Chapter 13

Home Again

When we arrived at Camp Dix the first thing we did was go single 

file through a room for a medical checkup. A doctor was standing 

there and asked "how do you feel?" I said 'Okay' and he said 

"Next". That was the extent of the medical checkup we got and of 

course no one complained about anything because all they wanted to 

do was to get home again. We were afraid that if we told of any 

problems they would put us in the hospital and keep us for weeks. 

We didn't want that to happen......even John Brady with the 

ruptured appendix went through the line quickly.


The next step was to go into a room where a sergeant made out our 

income tax and gave us some of our back pay so we had money to get 

home. They took out 188.00 to pay the income tax on my salary for 

the year I was in prison camp. I don't know how they had the nerve 

to do that after what we had been through. They talk about how 

badly the Vietnam veterans were treated when they came back, but I 

think what happened to us was just as bad. We didn't have any 

crowds to meet our ship or parades to welcome us back either. We 

later discovered that we should have insisted on more medical help 

and reported our health problems so they would have been in our 

medical records. A few years later when I needed treatment for my 

back, there was no way to prove that it was service connected. When 

I did try a few years later to get some compensation at Buffalo and 

Rochester VA centers for stomach and back problems all I got was a 



I sent a telegram to my wife and told her I would let her know when 

to come to Rochester, then I sent a message to my father to tell 

him of my return to the country. I went to the PX one day and drank 

a half glass of beer. I discovered I wasn't in very good shape yet 

and had to go back to my bunk to lie down for several hours to 

recuperate from the drink. After all I had been through I weighed 

124 lbs. only two pounds less than when I entered the service, 

however. I had at least a half dozen Army blankets and I mailed two 

of them home and later wished I had mailed a lot more as they were 

nice blankets and I sti11 have one.


When it came time to find out where we were going next we lined up 

in front, of the desk of an officer who was giving out papers to 

report to a large recreation club in the Blue Ridge Mountains of 

Virginia. It was one of those fancy places with tennis, golf, 

swimming and horseback riding for two weeks of rest and relaxation. 

The line got shorter and the man ahead of me got his papers. It was 

my turn at last. The officer stood up, announced that the resort 

was filled up and the rest of us were to go home for two weeks then 

report to Atlantic City for reassignment or discharge. I was so 

disappointed as this would have been such a nice honeymoon for 

Lettie and I. Another example of how things worked for me in the 



We made preparations to go home and soon it was time to say good-by 

to Bruce. It was a very hard thing to do after the two years we had 

spent together and all that we had been through. We agreed to write 

often and get together when we could.


I met another man, Jim Smith, the nephew of Ray Smith who worked in 

the Canandaigua post office and we decided to come home together. 

He lived in Newark and I decided to take the train there with him. 

We were none too neat traveling on the train as we were still 

wearing our old dirty uniforms from prison camp. At Newark I took a 

bus to Canandaigua as I had not notified anyone that I was coming.

I wanted to make it a surprise so I got off the bus at Main Street 

and didn't even take a taxi home. I had all, my belongings in a bag 

which I threw over my shoulder as I walked home up Chapin Street. I 

didn't even see anyone I knew along way home. When my father got 

home from work I was in the bathroom shaving and I walked out and 

said 'hello'.


Two days later Lettie arrived in Rochester and I borrowed my 

father's car to go pick her up. We stayed with my father several 

days and then decided we would leave as it was difficult to get 

along with my stepmother. We rented a room at Lowes Tavern on South 

Main Street which was a combination tourist home with room and 

board. We spent the next two months at different places like 

Niagara Falls, Hill Cumorah and around the lake. We were 

entertained at dinner parties by all the friends I had before 

entering the service. I bought a used Chevrolet coupe with the back 

pay that I received so we had transportation.


