Lee Hausler is a retiree from Consumers Energy. He is also a Military Veteran, husband and father. He turned 100 April 2, 2022. Listen as he talks about his extraordinary life and shares his wisdom. This is part 1 of a 2 part series.
Announcer: The views and opinions of the guests of the “Me You Us” podcast do no represent the views and opinions of Consumers Energy.
Bill Krieger: Hello, everyone. Welcome to Me You Us, a wellbeing podcast. It’s another wellbeing Wednesday here at Consumers Energy. I’m you host, Bill Krieger. Today is part one in a two-part series, talking to my guest, Lee Hausler.
He’s a Consumers Energy retiree, a military veteran. He just celebrated his 100th birthday on April 2nd. Lee, if you would introduce yourself, we’ll get the conversation started.
Lee Hausler: Hi. Well, I was born in Portland, Oregon, and moved to Iowa when my father died and lived in Cedar Rapids for quite a while. I got left there when I was a [inaudible 1:14] in high school.
Bill: What brought you from Portland to Iowa? Did you have family in Iowa?
Lee: Yes. My grandmother lived in Iowa, Cedar Rapids. I spent most of my youth in Iowa. I actually think I was five years old when I moved. My father died when I was three.
Bill: What happened to your father?
Bill: Oh, OK.
Lee: He got that in the Navy. He was running a business for a while. It was original microphone thing, like a horn, you know?
Bill: Uh huh.
Lee: They had a factory here in Michigan, down in…Anyway, it’s Southern Michigan. At least he had his title and name on the paperwork that I’ve seen since then.
Bill: They made microphones back in the day, but the old, big style. Is that…?
Lee: Yeah, it was a big horn, records…
Lee: Yeah, it was a big horn, records. He had an office in Cedar Rapids Bank Building and my mother was his secretary.
Bill: How long were they married?
Lee: They were married until she died. He died a little bit later. Now they’re both buried down in Mesa, Arizona. They just took off one weekend, buried over in Omaha.
Bill: Oh my goodness.
Lee: It turned out this guy, John Cook, his picture is in the room there, was her boyfriend before she met my dad. It wasn’t hard to pick up again. Keep going. He was a railroad man, 50 years at Rock Island Railroad. Worked right through the…
Bill: The depression?
Lee: Yeah. Depression. Actually working seven days a week.
Bill: Yeah. [laughs] I would assume that at that time in history, the railroads were…
Lee: That was it.
Bill: That was the big thing, right?
Bill: That was how people traveled. That’s how we got all the way out west.
Lee: Yeah. I had the benefit of free passes on them.
Lee: I did some trailer myself.
Bill: Oh that’s not a bad deal. [laughs]
Lee: I get out the West Coast a of couple times.
Bill: Did you graduate from school in Iowa?
Lee: Which school?
Bill: From high school?
Lee: No. High school I started in Iowa. All the way from Arthur. Grade school until Franklin High. When I got back to be about a junior, my stepfather moved to Chicago, so they moved me to Chicago with them, but I never went to school there. They moved into El Dorado, Arkansas before I got into classes. I spent about a summer in Chicago.
Then I went down to El Dorado, Arkansas, which is way down by the southern border of Arkansas. I learned about how the other half was living. Went to a restricted school. There was no minorities.
From there, my dad, later on, moved to Peoria, Illinois, which is where I left high school, although I guess I didn’t officially, on paper, graduate until sometime later. I had enough credits to meet all the requirements for graduation or lacked about half a credit. I just wanted to work.
Bill: What did you do for work?
Lee: My first job was a gandy dancer on the railroad. That was a summer job.
Bill: I have to ask. I’ve eaten at a restaurant in Ann Arbor called the Gandy Dancer, and I’ve heard this term before. What does a gandy dancer do?
Lee: They’re a repair crew for the railroads, track repair.
Bill: Do you have any idea where that name came from? It’s an interesting name for a job.
Lee: No, I don’t.
Bill: I’ll have to do a little research on that and find out. You worked for the railroad for a while?
Lee: I worked every summer. I started out as a gandy dancer, and we slept in cars right there, so I got room and board plus 35 cents an hour or something like that.
Bill: That was big money back then though, wasn’t it?
Lee: Yeah, as long as you get room and board.
The first year, I was a gandy dancer. The second summer I did surveying for them. In the meantime, in Iowa, I took some surveying courses. I did that for the next two years. The second year, I was making fast curves out of slow curves.
Bill: What does that mean?
Lee: I used to take out all the curves on a sharper curve. The third one, I was doing bridges.
Bill: You went from doing repairs to serving out the tracks, and now you’re working on bridges. That’s got to be very interesting work.
Lee: Yeah, but you’ve got to watch your back because there might be a train coming in five minutes.
Bill: That’s true. There wasn’t a lot of warning, was there?
Bill: Not at all.
