An excerpt from my upcoming memoir, So Much Older Then. Coming of Age When the World is Coming Apart.

“Viva la huelga!” cried Matt at the top of his lungs.

“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…

‘Swords into ploughshares’ Sculpture by J.Mensing, 1970

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

Marchers in Washington, D.C., 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

Eunice Sloop Kuehnert

February Fourth

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…

Victor John Cartier, 9/7/49–4/8/69

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…

Brazeau Creek in Seelitz, MO

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

was reached.

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…

Paul Kuehnert

Nurse, history buff, unrepentant advocate for the common good.

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