Herb Elfring retired from Consumers Energy in 1985 after a 35 year career in engineering.  He is also a Pearl Harbor Survivor, a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather and much, much more.  Listen as he tells the story of his 100 years of living life to the fullest.  This is the final part of a three part series.

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1218548/9941638-go-for-it-grandpa-featuring-stan-mazur-pt-1.mp3?download=true

William Krieger 

Hello everyone and welcome to Me You Us, a wellbeing podcast. It’s another wellbeing Wednesday here at Consumers Energy, and I’m your host Bill Krieger. Today is our third and final installment of my interview with Herb Elfring. So, let’s listen in and find out what happens after Herb leaves the military.

Herb Elfring 

I got there probably late July I guess, because I was back home to Montana and on leave in August when the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. And then the second was dropped on Nagasaki on the ninth of August 1945. Why I got a telegram from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to report for separation from the service already before the war was over in Japan.

William Krieger 

Oh my gosh. So, when you…I want to ask though, so when you heard about the bombs being dropped on Japan? Do you or did the people around you realize how big that was?

Herb Elfring 

Not at all, because well, I was home on leave of course and all I heard was the bombs were dropped. We didn’t have any idea how devastating they were, at least I didn’t. And first Hiroshima and second one on Nagasaki. 

William Krieger

Well, you knew something had happened because all of a sudden now they’re going to process you for discharge.

Herb Elfring 

Now because I hadn’t been able to take any leave, my official separation from service was in November 1945…November 18th, after the Japanese surrendered in September 1945. 

William Krieger

Getting back to the point system because I’ve heard other veterans talk about that. And at the height of the of World War Two, even though there was a point system in place, you know, well, well, before you were able to rotate back to the states, they kind of suspended that like, like people thought they were going to come home and then they didn’t because the war was raging at that time, especially in Europe, and on the ground there. So, it was a great point system if it worked. But as you and I both know, it doesn’t always happen the way we want it to in the military, that’s for sure. So, you go to Fort Leavenworth and you get processed for discharge. And now what?

Herb Elfring 

Well, then I am on my own and what a what an empty feeling that really is, you know, here I’m turned out no job or anything you know, no income. So, anyway.

William Krieger

Did you miss the guys? Because I remember being in the National Guard. I remember I did a combat deployment to Iraq. I was glad to come home. But there was a part of me that missed all those people I’d been hanging around with. How’d that feel for you?

Herb Elfring 

That’s right, because I went in with a lot of young guys, high school kids, you know, in September 1940. Yeah.

William Krieger 

And you spent a lot of time with them. Like that was all you did was spend time with them really. Did you keep in contact with any of them?

Herb Elfring 

I did for a lot of years and of course they’ve all passed on now. I may be the only guy left from their battery of 251st Coastal Artillery. I could find out, but I don’t know how.

William Krieger 

Yeah, yeah, I guess after all these years it’d be hard to track people down but that’s pretty amazing. You know, we talked about you have you retired from Consumers Energy. So, let’s go back to you got out here you are kind of on your own. No job. No nothing. You got your paperwork in your hand.

Herb Elfring 

Here it is. Well, that’s probably August sometime. And I was a time when the Army Navy I guess had a lot of planes and fly but no reason to fly anymore. Right, they find excuses to go someplace, and I was able to get a ride to Florida on a military plane, for your free ride you know? Because my sister was there and her husband, so I said well that would be a good thing to do just go and see my sister. While I was there, I like oh god how can I get down to Trinidad to see my brother in the Navy. So, I went to Banana River Florida and got a sea plan to Puerto Rico.

William Krieger 

Was that a pretty exciting flight?

