Chuck Olmstead interviews Patriot’s Landing resident Bob Winkler, who was born on August 5, 1929. In October 1946, he joined the Army Air Corps., now the Air Force. He served in England and Germany, retiring from the Air Force in 1953. He spent 46 years in Germany, where he sold life insurance to the military and met his wife. His four daughters were born in Germany.
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*The following is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it is incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.
This special answers for elders podcast honoring military veterans is sponsored by carriage. For more information about carriage, the website is see AAR EA gecom. This is Chuff am Stud with answers for elders radio. I’m here in Dupont, Washington at Patriots landing and our guests today on this podcast is Bob Winkler and Bob Welcome to answers for elders radio. Thank you. Yeah, well, you and I just had a chance to chat a little bit. Huge Mariners Fan, huge seahawks fans for sure. Oh you bet, you bet. And so you’ve been done here at Patriots landing for how long now? Next June will be two years. Two years. Who Years? Oh, very good. Well, we always like to interview the the veterans that are a part of Patriots landing and like to hear a little bit about their their life and their story. And and when you and I met you mentioned to me at the moment you’re eighty nine years old and you look like twenty years younger. So congratulations about that. Thank you. You’ve got a good health and strength. So born in Nineteen, nineteen, twenty nine, twenty nine five August nineteen twenty nine. Okay. And so you were probably a too young to remember a lot of the depression, but probably remember some of it. Well, I do actually, because my mother, I remember mother, used to clean wall paper, if for this doctor at for a dollar a day. And I used to go door to door selling candy bars for five centsation and I made a penny a candy bar. And then on Sarday and night I would down there. Regards to the weather, I’d be down there selling newspapers. So and another thing I did was we were a very poor family. It was eight children our family. And another thing I did we had a whirlbarrow and I’d go around a hall garbage up to the dump for people for twenty five cents, load up the garbage and put a tarpaullen over it, tie it down and push it up and down hills and take it to the dump and they’d pay me twenty five cents for that. So so you obviously you remember all of that. So that was in the mid, probably mid s. How old were you? I was well when this all happened. I was about fourteen hundred fourteen sols, about one thousand nine hundred and forty three. Yeah, well, cleaning wall paper. That’s interesting because as a young man I used to do that with my dad as well. Most people don’t even know what that’s like to clean wall stuff like play dot. Exactly. Yeah, it was came in a came in a can with a lid on it and that you needed it, like Plato, and then you would actually wipe it across the wall paper and then reneed it said when it started get in. Eventually it would get so dirty in there that you had to get rid of it. Yeah, but many, many, many, many times I’d clean wall paper with my with my dad. Yeah, so your mom did that? Yep, my mother did that. Yeah. So where was this? You said, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, beaver falls, Pennsylvania. Uh Huh, we’re Joe, name of the football players from oh interested. Yeah. So, so you were a young man then during World War Two. Yes, so you not old enough to be in the in the military during during World War II. Now, I went in nineteen forty six, so right after the war it was still the war with the Second World War. War Wasn’t declared over officially until thirty one, December forty six. So I got a World War Two victory metal because I went in nineteen forty six before the war was declared over, even though it was over, and forty five they didn’t declare to fishy over till thirty one December forty six. Why? Why was? That? Was it? I don’t know. They I’ve never been been able to figure that out, because it was actually over in nineteen forty five. In fact, that my older brother, well, he was twenty five of the time. I had a brother there was a navigator on the sea forty seven and he was killed in a plane crash seventeen June nineteen forty five in Boggio. Lose on? Interesting. Yeah, so, so lose on. So so I wonder which theater that they guess the question would be, remained open. What would because well, they were both open the same time, the European theater and a Pacific theater. We were fighting if the war in both two areas right at the same time. So did they consider those still both war zones until the end of forty six? Yeah, interesting. I would imagine then that affected like for you, your pay and how they viewed your you can you receive some civil rewards because you were still considered in combat during yeah, during that time. Strange thing whenever, whenever the