A Veteran of the Great War
On this Veteran's Day, I am remembering my Great-Uncle Bob Collins, veteran of WW I, member of the 40 & 8 (and every other veterans' org you can name). Time was, when most of Anderson, Indiana, probably had a Bob Collins story. He was a hoot.
As a young man, he worked for a while as a daredevil, riding motorcycles up the inside of a circular wooden wall at carnivals and fairs. He taught himself to fly, and built an airplane in his mother's basement. She wouldn't let him tear out the basement wall to remove it, so he had to disassemble it to get it out.
During Prohibition, an explosion rocked the house. My Aunt Evelyn (a wee thing at the time) ran into the living room and announced, "Unca Bob's beer blowed up!"
When the USA was propelled into WW II, Uncle Bob tried to enlist again, but was told he was too old. So he would go down to the Delco-Remy factory gates and cuss out the draft dodgers as a form of public service.
Uncle Bob was known as a bit of a crank, so when he voiced his suspicions that some guy at Delco-Remy was a German spy, everyone blew him off. He wrote to Walter Winchell, then the king of investigative reporters, who looked into it. Turns out, the guy WAS a German spy. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
He loved my father and did his best to mentor him, after his brother (my Grandpa Speedy) divorced his wife and dumped their kids on Great-Grandpa and Great-Grandma Collins. And he thought I was special.
He also used to tease me unmercifully about girls when I was young. "How many girlfriends do you have, Arthur?" he'd ask me once I entered adolescence. I was embarrassed and didn't know what to say. Finally, when I was about 15, I figured out how to handle Uncle Bob. "Oh, Uncle Bob," I said, the last time he asked, "I've got so many I have to beat 'em off with a stick." He never jibed me about my social life again.
He was a larger than life character, and a great American patriot.