My Dad

osage orangeLast year when my 87-year old Dad had to stay in the hospital for a while, I stayed at my parents’ house to help out. They still live in the same house where I grew up, and I visit frequently, but it is always a rather strange feeling to be in that old neighborhood again. I walk down the same street where I played as a child, a place full of so many memories, but I’m a stranger to the current residents of these homes.

There’s “the Kelly’s house,” which hasn’t had a Kelly in it for many years. “The Kaiser’s house” is next door, where I spent many a day playing with the girls who were my age. Next to that, “the Langholtz’s house,” where Ernie Langholtz had the most amazingly overstuffed garage full of … what? Hard to say, but there were boxes and yard tools, and sleds, and everything looking as if it would collapse at any moment. We always tried to catch a glimpse of his hand with the two missing fingers. Right or left, I don’t remember now. But supposedly the fingers were lost in a parachuting accident during WWII. Or was that just a Boo Radley-esque childhood story? One made up to make an otherwise dull street seem exciting?

None of the people in these houses today know me. Which is strange, because I know their backyards intimately. I know their basements. I know the best way to cut through the alley to get home before it gets dark. I know which of their (now ghostly) dogs will jump out and bark as I pedal my green Schwinn Stingray with the banana seat past their fence.

Last year when I was staying there, I also knew that the quickest way to walk to the subway station to get to work was to cut through some backstreets. On that walk, I encountered the best place to roll Osage oranges down the hill, from the top of Park Road. My Dad and I had done that once when I was a child. I don’t know why we were walking on that road, or whether anyone else was with us. But I remember my Dad picking up the orange and rolling it like a bowling ball. He’s a tall man, six foot five. He never considered himself particularly athletic, but I remember him moving gracefully, his long arm stretching out as he released the orange. The road slopes down and curves to the left – the trick is to keep it in the middle of the road so that it doesn’t get blocked by a parked car or bounce over the curb. He showed me that.

All of this I remembered last year as I reached down to pick up the bright green orb. I’m sure someone was watching me from a window somewhere – it’s that kind of neighborhood now – and I’m sure they thought “What an odd thing to do.” But I rolled the orange down the hill, and I rolled it good. I watched it make its way around the curve in the road before bouncing against the curb and up into the air. It landed with a soft thud in the patch of grass next to the sidewalk. I smiled and continued on my way to work, taking the same route my father had used for decades. I wonder if he ever paused to roll an orange in the morning. I hope so.

(In full disclosure of this photo, it is not original but was something I pulled from the Internet and manipulated in Photoshop. The original image is from http://creationwiki.org, which is, interestingly enough, a creationist site. But hey, this was a great image, and I give credit where credit is due …) 
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9 comments

  1. Dear Sue J – I hope you will still see this post and find it interesting.

    Ernie Langholz was one of the three lucky people (out of 19 total) who survived a mid-air collision between two American planes over Bury St. Edmunds in England on 5 January 1945 . He was part of the 849th Bomber Squadron, 490th Bombardier Group flying B-17s and helping to train new pilots, when a plane piloted by Lt. Donald Wood landed on top of his plane, cutting it in half. His pilot, Lt. Harold Adelman, of New Haven, Connecticut was among the seven members of Ernie’s plane who died. All nine men on Lt. Wood plane similarly died.

    This is an excerpt from the book Bomb’s Away: WWII Eighth Air Force Stories (‘Mid-Air Collision’ on pages 34, 35, 36):

    “From the 490th (Squadron’s) Historical Record: Lt. Ernie Langholz was an Instructor Navigator on the plane flown by Lt. Harold Adelman and Maj. Edward Blum was the instructor pilot. Without warning, a bomber flown by Lt. Donald Wood, landed on top of them and cut their plane in half at the waist. Only three of the ten men on board escaped before the bombers exploded. The Adelman aircraft bombardier, Lt. Harold Hartell, said he was sitting in the waist when the plane was cut in half, and he just stood up, snapped on his chest pack cute and stepped out into space. Lt. Langholz and Major Blum were blown out the front half of the plane in the explosion. Luckily both men were wearing back pack chutes and were able to recover from the blast in time to pull the ripcord and open the chutes. Major Blum remembered a loud noise, a real heavy jolt on the plane and complete silence as if the plane had stopped flying and was sitting still in the air. He said the plane went into a spin and he was knocked out. When he regained consciousness he was outside the plane, surrounded by the falling debris of the wrecked aircraft.

    Lt. Langholz said he woke up at about 12,000 feet minus four fingers on my right hand. There were no survivors of the Lt. Wood plane. The men of the 490th mourned for those lost in the collision. They were especially upset about the loss of those veterans who had been serving as instructors. They had survived many combat missions but had died in a training flight.”

    Regards – Jaynie Simmons

    1. Hi Jaynie — This is really incredible, and I have no idea how you happened to stumble on to my blog with this information but it is fascinating! The fact that we as children had no idea of the real drama behind “Mr, Langholz lost his fingers in the war” speaks to the character of these veterans. My father and his brothers also served in WWII, and they never spoke of their experiences beyond general descriptions of places they went. I wish we had known the real story behind Ernie Langholz’s experience, but as children of the suburbs of the 1960’s and 70s I’m not sure we really would have comprehended it at all.

      Do you have a connection with this book, or with some other aspect of the story? Just curious how you happened to know of this passage about my dear old neighbor!

      1. Dear Sue,

        The internet is an amazing tool; information I would never have discovered comes to me in a flash while I sit at my computer…

        My aunt, Rhoda Simmons (who later became Rhoda Mazur) was engaged to Harold Adelman. Harold was the pilot on Ernie Langholz’s plane [B-17G -75-BO 43-38050] that fateful day in January 1945.

        Harold’s plane was dropped on top of by the plane piloted by Donald Wood [B-17G -80-BO 43-38111]. It was a dreadful training accident. By all accounts, the error was Donald Wood’s fault.

        Everyone on Donald Woods’ plane died; only three people survived on Harold Adelman’s plane: Ernie Langholz, who was the Instructor Navigator, Harold Hatrell, who was the bombardier, and Major Edward Blum, who was the Instructor Pilot.

        My aunt Rhoda was a student at the University of Connecticut when the January 1945 accident happened. My father (her brother – who was a Lieutenant JG in the Navy and home on leave) and my grandfather drove up to Storrs, Connecticut and broke the news to her. I believe she dropped out of college after the accident and only completed her college degree many years later. It was especially sad because the war in Europe ended less than four months after the January 5, 1945 accident at Bury St. Edmunds, England. If Harold Adelman had avoided the accident, or if another pilot had been flying the plane that day, Harold would have probably survived the next four months and then he would have become my uncle…

        Rhoda subsequently married Dr. George Mazur (a dentist – who was a great guy).

        Here are two books that reference the January 1945 accident. You can see my attachment for the pertinent information contained in each.

        -Bomber Bases of WW2 3rd Air Division, 8th Air Force
        USAAF 1942-45: Flying Fortress and Liberator Squadrons in Norfolk and Suffolk
        By Martin W. Bowman
        See Page 70

        -Bombs Away: WW II
        Eighth Air Force Stories
        By James Lee Hutchinson
        Pages 34, 35, 36

        Hope this information helps!

        Jaynie Simmons
        Washington, D.C.

        Date: Wed, 9 Apr 2014 20:26:30 +0000
        To: zanyjaynie@hotmail.com

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