Friday, October 13, 2017

Workweek Headline

I can bear the cold stupidity of rush-hour traffic,
endure mindless rage hurdled at me from embattled commuters.

I can take orders from crackpots and charlatans,
suffer the drudgery of office politics and the bruising march
to another payday.  I can do that, I tell you.

And I can face the terror of the ordinary citizen
and his ordinary ways.  Have I not done it these many ears?

So, if it's not too much to ask, my Darling, would you
kindly acquit a few dirty dishes left in the sink, loose change
in the laundry, forgetting that your mother called?

Because if I cannot merit a little warmth and understanding
from you, my Love, I swear I am fated to a tragic
and desperate end:

MAN GOES BERSERK.  SHOOTS TWENTY
IN OFFICE BUILDING.  WIFE BITTER HE LEFT
THE TOILET SEAT UP.


**First published in Pearl literary magazine, Fall/Winter 2004

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Eloise Jane 1.0

  Eloise Jane is out of beta and venturing her first steps into the world.  This child is a warrior.  Big stature.  Big voice.  She demands to be seen and heard.  Eloise squeals when I encounter her, calls me "Pa-Pa" (melt).  Preferred means of transportation is walking, else "up" on my shoulders.  She is generous with affection, giving and receiving ... Our house is full of love, laughter, and noise.  Happy Birthday, Lady Eloise.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Iyla Grace 4.0

  Iyla Grace 4.0 is available today.  New features include unprompted please & thank you, endlessly amusing dinner conversation, and the sweetest little kisses … 3.0 was a delight.  Happy Birthday, Buddy!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Why I Am Voting For Hillary Clinton


   1) All candidates are superior to Donald Trump; only Clinton can beat him.


   Every four years, I observe a cavalcade of friends and acquaintances parade their up-turned noses at Democrats & Republicans while advocating for a third-party candidate of choice, and every four years those third-party candidates lose badly. They lose in no small part because a great number of their supporters are fair-weather fans who emerge only during the presidential cycle when it is convenient and in vogue to express disdain for the dominant parties, then promptly retreat from political activism in the intervening years when meaningful commitments are required to build a winning coalition.

   In order for a third party to emerge competitively in a presidential race, that party need first secure a groundswell of victories at city, county, state and congressional levels. To do that requires a persistent, grass-roots pledge too few citizens are willing to make. Moreover, the challenge to third-party relevance is compounded by the major party’s willingness to absorb popular positions – often third-party positions – into their evolving platforms. These major-party shifts serve to maintain both relevance and dominance.  Think of Big Tech companies acquiring rival start-ups … An aside to Bernie Sanders fans:  your “revolution” does not end on the convention floor. Hungry for a change in the White House? Start with your city council, your state legislature, your Congresspersons.  Cultivate the Bern ;)

   By all means, one should advocate for one’s candidate of choice. Shout his or her name from the roof tops. Endeavor to convince friends, family, neighbors that we will “Shine with Stein” or “Feel the Johnson” (an unfortunate slogan better suited to a child molester’s campaign). Polling data, in aggregate, will indicate well in advance of election day which candidates fall within the margin of error for securing electoral victory. When it is established whom the contending candidates will be – it is already established – one has a choice to either participate in selecting our next president or allow others to select for one (no, thank you).

   While I root for third-party relevance, I profoundly disagree with my fellow citizens who vote for a candidate with no chance of winning. To knowingly cast such a vote is, in my view, to stand on the sideline, arms-crossed, sneering at the teams on the field while the rest of America goes about the bloody business of electing political representation. Our elections are, after all, zero-sum affairs. There are no second or third-place prizes. A vote that merely waves one’s ideological flag or guards one’s need for moral impeccability, casting aside all practical concern for electoral outcome, falls flatly upon a continuum between willful ignorance and civic irresponsibility. The salient question one must confront on election day is, “Among the possible winners, which candidate better advances my desired political outcomes?”.

