The Thinker: Rich Galen


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Mullings by Rich Galen ®
An American Cyber-Column By Rich Galen
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Micki, Isaac and Paul

Rich Galen

Thursday August 17, 2017

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  • My Uncle Paul passed away over the weekend.

  • That fact, while acutely sad for me, can't possibly have much meaning for you.

  • Paul was the youngest of three siblings. My mom, Mildred (known to all throughout her life as "Micki"), was the eldest, Isaac was the middle child.

  • In my life, the passing of Uncle Paul closes the book, among blood relatives in my family, on the Greatest Generation.

  • They were born and spent their childhood in a different place at a different time: A small chicken farm in upstate New York; before during and after the Depression.

  • My mom was a premature baby who was put in a shoebox next to the kitchen stove to keep her warm in her earliest days.

  • That experience must have toughened her up. She was tough. Had she been born a generation later, she'd have been the CEO of a major corporation. As it was she juggled my dad's business, and four rambunctious kids' educations, birthdays, clothes, and discipline.

  • The middle sibling, Isaac, was known as "Ike." He was old enough to have served in World War II in the navy. He had an aptitude for electronics and so the Navy sent him to a lab in Maryland to learn all about a secret radio that would he would care for throughout the war.

  • That lab is right across the Potomac River from where I live now. Ike told us that his orders were to throw the equipment overboard if his ship were in danger of sinking or being boarded. Even if he had to jump into the ocean to make sure it sank.

  • He also told us that he was seasick every single day which was far worse than the thought of potentially drowning to keep his radio out of enemy hands.

  • Both brothers attended Cooper Union in New York. They were both electrical engineers. Ike started a toy company with his cousin, Remco Toys. He sold his interest and became a developer of massive distribution centers for major corporation.

  • Cooper Union was the site of a famous address by Abraham Lincoln in February of 1860. In it, he argued that slavery should not, against the wishes of the Southern states, be expanded into the new Territories but that we should "stand by our duty, fearlessly and effectively."

  • Interesting, isn't it?

  • Paul was too young for World War II and Korea but served in the Army Signal Corps in the interwar period between Korea and Vietnam. As an engineer he designed, among other things, electronic countermeasures to help save the lives of Americans flying U.S. warcraft.

  • My dad, Sid, for his part, spent World War II in Iran guarding oil supply lines from the German Army. He didn't see my older brother until the war ended.

  • All were born in the United States, but all four of my grandparents came from Eastern Europe in the immigration wave of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They were fleeing the pogroms in Russia - defined as "large-scale, targeted, and repeated anti-Jewish rioting."

  • From the Immigration Policy Institute:
    "Beginning around 1880 and ending in the mid-1920s, the last wave brought more than 23 million immigrants to the United States; by 1910 almost 15 percent of the population was foreign born … the majority from southern, central, and eastern Europe."

  • According to the Council on Foreign Relations, immigrants currently account for about 13 percent of the population. The more things change …

  • One morning, when I was a kid, my mom took me with her to run errands. We stopped in the cleaners. When we got back to the car I asked my mom what those numbers were on the arm of the woman behind counter.

  • "It means she was in a concentration camp," she said quietly.

  • As I was watching the video of Donald Trump's press conference yesterday all of this ran through my mind. My mom clinging to her new life in a shoebox. My dad in Iran. My uncles becoming skilled engineers. That woman behind the counter at the cleaners.

  • They left us a legacy that we cannot and will not allow any group, any person, even a President to erode or erase.

  • We must stand together so that when our children write about us, they do so with the same honor and pride we feel toward our parents and all the members of Greatest Generation.

  • All the Mickis, the Isaacs and the Pauls.

  • Thank you. We'll take it from here.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the Lincoln Cooper Union speech, to the immigration webpage and to Remco Toys.

    The Mullfoto is of a car parked in a manner that … you'll see what I mean.

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