Showing posts with label fathers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fathers. Show all posts

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sepia Saturday Post Week 28 My Father Lewis S Ball

This weekend marks a holiday created to honor fathers, a day I seldom appreciated and a day that has morphed into commercialism marked by sales of Hallmark cards, ties, fishing paraphernalia, bar-b-que accoutrement's, or other mementos of male hobbies. I will share some photos of my father Lewis S Ball and some photos from his collection; he was an avid photographer until he entered pilot training and then must have become too busy to take many snapshots.

I wrote about my father on Sepia Week 19 and if you have read my blog that I never knew him because his plane and crew disappeared somewhere in the Atlantic returning to Charleston, SC from the Bahamas on June 20, 1944 enrolling me as one in the nearly 185,000 American children designated by our government as war orphans. I belong to an organization, American World War II War Orphans Network source of immeasurable resources and unbelievable support among those of us who shared similar stories growing up not knowing, and not even knowing anyone like ourselves. Tomorrow, June 20 designated father’s day summons my need to remember the man I never knew, continue to grieve his loss after and still 65+ years, ponder how different my life might have been, and share more photos and stories about his journey.

He and Mom married June 12, 1943 at Maxwell Field, AL. I think Mom figured she best travel there  from PA and hook up with this young guy who had courted her at home after they met at a Polish wedding. His  mother was furious and I wish I could  know how he told her about it, Anna Ball said that the eldest son was supposed to marry first and Lou was the middle son, also her favorite, so she did not want to let him go.  My aunt told me a few years ago that  Louie was always coming around to the house and Mom was smitten because he had a car.  Besides that he had dreams.  But they were to be set aside as he enlisted into the Army despite the vehement protest of his mother who felt that having the oldest son, Eddie, off to war was enough.  But not for my dad.  He wanted to go and help.  He and so many other young men.  Later he would admit to his baby brother Henry that he wondered what lay ahead and if he'd been so smart after all.  He had some fear, but then it was too late, he was a pilot in the Army Air Corps,  soon  to fly to England in the War effort, likely he'd been briefed about the D Day invasion,  with only 86 hours training and yet on  the complex B-24.  By the time he was fated for his final flight from Charleston to the Bahamas and back, he knew the Air Crew members odds were not great, when a plane went down that was the end of most of the crew, few survivors.  Still Dad had dreams, he went into pilot school because he was quick and he really wanted to make a difference, he wanted to fly the fighter planes, the P-38's.  Ahh but they needed the B-24 guys on the fronts.  He had been briefed about what lay ahead.  The odds were not good.   This is one of the few photos my mother gave me when I was  in my teens, she called it "that damn plane!"

Here is the Maxwell Field Chapel where Helen and Lou  married June 12, 1943,  which upset both their families as they  both came from avid devoted Roman Catholics.  How could they go to a chapel?  Followed by photos from my dad’s collection of Maxwell Field with different labels all photos in the scrap book which I’ve now scanned. I’ve not been to Maxwell but they immediately responded to my inquiry for copies of the investigation of the plan accident and couldn’t have been more gracious. I am grateful to them.

A Preflight 1943  book from my father's training says, "This is Maxwell Field, red earth covered by green splotches of grass, yellow stucco barracks reflecting the bright sunlight and shimmering heat of an Alabama day.  ...Cadets, pilots, engineers, mechanics, instructors, tactical officers  along the flight line throwing off silver streaks of lights in the mid afternoon.  The roar of motors overhead and a thousand craned necks taking a quick look at the future..."   I like this photo of the band marching and the flag being foisted. 
Maxwell Field  was one  of the oldest of the  Army Air Corps flying fields in 1943 named after William C Maxwell, who died in an airplane accident in the Philippines.   This was headquarters for Southeast Army Air Corps training and the Preflight  school where men like my father were first inducted into flight training.

 The photo of the flight line below of planes is one my dad had titled on the back, Maxwell, on the line.  It is a treasure to me. 