   How I wish our electoral process elevated the very best among us.  At minimum, I wish this 2016 presidential race was a toss-up between all candidates but lowly Donald Trump struggling to gain enough support to be included in the debates. Alas, that is not our state of affairs.  Behold in Mr. Trump, a once-in-a-lifetime (Christ, one hopes), major-party-winning grotesque, a profoundly gullible, intellectually lazy man -- he brags that he does not read --, remarkably erratic and thin-skinned; a bigoted demagogue with disturbing authoritarian tendencies; casually sexist, pathologically self-aggrandizing; the worst of American stereotypes abroad; a transparently insecure candidate putting up the thinnest veneer of strength to con an electorate for his personal gain. Not a month (a week?) has passed this election cycle when Mr. Trump did not showcase his fundamental ignorance of government policy and international affairs. A very long list of Americans is more qualified and capable of being our president than Mr. Trump, including the 2008 and 2012 Republican nominees and all other 2016 candidates.

   While I maintain gripes with Libertarian Party candidate, Gary Johnson, Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, and Democratic Party candidate, Hillary Clinton, their collective liabilities do not approximate the unique threat Donald Trump presents to the United States and the world. Trump regularly threatens the constitution, vows to break international agreements, vows to commit war crimes, disregards basic ethical norms, promises to jail his opponents. He has staffed his campaign with known conspiracy peddlers, misinformation agents, sexual predators and hate-mongers ... “But Hillary is a murderer and serial criminal!” your birther, tin-foil-hat-wearing uncle will chide, as will mine. These are baseless claims to all but low-information voters, investigated time and again and dismissed on absence of evidence. The legitimacy of such conspiracies is accepted as dogma only within the poisoned misinformation swamps that elevate Trump and his ilk. The Republican-controlled Congress has taken every political opportunity to smear Mrs. Clinton knowing years in advance she would become the likely Democratic nominee. They tarred her with slanderous conspiracies knowing much of their base would adopt the claims as gospel. On Benghazi and her personal email server alone nine congressional investigations have been undertaken – seven led by Republicans – and countless tax-payer dollars spent on detailed fact-finding hunts; not a shred of criminal intent nor negligence was uncovered, not a single criminal charge brought forward.

   Lest a significant, unforeseen event dramatically alter American opinion, the polling as of this posting has Mrs. Clinton leading the popular vote 48.4%, followed by Mr. Trump at 43.3%, Mr. Johnson 6.9%, and Mrs. Stein less than 5%. Aside: I rely on the meticulously thorough FiveThirtyEight election forecast which derives its analysis from an aggregate of national polling. Another useful reference is perhaps our most recent presidential election. In 2012, the Libertarian Party candidate, Gary Johnson, received just 0.99% (less than one percent) of the popular vote, narrowly besting Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, who secured 0.36%. While these figures appear minuscule in isolation, they are nonetheless significant when considering the difference separating modern presidential election outcomes. A “swing state” outcome can hinge on a fractional margin ... Think not? Thinking of sitting out this election or voting third-party because your dream candidate is not in the contention? Consider the 2000 presidential election when Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate who did not approximate a majority support, siphoned just enough votes from Al Gore in Florida to hand the election to George W. Bush.

   2) Mrs. Clinton advocates an optimistic, forward-looking vision of America; Mr. Trump peddles pessimism and retreat.


   Perhaps it is an outcome of my Marine Corps training that a reflexive guard is aroused in me when I observe a politician rely predominantly upon demagoguery and bullying to advance a candidacy. The Republican Party’s convention was dominated by such a theme: “BE AFRAID, BE VERY AFRAID; ONLY DONALD TRUMP CAN SAVE YOU!”. Mr. Trump championed this cynical message in his convention speech, painting a Nightmare-in-America vision, the barbarian hordes storming our gates, our cities spiraling in violent chaos. The American landscape of which Trump speaks demands an occupying force to stabilize itself guided by a law-and-order strongman. Only Trump can save us, he warned.

