An Adventure in Time

I went to bed Friday night with a dull ache in my head. I was beat. Too many long days in a row. I was looking for an adventure on Saturday, something different, something out of the ordinary, but I had  no ideas.

I slept in Saturday morning. Scooter was in a cuddly mood (good dog) and Steve was getting ready for errands and some time at school. About 8:30 a.m. Steve came in to tell me that he just heard my father’s name on the radio! My dad died in 1984.

Retired Staff Sgt. Harry Millnamow, 91, had just been interviewed on WJR, a Detroit radio station, about a reunion of the 483rd bomb group from WWII in Romulus, Michigan. My father’s name was mentioned in this context. The veterans were meeting at the airport Marriott. Well, there was the adventure I was looking for!

I jumped out of bed, showered and dressed, called the hotel to confirm, and threw a camera and the quilt I had made about my dad’s life into a bag, and headed towards the airport. It took me a little over an hour to get there.

As I drove, I spent equal amounts of time wondering why I was doing this and trying to recall anything my dad might have told me about the war. He didn’t say much. I remember asking when I was little, but I was born 10 years after he came home. The things I remembered were rather odd:

1. He was in Ft. Collins, CO and Tampa, FL before he shipped out. I have pictures of my grandparents and mom visiting him there and remember that he had to shake his boots before putting them on to make sure the snakes and scorpions fell out first. He spent most of his tour of duty in Italy, a place called Foggia. In 1962, when we lived in Italy we went to Foggia and he pointed out metal structures (perhaps from runways?) left behind by the allies that were then incorporated into some of the buildings. I was seven years old then, so who knows if I even understood what they were.

2. He was a sergeant and was in “intelligence.” He said he never saw combat, but I question that now. He was hit in the back by a machine gun. Not a bullet, the gun. It came loose from it’s moorings in the plane and slammed into him. I think one would have to have been flying in the plane at the time for that to happen. He spent some time in the hospital and had a “bad back” for the rest of his life.

3. While in Italy, a crazy colonel shot bugs off the inside of his tent with a pistol, there was a monkey in the camp, and my dad and his buddies liberated an anchovy factory!

When I got to the Marriott I met Jim and Bea from Hampton, VA and Ken and Ruth from Ft. Myers, FL in the hotel lobby, along with a few others. They took me under their wings, and took me to lunch too.

We spread the quilt out on the table at the Bob Evans and I showed them things on my dad’s quilt from the service.  His dog tags are there, some medals, the stripes from the sleeve of his uniform, a public library card from Ft. Collins, a US Army Air Force identification card written in Russian, strips of silk fabric with a silk screened map of Europe he was supposed to use had he been captured, and part of a hat he got when he and my mother drove from Michigan to Colorado in the early 80’s for a similar reunion of the483rd.

After lunch it was suggested that I spread the quilt out so those attending the Memorial Service could see it, which I did. Quite a few came by before the service and even more afterwards.

I never did get to meet Harry Millnamow. He lives in the area and wasn’t scheduled to come back until the banquette last night, but I couldn’t stay that long. I hope someone passes along my card to him.

It was wonderful chatting with the veterans and their families, although none of them remembered my dad. With each new group I mentioned the oddball things I remembered my dad telling me about the war. Nobody remembered the crazy colonel or the anchovy factory, but one gentleman remembered the monkey! When he couldn’t quite recall the monkey’s name, it popped out of my mouth: Hypo! (Don’t ask me how that happened!) The monkey hung around the photo lab and “hypo” is the solution used to develop film.

Yesterday was a wonderful adventure. A shoe box of old photographs, even if I could have found them in time would have been OK, but there is nothing like a quilt to start a conversation. I’ve got a copy of Creating Scrapbook Quilts all packed up and ready to mail to Ken and Ruth who asked for a picture of the quilt.

Looking forward to my next adventure!

Read more about the reunion here.

24 thoughts on “An Adventure in Time

  1. What energy — and courage — you have. I would have thought of doing that, but wouldn’t have. You inspire me – in many ways.


    1. Once I got in the car I wondered if it was a good idea, but I thought the oddity of my dad being mentioned on the radio was just too much to ignore. I had the time, I was looking for an adventure anyway, so what the heck, why not crash the reunion!? If it didn’t work out, I’d leave. Luck was with me; it turned out great. It was such an honor talking with these people.


  2. Yep, it was an adventure. Just like your other passion, this one brought a good feeling to the people you touched. They probably wonder who won’t be at this reunion, this time they were surprised by who was!


  3. How wonderful to be connected to memories. I am sure all had a good time. Great adventure for a Saturday. Thanks for sharing!


  4. How nice it was to make a quilt of your dads things. To meet others that remembered a few things that you know about. at the meeting .


  5. What a fabulous story! We must all listen to the WWII veterans as they tell stories before they are all gone. My father, at age 88, tells me more stories now than he did whn I was growing up and I listen very carefully.
    I have applied to be a guardian for Honor Flight, but I haven’t had a chance to do that yet. I hope to honor my Dad by being a guardian just as someone else escorted him to the WWII Memorial in DC.

    I am sure you feel very blessed to share your quilt with these gentlemen from The Greatest Generation.


    1. Ami, thanks for sharing. I had the honor and pleasure of seeing your beautiful quilt in the foyer of your Mother’s home and bought one of your first books. What a tribute to your Dad! Later I was inspired to make a quilt for My oldest brother’s 80th birthday.Veterans of WW2 (brothers) and WW 1(Dad) never talked about their experiences.They were all special people.


  6. My dad, also, served in WWII. He was in the Army Air Corps which later became the Air Force. He went on to a 22 year career in the AF. He passed away in 1995 and is buried with my mom in Beverly National Cemetary. I have the flag that draped his coffin with the gun shells tucked inside.
    How wonderful that you could share your memories with those veterans and their wifes. I hope you will stay in touch with them.

    Betty N in NJ


  7. Such a wonderful adventure for you! I did get a little weepy reading –my husband earned his gunner’s wings at Stevens Point Wisconsin ‘way back at the beginning of our entry into WWII. (See, I’m older’n dirt:)) and for the rest of his life those wings were the most prized possession of his entire 30+ year USAAF and USAF career, since for many years the AF has only awarded generic ‘flight crew’ wings. Those bombardiers and gunners with the 50-mission crush swagger were something to behold. . .Top guns can’t begin to hold a candle:))


  8. Thanks for your dad’s story. My dad was in WW1 in France. He drove a gasoline truck, but that’s about all I remember of the many stories he told. I wasn’t born until he was 45 so guess the war was old news to me. He has been gone 34 years and it wasn’t until about 20 years ago that family history became important to me. What a waste of important time! Think I will put together a family wall quilt for my kids before I get too old to do it.


  9. Wondeful and fantastic!!. Ami, you and your quilts have always spread joy and love where ever you go. I’m sure you gave good feelings to these wonderfull people. Bless you for taking the time.


  10. What a wonderful way to spend a day! Nice day, nice ride, good company. Something that will stay in your memories, I’m sure.


  11. My father didn’t talk much about his service, but didn’t see much combat. He truly was part of America’s Greatest Generation. I got goosebumps reading about your incredible day. Serendipity at play!


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