• For many years, Jeffrey Bracken thought he was just clumsy. He’d walk into door frames and excuse it as not paying attention, or he’d brush off his driving mishaps as just being a bad driver.

    “My wife kept saying ‘Jeff, there’s something wrong,’ but I just kept putting it off,” said Bracken, a history teacher at Shelby County High School.

  • Bothané

    When Susanne and I had visited Brittany in France in 1958, Jean-Michel Dunoyer de Segonzac picked us up at Quimperlé and drove us to their beautiful chateau Bothané, five miles distant. This had been the home of the great-grandfather of his wife Guillemette, Theodore Ducos, who had been Ministre de la Marine et des Colonies [Minister of the Navy and of the Colonies]. Guillemette had also informed me that it had been the headquarters of a German admiral after France had been overrun in World War II.

  • BY Ronald R. Van Stockum, Jr.


    That’s Gene Autry in the 1935 science fiction western serial entitled, “The Phantom Menace.”

    He was one of the first actors in movie serials to play himself. You see, Autry wasn’t a trained actor. And he couldn’t ride very well either.

    But director William Witney could.

    And he taught Autry how to handle a horse.

  • By Ronald Van Stockum, Jr.

    Don’t step there!

    Yikes! Look down where you stand. Walk with care. Trilobites are everywhere!

    Well, at least here in Kentucky.

    Pick up a rock in your stream. Chances are that it contains trilobites – or maybe just parts of them. That’s the problem. We want it all now.

    A big, beautiful, completely whole trilobite in three parts – the head (cephalon), thorax and tail (pygidium).

  • Reggie and Cheryl Van Stockum attended the wedding of our French cousin Gwénaelle de Benaze and Andrew Hosk on Sept. 15, 2018. It was held at Couffé, site of beautiful Contrie, the ancestral home of the Charette family, 25 miles northeast of Nantes.
    They then drove to La Basse Motte, which had been the chateau of Reggie’s great grandfather, General Baron Athanasius de Charette.
    However, before describing their visit to La Basse Motte, I consider it appropriate to  provide a summary of  its history.
    A fabulous tour

  • My wife, Susanne de Charette Van Stockum, granddaughter of hero of France, General Baron Athanasius de Charette met her cousins Jean-Regis de Lauriers and his wife Armelle de Charette de Lauriers on one of our early trips to France.

    They had been gracious in hosting dinners for us at the prestigious Interallie in Paris and at beautiful Contrie, in Couffé, the ancestral home of La Maison de

    Charette de la Contrie. 

  • Jack Quackenbush and USS Hornet

    Jack Quackenbush, my roommate at the University of Washington gave me an engraved silver belt buckle on my 21st birthday, July 8, 1937, shortly before I received my commission as a Marine Second Lieutenant. I am reminded of a little English ditty, which my mother occasionally quoted:

    “I’m 21 today. I’m 21 today.

    I’ve got the key to the door.

    I’ve never been 21 before.”

  • During 1937, my senior year at the University of Washington, I met Florence Epler, a beautiful and talented young lady, whom I dated for two years, interrupted by my service as a Marine officer.

    We might have married were it not for the requirement in those days that regular Marine 2nd lieutenants could not marry during their first two years of service.

  • When Brendan Chase looks for some peace, quiet and musical inspiration he heads to a place most of us try to avoid – the cemetery.

    There, the 28-year-old Shelbyville native composes songs, plays his guitar and finds sanctuary to sooth his painful past.

    Chase is particularity fond of Long Run Cemetery in Jefferson County where he often places a penny on the grave of Abraham Lincoln’s grandfather.

  • While enrolled in the University of Washington in Seattle, I would spend summer vacations at home with my parents in Longview, Wash. There, I was able to find employment in the huge lumber mill of Robert Alexander Long, who was born and raised on a Shelby County farm.