brother was going overseas, he got on a Greyhound bus and he going from beaver falls, Pennsylvania to Pittsburgh and he told a driver just amon he got off the bust he kissed men a cheeks as you’ll never see me alive again. That was in February of forty five and the seventeen of June forty five was killed in the plane crash. Interesting. Yeah, so it’s June of forty five. So and so he was in the European theater. Correct. Yes, so, so it wasn’t combat related necessarily. Know, it was combat related. They were shot down, but no, he was in Pacific. He’s a specific. Yeah, they were shot down by the Japanese. I see. Yes, because that really didn’t end until August of forty five when they dropped the yeah, the bombs. So what motivates you do motivated you to join the service? His death, whenever he was killed, I was sitting on the front porch. When the Western Union, they used to ride up in bicycles and when he drove, when he wrote up for the bicycle, I was sitting on the Front Porch or House and I knew right away what it was and he had to me the telegram and not even want to open it. So I gave it to my mother. She opened it and screamed and collapsed and I read the telegram where he was killed and I said that’s it. So I I was a June, I just complete him a junior high school and I was an honor student, quite frankly, and so I told my dad, as I’m Gona join the military, you’re going to finish high school. Is I got enough credits? He Says No, you don’t. You’re going to finish high school and he’s to beat me with the razor strap every day. Says I’m the but you know, he said you’re going to not going to join the military, I want you to graduate from high school. So in October forty six, my mother says you might as well let him join. So he signed the papers and I joined the military and that’s how I went into military. In October nineteen forty six. Interesting, so you actually joined the Air Force? Air Force, yes, sir. So the air force came into being what one nineteen forty seven actually, because when I when I was called the Army Air Corps. That’s right. Then it became the air force in nineteen forty seven. Interesting. Yeah, so what did you when you when you joined? Of course the war officially was over by then. Are Not officially, but there were the actual combat. Yeah, activities. So so what was your assignment? Well, actually I was in administration and I remember it was rather funny. I we got in a troop ship and we went across the Atlantic Ocean in a troop ship to England and I still remember that’s when the British had those big five pound notes, you know, and when we landed I went up and I had a five pound note and I gave it this lead and as I went some tea and crumpets, you know, because that’s a cost. And so she gave him a change. To This Day, I tell my daughter the other day as I don’t know if I ever got the right changer, because there was a big five pound British note. You know what, I had a tour and she gave me some change back and more than not I got the right change. I don’t know, but I wanted to. I wanted to have tea and crumpets like the British sure there was funny. So did you then stay in English? Yes, I stayed in England and stay there for a while. Then I went to Germany and that was in nineteen fifty three and I stayed in Germany then from nineteen twelve, from I was in Germany from from nineteen fifty and nine, ninety six, forty six years in Germany. In fact, by four I got married in Germany to American. She was retired Air Force, and my four dollars were all born in Germany. Now went to American schools over there. And when you went to American schools over there, I had a choice either sender the German schools for free or sent to American schools and pay. And the two issue was six thousand dollars a year and that was that was expensive with four daughters. No kidding, yeah, kidding. So after you left the service in fifty three, what did you do in Germany? I sold life insurance to the military. Interesting, so life insurance they had. They had four hundred thousand dollars worth of life insurance. You know, it was a hundred thousand. Then the government raised at the four hundred thousand and I was selling life insurance and they say, well, I got four hundred thousand. I says yes, but the day you get out, whether it’s by retirement or just discharge, you have no insurance. Oh, I didn’t know that. So for forty some old years I saw life insurance. O, that’s very successful. That actually interesting. Yeah, but I sold life insurance to the military. Were you? Were you in one particular city or in you’re a certain well, yeah, I was in Spain, Dellam, Germany. That was about an hour’s drive from Ramstein, Germany. So I was living in living in place called Spain Down Germany, which is in the EIFEL mountains. Interesting. Yeah, and were you there that entire time? The whole time? Wow, yeah, so how do you think? I mean, I’m sure you saw an incredible transformation in the military over from the time you served all the ladies in the late end, in the