Legacies Project Oral History: Clyde Bennett
Clyde “Buck” Bennett was born in 1918 in Houdathotit, Alabama. When he was 10, his family moved to Birmingham, Michigan. He attended Birmingham High school and two years at Antioch College, where he gained experience in sales and newspaper advertising. Bennett served in World War II, and returned to Michigan to work for the Jam Handy Organization and Chrysler Advertising. Later in life he switched careers to become CEO of the Bennett Realtors and Commercial Development Company in Deland, Florida. He passed away on January 25, 2020.
Clyde Bennett was interviewed as part of an internship at Applied Safety and Ergonomics in Ann Arbor in 2008 as part of the Legacies Project.
- [00:00:09.19] SPEAKER 1: 17, 2008. We're going to start off with some demographic questions so that we can sort the information we get from you. So can you please say and spell your name?
- [00:00:20.83] CLYDE BENNETT: Clyde Bennett, C-L-Y-D-E B-E-N-N-E-T-T.
- [00:00:25.78] SPEAKER 1: What is your birth date, including the year?
- [00:00:28.75] CLYDE BENNETT: October 4, 1918.
- [00:00:31.84] SPEAKER 1: How would you describe your race or ethnicity?
- [00:00:37.78] CLYDE BENNETT: White Protestant.
- [00:00:41.26] SPEAKER 1: What is your religious affiliation?
- [00:00:44.03] CLYDE BENNETT: I'm an Episcopalian.
- [00:00:46.60] SPEAKER 1: What is the highest level of formal education that you have completed?
- [00:00:50.53] CLYDE BENNETT: Two years of college.
- [00:00:52.18] SPEAKER 1: Did you attend any additional school beyond what you completed?
- [00:00:55.65] CLYDE BENNETT: Only service schools and schools having to do with business.
- [00:01:01.49] SPEAKER 1: What is your marital status?
- [00:01:03.91] CLYDE BENNETT: I'm married.
- [00:01:06.40] SPEAKER 1: How many children do you have?
- [00:01:08.26] CLYDE BENNETT: I have two children, together June and I have five.
- [00:01:12.46] SPEAKER 1: How many siblings do you have?
- [00:01:14.73] CLYDE BENNETT: None now. Had one, and he died.
- [00:01:18.04] SPEAKER 1: Was it a brother?
- [00:01:19.23] CLYDE BENNETT: Yes.
- [00:01:21.04] SPEAKER 1: What would you consider your primary occupation to have been?
- [00:01:24.97] CLYDE BENNETT: Well, I've had really two careers, basically, is one in advertising, sales promotion, until 1972. And then I went in to join my father in Florida in the real estate business and finished out there.
- [00:01:43.02] SPEAKER 1: OK. At what age did you retire?
- [00:01:47.54] CLYDE BENNETT: Oh, it was about 80.
- [00:01:51.86] SPEAKER 1: This is the first part of the interview, covering from when you were born until you completed high school. Where did you grow up, and what are your strongest memories of that place?
- [00:02:04.94] CLYDE BENNETT: I was born in a place called Whodathoughtit, Alabama.
- [00:02:07.37] [LAUGHTER]
- [00:02:09.74] It's just a hamlet, really, on a road between Birmingham, Alabama and Jasper, Alabama. It was a community basically built around my grandfather's store, which was a general store of some kind. And he lived nearby. And I was born in a house very-- next door to the store, in fact.
- [00:02:39.84] Living there was a very-- very much a formative part of my life. I had a grandmother who was very doting and a mother and-- who was very loving. And a black nurse who I don't remember the name now except, Bert I guess was her name. And she was-- she did I thought a fine job of mothering me. In a sense, I had three mothers, really. And that was a memorable part of my life, I think. I remember very much of it very plainly, actually, from about age three.
- [00:03:24.74] SPEAKER 1: How did your family come to live there?
- [00:03:27.47] CLYDE BENNETT: Well, my father was born there and my mother was born nearby. It's--
- [00:03:34.14] SPEAKER 1: They just stuck around?
- [00:03:35.09] CLYDE BENNETT: Yeah. In those days, people didn't move around much. They-- it would be the odd one who had a family member who moved far away.
- [00:03:47.30] SPEAKER 1: What was your house like?
