American Inspirational

  He was older in his younger years for his endured experience.

         He was younger in his older years as he tried to make up for

years that were lost.

         He was Mr. Williams.

         According to our every-day standards, the older Mr. Williams

was a bit scrambled with his thinking. He had always enjoyed telling

stories and occasional tall tales. It would be up to the listener to

determine which it might be. As the years accumulated, it became

tougher for Mr. Williams to sort it out as well.

         Mr. Williams had enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly after the

Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

         For those who never learn from history, then history will be

repeated. This is a truism as it applies to a single person as well as

the general population.

         Mr. Williams had suffered his share of post-traumatic war

stress. He had landed on the shores of Normandy on D-day. He

witnessed much of the devastation of France and Germany as he

marched across western Europe.

         Mr. Williams had sat along the devil’s lake.

Following the war, Mr. Williams decided on his own method of

dealing with his memories. He would do it with his stories. Graphic

details would be adjusted accordingly and quite often be left out


Usually, his audience would be the children of the neighborhood.

Through his own children, he would later have many more young

minds to plant the seeds of interest, curiosity and awareness.

His mission was to instill in the young minds the lessons of the


The Williams house was to be found in the middle of a long

street. The large front porch accommodated a large assortment of

outdoor furniture and offered plentiful shade and rain protection.

It would rapidly develop into the central meeting point for the

neighborhood children.

Over time, the children looked forward to hearing the stories.

The summer was especially popular as school was on vacation.

Some stories were believable, some not so, and still many about

western Europe during the war years.

“Say, grandfather, please tell us the story about you missing your

big toenail,” Tim requested.

Mr. Williams paused, and then embraced his opportunity.

“It was my first day to set foot in Europe. Guns were shooting. It

was very loud. The Germans were trying to stop us from landing on

the beach. The amphibious vehicles were reaching shore and

dropping their front gates down to allow the men to jump out onto

the beach. I was right there next to the gate. As the gate dropped, it

caught my toe at the bottom and ripped off my right big toenail. It

was my first moments at Normandy Beach!”

         “Did it grow back ever?” Jimmy asked.

         “No, not yet,” Mr. Williams asserted.

         “What country were you in?” Joey asked.

“France. Northern France, near Paris,” Mr. Williams replied.

“Was Paris pretty?” Margaret asked.

“Oh no. Not then! People were hurt and killed. Many buildings

had been bombed and were destroyed,” Mr. Williams said while

shaking his head.

         “Tell us about the clock, please,” Billy asked.

         Everyone loved the clock story.

         “Mr. Williams would occasionally bring out the clock for show

and tell. It was usually on a Saturday or long rainy stretch.

         “After we had marched across France, we finally entered

Germany. Our assignment was to reach Berlin. Well, every few days

the soldiers would be issued two chocolate candy bars. As we

liberated one village close to Nuremburg, I watched a man as he

came out of a clock shop. He was the clock maker. He spotted the

chocolate candy bars in my pocket. He kept shaking my hand,

giving thanks to all the Americans that were liberating his village.

         “You told us that Nuremburg is where the court trials were for

the war criminals,” Kathy pointed out with impulsive interruption.

Mr. Williams winked at Kathy, and then proceeded.

         “May I have one of your chocolate bars. We are all starving

here in this village! I’ll trade you. You may have your pick of any

clock in my shop,” he pleaded.

         Raw hope showed in his eyes.

         “I gave him both chocolate bars and entered his shop. It was

loaded with clocks, just clocks. One clock hanging on the back wall

caught my eye. It was an all wood, only wood, Black Forest clock. It

had a fir tree painted at it’s top. It was dated 1640 at the bottom of

it’s face. Do you have the missing clock hand?”

         “There is nothing missing,” he assured me. “There was only

one hand on it when it was made about three hundred years ago. It

has just the single hour hand.”

         The shop owner quickly packed it up for me and I was on my


         “May we see it today?” Margaret asked.

         “No, not today. I have other chores to tend to before dinner

time,” Mr. Williams said politely. “But one day soon. Probably next


         The following week, Mr. Williams found Janice sitting on the

front porch with his daughter.

         “What’s your book about?” Mr. Williams asked.

         “It’s from the library. It tells all about Paris being bombed

during the war. It shows lots of pictures, too,” Janice explained. “For

history class, I have to write a three page paper about a foreign city

or country. So, I picked Paris.”

         “Sounds like a smart pick to me,” Mr. Williams remarked as he

stepped off the porch. He had a smile on his face as he did so.

         Saturday rolled around just days later.

         Mr. Williams stepped out onto the front porch. A game of

Monopoly was in progress as well as a game of Parcheesi.

         “Hi Mr. Williams!” came from all directions.

         There was a new face on the front porch.

         “Who is this young man?” Mr. Williams asked.

         “I’m Steven. I live two streets over. Margaret is in my History

class at school. Are you still going to show us the chocolate bar

clock today?”

         “Good to meet you, Steven.”

         “Give it about an hour, and I’ll get out the clock. Oh, Steven,

you will then see it’s the Black Forest clock.”

         “Mr. Williams, could you tell us the story about the tank hiding

behind the church after it shot its bombs?” Joey begged. “I have to

write a report for my History class also.

         Later, the children gathered around the clock that had been

brought out of the house. Mr. Williams pointed out all the fine


         “Wow,” Richie spoke up. “I like it better each time I see it!”

         Steven watched with great interest.

         “Next year it will be my turn to write a History report,” Richie

said. “I already know what to write about; how Berlin was divided.”

         “Remember, Richie,” Mr. Williams was quick to point out. “The

first troops to reach Berlin were the Americans, who had to wait

three more days for the Russians to arrive.”

         “Why?” Steven asked.

         “Tell us,” Mr. Williams said to Richie.

         “It was arranged that Russian troops would march into Berlin

first on the following day as a symbol of the liberators. The

Russians then got first choice pick when they divided Berlin into

four sectors,” Richie explained.

         It was not just about history, but about self-confidence.

         Mr. Williams packed the clock into the box carefully and sat

back to reflect for a few minutes.

         So many lessons had he learned from the theater of war. So

many lessons were yet to be taught to the hungry young minds

that would listen.

         He then slipped back into the house with the clock in hand.

He wore another big smile on his face. One more smile in the long

parade of smiles, past and yet to come.

         The success of his new mission would continue to flourish for

many years to come.

         As the parade grew longer and the audience matured over the

years, the level of seriousness and stories of war would become

more sophisticated and more thought provoking to those who

came to listen and learn.

February 12, 2021 21:00

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