boats coming and going all of the time, and they had special boats just to handle the mail. We had gone without mail for well over 2 months, but one day after sending a whaleboat over to the mail ship, they came back loaded with mail, and had to make a second trip. That night nobody slept because they were distributing mail for hours and hours, as most people had over a hundred and fifty letters. It was so good to hear from Audrey and my family and know that everything was well back in the states. Ordinarily the mail was not that slow getting to us, but since our ship was always moving to other ports they had no way of sending us mail until we hit a port in the Philippines. We had a mixed group of commanding officers, usually Lieutenants or Lieutenant Commanders I can only say this that some of them were good officers and some were not so good. I’ll give an example: Our first commanding officer was a lawyer from Kansas City, and he may be a better lawyer than he was an officer, because he was no good as an officer. He was always belittling the crew and fortunately he never did so with me. It seemed like every few weeks he called the officers together in the wardroom and asked me to “take” the ship so he could have all of the officers there to hear him give a speech. Later on we had other officers and the one thing I would say, if a man was successful in industry he usually made a good officer. If he was not successful in industry, then it would questionable if he would be a good officer. I made many friends amongst my engineering gang and followed up with some of them for many years. Leyte Gulf was a large body of water surrounded by the islands of the Philippines, which included Leyte, Samar and a few others. It was at least 50 miles long from one end to the other end. We went on convoy duty out of Leyte Gulf, and it was hard to imagine how big a convey might be. It was not unusual to have 100 ships in the convoy favorably spaced perhaps a mile apart so they would stretch on for miles. Ships such as ours would be outside the convoy patrolling for submarines, and so there might be six or eight ships like mine that were on this type of duty. Later on our base was moved to Subic Bay in the Philippines, which was a nicer place to be, as it wasn’t as big as Leyte Gulf by a long way. Subic Bay had one great advantage, they had plenty of fresh water and as soon as we came into Subic Bay we
would start pumping water into all of our tanks until they overflowed and told everybody to use as much water as they wanted. At sea we had to make our own water, and the machinery we had was not very reliable, thus we were always restricted with water to an amount of 1 bucket per man, per day. The officers were not rationed, but were expected to take showers accordingly. Food onboard ship apparently was always edible, and nobody ever got sick from the food. Obviously fresh provisions such as eggs or fruits were never available, but we did have meat. I was one of the few that ate breakfast, usually cereals and this was always a problem because they would get cereal in big boxes, they would give me a small box of it every day until that big box was empty at which time they opened another big box, usually a different cereal. So by the time I got sick and tired of one brand, finally I would get another one. There was no milk of course; and I used powdered milk, which left much to be desired. On board ship your means of getting mail, supplies, food, or anything else was by your whaleboat. It was necessary to have your boat handy to use at all times. I’ll pass along some comments about events that happened. One time we did not get the whaleboat on deck soon enough and a horrible storm came up and the whaleboat got loose and was lost at sea. Another ship presumably picked it up and they lost it also, so there we were without a whaleboat, out means of contact. At the time we lost our whaleboat we were in the Leyte Gulf and they loaned us a LCVP and we went looking for our whaleboat. We found a number of wrecks but we never did find our whaleboat that day. It was interesting we were at some of the islands were Magellan was killed (1519) near the entrance of Leyte Gulf. We met some of the natives on one of the islands, and of course we could not communicate in their language but we made it plain to them that we wanted to know if there was something that could serve as a Christmas tree, since it was getting close to Christmas time. An agreement was made that we would come back the next day and they would have a Christmas tree for us. Thus it was the next day we went back to the same spot and got what they called a Christmas tree, which was put onboard ship to help us think of Christmas. In exchange for the Christmas tree we gave them a nice hand saw and I’m sure they really appreciated that. We still did not have a whaleboat, but we did borrow the LCVP for a few days. I went to the Navy base and got a lecture as to why they would not give us a whaleboat. We were still without a whaleboat. I went around to the back door and talked to one of the seamen, and made arrangements to get a whaleboat and trade them for some stuff we had onboard ship. I still remember the day we picked up the whaleboat with all of the parts necessary to assemble it and moved it away from the base and brought it back to our ship and finally made our own whaleboat again. One interesting night was the Christmas Eve service at a very old Catholic church. I agreed to take anyone that wanted to go to the service ashore and borrowed a LCVP to take 15 or 20 people. As soon as way left our ship the motor died, and we were finally washed up upon a reef. It was a long night I can assure you, but finally we got some help, got the boat back to the ship, but we never made the service on that Christmas Eve. There are so many things that I remember from back in those days I am afraid I can’t recount them all at this time because it would be too lengthy.
I will tell of one time when a typhoon came our way in the Pacific. We were a little above 9 degrees latitude and I was navigator and acquainted with the way typhoons worked in that area. Ordinarily they don’t get severe until they get a little farther North, and the idea is that you watch them before they get to you. One big typhoon was coming and I alerted the Captain that we should move of our station. There are four quadrants around the typhoon, and one is considered safer than the others to keep from being “sucked” in. As it was we watched the wind blow around 360 degrees over a period of hours as the typhoon passed our way, but we were not in danger. There was a Coast Guard cutter in the area doing the same sort of duty that we were doing at the time (Watching the weather). They were “very brave”, and stood there while the typhoon came through. When we got to port a couple of weeks later, the Coast Guard cutter had not been heard from and they didn’t know if it was lost or what happened, Finally the Coast Guard cutter came in limping at about 2 miles per hour. It had finally made it to port and was completely damaged by the typhoon. It was a foolish thing for them to do, to stay and try and ride out the typhoon, the Navy lost several ships doing the same sort of foolishness. It was interesting when the ship came into port I looked at it, the hand rails were all bent, the paint was stripped off, and the main engines were not working. We were patrolling in an area of the Pacific, which was not a normal busy trade route and I never did check thoroughly because I did not want to know for sure that we were close to one of the last ships lost in the war (the heavy cruiser Indianapolis). They were in a similar area that we were in, and it was a sad story, over 1000 men were lost at sea. Many of them had held on, but the sea was too much for them. At Subic Bay I took some people from our ship and we went to visit Manila, which was about 50 miles away, although it was a little longer because of the sea route we had to take. A submarine crew joined us. It was interesting to visit Manila and see all of the damage that was done. It seemed like everything had been wrecked but returning there some years later one would never know that it was as badly damaged as it was. A man from our ship had a relative on the submarine and they had a nice reunion together. It would be the last reunion that they would ever have together. Later he heard from his family that the submarine was lost at sea. It was the very last submarine that was lost during WW II. There was no record of what happened to the submarine. At sea people slept when they could, this was particularly true at night and no body would awake them unless they were going on watch. There were three memorable times when I remember being awakened from sleep. They were:
- President Roosevelt died and was being succeeded by Harry Truman.
- A new type of bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in Japan and leveled the whole city.
- The war with Japan was over.
At the time I would have like to have celebrated but we were still on sea duty and never sure that the Japanese submarines may not have gotten the word as soon as we did, so we had no celebrations onboard, but we were all very happy thinking about getting home soon. With that I think I will end my stories about the US Navy sea duty. I would say that it was a very worthwhile experience, it probably made me a better person and I could hardly wait to get home to see my darling wife and my children.
The trip home incidentally was a long one, 21 days at sea, from the Leyte Gulf to San Francisco. Transportation from San Francisco to Chicago was booked up for days in advance. Since there were over a million people, from the Pacific, coming home at the same time. I took a chance and went to Los Angeles by air, and flew home from Los Angeles after visiting my sister-in-law and her family for several days waiting for the plane. It was a cold night and the flight on the DC3 from Los Angeles to Chicago went through some horrible storms. There were only two of us on board the plane that was not sick, and the other one had been a navigator. We got into Chicago around midnight and Audrey and my folks were there to greet me. What a precious moment that was in my life, I couldn’t wait to get home and see Janet and Phil who were sound asleep. I took several weeks off and got more acquainted with the kids at that time. I thank God for keeping me safe and making some of these things come to pass that is the end of my story of the Navy sea duty. I might mention that I did go on Navy cruises for two weeks every year for several years, and although it was pleasant duty, the time came when I thought I better give it all up. So I resigned from the U.S. Navy Reserves.