- [00:03:49.25] CLYDE BENNETT: My house? It was what I call a shotgun house. It was-- which every room is right behind the other, but no hallways or anything between. A small house. It had a living room and two bedrooms and a kitchen, an outside privy, and that was about it. Very comfortable, however.
- [00:04:16.40] SPEAKER 1: How many people lived in the house with you while you were growing up?
- [00:04:19.89] CLYDE BENNETT: Well, it was just my mother and father and I, and then my brother came along when I was three years old.
- [00:04:27.59] SPEAKER 1: What was your family like then? What was-- how did you get along? What was the atmosphere"
- [00:04:33.79] CLYDE BENNETT: Oh, I think fine. We had a good relationship between us. It was none of the distractions that so many people have today taking away from the family. The fam-- it was all-- all your activity, all your thinking, everything was built around the family, with very little in the way of things outside the family.
- [00:04:57.05] Of course, my father had a job and worked away from the home. But it was a family. It was not a convenience.
- [00:05:12.18] SPEAKER 1: What sort of work did your father and mother do?
- [00:05:14.84] CLYDE BENNETT: My father was-- had been a tobacco salesman. He worked as a traveling salesman for a company in Birmingham, Alabama. And traveled throughout the red clay country, or surrounding Birmingham, calling in small towns, selling and servicing cigarette accounts mainly, until he had had an accident. And then was incapacitated, had to move away.
- [00:05:49.00] We had to move up to North Carolina and-- where he eventually recovered. But he got it-- then he got into the real estate business at that point. He got in sometime around 19-- I guess 1925.
- [00:06:05.88] SPEAKER 1: Did your mother work outside the home?
- [00:06:07.65] CLYDE BENNETT: No. She started working outside the home when she was a young girl. Her father died, or rather left home. In all intents and purposes died. And she worked for-- was a stenographer and worked a job as a very young girl, I think 15 or 16, somewhere in there.
- [00:06:31.68] Went to work for the city of Birmingham, and ended up being the mayor's secretary, which was pretty-- pretty good thing. Was an excellent typist and excellent stenographer. And a very smart lady, although with no formal education beyond-- well, not even finishing high school.
- [00:06:55.05] And after they were married, she became a housewife, a wife and a mother. But when Dad got sick and had to move to North Carolina, we stayed in Birmingham and she worked again for the county, in this case, as a stenographer for several years where we lived with my grandparents, which lived in the same place, except just a house or two away.
- [00:07:31.32] SPEAKER 1: How would you describe your relationship with other family members? Your grandfather owned a store [INAUDIBLE].
- [00:07:37.60] CLYDE BENNETT: Yeah, Granddad was a crotchety old guy, but a very good man. And he was a very loving man, although he didn't dare show it to any kid. But my grandmother, of course, was very close to her. And uncles, were very close to them. And my father.
- [00:07:59.09] The uncles did not live at home, but they were frequently there. They had-- there were five boys all together, four of them had gone to-- all except Dad had gone to World War I and served in France. All came back.
- [00:08:21.42] But they weren't living at home at the time. They were out working in various jobs. But came home.
- [00:08:30.43] SPEAKER 1: What was a typical day like when you were growing up?
- [00:08:37.85] CLYDE BENNETT: Well, play, then I later went to-- when I was about four years old, 4 and 1/2 years old, I went to school. And went into school and came back, more play. It was outside play.
- [00:08:55.84] We had toys made more or less by ourselves or our parents. And the [INAUDIBLE]. It's hard to explain to some people who have lived in an entirely different age as far as young people are concerned. As you say, especially very young people.
- [00:09:24.82] We had no television, no radio. No-- ours was the first telephone in the community, and that came along after I was, you know, 6 or 7 years old. And so your-- you make your own entertainment. And you had to make-- your entertainment was with friends and acquaintances, and with family or yourself. You had to dedicate yourself.
- [00:09:54.64] And it's such an entirely different thing. It's hard to explain what those differences are, because I haven't lived in the age that you, for example, have. We didn't get up particularly early in the morning, because we were not a farm family. We'd get dressed and go to school, and come back and-- that is, we'd walk to school. It wasn't too far. Half a mile or something like that. But come back home, playing along the way, getting in maybe a baseball game if there were enough kids around. Or just horsing around.
