LETTERS TO A SOLDIER

A Brief Introduction to the Correspondents

My Family

My parents are Lou and Audrey Schneider. They married in 1948 and set up house in my dad's parent's house, a three floor older all-brick home on Glynn Court at 12th Street, in Detroit, Michigan. They lived on the third floor, the "servant's quarters," that had not seen residential use for many years. It was cramped but served for a few years while Lynn and then Jim were born. By mid 1951 when it was discovered that I was expected to join the family by the middle of 1952 it became obvious that larger quarters were needed, and so a new life was forged in Nankin Township, as it was then known. (Not too many years later the city of Inkster would be incorporated out of Nankin Township.) A new residential area was being developed of which a part bordered a large park east of Inkster Road just north of Michigan Avenue, its north boundary being Colonial Drive, our street. The move was probably about 15 miles or so due west from the Glynn Court residence. At this small bungalow on Colonial Lynn, Jim and I, with my other 5 siblings were raised, all boys but for Marylou (it was "Marylou in '62" as a home movie would proclaim) and Lynn. So the first and last of their children were girls, with 6 boys between, including a set of twins, Mike and Greg. I was third oldest child, followed rapidly by Bill, the twins, Mark, then Marylou. We did quite a few things as a family. There were picnics in the various parks around the area, when relatives would get together. There were delightful summer days at Belleville, a swimming park owned by dad's employer, the Detroit Edison Company. There were almost weekly Sunday visits to grandma's and grandpa's (Schneider) for dinner and playing with almost a houseful of toys as well as grandpa's ancient reel-to-reel tape recorder. And, of course there was the park and the woods and river across the street from our abode, for baseball, tag, hide-and-seek, etc., in the summer, and when the park flooded and froze in the winter, hockey and ice skating, and again, the woods and river to explore and into which we would frequently disappear for hours on end. As little kids it was a marvelous environment opened wide in front of us, though it also may have contributed to us all spreading out on our own and apart from one another. We were not what you would call a tight knit family. Ten strong willed people in one small house could have contributed to some of that, I suppose. There were the normal frictions that occurred, and maybe more than usual. Let me just say we loved one another in our own special ways. But that is another chapter. Mom and dad are still very much alive and living in South Lyon, Michigan [Dad has now passed away, March 4, 2006], enjoying their golden years and the close bond with sons and daughters and grandchildren that has grown wonderfully through the years.

So, at the time of my induction Lynn is 23 years old; Jim, who didn't write (that's OK, I didn't write to him while he was in the Marines), is 22; I am a month short of 21; Bill is 19; the twins are 17; Mark is 14; and Marylou is 10 years of age.

Grandpa

Grandpa Schneider was a Circuit Court Judge and Commissioner, holding court in downtown Detroit in the City County Building on one of the top floors. The large, ancient courtroom was an inviting place to watch the Fourth of July fireworks which were launched from barges in the Detroit River. To us grandchildren he was an imposing, jovial man, who delighted in playing the piano, and goofing around with us. My Grandmother had died in 1969. Grandpa would pass away in February, 1978.

Uncle Bud

My grandmother Schneider's brother, and was court clerk for my grandfather. He never married, lived alone with some small birds he kept, and always joined my grandparents for visits to our house for all the kid's birthday parties. He was awarded the Bronze Star for service during WWII. This card is a typical example of his holiday card-giving antics. That is he would give a card that had to be altered in some way, usually because it was for the wrong occasion. This one contained a very minor revision, but it would delight us kids to see what kind of "creative" mistakes he would come up with. It also thrilled us in no small degree to see how much cash was enclosed. Uncle Bud outlasted his sister, Grama, dying in 1982.

Debbie Franklin.

My first real girlfriend for only a few short weeks, indeed we lasted from March through April of 1970. She was a high school freshman while I was a senior. We dropped notes in each other's lockers and a cherished friendship blossomed from it. I didn't know what she saw in me but I was grateful for her innocent affection. She was very perky and a popular girl at Cherry Hill High School. It was with her I experienced my "first kiss." We eventually got to the point where we actually went to school dances together but her parents found out about us and put a stop to it; the "extreme" discrepancy in ages was the stated reason. Her care for me was a pivotal chapter in the life of this shy high schooler.

Gary Kiester

He was the closest thing to being a best friend after Mike "Bo" McCahill started to more seriously date Paula Leyten. Gary and I felt a keen kinship, he also was a super-sensitive individual that loved music and many other forms of recreation and nature. If I was going to go out in the evening it would be to his house I would go first. I probably felt the most open in his presence that any other of my friends. His dream was to get as far away as possible from the evils of society, and accomplished this when he moved to Montana, finally settling on the border of the Bob Marshall Wilderness area, in Mortimer Gulch. This area was a magical stretch of wilderness along the Continental Divide which my brother Mark and I along with John Neph and Gary had the honor of backpacking in 1976. I presume he is still there in his very small one room abode.