During these first few weeks at home I began to realize what three 

and a half years in service had cost me in terms of my position in 

life. Here I was at 29 with no job, a little money and a car. All 

the friends who had escaped being drafted, some legally and some 

not, had really prospered. Most had made a lot of money working in 

defense jobs, had new cars and homes of their own. After giving up 

three and a half years of your life for your country, the reasons 

others didn't go and their prosperity was always on one's mind. I 

wouldn't have done it any other way, however, as the good times had 

in the service far outweighed the bad and those memories will 

always be with me. I was lucky to have had the chance to fly those 

airplanes and make so many wonderful friends not to mention the 

exciting experiences.


In August 1945 we drove to Atlantic City where we stayed in a large 

hotel taken over by the Air Force. It was right on the boardwalk 

and included the Atlantic City Convention Hall. I'd never seen a 

room so large, approximately the size of a football field, on the 

first floor of the hotel. The beauty pageant was held there the 

first week we were at the hotel. We watched the parades on the 

boardwalk in front of the hotel and saw all the contestants. They 

asked all of the ex-prisoners who were there for fifty volunteers 

for one evening and, as we had always known that you never 

volunteer for anything in the army they had quite a time coming up 

with fifty guys. As it turned out, they were the lucky ones who 

each escorted a beauty contestant to a large banquet one evening 

and the rest of the men were envious.


We attended meetings all week to help decide whether to stay in the 

service or get a discharge. I had already made up my mind to get 

out so gradually got all the necessary papers signed and got ready 

to 1eave for home. The parking there was limited and our car was in 

so tight we couldn't get it out to use while there. My car was in 

the back row with two rows in front of me. The cars were so close 

together that they touched and I had to get the license plate 

numbers of those in front and around me and hunt them up to move 

the cars. The cars were so close together that the paint was 

scraped off both sides of the car when we finally got it out. When 

we returned to Canandaigua, we rented an apartment on North Main 

Street and became friends with Len and Marcia Bobbins in the next 

apartment. They built and lived in the house that I now own. I had 

to find a job, so went back to Eastman Kodak, but the pay they 

could offer was about half of what I could earn working with my 

father and Clarence so I decided to paint.


I painted with my father and Clarence as Gordon had his own 

business and Leon was working at Brigham Hall. There was not much 

work that first winter, but I did get a chance to help Leon for a 

couple of months at Brigham Hall. The next spring we had the chance 

to rent the house on Mason Street where Sands and Millie Mullins 

had been living. I went to Rochester and had a good talk with the 

landlord whom I convinced to rent it to us. At that time the rent 

was only $25 a month and as soon as the Mullins moved out, we moved 

in. While living there our daughter Lynn was born on April 22, 



During the summer of i946 we took a trip to Kirksville, Missouri to 

visit Bruce and his wife Marie. Paul Maxwell, one of the pilots I 

had flown with in England, lived in Tarre Haute, Indiana and I had

his address so we stopped to see him. His wife was home and told me 

where he worked so I looked him up. It was some kind of a factory 

or office building and I was walking down a corridor when I saw him 

ahead of me so I caught up, tapped him on the shoulder and said 

'hi'. He was very surprised and we spent the evening with dinner at 

their home. We stayed in a motel and drove to Missouri the next 

day. Bruce was just getting settled in and lived in a small older 

house off the main road. We stayed several days with them, talking, 

fishing and going on picnics. We arrived there on a Saturday and 

stayed up half the night talking and drinking. The next morning we 

awoke with terrific hangovers and Just barely made it through 

church services. In the afternoon Marie made a container of soup to 

take to Bruce's grandfather who was 90 years old and had just 

returned from the hospital after having a leg amputated. He was 

gone when we got there and we found him down at a pool hall telling 

all his buddies about the operation. They are tough old birds in 

that part of the country.


Bruce was a woodworking teacher at the high school and later he 

moved to Santa Rosa, California to teach there. On weekends he 

taught woodworking to prisoners at Alcatraz. We had a good time 

with Bruce and Marie and although we never got together again, we 

corresponded for years. The big Swede, Al Johnson, owned and 

operated a motel 'Shady Rest' on a lake in Minnesota and he wrote 

several times and invited us up for a free vacation, but we never 

got there.


