Armistice Day, Thursday, November 11, 1943, is a day 80 years ago I will
That morning my 10th grade English teacher, Miss Ruggles, told us about
America’s role in the Great War. Then she introduced us to the War Poets,
among them Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen, and John McCrae. McCrae authored
one of the best known and most easily understood poems, “In Flanders Fields.”
The opening lines read:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow,
Between the crosses, row by row.
That mark our places . . .
Then, at 11:00 a.m. the town’s factory whistles blew for two minutes,
bringing everything to a halt.
By Daughters Martha L. Hansen & Ellen Dunham
In his soon-to-be-published book, Forgetting and Forgotten: Dementia and The Right To Die, our father, W. Lee Hansen, describes the mother we once knew, a woman known and loved for her sense of humor, her intelligence, her love of the English language, and her dedication to her teaching career. How tragic it was that our highly verbal mother, who loved nothing more than a lively conversation, came to the end of her life virtually mute. Likewise, her physical activity dwindled, as did her always active and vibrant social life. The crossword puzzles she had enjoyed, the books she had devoured, the friends she had treasured – all were lost to her as she was left isolated in a world devoid of meaning and filled with fear, anger, and sadness. Adding to the poignancy of the situation was the fact that dementia was a fate our mother had long dreaded, and she had for years been a steadfast supporter of Death with Dignity.
Let me tell you about my strawberry jam making back in the summer of 1945. But, first some background. It was a bright sunny Saturday morning, and my parents had just left to attend the Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis in Milwaukee. They walked to the bus stop at the corner, took a city bus to West Racine, where they boarded the North Shore train for a 30-minute ride to Milwaukee where they took a streetcar ride for the half-dozen or more mile ride to West Allis. The occasion:. My Mom and Dad were off on a day-long trip as part of the celebration of their 25th wedding anniversary (they were married on July 5, 1920). This was big event because my Dad rarely took Mom anywhere, partly because we had not owned a car since probably 1942 when the 1932 DeSoto became a victim of a World War II scrap metal drive. In Milwaukee streetcars still ruled the streets and were heavily used because no new cars had been produced since 1941. In addition, during the war we had gasoline rationing that limited how much driving could be done. Because of the tremendous need for transportation to work and to downtown shopping, buses came and went very regularly and quite frequently to accommodate the many riders It was not until the late 1950's that the streetcar systems in the large cities were replaced by buses, partly on the grounds that the streetcars slowed auto traffic that was now booming with the renewal of auto production right after the end of World War II. But, back to the canning adventure now that you all know something about transportation during and after World War II.
Who could have guessed what 2021 would bring. Effective vaccines, new Covid variants, and renewed waves of concern about the likely permanence of the pandemic. But, on to more mundane matters.
December 1952: A Letter to Family and Friends
I began writing this essay several times, first on the day before Christmas and several more times during the following two weeks. But, in every case lethargy overwhelmed my noble intentions. So, the dates of my mental compositions are noted for at least some of the material that follows. I begin with a few preliminary comments before moving on to the main subject of this essay.
We hope all of you grandchildren had a joyous Christmas. Based on phone conversations with your Mom and emails from your Dad, it sounds as if everyone had a specular time being reunited at Christmas, seeing Warsaw at first hand, and visiting Krakow and some of the concentration camps. I am sure the latter visits though informative were quite depressing. It is difficult to imagine, whether you’ve visited the camps or not, the magnitude of the crime perpetuated by the Nazis. Reading about what happened is bad enough; I recall the several books written by the Italian author, Primo Levi, who was a survivor. Two of them, Survival in Auschwitz and The Reawakening, describe his experiences in the camps. Though a survivor, he never fully recovered. Not too long before his mysterious death in 1986 he wrote a third book on the same topic, The Drowned and the Saved. These books are powerful and are to be recommended when you have time for leisure reading.
