Pete


Pete was my big brother and the only brother I’d had.  He’d had three other brothers but they all died in infancy which I guess made me a little more special to him and my sisters.  An early memory is riding in Pete’s paperbag after he’d delivered papers.  It had a wonderful musty smell and it was thrilling to be in such danger hanging over the front of his bike going down the middle of Mill Street in Springfield at breakneck speed.  I looked up to Pete and he was a real hero in my eyes. 

Pete and Millie were very close and were in the first class of the new Springfield High School.  Millie was a Majorette along with her friend Betty Jean Fletcher and they were two of the prettiest and most popular girls in school.  Pete was on the boxing team and a year behind Millie.  Millie was involved in a lot of activities but Pete was not.  Millie said that Pete had a glass jaw and so wasn’t very successful as a boxer.  But he had dad to coach him and dad had sparred with Jack Dempsey and knew a thing or two about boxing so he had that going for him. 

Pete dropped out when Millie graduated in 1947.  Pete was a junior but he quit to join the Army which was pretty common for that time.  He was assigned to the First Cavalry and was sent to Japan.  While there he was romantically involved with a Japanese girl named Toshiko but the Army was not open to soldiers marrying Japanese girls at the time.  There was talk of a civil ceremony but I don’t think anything ever came of it.  When the Korean War broke out Pete was already there so he was sent in with the First Cavalry Expeditionary Force.  He saw action and was wounded twice; the first time he was shot in the arm and then he got shot in the neck.  He got a Purple Heart for his wounds.  

I remember that the Register Guard newspaper in Eugene had a daily map on the front page showing the current lines in the war and where battles were being fought.  I followed them like everyone else and was in a constant state of worry about Pete.  When he was wounded the second time he was sent home to Letterman Hospital at the Presidio in San Francisco.  Theresa and Aloysius drove Mom and me down to see him there.  I remember the hospital and how huge it was and the numerous wounded there, especially the amputees.

It wasn’t long after that Dad was injured on the job at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eugene.  I think that was in 1952.  Pete was assigned as a drill sergeant training at Fort Ord near Monterrey, California and since he was the only adult male in the family and Dad was disabled, Mom initiated action to have him compassionately discharged.  Pete came home and worked at several jobs but none for very long. 

One of the things he did was to buy an electric range.  That was not a good idea.  We heated and cooked with wood and when the electric range replaced our cookstove in the kitchen, we lost our hot water which was heated by pipes from the firebox of the cookstove.  So, we had to buy an electric hot-water heater.  Also, we heated our iron on the cookstove so we had to buy an electric iron too.  It was about this time that Mom quit baking bread and pies which was a loss to the whole neighborhood.  When she baked it smelled up the whole neighborhood and brought the neighbors over to visit and play cards and games and tear off chunks of warm bread and slather it with butter.  He also was to blame for us getting our first television, a Packard-Bell, that sat in the living room and the only channel was Channel Six, KOIN, from Portland.  The programming was limited to the early evening and it was usually very hard to see the picture through all the snow on the screen. We had a piece of transparent plastic with blue on top, green on the bottom and pink in between so we had color TV.  Oh, and we had monthly payments on all this stuff too. 

Pete eventually decided to use his GI Bill and go to school so he enrolled in the Eugene Vocational School, Aviation Mechanics course.  The school would later become Lane Community College.  I don’t know how well he did there because there was a terrible accident in which he was involved that resulted in the death of the guy he was working with.  They were working on an aircraft engine and didn’t have it anchored well enough and the engine caught and jumped forward and chopped up Pete’s partner.  Pete quit shortly after that and didn’t go back. 

Pete went to work for the sawmill that was located out East Main Street in Springfield.  Don Redfield, Theresa’s second husband, worked on the ponds there and he got Pete on as well.  However, Pete would sometimes not show up for work because he had gotten lucky and that reflected badly on Don and so he and Pete had problems. 

About that time he got involved with a very attractive redhead in Eugene and moved in with her and her two kids.  Her name was Lee Waddell, I believe.  Her ex-husband was in prison and Mom and my sisters were pretty upset about Pete getting involved with her.  She was a beauty operator and the next thing I knew, she had Pete enrolled in beauty college learning to be a hairdresser.  I was mortified, to say the least.  However, Pete came over for visits on his Harley Davidson motorcycle and took me for rides so that was OK.  Anyway, Pete got mad because of all the bad feeling about his girlfriend and he took off with her and we never heard from him for almost five years. 

One day I was out doing my chores and Pete drove up and a redhead got out of his car.  I thought it was Lee but it turned out it was Wilma and she was married to Pete.  She was also the mother of three boys, they weren’t Pete’s but rather their last name was Chanel.  They lived in Del Paso Heights, a rather rundown part of North Sacramento.  I visited them there a few times when I was in the Navy and in the yards at China Basin in San Francisco.  Pete drove a laundry service truck in Sacramento for several years. 

