Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Soldier's Story

On our recent trip out west we stopped in Coeur d'Alene, ID, and on the advice of a friend from Idaho took a trip around Lake Coeur d'Alene by way of Highway 3 heading south of Interstate 90 to Highway 97.  We stopped for lunch in Harrison, and then toured the East side of the Lake.

Seeing the lake while driving is restricted by all the trees between the water and the road but when you're in no rush, what's the difference.  As we approached Highway 90 (shown in the distance on this photo) we rounded a curve and noticed a photographer on the side of the road, at the approximate location from which the above picture is taken.

And a photographer he indeed was.  He had a very old, World War II issue camera that was given to him when he enlisted in the Army near the end of the War and was made a paratrooper.  He never engaged in combat but took lots of pictures during that time, then brought the camera home with him at the end of the war.

No doubt every photo he took was top drawer quality, just assessing the camera he was using.  For each photo, a plate was inserted in the camera, and he could take one picture on each side, for a total of two negatives per plate.  The image he viewed, under the shroud he pulled over his head, was upside down - symptomatic of many older cameras due to their construction.  When he got "under the shroud" his head, shoulders, and much of his arms were covered.  And at his age - 85 - his vision was impaired so he also had to strap a magnifying device on his head to get full clarity in the image he would view.

He has become a purist.  No photos of people.  Or animals.  Landscapes only.  In black and white.  I wish I could see them.

Hearing his story, I thought he could qualify as an American hero.  When he returned from the war he wound up working for the Hagedone's, the family that owns the the Coeur d'Alene Resort and its beautiful golf course, as well as the Coeur d'Alene Press.  It was the latter where he went to work with no journalism training but for the photography he had done during the War.

He began as an "ink-stained ragamuffin" doing all the odd jobs at the entry level: copy, sales, typesetting.  And eventually he retired from his final position - Publisher.  Of the Coeur d'Alene Press.

That's the "round-about", "via Highway 3" way to tell you a story about the kind of successes that come from hard work and sometimes being in the right place at the right time.  It was a joy to visit with the man and hear his story.  He volunteered some things, and other things had to be dragged out of him.  Finally, he pulled the shroud back up over his head and the talking was done.  Regretfully, I had failed to take a picture of him as we spoke, though I'm not sure he would have allowed it.

I'm always in a little bit of awe of the soldiers who served in World War II.  Certainly this guy didn't face what so many others have, but no doubt he has lived a good life, as our uncles and fathers have done, and made positive contributions to our society.  God bless 'em all.

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