How Not To Become An Executive Of A Television Station
It was a Sunday afternoon in 1971, when Pastor Carr of Stone Church called a meeting of the Board. Little did I realize, that the meeting would have tremendous influence on my life. Pastor Carr had already shared his vision for a television station with staff at church and this was the first time he was talking to the Board about it. Although none of us on the board had any expertise in television I at least felt that Owen Carr knew that was what God wanted. I wanted to hitch my wagon to his and go along with him. Not too long later, they had a church meeting, and there was advance publicity, so there was a lot of excitement in the air. What was going to be revealed at this church meeting on a Sunday morning? Owen Carr had made arrangements for an artist to sketch the need for a television station in Chicago, and put on an excellent presentation on the television station that he envisioned for Chicago land. I must say, there was a lot of excitement in the air and we raised over $100,000.00 that Sunday, No question that Owen had done his homework very thoroughly, and certainly got others excited and I was happy to join him in this tremendous endeavor. There were not many people who were willing to join with Owen Carr on a television station. Some people just thought we should rent a half hour of time or do some other thing like that, rather than own a television station, but God laid upon Owen Carr a television station and he was not going to stop at anything less. There is a book published called, “The Battle Is The Lords” which tells more details of the events leading to establishing of a Christian television station. There were many pitfalls and trials on the way to the television station, and I was very much a part of some of those. Never the less, even though we didn’t have the backing from many people, we established a Christian television station. Years later we sold the rights to our station but retained the station on cable and also got a station in San Francisco and received $120,000,000.00. The fact that we received a lot of money is nice, but the fact remains that God had answered our prayers and made it possible to have a Christian station in Chicago on 24 hours a day. Thus it was, that I was deeply involved in the television station, an area in which I knew nothing about and put all of our hopes on God supplying our needs and answering Owen Carr’s prayer. Things moved along slow but sure, and finally it got to the point we were going to go on the air on Memorial Day in 1976, but we didn’t have a studio, and you need a studio and television equipment to be on the air, so we rented a studio several blocks from where our station is now. We had one television camera. We are probably the only television station that went on the air with only one camera. I remember Audrey and I were down there that Memorial Day when we signed on the air. It was an exciting time! We were on the air for some weeks but didn’t collect much money at the time. There were several other incidents that happened too. We went to use their rented studio and we had to get a connection to go to the Hancock building to broadcast, and the
telephone company said it would take several weeks to do that. Someone was rummaging through the studio, and lo and behold unbeknownst to anybody they found a cable connection going to the top of the Hancock building, which was still live but not used. So we now had the connection we needed to the Hancock building, we had one camera, and we had one studio, and we had a pile of debt and finally the people we were renting from said, “ We are going to take you off the air next week if you do not have $170,000.00 for us”. When the studio gave us notice you are going to be evicted, I’ll tell you that things looked hopeless. Owen Carr went on the air, and said we have to raise $170,000.00 in one week; we had never raised money like that. Thus it was money started pouring in. To me it was the proof that our Christian television station would be a success. The money poured in and I remember using the chauffer and limousine of Electro Motive and getting the check, and going to the studio and handing the owners a check. It was a great day. We have been on the air ever since. Of course, we knew we had to do something about a studio, and that was no simple matter. We rented the top floor of the Civic Opera building and then took over the facilities of Catholic Television. As time marched on we again were looking for a studio for ourselves and we used the top floor of the Teen Challenge center on the near west side, thus we moved again which was a big job for our engineers, as they had to move all of the wiring and connections. In the meantime, we did work with the city of Chicago and bought some land at 20 South Peoria. The city was very kind to us. We acquired the land at that time, and believe it or not today it is worth at least 10 or 20 times as much. Well we built the studios and everything was going quite well, but we were still very shy on money. I won’t go into the details of how many places we looked to buy, but we finally decided to build, and it ended up as a very wise decision. It was a very important area of Chicago. It seemed like in all of these moves, and decisions, the Lord was with us, because we weren’t smart enough to know what to do ourselves. After we were in the building, the government was legislating that we had to go to a different type of television (high definition), and they gave only so much time to do that. Thanks to Jerry and his friendship with Mr. Paxton. Mr. Paxton was instrumental in establishing a network throughout the US, and there was one opening that he didn’t have filled, and that was Chicago. He bought what was then our Channel 38 for $120,000,000.00. By this investment was we lost our regular station (Channel 38), but we received another station just as powerful, which required cable, which today covers every area in the Chicago area and even most of Illinois. In addition we were given a station in San Francisco, thus it is today we have paid all of our bills, paid off the building, and are expanding. This was a very stressful time in my life, but one in which I learned to lean upon the Lord for help. There was no other way we could have done it, of our own strength or wisdom. This story is greatly abbreviated, as there were trials and tests throughout which the Lord with Owen Carr and Jerry Rose brought to victory.
At Bethany Beach
Originally I came to Bethany beach to visit Audrey several times before we were married. After we were married (our first year of married life) we brought Ma Nelson (Audrey’s Mother) with us and stayed up near the top of the hill, several houses from where we are now. There was a little sign on a tree and it said “House For Sale”, I didn’t pay any attention to it, but Ma Nelson looked at it and she walked up here. In those days it was hard to walk up because we didn’t have steps all the way up. She came and said to Audrey and me, “ I am going to buy that house”, and sure enough she bought that house. It was about $3,000.00 or $4,000.00 as I recall. I did a lot of work on the house that needed to be done, and later on, Ma Nelson came to me and said “I want you to buy the house” which was fine with me. Ma Nelson was very smart, she didn’t want a fight afterwards on who would get the house. She had it settled and it worked out fine. Lois wanted to know, what was it like to stay at Bethany in those early days? It was always a restful place and the lake has gone through various cycles of the water rising and lowering. There were steps going way down and now they are washed away. You had to walk on boards because sometimes the sand would be so hot, but it was way out there, and later on people worried that their houses were going to fall in the lake, and some of them did. The lake came up real high several years ago; there is a ratio if the lake goes up 1” it moves out laterally a number of feet. Those days you could have bought one of these houses fairly cheap along the lake. They put dividers along the beach, but they are all gone or buried now. We can see now that the lake is going out and there is a lot more beach, but if you stick around long enough you will see it change the other way too. The first block stairs were put in at the cottage by Norman (Audrey’s brother) he put some stairs made out of cements blocks instead of broken concrete, which were very irregular. Then later on Dan put some stairs in that go down by the car. Most of the stairs I put in with help from the kids (I paid them well, of course, maybe a penny a block). I remember when we did these steps, we had to put the railing in, and we bought redwood. Daniel and Gary helped me. I had them digging the holes with a posthole digger we had. They dug the hole and I put the post in. It seemed like we got that one side done very fast. It is still there; but it needs a little repair now. Later on I did the other side with the help of Steve when he was on vacation. It is better built than the first one, because it is a lot newer. One big job was running the stairs down the back of the house. The kids were gone that summer and there was nobody to help me, so I found a husky young kid to help me (I paid him 2 cents a block). So I started laying the blocks coming up the back of the house. I knew how to lay bricks much better now than when we did the front. In the front some of them aren’t buried deep enough so they moved. In the back hardly any blocks move at all. It looks like they wind around a little, the way highways wind around, because you are going up higher but can’t go straight up. That young kid grew