When I got out of the Navy and went to work for my brother-in-law, Bob Moody, Pete decided to come home and work with us.  Bob and I rented a truck and went down to move Pete and his family to Eugene.  They rented a house that we had moved to the street right below Millie and Bob’s house on Riverview Street.  Pete was a good worker and he and I provided most of the hard labor while Bob was planning out how to move the houses and lining up new work.  During the actual move, Pete would drive and Bob would direct while I rode the roof and lifted over the wires and high-tension lines. Anyway, while Pete was working with us I was dating Patty just to put this in a time frame.

Pete always said that his hunting season began when the official one ended, in other words he was into poaching.  He had done this to put meat on the table in California and he talked me into going with him one night.  I was driving and Pete had a .22 rifle and a strong flashlight.  We drove out in the hills south of Eugene at about midnight and Pete’s flashlight hit some eyes looking back at us.  I stopped the car and Pete, who was a good shot but extremely slow and precise, drew a bead on the eyes as I held the flashlight.  As I was about to light into him for taking so long, he squeezed off the shot and the eyes went out.  Then they came back on and raised about six feet in the air and turned to the side and we saw that he had just hit a Holstein cow right between the eyes.  The .22 wasn’t powerful enough to do more than give her a bad headache and she lumbered off in the night just as the lights came on in a farmhouse a few hundred yards away.  We jumped in the car and got out of there. 

Another time Pete and Patty and I headed to mom’s house on the coast in my ’57 Dodge Royal with the push-button transmission.  Pete had his .22 rifle and we spotted a deer on the side of a hill on the coast highway.  I stopped and Pete got out but he was so slow in lining up his shot that a car came so we had to abort.  We drove down the road a ways and I found a wide spot in the road to turn around.  While making a three-point turn in the road I accidentally hit the leap button instead of reverse and we ended up in the ditch.  Patty had to get behind the wheel while Pete and I got out and pushed us out of the ditch.  I don’t think Pete was ever successful on a hunting trip where I was helping. 

In late 1962 I quit Bob and went to work for Georgia Pacific.  I quit because there was one of those slow periods in the house-moving business and there just wasn’t enough work to keep us all busy.   After I left, Bob’s half-brother, Jerry, took over my job and came across 28,000 volts which knocked him off the roof.  He fell about 20 feet and landed on his head which paralyzed him from the neck down.  He sued the power company and Bob for about $500,000 and then donated it to his church.  That pretty well ended the business for awhile and Pete eventually went back to Sacramento. 

Wilma left him for someone else but the Chanel boys remained close to him and still looked to him as their father.  Pete changed jobs and while I was away in the Air Force, I lost track of him.  I think it was in the mid-70’s when Patty and I were home on a visit that Pete was there too.  He was working as a welder at the time and took Patty and me to Seymour’s Café in Eugene.  Patty and I remembered Seymour’s as a kind of upscale restaurant but it had changed.  Pete wanted to introduce us to his latest romantic interest, Barbara, who worked behind the bar at Seymour’s.  It wasn’t ‘till we had been there for awhile that Patty and I realized that several of the women patrons weren’t women at all.  Seymour’s was now a gay bar.  I don’t know how Pete got involved with Barbara but I’m sure Pete didn’t swing that way.   Barbara was kind of a rough woman and she and Pete eventually married.  Mom didn’t care for her at all and neither did some of my sisters. 

She and Pete moved to Louisiana as Pete was still working as a welder and he got a transfer to a mill there.  They were there for several years.  I think it must have been the early 80’s when they moved back to Springfield and lived not far from Ginny and Junior in East Springfield.  Barbara went to truck-driving school and got on with a long-haul trucking company.  They divorced eventually and Pete found another woman.  I can’t even remember her name but she had a home in Cottage Grove. Pete borrowed $3,000 from me to buy a truck in about 1986 and never paid me back.  I’m sure that weighed on him and he avoided contact for awhile.  Then he was diagnosed with prostate cancer but vowed that he would not have the operation to remove it. Not long after that he moved back to California and was near some of the Chanel boys until he died a year after Millie in 1994. 

About five years after he died, I got a call from a guy who said he was my nephew and said his name was Steve Ware.  He lived near Marysville, WA and said his mother met Pete when he was in California before he shipped out for Japan in the late 40’s.  Apparently, Pete never knew he had fathered a child because the mother never contacted him about it.  I thought, what a waste!  If Pete had known it might have made a real difference in his life.  I lost contact with Steve and Marsha and , I guess, that is my fault.   I understand that I have two grandnieces and I’d like to know about them. 

So, that’s Pete as I remember him.  He was close with Millie and with Dolly and, I guess, me but he didn’t have a happy life.  He was dark and moody and it seemed his life was full of drama and searching for something I don’t think he ever found.  I loved him but our last contact was when I found him through the California VA as an outpatient for cancer treatment to tell him that Millie died in 1993.  He said then that he was sorry to hear that she had died before him.  He was living in a mobile home in a rural area near Sacramento and suffering with prostate cancer.  He died a few months later. 

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One Comment on “Pete”


  1. […] Pete  February 5, […]


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