Lee: Just two people, you and your guy driving the safe. I did pretty good. I got money there and never took any debt of any kind in college.
Bill: Were you going to college when you were working at the railroad?
Lee: Yeah. The first fall, I went and, no formality, I just started class.
Bill: You went to Iowa State?
Lee: Iowa U.
Bill: I want to make sure I get that right because I know there’s a little bit of a rivalry there.
Lee: Yeah, I was city.
Bill: What were your classes for? What degree were you…
Lee: My dream was mechanical engineering. I had some higher nuclear training later on, but…
Bill: Did you join the military after college or during college?
Lee: During. I was a sophomore.
Bill: You were a sophomore in college. That would’ve been right around the time World War II happened.
Bill: Did you join the military or were you drafted?
Lee: No, I wasn’t drafted. I had a draft number but I volunteered. I was sophomore time.
Bill: You were in the Air Force, but it was known as the Army Air Corps at the time. What did you do in the Air Force?
Lee: I was only cadet initially. We had six?week basic training down in Oakland, Florida. Then I came by train into Jackson. I was confused for quite a while because the track was going a different direction. I had 90 degrees in my head, but finally got straightened out there.
Bill: You got to your basic training and you had six weeks of that. Then where did you go from there?
Lee: To Panama Hotel in Grand Rapids. That was our cadet training. Learned how to do all the sheet work too and so forth. There’s two people, two in a room. I survived the course. It was rugged, a lot of memory work and stuff. I flunked out 20 percent of us.
Bill: You made it through?
Lee: I made it through.
Bill: What was your job in the Air Force then?
Lee: Initially after I got to the certificate, I was sent to Pratt, Kansas, which was a base for the first B29s. I forecasted weather for B29 for better part of a year anyway. Then they sent me to New York. Trained me for air traffic control.
Bill: Now, when you talk about forecasting weather for the B29s, for the people in the audience, the weather is very important, especially for those aircraft. You had to be fairly accurate so that they could do their job.
Lee: Accurate is what we had to deal with. Forecast during training and learn how to forecast United States one boom, lose your mag station what that boom was telling you. Wasn’t back in the day where he had…
Bill: No satellites or anything like that, right? It was just a weather balloon.
Lee: You knew what general weather was coming from the west. You might have a couple stations out on the ocean, permanent places, but not very many.
Bill: You did that for about a year, and then you said you went to New York and got trained as an air traffic controller?
Lee: Yeah. At that point they decided they needed us overseas, or they needed us where we were at.
Bill: Where did you go from New York?
Lee: I went to Algiers, North Africa. I spent the rest of the way there. I got some time in States for it. I discuss…
Bill: What was it like in North Africa during the war?
Lee: Pretty soft as far as nobody was shooting at me. The French were in control of the area.
Bill: You did air traffic control for the…They had an airport there then?
Lee: Yeah, but we didn’t do anything for the French or British. They were French and British planes in there too. They had their own. They all used the same airport.
Bill: Each country had their own traffic controllers, though?
Lee: There was a tower controlled by the local people, but way more or less were independent airline in that airport.
Bill: How long did you do that?
Lee: Until I got shipped home after the war. Which must have been what? I’m not sure of the date right now. Anyway, we came to Gibraltar. I have pictures on my iPad of pictures I’ll be standing there in the deck, big rock in the background.
Bill: You know, Lee, I spent a little time in the Navy and this was back in the ’80s. I actually probably have a very similar picture of myself on a ship with the Rock of Gibraltar behind me. That’s very interesting. What was it? Was it pretty exciting coming home then?
Lee: Oh, yeah. I haven’t seen my wife since. That’s one thing I did. At Grand Rapids I got married.
Bill: Oh, so let’s talk about that. Let’s back up a little bit. You were in Grand Rapids for training and you met someone?
Lee: Yeah. She was in nurses training at the time, and they gave a dance for its soldiers and there, I saw her across the room. I said, “Boy, that’s good of a girl over there.”
Lee: I went over and asked for dance. A year later I married her.
Bill: Wow. That’s a great story. I have to ask though, when she looked across the room and saw you, did she say that’s a good looking fellow or did you have to do some convincing?
Lee: I didn’t do any convincing. She said yes…
Bill: That’s great. What was your wife’s name?
Lee: Margaret Ann.
Bill: You met there and got married a year later, you said?
Bill: Was she able to go with you to New York when you went for training there, or did she stay…
Lee: No. She never went anyplace because we got married in August, and D?day, I was in Mauritius, or, rather, I was in Algiers, D?Day.
Bill: I see, so it was several years before you saw your wife again after you left for the war.
Lee: Yeah, and a letter every day.
Bill: Those letters mean a lot. I have been to Iraq myself. I remember letters and…Well, I came from a time where there was email, so we were able to send email back and forth. That really helped keep me going. Did those letters help keep you going?
Lee: Oh yeah.