up to be a football player in college, and I believe he coaches in college football now. I picked the right kid, didn’t I? What was the routine like for you and Mother over the years at Bethany? Well, as usual Mother did most of the work, Mother would sneak out every night if she could to join some of her friends for some coffee, but she needed that little time. They used to have a women’s Bible study in the morning, and she would attend that. I want you to know that some of the stories you hear about me not being able to take care of the kids aren’t accurate as I took care of the kids sometimes all by myself. Where was I during the summer? Because Mom spent more time up here than I did, how did that work? Mother would stay up here with the kids, I would come up here on Friday night and we would spend the weekend together. That wasn’t too often; I don’t know of any summer that Mother spent the whole summer up here. I think there were some summers that she spent 3,4, or 5 weeks maybe. She thoroughly enjoyed the “coffee klutches”. How about the furnishings in the cottage? How many were here when we bought the place? The people we bought the house from were named Carlson, real nice people. They wanted to paint the house, and painted it even though we were buying the house. The story is told that Mr. Carlson built this house by himself and he would carry 4 concrete blocks up at one time. That is hard! The dining room table was here when we moved in and is still here. It is interesting, those chairs are very old (75-100 yrs old) but they never get loose like modern chairs do. They are as good now as the day they were built. My friend Tom Dilworth would tell me that some people in the hills knew how to build, and he bought chairs from them and they don’t get loose. The Tiffany type lamp in the dining room was here when we came. We didn’t bring much furnishing up here. There was a very heavy piano here when we bought the cottage; I don’t know how they ever got it up here. I have a hunch that Janet may have practiced on it. Pa Nelson cut it up and he liked musical instruments, and I believe he used part of the piano to make an instrument. He used the rest of it for firewood. The sofa in the living room came with the cottage, and we had it re-upholstered about 15-20 years ago. Audrey & I finally broke down and bought a new bedroom set, but the dressers were also there when we bought it. They had an icebox, and the man would come around to sell ice and milk. I can’t imagine doing that now but we did it then. There was a kerosene stove and a wood-burning stove, it worked o.k. and we still have it in our attic. It’s not very big, and Ma Nelson used to cook on that one, she liked that better. Everyone would try to get warm with that little stove and it didn’t give off much heat. After we were here for a few years, I got a fuel oil stove, that did heat the house better than anything else we ever had, but it was a nuisance. You can still see where the roof is patched to cover the hole for the stove. The house, I believe was built back in the twenty’s, I don’t know how they did it. They would work all week and come up by train and a truck would pick them up from the railroad station and bring them over here. They had a hotel here, and the hotel had a big dining room. A lot of people would have their Sunday meal in the dining room. They also had a number of little houses around there. In one of the houses some of the kids would play dirty tricks. They got a horse or cow in one of the houses and closed the door, and people had a hard time getting it out. I used to bring my Sunday School class up, usually on Labor Day and stay in one of these little shacks, Mother would be up here, but I would be down there taking care of
the Sunday School class. They had a store that was where the Richards live now, and people would sit on the curb and eat ice cream at night. The gentleman that had the store had worked at Electro Motive. He ran the store for a few years, and when they didn’t have anyone to take care of the store it was decided to build the “well”. The Tabernacle is identical to what was there. They talked about building a new one and they decided that they weren’t going to build a new one as the old one was good enough. The main means of people getting from the city to Bethany Beach was the train. The train used to stop right in town at Sawyer, and then later on you could take the train to Michigan City, and get the bus. I remember taking the South Shore train one time. Mother never took the train; I would drive her up and leave her here. I’m not sure how she managed to get to the store, and Gary commented that they walked. The children would walk to the store on the corner of Red Arrow Highway. Lois stated that there used to be a dairyman that would come to deliver dairy products and eggs. We stayed that first year at Berg’s cottage, its down a couple of cottages from our house and it is completely different now. As I recall we slept out on the porch which had screening. One of the first jobs I did here was the front of the house. There was a trellis out there and I never saw anything so ant eaten, it looked like someone drilled holes all over it. There were ¼” holes all over it. You could break the 4 X 6 with your bare hands. I had to take that down, and the stairs were all rotten also, so I got concrete blocks and put that porch on the front. It pretty well stayed, except every so often I would jack up the trellis, and it still goes down just a little over the years. I remember doing all that work to prepare for the Nelsons to come up the following weekend. One unfortunate thing is that after the war it was hard to get cement. It was in very short supply, I thought I would make the concrete by digging a hole and getting some sand. I was warned that the sand is not the proper sand, and I made some samples and it certainly wasn’t the right kind of sand, for I could almost crush the cement with your hand. To add insult to injury I had to carry the sand up the hill too. Lois asked if Max had a favorite memory of Bethany? Max replied by saying he has many, many nice memories. The main thing is that Mother enjoyed it here, she really did and I enjoyed it too. One time I took the train up here 30 years ago. I had been running tests on the New York Central railroad, running into Columbus Ohio at night, and during the day it was so hot there I could hardly sleep. So I finally finished the task, caught the train and went to Bethany with my heavy suitcase. I got up here at about 10 or 11:00 at night and got off the bus right over at the highway and I was dead tired. Nobody was around, so I had to walk all the way from there with this heavy suitcase all the way up to the house. I remember coming into the house and saying “Don’t wake me in the morning”, I think I slept for 12 hours. “I recall you enjoying the beach,” Lois stated. Max responded by saying he used to play chess on the beach, and sit on the beach and read. It was very relaxing to me. I would bring all the stuff from work I had to do, and read a few other things too. I liked it very much on the beach. When the water was going down they unearthed a ship right down here by the stairs, they didn’t want to tell people about it, because all of the sudden they would have a stream of people digging it all out. Many people took parts of the ship as souvenirs, I didn’t take any but many people did. In those days (100 years ago) there were a lot of sailing ships. People don’t realize how may ships there were. When they built the stairs
at Bethany they had to put the stuff on a ship to bring the sand and supplies on a ship to build those stairs. Some ships I am sure got lost at sea. One was buried at Bethany Beach, which was probably well over 100 years ago. Lois asked how long has Bethany been here? Max replied, very close to the turn of the century. There was a Baptist Minister and a real estate man, and they came up with this idea. The one man was around for a long time and he ran the store for many years. I remember when the kids were small; I used to drag them up the hill from the beach. Lois asked, where was Mother”? Max replied, I used to take you kids to the beach, I did do some things, and really I did help. I even watched them. Lois was one of the worst, she would be in the water, the waves would come over her head and she would be right back in, I couldn’t leave her for 5 minutes. She had no fear of the water at all. Alice was pretty much the same way. The boys, well I don’t think any of them were that way. They take after their mother. Audrey would always swim. I remember that Grandma and Grandpa Nelson came up here frequently. My mother and dad came up also. I would like it when they came, because they would pick up stuff at the Swedish bakery. Lois commented oh, the Swedish bakery is that old too. Oh, yeah said Max. It was before my time even. Tell us more about dragging the kids up from the beach. I was always loaded down and God is very smart, he makes us strong when we are young, and when we get old, we don’t have to do it. Other people do it, and you get to delegate it. Where did the children bathe at the cottage? Well they had a really large swimming pool right down here. They call it Lake Michigan. I remember when Pastor Warner came up here one time, and said, “Max where do you wash”? I said down in the lake. He couldn’t believe it. He was used to having two or three showers a day, his mother and father came up here, and they loved it up here. Did you actually bring soap and shampoo down to the lake? Yeah, some times, absolutely. I remember I used to take Ma Nelson out to the sand bar sometimes. She always thought I was so skinny, so I would say “grab a rib Ma, grab a rib”. I could just about walk out there. Did you and mother ever get to swim together with all of us kids running around? Not too often together, but I think the first time Mother and I had time for ourselves was when I took her down to Evangel College with me, when I was on the Council. It was nice, but it was about 30 years ago. Later on I took her with me whenever I could. We even went to Europe a couple of times. I remember when Ma & Pa Nelson were at Bethany, up here for the last time, Pa took a long walk around here, and he indicated that this would probably be the last time he will be up here, and it was. I think it was the same year he died. I didn’t know what was wrong with him, his stomach was swelling up, and the doctor said, “we can make a heroic effort to keep him alive for a while, if it were my Dad I wouldn’t do it” so we didn’t. I was there when he died. He died at home on 72nd street. I think I was on my way home from work, and stopped there. Lois asked if Max likes camping out? I used to look forward to it every summer when we went camping with the kids. That was a different phase of our lives, the kids were growing up, and I thought I ought to do something with them, so that is when we started camping. My first camping trip was going out west, and my Dad was very sick, I believe it was 1966. I went camping with Dan, Gary, Paul, and Steven and we camped at Starved
Rock, we then went to Oklahoma and then to our friends at Valley View Ranch. I left a message there for Les Ross to call me, as my Dad was not well. I got a call at 3 or 4 in the morning that my Dad was failing. I didn’t know what to do, as I had the kids in a tent, I had to get home one way or another, so I went into town made a couple calls, and came back loaded the kids in the car and headed for Chicago. By the time I got here, my Dad had expired. “I remembered you stopped in Omaha and called home and found out that Grandpa had died, I remember you told us Grandpa died because I was driving very fast to try and get home, and then slowed down. My Mother was sitting in the front room on the coach in front of the big window in Evergreen Park waiting for me to come home. She lived for 6 more years.
