In 1941 my father, Harry Canavan Harvey, graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point. The world was so different than it is now. Of course, family lore is never truly accurate, but to give an example, as a West Point Cadet my father broke the rules and he and a buddy crossed the frozen Hudson River to go to a tavern in Cold Spring, NY. Then, probably due to Murphy’s Law, an ice cutter went up the Hudson, stranding them on the eastern side of the Hudson while looking across the river at West Point. What did he think? I’m sure he would have used the vernacular of the early 1940’s to say the equivalent of “I’m screwed.”
The tale we were told was that he had to hightail it down to the George Washington Bridge (the Tappan Zee Bridge was yet to exist), cross the bridge, and then hitch a ride back to West Point. However, the much closer Bear Mountain Bridge had long been in existence, so I’m guessing that’s really how he got back.
The story goes on that Charles W. Ryder, then Commandant of Cadets at West Point, was not pleased that such a major transgression had taken place, and gave some dire punishment to my father and his friend. Then, the friend was asked to leave, and Cadet Harry Canavan Harvey was left facing the Commandant of Cadets, Major General Charles W. Ryder. General Ryder had graduated from West Point in the class of 1915, known as the class the stars fell on, with my grandfather, Harry Aloysius Harvey, who was killed in action in 1918.
According to my father, Gen. Ryder looked at him and then hit him, saying “That’s from your father.”
I have no idea if this actually happened, but I imagine at least part of this story is true. The bond between the graduates of the Class of 1915 was strong, and it proved to my father that the living graduates kept a close eye on the surviving sons of their classmates.
My father took these lessons and the motto of duty, honor, country seriously, and had a distinguished career as a pilot and bomber pilot in WWII in the Pacific Theater. In 1944, my father was in Papua New Guinea. As this photo shows, my dad was posing with local tribal leaders.
That is the world in which my father became a man. He lived through so many changes in his career and in society. I know that we had a TV when he was stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage, Alaska serving as the Deputy Chief of Operations and Training, Alaska Air Command. This is proof that even in 1954 parents plopped their kids in front of the tv.
And my father reaped the benefits of advances in technology with the various cars that we had, including this one in Washington, DC, where my father was assigned to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations in the Pentagon.
Cars, tvs, microwaves and computers were all familiar to him, although he thought microwaves and computers were not for him. Things were fine as they were and microwaves and computers had no place in a home.
I remember my nephew coming to visit my dad sometime in the 1990s. My father couldn’t understand how he found his home without directions. My nephew replied “With Mapquest.” For the life of us, he and I could not explain Mapquest to my father. He was completely baffled. This man, who watched the Apollo missions and men walking on the moon, could not understand Mapquest.
Today, my son, his grandson, flew in a commercial airplane from New York to Dallas, Texas. I tracked his flight. My father, who flew countless missions and knew every possible airplane control until he stopped flying in 1963, would be looking at this today if he were still alive.
What would my father think?