March 28, 2014

SHORT LONG JOURNEY NORTH #58: July 25, 1946 series is a little bit biographical and a little bit imaginary about my dad and a road trip he took in the summer of 1946, when he turned fifteen. He and a friend hitchhiked from Loring Park to Duluth, into Canada and back again. He was gone from home for a month. I was astonished and fascinated by the tale. So, I added some speculation about things I've always wondered about and this series is the result. To read earlier SHORT LONG JOURNEY NORTH clips, click on the label to the right, scroll down to and click OLDER ENTRIES seven or eight times. The FIRST entry is on the bottom of the last page.

Tommy Hastings and Freddie Merrill scrambled up the side of the ditch they’d been standing in and raced to the truck where it sat rumbling on 595 from Thunder Bay to where it turned east after it crossed the Pigeon River.

“Where are you going?” Tommy asked.

The man laughed and said, “Nice to meet you, too, Thomas Hastings!”

“How’d you know my name?” Tommy said, practically screeching to a halt.

“I was down in Duluth when Ed called me from the logging company up in TB. Told me if I was goin’ north to keep a look out for you. Didn’t see ya, so when I left with this load, she said she was worried and to pick you up for sure if I saw you hitching south.”

“You know Ed?”

He smiled and said, “Edwina Olds, Lieutenant, WACS (ret.). I do know  her.”

Freddie’s eyes were wide and sort of dreamy as the boys climbed into the tractor. Tommy said, “What’s your name?”

He nodded, touching his temple in a sort-of salute, “Arnie Voltz, at your service.”

“Were you in the service with Ed?”

Arnie frowned and Tommy elbowed Freddie who elbowed him back. “Service, yes. Active overseas? Not exactly.”

“What’s that mean?”

Freddie suddenly said, “Dad was 4-F. It means that somebody that wanted to be in the army to be not qualified for service in the Armed Forces by a Military Entrance Processing Station under the established physical, mental, or moral standards.”

Tommy said, “Huh?”

Arnie Voltz said, “This was from a Draft Counseling organization in Maine:
Physical Exemptions: Standards are complex and fill 23 pages of government manuals, but many are as common as hay fever, flat feet, or being overweight. Draft counselors have the whole list and can help you determine which you may qualify for.hay fever, flat feet, or being overweight.
Hay fever, color-blindness, hernias, flat feet, asthma, or being overweight. A whole bunch of stuff. I wasn’t 4-F though. I was 2-B.”

“What’s that mean?”

“They didn’t want me up front, but I could cook and stuff like that.”

“So what’d you do?” Tommy asked.

“What was your problem?” Freddie asked at the same moment.

Arnie looked at them and said, “Friends of Ed, right?”

Tommy nodded, elbowed Freddie whose eyes narrowed, studying Arnie. Finally he nodded.

Arnie snorted, shrugged and said, “I was 2-B.”

“What’s that,” Tommy said.

Freddie answered before Arnie could, saying, “Means he was national defense but they didn’t want him in the military. Like he was a G-Man.”

Arnie smiled – but didn’t deny it. He said, “Now I got a schedule to keep and I gotta leave now. Duluth is my next stop. You boys with me or not?”

“With you!” Tommy exclaimed. Freddie followed him up into the cab, silent. Arnie put the truck in gear and slowly revved up and pulled on to the road. Tommy leaned over to Freddie, who was staring out the windshield, looking for all the world like he was about to cry. “What’s wrong?” Freddie sighed but didn’t say anything. “What?”

“He’s a G-Man,” Freddie said. The trees of the Canadian woods started to fly by as they gathered speed.

“Yeah, cool, huh?”

Freddie stared, swaying with the swaying of the tractor trailer. Suddenly he said, “Not cool!”


“Why would Ed want to even talk to me when her boyfriend is a G-Man?” Freddie whispered – though it was like talking in a regular voice over the growl of the diesel engine.

“She talked to us before,” Tommy said.

“Yeah, but…” he stopped. He settled back into the seat, staring out the window. “I guess.”

“You guess what?”

“Nothin’.” He leaned forward and said, “How long to Duluth?”

“‘bout four hours.”

“Where you goin’ then?” Freddie asked.


“Where’s that?" 

“Minneapolis – around Loring Park,” he glanced at them. “You know where that is?”

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