- [00:10:47.20] SPEAKER 1: Can you describe the chores or duties that you had around the house?
- [00:10:52.32] CLYDE BENNETT: I was not ever in a situation where I had to do set chores. The family had-- all the grunt work was handled by day servants or people working around the house. And there were very few other things that had to be done that I recall. Much later, when I was-- we were living in Michigan, we had chores of doing the dishes for-- and splitting that up with my brother. But never that-- never much in the way of chores or hard work around the house.
- [00:11:46.46] SPEAKER 1: What sort of things did you do, or what were your favorite things to do for fun?
- [00:11:55.96] CLYDE BENNETT: Oh, I think probably exploring. I used to love to get out and-- I never got very far from the house. But it was interesting to see interesting things, and people and how they lived nearby. There were some sharecroppers nearby, some black people nearby. And I would spend quite a lot of time with them.
- [00:12:20.60] SPEAKER 1: Can you remember any interesting fads or slang words at the time?
- [00:12:26.65] CLYDE BENNETT: Not while I was in Alabama. Later on, yes, of course, there's-- we had a vocabulary that was probably put yours to shame. [LAUGHS] Fads-- getting away from the Alabama place now. I was too-- I was so young when we left here. Just turned 10 years old.
- [00:12:53.55] And fads, I didn't know what those were. And we didn't get much into that until almost-- and when I was in high school. But slang words, some things were not too-- so I guess we're still using some of the same words, but I can't recall them now. But I'm sure we expressed nearly everything when it was a slang word of some kind.
- [00:13:32.02] SPEAKER 1: Were there any special days, events, or family traditions that you especially enjoyed while you were growing up?
- [00:13:38.32] CLYDE BENNETT: Oh, Christmas, of course. Gosh. And then we had, at my grandmother's house, we had a Sunday dinner, which-- in the middle of the day, which was always kind of an occasion. We usually had guests at various times and people. Usually family or cousins would come. And it would be a good time.
- [00:14:09.88] And that would be on Sunday. The other days, there would be a gang of other kids around all the time. We could play all sorts of games. Remember one time, we had a game which turned out to be a little disastrous.
- [00:14:24.79] We had a-- one of my uncles had a Model T Ford he had parked out behind the store, because he was-- he had gotten another car and hadn't done anything with this. And four or five boys and I got together and we were playing in that car, playing all sorts of games-- cops and robbers and so on. And for some reason or another, we decided it would be nice to tear that top-- it was a-- we would call it a convertible now, but a touring car with a large top that you could take down.
- [00:15:04.20] And all of a sudden, before I really realized it, that top was in shambles. It was all ripped up and everything. And I tried to put it back together. Of course, that was ridiculous. And of course, my grandfather found out about it. And he was all for really giving me capital punishment. I was up-- off with his head and all that. That would only be too good for me.
- [00:15:30.59] But about that time, Uncle Hugh came in who owned a car. And they had asked me if I had done it, and I said yes, I was responsible for it. I'm sorry, but I did it. Well, he was so impressed with the fact that I didn't try to hide my way out of it, he said no, just forget it now. Don't do anything to him. It's all right.
- [00:15:51.50] Of course, he became my closest friend for life after that, so. But those things, you know, you can-- we usually had a little dog around somehow or other. It was very simple kind of life. One that I think-- we've never-- we never were bored.
- [00:16:11.03] As far as I can remember, I can't recall a time when I was bored. And yet I've seen when so much is available to-- at other times in my life, so much was available to me for entertainment outside of myself, or outside of my friends, I would become quite bored and quite easily bored. But in those days, I wasn't. It was a-- life was kind of an interesting, awesome enterprise that we're going through.
- [00:16:48.74] Then, if you'd like for me move on, I'll go-- from there we moved to Michigan. My father got a job here in-- near Birmingham. And in time sent for us.
- [00:17:04.24] We arrived here in October of 1928, which is hard to believe it was 80 years ago. And Michigan then was a very awesome place to us. My gosh, we drove by the Ford factory on the way home from the train. And to see that Ford factory, which-- for Henry Ford to people who lived in the South in those years, was a god. He was somebody-- the richest man in the world. And he did things which brought-- he brought this wonderful automobile to us.
