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Loquacious former Aussie proud Yank

To the editor: Many thanks for the United States flag placed strategically in our driveway. Each time I observe the “Stars and Stripes” I thank the good Lord I am an American citizen. This statement has immense meaning for me. Let me tell you my story.... I was born in Melbourne, State of Victoria, Australia in the “late twenties”. During World War II my family consisted of my mother, her brother, sister and my grandma. I did not have the privilege of meeting my dad until a great number of American servicemen came to our country to assist in protecting us from the Japanese. Anyway, meeting my dad was an exciting and moving experience. He served in World War I and survived the battle of Gallipoli. Anyway, let’s proceed. Even with limited resources we did our best to entertain at least two American servicemen each weekend on leave from a nearby army base (the name of which I can’t recall at this time). Our home was a large old house in Melbourne which adequately housed the family. However, sometimes we were besieged by American G.I.’s. What with many food items rationed we had a tough time. I well remember going to the butcher’s shop with my grandma to prepare for an onslaught of “weekend company.” Many food items were rationed. Meat was a highly desired commodity. Grandma and I would wait until the butcher’s shop was absolutely void of customers and we would sneak in the back door .... Our good butcher friends would be waiting for us since they knew what we were doing. Then it would be to the grocery store following the same pattern. We would finally wend our way back to the old home to take care of our American visitors and saviors. It would really bother us no end as we searched the daily papers which contained names of servicemen we knew who were slaughtered during the New Guinea conflict. However, we continued helping our American friends as best we could. My aunt married one of these American servicemen and eventually moved with him to the United States. They were truly supportive of me, particularly when my mother passed on. They came back from the United States to see that I was being adequately cared for. They later provided me with an airline ticket to visit them in the United States. I arrived in San Francisco on July 5, 1950. (I like to stretch that back to July 4, however that doesn’t work). Here I found cars, buses, trucks etc. driving on the wrong side of the road. This took quite a bit of learning. I found friendly, interested people, caring and curious about yours truly. Along came September and all kinds of “kids in cars”. Where were they all going? Well they were going to school. Gee, how much I wanted to go to school. My aunt suggested (even though I only had a six month visa) a visit to the registrar of Southern Oregon College (now SOSU). With great fear and trepidation I went to visit this fine lady (Mabel Winston). She decided to enroll me for fall term even without educational records. Along came the following subjects...American Government, American History, English Composition, Physical Education, etc, etc. Ouch, what a time that was. Anyway, she along with the now late Senator Wayne Morse haggled with the immigration authorities and I finally managed to graduate five years later with a major in elementary education and minors in music and literature. During those exciting years I met and married the only girl in the world. Many of the young ladies snorted and grunted indicating “the only thing he wants is to get his citizenship”. How wrong they were! My beloved wife Peggy and I were married in Salem on May 8, 1954. We finished work on our respective degrees and both entered the teaching profession. Eventually I acquired a master’s degree at the University of Oregon. Teaching occupied us for a number of years. We enjoyed young people and as far as we are concerned working with them was a rewarding experience indeed. While we were teaching in Klamath Falls time came for me to earn my American citizenship. This was a difficult task because at that time new citizens were not encouraged. Nonetheless I made it due to some “heavy duty” assistance from numerous people. This was a remarkable day. The court room was filled to capacity with my students. Little did I know that my principal took care of getting all of them to the Klamath County courthouse. Also my wife’s principal arranged for her to take part in the ceremony. This was one of the most important and memorable days of my life. I am proud to be an American citizen. My wife of 47 years stands true and loving. Our son and daughter have given us the privilege of three grandchildren. Also Prineville has proven to be the most idyllic and friendly community. We don’t intend going any place else. Stafford G. Thomas Prineville