Tressels, Fickells and Urbans,
1944 was not that long ago, really...neither was 1952.
I'm continually fascinated by how much "life" my grandfathers experienced; sometimes its tough for me to fathom. Their stories feel like grainy, removed photos from some World War II Time Life book series...not something separated from me by just my parents. Some of these stories will be a bit incomplete; my Grandpa Johnson carried the silent stoicism that was characteristic of our Greatest Generation before he passed away in 1987...and my Grandpa Winters passed away before I was even born.
1952 may not have been that long ago...but 1910 was. When my Grandpa Winters was born, the Model T was just coming out to replace the horse. When he graduated from Grandview Heights High School, the refrigerator was starting to replace the icebox.
Earlier this year, I visited Munich for work. I kept trying to imagine my Grandpa Winters stationed in Germany actually fighting these now-gracious people who were my hosts. The glockenspiel at Marienplatz felt childish, fun and animated...not like the back drop for a country littered with dark Nazi history. Maybe all of this chaos wasn't that long ago...just last week we had a reminder, portions of Frankfort were evacuated when an active British WWII bomb was found 70 years later.
In 1952, Grandpa Winters was stationed at Wright Patt in Dayton. After the war, he married my Grandma Winters; was starting their family and chasing kids....and UFOs, I guess. Project Blue Book was the secret study of UFOs carried out by the Air Force with Wright Patt as one of the key data collection points. My Aunt Penny told me that my grandma was sure grandpa was called out in the middle of the night for reported UFO sightings. That must have been truly fascinating at a time of great uncertainty.
I have trouble grasping how much we've progressed in such little time. My Great Grandma Johnson died giving birth to my Grandpa Johnson. I wonder if the complication was something that would be easily remedied today...I'm sure it is. My Grandpa J. was given the middle name Kenesaw after a local legend from nearby Millville, Ohio -- Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Landis gained national recognition and respect when, as the first Commissioner of Baseball, he permanently banned eight members of the Chicago White Sox from the baseball after hearing reports they threw the 1919 World Series for monetary gain. Many claim that major league baseball exists today because Kenesaw Mountain Landis cleaned up the corruption that permeated the sport during its early years.
In 1944, I believe my Grandpa Johnson had an experience that I couldn't even image. It's something that he wouldn't have been able to talk about because it was classified. Grandpa J. left Xavier University to join the war. He was with the 66th Infantry Division of the Army. They were crossing the English Channel on Christmas Eve 1944 to join the Battle of the Bulge when a German U-boat sunk their ship in the English Channel. Over 800 soldiers died before they could be rescued; many of them freezing to death in the icy, winter water.
I need to reground myself in the fact that football is just a game some times...but I love the ties that Ohio State football creates to our past; even when some of the past feels so distant and difficult to grasp.
My Grandpa Winters planted many trees at his house near Upper Arlington High School where they landed in the late 1950s and stayed for decades; we just sold the house in 2011 when my grandma passed away. He understood that to create Buckeye fruit (a Buckeye nut), a male Buckeye tree and female tree need to be planted close to each other. We always had an abundance of Buckeyes as a kid, they would fill up the side yard, and the family all have necklaces made from those trees at grandma and grandpa's house.
My Grandpa Johnson had a grocery store in Columbus when I was growing up. One of our very special customers was Mr. Gwinn. We treated all of the customers like family, but we were especially kind to him. Mr. Gwinn would come in and buy our special-recipe Italian sausage (which was the best in the city, by the way) every game day Saturday wearing the Ohio State jersey of his deceased son, Jayson, who was killed in a car crash while he was playing for the Buckeyes in 1993. I still like to think we offered a brief moment of solace in that game day routine during what must have been very tough days for Mr. Gwinn.
Yes, football is just a game. But, I like these links it creates to my grandparents when their lives seem like something so far removed from me.
Touchdowns: Mike Weber, JT, JK Dobbins, JK Dobbins, Parris Campbell, Johnnie Dixon
OSU 42 Army 17
Go Bucks! Beat Army! Dante Booker for Heisman!