- [00:17:47.42] And to drive by the factory was just a thrilling experience for us. And all of this, it was an entirely different kind of world we moved into here as opposed to Alabama. We lived in-- outside of Birmingham, Michigan, in a rural area.
- [00:18:11.44] And the school I went to was a one-room school. And I was in the fifth grade. We had one other boy in that grade. And I had, of course, a broad Southern accent. I was just a kid from the country down there.
- [00:18:29.31] And these people talked funny, I thought. Well, they thought I was-- thought I talked funnier. So they made sure that I began to talk like they did. They didn't like the way I talked, so they fixed it so I talked their way. So I lost my accent quite quickly.
- [00:18:45.75] The one-room school was very interesting, because we had in it grades kindergarten-- I guess there was a kindergarten there, but up through the fifth grade. And so we had kids of all ages and all sizes. And this kid, the other kid in the fifth grade with me, was a great big boy. He was almost an adult side.
- [00:19:13.82] He was he was a farm boy, and not the world's brightest. He had some real challenges in his-- with his brain. But I remember we had a spelling bee put on by the Detroit News in those days. And I flunked it.
- [00:19:44.09] He won it. He won the dictionary. [LAUGHS] [INAUDIBLE] come down. I've thought about that ever since. I've tried to become a better speller, but I'm not much better now than I was then I guess. All the courses were taught there.
- [00:20:02.21] And in the fifth grade, we would have a little period where each class would come up and do their recitations with the teacher. And she would do a little instructing. Then we'd go back to our studying-- study period. We'd do that several times a day.
- [00:20:19.60] And not-- surprisingly, not particularly bothered by the other classes being held in the same room. There were probably, I suppose, 25 or 30 kids in the room. Fifth graders, as far as we went, and it happened that they had to add a sixth grade, though, because during the Depression, and they just didn't have any place to send us.
- [00:20:46.70] We then moved into town. And in seventh grade, I was at a Birmingham School, which was a pretty big school. It had lots of rooms in it and lots of-- every grade had a separate room. And had a shop and a gym and all that stuff. And that was sort of awesome.
- [00:21:09.62] And we were there during that year. Then we moved back to Wing Lake, and where at that time I attended a school nearby called Bloomfield Village School. It was a-- that was a four-room school-- they're using-- of which they were using three. Doubling up, of course, as they did.
- [00:21:31.52] But they had very few students and very-- and certainly not enough money to operate a full operation. So I was in the eighth grade there with one other kid. It always had small classes.
- [00:21:45.86] Then went back to-- then we were there during the eighth grade, and I think the end of ninth grade. And then I went to Baldwin High School in 10th grade.
- [00:22:00.26] SPEAKER 1: In thinking back across your childhood and school years, what important social or historical events took place during that time, and how did they personally affect you and your family?
- [00:22:15.68] CLYDE BENNETT: Several, several did. I think the most memorable one to me that took place was Lindbergh flying the Atlantic. I remember seeing-- we were living in a little town of Tryon, North Carolina, at the time. We were driving down this Main Street, and there's a banner in the drugstore where you picked up the papers-- Lindy makes it.
- [00:22:40.77] So that was a tremendous impact. That was 1927. The making of a hero. And he was really a-- you can't believe the degree to which he was held in esteem by people as a real hero.
- [00:22:59.49] The biggest thing probably that was happened-- the historical event that happened during my childhood was the Depression. Every kid, everybody was affected by it in a huge way. Our family had managed always to be well fed.
- [00:23:22.53] We didn't-- to my knowledge at least, didn't have any periods of near starvation. We didn't miss a meal. We had no money. I would have to-- no money to spend on outside entertainment or toys or any things of that nature.
- [00:23:49.25] Although Mother and Dad did put together usually a nice Christmas package for us, a sled or some new clothes or something like that. But I think in that time we learned very much to be closer as a family. About that time radio came along, but radio was such a-- it was such a device that it had a large cabinet was in the living room. Was a big piece of furniture. It wasn't something you just stuck in your pocket.
- [00:24:21.22] And the whole family sat around it. So it became a-- again, a thing that grew the family together rather than dispersing them. Later, when more radio came and people had their own, they would go off by themselves and listen to their own program. But this, at this time, it was-- it drew people together rather than dispersing them.
