Chuck Olmstead interviews Patriot’s Landing resident George Osborn, who was born in Seattle in 1939 and went to West Seattle High School. He recalls President Roosevelt having died during his 6th birthday party. He was drafted by the United States Army in March 1962, did basic training at Fort Ord in California, and served in Korea.
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This special answers for elders podcast honoring military veterans is sponsored by carriage. For more information about carriage, the website is sear EA gecom. Well, this is chuck almstead. I met Patriots landing in Dupont, Washington, and with me today for our Veterans Interview for answers for elders is George Osborne. George, welcome to answers for elders. Well, I’m happy to be here. Yeah, well, we’ve had a chance to chat for a few minutes before we started recording and you’ve got some really interesting research here. You’ve brought a few books and we started talking about your family back in the Seattle days in the early nineteen hundreds, and we’ll chat about that in just a second, but I just obviously, with your family being coming from here, you were born in this area. Correct, I was born in Seattle. In Seattle, what year? One thousand nine hundred and thirty nine. Thirty nine, so ten years after the depression hit. Do you remember thirty nine? It would have been really kind of the beginnings of World War II. So do you remember those, those times of well, I remember, I don’t remember when the war started. All I remember is as a kid there was a war going on mm and I remember were distinctively when it ended. And I really remember when President Roosevelt died because he died on my sixth birthday, April twelve, nineteen forty five, interesting, and I had my nice big birthday party that day and I was all excited about it and all of a sudden the word came across and I didn’t know who other than in fact, I guess he was a president. But I was upset because all the mothers came and took the kids home and my birthday party ended abruptly. And but I remember I got a goldfish from somebody for my birthday and I named him Franklin Roosevelt. Ha Ha, ha ha. That was my sixth birthday. Isn’t that amazing how those memories can floodback? Yes, from one thousand nine hundred forty five a right, you know. But obviously Roosevelt’s was highly revered as what four terms as president? It was on his fourth term. Yeah, and so even at six years old you recognized the with the war ending. I’m sure you have memories of that as well. Well. I remember my father wasn’t in the military, but I can remember living in west Seattle that everybody, including us. We had chickens in the backyard, I mean, and we had a victory garden, and I know that gasoline was rationed and sugar was rationed and a number of other things were rationed. HMM, and I can vividly remember that. Sure, sure, so west Seattle and you’re a youngster. Where did you end up going to high school? Then West Seattle High School. Uh Huh, yeah, yeah, what was life like in Seattle back in the late s early s? Well, I had an interesting experience when I was going to grade school. In one thousand nine hundred and forty nine, the probably the worst earthquake that we ever had, took place, and that was on April the thirteen. And fortunately I wouldn’t be here today because fortunately this took place during spring break and I was at a friends house playing and then his mother wanted him to add to go downtown to Rhodes department store and he had to buy some shoes, and so I went down there with him and I was on first avenue in Seattle and she was up in Rhodes and he and I, who were ten, we were in a trick and puzzle shop on First Avenue in the earthquake came and we walked out and I could see the street rolling and windows falling out of the department store and you know, that was kind of interesting as a ten year old kids. Sure, she came running out of there and huggings and are you all right, etc. Etc. And then I got home and one of the neighbor kids said, did you see what happened to I went to laffayette grade school. Did you see what happened to the Grade School? No, well, it fell down. Oh My, this building was the oldest. was originally the high school and and the whole school for West Seattle built in the eight about thousand eight hundred and ninety, and so I darted up there and there the whole thing and there was nobody in but the custodian and he was in the basement and he was fine. But it happened at about eleven fifty and if that would have been a school day, we’d have been coming out for lunch. There would have been all of those it has been all of those kids would have been probably killed. Yeah, I mean and that that was rather interesting, but it was kind of a little kids dream in the fourth grade of the school fall down because now they had to figure out where we’re going to go to school for the rest of the year. Yeah, and they so we got another weeks of spring vacation. So people have asked me about something. I’ll say, well, I think that was probably taught that week that I was out of school. And the fourth grade. Anyway, we went to another grade school for the rest of the year and then in the fifth grade my sister was five years ahead of me in school and she started high school at West Seattle and they put portables up at West Seattle and the fifth and sixth graders went up there. So I went up to the West Seattle high school the same year’s Grea did interesting anyway. Yeah, that was growing up there. So was the West