early S, for another forty some years. Yeah, what kind of things did you see change in the military? Well, it’s a tough question. I would say the German the general’s we didn’t have the EISENHIERS and the EISENHOWERS and a macarthur’s and some of the general’s left some things to be desired as far as I was concerned. And one thousand nine hundred and forty nine I was in e five and I got called in and they offered me a warn officer, commission and, as told before dolls, I said to this day I don’t know why I turned it down. I turned it down. I didn’t, I didn’t accept it. And so then I could have been a warn officer. And you know in the Air Force and my roommates, Stewart m normal, I still remember him, he accepted it and he retired with thirty years that he was what they call a w five, which is the top rank. So I’ve always said God, God, everything’s God driven and I’ve always believed that and I still do and I says every decision I’ve ever made had to be God driven because had I had I not, had I not done what I did, I wouldn’t have met my wife over there and I wouldn’t have before daughters. Right. So you know, it just I just let nature take this course and what happens happens. Yeah, yeah, well, one of the things, and some of my other interviews with other veterans the in the s late s early s, the military went through a lot of social change, just like the rest of the of the country, and especially when it came to racial relationships. And talked to several veterans who said, especially in Germany, there was, there began to be this change with the military as far as race relations were concerned and how it was dealt with and how how the officers began to kind of change their their thinking about and did you see that as well? Well, yes, it’s funny you should ask that question because there was thirteen of us e five’s and well, I was in knee six and it was thirteen e five. So I was in charge of and the Colonel Work for current still remembers, named Colonel Templeman. He was general, amazed, fair hero at boy and he called me in the office one day and he says, I want you to point your replacement should you have to be out of the area. And I said what he means it? Well, you got thirteen staff Startan’s pick one of them to replace you in command if you’re out of the area. I was okay, so I went out and I chose still remembers named Charles M Russell. He was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was a African American. So I told the other guys. I said, well, in my absence, Sergeant Russell’s in charge. And this one guy still remembers the can’t remembers name. I think it was Lewis. He got up and NIECES, I won’t work for an African American, as you said, what he’s. I won’t work for an African American. That’s what that’s a direct order. I’m giving you a direct order to work for him. He’s I won’t do it. I will then consider yourself busted. And those days you could reduce a person’s rank just by word if you were a supervisor. So I remember. I call it a Master Sergeant Bob White who, if worked in person out and has a certain white cut the orders. Sergeant Curtain, John P curtain, is now reduced from staff sergeant to airman, to Herman First Class. That’s why you did things in those days. Interesting. Yeah, if they didn’t, if they didn’t obey a direct order, you had the authority to bust them right on the spot. Yeah, that’s not the way anymore now. It’s all strictly by court marshals and all that. Right, right. So what was the response when you did that amongst some of the other with the other people. The other encos accepted, but just just one guy. He says, I will not work for an African American. Yeah, I said, you don’t, you don’t understand. That’s a direct order. You will work for him. If I tell you it’s I won’t do it. So we busted them right on the spot. Yeah, well, we’re there. As far as even like with families and kind of communications with families, I’m sure that you saw a change with how the military dealt with with families. And of course there are a lot more people that came over to Germany. Oh yes, you know, with their with their spouses, to serve. What kinds of things did you see on that side of things? Well, there wasn’t any problems really. I mean everybody, they they all work together. As far as ask concern. You know, we didn’t have any problem. Knows that the area at all every time. You know, we all got along well as far as ask concern, and celebrated holidays together and everything. They were just there’s always in every crowd where they say there’s always one bad apple. There’s always one bad apple. And, like said, we had that one individual that we had problems with but we took care of it. Yeah, so what would you say was one of the bigger lessons that you learned by serving in the military, comrade, comradeship, comrade ship, how to get along with people, Uh Huh, certainly people that were different than you that will serve in yes, yeah, yeah, yeah, and it’s interesting to me that you continued to really serve the military for