- [00:24:47.83] I think the other thing was our move to Michigan. I think was that time had a great impact on me. I really often thought what-- where I would have been today if had we not moved to Michigan at that time. It is no way to conceive of it. It was just such a big event for us.
- [00:25:21.40] SPEAKER 1: We're going to move on to the second part, which is the adulthood. So we're going to take this from after you finished high school until you married June. So after you finished high school, where did you live?
- [00:25:37.97] CLYDE BENNETT: Well, after we finished high school. We don't want to talk about high school?
- [00:25:44.00] SPEAKER 1: Yeah, [INAUDIBLE].
- [00:25:44.78] CLYDE BENNETT: All right, let me talk a little bit about that. I was-- we always lived-- when I was in high school, we lived away from the town, out at Wing Lake. That's only about four miles, but it was very difficult to make any-- to get back and forth. There was only one car in the family, and that was-- it was a long way.
- [00:26:07.62] So most of my activity was away from school. My friends-- I didn't make too many friends in high school, because again, we didn't have much of an opportunity to associate after school until my senior years-- junior to senior year. But nevertheless, high school, I thought, was a-- was an awfully good time for me.
- [00:26:39.43] I had a wonderful teacher, an English teacher, who stimulated in me a desire to write and a great appreciation for good writing, which has stayed with me ever since. I did later on develop two very good friends, both of whom were named [INAUDIBLE] Wilsons. But they weren't related.
- [00:27:11.61] And they were-- they graduated with us together. Now, our school was very small then. We were the first class in the Birmingham High School to graduate with more than 100 kids. And we had 101, or something of that nature. Today, those class-- there's several high schools that are involved will graduate perhaps close to 1,000, I suppose.
- [00:27:41.46] The summer-- during which summer I had various jobs. The one I hated most was door to door salesman. There was no-- there was later on-- later on there was a radio show in which Red Skelton had a character on it named Elmer Fudd.
- [00:28:08.23] And he would-- he was a salesman. He would go to the door and knock on the door and said, nobody home, I hope, I hope, I hope. That's exactly the way I felt when going up to these houses to sell these paper products.
- [00:28:20.83] But I made enough money to buy a nice suit, when starting in high school, in 10th grade. Then the summer I left high school to go to-- just before going to college, I got a job working on an insulation crew, whose job was to go around. They would take a truck out to a house that existed, usually an older house.
- [00:28:50.26] And we would go up into the attic and spray glass wool, or fiberglass wool in-- into the attic spaces. And well, it was very hot and very, very dirty, because those attics had been sitting there for 30 years, and accumulating an awful lot of dirt from the atmosphere. And so it is extremely dirty.
- [00:29:20.75] But it was all right. I didn't mind it. I think the people I was riding home on the bus with were the ones that minded it more than I was, because I'd come home just absolutely filthy. And my mother'd meet me at the back door. And I'd take the clothes off and get down to my underwear, and just turn them-- drop them into her washing machine and go up and get changed.
- [00:29:45.65] But I was kind of happy with that job. It was not an easy job. It was not a-- it was certainly not a hard job, because it didn't require any thinking. So when I went to college, I got-- the first guy I met, whose family was driving him into the college at the same time. The car followed us-- followed ours in. Was a little red-headed kid by the name of Jack Sealy.
- [00:30:19.87] Now, at this point in time, I've known Jack longer than I've known any other person that is alive. And I do see him occasionally. He's in-- he lives in Florida. We corresponded by email. And we do see each other once a year when I'm down there.
- [00:30:47.97] But by and large, college was a great eye opener to me. It was almost an explosion into the social life. And too much so, as a matter of fact. That, plus the fact that the college I went to was a very liberal college in terms of its-- of the politics, and in terms of the way they-- the sociology and stuff of that nature.
- [00:31:24.15] And I really couldn't handle that. They were ones who-- they didn't teach the fam-- they were rescued away from your family. You've got to branch out, you've got to grow beyond your family. So that was too much for me. I didn't--
- [00:31:41.60] So I didn't-- I lasted two years, and that's about as much as I could handle. And very anxious to get out into the world and do it on my own, which I did. But interestingly enough, during that period, this was a college where you worked. You were able to go take a job for five weeks, and you come back to campus and spend another five or 10 weeks, then go out for another five weeks and so on.