Mother and Dad
This is a story that I’ve never told to anybody but I thought perhaps for historical purposes and also the fact that it might also enlighten people about some things in my life that turn out very well. When I was a sophomore in college, disturbing things took place at our home. My mother and father agreed to divorce. Needless to say, it was a heart breaking experience for me. My mother and my father never said a mean thing to one another in the presence of us kids which I think was commendable. Yes they had many fights and arguments, but they did not compound it by getting us kids involved. My older brother Merton was already married and moved away, and my younger brother Charley was living at home. I had suddenly become the man of the house. It was at this time that I needed to buy a car and that is why I bought a twenty-five dollar car so that I could go wherever mother wanted to move. It was very nice that I was able to buy a car for twenty-five dollars, which Pa Nelson told me about. Later he helped me as I put a new top on it and fixed it up so it would run. It was a great money experience for a young man. That is why when my boys were growing up, I thought that having a car and being able to maintain it was a part of their education. My mother wanted to move up north because she thought it would be easier to rent rooms and have a rooming house for us there. Thus it was, I was in my last year in college living up north at 438 W. Diversey. My mother found the place to live on Diversey and it was like living amongst the ancient cliff dwellers. It was hard place to find a place to put your car and every parking spot and every street was busy even though it was so many years ago. But one thing was clear, I never told anyone about my mother and my father’s divorce. I didn’t even tell Audrey even though I was going steady with her. She didn’t learn about it from me but someone had whispered something to her onetime and I did not reply. It was a heartbreaking experience moving away from the only home I ever knew where I could do things myself at 1414 W. 72nd street, and was down the block from Audrey. I had built two rooms in the basement. One around the furnace and the other a workroom and with whatever tools I had, I put together a nice workshop. Having to give it up was quite a heartbreaking experience. I also had other things there that I built such as the ping pong table where we probably had some of the hottest games in the city of Chicago. We moved up to Diversey with the help of my uncle Ed and my aunt Mae, my mother’s sister. They both lived with us for a while. Every night it seemed that I walked over to the lakefront exercising my eyes so to speak. Lake Shore drive wasn’t as busy as today and you could walk across it without getting killed. I continued to go to IIT and did very well in my studies. I still worked for the air filter company. They had hired me for a two-week job and I worked there for a two years until they moved out of Chicago.
In addition to this I was the news editor of the school newspaper. My routine was on Saturday mornings to go to the printing establishment of the paper and edit the whole newspaper. There might be a few articles for me to write too but I mostly proofread it. It was a great experience to work on the newspaper. I considered it one of the best things I did other than taking my studies. I would leave home Saturday morning and my mother would give me six or eight sandwiches, which was my lunch and dinner for that day. I would go and edit the paper, and then later that evening I would go out with Audrey. I always thought I needed one night with her every week. On Sunday I would drive back home and drop by Audrey’s so she could help grade my papers, on which I was receiving forty cents per hour towards my tuition. I hated living up north for a couple or reasons. One was it was a long drive when I went to go see Audrey. I had to go from the north side to the south side. On one of those drives I fell asleep and almost got killed. This taught me a lesson to never drive when I’m tired. It was a great summer day when I graduated from IIT in June of 1939. The ceremony was held at the Museum of Science and Industry and Audrey, of course, was there with me. She was always a great help to me. I started work at Electro-Motor Corp. on June 12, 1939, three days after my graduation. I was broke at that time and I needed the money badly. As soon as I got settled, I decided to help mother move to the south side. Thus it was we moved to 6339 S. Loomis. The rent was fifty dollars per month and I paid it out of my one hundred and twenty-five dollars a month beginning salary. Several months later, my dad handed me the announcement that he and my mother were going to do the Dutch Trick. I didn’t know what that was at first but it meant that they were going to get back together. Thus it was, they became married again and perhaps it paved the way for some of the happiest years of their lives. My brother Charley lived there with us of course and met his future wife there at Harper high school. A few years later he went into the air force even before I joined the Navy. Charley finished college at the university of Chicago. Later on he took his law degree using the G.I. bill and he stayed in the air force for five years until they had enough credit for a full college education. It was a great program. During those years I never accepted my parents divorce. Our kids never knew of it and if they did, it wasn’t from me. A few years later they celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary as if there was never a problem. I am so thankful that neither I nor any of our family gossiped about what happened for it turned out so well. In those later years my folks came to live together better than they ever did before. Mother returned to the Catholic Church although it seemed she had a very spiritual experience. My dad had a spiritual experience on his deathbed when I talked to him. At this time by brother Merton lived in Iowa and they lived in several towns but the main one was Fairfield. Merton had a very large home and a swimming pool. My folks used to go down to visit Merton and Marion and baby Jerry at least once a year. When our children got a little older we went down there also. We had many delightful times playing in the swimming pool. When Charlie was in the air force my folks visited him at some of the air bases and then at the Panama Canal Zone where he was stationed for a period.
Sometimes people say that kids never get hurt too much. Don’t you ever believe that. I was in my second and third year in college and there were times where I laid myself on my bed and cried because of the sadness in my heart. One of the reasons I am telling this story is because someone might be going through some similar experiences and perhaps anything that I can say might help them understand mistakes that they might be making if they go through such a horrible decision such as divorce. This story might be of some interest to someone who is thinking of divorce. Perhaps you might think it over because you could realize you might be missing some of the best times of your life. No matter how you do it, don’t gossip about anything except for pleasant experiences you had with your mate.
Growing Up Through The Neighborhood And School
My earliest recollections of my neighborhood was where we were living at 66th and Maplewood. In those days the area just began to build up and there many vacant lots around. My Dad had a nice bungalow on the corner of 66th & Maplewood and my uncle talked him into building a ten flat across the street. That was an unfortunate thing because my Dad was not one to handle a ten flat, so we later moved to 55th and Garfield Blvd. (1054 W. Garfield Blvd). It was not a happy place for raising kids; the neighborhood was Irish Catholic and across the street from us lived Alderman Luke O’Toole who was well known in those days as a Democratic ward boss and powerful in the City Government. From the 66th and Maplewood location we moved to 1054 Garfield Boulevard, Chicago. We lived in the second floor of an apartment building. At that time business was good for my Dad and, we had a maid and a chauffer at times. The maid was a young Irish immigrant from Ireland named Christine who we kept track of for many years. Sometimes my mother was very partial to her to give her an opportunity to help us on an occasion. She came over here as a 16-year-old girl and just died recently (1999). I remember one event, when my Dad was walking down the street on Election Day and people were trying to talk to him, and he was not very receptive. They harassed him. My mother was with him, but they didn’t count on her interrupting them. I still remember my Mother taking a big heavy purse, and throwing it around at them and scattering them. My mother was a real Irish fighter when she had to be and my Dad being Jewish, was probably the only Republican in the area. We were not a very happy family in the neighborhood. Living on 55th street, there are two events I vividly recall. When we lived at 55th and Aberdeen, there was a vacant lot next to use, where the kids dug ditches, making caves, and that sort of thing. One day I was out there and I jumped into one of the large holes that they made, at the same time that Merton was digging, somehow his shovel came up and hit me in the forehead and caused a large cut in my head. I was bleeding profusely and went home, my mother came home very shortly afterward. She walked in and saw me with all the blood and fell over in a dead faint. It was the only time I saw my mother faint. Actually I went to the hospital and had it stitched up and it is still visible today if someone looks carefully, but fortunately my injury wasn’t any worse than that. At 55th and Hermitage, they made a German Dirigible, which the Germans were bringing over to show their capabilities of _______ air transportation. It came over to the City of Chicago and went up right over were I lived. At that time we lived on 55th street (and Garfield Boulevard), and there was one-way streets on each side of an area with grass and shrubbery. Looking at the dirigible I was aware that some people had gathered on the 55th street one-way street, as there was an accident there. I stopped to see what was going on, and there was a man on the ground, who had been hit by a car. Someone who was going the wrong way, down a one-way street, drove the car. As I looked closer, I saw that it was my father, and he said, “Tell mother I will be O.K. tell her
not to worry”, and they took him to the hospital. He had black and blue marks on his legs, but in general, he recuperated very well. In those days there was nothing known as a two-car family. Everyone only had one car and that was it (if they had one at all). The streetlights were gas and a man would come around every evening and turn on the gas lamps, and turn them off in the morning. 55 Th street was a busy street in those days, known as Garfield Boulevard. My Dad was the only republican in the area I believe, and also a minority because he was of Jewish origin. People were mean to us in those days and I was glad to move out of that area. Later on we moved to 1745 W. Garfield Blvd. a mile west of where we had lived and that is where I lived in my later years of grade school and it was a long walk. At that time my folks thought we should play musical instruments, and so they arranged for us to take lessons at Orchestra Hall. My brother Merton got a clarinet and I got a saxophone. I didn’t think we were very talented musicians, but over a period of time we learned to play music to an acceptable degree. Later on Merton and I switched; I took the clarinet and he took the saxophone. I think that was better for both of us. I went to grade school on the corner of 55th and Morgan (Holmes School) and graduated there in February of 1932. at that time we had moved a little farther west on Garfield Boulevard and , I had to walk or take the bus to school every morning. My older brother Merton was really the number one boy of the family and should have been. He was very mature for his age and my mother and father thought it was good if we went to school together since there was only a year and a half difference in our ages. As Merton went into school he got double promoted, which they did in those days, and I must admit I think I flunked the first grade twice, because I was too young and immature. In those days the schools had a cloakroom, sometimes behind the blackboard. I spent many hours in a cloakroom for behavior unbecoming a student. My brother whizzed through grade school. By the time he was twelve years old he had graduated, two years before I did. When I hit fifth and sixth grade I seemed to have awakened. Perhaps at that time the math became very important and it came to me very naturally. As a matter of fact at that time I received a double promotion also. I was just thirteen years old when I graduated from grade school. We didn’t have many friends when we lived on 55 th street, and when I was in eighth grade, 1931, we moved to a house at 1414 W. 72nd street. It was here when I first met the girl of my dreams, my future wife Audrey. I don’t know what it was that brought us together, but Audrey seemed to like me from the first, and she befriended my brother Charlie who was at that time, in his early years in grade school. She would take Charlie around with her visiting friends and always inquiring about Charlie’s older brother Max. Of course she didn’t know my name, because the only name Charlie knew me by was Bro (brother) a name given to me by my older brother Merton. People would ask what is your brother’s name, and Charlie would answer Brother. In 1932 I graduated grade school and started High School. It was at this time that we moved to 1414 W. 72nd street in Chicago. Throughout these years I never had a mentor, someone I could rely on to give me good advice. Sometimes I made bad decisions and fortunately the Lord kept me from going astray. I started high school at Calumet. Since I was a February graduate from grade school the first semester ended in June. I did not like Calumet because I could not play sports. My hours for school at that time were 10:30am to 4:30pm, a miserable time.
