Hendren Township

Clark County, Wisconsin

George James Plautz

In a log cabin built by my parents and other help in Willard, Wisconsin, I, George J. Plautz, was born on March 18, 1918. My parents were Steve and Mary Plautz. I was number ten in line of our family of thirteen. I was a big baby and my mother was having a problem delivering me. The only phone at that time was at Perovsek’s, so someone from the family went there to call a doctor. I finally came, and they had to hurry back to Perovsek’s and tell the doctor not to come. He was hitching his horse up when they stopped him. In those days, midwives took care of the births. Mrs. Bukovec and Mrs. Lucas took care of me, and two weeks later they helped Mrs. Lucas with her daughter, Mary.

My dad died in October 1926, so I don’t remember much about him. We were in school when someone came in and told us, so we went home. We were building a new barn then, and I can remember mixing the mortar between the rocks for the wall after school. We got the barn done in 1927, and we started to get things ready to build a new house in 1928. We had three horses then, and I would drive one horse pulling a scraper, and my brother Frank had the team on another scraper, and we dumped the dirt from digging the basement in a fill at the north end of the barn. I couldn’t dump the scraper, so I waited for Frank to come with his load, and he would dump mine for me. We made all the lathes for the house, and I helped after school to nail up the lathes so we could plaster. We didn’t have wallboard like now. My brothers, Mike and Frank, rigged up a saw rig and drove it off a rear wheel of a Model T car made into a truck. Sawed the logs first into two-inch planks, and after we changed over to saw them into quarter inch two lathes. I would stack on one end and Mike would feed the two-inch plank into the saw, and I would catch it on the other end and shove it back to do it over again, and I would take the cut lathe and put it in a pile of 50 and tie the bundle up. I remember yet getting a spot on my finger that bled, and I would leave a little on each lathe. I didn’t have any gloves then.

We were burning wood then – what else? So, we would make wood in the winter or fall for next year. We had some land east of Willard, and Mike and I mostly would go there after chores and cut popple trees and stack them. We cut the trees down with an ax or if bigger, with a crosscut saw. Wish I’d had a chainsaw! When we had good sledding, I would go there and get a load of poles and bring them home, and when we got them all home, the neighbor Lucas had a saw rig with a John Deer engine, and he would saw up the pile into firewood. We had a lot of hard wood, and we would cut them in chunks and use them for heating. The popple we would use in the kitchen stove for a quick fire. I would cut up the popple into small pieces, and one time we got the handle stuck on the stump I was using for a chopping block and nearly cut off my left thumb. I still have the scar. I made a bobsled and would use that to haul the firewood to the porch for Mom to get it easier.

In the new house we had a large furnace, and you had to be careful how much you fed it. One night I stoked it up good, and we had to open all the registers and doors, it got so hot! More careful after that.

I graduated from eighth grade in the spring of 1931. Josephine Jordan was my eighth grade teacher. They were having some school doings in the Greenwood High School, and Josephine took us there in her car. It cost ten cents to get in, and she paid that. We had a team of three of us, Leo Gregorich, Victor Trost and I, for the grain judging contest. The school had a drawing for door prizes, and I won a big sausage at least a foot long and three inches in diameter. It was made by Mike Kowieski and another butcher. My brother, John, and Mr. Trost came for me and Victor, and I had that big sausage. Well, anyway, when I got home I hung the sausage on a nail and went to bed. When I got up the next morning there was hanging by the nail about an inch of sausage. I couldn’t believe it! Nobody said anything about who ate it, but they at least left me a taste. I also won 50 cents on the grain judging contest.

We planted a lot of potatoes then. So, on the day of our school picnic, I had to plant potatoes, a whole two acres. My mother used to sell them, and Joe, my brother, used to take them to Milwaukee when he started trucking fruit to Willard and vegetables back to Milwaukee. We used to dig all the potatoes by hand, so Mike and I hooked up the potato-hiller behind the Model T to have it a little easier. It didn’t take very long before we burned up the low band and had to quit. My mother was great for doing everything by hand. I, on the other hand, wanted to be modernized, so we had some troubles.

As long as we are on the school subject, I have to tell you this. At recess, the boys always congregated at the toilet. Somebody brought a tobacco pipe to the school without the stem, and they were taking turns taking a drag. Must have had some standard tobacco, too. Nar Bukovec chewed that, I took a drag on that pipe, and I really got sick. My sister, Ann, took me home. She said I turned green. Maybe that’s why I never smoked in my whole life.

At the school, the ground sloped to the north and toward the road. In winter we would carry water and pour it on the road and made an ice rink. Everybody brought a sled and we would ride on the ice. Our elders didn’t like that, as it got pretty slippery on the road. There were no cars in winter going by in the late 1920s, but Perovsek would go by with his team of horses and a sleigh. One day we were coasting down the ice and here comes Perovsek with his horses and the sleigh at a full gallop, and here comes Tex Luzovec on the sled and goes under the horses. Boy! Was that a close call! On the weekends the old-timers would come and put ashes on our ice and smash the homemade sleds, but we watered it right away and kept riding. There was nothing else to do. When there was no snow we played "Duck on a Rock."

After I graduated from eighth grade, I wanted to go to high school, but my mother said she needed me to help with the farm. My brothers, Joe and John, were in road construction then, and Frank and Mike wanted to work for them, so I had to stay home. Seems like I got a little bitter about that. In the early thirties, President Roosevelt came out with the WPA, and Plautz Brothers would furnish trucks to haul the gravel the men on WPA loaded, and so I got a chance to drive truck. Mike taught me how to shift. This was in about 1934 (I was 12 years old). They graded the road past our farm, and I got to level the gravel with our horses and a pony grader. The rate of pay then was 25 cents for me and 25 cents for the team (see picture).