Seattle Bridge in existence at that time? How did you get across? There was water where there was Harbor Avenue and uh, Huh, the bridge. Yes, Huh one. You could come up admiral away or avalon right. Yeah, so wasn’t the over big over bridge, all the low one. I was a low one on harbor. I haven’t got it, okay, and it was right after the war that they built the the via doct are vot from harbor island over to Beacon Hill, over those railroad track, right right. Yeah, that thousands of people now cross every day. But that, I’ve been big expanded and everything else. Yeah, so what happens after high school? Your you graduate from High School? What year? One thousand nine hundred and fifty seven. Okay, so Korean War is over and of course Vietnam really didn’t get super active until the early mid S, right, so there was kind of a law in there, although there was this competition with the Soviet Union. So was that a an emphasis during that time when you were graduating from high school, or was there much thought about it? Well, my thought when I graduated from High School, and also my parents thought, that I would go to college, and so I went to Washington State University and I was there for years and I majored in business and Economics. And when I was at Wsu at that time in the Economics Department, they had a specialty and transportation. I was always interested in cars and trucks and buses, and I mean as a little kid I memorized every bus route in the city of Seattle, M and anyway. So that course is I had six courses in transportation, transportation economics, an air and water course, the ICC, urban transportation, railroads and trucks, interstinct commerce law and all that kind of stuff. Interesting. Yeah, I’m one professor that taught that. Uh Huh. So was that, then a major? Was that your major? Major was in it was part of the Economics Department. I see. Yeah, I mean that was a field. I mean some kids can take it accounting and other people can do something else. HMM. So what did you want to do when you graduated from college then? What was your what was your goal? I wanted to be involved with something in transportation. Uh Huh, UH, Huh. Yeah, somewhere. Yeah, I understand. So what happens after college then, do you did you go into the service or Yes, Uh Huh, I knew. I just waited for the draft and they were drafting. MMM. And all the while that I was in college, in the summertime I was fortunate to have a job at the safe way warehouse in downtown Seattle, which happens to be today were century link field is. That used to be the produced warehouse for safe way. That’s right across the street from my office now. And My dad knew the guy that was the manager of the warehouse and so we got me that job down there and I my first year, as a kid out of high school, I had to go out there and work my buns off. And here they made the new guys go out on the loading dock and unload box cars of hundred pounds sacks of potatoes and I could hardly lift one of them. They send you out with the guy who could just easily put those on those Palette boards. And and so I was getting harassed night after night doing that and I made a comment to my dad about it and he’s you really gave me some you know how lucky you are they have this job, etc. Right, so the net and I did so bunch of stupid things. You know, as a kid I was on one of those forkliphs and I ran it into a banana machine and I did a dumped over a bunch of other stuff and I didn’t I thought I was going to get fired. But anyway, at the night form and at work nights thirty at night to six in the morning, and my last day there I was going to college in form and said well, George, I hope you’ll be back next year. Really, and the next year I got back there I got to unload trailers with peaches in them instead. Up It’s add that’s right. Yeah. So, so when did you go into the service? I I got drafted. Well, when I got out of when I got out of college and in sixty one I became good friends with a professor of geography, professor, and they had a TRIPP to Europe ten weeks and I wanted to go and my mother, my dad thought it was just fine and my mother was skeptical about it because they’d never been anywhere. And so this guy and his wife took us on a ten week trip all over Europe. We camped out for ten weeks all over the place and that whole trip, airfare the ten weeks, cost fifteen hundred dollars period. Wow. So I had to I borrow the money from my parents because I said I’d pay for it. So I was working at safe way. I was able to pay back that loan and I just waited for the draft and then I got drafted in March of one thousand nine hundred and sixty two. Interesting. Yeah, so where did you do your basic I did my basic at for door in California, and then they my math grades were pretty good, so they sent me to fortsill, Oklahoma, and there was to be an artillery surveyor and and then I got sent to Korea and I went to Oakland and got on a troop ship and that took about ten days to get across and when I got off the ship and in Sean they said I was destined to go up down the DMZ and on artillery unit. And they said any of you guys know how to type? And I raised my hand. I knew a type, and so they had me take a typing test and they assigned me to the headquarters of the First Cavalry Division up in Gne HMM, and my job basically was at that time they had what they called Catusas. They were Koreans augmented to the United States army, and the Catusas were the ones that did the KP and latrines and all that kind of stuff instead