I had several close friends in those days, namely John Thiese and Bob Voight. We played a lot of baseball together, John was pitcher and Bob was the catcher and I played third base. I loved sports and football and baseball were my favorites. Many of today’s sports were not available then, such as soccer, volleyball, etc. It seemed like in those days I never had any money and John and I tried to make money-selling vegetables. Realize in those days (70 years ago) the women were almost always home and you could sell vegetables down the alley and hopefully some of the women would buy them. We would get up very early in the morning and walk to 71st and State where the market was located and buy our supplies. We would then come home, and sometimes take a nap and then go out and sell our products. The first day we were at the market they had the most beautiful peaches I had ever remembered seeing. We bought two bushels of those and sold them at $ .05/lb; everyone wanted them and we were out of peaches in a short time. I might say that we made more money that day than any day later. After that great success of making several dollars each we decided to have turnips, carrots, potatoes, and other supplies. Although we had more goods available, we were never as prosperous as the first day selling those peaches. I started at Calumet High School and I certainly did not like the school because of the hours, starting at 10:30 AM and ending after 4:00 PM; thus after one semester I transferred to Englewood High School. I was a mid-year student, so it was the end of my first year and the beginning of my second year that I attended Englewood High School. The school at that time was about 40% black and 60% white. It was interesting, in those days, I never saw or heard of any racial discrimination of any kind. At Englewood, I played in the band and Orchestra and probably advanced further in the band there than I ever did with all of my private lessons. In High School I did not date girls. I played sports when ever available. It was interesting; my brother Merton was real nice to me at grade school graduation time and he took me to some of his graduation parties. I was certainly out of place, I know. At one of the parties they played post office. One girl felt sorry for me and took me into the post office and gave me a sound smack kiss, (which I remembered for years). In those days Englewood had a great football team, and in 1932 they were destined to be the city champions. After every game, we would march down 63rd street and back to the school, because they usually played at 61st & Racine were there was a stadium. In those days it was still the time period of the depression and the band uniforms were WWI army clothes. The uniforms were very heavy, wool and on some hot days after the football games, marching back was a real trial, as it was so hot. Englewood won all of their games going up to the city finals and at that time they found comedian outfits for the band. Everything went well except the day before the final game it poured rain and became very, very cold. Thus in the morning of the final game the field was just covered with ice from one end to the other. Yes, Englewood was the better team, but Morgan Park (their opponents) did something special at the same time. They had their players get rid of their football shoes and use tennis shoes. At that time Morgan Park went down to 63rd and Halsted and bought all the tennis shoes they could get and they equipped their players with tennis shoes for the second half. One bad pass by the center resulted in a safety and Englewood lost 2-0 to Morgan Park. It was a heartbreaking loss for everybody at Englewood.
Englewood was a very fine school in those days and I imagine that people who went there became very successful in any endeavor they took on later. I remember particularly Mrs. Butler, my English teacher. I noticed that the English teaching rooms where I was signing up, there were very few people signing up with Mrs. Butler, but I thought I’ll take the easy route and sign up with her. Thus I found out what a tough teacher she was. I remember at the end of the course, I thought she was calling role call when she was calling the names of those who were failing. Yes, I had to work hard in English in those days and she was a tough teacher. One event that occurred at Englewood was the fact that the teachers were not getting paid because the city did not have the money. The result was a number of student activists went on strike; believe it or not I was one of the strikers, fighting for the teachers to get paid. Seems far-fetched today but that is how it was in 1932. It was after my year at Englewood high school that the Chicago School Board decided that they should get rid of the Junior Highs, which used to serve 7th, 8th, and 9th grade. They made a number of them high schools, one of these schools was Harper high school and thus after my second year, I went to Harper high school. It was a great outlet for me since I played football, baseball, played in the band and orchestra and was active in many activities at the school. I might mention that my future wife Audrey also went to Harper because she graduated Junior High and went directly to high school. Although we talked to each other somehow I never asked her for a date until I got out of high school. In the meantime my brother Merton had dropped out of school despite his great potential at that time and was dating girls and he eventually married one of them. Merton married Marion Saunders when he was twenty years old and I was the best man at the wedding. We had many pleasant memories of visiting Merton and Marion in Iowa, particularly when they lived in Fairfield, Iowa. In 1934 the Board of Education took some drastic steps to reduce costs, which included closing all of the Junior High schools. That resulted in my closest school being Harper High school, and so I entered a new phase of life by going to a new High school named Harper. It was a move that changed many things in my life and was a great thing for me. Audrey went to Harper Junior High school, and carried on at Harper High School. I participated in football and baseball and won letters in both sports and was a good student (one of the top in my class). One-day football practice was cancelled, because of rain, and I went to a meeting and I ended up being elected the President of the Legion of honor (for honor students). I was also a part of the National Honor Society and participated in many activities including band and orchestra. It was good for me in many ways. In those days Harper did not have a field to play on, thus we went to Ogden Park. For football I would walk from school to Ogden Park, we would play football, clean up and then walk home to 72nd & Loomis. The basement was my favorite spot, my Dad had gotten a load of second hand lumber (used lumber) somewhere, and I used it to build two rooms. One was a large room surrounding the furnace and the coal bin, and the second was a smaller room, which I used as a workshop. I never knew how to build or anything, but I guess I knew how to put nails in and make things work the way they should work. In addition to that, in the basement we had a ping-pong table and it was one that I built from scratch and I can assure you it was built to last.
I spent many hours in the basement working on these rooms and also playing ping-pong since we had some of the best players in the area, which was terrific competition. My brother Merton and my Dad also played ping-pong and they usually teamed up for a game or two. It was a great sport for us at the time. At one time I got the best players at Harper High School, one who was a Cook County medal winner, and we made a contest to see who the best player was. I’ll tell you that I did win the championship of the hard fought games. Later I never competed, because I never had time to practice. In February 1936, I graduated from Harper High School and wanted to continue my education, because I wanted to be an engineer. The only occupation I ever had a desire for. In my second year at IIT, and had to make up a half year because I graduated in February from high school. I had wonderful help from my wonderful future wife of mine Audrey. It seemed as though God had brought us together, and somehow she noticed me when I first moved to 72nd street when I was in 8th grade. I have to admit I wasn’t looking at girls in those days. Audrey took my younger brother Charlie who was six years younger than I was and befriended him, but she never could find out what my name was because the only name Charlie had known for me was Brother, a name Merton had given to me when I was a baby. Even to this day Charlie does still call me bro. My high school days at Harper were happy days for me, I accomplished every thing I wanted to do, and played sports. Our teams weren’t very good but never the less I enjoyed playing. I graduated from high school at the age of 17 then entered Illinois Institute of Technology (Armour Institute in those days). When I went to Armour I was overwhelmed by many of the students form the higher ranked schools such as Senn, Lane etc. in those days. It took me a while to realize that I was as good as any of them and ended up with excellent grades. I aspired to high grades and I ended up with all A’s except for two B’s in English, which I probably would not have had if Audrey had been typing for me at the time. I always made it a habit of having Saturday nights free because I was dating Audrey we always managed to have a date on Saturday night. Even since the time I was little and people would ask me what I wanted to be, I told them “ a mechanical and electrical engineer”, because it was very simple for me to know what to do except where to go to school. I originally enlisted in a Junior College then my Dad said he knew a man at Armour Tech (now Illinois Tech) and so I talked to a professor and he said I could probably go or Armour Tech. Thus it was in February 1936 I enrolled in Armour Tech. The price of tuition for the four years that I attended college (Armour Tech) was $150.00 a semester. Sounds like a give away, but in those days, remember the average person was only making $ .30 - $ .40 per hour and I had accumulated some money by working at an automobile/appliance shop at 15th & Michigan. I always thought that this shop was a real sweatshop. It was the best inducement for anybody to go to college. That is why if our kids had hard jobs, I would know it was an inducement for them to go to college and further their education. Armour at that time did not have mid-year graduations and, since I was told I would have to go for 3 ½ or 4 ½ years to graduate. I was anxious to get out of school as soon as I could, and so I took the 3-½ year route. This required me to go to summer school the first summer and now I caught up really well with my class and did quite well.
