Sunday, July 17, 2016

A gem of an interview from 2004

Eugene Sand, left, and Edward "Smoky" Stuever

    Over the years, as I attended reunions of my father's tank battalion from World War II, there were several veterans I would see almost every year. As a result, I interviewed some of them on several different occasions, sometimes recording a casual conversation in the hospitality room with other veterans at the table, at other times doing a longer, one-on-one interview. As a result, I would sometimes have several different taped versions of the same story, each time with a few more details, or, frustratingly, a few details that differed from the time the same veteran told the same story two years earlier, sort of a one-man version of "Rashomon." Once, for example, I was listening in as Jim Flowers told the story of Hill 122 to a youngster who came to the reunion with his grandfather. I had heard Jim tell the story dozens of times, but as he grew older, he would sometimes have to reach for a detail, which would result in a lengthy pause. At one such pause I provided the detail, which prompted Jim to admonish me by saying "Who's telling this story, me or you?"
   There was one veteran, Ed "Smoky" Stuever, who had so many stories, about growing up in the Depression as the son of two hearing-impaired parents, about helping to build the Skokie Lagoons with the Civilian Conservation Corps, about having his tonsils removed, about life in the horse cavalry, about repairing and changing engines on tanks, about the death of his buddy Marion "Shorty" Kubeczko, that I resolved to sit him down and get his story from start to finish, which I finally did in 2005, when he was 88 years old. One of my earliest recordings, going back to 1991 or '92, was his account of how he got the nickname "Smoky." He was in the veterinary detachment of the 11th Horse Cavalry in California in 1941. His lieutenant's wife gave birth one night so the lieutenant passed out cigars in the morning, and the men sat around smoking their cigars before they began working on the horses. There was one horse which nobody wanted to deal with because it had a reputation for meanness, but it had a "stub" -- I believe he meant a thorn -- in its hoof, and somebody had to take it out. So Ed said he would take it out. He then said, "Watch my smoke."
   He had the horse's leg cradled in his crotch and was about to remove the thorn when the horse suddenly lay down, causing Ed to turn his head. He still had the cigar in his mouth and the horse's side made contact with the lit end of the cigar. "Watch my smoke," Ed repeated at that reunion. "There goes Smokeeeey!" as the horse sent him flying into several bales of hay.
   It was only after I'd heard that story many times that Ed remarked that he never liked the nickname, even though at every reunion all the other veterans would still call him Smoky.
   That 2005 recording was one of the highlights of my so-called career as an oral historian. Ed filled two 90-minute cassettes, then we broke for a battalion luncheon, and when we returned he filled another 90-minute tape. After digitizing and transcribing it, I realized there were several stories he didn't even cover, but that I had on earlier tapes.
   My New Year's resolution this year was to go through my old tapes and digitize some of the ones that I'd overlooked over the years. I digitized and transcribed two interviews -- with Bob Hagerty and Morse Johnson of A Company -- in January and here it is the middle of July, but this month I got back to keeping that resolution, and just the other day I discovered a hidden gem among my 600 hours of interviews.
   I didn't realize, or had completely forgotten, that the year before that 2005 session with Ed Stuever, I had interviewed him at the 2004 reunion. His daughter, Rita Cascio, was with him and she helped with the interview by asking him to provide some details which he might have overlooked.
   Ed Stuever passed away in September of 2014. He was 97 years old.
   Following is the audio of that 2004 interview. The full three-hour 2005 interview is available in my collection of "More Tanker Tapes," in my eBay store.



   Purchase "More Tanker Tapes," which includes the three-hour 2005 interview with Ed Stuever, in my eBay store.

   Thank you!

(Ed Stuever passed away in September of 2014. He was 96 years old.)
Edward H. Stuever beloved husband of the late Genevieve (nee Schmitt); devoted father of Tom, Mary, Rita Cascio, Therese, and Lora (Steve) Hall; dear grandfather of 10; great-grandfather of 15; great-great-grandfather of four. Edward was a US Army veteran of World War II and the founder of Stuever & Sons Draft Beer System. Funeral Monday, 11 a.m. from Salerno's Rosedale Chapels, 450 W. Lake St. (¾ mile west of Bloomingdale/Roselle Road), Roselle, to St. Matthew Church, Glendale Heights, for Mass at 12 noon. Interment Elm Lawn Cemetery. Visitation Sunday, 3 to 9 p.m. at the funeral home. Please omit flowers. For information, 630-889-1700.
Published in Chicago Suburban Daily Herald on Sept. 6, 2014 - See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/dailyherald/obituary.aspx?pid=172371586#sthash.QQZqA1Yq.dpuf