As is this one of the men, I think the guy with his  arm folded, leaning on the wing is my dad, but not sure because he only wrote  "line talk" on this one...  All these photos are in a scrapbook I have assembled about him and most of these I found after Mom died in 2004.    The following are the fighter planes that Dad coveted, and on the back of this photo he wrote, "1943 on the line Maxwell"

When I first heard the Biblical story of Jonah and the whale and knew that my father disappeared in the ocean somewhere, I began to think that perhaps he too was in the belly of a whale somewhere and might return someday. I never talked about this with my mother who’d remarried and put it all behind her, or so I thought until so many years later after her divorce from the evil abusive man she married, when she would tell me what a wonderful man my father had been. She said when 9/11 happened here that it took her back so long ago to my dad and the end of hope. She prayed that others would not see all their dreams and hopes end. I don’t know why, maybe I had my mind on who knows what but I did not question her more, then again after growing up where no one talked about him, maybe it was deep seated in me to not ask anymore.

Here is my dad’s mother, mother Anna Kudzia Ball, in 1958, the grandmother with whom I had little contact, but who would look at me and cry, “The picture of Louie.” I suppose my mother felt this would upset me and it did, what child wanted to be greeted by grief and tears when they saw their grandmother? There was unresolved bitterness between my mother and Anna because Anna received my father’s life insurance policy. I never really believed this until I saw all the papers documenting this when Mom died, I guess I could not believe my grandmother could be so selfish, but she was.   Anna  came to the hospital when I was born and  wanted my mother to give me to her because she had lost her Louie, her son.  Mom and my mother's mother ran her out of there !  But having lost an adult  son now I can more appreciate the heartache she carried to her grave, always believing that someday Louie would come home, no trace ever being found of the crew or the plane.   I learned through AWON that this happened to many other women and sometime the mother did the right thing by the widow and as in my case sometime not, the soldiers just did not remember to change beneficiaries on  those policies when they married. 

Here is his father, Frank Ball  in 1944 with the dog they called Pooch.  Frank  died when I was only 7 years old. I barely can remember, but I remember a very big funeral. I was told that he was a wonderful person too, and the funeral was huge because everyone liked Frank.  Besides being a miner and a part time farmer he tended bar at the Polish American Club in Harwick.  He was very generous and let many run a tab, believing that a man should not ever be denied a drink.   I wonder to this day if he knew that Anna took the money from the insurance policy.  As you can tell I have so many unanswered questions.

This picture of the  3 boys is of my father and his two brothers, Eddie, the oldest,Henry the  baby,my dad Lou taken in PA on the family homestead in about 1936.  I just received this by  email  last year from my cousin Carol, Uncle Eddie's daughter.  The youngest brother, Henry lived in CA and I had a relationship with he and his wife and family.  Henry died in 2008, but I am still in contact with my cousins and Aunt Pearl, his wife.  Eddie died suddenly from a heart attack in the 1970's.  Anna lived until 1980. 
Something that I enjoy doing is gong to places  today and taking photos where my Dad took photos so long ago.  It is a twinge of following in his footsteps.  This is the Belmont Hotel in Madison Wisconsin, Dad took the black and white photo in February 1943 when he was at Truax Field in Wisconsin.  It was built in 1924 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990, it still stands but today is a YWCA home for homeless women.  Its height  of 140 feet instigated legislation limiting the size of future buildings in Madison to not exceed the height of the Capitol building just  down the street.  This legislation is still in effect today. 
I took the color photos in 2007. 

So to my father, ever  2 Lt. Lewis S Ball, pilot of fatal flight June 20, 1944, that never returned from Nassau, the Bahamas Morris Field, with Combat Crew 193,    I'll be seeing you.....I close with one of my favorite photos of him  taken May, 1944; who knew, who would have he looks out to sea....what is he thinking what is he seeing........

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