Robert Hawks–Dad–grew up as the middle son of a large family in the small western Michigan town of Buchanan. His father worked a factory job there at Clark Equipment Company, but they also owned a small farm twenty miles to the north outside the town of Watervliet. During the summer the boys worked the farm during the week while Grandpa worked in town.
The Great Depression came when dad was a young boy. Living on a farm meant he always had enough to eat, but the family was often unable to purchase even simple things like clothes and shoes. Grandpa was laid off from his job at the factory for some time and only with some difficulty kept the house in Buchanan. But like most people, they worked hard and got by. Dad even managed to acquire an ancient Model T Ford, and with the help of his older brother, my Uncle Orville, learned the fine art of tight-budget auto mechanics. To his dying day he never took an automobile any place for service.
By the time the war came things had gotten much better. Dad had graduated from high school, spent a short time working as a salesman at a men’s clothing store, gotten a better car, and was working at Clark Equipment Company. Compared to the depths of the depression, things were very good.
Then came Pearl Harbor. Dad was classified 1-A in December of 1942, and on 18 January 1943 he was inducted into the U. S. Army at Kalamazoo. He boarded a train at St. Joseph on 22 January for Camp Grant, Illinois. On 29 January he went on to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri for six weeks of basic training.