of our soldiers doing that. And all those units that were in the First Cavalry Division, the artillery, the aviation units, the infantry units, etc. Etc. Would notify me if, because they came from the Korean army, they’d send some there and then they go back to the Korean army and they’d send new ones and I had to keep track of them. And then once a month I go down to Seoul and turn in the report to Eighth Army Headquarters. HMM, so it’s better than the DMZ. Yeah, and I did that job for about six months, five six months, and they were going to bring they wanted my job replaced by a civilian which was equivalent to like a colonel in pay, and so they sent me to be a company clerk in an aviation company. Interesting. So I did that for the balance. At the time I was in Korea. HMM. So you spent a majority of your two years with the service over in Korea. Thirteen months. Uh Huh. And there was a couple of little skirmishes that took place up on the DMC and I when I was company clerk, I had a morning report that I had to do and that aviation company we had we had a guy that got missing an action in North Korea. What it is because it was a helicopter pilot’s going across by the DMZ and he gets it got too far over. Anyway, every day I had to put his name down missing an action. I’ll finish that story in a few minutes. So anyway, that was basically my Korean experience. And then I had five months left to go and I was sent to Fort Sam Houston in Texas, and my job there was to make up the DD to fourteens, which got people out of the military. I was at Fifth Army Headquarters and I was there when President Kennedy was assassinated. I was in Texas MMM and the day that before he went to Dallas he was in San Antonio, but I was taking my physical to get out of the army that day and I didn’t see the president. And when that all happened we were all glued to the TV, like everybody was. Of course, of course wow, some, yeah, and of course everyone who is alive at that time who knows where they were and when they heard it and and what life was like after President Kennedy was shot. So after that I had two years of reserve and I wanted to be in the transportation industry somewhere, and I went to an employment agency and the northern Pacific railway was looking for somebody and they had a job. As as the clerk in their sales office and spoken. Well, I had a lot of friends and spoken because I went to school over there. Sure, so I went over there to spoke ane and while I was in spokene I was reading the paper and down at the bottom of this a little paper one day was the name of the guy that I mentioned a few minutes yeah, that had gone into North Korea and the North Korean’s had sent him given them back to South Korea, and so he was listed there in that newspaper and they’re spokesman review. Interesting. So he got out. He got out. I mean that was kind of a yeah, interesting ending to my yeah thing there. Yeah, well, interesting. So how how long, then, did you work for the railroad? I work for the railroad from I got out in sixty four and I was in spoken for a year and a half or so. Then they made me a chief clerk and Pascal. I was only there three months and then I went to Louis Ton, Idaho for about nine months and then I got to sent to Seattle and I that when they were starting tfc trailers on flat cars, and so that would have been in April of sixty eighth, sixty sixty eight, and then and then I did that and in that winter I was asked by a Kay line, the Japanese company. They were bringing containers in and we were getting them out of there. And and I wasn’t too thrilled with staying with the railroad. Money was good and all the rest of it help in those days, but I could see the handwriting on the wall that if I’m going to work there, I’m going to be moving all over the country, because my predecessors were. I mean sure, I moved to Seattle in the next thing I’d probably be in saying Paul, or I do somewhere else, and I really didn’t want to move all over the place. And I got some more money in. This steamship line called me and because I’d gotten some containers off the waterfront form and they were all happy and they needed a container manager. So kurse steamship, who were the agents for Kay line, which is Kawasaki, asked if I would have a take a job there, for I’m managing their containers. So I did and I was with them for thirty seven years. Wow, wow. So I they started their own container terminal in Seattle and I was the terminal manager there and then, well, the agency had it and then Kay line itself was us. Headquarters is in Long Beach, sent me down to Tacoma and my career I was that was down here from one thousand nine hundred eighty eight till I retired, no five, I see, when Kay line moved their operation to the port, to Cooma and I was the vice president of the company and General Manager of the terminal. Interesting, I don’t think. I don’t think most people have any concept of what it takes in the transportation, especially in shipping, to track those containers, of the hundreds of containers that are on a ship and then I go if thousands that then go into a terminal and how that’s all tracked is pretty amazing. Well, you know, getting back to that, I mean when I got first into this and I’ll get it to what it’s more like today. But I was to keep track of these containers and there wasn’t a lot of them. The Fort Ships had seventy or eighty of them on and then they started shipping them across the country and I was that was before I was a terminal manager and I had