Video #5 Transcript

This transcript is not verbatim. It’s been slightly modified (primarily removing “ands” before the beginning of sentences) to be more concise.

Gaining Support

My father, when World War II began, my father went to work for the federal government to develop troop-training camps. That’s how we go to the Upper Peninsula. And that meant that he was tied to the Pentagon,and that they were desperate to train paratroopers to go into Germany. So, I grew up in a family where my father’s job was to make change, and to strategize, and to do it as quickly as you could but to know the value of patience, and to know when to do a [unrecognizable], and who was going to have to do it. The conscious use of self was, “This a community was changed by families—that’s how they make decisions.”

So when a family invites you to go to the sauna, naked…That’s what happened – true story. Sky would not agree to having his land be opened to a troop training camp and so they were…I mean, they would have eventually have done it, because they would have gone to court, and they would have got a court order, and everybody would have been upset. But anyway.

So the tradition in the Finnish families were for people to invite only those people with whom they were on very good terms [with]. They invited my, our family, and the whole family was invited, and that was the culture. When they had people over on Saturday night, they would invite another family to come over, for it was a social occasion. [Me: to go to the sauna]. To go to the sauna together. So, you know, like the men’s bathroom where the decisions get made? Well. [Me: So your dad had to first persuade his wife to be in this more intimate setting in order to persuade that family to let…]. Well he wasn’t going to turn it down,because he was being shut out of all the discussions and couldn’t get to the person at all. So that was a gesture of friendship to him, which he could not turn down.

They had all bathed naked, so my mother said, “I don’t care if we lose the war. I am not taking off my clothes out in front of other adult women and men, especially men. I’m not going to do it.” I remember this argument as if it were yesterday. They fought, and fought. My dad was saying things like “we’re going to lose the war. These young people are not going to know what to do. They are going to get shot. We’re not going to be able to train them in the right terrain.” And on, and on, and on, and on, and on. Well eventually my mother wore down, and my mother and the whole family went. And of course, we kids were not used to that very much at all, and we didn’t want to go either, but we went. The men became friendly. When you’re naked, you know, it’s kind of an intimate situation, and so out of that, the man decided he would trust my dad. That’s what my dad always said. Because I was always wondering those kinds of things.

See, I grew up wondering those kinds of things: “How did that happen?” And he said, well he got to trust me. And then I told him about somebody I knew whose son went to war and he was in the infantry and he was a para, then he became a paratrooper, and he jumped over Germany behind German lines and he was killed. It was a man in a neighboring town. My dad said and I feel so badly for him because I wished he’d had the opportunity, you know, if he’d had some more training, who knows? But maybe he would have lived.

My dad had no compunction about telling that story and making that man feel bad. He didn’t. And out of that, the man said, “We need to do that; we need to save our sons.” My dad said, “Yes, because we’re building selective service boards, and we’re going to be drafting people and boys are going to be going. It’s not as if there’s going to be a choice. They’re either going to go with training camps or they’re going to go without them.”

So, did that man talk with the other people in the area? They gave up their land and built sewers, built the camps [Erin: so that they could train.] so that they could train. They had to find the common denominator,something that makes sense. [Erin: and for them that was being in the sauna together, having that conversation]. It was; they trusted each other. They found humanity together, is really what they did. And when they did, it just made sense. [Erin: wow.]. Mmmhmm. Didn’t matter how hard it was, or how bad it was. Or what was going to happen with the land. It was everybody’s kid who was going to go to war.

That’s the extreme of it, but it tells you the value of having enough of an understanding and passion and commitment to push your way through in the most sensible possible way. His argument to my mother was,“not only are we going to lose the war, but you know what? There’s nothing wrong with people being naked.” My Victorian mother didn’t agree with that, but she went anyway, for the bigger picture.Sometimes you can get people to tag on because of the bigger picture. The bigger picture was, we got to train these young kids.

After they came, started coming, and they were up there in camp. They were from Georgia and all of these warm climates and they were up there in below freezing conditions. I mean my mother said they did need to come here before they went to Germany. They did. They’d never seen snow. They didn’t know what it was. That was my dad’s conscious use of self. He realized that the only way to get this to happen quickly was to do something like that. That’s another part of the passion, you know. You have to have people surrounding you who share enough of your passion to be able to participate if it’s necessary to do that.[Erin: Yeah, absolutely.]. Even if it’s only support to say, “Yeah, you’re doing the right thing.” Or, “Yeah,I know you’re tired, but you know what, you got to do it.”

Openness and Adaptability

It does make a difference how open you are, and what kind of family communication patterns you’ve had. I mean my mother really cleared the way for all of that kind of stuff to happen. You know, in our family, and with other people and you know, she was really the force to be able to do the home front stuff because well,we moved about every four months during the war. So, we were constantly being thrown into new situations. Every new neighborhood she went into, she would always say things like “These people complained about not having sugar.” I mean it was hardship, very big hardship. So she would say, “You know, I was thinking, I know how to make this new tea that is so good with spices and there’s no sugar init. Why don’t you all come over and have tea?”

Well my dad was busy trying to set up a selective service border, you know. We induct people in the army,and who wants that for their kid? So she made friends with the mothers in the neighborhood, and she would say things like, “This is the hardest job my husband ever had, and it’s very hard for him to do that, because the knows that people are going to war.”

She became the spokesman on the emotional side, to say, there’s no choice. We have to do this. And when the mother’s began to be saying, “Yes, we’re going to invaded if we don’t.” Then the fathers began to be talked to by their wives and pretty soon people were saying, “Yeah,” you know.

Of course the rule was you had to have a Selective Service Board of people in the community. We couldn’t get anybody to serve on them, you know, really. So my mother took the role of, well, you know, saying to these women in the course of all these little teas, “You know, really, my husband is hoping that some of your husband’s will want to volunteer to do this because it’s your boys that are going to be inducted, and you should have something to say about it, but of course he can’t say that to you, but I can.” So pretty soon,there’d be Selective Service Board.

I don’t usually like to tell that story, because it makes people think that you have to have these fantastic experiences, you know, in order to sort of know about this stuff. I don’t believe that at all. I’ve taught and trained enough staff that I know that that’s not true. It’s not true. You can learn it and be just as passionate in way through other experiences.