After 3 ½ years I graduated in June 1939 thanks to a lot of help from my future wife Audrey. I was the Honor man of my mechanical engineering class and number two in the entire class. I was a good student and some of the engineering subjects were very appealing to me. After graduation I knew I was going to have to have a job because I had no money. Several months before graduation I had a plan to go visit many companies in search of a job, and after graduation I had several job offers. During the last years of college I worked for a company called Independent Air Filter Company (now a part of a large company called American Air Filter Company). I needed money badly to go back to school my junior year and walked the streets to try and get a job. One day they called from school and said they had a job for 2 people for 1 week. Thus I started working for Independent Air Filter Company working at Zack Sheet Metal Company, working on the Museum of Science and industry. The pay was very good in those days ($ .50/hour) and in that summer I was able to accumulate enough money to pay to continue my college education, and even saved a little money to buy a car later on. Then there were some family problems and the family lost the house on 72nd street due to financial problems and moved up to Diversey Ave. on the north side. This was a poor place to live; it was crowded with no place to park, and a long way to Audrey’s house. Fortunately, at this time I was looking for a job, and found a temporary job with Independent Air Filter Company, which later was merged with American Air Filter Company. We were supplying materials for the building of the Museum of Science and Industry. A man by the name of Harry Morse and an alumnus of IIT was my boss, who made sure that I continued working all summer. Working for Harry was a great experience; many days I would go to work with my swimming suit in my pocket and then go over to the beach after work. I actually worked for the filter company later on also till shortly before I graduated. In those days only 50% or so of the graduates had jobs when they finished school. I should mention that I did buy a $25.00 car a 1929 Plymouth one of the first Plymouth cars made by Chrysler Corporation. This taught me a lot about automobiles, which I didn’t know. It worked out well for me because I now saw Audrey on Saturday and sometimes Sunday night. Audrey was always helping me with my schoolwork sorting papers, grading the papers, and typing long reports. I don’t know what I would have done if I did not have a helpmate such as Audrey. Certainly I would not have done as well in school as I did with her help. My last year in college my family had lost the home at 72nd and Loomis and we moved up north, which made it very difficult for me to see Audrey or do a part time job at the filter company. It was then that Pa Nelson suggested I look at a car at the back of a used car lot selling for $ 25.00 so I bought my first car for $ 25.00. That car had many different colors of paint on it; it was a 1929 Plymouth 4-cylinder with no water pump. I took some pains trying to get it looking nice and arranged for a painter to come in on a Saturday to help me paint the car at the shop where I worked. The painter did not show up that Saturday and thus I had my first car painting experience. It wasn’t bad; at least the car was all black even though there were a few runs in places. I still remember going down to the plant with Audrey, opening the door, and peeling the paper off the windows, wiping grease off the chrome, getting the car ready to drive. Audrey was with me at that time, so we got in the car and drove happily down the street.
That car served me very well, taught me a lot about cars and made it possible for me to be living up north and going down South to visit Audrey and sometimes stay on the South side with relatives. Three days after graduation I started working for Electro Motive Corporation, which was a new, company in those days that sold diesel locomotives to the railroads. As soon as I got my first paycheck, the first thing I wanted to do was move to the south side. We moved to 63rd and Loomis where my folks lived for a long time after that. I made $125.00/month and I paid the rent of $50.00/month. I always managed my money well, and believe it or not after those expenses I still put a little away every payday in savings. I started working in 1939 at which time Hitler was starting his campaign of aggression.. It was a great experience for me because in later years I had an advantage in that I knew how to picture things and make them the right size and the right fit automatically because of my sense of proportion working as a draftsman. In those days engineers started as draftsmen, which is no longer, the case I was not particularly happy working for the people over me in the beginning at Electro Motive, as a matter of fact one day I went up to John Barhydt, and told John I was going to quit. John sat back, blew on his pipe and said, “Max, don’t quit, give him (my boss) enough rope and he’ll hang himself”. I will always remember those words, and years later when that same supervisor came looking for a job. He was probably a good man, but not a good supervisor by a long way. At that time Electro Motive was getting involved in power products and they moved that particular part of GM from Cleveland to Electro Motive. Thus it was I was reassigned to work in this new department. This was a great break for me and I became the head of the department reporting to the sales manager in charge of power products. Seems like in later years, I had good bosses people, I admired and learned from with just a few stinkers along the way. My boss at Power Products was a fellow named Huthsteiner, who was a very meticulous and fine man. After a couple years at Electro Motive he left to become an official at Cummins Engine Company, that time he said, “He would rather be a big splash in a small puddle than a small splash in a big puddle”. One day he called Gene Kettering, who was chief engineer at the time at Electro Motive and said he wanted to talk to me about a job. I learned something that day, how do you reply when your boss asks such a question. If I had replied negatively, I would lose an excellent opportunity, if I replied too anxiously it might appear that I was anxious to get a different job. Thus it was Gene gave me advice, which I used many times later. He said, “ Max you owe it to Bob Huthsteiner to go down and see what he has, we don’t want to lose you, but take that opportunity to talk to them in Indiana. I never had a position where I wanted to leave Electro Motive and I never wanted to move and thus it was over 44 years at Electro Motive and the only time I had to relocate was during the years in the Navy. In 1940 I was being promoted, working on industrial engines and our biggest customers were the telephone companies who wanted to have emergency power to protect the telephone lines in case of an emergency. In 1942 I felt I should consider going into the service even though the company would get me deferments. Our first child was born January 1st 1943 and shortly thereafter, I signed up to go into the Navy. I was inducted into the Navy in 1943 and was discharged in 1946. I was most fortunate in being able to have Audrey and the baby Janet live with me in Camp Hill Pennsylvania,
which was adjacent to the Navy base at Mechanics where I worked. After some time I felt, even though I was doing a great job with the Navy, that I should get into some more action. I had to do a lot of convincing to people to let me go, but finally I was sent to Princeton University for a 60-day program to train me for eventual sea duty. It was hard leaving my family, but I felt it was the right thing to do and still do to this day. I reported for sea duty aboard the PCE 843 in late December 1944. A short time later I was fortunate to get a leave to come to Chicago, to be present at the birth of our son Philip, January 2nd 1945. After going back to the ship from Chicago, we went through the Canal and off into the Pacific, where I spent 12 months. I’ll tell more of this story on a separate tape.