- [00:32:12.95] That was the thing that appealed to me, that you get that working experience. So I had a job as a-- in the men's furnishings department in the basement of Hudson's store. And I was-- that was a really interesting, interesting job. The job itself wasn't much, but the people you'd run into, not only those that are on the staff, but all the customers that would come in.
- [00:32:40.64] These ladies would come in from Hamtramck and talk about the goods in Polish. So I couldn't hear what they were saying. And that would rile me up some. But I couldn't-- I really couldn't do much of a selling job with them, because they would-- they would listen to me and they'd nod, they could understand English. But then they'd talk to their friend in Polish about what they thought about it. And I was--
- [00:33:11.24] And the staff itself, they were people who were survivors. And it was interesting. There's-- if you've ever seen this Brits comedy, May I-- let's see-- it has to do with a group of people working in a department store in London. Well, it's quite a funny comedy.
- [00:33:38.43] But the people that worked in there were almost like family, too, but they didn't have a close association. But they, nevertheless, were living together everyday, a full day, and I think became as important to each other as if they were family. They'd have the darndest problems and so on. But they would freely talk about them when they'd get a break with nobody-- nobody was in the store.
- [00:34:11.58] They would tell me all kinds of problems about their having with their wife, or their kid, or their husband, or whatever. All of which was wide-eyed interest to me. Then I got a job as a-- summer job as a counselor in a camp in New York state.
- [00:34:36.90] And boy, I tell you, that really-- that was a culture shock too. Because of-- it was a coed camp. And there was a considerable amount of, let's say, intimate relationships between male and female staff, which I-- I just couldn't-- it was all beyond me. I'd been to college and all, but I couldn't quite gauge all that going on.
- [00:35:06.18] And the head counselor was an avowed Communist, in the party. And all these older folks who were on the staff, it really was a weird, weird summer. But I guess instructive.
- [00:35:26.67] Then later I had a job at-- I as still in college, with the Dayton Journal Herald, a newspaper in Dayton. And interestingly enough, Jack Sealy was my alternate on that job. I guess he was also the alternate, I believe, on the job at Hudson's, where he would work five weeks, and then he'd go, and then I'd come back.
- [00:35:54.00] And the same thing was true there at the Dayton Journal Herald. There I was-- I learned something about the newspaper business about what happens in a composing room, and how ads are put together, and how they finally get into the newspaper and so on. That was all instructive for a later phase in my life.
- [00:36:16.50] Then that was in 1937. And I had left college by then. I'd finished up that best-- last operation was with the job. And came back to Michigan and didn't have a job for a while. Although I had the promise of a job working as a chassis lecturer for an-- for Plymouth cars at the automobile shows. And that was quite a fun, too.
- [00:36:51.23] Ladies and gentlemen, this is the chassis of the 1937 Plymouth. [LAUGHS] That was short lived. I was hopeful to be able to parlay that into a job with Chrysler, but that didn't pan out. It being during the Depression, jobs were very difficult to find. You didn't have-- didn't have McDonald's to fall back on or anything else as-- you were competing with jobs for people who had families, that were supporting four or five kids.
- [00:37:28.97] Did finally end up, though, I got a job later on with the Jam Handy Organization, which was a maker of slide films and movies for commercial purposes. The equivalent now would be making television commercials, but these were training films that they'd make. And that met-- that-- right up my alley. I loved that. I really did like that job.
- [00:38:00.72] Then from there I went into the Army, which may be a good time to ask some more questions, because that's a new phase of my life, first year.
- [00:38:14.26] SPEAKER 1: Well, tell me about your war experience.
- [00:38:16.86] CLYDE BENNETT: OK. Well, I went into the Army in 1941, because I wanted to get my-- at that time it was in the draft. My number was not terribly low, but it wasn't high enough either that I was just beginning to take off well at the company. And I thought, well, I better get in and get my year over with so I can get back and not have this draft thing hanging over my head.
- [00:38:41.86] So I went in in February, 1941. And we're just coming down toward the end. This would have been-- had my year finished in February, 1942. But of course, that was delayed somewhat.
- [00:39:01.75] We had-- I went to California. We were in a-- I was in a search light battery, which is-- their job was to-- there is, in anti-aircraft, you didn't have such things as radar then, but they had a-- you had big listening posts that you listened for the airplane, locate it by sound, and then that was tied in through, at that time, high tech relationship with the searchlight itself. The searchlight would turn on. And supposedly, the plane would be right in the middle of that searchlight.
