Thomas Albert Barker – a salute to a very special uncle on Veterans Day.
One of my fondest memories of our time in Germany was visiting the local Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market). In Mannheim it was set up in the big park surrounding the water tower. This video shows the market in Heidelberg which in our day was held on the streets in the old city. We loved them both. It was the perfect place to do all our Christmas shopping and get them in the mail before the shipping deadlines.
Our tree and house was decorated with ornaments and other goodies found in these markets. Of course we enjoyed lots of delicious goodies to sustain us as we explored the many shops. There were wonderful pastries, lots of wurst (sausages) and of course gluhwein – hot mulled wine.
After a delightful afternoon and evening of Christmas spirits, we’d pile ourselves and our bundles onto a streetcar which would deliver us to the corner of our street.
Bill Barrett began his career in the United States Merchant Marine as a cadet at the Merchant Marine Academy’s satellite campus in Pass Christian, Mississippi. His studies were interrupted when the U.S. entered World War II. He would not receive his diploma until 1968. During the war, he served on Liberty Ships in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. For most of his career he served aboard tankers. Often his cruises supported military operations including shuttling water to Guantanamo until the desalination plant was operational, shuttling fuel from the Persian Gulf to Cam Rahn Bay during the Vietnam war and even shuttling grain to the Soviet Union.
The Merchant Marine suffered the greatest casualty rate of all services during World War II but were not considered veterans and denied benefits until an act of Congress in 1977 and federal court order in 1988 made it so. Today’s mariners are paid quite well and while it remains a dangerous occupation, it does have its rewards.
After he retired, he returned to his home in St. Augustine. Although his maritime activities continued, they mostly revolved around fishing. He died in 1991.
On this Veterans Day, I would like to salute my father, his brother and the many merchant mariners who also served this country.
I found this story, along with copies of transmittal letters to several magazines, in Mom’s stuff. There was even one response – a refusal. It was written in the mid-1950s and describes a place near the old family homestead on Kincaid Mountain. At that time the Uncle Remus tales were quite popular along with Disney’s Song of the South. Mom’s attempts at recreating the dialects of the south fell far short of the genius of Joel Chandler Harris, but it still makes a charming story.
One thing I found amusing in the story is the “tater patch”. While our part of Florida is known for growing potatoes, I don’t ever remember digging potatoes up at The Farm.