Have to go back a little and tell you that when I learned to drive the Model T, we were haying on the land east of Willard, and it rained and wet the hay, so we left the horses over there until the hay dried. At that time Plautz Brothers was graveling the road by Ulesich’s, so after we loaded the hay we hauled it to our home. There was nobody to drive the Model T home, so Frank said I guess you will have to drive the Model T home. So I started out, and when I got to where they were dumping the gravel I stopped, and Frank Luzovec drove the pickup over the rough dumps they made. You couldn’t spread gravel with the way the boxes were then, so I got in and drove the rest of the way home. I must have not gauged my speed, and I ran into the granary. Didn’t do any damage, but that was my initiation to driving. I had to look between the spokes on the steering wheel for quite a while because I wasn’t tall enough to see over them. I drove my mother around quite a bit after that, and you had to crank the truck to start it, so I would leave it on a hill or the railroad grade, and I would coast to get it started.

Have to back up again. My father died in October 1926. We were in school that day, and John or somebody came to get us. There were no funeral parlors then, so the body was kept at home until the day of the funeral. I stayed home with Mike and Sophie the day of the funeral. I don’t remember my dad, as I was eight years old.

As I got older, I started to work for my brothers also. First I drove truck, and my brother, Frank, patrolled the road, but Plautz Bros went into road grading or building and Frank ran the tractor pulling the big grade, so one day he put me on that 20 Cat and had me patrol the roads. I did that for a few years, and then they got a D4 bulldozer so Frank used that, and I advanced to the big 50 Caterpillar he was driving.

In 1940 I registered for the draft to go into the Army. I was lucky – I got a low number. Like hell! So I was called into the Army May 7th, 1941. I took my physical in Milwaukee and was sworn into the Army May 8th, 1941. We were in Camp Grant in Illinois for a while. We got our uniforms and whatever else we needed. They loaded us on trains and we started out. They wouldn’t tell us where we were going, but we found out quick enough. I got my training at Camp Davis, North Carolina. I had most of my training done by December 1941 and was scheduled to go home on furlough when the Japs struck Pearl Harbor. All furloughs were cancelled, and we broke camp December 12th and were on our way to protect the city of Newport News, Virginia. I was in an anti-aircraft battery. We had searchlights and every size gun you could think of. Battery E 94th Coast Artillery was our name.

We didn’t stay there very long. We were called to Fort Monroe, Virginia, to go overseas. On February 28, 1942, we were brought into Boston Harbor by train and unloaded next to a great big ship, "The Queen Mary." We loaded up and were gone the next day, where to, nobody knew. All we heard was that we were expendable and were going to some live action to stop the Japs or Germans. We stopped at Key West, Rio de Janeiro, South Africa and Western Australia. We knew we were going to fight Japs somewhere. We left Perth in Australia and ended up in Sydney, Australia. They unloaded us after about 40 days on the Queen and loaded us on a train and took us to the city of Brisbane. There we were to protect the city from the Japs. Fortunately, the Navy stopped them in the Coral Sea battle and we didn’t get invaded.

The next stop was New Guinea. We stayed there quite a while. We made three landings in New Guinea, so the next hop was to the Philippines. We landed on Leyte Island right after MacArthur landed there in December 1944. We took part in landing the next island, and that’s where my ship was struck by a Kamikaze plane, which sunk it. I got burned some on my hands and ears. We all had to jump overboard, as the ship was really burning. I was picked up by a small boat and taken to another ship. We landed at Mindoro the next morning in the midst of a Jap air raid. We were lucky it was only one plane.

We stayed in Mindoro until February 26, 1945, when my section loaded up and left with an armada of ships to land at Palawan, Philippines. The Japs had about 150 POWs working there on an airstrip, and we were to liberate them. We got there too late. The Japs put them in a trench and poured gas on them and burned and shot them. There wasn’t any action there, as the Japs were beaten and couldn’t attack us.

I left for home on July 18th, 1945, after three and a half years overseas. We arrived in Hawaii the day the Japs surrendered, so I took in the whole war. Got discharged on August 20th, 1945, at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, so I was in the army a total of four years, three months and three weeks.

I went back to work for Plautz Brothers then and met a young lady named Frances Podrovitz. We got married on June 29, 1946. We lived at the Greenwood gravel pit for a while, but, as we didn’t have much to do in the winter, in 1948 Fran and I went to Milwaukee to work for a while. Plautz Brothers started to work winters, so I came back. Before that I went to the Milwaukee School of Engineering and learned how to weld and cut iron. I had a house built in Greenwood, and Fran and I lived there at 211 West Schofield until August 4, 1954, when she got sick and passed away. Our son, George, Jr., was born August 16, 1950, so I was left with one child.

I had a housekeeper for a while, and then I met a lady, Ellen, who lost her husband, so we got together and married November 16, 1955. Ellen had three children with her first husband and I had George. Ellen and I had two daughters in 1959 and 1960. Laurie Kay is married to Alex Zamarripa and lives in Tomah, Wisconsin. Gigi Renee is single and lives in Marshfield, Wisconsin, where she has a job. Ellen’s son, John, lives close to Ashland, Wisconsin, and is married to Chris. They have a new house. Meda (Ellen’s daughter) and her husband, Jerome Krempasky, live close to us here in Greenwood and also have a new house. George was married, but divorced, so he’s single now and works for the FBI in Washington, DC. Noel Felix, Ellen’s oldest son, is married but his wife, Marie, has multiple sclerosis and doesn’t know anyone any more. She is in a nursing home. Ellen and I built a home in Orlando, Florida, in 1982, next to my sister, Angie. We lived there 16 winters, and then decided to stay in Greenwood all year round. We built a new home on 501 West Begley Street in 1998, and that’s where we are now.

April 2003



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