An excerpt from my upcoming memoir, So Much Older Then. Coming of Age When the World is Coming Apart.
“VIVA!!!!” all 20 of us responded in unison at the top of ours. “BOYCOTT KROGERS — BOYCOTT GRAPES!!”
We repeated the chants over and over as we marched up and down the sidewalk alongside the Kroger grocery store in downtown Kirkwood, waving our picket signs emblazoned with the slogans we were chanting. The store was just a couple of miles from my parents’ house, and I was pretty sure that one of our neighbors or church members would drive by and…
We pushed through the rear doors of the auditorium and marched straight into the business meeting of the Missouri District of the Lutheran-Church-Missouri Synod, down the center aisle toward the stage, twenty-three pairs of hands clapping, our voices raised, singing:
“…Gonna lay down my sword and shield
Down by the riverside
Ain’t gonna study war no more…”
It was Wednesday, June 17, 1970: my eighteenth birthday. I wanted the several hundred church leaders there to know that I would not register for the draft that day even though it was required by law when men turned eighteen. I was resisting…
Things I Learned at the Vietnam War Moratorium on November 15, 1969
The scurrilous behavior of the Current Occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, his cronies, enablers, and supporters on all manner of issues — from Ukraine to Charlottesville to Syria to the U.S.-Mexico border (and so much more!) — has deeply polarized our country. …
What My Mother Keeps Teaching Me About Death
It was the right choice to leave
the cramped theater and its droning actors behind
and make our way back to your apartment.
Fueled with wine and cigarettes your stories became a time machine transporting us to
your mis-adventures as a 22 year old secretary in the Purina headquarters
during World War II; how you and your girlfriends
trolled for the cute boys who thought they were picking us up
at the ASO dances on Fridays; then where and
exactly how you met my father when he returned to St…
As I left homeroom and joined the surge of students in the hall, I heard a voice calling my name: “Paul, PaUL, PAUL!” I looked far down the hallway and saw a big, chunky guy with glasses standing off to the side and motioning to me with his hand that was not holding a load of books. It was Steve Musko, once my closest friend and now pretty much a stranger, a varsity football lineman and a part of the jock crowd that I had nothing but contempt for.
I glanced briefly over to my friend Tim who had followed…
Stopping the fear-mongers in rural Missouri during WWI
President Wilson had a big problem. He had succeeded in getting Congress to declare war on Germany in April, 1917, BUT it was a war that the vast majority of Americans opposed. Further, the largest ethnic minority in the country were Germans. These Americans were both recent immigrants and those, like my ancestors, who had been in the country for generations and had nurtured and sustained their German culture through devotion to their language, food, community groups and institutions.
Immediately after war was declared, the Wilson administration launched a number of major…
Grandpa visited once each year or so
when I was a boy.
His gifts were stories.
Picking him up at the train station would lead
to the story of his trip by train along
the flooding Mississippi
when he was eleven.
The water lapped over the tracks and
he could see those big old catfish
jumping from tie to tie…
Each visit we’d pack the car with food
and grizzled Aunts, and off we’d go
to Perry County where the homestead place
He would wander with me in tow
and tell of the wild turkey released in the…
Snooping around for family records in the treasure droves of online data is fun and, often, rewarding. But it can lead to real frustration. These databases can likely answer questions like: “what happened?”, and “when and where did it occur?” But you are unlikely to get a clear answer as to “why” your ancestor took a certain action or made a controversial choice — -or “how” they coped with the consequences over the remainder of their life.
That’s where the frustration comes in.
Because, in order to answer “why?” you need original sources such as family stories passed along by…
One hundred years ago today my great-uncle and namesake, Paul Jacob Kuehnert, went to his polling place in the little Mississippi River town of Wittenberg, Missouri and registered for the draft. In and of itself, that act was unremarkable. Roughly 10 million American men between the ages of 21 and 35 registered that day in compliance with the Selective Service Act passed by the U.S. Congress the month before after it declared war on Germany in April, 1917.
But, as far as I know, he was the only man among the 1,100 that registered in his rural county 100 miles…
Nurse, history buff, unrepentant advocate for the common good.