In September 2002 I returned for a second visit to Turkey. The occasion? Fifty years ago last spring I made my first visit to Turkey as a member of the U.S. Army. I loved my tour of duty there. It greatly enriched my life and helped steer me toward a career as an economist and teacher. Since then I had often dreamed of making a return visit. . . . To return to places I knew well. . . . To see well-known sites I had not been able to visit during my earlier stay. . . . To learn more about Turkey’s political, social, and economic progress and problems. This year I finally realized that dream.
Dear Zachary, Calvin, Hannah, and Tessa (Sally’s grandchildren)
“What is this world coming to?” That was Nana's angry question after yesterday's excitement at 3215 Topping Road. Here is what happened. About 12:30 pm Nana received a phone call from somebody asking for "Grandma." She said, "Yes? Who is this, Calvin?" (That is who she thought was calling, because we were expecting a call from Calvin.) The voice answered "Yes." "Calvin" (the voice) then explained that he and a friend traveling in a rental car in London Ontario were in a car accident. The car was totaled—it rolled over several times—but neither of them suffered any injuries.
Thinking about the much hoped-for end to our quarantined existence that protects us against the COVID 19 VIRUS reminds me of the liberating message carried by that famous World War II song, “When the Lights Go On Again, All Over the World.” Sung by the young English singer, Vera Lynn, it became immensely popular. Vaughn Monroe popularized it in the U.S., vaulting it to the #1 spot in the 1942 Hit Parade ranking. I first heard “When the Lights Go on Again” sung by my sixth grade room’s best singer, Joan Sweetman, during one of our 1940 spring semester Friday afternoon talent shows at Jefferson Elementary School in Racine WI. Every week half of our 25 student class had to do a presentation or performance for the benefit of our classmates.
While driving back to Madison from Minneapolis in spring 2016, I made a sudden decision to revisit Camp McCoy (now Fort McCoy) located midway between Sparta and Tomah in central Wisconsin. The reason? I wondered what the place looked like now more than 65 years after my first visit there. Camp McCoy was where I did my basic and advanced military training after being drafted into the Army in January 1951, just a few months after the Korean War began. Though I had driven to and from Minneapolis any number of times since then, I never stopped at Camp McCoy because I did not think my wife Sally, and often our two daughters, would find this old military installation of much interest. But being by myself this time, I did stop for a visit. So, I turned off the Interstate at the Tomah exit, and drove west along old Highway 21 until I arrived at the entrance to what is now called Fort McCoy.
Newspapers always played a central role in my life. As kids, we sprang to our feet at the thud of The Racine Journal-Times newspaper landing on the front porch. Whoever brought in the paper doled out the individual sheets so each of us (my two younger brothers and I) could read sprawled on the living room floor while my mother and older sister did the same sitting in our comfortable living room chairs.
Central to our newspaper reading was the “paperboy” who delivered the paper every day except Sunday and came to the house every Thursday afternoon to collect the weekly subscription fee. We kids all knew the paperboy and looked up to him. Secretly, we all aspired to become paperboys when we were older. It was the early 1940s, and these jobs offered a start in life for young boys whose early years had been scarred by the Great Depression.
Presented at the Oakwood Village Program "Commemorating and Remembering the 100th Anniversary Of Armistice Day"
Arts and Education Center, Oakwood Village, Madison, Wisconsin.
Last August, with my daughter Martha, I revisited several World War I American Military Cemeteries in France, plus a World War II American Military Cemetery in Italy. I first visited these cemeteries 65 years ago. I wanted to visit them once more while still able to do so. I wanted to honor the 100th anniversary of the Armistice Day Agreement that ended World War I. I also wanted to pay tribute to the many young Americans who gave their lives fighting in that “war to end all wars.” I knew this trip would be both sobering and emotional, and it was. Here is my story.
MADISON - Sally (Porch) Hansen died at BrightStar Senior Living, on March 10, 2016. There she reached the end of a decade-long descent into the darkness of dementia and with it release from the agitation and anxiety caused by that dreadful disease.