- [00:39:40.56] Well, rarely was it, but occasionally it was. Planes were flying very slow and everything. And then in the searchlight, you could-- being in the searchlight, then the gun batteries could get their range finders working on it and shoot at it. Just at about the end of that period that I was-- well in fact, it was just before the war. We were issued a radar set, which was the darndest thing your saw in your life.
- [00:40:17.64] It was a-- looked like a huge bed spring spread out on arms. And was-- went vertical and went horizontally. And it would all swing around on a just very large, clumsy thing. And it would locate an airplane in the sky. And be fairly accurate in the location of it. Not terribly accurate, but location accurate enough that we could put a searchlight on it.
- [00:40:52.83] We didn't try to shoot the guns with it, but we were using it as aiming. But we were able to aim the searchlights with it. That led to an interesting thing that happened. Early on in the war we were stationed in Los Angeles and all around the city.
- [00:41:14.73] And these radar picked up a cloud. They didn't know it would pick up clouds. But it picked up a cloud out over the ocean, slowly moving toward land. And became convinced-- everyone looking at it became convinced that it was an airplane or an airship of some kind coming in.
- [00:41:34.59] And there was no record of one-- a friendly one being there, so they had to think, well, it's got to be enemy. So we better prepare for an air raid on Los Angeles.
- [00:41:46.98] Where we quite-- exactly where we left off. But let me just go quickly then through the rest of the war. I got-- I went to Officer Candidate School in early-- mid-1942 and graduated and became a Second Lieutenant in June. And I was married shortly thereafter.
- [00:42:09.49] My wife and I moved to Fort Monroe, Virginia, not knowing where I was going to go after that. But it turned out that my experience being-- working with slide films and motion pictures, training films, was something that they were looking for at the time. So I was hired on as a-- to work in the coast artillery school to make training films, which made a-- really was a wonderful life.
- [00:42:41.01] Because coast-- Fort Monroe was an old, old post that was absolutely beautiful. Very historic. It was right at the corner, right across the Hampton Roads from Norfolk. That's where the battle of the Monitor and the Merrimack took place. It was a place where they imprisoned the president of the Confederacy after-- Jefferson Davis, after the war. So it was-- and really lovely landscaping, old. It was really a nice place to be.
- [00:43:20.02] So my wife and I were there for quite some time. We had had a child a year after we were married. And-- but in 1944, I was then ordered to go overseas to Hawaii. By that time I'd become a radar officer. And went over as a radar officer, but never did practice it much, because I was-- shortly afterwards, I was asked to go with a battalion going further up from Hawaii as a-- on the staff officer there.
- [00:43:58.87] So we went on shipboard and spent, believe it or not, 49 days on shipboard waiting for-- to decide where we wanted to go. We were not in Enewetak Lagoon. We may remember that name. It's where they tested the atom bomb, blew up a lot of stuff.
- [00:44:18.11] But we went from there to a place called Angaur, which was in the Palau Islands, now a great place for diving. And incidentally, one of the residents here was also in Palau. He had a LSI, a landing craft. He was commanding officer of a landing craft there. But we were there at the same time. Of course, didn't know each other.
- [00:44:54.64] Then from there I went to the Philippines. And we were getting ready to go into the Japanese homeland with a 1A mission that would be-- on the invasion, which would have been, I'm sure, because that particular job I had, it would not have made it. Because there was no way that I wouldn't have been either terribly injured or killed. It was just-- there's too much exposure not to be.
- [00:45:26.62] So fortunately, the atom bomb was dropped. I was very happy about that, I must say. And still am. But then came back. And was-- this was on the day that MacArthur was signing the peace treaty in Tokyo Bay. I was ordered-- my orders came through to get on a ship to go back to Fort Monroe again.
- [00:45:54.70] But by the time I got there, the war was over and the job had evaporated. They gave me the choice of getting out or staying in. But I just elected to get out, thinking I'd be better to get back with the world, with wife and child. There's no more of this playing around stuff.