Herb Elfring 

Yeah, well it was different, ya know. Yeah, seaplane, a lot of noise when you land on the water, I noticed that. And now I was able to get a plane on into Trinidad. Saw my brother, saw him a few days. I was able to catch armored transport plane to Miami and got to Miami just ahead of a hurricane. So, I experienced the hurricane in Miami. That would be well, 1945 about September sometime. Right after Japan surrendered. Yeah. So, from there, I hitchhiked back up to Banana River. And how did I get over to Eglin field? Anyway I did and that from there I was able to catch it, an Army plane to Albuquerque New Mexico and another one to Glendale, California. 

William Krieger 

Right back to where it all kind of started from.

Herb Elfring

I wanted to get back to San Diego because while I was in while I was in Trinidad, my brother was chief and at that time the Navy had pilots that were chiefs. So anyway while I was there why it was decided that a plane should fly back to Bremerton California for overhaul of some kind and these two chiefs were going to the take the plane back. Well, anyway, San Diego was one of their stopping off places. So I got to San Diego from Glendale, California to visit my brother’s wife while I was there, and they came into California as planned. I got on the plane one day then and headed for Bremerton, Washington with these two chiefs.

William Krieger 

Sounds like an adventure in the beginning.

Herb Elfring

We got as far as Long Beach and we got socked in with weather for three days and then didn’t know really when we’d take off again. Somehow or another I’d arranged a flight from the area to McCook Field Nebraska on an Army plane. And that’s what I did. I went to McCook Field, Nebraska and then up to Watertown, South Dakota, where my sister had a farm and where I was born. 

William Krieger 

So a complete circle now, right? You sound very resourceful, because it doesn’t sound like you were buying tickets and planning this out. It was just getting there by chance. What did it feel like to be back? Kind of back to your roots, back where you came from?

Herb Elfring 

Well, I’ll tell you the most the touching site I’ll ever experience in my life was sailing underneath the Golden Gate Bridge on the way home in 1945 after leaving in 1940.

William Krieger 

That’s a longtime to be away from home. 

Herb Elfring

Yeah.

William Krieger 

Well, I have to ask so, you spent a lot of time in flights going to visit family? How important is family to you Herb?

Herb Elfring

I’d say very important. And the family’s very close, even though we’re spread out terribly, I have two sons here in Michigan, a son and daughter in Texas, and a daughter in Florida.

William Krieger 

But it sounds like you spent your whole life even though you were in the military and you were gone. It was so important to be with family even when your father lost the farm and your family was kind of split up. You kind of came back together. That must have been kind of an amazing feeling to see them again.

Herb Elfring

Yeah, yeah. But you know, you just do what you have to do. And of course, you grew up to that point without much of anything anyway. So hardship was very hard for some would have been for some people, but it didn’t seem that to us, even though.

William Krieger 

It seems like it was almost an opportunity for you in some way.

Herb Elfring

Well, it was it turned out to be an opportunity to get to Montana or dad to get employment. Get the family back together. Yeah.

William Krieger 

So you can you come home, back to where everything started. And then what happened from there?

Herb Elfring

Well, I spent the fall hunting pheasants in South Dakota.

William Krieger 

That must have felt good, I might even say great. 

Herb Elfring

Maybe but of course, there was no income anymore. And whatever I did on the farm, I was just free gratis from staying there, you know? So I had enrolled at the University of Michigan. So when fall came I headed for Michigan.

William Krieger 

And so that’s what brought you to Michigan. Alright. I was trying to figure out how the story was going to come around to Michigan.

Herb Elfring

Well, I ended up it was probably a couple of guys that I was in the service with that were Michiganders, and they talked Michigan. And seemed like, well what I tell people is on the GI bill, you could go anyplace. And so why not go to the best!

William Krieger 

Now my brother-in-law would agree with you, my brother-in-law, Lewy, graduated from University of Michigan with a law degree so he would agree with you to this day that he went to the best place that you could go to so I’m going to make sure I pass that along. he’ll, he’ll get a chuckle out of it.

Herb Elfring

And a good football team that those days to, you know.

William Krieger 

Sounds like they’re coming back around.

