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PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post Memories of a Historian
Created by John Eipper on 05/16/17 6:51 AM

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Memories of a Historian (Robert Whealey, USA, 05/16/17 6:51 am)

As an American historian on Spanish Civil War, I have met Ángel Viñas and his friend Herbert Southworth many times. As a historian who became anti-Franco through research, I agree with their major thrust.

I first heard of the Spanish Civil War in May 1938, when I was eight years old. At that time, as a kid I began flipping "war cards" rather than saving the popular baseball cards.

Card# 1 in the set began when General Tojo invaded the Marco Polo bridge in Beijing in July 1937. Most of the cards dealt with combat between the Japanese and Chinese. One of these cards showed the Rape of Nanking (Nanjing).

Card# 19 launched a series on the Spanish Civil War and that showed the assassination of Calvo Sotelo. The series ended in September 1938 and the last 10 cards dealt with Hitler's Germany. I think it was Card #286 which showed Neville Chamberlain meeting Adolf Hitler, Prime Minister Daladier, and Benito Mussolini at the Munich Conference. There were about 20 cards dealing with the SCW and 12 showed Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia in 1935-1936.

In 1938, all of the kids agreed that Hitler was a bad man. My Italian-American friends had fathers who did not like Mussolini and they were first-generation Americans. The comments on the SCW were confused and vague. Most of my friends were Catholic and leaned towards the Rebels. A minority supported the Loyalists, but 90% could not tell who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. One day, I asked my great uncle Robert A. Whealey, a professional carpenter, whose side he was on and he answered neither. He was an isolationist like my father, who did not want FDR to inch into another war.

In October 1940, when Mussolini and Hitler invaded Greece, Greek children were starving and their pictures in the newspaper showed bloated bellies. My father showed the pictures to me and told me how bad war is. I have previously mentioned that my father served on the French front in World War I with the rank of Private. In April 1941, as we drove from Florida to New York in an orange truck, we stopped at a gasoline station in South Carolina and my father asked, what is the latest news? The gas station attendant relied it's the same old story about Hitler winning in Yugoslavia. My father made no comment because it didn't fit in with his isolationist faith.

In 1951, in the second half of my junior year, I was thinking of majoring in Political Science or History. I finally decided my BA would be in History. In 1951-1952, I thought that "Communism" was the major threat to the United States, as did 90% of the American people.

In my high school Social Studies classes, I was an A+ student and understood that the balance of power led to the outbreak of World War I.

Back in 1938 when I was still flipping the war cards, my Italian classmate, who was anti-Mussolini, made the comment, "there is one good thing about the Russians, they are helping the Chinese." (I later discovered this was an undeclared Russo-Japanese war in Mongolia and Manchurian frontier.)

After Pearl Harbor, my father became an anti-German patriot and gave up any political comments. He was confident that the Americans and Winston Churchill would win World War II. My father was a fan of Winston Churchill and the slogan "Blood, Sweat and Tears." Of course, my father was a great fan of conservatism. He also backed Democratic Governor of New York Al Smith, who repudiated the New Deal in 1936.

At the University of Michigan, I began to research the SCW from State Department archives published in FRUS (Foreign Relations of the US). There were many books published in US on "Communism and the SCW," including those of Stanley Payne. I published my PhD rather late in 1989 on Hitler in the SCW.

JE comments:  Robert, I know you were just ten, but what do you recall from the trip in the orange truck?  I presume it was a truck loaded with Florida oranges, not an orange-colored truck.  Do you have any memories of the Old South in the early 1940s?  For a young Long Islander, it must have felt like a different planet.


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  • My Father's Orange Truck (Robert Whealey, USA 05/17/17 4:19 AM)

    John E asked about my father's orange truck.


    My parents were married in 1923, and my father, a Republican, worked for the Harding, Coolidge and
    Hoover administrations as a patronage Postmaster in Baldwin, Long Island, NY, from
    1923 until September 1935. It took Jim Farley, Roosevelt's Postmaster
    General, to fire my father.


    So my father bought a 1935 Ford truck and hauled oranges, pecans, cantaloupes,
    watermelons, and trotting horses, following the seasons. Hauling oranges from Florida to Baldwin
    was the most profitable. He sold them by the crate, half-crate and quarter-crate to his
    friends in Baldwin.


    From 1936 to 1941, every Christmas and every Easter, my mother, brother and I had about 10 or 11 trips to Florida.  My father bought wholesale melons from Laurel, Delaware in the summer. The orange business is good from Christmas to Easter.  It was a cheap vacation.


    JE comments:  I found this image of a '35 Ford one-ton.  With an entire family in the cramped cab, it must have been a bonding experience!  How many days did the NYC-Florida trip take?  Around three?  I presume the destination was the orange country of Central Florida.  Orlando was an orange town before it embraced Mickey Mouse.


    I have to keep peppering you with questions, Robert.  What did your father do when fuel rationing kicked in during WWII?


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    • More on My Father's Trucking Business, pre-WWII (Robert Whealey, USA 05/19/17 4:40 AM)
      The photograph John E posted on May 17th shows the 1935 truck as it was produced by the Ford Motor Company in Detroit. Most of the truck drivers bought only a chassis, and they built a bigger body to suit the weight of their loads. My father had one truck from 1935, two 1937s, and his last truck was a 1939 model which he sold in 1942. So the trucks going to Florida were taller to hold the oranges.

      In the summer my father put on taller stilts and raised the body even higher for hauling horses. A driver could also extend the length of the trucks another three feet, with planks on the tailboard. With two canvases one could carry a load of light furniture.


      Most of the ton-and-a-half trucks were built in the Seaford Body Shop, Delaware, for the Ford and the Chevrolet trucks which were driving from Boston to Florida. These trucks were good only from New York to Chicago. The tractor-trailer business from Chicago to San Francisco was redesigned for the Rocky Mountains. The East Coast Ford-Chevrolet trucks had 70 hp.


      John also asked what my father did once gasoline rationing was enacted during WWIU. On New Year's day 1942, he sold his 1939 Ford truck to a potato farmer in Riverhead, Long Island, NY, the county seat of Suffolk County. The Office of Defense Transportation to ration gasoline was set up in the spring of 1942, so the trip to Florida and South Carolina was the last un-rationed trip possible. The orange season in October was closed for long-distance trucks. Freighters could carry more boxes of oranges from Jacksonville to NY Harbor, cheaper.



      In June 1941 my father took a racehorse to Chatham NY, near the Massachusetts border. I was his passenger and it was my first ride to upstate New York.


      JE comments:  Racehorses are a delicate cargo, and must have required special care in shipment (watering, periodic stops, and the like).  What are your memories of that process, Robert?


      I'm enjoying this series on Truckin' through the '30s.


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