   But Trump’s dystopian vision does not comport with reality. Our cities have not fallen into chaos. Violent crime, nationally, is down from previous decades. Murder rates remain well below those of the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s. Our borders are not swarming with illegal immigrants. Net in-migration the past seven years has been flat or negative. Jobs are not fleeing the United States at alarming rates. August marked the seventy-eighth straight month in which the U.S. economy added jobs, the longest streak of private-sector job growth in our history. Teen birth rates are at an all-time low. High-School graduation rates are at an all-time high. More Americans enjoy access to preventative healthcare than at any time in our history. Terrorist incidents remain extremely rare. One is more likely to die in a plane crash or unintentionally drown or be crushed by falling furniture than fall victim to a terrorist attack.

   For sure, there are many ways in which Americans are demonstrably not safe. For instance, greater than 600,000 citizens died from heart disease in 2015, many unnecessarily. More than 130,000 citizens died in accidents. 40,000+ died by suicide. These dangers can be mitigated through private and public sector collaboration, yet Trump is not discussing them nor is he offering strategies to confront their proliferation. Why? Because these dangers do not scare Americans. They do not marshal votes.

   Mr. Trump, in my view, is not interested in making America great. He’s interested in making America afraid. His cynical bet against the better angels of the electorate represents the antithesis of the warrior spirit for it wallows in a gutter of fear and retreat. Trump emphasizes “I” (Trump) over “We” the people -- not, “Yes, We Can”, but “Only I Can”. He presents no forward-thinking vision. His message is openly fearful of human progress, confused by a changing world. It is a bully’s message preying upon anxious, disaffected citizens in whom he incites wild conspiracy and false promises, effectively destroying all hope for an honest national discourse. Trump’s cynical propaganda machine is amplified within the dark corridors of right-wing misinformation outlets (e.g., Sean Hannity and Fox News, Brietbart, Drudge, Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, etc.) ... Marines hate bullies. Marines make their living fighting and defeating bullies. Trump is a playground bully offering reality-television-style leadership for our highest office.

   While I find points of agreement in the Libertarian and Green Party platforms, neither the Libertarian nor Green parties will hold Executive office nor carry a majority in the Congress. Our federal representation will come predominantly from the Democrat and Republican parties. To read the major party platforms, watch their conventions, observe their candidates, and then hear another declare there is no difference between them is to find oneself confronted with a flat-earth evangelist. Of all party platforms, the Republican party’s is by far the most openly in retreat, the most transparently fearful of change, the most antagonistic to reason and established fact.

   Have you read the official 2016 platforms? One really should consume these documents before selecting a candidate for they are moral declarations and a window into the principles and priorities from which their party members will govern. While Mr. Trump at times appears eager to stick a finger in the eye of Republican party elites, he has nonetheless locked arms with the party and they have fallen in line. Trump will reward a victory by appointing Republican cabinet members, Republican judges, Republican advisors. Behind the bombast and hyperbole, with few exceptions, Trump is advocating a standard Republican policy platform.

Below are just the Top 10 most retrograde positions in the 2016 Republican Party platform, all supported by Mr. Trump and/or his party:

   1) The Republican Party seeks to restore state-sponsored marriage discrimination against same-sex couples and opposes efforts to protect gay and lesbian citizens from workplace and housing discrimination.
Trump supports reversing civil-rights gained on this front ... Clinton embraces and celebrates them.
   2) The Republican Party rejects the scientific consensus of anthropogenic climate change and would reverse federal efforts to mitigate carbon pollution into the atmosphere. Moreover, the Republican Party champions coal as a “clean energy” (seriously) resource.
Trump declares the scientific consensus on this matter a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.  He vows to break America’s commitment to the Paris Climate Accord signed by nearly 200 nations … Clinton accepts the scientific consensus and vows to further America’s leadership role in clean energy development.
   3) The Republican Party would strip newly-acquired access to preventative healthcare from tens of millions of Americans by repealing the Affordable Care Act.
Trump’s plan would eliminate insurance coverage for more than twenty-million Americans while raising out-of-pocket expenses for most citizens not ensured through their employer … Clinton’s plan would preserve gains secured through the Affordable Care Act and further the law’s intent by shoring up loop holes, improving flawed regulations, and insuring millions more Americans.
   4) The Republican Party would reverse federally-mandated consumer protections – the agency, for instance, that exposed Wells Fargo fraud last month – and eliminate safeguards established to protect citizens from predatory banking practices.
Trump vows to dismantle Dodd-Frank financial reform (because it restricts corporate profits) … Clinton champions Dodd-Frank reform, identifies improvement opportunities to assist smaller banks, and seeks greater transparency & accountability for fraudulent Wall Street behavior.
   5) The Republican Party opposes efforts to restrict access to military-grade assault weapons.
Trump opposes any legislation that would restrict access to assault weapons … Clinton supports re-instating the assault weapons ban and closing loop-holes in the law that allow for 20-30% of gun purchases to transact without a background check.
   6) The Republican Party would nationalize the death penalty, codifying the practice into federal law.
Trump champions an expansion of capital punishment … Clinton seeks a more selective approach; while in the Senate, she co-sponsored a bill to ensure fair administration of the practice and minimize the risk of executing innocent citizens.
   7) The Republican Party opposes embryonic stem-cell scientific research.
Trump has not formally declared a position on the matter, although his party and his vice presidential running mate, Mike Pence, staunchly oppose it (presumably because embryos contain invisible spirits) … Clinton acknowledges the revolutionary potential of this research which promises advancements in cardiac health, Alzheimer’s, and all manner of injury and disease treatment; she will further research initiatives.
   8) The Republican Party opposes the agreement reached between Iran and a coalition of the United States, Germany, Great Britain, China, Russia and France (i.e., the Iran Nuclear Deal) that lifted financial sanctions on the Iranian people in return for the government of Iran drastically curtailing its nuclear weapons capability.
Trump vows to dissolve the agreement and impose harsher financial sanctions on the Iranian people (although it is unclear how he would accomplish this given our international partners declared they would not go along with his bullying tactic, nor has Mr. Trump indicated how he would persuade Iran to reduce their nuclear capabilities in response to isolated American threats) … Clinton’s State Department was instrumental in securing collaboration between all parties; Clinton vows to honor America’s commitment to the deal, audit international inspections, and seek measures to advance nuclear disarmament beyond the life of the contract.
   9) The Republican Party would eliminate nearly all campaign finance laws, allowing for unrestricted corporate donations and non-disclosure protections.
Trump has not articulated a plan nor indicated whether he would break with his party’s position … Clinton seeks a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United, legislation that increases financial transparency for corporations, and a small-donor matching system to amplify the voice of the people.
   10) The Republican Party claims to advocate fiscal responsibility. So do I (who doesn’t?).
Trump does not appear to be interested in deficit / debt reduction. The non-partisan Tax Policy Center analyzed both candidate’s tax-reform proposals and found that Trump’s plan would reduce federal revenue by an estimated $9.5 Trillion over the first ten years (make the deficit great again) … Clinton’s plan would increase federal revenue by $1.1 Trillion over the first ten years.

3) The Supreme Court matters, a great deal.


   The Republican-controlled Senate this year took the unprecedented action of denying President Obama his constitutional privilege of nominating a Supreme Court justice to replace the deceased Antonin Scalia. Rather than allow a vote on the president’s nominee, Senate leadership chose to hand the nomination to the next president, hoping that president would emerge from their tribe. While the action is lawful, it breaks with over a century of precedent. The outcome of this election will, therefore, decide which major party carries a majority selection on the court. The current balance is a 4-4 split.

