Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

General Motors taught mechanics from Coast Guard how to teach

The Depression, education and family responsibilities interfered with our seven years of platonic friendship. Suddenly, in 1937, Walter Frand "Chub" Gerard and I set a date for our simple wedding at my home. We planned it for Christmas week. We had borrowed money to buy interest in Dad?s retail dairy and buy a new white Dodge dairy truck. Our slogan was "Clean milk, fresh from our own cows."

Chub and I had a joint postal savings account for "a trip to California someday" but didn?t take money from that. We each had a little "pocket money," and we drew an additional $35 from our joint bank account "just in case." We then headed toward southeast Missouri for a short honeymoon.

Motels cost less than $3 per night, so we bought two meals a day and shared supper by dividing a quart of chocolate milk and some ripe bananas. We were invited to visit Uncle Lawrence and Aunt Ethel on our way home. When we headed for home, we had a little gas in the tank, some pocket change - and each other!

We were paying for our half-interest in Dad?s dairy. We owned a used two-door Plymouth car; a set of good carpentry tools for Chub, who made small walnut tables for our home; and a Pekingese dog named Fuey. More important, I had a job teaching swimming, lifesaving and first aid at Christian College; the Depression raged on for most folks and for small, select colleges, including this one.

Four years later, dairymen had trouble finding and paying for tires for their delivery trucks, for replacement milking machine parts, for anything metal and even for cardboard milk bottle caps! Dad dug out discarded tires from a ditch and put in "boots" to get added miles out of them for farm use. Chub had not mentioned what was on his mind until the day he said, "Sue, I sang to help win the first World War, and it?s time for me to join the Coast Guard and help win this one." He was serious.

We sold our part of the dairy; Chub made a date to be sworn in at Kansas City. That was a brave goodbye with pride and hope - but without tears.

He was doing the right thing. I watched him disappear from sight, turned east toward Columbia and wept for most of those 130 miles home. Chub rushed out to meet me! He had been sworn in and sent home by bus to wait for further orders! The next trip to Kansas City was not as hard. He contacted me that night from New York.

Later, when a young placement officer looked at Chub?s papers, he said: "Dairyman! What could a dairyman do?" Chub replied, "Anything mechanical."

The guy grunted in disbelief, and Chub must have made quite a speech because he was assigned to a mechanics night school. He completed it as one of the top four mechanics and was sent to train further in Flint, Mich., at the General Motors Institute of Technology. Those four mechanics later taught a mix of men and officers from all the services except the Air Force. Chub rented an upstairs, two-room efficiency apartment, as there was no Coast Guard staff in Flint - just an officer, his small staff and those four teachers.

GMIT provided helpers, literature, video, cutaway models and every possible teaching aid about the Gray Marine Diesel Engine. Why? Military secret! The Gray Marine Diesel Engine was entirely new to auto manufacturers. GMIT helpers and all their resources were available to the four U.S. Coast Guard teachers and the steady flow of students who came to study that special diesel. Suddenly, the Army, the Navy and the Marines needed men trained to operate the Gray Marine Diesel Engine. It was not new to a few men who worked in shallow boats in the swamps of Florida! Workmen and many tourists rode smoothly over the swamps. Chub was helping American personnel do something new, something servicemen had never had to do previously: invade.

Taking enemy countries after transporting men, tanks, ammunition and food - the necessities that only wide, flat vessels could deliver to hostile enemy territory on shallow beaches - and Chub Gerard helped!


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