Bill: They send you home after the war. You’re on the ship headed home. You’re going to see your wife again. That must have felt pretty good.
Lee: That was a good day.
Bill: I’ll bet. Did the ship come in to New York Harbor then, or where did you…
Lee: It came in to New Orleans.
Bill: New Orleans?
Lee: Yeah. Then I had a leave, a short leave. I went up and met my wife in Michigan. We met in Grand Rapids, Grand River, the hotel there. Then we went back, saw her parents and so forth, which I’d only met during our wedding. I guess I saw them once before that.
Bill: You really didn’t know her family, then.
Bill: She didn’t know your family either, did she?
Lee: I had taken her on a back and met my family. That was just after we were married. I took the [inaudible 20:27] ferry across to…
Bill: Is that the ferry that goes to Wisconsin?
Lee: Yeah, it was going way south. What was it?
Bill: Oh, that’s where you started.
Lee: Yeah, Ludington to…
Bill: Yes, and I can’t remember the name of the town either. We’ve been on that ferry a couple of times.
Lee: I got there with no reservations. There was a big convention going on, and everything was filled, so I took a train to Chicago. We checked into the hotel there and give them a sad story about a wedding night and no place to stay, and they gave me the bridal suite for the price of a regular room.
Bill: That’s pretty nice. [laughs]
Lee: We spent two nights there, and then I wanted to go back to my family and celebrate there. That was all in about a 10?day period before I was shipped overseas.
Bill: You come home, and you’re with your bride again. I’ve been gone for a year and a half, but never more than that. I know how that felt when I came home, so it must have been an amazing reunion. Once you got back, what did you do?
Lee: I traveled mostly, on trains, all the way to the East Coast, down the East Coast, across the country to San Francisco, up the coast, and then up to Spokane. That’s the first place we had housekeeping together. She didn’t travel that much. She came out to Spokane.
Bill: Did you settle in Spokane for a while then?
Lee: I was assigned to an airfield there. They only had one airplane, so it wasn’t much of a job.
Bill: It sounds like a pretty good job after the war.
Lee: The manager of the airport had his own private plane I guess. That was all I did for him, but that didn’t last too long, of course. They sent me over to…
Bill: Fort Lewis, that area?
Lee: Yeah, that’s right, Fort Lewis.
Bill: I’ve been to Fort Lewis myself. That’s a beautiful place.
Lee: Yeah. That’s where I got discharged…
Lee: Yeah. That’s where I got discharged. I traveled down there by bus to Portland because I had a grandmother in Portland. We got off on Sandy Boulevard [inaudible 23:27] . I got off the bus two blocks from my Grandmother’s house and walked over there, knocked on the door.
Bill: Was your grandma glad to see you?
Lee: Oh, yeah. We stayed there for about two weeks, visited all the West Coast people that actually during my real life, I hadn’t seen much of.
Bill: You visited your grandmother, and you visited family on the West Coast that you, even before the war, hadn’t seen in a while.
Lee: I’d seen for the first time really because I didn’t remember when I was three years old. I didn’t remember that at all.
Bill: That’s true.
Lee: My mother drove us in the family car all the way across, non?highways, to Iowa.
Bill: After you got done traveling and visiting family, you came back to Iowa? Did you go back to college?
Lee: Yeah, I went to college. The day after I got officially discharged, I was back in class.
Bill: You finished out. You got your degree in mechanical engineering then? Then what did you do? You’re a veteran, you’re home, you’re married. Any children yet?
Lee: Nope, no children, which was amazing because we didn’t worry about birth control. She was a good Catholic. She didn’t care about that.
Bill: [laughs] But, no children. That is pretty amazing, actually.
Lee: My first child was when I was working with West Allis, Allis-Chalmers. My first child was born when I was in the middle of Michigan going home to get there in time, go to Ludington in time.
Bill: Your first child was born in Ludington, MI?
Bill: Were you traveling for Allis-Chalmers at the time?
Lee: Nope. I was commuting about 40 miles. It was on a farm down south there on the highway, which I had gotten through another Allis-Chalmers guy. We had the same job, so we traveled together for a while until I got where I found this house down here, a farm actually. Moved in down there, and brought my wife over.
Bill: The farm or the house that you bought, that was in Jackson?
Lee: No, this was in Wisconsin. I was still working at Allis-Chalmers.
Bill: How long did you stay at Allis-Chalmers?
Lee: I can’t remember, one or two years.
Bill: What did you do after that?
Lee: I applied for a job I think with Consumers.
Bill: It was Consumers Power at the time, right?
Bill: While I was still working there, I wanted to find a job in Michigan somewhere. Somebody suggested the power company, so I sent a letter to somebody. It could have been [inaudible 27:43] . I’m not sure. It was in my early life, anyway. They sent me a offer, and I took it.
Bill: Unfortunately, that’s all the time we have for this week. Please tune in next week. You can hear the rest of Lee Hausler’s story.
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