top of page
  • Writer's pictureTheFormidableGenealogist

An Ode to Smoky

I spent a lot of time with my grandfather when I was a young child. On Friday nights, if I didn't want to go to whatever game or other school event was going on in town, I would have a slumber party with my grandparents. We would all play with dolls and put barrettes in each other's hair--my grandfather included. On a day I didn't have school, I would go to "Coffee" with him. Which was a group of older men who met each weekday--at the small-town bar--to drink coffee and chat. They would all fawn over me, buy me as much Mountain Dew as I could drink, and play-fight over who I would sit next to. Almost all of them were WWII veterans. They rarely referenced their service, but most of them had the tattoos on their arms and the American Legion membership cards in their wallets to prove it. (I knew because they would sometimes entertain me with whatever they had with them--which for men, was their wallets.) They are all gone now. I will always remember them as good and kindly old men. One morning long ago at Coffee, the phone rang at the bar. The caller was looking for "Smoky." We all looked around to figure out who "Smoky" might be, and after a few seconds, my grandfather got up and slowly made his way to the phone. We all laughed at the nick-name none of us knew about. I told my parents about it later, and they decided it must have been his moniker when he was young. I never knew him to smoke. It was probably the first time I really thought about him having a life before we brushed each other's hair on Friday nights. Recently, in the rich history archive that is my mother's basement, I came across my grandfather's scrapbook from his Navy days. He had enlisted in 1942, on the day after his 19th birthday. I knew he had served in the South Pacific, but that was it. He offered very little about it, which I took as an indication of how little he wanted to talk about it. However, there are many interesting notes and some great photos in that scrapbook. I think they should be shared. I hope that the people in those notes and photos have descendants who might someday discover this information. I also want to share because I'm proud of his service. I knew him only as a good and kindly old man. But in a life long before I knew him, he was very young, and surely brave, and probably terrified. Judging by all the wartime photos of him with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, he was also a chain smoker.

It's so good to meet you, Smoky.

WWII photo booth
"Smoky" on the left

WWII scrapbook
The WWII Cruise Album of Francis C. Snow


bottom of page