   Justices appointed by presidents do not toe a party line, yet they do tend to follow a consistent ideological bent. With the Congress rendering itself increasingly inept, appointments to the Supreme Court by our next president will be one of the most consequential outcomes of the election. Consider that a conservative majority (5-4) recently struck down limits on campaign donations by corporations (Citizens United) and gutted the Voting Rights Act.  A Democratically appointed majority would potentially uphold tough campaign finance reform, limit gerrymandering practices and develop a robust right for all citizens to vote. Such a court could also end long-term solitary confinement and the death penalty, protect a woman’s right to choose legal abortion, uphold reasonable assault-weapons restrictions. These are all desirable outcomes to me.



** Election Night Postscript

   Election Night 2016:  I find myself, yet again, terribly disappointed in my country.  While Donald Trump lost the popular vote by two or three million ballots, he won the electoral college process.  Mr. Trump will be the next President of the United States, and in doing so I expect he will line his family's pocket books while defrauding more credulous Americans.  His feeble intellect and fragile ego will further diminish the national discourse, deepening the divide between its citizenry.  His lack of moral integrity will result in irrational, incoherent policies home and abroad.  He and his brazenly corrupt political allies will challenge the integrity of our democratic institutions.

   I recall this feeling in 2004 when after dragging the U.S. into an unnecessary war in Iraq that resulted in the deaths of thousands of America's sons and daughters and handing the wealthiest Americans a debt-financed tax windfall, the nation saw fit to re-elect George W. Bush.  I believed (hoped), wrongly, we had evolved as a people.  Barack Obama was evidence of that.  I was wrong.

   On a cosmic scale, I suppose we are but mere adolescent primates stumbling our way into adulthood ... One step forward, two steps back.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

August Moon

I encountered
the full moon tonight
while drifting through the shadows.
The moon held court
over mischievous stars dancing
in violet pirouettes
on the crests of the clouds.
Such splendor it was,
I recalled the two of us
that blessed summer evening
lying naked together
in the tall grass, laughing
and making love.
How I danced around you
in the hot moonlight.
How you worried we would be seen.
I wandered thinking of it
and stepped dreamily
into the prickly pear,
arousing this bittersweet
remembrance
of you.

Friday, April 29, 2016

California Wine Country

Jules and my appetite for California was only teased last year when we visited San Francisco & Big Sur.  A return trip was top of our agenda for 2016, and another "Babymoon" it became (Iyla's little sister is due in July) ... Visits to Sonoma, Napa, the Russian River Valley and other wine-country destinations left us with a greater appreciation for this lovely state and her wines that grace our dinner table.  Until we meet again, California:  Cheers!
 
Calistoga hiking
 
Napa Valley Wine Train
 
Inglenook Winery
 
 Castello di Amorosa
 
California Friends
 
 
To your health...
 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

John Jacob Dillman (1924 - 2007)

The photo below depicts an indelible impression of our maternal grandfather, John Jacob Dillman, a man who delighted in his many grandchildren (39 in all), a man quick to laughter and hilarity, who kept a playful home and always welcomed me and my siblings with joyful affection.

 Grandpa Dillman (center), me in the plaid vest to his right, brother Chad in the tie to his left, sister Julie on his left knee.
The following are rudimentary details of John's family history and life cobbled mostly from information my mother and grandmother provided, as well as my own reflections.  The author believes no person can be attributed a thorough accounting under such limited circumstance as mere memory affords.  The best one can hope to attain is a glimpse of a loved one captured through the lens of those who knew him.

I invite my family members to contribute their memories of Grandpa which I will include as an addendum to the piece.

•••••

The Dillman surname is of Germanic heritage.  While three possible sources are known, the most common identifies persons living near the Dill River in the present state of Hesse, Germany.  Towns along the Dill River carry names such as Dillbrecht, Dillenburg, Offdilln and Dillheim.  The region holds the highest concentration of Dillmans today in Germany.

