November 11th, 2019

old whig

You can't make this up

Veterans Day -- or as it was once called, Armistice Day, the day the guns stopped, 101 years ago today. A story I heard many times from my father about his Uncle Bob:

My Great-Uncle Bob served in the war. He belonged to every veterans outfit you could join: the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Forty and Eight. The 40&8 was only open to men who had served in France during WWI; it was named after the boxcars that took soldiers to the front and which were designated to hold forty men or eight horses.

Bob Collins lived a colorful life. He did daredevil stunts as a young man, riding motorcycles up circular wooden walls at fairs. He learned to fly, and built an airplane in the basement of his mother's house (he had to disassemble it to get it out, since she wouldn't let him knock out a wall to do so). He made bathtub gin during Prohibition. He was involved in a number of escapades which were even less creditable to him. He was a hoot. But always, all the time, he was a patriot.

When the USA was precipitated into WWII, he tried to re-enlist, but was rejected for being too old. So he took to going down to the Delco-Remy factory in Anderson, Indiana, where he lived, and cussing out the draft dodgers. And there was one guy there that really bothered him. He became convinced that this man was a German spy.

Uncle Bob told everyone about this guy, but they all blew him off. Knowing Bob Collins and his hot-headed enthusiasms, they figured this was just his imagination. Uncle Bob wrote to Walter Winchell, then the premier investigative journalist in the country, about his suspicions. Winchell investigated. And, believe it or not, the guy was a German spy!

As they say, "if you see something, say something." Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.