Herb Elfring

Yeah, well, they hit a hit a bad hump in the road there with Georgia. But anyway, Harbaugh has made a big change this past season as well.

William Krieger 

And I think the big 10 Looks pretty good. Now we’re going to have some good football games for 2022. So you get here. So you’re going to go to University of Michigan, I don’t want to get too far off track here. So you, you get there. And now what did you study? And how was it to be there?

Herb Elfring 

Well, I guess the fact that I was in radar during the war involved electricity a little bit. I decided just to take electrical engineering as a major. To start with they, because of the war veterans have been away from school for so long, they had a refresher course of the university offered, just starting in January of 1946. And so I participated in that before I got into the real.

William Krieger 

I want to ask you a question too, because as a veteran, I didn’t go to college, and I didn’t get my bachelor’s degree until I was 38. And I get my master’s degree till I was 50. So everyone I went to school with was a heck of a lot younger than me and hadn’t had some of the experiences that I had. And I wonder if you experienced that too. And what was that like for you?

Herb Elfring 

Well, I feel that I never had the feeling of a kid out of high school going to college. You know? I think for the most part, veterans are just they’re looking at it as a job preparation for sure. And we’re more interested in getting a degree and getting out rather than taking part in a fraternity and all these other things that students like to get into.

William Krieger 

Right, a little more serious about your education and maybe then someone.

Herb Elfring

I also about my future wife, you know, so we were married when I was a junior in college.

William Krieger 

So how did you meet?

Herb Elfring

Well, I guess it was just at a dance.

William Krieger 

So you did you ask her to dance, or did she ask you?

Herb Elfring

I am pretty sure I asked her to dance. But she was already a college graduate. She was working at the Veteran’s Readjustment Center at the University of Michigan hospital. 

William Krieger 

Now, was she a nurse?

Herb Elfring

Oh no, I never can remember exactly what her major was. But she took a lot of histories of patients, you know.  And pass on the line for help.

William Krieger 

So you met her at this dance? I’m assuming you dated for a little while.

Herb Elfring

We dated for a little while and finally got married in 1948.

William Krieger 

All right. And then you it sounds like you’ve started your life a lot. Right? You, you had your whole military career and all of that. And then you kind of went to college and then you got married. And so you graduated from college. You’re a married man. Now what?

Herb Elfring 

Married man and pregnant wife. I got a job at Consumers Power. And then we had our first child, six months after I started working, started in February 1950. My oldest daughter was born August 1950.

William Krieger 

What did you do at Consumers when you started there?

Herb Elfring

It was in the electric transmission engineering department. The reason was because that’s the only job, I guess in a company that didn’t spin out to the divisions for some reason or another. It was strictly all in the general office.

Mixed Conversation

So you had your daughter and what’s her name? Her name is Carol. Okay. And then, so you have more children? Right? I have five. Yeah, I thought I thought you had more than one. Yeah. Yeah. Three boys, two girls. Oh my gosh, that must have kept you busy.

William Krieger 

Well, I guess it did. I guess it did. But we made some really good friends. You know, played bridge and pinnacle and I wound up with a boat at Clark Lake, at the Consumers location out there.

William Krieger 

I’m familiar with that.

Herb Elfring

Yeah. So I had a boat up there for years and I had a good family life along with working here in Jackson. 

William Krieger 

And you said now that you have three of your children who live in Michigan are two boys here in Michigan.

Herb Elfring

A boy and a girl in Texas and a girl in Florida.

William Krieger 

And you get together often I don’t last couple of years have been hard to do that but other than that….

Herb Elfring

I don’t know if you heard about it, but I was Veteran of the Day at the Rutgers football game in Ann Arbor this fall.

William Krieger 

Well, I didn’t know that Herb. Tell me about that. Going back to your alma mater as the veteran of the day, what was that like?