I had a big magnetic board. I was in a cubicle, HMM, in their office downtown Seattle and I had a magnetic board and when the containers came off there and we’re all typed up in little magnets, little piece of paper, and then I would the railroad would tell me that they’re on their way to Chicago, for example. Right, and we had offices all over the United States that curded the agent and they were keeping track of this stuff. So every every office had her at a region that they had to. In other words, we didn’t have an office in Minneapolis, but the Chicago Office took care of the right. Right. So then by phone I would talk to the guy in Chicago and he’d say, Oh, I got this, this than this. Then I’d move my magnet across the board. That were it was. Yeah, and kept track of them, uh Huh. and One night I came in there and the cleaning person had knocked my board off the wall and I had to figure out where to put all these magnets. Wow, you think about that technology and you laugh about it now, but that’s all you had at the time, right, right. I mean, you know, shooters, no such thing as a computer. You know, that was that was as the best technology that you had. So but we were we were dealing with is shipped that only had maybe seventy eighty of them, uh Huh, on there, and now you’ve got several thousand that are on there. It’s crazy. It’s all, yeah, computerized. Yeah, yeah, and one of our chief engineer that I work with has has helped with solving some some problem solving on some of the cranes that lift those containers up right, and he said you cannot fathom how big those cranes are when you’re driving by the port and you see him out there. You know, you don’t realize just how big those structures are and how much weight that they’re lifting in the technology behind each of those cranes. So shipping cranes. Yeah, and now, because of security and a lot of other things, you can’t just willing nearly go down and wander around all those docks, because there there is stuff, but because I used to have friends and relatives and go down there and see how all this stuff work. Yeah, can’t do it anymore. No, not at all. But, George, we’ve just got a few minutes left, but you’ve shared some interesting stories. If you you had shown me a book here that you have of your family back in the nineteen hundreds and some of your original was it uncle’s? Well, yeah, what happened with the family was that my they came from Kansas and they came out here, my grandfather’s two older brothers and the the oldest one went up to Canada and looked up there as a fisherman and the next oldest one got a job as a policeman and then there was a younger brother that came and the younger brother got the bubonic plague. And what had happened in those days was that the ship is ships up until one thousand nine hundred. Everything on the West Coast came into San Francisco and they put some prevention down there after the plague hit there, and then some ships from China and the Far East came into Seattle and that’s when the rats were coming off the ship and they spread the plague. And there was my great uncle that one of them that got the plague from the rats. And as a written result of all of that, he was being nursed by two of his unmarried sisters and his sister in law and they got the plague. And there were three other people that got the plague and in they all died in October of nineteen seven and then the governor of the state mandated that all the ships had to have rat guards. And so if you look at any ship coming into the United States, there’s a guard on all that, on all the lines. Huh. So the rats can’t come off the ships if they happened to be on them. MMMM. And so it was rather ironic that my great grandfather, who did not get the plague, but he lost three of his kids and a daughter in law, and the police department put an obelize monument up there at Lake View cemetery and I didn’t know where my great grandfather was buried, but I knew he was there and I anyway the funeral director Sid Yeah, he is here, but there’s no monument and or grade marker, and I was able I found the marriage certificate of my great grandparents and on a box that my dad had after he passed away, and there was proof that he was in the civil war because it had their marriage certificate of one thousand eight hundred and sixty seven. HMM. And I took that to the funeral director of the lake view and we mailed it off to the VA and they provided this bronze grape marker, and so it was on the twelfth of July of two thousand and fifteen, one hundred years to the day. We had the family there and he was an episcopalian and I was and I had my episcopal minister there and my great grandfather’s name was William Alexander Osborne and I have one of my grandson’s name is Alexander William Osborne and he was nine at that time and we had a cloth over the grave marker and Alex was able to pull the clock. Wow, and we had cousins and everybody else. Yeah, yeah, that put Lake Pew incredible history, you know. And what George, I want to thank you for sharing your story on answers for older radio and our veterans feature, and I know you’ve got probably a lot of more stories in you and some really very interesting things, but I want to I want to thank you for joining me today. I want to thank you for your service as well. Thank you very much for having me. You Bet 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 sere age dotcom.
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Originally published November 10, 2018