Sunday, March 6, 2011

Goodbye, Mr. Buckles

I didn't want to let too many days pass before I mention that America's last surviving World War I veteran, Frank Buckles died last week.  Mr. Buckles, as you probably heard, was one hundred ten years old, having been born in 1901.  He enlisted in the army in 1917 at the tender age of 16-- lying that he was 18 so he could go "see some adventure."  As a student of history, I am fascinated by not what he did, but rather by what he lived through in his century plus time on Earth.  Think about it:  The first light that shone on Mr. Buckles' at his birth was provided by an oil filled lamp by his mother's bedside.  His world was very much the world his grandfather knew.  It was still a horse-drawn age.  Airplanes did not fill the air, cars did not roar down freeways at seventy miles per hour.  Trains were common, but they usually topped out at thirty MPH. 

It was a hard world, too.  Language and behaviors that we now would consider horribly bigoted and racist were common, and unexceptional.  Unemployment statistics were of no use.  If you didn't have a job, that was your problem.  If you had a job, you were lucky if it paid a dollar a day.  Children as young as five years old worked for far less in factories and mines.  If they made it to that age.  What might have started as a little cough your child had in the morning  might lead to their death by that evening.  The old adage that we laugh at today was a rule of thumb then; What doesn't kill us, makes us stronger.

So, in honor of Mr. Buckles, here is an illustrated tour of the world that Frank Buckles saw as he lived his remarkable life.

Scything the clover

Bringing in the hay, 1900's

The first airplane, 1903

Perfectly normal for 1900

Bathing suits as they were meant to be

Rt 95 before they knew it was rt 95

The Dust Bowl

A new world

Who wouldn't want one?

Dallas, 1963

The Moon, 1969

One last victory... 1974

And the wall came tumbling down 1989


So, thank you Frank.  The "lost generation" now truly is.  The sad thing about your passing is that you had to see this train wreck of a television "star" before you left:

A new kind of drug

Rest in peace.

And thank you.



Susan Roux said...

Well when you put it like that, his long lifetime sure was a journey. Think of all the stories he must have?

Karen Martin Sampson said...

It was a remarkable era to have lived grandparents were in his generation (died a while ago) and my grandfather enlisted in World War I at age 17...he too lied about his age. Got shot up at Vimy Ridge but survived only to be killed by cigarettes at age 75. He made me vow never to smoke...and I never have. Rest peacefully, Mr. Buckles.