Thursday, February 10, 2011

How times have changed, a Valentine's Day story

Lou and Olga Putnoky, in 1994

   I should start calling this feature the "clip of the week," but I've been adjusting to a new job and experimenting with tapes I recorded in the hospitality room at reunions of the 712th Tank Battalion. Some of those tapes have considerable background noise and I'm hesitant to post excerpts until I've tested them on some unsuspecting listeners.

   In the meantime, with Valentine's Day fast approaching and a long overdue email newsletter to put out, I may not get to another clip of the day for a couple of millennia, so I've selected a love story for today's "clip of the (almost every) day."

   My full-length interview with Lou Putnoky, a veteran of the Coast Guard who served on the USS Bayfield during four invasions, including D-Day, is included in the "D-Day Tapes" collection. This story, excerpted from that interview, was told to me by his wife, Olga, while Lou was on the phone talking to a former shipmate about their upcoming reunion. The following clip is also included in my audiobook "Tales of Love, Food, Booze, Jumping Out of Airplanes, Meeting General Patton and Winning World War 2." A loose transcript follows.

Lou Putnoky: Normandy as I know it and Desert Storm as I've seen it on television, the one big factor sticks in my mind is press coverage. During the war, and many people, you had one hundred percent censorship. Now Desert Storm, you didn't have it, because it's a different world. And I've often said to myself, we could never... (phone rings)

Olga Putnoky: This has been so funny, because Lou has been getting calls from all over the United States. And it is cute because, the best part of it is, in 48 years I've never been able to get him to go to Las Vegas, I've been dying to go. And he's been getting calls from all over the United States, and the conversation will start out, "Are you that tall, skinny, curly headed kid?" And Lou will say "Are you the redhead that I pitched the football to and fell off the dock," and so forth. It's the nicest thing, it's wonderful.

Aaron Elson:  How did you and Lou meet?

Olga Putnoky: Lou and I lived in Carteret, and we belonged to the same church. I was, I think five years old and he was six, I was in the church play, and his mother and he were sitting in the first row, he said, "See that dark-haired girl? When she grows up I'm gonna marry her." And we went to different schools, I went to Woodbridge, and he went to Carteret. We started to date, nothing serious until after he got home from the service. We were friendly, and we did go to different schools, but we dated occasionally.

Aaron Elson:  And you have how many children?

Olga Putnoky: We have two children. We have Bruce, he's 44, and Diane who's 40. Our son was born in 1950. He lives in Holmdel, and our daughter lives in Carteret, nice and close by.

We'll be married 48 years in May. We just had four 50th anniversaries, our close friends. And our children were invited to all of them, they just could not get over it. Lou's parents were married over 70 years. His dad was 102 when he died. We had him for six years or so, taking care of him. Most of our friends have been married around the time we got married. Lou's buddy, his closest friend, his shipmate, he called this morning from Long Island, William Uhlendahl(?), we visit, we're godparents.

We do not live for just today, I think that's the thing of it. Today's youngsters live for today. I was at a checkout line of a supermarket a couple of years ago. There were two very pretty young girls, and one said to the checkout girl, "Well I hear you're getting married. What made you decide?"

She said, "Well, you know, if it doesn't work out, so I'll get rid of him." I was just shocked. I didn't say a word, I just listened, but what fools. Don't get married if you have that kind of an attitude. But, we've just been very lucky, very, very lucky in our relationship. I guess we picked the right friends.

Aaron Elson:  Did you work in a defense plant?

Olga Putnoky:  I worked in U.S. Metals, I was the first girl hired in personnel. They hired me in '41, and I stayed on until '49.

Aaron Elson: Did they make ammunition?

Olga Putnoky:  Oh yes, yes. They had, and our bosses used to go to New York, or North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, to recruit labor. You know, all the boys and the men from around here were in the war, in the service, so they were a very big copper industry. We had the war bond rallies, it was really nice, everybody's attitude was, most of the women in town worked there, because the men were in the service. I have some pictures of the women who worked there. They had such an attitude, these nice, quiet old ladies, even the elderly women came to work, and they just put their noses to the grindstone and they worked. We had a lot of women during the war. And then slowly as the men came back they were replaced.
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Here are some clips from the audio CD "Food and War," which is included in the audiobook "Tales of Love, Food, Booze, Jumping Out of Airplanes, Meeting General Patton and Winning World War II."

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