"I was born in 1932, in Green Lake County, Wisconsin. My parents were both children of immigrants, Polish and German, and both sides were farmers and somehow ended up in Wisconsin.

"My parents were really poor, so they would give me only what I needed (clothes and food). If I wanted a baseball glove or something like that, my dad said I had to find a way to earn the money. I had a paper route, which required me to get up at 5 a.m. before school. As I got a little older, I got a job in the bowling alley setting pins. I delivered the papers before school, went to school, did my sports after school, and then I would set the pins at the bowling alley until 1 a.m. I would come home, sleep, and do the whole routine over again.

"When I wanted to get a bicycle, my dad took me to the hardware store. He put money down and told the store clerk that I would give him so many dollars per week from my paychecks until the bike was paid for. I learned how to handle money that way, which helped me through the rest of my life.

"When I joined the military. I was sent to Korea. We shipped out, but we didn’t land in Korea. Instead, we went to Japan. We were going to learn to be ski troopers in Japan, although I had never skied a day in my life! The snow was often up to our waist, and we had to sleep in the snow. The Japanese people were very respectful and had manners, so I learned something from them too.

"I don’t regret my time in the military, as I was able to come home in one piece. I made some great friends and had some extraordinary experiences. I went to the Far East, which was a whole new culture.

"After I left the military, I was working in Waupun, Wisconsin, as a car loader, unloading boxcars. I was going to the American Legion at the time, and I was tending bar. One guy asked me if I really wanted to go to college, suggesting that going to California would be a really good experience instead. I told him I really wanted to give college a try. The next morning, I realized going to California wasn’t a bad idea, so I went to the bank, withdrew my money, threw my clothes in a duffle bag, knocked on that gentleman’s door, and asked if he still wanted to go to California. We went to the filling station and asked the attendant how to get to California. He said to go to Chicago and then get on Route 66, where we would eventually end up in California. That’s what we did!

"Later back in Wisconsin, I found a job as a welder’s helper. As the helper, the welder told me what to do, which I didn’t want to do for very long. I talked to the foreman, and I asked if I could take scrap metal and practice welding during my lunch hour. He told me to help myself. The guys I worked with laughed at me because they would eat their sandwich and then take a 45-minute nap, but I didn’t. It took me a while, but I did get pretty good.

"I worked as a welder at different places over the years. Because of the people I knew, I always had a place to go for work and was never out of a job."

~Dewey, a resident of Clarendale of Mokena; Mokena, Illinois

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