Pat Bratcher

The sister of Mike Bratcher, Mike being another of the key members of the group of friends until he more seriously dated Cathy. Mike threw some good parties by proxy in his late high school years, often coat-tailing on his parents gigs but also had some of his own--all in his own house, and in his basement bedroom. Music, drinking, and drugs were the staples upon which we survived those years. I don't remember much at this point in time about his sister Pat, she didn't hang around with us much since she had a life of her own to live, fortunately for her.

Mary Beth White

I wish I could remember something about MaryBeth. Sorry, Mary Beth!! I must have met her a short time before I went into the Army. Maybe there someone out there that can refresh my memory?!?

Georegeann Vigil

Sadly the same goes for Georgy. Hey, It's been 25 years!! With age the memory is one of the first things to go along with whatever are the other two.

Sally Truss

Sally was one very lively girl whom I met through John Neph; she was his girl friend. John was a grade & high school chum that lived around the corner from us. After high school they were together all the time and thus at all the parties we had. She had a delightful if mischievous spirit, and certainly added some spice to any gathering. She eventually started dating one of the other John's in our group (there were 4 of us), John Mackowski, and they eventually married.

Cindy Callison

Cindy was the girl friend of Spic. I refer to Mike Servanti, who seemed genuinely proud to be known affectionately among his friends as "Spic" as a celebration of his Mexican heritage. I didn't know Cindy well but knew at least that she was a sweet girl. Mike and Cindy kept quite close to each other and were not among our "inner group" (they had their own) though we did party at Mike's house frequently, and was the location where I first felt the affects of pot smoking. What a revelation that was, sadly!

Mrs. Neph

The Neph family lived around the corner from us in Inkster and are probably there even today, not participating in the evacuation of the old neighborhood that so many of our families did in the early 1980s. They had a small family, two girls and two boys, Rob, John, Pam, and Kitty. John's parents liked to party, particularly Mrs., and didn't often object, indeed, even welcomed us when our group would invaded their basement, or in the warm summer nights, their garage, in our daily search to find Nirvana. On rare occasion they would join us in partying.

John Neph

John was small physically, but had a large personality and radiated a huge amount of energy. He had a deep sense of humor, and took charge of many of the events we staged as a group. He appeared a happy-go-lucky type, didn't seem to let any of life's difficulties get the best of him. Like most of us he had little interest in school and after a short stint with the Ironworkers, at which he developed a back problem resulting in surgery and the fusing of some vertebrae, he studied to be a chef and found work in a good local restaurant. After high school we all partied pretty hard, every night if we could. Most every time you saw John he had a beer in his hand. It didn't matter what time of the day. His was the saddest story. His alcoholism finally drove him to suicide in 1993, devastating his parents and sisters, who had recently lost their other eldest son/sibling, Rob, to Muscular Dystrophy, I believe. I remember John fondly, especially on the occasion of our backpacking trip to Montana to visit Gary Kiester who had moved out to the wilderness to become a Mountain Man. I still think of him often. He was a good friend to all of us.

Carin

I'm a little confused about Carin as I'm sure I never got the whole story about her. She was Gary Kiester's one big love in life after high school. They dated on occasion and Gary had a tortured on and off relationship with her, as you will read in his letters. But I thought she was married, indeed she did have a son, Dustin and there was another guy in her life that I thought lived in her house. But those were strange times. I spent little time in her presence. You know how it is; when you really care for a girl you don't really want to share her with your friends, you want to spend time alone. That's how Gary was with Carin. But she was a very attractive, sweet, though sometimes wild girl; but everyone liked her.

Mr. & Mrs. McCahill

Bo's parents were hard working and very nice folks. His mother was a very sweet, slight woman, who had her hands full with a house-full of strong-willed sons, and husband. Mr. McCahill was a tough, truck driving man, but genuinely liked his son's friends, though he may not have known the extent of all of our activities. He was a no-nonsense guy and could be stern one minute and full of humor the next. I liked him and I think he enjoyed some verbal sparing with us. At least as I remember it. They liked me probably because Bo and I were such close friends. I wasn't Bo's closest friend, but I think that Bo knew how alone I was in high school and made me feel so comfortable that I considered him my best friend. After a short time out of high school he stopped dating Barb Lezotte and fell in love with Paula Leyten and they eventually married. With his dating I started becoming closer friends with Gary. I wasn't too surprised by the Christmas card the McCahill's sent to me in Germany. They were good people.

Mrs. Leyten

Paula's mother. The Leyten's were members of St. Norbert's parish, and Paula and I were in the same grade in St. Norbert's grade school, sometimes even in the same class. I didn't know Paula well, and her parents not at all. But I knew enough that she was a very quiet and very sweet girl. I was in Germany when Bo and Paula married. I sent them a German coo-coo clock.

Dan White

Not related to Mary Beth White, above. Dan was in my company in Basic Training. I can't tell you anything about him, or indeed of any of the guys in Charlie Company.
Dan White

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