While it is not known to me how our Dillman ancestors came to Russia, nor what circumstance compelled our Great-Great Grandparents to immigrate to the United States, a review of the historical record paints a plausible scenario.

In the late-eighteenth century, many Post-Reformation, Catholic Germans were drawn to Russia fleeing religious persecution from their Protestant countrymen and perpetual war with France.  The Czarina of Russia, Catherine the Great, a German by birth, promised those willing to settle her newly acquired lands in the West freedom from religious persecution and tax-exempt settlement opportunities.  This backdrop attracted tens of thousands of Germans to Russia in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Catherine the Great's promise of peace in Russia was, however, short lived.  By the late 19th century revolution was stirring and political conditions grew perilous for the working class.  It was within this climate that Jacob and Margaret Dillman, our Great-Great Grandparents, made their way from Russia to Boulogne-sur-Mer, France where they boarded The Veendam passenger ship to seek new opportunity in America.

According to the ship's passenger log, Jacob was 36 years old when he, Margaret (34) and their son, Jacob Jr. (1), arrived in New York City on December 19, 1891.  They settled in the St. Mary's Township of Kansas along with a good many Germanic immigrants.  It appears Kansas was selected as a destination prior to or upon their arrival in New York.  It is not known to me why Kansas was chosen.  Again, the historical record offers a clue.

Kansas was considered part of the Great American Desert until the 1850's when early Caucasian settlers arrived from eastern United States.  After the Civil War, the Federal Government created incentive for further settlement by passing the Homestead Act of 1862, signed by President Lincoln.  The law declared that anyone who had not taken up arms against the federal government, was 21 years of age or older or the head of a household, could file for a free-to-little-cost land grant in the western territories.  This action drew masses of newly-arrived European immigrants into the Midwest, many of whom formed communities of similar heritage.  By the 1890's, Kansas was a common destination for Germanic settlers who formed the largest new-immigrant community in the state.

Jacob and Margaret "Maggie" Dillman are identified in the 1900 federal census as residents of St. Mary's, Kansas.  Jacob's occupation is listed as "janitor", Margaret "laundress".  They birthed fourteen children in all with five surviving to adulthood, including John Sr., our Great Grandfather.  The birth record and cause of death listed for the nine deceased children offers a glimpse into an era before organized pediatrics:

  1. Female; 18771880 (died of whooping cough)
  2. Female, 18781880 (died of whooping cough)
  3. Female, 18801881 (died of small pox)
  4. Male, 18841885 (died of abscess of stomach)
  5. Male, 18851887 (died of measles)
  6. Male, 18851892 (died of measles)
  7. Alexander, born February, 1892
  8. Female, 18921894 (died of small pox)
  9. Barbara, born September, 1893
  10. Male, 18931894 (died of small pox)
  11. Male, 18941895 (died of measles)
  12. John, born January, 1897
  13. Anne, born October, 1898 
  14. Pauline, born March, 1900

Little is known to me about our Great Grandfather, John Sr., but that he was a carpenter tradesman, he married Christine Buss – the Buss family were also of Germanic heritage  and they lived in the Kansas City area.

John and Christine Dillman birthed nine children.  Their first was our Grandfather, John Jacob Jr., born December 19, 1924, in a Kansas City, Kansas hospital.  The family called him Johnnie.  He had three younger brothers:  Frank (19261953), Joseph "Joe" (19292011), and Martin (1931Unknown); four sisters:  Virginia (19282003), Caroline "Carol" (19352013), Mary Ann (1937Living), and Christine "Tina" (19402014).  A child, Bernard, died as an infant, as did Brother Frank at age 27 due to heart complications.

Below is an early photo of Grandpa taken in 1926.


•••••

As a child, John loved to fish and play baseball.  He developed a talent for pitching while in grade school, taking his team in the state championship, a title they lost in part because key players, including grandpa, took ill on the eve before the game after eating tainted watermelon from a neighborhood patch.

