The maternal grandfather of Mother Goose has been gone awhile, but his memory lives on. Uncle Fred always considered himself much too young to be called “Grandpa” — and maybe he was. Sometimes the old people in our lives are simply ageless when we think about them.
Fred Barrett was the second husband of Eleanor Sidenkrantz. My grandmother divorced her first husband, Verde, after he abandoned the family. She was left to support three children under the age of five in the days before child support and alimony were enforceable through payroll deductions. Alas, her ex-husband ended up out in California with a new life and a new wife…preposterously negligent of the children from his first marriage. But I do digress…
Eleanor Mattson (nee Sidenkrantz) was resourceful though. She obtained her teaching certificate from the Bemidji Teacher’s College, relying on her family to take good care of the three children while she completed her studies and began her career as a elementary school teacher. And then she met Fred Barrett who was home on leave from the U.S. Army. It was love at first sight!
Fred was an army paratrooper, trained in Newfoundland by jumping backwards off the back of an army truck. That was standard training for the army in 1943 — it taught the men to be fearless and to roll when they hit the ground. That was enough training. More than enough. The next stop was Holland. The motto for the 501st Airborne Infantry Regiment was “Geronimo” and here’s a cartoon that Uncle Fred drew later on his his life, depicting that notorious invasion to rid Holland of the Nazi troops.
He survived the war, but returned home with some major PTSD which bothered him mostly at night. He didn’t talk too much about the invasion, but he talked much about marching into France and the ladies called out to him, “Chocolat? You got chocolat?”
Fred Barrett and Eleanor were married upon his return to the states, and they began their loving lives together on a farm south of Staples, Minnesota. But Fred was no farmer, and he decided that working on the railroad suited him much better. So Eleanor taught school and Fred was a brakeman, conductor, a switcher, and a fireman on the Burlington Northern railroad.
The potential mother of Mother Goose grew up. She met the potential father of Mother Goose. They fell in love and got married. And pretty soon, they were the parents of a goose. I’m sure they asked themselves and each other, “How could this happen?” And so they dressed up the fat young goose and took her to be baptized. Here I am in the arms of my beloved Grandma and guarded by dear Uncle Fred.
Please come back tomorrow when we learn how Uncle Fred was a true genius and renaissance man.