another forty some years, but with selling insurance, because that certainly was a service to their to those families. Oh yeah, and it was a lot of fun because, like I said, they had four hundred thousand dollars worth of insurance. That was, you know, by the government. They were killed their necktive king got four a thousand dollars and it was tax free. But that once they got out of the military they didn’t have any insurance. So I was very successful at it. I would not be, you know, and they say, well, I got four hundred thousand dollars ashes until you get out, then you have not a lot. I didn’t know that as well. Now you know it. So I was able to successfully sell insurance and I did it for forty some wild years very successfully, and I’ve got four daughters and I was. I spent Chrism with my youngest daughter out in Lacey. She’s in the real estate business and was kinder. Yes, yes, you know, you got your salesmanship your dad from you did, ha ha, Ha’s sort of laughing because she’s a tremendous real estate agent. Yeah, very, very good real estate agent. But tell me about the transition, because your four daughters grew up in Germany. Are they all here in the US or there? They’re all well known once in a why? My oldest daughter is in a way, and then I’ve got one in North Carolina. She’s married. The one in a is not married. I got one in North Calanta’s married. He’s a major inneer force, and one here ots the ROTC now and then I’ve got another daughter at that’s in Maryland. Her husband’s very, very successful. We works for coming called JLL real estate company worldwide. And then my youngest daughter, of course, is out here in Lacey and her husband’s retired army eight. He turned down starts to major to get out because they were going to send him to Fort Bright North Calinda. So he got out of the army, retired and he’s now has a tremendous job out of mcre working for Boeing. He’s a manager for Boeing out at mccord and that was rather funny because there’s an individual the name of Steve. There’s three of mini office. There’s a female e nine air force type. She’s really a sweetheart. COURTER, was son in law and den. There’s another guy by the name of Steve The that was a load master and when it come up to when it come up to get this job for Boeing, you had to have supply experience. When my son in law was in supply, the supply career field is whole military career. The other guy was a load master, Steve, and he thought he should get the job. You know, they they want to load master. They wanted the guy with supply. So he’s working. He’s the manager out there mccord Air Force Base for bullying, doing very, very well. Yeah, so how did your daughters deal with, having grown up in Germany coming to the US? was that a big transition? It wasn’t really. They because, like I said, they went to school over there. They went they graduated from high school at Ramstein Germany. You know, they went to the American schools and they come back to when we come back the states. They just moved, moved right in with everything, you know, everything was accepted, you know, no problem. So what made you choose Patriots landing? I was living in Maryland with one of my daughters and I’m particularly get along with her husband. That’s another story. He was okay, but I we just didn’t hit it off him. So my four daughters, I got four dolls, like I said, and he said, well, we got to do some with dad. They said, Dad, what do you want to do? I was is, I don’t want to live with any of you. I says, I want to live in a retirement home. So they looked at a retirement home in North Carolina and I was with them and I didn’t like it. I said no, no, I don’t want this. So where would you like to live? A Sad I’d like to live in Washington. I love Washington. So they brought me out here and there’s a total of seven retirement homes in area and just immediate area, and I’ve talked to two people that lived in the other six and then they moved in here and they said the other six are horrible compared this place. So this how I ended up ended up here. I said, you know, I when I came out, we were interviewed and all that, and as I like this place. You do like it. It’s a very, very nice retirement home. Yeah, yeah, well, it is a lovely home and and I think one of the things that I enjoy about it being here is is veterans like yourself, you get to hear some amazing stories of people have served our country and I want to thank you for you telling your story and for sharing a little bit about your life and about your time of service here. And we’ve been talking to Bob Winkler. He’s served in the United States air force and as Tex Argentes six, and so, rob thank you for joining us today on all right, answers for elders radio. Thank you. Thank you. This has been a special honoring veterans. Presentation of answers for elders brought to you by carriage. For more information about carriage, the website is cear agecom.
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Originally published December 22, 2018