Remembrances of Things Past

I read today’s article in the Wichita Eagle about Boeing leaving Wichita:

http://www.kansas.com/2012/01/07/2167212/boeings-departure-will-leave-a.html

The article not only mentioned the pictures NuWay proudly hangs in our stores, but the people who make up the fabric of our lives too.  Betty Gettings who is a long time employee, in the article pointed to the picture and identified her father-in-law.  How many other customers and friends come in and out of our doors, have some special memory of Boeing and what it means to their family and their own history.

We have pictures of Boeing, Beechcraft (it ‘IS’ Beechcraft to us, and always will be), Cessna and Lear; and Travel Air and Stearman.  Those places are as much a part of Wichita as we feel we are ourselves, in some small way.

My family always looks for my grandfather when we see old pictures of Boeing.  During World War II my grandfather was too old to be drafted but wanted desperately to participate in the war effort.  He therefore moved the family to Wichita, and got a job at Boeing.  In the end, he worked there over 30 years.  On VJ Day when the war was over, Boeing employed more than 30,000 people.  That week over 95% of the work force was laid off because the war had ended, but luckily my grandfather kept his job.  My family lived in Planeview.  My father graduated from high school there.

My great aunt who recently passed away last year also worked in the war effort – at the Coleman Factory.  Because of that, since she was in an essential war industry, she could get housing in Planeview too.  Her husband, my great uncle, fought in the European Theater, along with many of my grandfather’s brothers who were younger than he was.  I think there were five at one time from my grandfather’s family, plus Uncle Max, all in Europe.

It has long been a fond memory – and a fond trip – to ride with my father and great aunt, and drive around Planeview and look at the old homes where they lived, and hear them reminisce about who lived across the street, where someone else would walk between the houses to pay a visit, where the bank was (the first branch bank in the United States – and they put it in Planeview for the war workers!), and the grocery, and the community victory gardens.  Although the neighborhood is a little more run down now than when they lived there, the landmarks all still exist.  The families that live there now are just as happy it seems; sometimes when they are in the front yard, staring at us like we are strange intruders, my father will roll down the window and shout, “we used to live in that house!”.  If they understand, they break out in smiles and wave back.  Sometimes they do not understand, and usually just wave and watch us drive on.

Everyone was friends, none of the children did bad things, everyone studied hard at school, and all the mothers and fathers worked hard, most at Boeing, some at Coleman and other factories, but all “essential war effort” jobs.

I have seen too, the looks on employee’s faces when they hear my father say, “I graduated from Planeview “, when they ask where he went to school.  There is at once a look of profound respect, and an innate curiosity, which he usually satisfies, “yes it was a little rough even back then, but it was a good school”.  And you left Planeview and became a businessman?  “Yes, anyone in this country can do what they want, you just have to try” – it is a story I have told to professors who scoff at the stuff of such Horatio Alger tropes, but if you tell someone from Wichita, that the owner of NuWay grew up in Planeview, and he is still proud of that fact, those people nod their heads in appreciation.  And they get it.  You can really do something here in Wichita if you set your mind to it.  There are still opportunities — and there will continue to be.

The streets in Planeview, for the people who grew up there, and remember living there during the war…..were paved with gold.  To hear their stories, you would think there was no finer place on Earth to live, and no greater calling than the war effort, to work at Boeing, and do some little part to preserve and defend freedom and liberty.

It was a sad day to hear that Boeing was leaving Wichita.  We never left Boeing.  We still carry a bit of Boeing, and the old neighborhood, with us where ever we go.

 

 

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