Back home we looked forward to Lynn's birth and then her childhood 

years. When Lynn was about two years old we were visiting with our 

neighbors Ted and Gertrude Smith and several of their friends one 

evening. Lynn was sitting of the floor and everyone was sitting 

around her talking. Suddenly Lynn spoke up saying "Daddy looks 

different than Mommy in the bathtub". The room. was immediately 

enveloped in a deadly silence and my heart stopped beating. Then 

Lynn finished saying "Daddy has wrinkles on his belly" and everyone 

doubled over with laughter. That came close to being my most 

embarrassing moment.


From 1946 to 1950 the painting business was not very good and we 

had to save our summer wages to carry us through the winter when 

work was scarce. I remember one December when I only worked Two 

days and made $17. In 1953 we bought our first house, on Telyea St. 

next door to my sister Dorothy, at a cost of $731.10 it was 

financed on a GI loan through the local bank. We moved there 

December 3 and it was a warm sunny day at 63 degrees, a perfect day 

for the three of us and our cat "Betty" to move. In 1948 the three 

of us, known as R.G.Benson and Sons started working part-time 

during the winter doing all the painting at F.F. Thompson Hospital 

which made it easier to buy a house. I had had a garden on Mason 

Street and made quite a large one in the lot on Telyea Street. I 

have managed to have a garden every year since then although some 

of them were small. I also inherited a love for flowers from my 

mother and have always had flower gardens and plants.


During the late 1940's when Lynn was small we took a trip to Utah 

in the month of December and we only got as far as Lancaster, 

south, of Buffalo, when we ran into a terrible blizzard and the 

roads were closed. We got into the parking lot of a closed summer 

motel with a number of other travelers. They opened up the motel so 

we would have a place to spend the night in the lobby and some of 

the rooms. There was no heat and we were awake shivering all night. 

Lynn was in the bed between us and it was so cold her cheeks were 

frostbitten by morning. Early in the morning I put the chains on 

the car and we were able to get started. We decided to take the 

southern route and we had snow piled up on the car until we got to 

Oklahoma, where everyone wondered where we had come from.


We made another trip to Utah a few years later and went via the 

northern route. I am unable to remember exactly which events 

occurred on which trip so will relate them as I recall them, 

without much regard to the year.


The first trip during the winter was the year they had the hay lift 

for the farm animals due to the severe winter weather. One morning 

the temperature was 45 degrees below zero with so much frost in the 

air that you couldn't see the mountains to the east. One week it 

only got up to 14 below, but the cold was more bearable as the air 

is so dry. Mrs. Clark used to go out and hang up the washing in a 

short sleeved dress when it was down to 10 degrees above zero. The 

farmer who was a friend of Jimmy Clark's was a sheepherder and he 

was stuck with a flock of sheep way out an the prairie with no feed

for the animals. We took a load of hay in Jimmy's truck and his 

friend had a big bulldozer which he used to make a trail through 

the snow from the road ending to where the herder was. He had a 

little clearing in the deep snow and about half of the sheep were 

laying around it frozen to death.


The little sheepherder's wagon was very interesting and as it was 

10 degrees below zero we were glad to get inside. There was Just 

room for the four of us and the stove made it very warm. He 

insisted we stay for dinner and grabbed an axe, went outside and 

cut some chunks of meat off one of the dead sheep. He cooked it in 

the little stove and between the heat and the smell of that mutton 

cooking we would have been driven out if it hadn't been so cold. As 

it was, we lost our appetites. We did squeeze into the narrow aisle 

with a board an our laps for a table and had mutton with hot 

biscuits and honey. To this day I can't stand the smell of lamb 



On one of the trips to Utah we left Lynn with her grandparent and 

went on to California by train to spend several days with Neil Ullo 

and his wife in Walnut Creek, California. He had started an 

electrical business and was selling and installing appliances in 

that area. I went with him one day and helped him install a washing 

machine. Neil remembered all his hungry days in prison camp and was 

very strict with his children at mealtime, making them eat 

everything on there plates. It was almost an obsession with him. We 

had a good visit and several years later they made a trip east and 

stayed with us when we lived an Telyea Street. We took the train 

back from California and were lucky to travel in one of the first 

Vista dome cars. The country was especially beautiful through the 

Snake River canyon.


