Byron "Andy" Anderson
Presented by CHUCK HORNER at
May 8, 2012 Rotary Meeting
using a letter from Andy's sister, Joan Anderson Gasper.
Growing up in Winchester, Indiana, a small town of around 7,000 people, was a wonderful experience for my brother, sister and me. First, there was our church, the “Friends Church”, which was located two blocks from the center of the town square. Our family's Quaker heritage dates back to the early 1800's when most of our ancestors first settled into Randolph County, and I feel that this simple but religious background instilled us with a strong faith while also helping us to appreciate and respect the freedom of religion for all. Our 5th great grandfather was among the first official state representatives who first met in Corydon, Indiana in 1816 when Indiana became a state, and he, too was a Quaker. Our paternal grandmother often used the words “thee and thou”, and her father who lived to be 92, lived with them on the farm, and he always presided at silent prayer before family meals.
Then, there were the family reunions in the town's beautiful park, the two movie theaters, walking around the town square on Saturday nights to “people watch” because farmers from around the County drove in for their weekly shopping; or sitting on our front porch watching summer fire flies and watching cars drive by. We also enjoyed going to our grandparents or aunts and uncles farms for countless Sunday gatherings. One of Bryon's first jobs was helping an uncle put hay into the barn loft by riding a horse back and forth as a pulley hauled up the bales. Just a few years ago, Byron laughed about how this job made him feel like he was really “hot stuff”! — at 10 years ok!! However, for many years, he did have a very thin scar near a thumb because he upset an old mother hen while trying to get one of her eggs at our grandparent's farm.
Our schools must have been excellent, although our parents always expected, and received, good reports from our teachers. “Hap” and Mary Anderson did not demand much from their three children, Byron, Joan, and Sue, but we were expected to complete Saturday chores before play time, and our family life was full of love, laughter and happiness — USUALLY. But as in most families, there were times when brothers and sisters tangled. Being the middle child, with 3-l/2 years age difference between all of us, it seemed to be my duty as a younger sister to pester my big brother — or at least let him know I even existed, but I did know my limits and there were two areas that were strictly OFF limits for me: his Boy Scout equipment and his airplane models. You'll hear more about this later.
Early Quaker beliefs didn't dwell on having a Christmas with “all the trimmings”, but our parents were probably more liberal in that area, because our holidays always seemed special. We were expected to give and receive gifts graciously, and we had to do extra duty to earn money to buy for others. Our mother helped out in this area by making peanut brittle for us to sell. Byron and I canvassed the neighborhood and friends to take orders two weeks before Christmas. We divided the street into blocks and he would canvas one side while I did the other. Then, a few days before Christmas mother would start the huge process of making the brittle. A medium-size sack sold for 20 cents and the small one for 10 cents. Of course neither of us made much money, but the experience was great. This was one of the few times the two of us did something together because mother made us stay together to do it. (It also provided a little “quiet time” around the house for the rest of the family while we were gone.)
The house where we grew up had a concrete walkway along the side, which connected two streets, and our kitchen window and a door opened out to this path. Our friends used this connection to walk to school. There was a short time in Byron's life when he fancied himself a baker and began making up a recipe for a different sort of brownie, which he called Indian Sticks, and they were quite good. But whenever he was in the kitchen, the window shades were always pulled down because he didn't want his buddies to see him cooking in the kitchen. For his 60th birthday, I made copies of his Indian Stick recipe and included a brief background — then mailed them out to his Purdue Trustee friends — even to President Beering. I framed a copy of this just for Byron so he could hang it by his desk, but somehow it never made it on the wall. (Does anyone hear any thunder from above???)
Byron's love of the Boy Scouts started at an early age because he had asthma and could never participate in heavy sports. He was the first Eagle Scout in our county — something that gave him much pride. But his love for airplanes began even earlier than Scouts. Our house had a large closet which was his own little “private domain”. In this small space, he would spend hours gluing balsa wood together before painting, and finished models which always hung from the ceiling in his bedroom. Byron earned his own money to buy the models by selling magazine subscriptions door to door. While in High School, the county schools sponsored a poster contest shortly after the beginning of World War II, and our family was elated when Byron's poster was chosen the winner. The poster was simple but elegant. He had drawn an airplane flying in the clouds with the words: “Victory through Air Power”.
Byron did not go to his Senior Prom and did not attend High School Graduation ceremonies because he graduated early. He turned 17 in September and enrolled at Purdue the following January. It was here that he learned about the V-12 program — a special flight school training in the Navy, which was an exciting time for him. While stationed at Chapel Hill, he also joined a small swing band because he was a trumpet player and loved both jazz and swing music, and he had played in our school's marching band. Actual flight training in the V-l2 program began at Pensacola, and after only a few months of flying, Byron decided that after the war, he wanted to be a pilot with any big airlines that would hire him. But by then, those jobs went to the older and more experienced pilots, so he came back to Purdue to study engineering instead. Just a few years ago, he confessed to me that not being an airline pilot was a huge disappointment for him at that time.
Our Dad was a very devoted Rotarian. He and mother even went to two National Conventions. Of course, back in those days,
women were excluded as official members, but mother always called herself a “Rotary-Ann”. As children, we always
welcomed the Mondays when Dad would be at the Rotary Club, because we would have something for lunch that Dad wouldn't
eat — usually Hot Dogs! Just recently, Byron and I laughed about those fun Monday lunches.
My big brother always was ..... and will always be my hero!
Joan Anderson Gasper