A stroke is a horrible thing. It cripples people, makes productive people unproductive. It is a very sad thing in all cases. I would like to now at this time to talk about Audrey’s stroke. The year was 1989 and it was to be a great year since it was the golden anniversary of Max’s graduation from the Illinois Institute of Technology. I, along with Irv (Footlik), headed up a committee to celebrate this occasion. Thus, we began preparation for a wonderful celebration with many of the fifty-year alumni in attendance. Prior to the occasion, IIT asked me to visit some alumni in California who would probably not be attending the reunion, although these people were probably the most likely donors to the school. Thus, on Wednesday of that week, IIT sent a limousine to pick me up to take me to the airport for my flight to California where I would meet with some alumni as well as some boys from IIT. The day was completely uneventful, although I was able to talk to some people that I probably hadn’t talked to in fifty years. There was nothing scheduled in the evening and, since the hotel in which I was staying was near a boat dock, I took a long walk that evening and returned late to my hotel, which was on the water. I called home but didn’t get an answer, which I might expect on a Wednesday night because Audrey would be at church. When I returned to the hotel I checked in with the switchboard and they said that there was no messages for me so I undressed and went to bed. Shortly thereafter, the phone rang and it was my son James on the phone and he was relieved that he was able to reach me and let me know that Audrey had had a stroke. I immediately went downstairs to the switchboard both to find out what was going on, since they hadn’t sent me a message, and at the same time call for a cab to pick me up as soon as possible. It was a few moments of rushing to change, make reservations to Chicago and tell the people with whom I was visiting that I would not be with them on the following day. I rode home early in the morning and my family was all waiting for me at Christ Hospital. Since Audrey was disabled, her mind was aware as ever and she could converse with people without any problem. Her injury consisted of right side paralysis and since she had been on the floor for some period of time, her injuries seemed to be permanent. Thus began another chapter of my life which was much better than I had imagined. One of the things that I recalled when Audrey was laying there disabled was that she would joke with our Pastor Warner even though she fully realized her disability. This was the start of a long period of physical therapy where Audrey learned how to walk, with assistance. Many times I would hold Audrey’s arm and she would walk hand in hand with me. Throughout this entire ordeal, Audrey was always cheerful and at no time did she ever indicate that she was unhappy with her situation. As a matter of fact, she told the boys that she was almost happy to have the stroke because it made her realize how wonderful her family was in this time of trouble. It was a great day, some weeks later, when Audrey completed her physical therapy at the hospital and she came home to live. It was a new role for me because, at
this time, Audrey needed my help and I did chores and took care of her, such as giving her baths, chores that I didn’t do before. One of the first things I did was arrange a trip with our two girls to go to Singapore where Janet was now living. It was a great trip and Audrey thoroughly enjoyed it and, even though she was disabled, she could get along very well with one of the girls or with me. After this we returned home and Audrey continued to teach her Sunday school class with my help. It was always amazing, the influence that Audrey had with her Sunday school students. And you could be sure that anyone who went through her Sunday school class did a necessary memory verse for their Christian life. Dave and Kay Brinkman, who lived just a few blocks from us, were instrumental in some of our travel plans from this time on. Dave Brinkman loved to drive and therefore was our chauffer, along with his wife, taking us many places. Shortly thereafter, we drove all the way across the United States, visiting people in almost every major city and, before we returned, we visited my brother, Merton, and his wife in Arizona. For the better part of six or seven years, we traveled frequently with Dave and Kay Brinkman, having our dinners together and later enjoying another cruise in the Caribbean Islands. Interesting enough, even though we lived so close to Dave and Kay, I can never remember there ever being an argument or any disagreement between us. We also took a Mediterranean Cruise, again with Dave and Kay, and we left from Tampa, Florida, where our granddaughter, Mindy, lived and she took care of our car for us. Actually, after a year or two, I realized that I could no longer take care of Audrey because I was beginning to fail myself in some ways. It was at this time that we hired someone to live with us and take care of Audrey. The first person to do this was a Chinese doctor who we referred to as Dr. Sun. We became very good friends with Dr. Sun and her son and we took Dr. Sun with us to Florida where Dave owned a small condominium in Ft. Pierce. These were enjoyable years and of course we enjoyed being away from the winters in Chicago and close to a swimming pool. For three years, we spent our winters in Ft. Pierce, renting a condominium right across the street from where Dave and Kay had theirs, which made it very handy. In 1998, some circumstances changed our future plans. It started one day when Dave and Kay came to our house to go to dinner with us and, later, Kay had a stroke and passed away. It seemed just a few months later, Dave was visiting one of his children and had a stroke and passed away as well. Thus we no longer had easy arrangements to stay in Ft. Pierce since there was nobody else that we knew. At this time, Lois talked to us about going to Palm Springs in the winter instead of Ft. Pierce, since her company actually had a condo there and we had the opportunity to rent another condo. So it became that our winter plans were not at Ft. Piece, but at Palm Springs. At this time, Lena was our caretaker and had a very exceptional role in Audrey’s life and vice versa. Thus it was, Lena was extremely happy and favored Palm Springs in California where, of course, she accompanied us when we traveled. Perhaps there is a moral to this story, and that is a stroke does not mean what some people envision it to be. Life doesn’t have to come to a halt after a stroke. Depending on how people handle it, it can be the beginning of another chapter of ones life. In the case of Audrey and myself, I believe that those were some of the happiest years of our life and brought us closer together than ever before.
My Role in the Birth of our Nine Children
Our first child was born on January 1, 1943. I might comment a little about events leading to the birth of Janet Ephraim. It was the middle of winter and, as usual cold and rainy and streets were covered with ice along with other problems associated with the wintertime. The night before Janet’s birth, Audrey and I were busy painting storm windows. Our house had a number of windows facing west and, since there were no houses west of us in Chicago at that time, we were subject to strong winds entering the house. On January 1st, we put our paintbrushes aside for a little while Audrey was having her birth pains. As I recall, we had a long strip of paper and we recorded them at various intervals, two minutes, three minutes, four minutes. Each time we thought it was getting so close that we should go to the hospital, the pains seemed to stop. We had dinner at home, and after dinner we went back down to the basement to continue to paint. The pains began to come again and we decided it was time to go to Little Company of Mary Hospital (where eight of our nine children were born). Nobody ever talked to me about what happens to a father when you take your wife in to give birth. When I went to my assigned waiting room, there were two men also waiting. One told of being there for 20 hours and the other fellow for some long period of time also. They said, “ Mr. Ephraim, the restaurant closes in 15 minutes. If you want something to eat before tomorrow, you better get down there fast.” I ran down there and got a milk shake and a piece of pie and returned up to the room. By the time I got back, the doctor greeted me and said, “ It was a baby girl”. Janet our first daughter– and when she was born, I was down eating. So I guess I wasn’t a very good father. With the birth of our second child, Philip, it was a little different. Our ship was put in to port at Key West for maintenance before it went to the Pacific fleet, and I got a short leave to come home. It was a long trip because the trains were full and I couldn’t get an express train from Key West to Chicago. So, I took a slow train and it took two days to get to Chicago. As soon as I came home, Audrey asked the doctor what she could do to hasten the delivery, and he told her to take some Castor oil. Poor Audrey, Castro oil was very hard on her. I was there with Audrey when Philip was born on January 2, 1945. I was a father of a healthy girl and a healthy boy, and I thank God for that. I saw Philip until he was a couple of days old, then went back to Key West. Our ship sailed through the canal and out to the Pacific and then I wouldn’t see him for a long time. I might mention we named Philip after my ship “PCE,” his full name is Philip Charles Ephraim. Our next child was a little later, because Audrey had a miscarriage and she was broken hearted. She asked the doctor “Will I be able to have any more children?” The doctor assured her that she could have more children and, of course, time proved him very accurate. We had seven more children.
When Alice was born in 1947, I was home from the service and thus we had three children: two girls and one boy. Sometime later, Audrey was pregnant again and Daniel was born. He was a very good baby. We thought it would be nice to have a little larger family and, although we didn’t discuss it at any length, Gary was born a year and a half later. It seemed like those children made life easier than what we had expected. I actually think the toughest time we had was when we had three children. By the time the younger ones were born, the older ones were of much help. Even though we started out with the girls in the majority, the boys kind of took over at this time, because we had Philip, Danny, Gary, Paul and finally Stephen all great kids. After this Audrey was pregnant again with Lois, Lois was born in August on the same day that my company Electro Motives Corp. took over Riverview Park. Riverview was an amusement center and the kids looked forward every year on the day that Electro Motives took it over and all the rides were free and we had a tent were we could get food and all the other amenities that came with it. Thus it was on this one day in August, the kids were all primed and ready to go to Riverview. Unfortunately, Audrey was expecting to give birth but something happened and the baby didn’t show up like she was scheduled to. On Saturday morning I was at the hospital with Audrey and she said please take the kids and go to Riverview, nothing is going to happen today. I took all the kids to Riverview that day. When I got there I called Audrey again, and she said, “ Please don’t call again, nothing is going to happen”. The day of Lois’s birthday we spent riding rides and having a lot of fun. When we were finished and ready to go home in the late afternoon, I called the hospital again, and was told the good news that I had a baby girl. I missed Lois’s birth because I was at Riverview. Poor Lois, I not only missed her birth but when she graduated High School I was overseas on business and missed her High School graduation. I think she forgave me for those missed deeds. Audrey had another miscarriage after this and thus it was out next child was James four years after Lois. I don’t have any interesting stories to tell about that birth, because it went very normal. Our first eight children born under doctor McGrath and each time Audrey would ask how much it would cost and the same answer was given each time. Same as the last one. That traced back to $ 75.00 for the first one and everyone after that was $ 75.00, so we got a true bargain. I might comment a little about when the children were born and the need for more space at our house. Our house had two bedrooms, and I added one on the porch. But the big building program I undertook for several years was adding a second floor. On these building projects, I always used the kids when I could, and Philip was a great help to me. I made out the plans for the second floor and drew them up. I knew exactly how I wanted it done. I hired a carpenter to do the work. However, after I came home after his first day I decided he couldn’t do the job the way I wanted it done. So I paid him off and for the next few months, I was busy completing the attic. It turned out very good, but there a number of instances along the way that I won’t take time to mention now. It was a great day when the kids moved there. One section was for the girls and one section was for the boys. It was interesting to note that experience did not seem to help us in predicting when Audrey should go to the hospital to have the baby, since the first was the best one
and the eighth was the worst. When our family was growing it was interesting to note that some people would say, “Have you considered the cost of educating those kids?” I can honestly say that we never considered it. We thought the Lord would take care of it all, and certainly He did. Nine children went through school. Audrey and I never really discussed how big the family should be. We both loved children, we both knew that we wanted to have some more and that was sufficient. We knew that God would take care of us and supply all of our needs.