Sometime during the 1950s we needed a new car and the Clarks in 

Utah could get a better deal. We had them purchase a new Chevrolet 

for us and Mrs. Clark and Jeanie drove it to New York for us. They 

got stuck in a big snowstorm in Ohio and I left by Greyhound to 

meet them. The bus got stuck in Erie, Pa. and we had to walk the 

last quarter mile to a train station. After a long wait I was able 

to get a train to Cincinnati, Ohio. They were about fifty miles to 

the west of there in a motel. I stayed in a hotel for two days and 

we talked back and forth by telephone. The parking lot outside my 

hotel room was full of cars with nothing showing but the aerials. 

Finally traffic started to move again and they were able to come 

ahead and pick me up. We got stuck again in Fredonia, N.Y. by a two 

foot snowfall and had to spend the night in a tourist home as all 

the roads were closed. The next morning we struggled for hours to 

got the car out of the parking lot and were able to get the rest of 

the way home. In those days there was very 1ittle snow removal 

equipment and these were hard trips to make.


In 1954 we were painting a house on North Main St. when my father 

complained about chest pain, but for more than an hour he kept 

going up and down the ladder holding his chest. Finally he said he 

couldn't work anymore and was going to drive to the drugstore for 

something to cure indigestion. After about fifteen minutes we heard 

the ambulance and feared it might be for him. The phone rang in the 

house and the lady came out to tell us my father had been taken to 

the hospital with a heart attack. He lived about a week and we all 

took turns sitting in the waiting room, but were never allowed to 

see him for more than a minute at a time. The doctor told us he had 

suffered a massive heart attack and knew he wouldn't live. I never 

forgave the doctor because if he knew he wasn't going to live I 

think we should have been allowed to spend more time with him.


This occurred in October when Dad was 74 years old. He was only a 

couple of weeks away from his 75th birthday in November and had 

planned on retiring and taking a trip to Florida. I made up my mind 

to retire before my health would prohibit me from enjoying a few 

years of retirement. I have always considered myself lucky to have 

had the chance to work with my father for so many years and get to 

know him. He once told me that it gave him great satisfaction to 

have raised nine children nobody getting into serious trouble even 

though none were a great success.


I continued working with Clarence until 1959 when I was offered a 

job as a painter in the maintenance department at the hospital. It 

took me almost a year to make up my mind because I didn't want to 

leave Clarence working alone. It was one of the hardest decisions 

to make, but I know the advantages of steady work even though I had 

to start with a cut in wages. The first few years I tried to help 

Clarence with some of his work on weekends when I could. I have 

never regretted the move because I would have ended up working 

alone when Clarence retired. I had only worked at the hospital a 

few months when I had my first serious illness. I entered the 

hospital acutely ill and the doctors decided to operate for 

appendicitis. They found an adhesion from the appendix to the 

intestine on the other side and I was suffering a bowel stoppage. I 

was back to work in two weeks, but had to take it easy awhile.


The only outside activities my father participated in were pitching 

horseshoes and bowling and he was good at both of them. He was 

especially good when bowling for money. He and four other bowlers 

would travel around the area to bowl in pot games and he always 

made a little money. He also bowled in one nationals tournament in 

Chicago. After his death I bowled for about ten years on a team 

with Leon, Clarence and, sometimes, Ken Montanye.


In 1966 I was divorced and Lynn was attending college at Hillsdale, 

Michigan so I lived alone for three years on Telyea Street. I was 

working at the hospital and took the same dinner with me everyday: 

a sandwich of lettuce, mustard and baloney. I ate my dinner at the 

hospital cafeteria after work each night and had TV dinners or ate

out on the weekends. Several weeks after my divorce Pat Wager 

introduced me to her neighbor who was a widow and I started dating 

Kate. After the divorce I had the house, a car, some bonds and $18 

in cash so I was starting out again financially. I tried to help 

Lynn with her college education by taking on more work at the 

hospital. I worked in maintenance four and a half days a week and 

Monday afternoons I was the purchasing agent for the hospital. I 

did all the Ordering and delivery of supplies to all the 

departments in the hospital. In the evenings and Saturdays I took 

care of the lawns and mowed the grass. I did this for two years and 

kept very busy.