Herb Elfring

My youngest son who lives in Lansing, he was contacted because he’s a UM grad also and they wanted to recognize an alum, Michigan grad. So I was chosen to be Veteran of the day that day. They put me up on the screen on the game, you know, with three of my grandkids next to me on the field. And 106,000 plus fans cheering for me. It was a touching event.

William Krieger 

And a good game.

Herb Elfring 

Yeah, we won. We won. We won the scoreboard way. We lost the game pretty much.

William Krieger 

Yeah, well, that’s true. But you didn’t lose at the end of the day. It was good Rutgers put up a pretty good, good fight there.

Herb Elfring 

Yeah. So anyway, all five of the kids were able to come back for that occasion.

William Krieger 

Now that’s great. It must have been great to have them all together at one time.

Herb Elfring

Yes. It was, then my oldest son arranged for tickets for all of them through people, he knew, and so forth and so on. And I guess it was like 16 relatives of some kind of grandkids and great grandkids.

William Krieger 

So how many grandkids and great grandkids do you have?

Herb Elfring

I have eight grandkids. And seven, great grandkids. 

William Krieger 

It must be pretty amazing to see your family grow and continue to grow Like that. So we were talking before we got on microphone. And you said that last year, you hit that magic spot where you were retired for 35 years, and you had worked for 35 years. So now we’re turning that corner where you’re going to have more time where you haven’t been at work necessarily than you were at work. How’s it feels to be kind of in that situation?

Herb Elfring

It feels good just to be taken care of here, for instance. And also, it feels good to have investments that have been not too bad. And I feel very comfortable for the rest of my life.

William Krieger 

Well, that’s good and in March is a pretty big milestone. You turn 100 and that is an amazing feat all on its own. So, I have to ask, you know, you’ve had, you’ve lived quite a life. It doesn’t sound like there are a whole lot of dull moments in your life.

Herb Elfring

Well, it’s had its challenges, but it’s also had its fantastic times. So, we’ve had an excellent life here in Jackson, raising a family and working with Consumers. A great company like Consumers.

William Krieger 

Well, and I wanted to ask you what, so when you came to Jackson, did your wife continue working in Ann Arbor?

Herb Elfring 

No, no she was pregnant at the time we came and the only the only job she’s done then as she worked as census taker in 1950. So she had our first child then in August. She’s a busy mother from then on.

William Krieger 

I was going to say with five children. It’s not like she didn’t have a job. Certainly she worked very, very, very hard every day.

Herb Elfring

It’s very satisfactory. 

William Krieger 

Well, good, and you know, something else I want to ask too is what do you do to take care of yourself for your own personal wellbeing? I mean, someone doesn’t live to be 100 and not take care of themselves. So what are some of the things that you do?

Herb Elfring

Well, oh, it’s almost to the point. Well, what did I did?

William Krieger 

Right, well, that’s true.

Herb Elfring

I’ve always been fairly active, but I’ve never done anything with real big concentration like running every day for five miles for instance. So I’ve been active in golf and tennis and skiing. I used to ride my bike quite a bit. And so I’ve done a little, little things but never any to the point of it doing me in so to speak.

William Krieger 

Right, right. Enough to keep you active and healthy. 

Herb Elfring

I guess so and I probably have got some pretty good genes too I suppose? I don’t know.

William Krieger 

It must be. Sounds like your family was very hardworking, and, you know, you can’t be a farmer and not work hard. 

Herb Elfring

You got that right. Yeah. So you know, the family, my original family have had its downfalls you know like, one sister was killed in a car crash and another sister died at a young age of illness in Montana. And the rest of them I guess all did pretty good. And my oldest brother was 89 when he passed, my older sister was 97 when she passed. My brother, just older than me, had throat cancer because of his work conditions and he died when he was 65 or something like that. And I have one, one brother left he just turned 90 this past July so I went to Montana to his 90th birthday.

William Krieger 

That must have been that must have been nice to see him. 

Herb Elfring

His wife planned a three-day affair and there’s a lot of family came back for the occasion.