Sally will be remembered as a teacher, feminist, mentor, and friend. Also known as a lover of cats, chocolate, and conversation, she lived a vigorous, involved, and intellectually engaged life.
“Do you want CPR--cardiopulmonary resuscitation?”
That was the last of a series of questions asked by the admitting doctor after my transfer from the Emergency Room to a regular patient room in 5 East University Hospital. I had been taken to ER after fainting in church.
The question surprised me. I didn’t regard myself as a candidate for the long trip to the great beyond. The doctor reassured me the question wasn’t meant to say anything about the condition of my health. Rather it was to find out what I would want to happen in case my heart did stop beating. I thought for a moment, and replied: “No CPR.” She said a nurse would come by shortly to place a “NO CPR” bracelet around my wrist.
82 Year-Old Prof Thwarts Coat Heist at Phi Beta Kappa Dinner!
“Stop! Thief! Thief!” I cried out as I raced after a fellow sprinting away with an armload of coats. The costs belonged to students, parents, and faculty members who this evening had been attending the annual Phi Beta Kappa dinner in the Memorial Union’s Great Hall. Thus began 20 minutes of excitement that all but a few of those attending the dinner missed.
Awakening the morning after jury duty, I discovered to my dismay that a gold ring I bought decades ago in Greece had disappeared from my right hand ring finger. I searched the bed without success. Where could it have gone, I wondered. Then I remembered that after losing ten pounds on a summer Elderhostel program in Central Europe the ring could easily be slipped on and off my finger. Though aware of the problem, I had failed to have the ring resized and undoubtedly it slid off my finger without my knowing it.
Immediately I began recounting the events of the previous day which I had spent on jury duty at the Dane County Courthouse. On arriving there that morning, I remember putting all metallic objects into a tray while going through security. When I arrived back from lunch and again from a late afternoon coffee break, the process had to be repeated. On one of these occasions, I seemed to remember taking off my ring. I assumed that I must have put it back on after emerging from security, but maybe not.
“My wallet! Where is my wallet?” That is what I asked myself after parking my car at the Madison Airport to catch a flight to Milwaukee and then on to Atlanta. I suddenly realized I must have left my wallet at home. All I had was my airline ticket—no cash, no credit cards, and worst of all, no identification. Time was too short for me to drive back home for my wallet—my flight was leaving in 30 minutes. What to do?
About the Author
At age 92 I decided to showcase my recent and current writings on a variety of topics outside of my career interests as an economist. My wife Sally’s dementia, my experiences of war, and my interests in improving higher education all compel me to write.
For most of the last decade I maintained a low profile, necessitated by my wife Sally's suffering from a decade-long siege of vascular dementia. After she passed away several years ago I wrote about our experience, in the belief that this would be helpful to the many others who suffer from dementia and their family caregivers. I am currently seeking a publisher for my book manuscript: The Forgotten: Dementia and the Right to Die.
Over the past few years I began working on several other writing projects that are described more fully elsewhere in my blog. These include a nearly-completed book manuscript on my "expected proficiencies approach to the college major'' as a vehicle for reinvigorating liberal education. I continue to write on the shortcomings of UW-Madison's affirmative action policies and programs that over the years have been renamed "diversity and inclusion" policies and programs.
Within two weeks of my graduation from UW-Madison in June 1950, the Korean War broke out. I was drafted and expected to be sent to Korea to join our fighting forces there. But instead I was sent to Turkey for 18 months. How lucky I was. I am also writing a memoir of my Korean War military experience when I served as an U.S. Army adviser in our military aid program in Turkey.
Until I began branching out beyond economics, I failed to realize what a profound effect the Great Depression and World War II had on me as I grew up. I have already captured some of these recollections, with more of them to follow.
With that introduction, I turn you over to my blog entries as well as my other writing projects described more fully elsewhere in my blog. Best wishes ~ W. Lee Hansen
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Award-winning author W. Lee Hansen, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Full bio.