Max Ephraim Jr.
October 15, 1918 - September 16, 2001
Chicago Tribune Obituary
Chicago Sun Times Obituary
Daily Southtown Obituary
Memorial Service Program
Our Dad made raising a family of nine (9) children look easy, and he always said that he and Mom were so happy with each one of us as we came along, that they soon decided to have another. Each of us likes to think that we were the planned one.
Dad’s character, faith and values never, ever wavered, not even, as he put it, one “iota”. And, growing up, we were continually taught, whether we knew it or not at the time, those same values through his examples. Those examples were provided everyday and numbered not just in the hundreds, but in the thousands. The collage, the landscape, the picture that all those examples, like dots, painted when they were put together became a role model for each and every Ephraim child. As our teacher and mentor, he taught us how to live, to serve and, most recently, how to die. Dad lived his life with integrity, consistency in his actions and complete fairness to others. He taught us to not just get to know others on a superficial level, but to truly understand their backgrounds, their concerns, their interests. To truly care. He lived his life in such a way that he not only excelled in everything, but truly touched lives to make a difference in people, one at a time. Dad was not only a committed, devoted spiritual person, but truly cared about people. He was always the first to meet visitors at church, often inviting them over for a Sunday lunch and, often, a place to stay at our home. One man who later became a missionary said in a letter to Dad, “you met me at the church door, looked past my weird clothing and beard and sincerely cared about me. You changed my life.” He taught us to be humble in all things; give to others in a meaningful way, but do so with complete humility and without the expectation of a worldly return. After the war and long beyond, Dad stood on train station platforms, waiting to greet displaced person, emigrating from Europe. He got them settled into jobs and apartments, took a personal interest in every detail of their lives, and stayed in touch with them over the years. There are a thousand stories just like that, of how Dad stepped in to help and change a life forever. He taught us to serve as a living example, letting our everyday actions be a testimony to others. He taught us in so many ways, whether by example, counsel, or being his apprentice. We learned how to be handy by being Dad’s helper. Many times it was holding a flashlight, at just the right position while he repaired a car. Other times it was handing him a tool, helping cut wood, or other tasks. Phil learned carpentry and construction by helping Dad as he meticulously constructed the top floor of our family home on Seeley Avenue. Not only did he accomplish much in his career, he practiced and demonstrated his faith, morals, values, ethics and integrity in everything he did. The good work, admiration and friendship of his many colleagues is a testament to the way he always treated others. He set an outstanding example for us to follow through his professional accomplishment and Christian example in the workplace. On the occasion of Dad’s 80th birthday almost three (3) years ago, business associates wrote to say that through his actions, their lives had changed and they owed much of their success, both professionally and personally, to his influence. One secretary told us that when Dad warmly invited her to attend his 6:45 a.m. Bible study in the Executive Conference Room, it helped changed her life.
Dad provided a great example in his role as a brother. If Charlie, his younger brother, were still alive and here today, he would be the first to say that Dad was as much a father as a brother, taking him under his arm and caring for him throughout his youth. He lived his life in such a way that he excelled in everything he did. Yet, we truly touched lives to make a difference in people, one life at a time. Over and over again, we have heard people say, “your father helped change the course of my life.” We can only strive to continue this legacy and provide the same examples to others as those he has provided us. Through his example, he taught us how to serve God and men. He constantly sought ways to bring the Word of God to others, either personally or through support of programs such as Channel 38 and Teen Challenge. He was always there to lend a hand to those in need. Throughout our lives we have met people on the street, in church and through our work who have started their discussion about Dad with, “Your father helped change my life.” Sometimes it was wisdom and advice he provided. Other times it was financial support, but always it was a sincere care and concern for that one person. He left a lasting and eternal legacy through his impact on so many ministries in the Church. He literally helped build this church we are now in, as well as the previous Stone Church. He served for many years as teacher, superintendent, board member, usher and spiritual mentor. When he left Stone Church behind, he continued the legacy at Maranatha Chapel. He has helped support many congregations through the years, and has been a friend and mentor to many pastors and missionaries who often ate at our table and stayed in our home. He exposed his children to exciting missionary tales of faith and impressed his burden on the hearts of his children. He instilled in each of us a love of travel and an interest in peoples of the world. He left us a lasting legacy as a father. He set the example for the rest of us in our marriages by his love, respect and utmost devotion to our mother, especially in the years after her stroke. He showered each of us with individual attention, high expectations, and limitless love. Dad always took the time whenever we needed help. He would help us with homework and seemed to make the difficult problems look easy. He gave us wise and seasoned advice as we traveled down the paths of our lives. When reflecting back on his years as a naval officer, he often told us that “freedom came with a price” and to never take anything for granted. In whatever activities we participated, such as band and athletics, Dad was always our best booster and present for almost every game – from elementary school through high school. We could always count on Dad being in the stands to watch us, whether we did well or made mistakes. The Ephraim children shared Dad’s competitiveness and love of sports, and he was always our greatest supporter. We got some of this by seeing Dad who, even when was 50 years old, continue to play on the Stone Church baseball team. There was no question that Dad would knock the stitches off the ball if someone from the other team made the mistake of calling him “old man” and, usually, it was a drive right between second and third, a shot he honed while playing baseball on Chicago’s 55th Street Midway. Dad instilled in us a love for travel by taking us on adventurous family vacations. There were trips across the country in a station wagon – going to Niagara Falls, visiting relatives in Washington, D.C. the 1961 World’s Fair in Seattle, 1964 Worlds’ Fair in
New York, or camping trips out west. Each and every trip was a living geography lesson as we learned about our country, its history, and people. Whether we liked it or not, Dad also taught us the art of delegation on these camping trips. Dad was a master at sitting back and directing his kids to get the job done. Some of our particularly special times were at the family cottage in Bethany Beach, Michigan. After work projects were finished, Dad could really relax down at the beach. Many times, we would leave him peacefully sleeping along the shores of Lake Michigan while the afternoon slipped away. Perhaps nothing affected us as deeply as seeing the wonderful example our father set as a loving husband to our mother, Audrey. After her devastating stroke in 1989, Dad became her full time caregiver. But it never slowed them down. They traveled the world, going on two cruises together, flying to Singapore, driving cross country and visiting with their children as often as possible. Our mother often said, “I’m glad I had the stroke, because then I learned just how much Max loved me.” Just last week, Dad said again, “Those last 10 years were the best years of our marriage.” She continued to be his inspiration, partner, and love of his life. “All I am today is because of Audrey,” he reminded us again last week. As I mentioned earlier, his examples taught us, often unknowingly, throughout the years and as we, his children, have come together over these past two weeks, we have witnessed to an even greater extent the impact his examples have made in each of us, to an extent never before appreciated. When our father decided to stop his dialysis treatment less than two weeks and came home, we “came home” as a family as well. His children flew and drove in from locations around the globe to be at his side. And in the process of releasing the earthly ties to our farther, we strengthened the cords that will forever bind us together. We took long walks in the sunshine, Dad in his wheelchair leading a parade of children and grandchildren. In the late hours of the night we talked, walked, prayed, sang, ate and laughed together. And Dad delighted in all of it. Since he was too weak to attend church a week ago, we had a church service at his home. Sitting around the upright piano in the living room, we sang the same songs we’ve sung today. Hymns like Great Is They Faithfulness, Blessed Assurance, Amazing Grace and It is Well With My Soul. And hearing his children sing the spiritual anthems of his life gave him great peace and comfort. That Sunday night, he leaned back in his chair and said, “This is the best gift you kids could ever give me.” We felt it was the best gift he could ever give us. In dying, Dad taught us how to pass from this world with no complaints, no regrets and no apologies. He taught us how to pass on a legacy and a spirit of love and service to future generations. And he taught us the importance of knowing that death was simply the passage from this world to a better life with our Savior in Heaven. We are so thankful for being able to have our lives shaped and molded by this great father. The Bible says train up a child in the way he should go and he did this throughout his life. Our challenge is to continue to live his legacy in the next generation of Ephraims and beyond. Dad, we love you. And we know that today, it is truly well with your soul.