As a young man, John played semi-pro ball for the Lapetina's.  A scout once told him "if only he were bigger" he might play in the major league.

The Dillman family was of modest means.  In 1940 they fell on hard times and Grandpa was compelled to leave high school so he may contribute to household expenses.  He took a job in a prominent bakery dumping cakes from pans.

Two years later, at the age of eighteen, John was drafted into the army where he fought in World War II earning $21 a month, most of which he allotted to his parents.

Private John Dillman crossed the Atlantic on the Queen Mary ocean liner in 1942.  His first overseas assignment was in England where he completed advanced training as a field artilleryman and telephone operator.

John's unit saw their first combat action in 1944, participating in Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy.  6,500 Americans lost their lives.  Grandma tells me that Grandpa's small stature enabled him to crawl undetected at night under barbed wire to string damaged communication lines.

John's unit, the 29th Infantry, went on to see action in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany, receiving numerous commendations.  They engaged on and off in combat for 242 days, including the famous Battle of the Bulge.  I recall Grandpa telling me that he once slept undisturbed in a foxhole through a night of heavy shellinghaving grown moderately accustomed to itonly to awake in the morning with the discovery that sizable mortar holes surrounded his position.

Grandpa maintained regular correspondence with his family during the war.  His mother preserved more than one-hundred of his letters.  Below is a sample of John's writing stitched from correspondence dated MayAugust, 1945.  I chose to weave a patchwork from several letters in order to provide a representative sample of the larger correspondence.  I also selected the period when the war ended because security restrictions upon G.I. communication would have relaxed.  Lastly, modest grammar and spelling corrections are applied to maintain readability.
Dearest Mother & Dad,
Received two letters from you, Mother Dear, one from Daddy and one from Virginia and Mary Ann.  Sure was glad to get them and to hear that everyone is well & OK.  I am feeling as good as ever, only happier.  We sure had a lovely day here the last couple of days.  Nice weather.  The birds are singing and the German civilians are fixing their gardens already.
Well, Mother, I guess you all heard the good news by now about the war being over.  The boys are really happy.  They are having a little party at the present.  One boy is playing the guitar and one the mouth harp.  They are really having a time singing & everything.  They wanted me to join them, but I have some letters to write.
I am driving a truck now with another boy, and we have been hauling refugees:  Russians, Polish, Czechs, and just about every kind. Yes, Mother, I just as soon stay over here awhile, for all the guys who are coming home now and not getting discharges are going to the Pacific, and I don't want to go there for I seen enough over here.  I sure wish the war would end soon in the Pacific.  They are really giving them heck now.
Mother, I also received the package dated April 8th and was really glad to get it.  I was out of shaving cream and hair oil.  The cookies were sure good, but a little too sweet.  Mother, I wish you would send me some gym socks.  I also wish you would send my watch, that is if Daddy doesn't really need it. 
Well, Mother, how is everything at home?  Fine I hope.  I guess Martin and Joe have graduated already.  Wish I could have been there to see them.  I also wish I could be there to see Virginia receive her veil.  Has Joe found him another job yet?  I was glad to hear that Martin got him a job at Milgram's.  I hope he can keep it.  What does it pay?  You know, I bet Martin eats more than he works for (Ha!).  I can just see him.
Daddy, I was glad to hear that the car is running good, and sorry that some of the pigeons got stolen.  I'll bet they got the best ones too.  Hope not.  I sure was glad to hear that Ward beat Wyandotte again.  They must have a pretty good team this year.  Is it true they are letting coloreds into Ward?
We have been keeping quite busy here.  We had to search every German home for weapons and Nazi books.  We found quite a few flags & books, but not many pistols. 
We got to go to church today.  We went to a big church in town.  You know, I thought there weren't hardly any Catholics in Germany by the way they talk back in the states, but it seems though just about everyone is catholic.  I am getting to see a lot of Germany.  It sure is beautiful country, but you can't beat the U.S.A.
Well, Mother, I will be getting a pass to Brussels, Belgium soon.  That is if nothing happens.  When I do, I am going to have some photos made and send you one.  Most of the boys have gone already and said it was really nice there.  All kinds of girls, lots to eat, ice cream and street cars, lots of theater and dance places. 
Well, Mother & Dad, there isn't much more to say.  The boys are making too much noise, so I'll be closing for now, hoping to hear from you all again soon.  Mother, tell all the kids I said Hello.  I was glad to hear that Grandma & Grandpa got to come up to the city.  Mother, did you get the pictures I sent?  I hope so.  Bye now.
With all my love, hugs and kisses.
Your Loving Son,
Johnnie 
P.S., Mother, send me some more writing pads and chocolates. 