On October 17, 1969 1 married Kathryn Coons and moved into her home 

an Perry Place. The following year I sold the house on Telyea 

Street for $14000 to a girl I knew at the hospital. Lynn was now 

living in Rochester and attending Nazareth College after marrying 

Dan Avery on February 17, 1968. My grandsons Bejamin and Timothy 

were born in Rochester on November 14, 1971 and February 25, 1974.


My sister Helen died of cancer in 1974 and my brother Gordon of 

cancer in 1979. In 1980 Kate and I sold the big house on Perry 

Place and moved to a smaller, newer home on Chapel Street. This 

house was just right for retirement with a dry basement, nice

garage and workshop.


In 1970 the new hospital was finished and it was quite a big job 

moving into it. For several days I was the only department member 

at the new hospital directing all the truckloads of equipment to

their new locations while Harold and Brownie were directing the 

move from the old hospital. Some days it took me over two hours to 

eat my lunch usually on the run and answering phone calls. The 

first few years there I did little painting as everything was new 

so I kept very busy doing maintenance work and book and record 

keeping for the department. I soon became a "jack of all trades" 

which made the work interesting as there was something different to 

do all the time.


1979 when I was 62 years old I gave a lot of thought to retiring

early, but my birthday passed and I was still going to work. The 

work was so interesting in the hospital and I was in good health so 

I decided to stay until 65. The fear of financial problems makes it 

hard to decide when to retire, but I now find that I have more 

money than when I was working. A small hospital pension and Social 

Security have eliminated all financial worries at least for the 

present. My 65th birthday was July 23, 1982 and it was a perfect 

time for retirement. My last day of work I painted a room and 

worked right up to the last hour, not leaving until the regular 

time. I requested that there be no retirement party as the boys in 

maintenance gave me a gift certificate for $80 from Grossmans 

lumber and I used it to buy lumber and materials to make bird 

houses. After twenty three years of working with Dad and Clarence, 

then twenty three years of working at the hospital I figured it was 

time for retirement. I really enjoyed the hospital work and the 

chance to be around so many nice people. I was offered the chance 

to work part time at the hospital after retirement, but I knew that 

I had had enough and never Thought of it again.


On the first day of retirement it was a warm sunny day and my 

birthday, so I decided to put the hammock up in the backyard and 

lay in it. I discovered I had stepped in a pile of dog pooh and had

it on my socks, shoes and hammock. I washed out the socks, shoes 

and took down the hammock to put it away. So went the first moments 

of retirement. The first couple of years I enjoyed working with 

wood and built many birdhouses, selling quite a few. I only charged 

enough to have money to buy materials for more.


For two summers I painted my sister Dorothy's house for her. I only 

worked a few hours each day and didn't charge her anything for 

labor as I was doing it Just to keep busy. It is a big house and I 

realized it would be the last time I would be able to do anything 

of that size. Working with high ladders was getting difficult.


In the early spring of 1985 1 decided to try oil painting. I sent 

away for an artists outfit and bought some materials at an art 

shop. I had never tried anything like this before so I made a 

painting studio in the basement and started out with pictures from 

an instruction booklet. Even the early ones I painted were okay so 

I decided to continue as long as I could see improvement. I have 

done more than 150 paintings over the past two years and am still 

improving. I have sold some pictures and given away the rest. I 

also build and finish the frames for them. It makes a good hobby 

for the cold winter months.


This coming July 23, 1987 will be my seventieth birthday and I have 

enjoyed five years of retirement, keeping active with gardening, 

reading, lawn care, oil painting, helping my brothers and writing 

this autobiography.

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