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Bud Grossmann’s
Words of the Week
for the Week of
March 6, 2016

Published as Family History
in a Gramma Letter
dated July 30, 1996.

© 1996, 2016 by Bud Grossmann.
All Rights Reserved.

2015 Photo of Soldier Who Was 70 in 1996, & Two Younger Army Vets
  2015 Photo of Soldier Who Was 70
in 1996, & Two Younger Army Vets

© 2015 by Bud Grossmann


Tuesday, July 30, 1996

Dear Gramma,

      Electricity has always been a mystery to me. I know very little more than this: you flip a switch and a light should come on. If it doesn’t, you change the bulb. If you’re still in the dark at that point, you call my dad in Wisconsin or a fellow I know here in Honolulu, Mr. George S. Takaki. One or the other will make your wiring work. Sometimes Dad or George can solve my troubles just by giving step-by-step instructions over the phone.

      Each of those guys has worked some miracles, but neither has yet succeeded in teaching me to sort out ohms, amps, apples, volts, and oranges. I have tried, I’ve really tried, but I must have some kind of short circuit in my brain.

      Born in 1926, my dad and George Takaki are mere months apart in age. Both studied electrical theory under the guidance of Uncle Sam—they served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during the Second World War. I mentioned these coincidences to both men—I wondered if perhaps they had met in the service. But they didn’t know for sure. It was a big war, a big army, and even a big Signal Corps. When peace was proclaimed, George went into civilian work as an electrical contractor, while my dad kept on soldiering for a couple of decades more.

      On occasion, I have fetched tools for George and—separately—for my father as they performed house wiring projects. I have always admired the care these men take in going one step beyond the Building Code requirements. Once or twice, though, I have seen them trim corners and put their own personal safety aside to make a job go faster. For instance, they might leave a circuit breaker on when they really know better—that sort of thing.

      Once when I passed an ancient-looking set of nippers to George, I noticed a scorched notch on the blades—he must have cut into a live wire with them. “George, do you ever get shocked?” I asked.

      He chuckled. “Every day!” he said. “Every day. But I’m still here.”

      I looked at the other items packed in the pockets of George’s tool bag. They showed the scuffing and dulling of years and years of wear. The bag’s strap was frayed; the leather pouches were cracked and split. A screwdriver tip peeked through a hole in a corner. Rivets had replaced stitches on some of the seams.

      “Oh, man!” I marveled. “This bag has been around a while, hasn’t it!”

      “Yeah,” said George. “I took it with me when I left the Army.” He looked away. He slowly and sadly shook his head. When he turned back to me, his face was hard, reflecting memories and regrets. “I was a supply sergeant,” George explained. “And I’ll tell you, Bud ... if I had known this darn thing wasn’t going to hold up, I would have issued myself two of them!”

      Granny, let’s you and I join together to wish George Takaki a HAPPY 70TH BIRTHDAY. It’s coming up real soon, and if he’s lucky, maybe someone will give him something new to lug around his tools in.

                      Your loving grandson,

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