•••••

That's our maternal grandmother, Wilma "Billie" Miller, in the photo (right).  At the time of his draft notice, John was dating Billie's best friend who fell for another guy while John was away at basic training.  John returned on leave after training and promptly asked Billie on a date.  They wrote to one another throughout the war, but were not exclusive.

Grandpa received an honorable discharge from the Army in January, 1946.  Upon his return to Kansas City, John appeared at a high school basketball game Billie was attending and asked her to the senior prom.  They began dating, were engaged that Easter and married on August 17, 1946.  When asked what attracted her to her husband, Billie noted that John Dillman was "a very honest man".

The wedding was held at St. Benedict's Catholic Church.  Billie's family were Methodists, and she converted to Catholicism prior to the ceremony.  I asked Grandma if her conversion was a requirement for the marriage.  She assured me she was not pressured to convert, nor was it a requirement.  She did it for John.

The reception was held in Billies parent's backyard.  Bologna salad sandwiches were served and a cake paid for with rationed sugar stamps from the war.  The below photo was taken on John and Billie's wedding day.  To John's right is his cousin, Freddie, who also fought in the war.  To Billie's left is John's sister, Virginia.  Both Freddie and Virginia served as legal witnesses that day.

•••••

In return for his wartime service, Uncle Sam afforded Grandpa the opportunity to attend a trade school.  He chose his father's profession, carpentry, and apprenticed under John Sr..  While an apprentice, John Sr. was diagnosed with colon cancer and became unable to work.  Grandpa again took a job to contribute to household expenses while continuing his trade studies.  He kept $5 a week for himself and gave the remainder to his mother.

John eventually finished trade school and became a member of the Carpenter's Local Union #168, retaining that membership for fifty years until he retired.  Our grandmother still receives a monthly pension check from the Carpenter's Union.

John and Billie's first home was a rented unit in a multi-family building.  They paid $10 a month (utilities included) for one bedroom w/kitchen and shared a bathroom down the hall with three other families.  Our mother, Linda Sue Dillman, was born in this location on June 18th, 1947.  That's Grandma and Grandpa (below) holding their first born.  


In 1950, John and Billie purchased a two-bedroom bungalow for $2,500.  Grandpa fixed up the place, yet the family quickly outgrew it as John Jr. and Mike, their two eldest boys, were born there.  They acquired a four-bedroom home in 1953 on 14th Street in Kansas City, Kansas.  Our Grandparents raised nine children in that house on 14th.  It is the place I visited and knew them as a child.

I recall my Grandpa's beer-can collection in the basement of the home, his carpentry workshop under the stairs, Grandma's colorful kitchen table and wall paper, the alley out back where we children played with our cousins, and the three pine trees in front I loved to climb.  The introductory photo (up top) was taken in the yard.

     <<I must leave the story unfinished for now, wanting to post on John's birthday.  The remaining notes will be added as time permits.  Until then, enjoy this photo (below) taken in the house on 14th Street, Grandma and Grandpa with their nine children plus our father, Thomas Gregory Lambert, who was just married to our mother at the time ... Happy Birthday, Grandpa.>>