    A lumber puller

    Mr. Hamilton, the foreman of the planer mill, was pleased to hire young college men, who were eager to perform the strenuous work of pulling finished lumber off the chains. We would work harder, secure in the knowledge that we would not be doing such hard work all our lives.

  • Robert A. Long’s planned city,

    Longview, Wash.

    In the summer of 1933, my father was asked to establish a local hospital, with an associated medical service bureau, in the unused railroad station in Longview, Wash., a city on the Columbia River about 150 miles south of Seattle.

  • In Seattle I commenced delivering the Seattle Times on Route 74, not far from home. I replaced a carrier who had been fired. Understandably, in showing me the route, he was not very encouraging, describing one section as the Dismal Swamp.

    I picked up my papers from a shack on Fremont Avenue, a mile from my route, and carried them fore and aft in a carrier’s bag. They weighed more than fifty pounds on Sundays when the paper had more ads.

    Silver Dollars – “hard” money

  • In 1927, the year of Lindbergh’s epic flight across the Atlantic, when I was eleven, a bully confronted me at school. Dad promptly signed me up with Billy Rath, a Bellingham physical instructor, to learn how to defend myself. Rath spent a couple of minutes showing me how to box and then walked away, leaving me shadow boxing. He then gave me a quick alcohol rub down. So much for my boxing instruction!

    In the buff in a YMCA pool

  • Bellingham, Washington

    In 1923 my family moved to Bellingham, Wash., living first at 704 Garden Street.

    My best friend was Jack Carver whose home was separated from ours by that of Captain Humphries, who, we understood, in his early years had sailed the Pacific. We used to cross Captain Humphries’ yard to play in each other’s yards.

    Jack’s father, Coston Carver, long-serving editor of the Bellingham Herald, was a quiet man of considerable intellect and talent.

  • Having passed Milestone 102, I am inclined to follow the example of Lee Meriwether (1862-1966), cousin, friend, world traveler and prolific writer, whose last book, “My First 103 Years,” was in process of publication at the time of his death.

    Lee Meriwether, whom my late wife Susanne and I had known well, had been a close friend of Susanne’s mother, Marquise Susanne de Charette, her grandmother, Sue T. Henning, and her great grandmother, Bettie Allen Meriwether, of Allen Dale Farm.

  • Mobilization

    Following Britain’s entry into the war in September 1939, mobilization of our armed forces picked up momentum, even though the mood of the country favored neutrality.

    At that time I was serving in Company D, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment (called 6th Marines) at the Marine Corps Base, San Diego. Company D was an infantry heavy weapons company consisting of three machine gun platoons and an 81mm mortar platoon.

    Marine reserves measure up

  • Gotemba Trail

    We departed Station 2.5 on foot at about 12:30 p.m., and headed up the Gotemba Trail.

    The current Mt. Fuji website describes this trail:

  • The ultimate scholarship

    Upon graduation from the University of Washington in June 1937, as the Honor Graduate of my ROTC class, I was offered a commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the Regular U.S. Marine Corps. This I accepted with enthusiasm.

    With a modicum of hyperbole, it could have been described as the ultimate scholarship: a 30-year career in the Marine Corps. However, it imposed accompanying commitments: Duty, Honor, Country!

  • In my new assignment as Commanding General (Forward) and Deputy Commander, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, I may have carried an impressive title, but it was less significant than appeared. I was Lt. Gen. Victor H. (Brute) Krulak’s man at the Okinawa Marine Logistics Base, which supported the Vietnam War.

    My task was to coordinate this support and trouble-shoot logistic problems under his supervision from his headquarters, over 4,500 miles away in Honolulu.

  • On July 1, 1965 Susanne and I gave a dinner party in honor of Millard and Marguerite Cox of Louisville. Attorney Millard Cox, a Kentucky racing commissioner, had invited us to the Kentucky Derby, held only two months earlier. The Cox’s were visiting San Diego to say farewell to their son, Second Lieutenant Millard Cox III, US Marine Corps, who was being deployed to Vietnam.