William Krieger 

That’s pretty incredible. Well, just one last thing I wanted to ask you before we before we go and that is you know, what message would you like to leave for people as a as a result of this podcast? I mean, you have lived an exciting life. You know, you’re coming up on 100 years old, what message would you like to give to the audience?

Herb Elfring

Well, it’s tough give you a really good one, I suppose because you don’t really have that answer. I tend to let little things not bother me for instance, I don’t get excited over things to me that don’t matter you know. And I think I’ve done things in moderation rather than concentrate on certain things in particular .Yeah, I just getting back to sports, you know, you add these years, your body just doesn’t function like it did in your younger years.  However, it works, but not necessary to. Its best pass. But here goes this last August my daughter and her husband were in from Florida were in we’d been we’d been camping together, and we decided to play nine holes the golf at Ella Sharp park here town. And on hole number 16 at the Ella Sharp Park I go a hole in one.

William Krieger 

 What in the world?

Herb Elfring

And that was my last day of golf that I’ve played.

William Krieger 

Always good to leave on success.

Herb Elfring

I guess so. This past year I haven’t even touched a golf club.

William Krieger 

Hard to hard to live up to the hole in one, right?

Herb Elfring

I think so. And they both my daughters and husband both saw it go in.

William Krieger

I’ve tried to play golf. I’m just not very good at it. And so I do other things. Yeah, but I do have golf clubs.

Herb Elfring

Well, my I’ve played a lot of golf with good friends here in town, we would go away quite often in the spring of the year for a week of golf someplace like in Florida or someplace, it’s been good. I should have taken lessons when I started, I didn’t start until I came to work at Consumers Power in 1950.

William Krieger 

And that was probably an important game to know back then, wasn’t it?

Herb Elfring

Well, everybody seemed to play so the guys I was working with they talked me into getting started I never took any lessons which I should have taken, you know. I guess my one best day was when I reached 80, I shot a score of 80 and at the park. 

William Krieger 

It sounds like the parks been good to you.

Herb Elfring

It has been.

William Krieger 

Well, thanks for taking time to sit and talk with me. This has been incredible for me to talk with you. I was telling somebody the other day that my grandfather lived a really different life. He grew up in Missouri, and lived on a riverboat for a while, and then became a bootlegger, bootlegged whiskey for a long time. But decided to move him in his family up to Michigan for work and left his life of crime behind him. But he would always talk, he would always tell his stories and my other cousins, everything really didn’t, they didn’t want to hear grandpa talk about the old days, right. But I loved to listen to his stories. And my only regret is that he didn’t write them down or record them somehow. Because I mean, that he’s gone now. And so are all of his stories, except for what I remember him telling me. And people’s lives are important. And I think that things that we have done on some levels are important and to capture all that and share it with others is I think we can learn from the past, because we think we have it hard now. But it was hard, then too. And we persevere through all of it. And I think it’s important for people to remember that. Yeah, we’ve had a pandemic for two years, and we’ve been locked down. But there was a time when people didn’t have jobs and people lost their homes and their livelihoods. And they persevered. And they figured things out. And it was not easy. It was it was not, but it brought, in some way,s it brought families closer together in some ways that made us better people. And I think it’s so important for people to know that.

William Krieger 

That concludes my interview with Herb Elfring. I hope you found it as inspirational is I did. You may want to know that as of the publishing of this particular episode, Herb has turned 100 years old. So happy birthday to you Herb, thanks for being on the podcast. Thank you to the audience for listening in today. The Me You Us podcast is proudly sponsored by Consumers Energy leaving Michigan better than we found it. Remember, you can find the Me You Us podcast on all major podcasting platforms. So be sure to go out find us and subscribe. If you or someone you know is in crisis, please contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. That’s 1-800-273-8255 If you are a veteran or know a Veteran who is in crisis, you can call 1-800-273-8255 in press one for the Veterans Crisis Line. And remember to tune in every Wednesday as we talk about the things that impact your personal world.