Not for the weak minded.

Grandpa’s Tour of Duty: Prelude

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Tour of Duty

Last week I took a day off of work and drove down to Zolfo Springs, Florida to attend an antique engine show. This show is put on by the Florida Flywheelers antique engine club, which I have been a member of since my grandpa signed me up at age 3. I was then the youngest member of the club and have been a member every year since. This particular meet is called “Pioneer Park Days” and I have been a participating member every year since 1990, making this the 19th year I have displayed.

The draw of this club to me is the vast array of technology at these shows. At first glance it appears only to be a bunch of cast iron beasts spinning their wheels and blowing out smoke, but on further inspection you will see the almost countless ingenious designs to convert burning fuel into rotating mechanical energy. This, however, is not what I want to talk about at the moment.

Every year that I go to the show I camp out with my grandpa. This year he didn’t set up his canopy outside his camper, so we sat inside to eat and the conversation tended to be a bit more personal. From college, to war, to how he met my grandma on a blind date, I think I learned more about his life’s events in the two nights we chatted over dinner than I have in the last 20+ years of working with him in his machine shop. He would always tell me stories of his life and his time in the war, but never in any particular order.

This weekend something led into talking about his time in the war, so I pulled out my camera and set it up on a tripod to try to capture some of his story. What I managed to get is the entire start-to-finish story of him in the war. ON VIDEO! I think I have in the neighborhood of 90 minutes worth. The only issue is that I started it late, so I didn’t catch the start of his tour at the start of the video, but I did manage to get him to tell the beginning of the story again at the end of the video.

This video is something that my family has wanted to try to get on tape or written down for years but never managed to do. The whole video takes place in his camper van with him under the shade of his tin foil covered reading light, which actually captures his character rather well. If you’ve never met him, he’s a brilliantly frugal man who’s lived more life than most of us can hope to. By the way, he turns 89 this year.

Over the next few weeks (hopefully…) I will be chopping the video down to manageable segments and uploading it. My goal is to post the video along with a map of his travels and any other history or supporting information that goes along with it. The only trouble is that I tend to start these sort of projects strong, then let them fall to the wayside. I think I will have enough people through family and friends that will want to see this that I can count on you all to prod me about it until it’s finished. So if you are reading this, and I don’t post anything for a week… give me a shout!

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