- [00:46:14.50] So then at that point, I went back to work at Jam Handy. And worked there for a while, and then changed jobs to another company. And then decided to get into the advertising business, and went to work for Campbell Ewald, an advertising agency in Detroit, where I ended up eventually being the head of one of the General Motors accounts.
- [00:46:48.73] During that time, however, my wife got-- we had lost our first child shortly after we came back. She was in an automobile accident and he was killed. Then sometime later, two or three years later, we had another child, who is still alive. And then another, a guy-- a boy and a girl.
- [00:47:18.35] And the-- she then-- when the kids were quite young, 10 years old and 12 years old, she got cancer and eventually died. But before she died, she had gotten a small inheritance from her mother and said that she would like to take the kids to Africa to see the animals, because she wanted to make sure that the animals weren't gone by the time they were going to be able to afford it themselves. So we had a wonderful trip there.
- [00:47:52.53] I took a six week leave and we went all the way around the world, as a matter of fact. Came back. Shortly afterwards she died. And then we had-- I had known June vaguely, not closely, for quite some time.
- [00:48:15.92] And in time we decided to get married, two or three-- two years later, and combine the two families, which was some five kids, but teenagers. All of them teenagers by this time. So that's the story of me up to the time I met June.
- [00:48:40.22] SPEAKER 1: All right. Let's get more specific with her then. Specifically, where and when did you meet her?
- [00:48:49.13] CLYDE BENNETT: Oh, OK. It's hard to tell exactly when I met her. I think the first time I'm really conscious of having known June was we'd been invited by the rector of our church, along with June and her husband, on a boat trip out into the-- into Lake St. Clair. And it was a very cold day and a very lousy day, but a very kind of good boat ride, which was-- turned out to be very friendly.
- [00:49:21.90] So then we-- that's when I first met her. Then on occasion, after that, we would be at one another's house at a party of some kind.
- [00:49:34.57] SPEAKER 1: That was when you were dating her?
- [00:49:35.93] CLYDE BENNETT: No, this was before we--
- [00:49:37.61] SPEAKER 1: No? OK.
- [00:49:38.42] CLYDE BENNETT: Before we were-- while we both were married, in fact.
- [00:49:43.40] SPEAKER 1: What was it like when you started dating?
- [00:49:46.55] CLYDE BENNETT: Well, we started dating, this was, oh, the year after my wife died, about then we started dating. And I think our first date was when we went to a Meadow Brook, which was not very exciting for her, because she worked there [INAUDIBLE]. We began to date and then began to find each other more and more interesting. So in time I asked her to marry me, and we did. The kids seem to be happy with the occasion.
- [00:50:23.67] SPEAKER 2: Do you remember what dating was like when you were our age?
- [00:50:28.46] CLYDE BENNETT: Yeah, it was fun. It was not-- I think maybe the sexual content was not nearly as high, the sexual interest was not as high. I'm sure it was there, but it was never expressed. We'd smooch, but never go any farther than that.
- [00:50:50.33] I'm sure others did, but at least I didn't. And I don't think the gals I was going with from time to time did. But it was a lot of fun. We had-- we would go to-- there was a lot of chances to go to dances that were run by-- with good orchestras, big, big name orchestras, in fact, would come to Detroit. And we'd go down to hear them and dance to them.
- [00:51:16.04] We'd-- during the Christmas holidays, we would have-- in Birmingham, they had high school fraternities and sororities. And they would hold dances during the holidays. And they were really quite fun, quite glamorous to go to.
- [00:51:35.00] We would have movie dates where we'd just go and go to the movie, have a Coke afterwards. And that would be it. And I-- parents would give me, if I didn't have any money, if I wasn't working, I was in school, they'd give me $0.50 for a date. And that would take the two of us to the movies and a Coke afterwards.
- [00:52:00.58] SPEAKER 2: That's wild. That's pretty good.
- [00:52:02.67] SPEAKER 1: Can you tell me about your engagement and wedding?
- [00:52:06.41] CLYDE BENNETT: The engagement was a couple of very adult people, and we were very mature people. At that time, I was close to 40-- close to 50. June was around in her early 40s.
- [00:52:24.38] So it wasn't exactly a first time affair for us. Our engagement was-- I think she had just had an accident in her car, just about the time we were engaged. And I asked her if she wanted an engagement ring or should I get her a new car? [LAUGHS] I think she-- in those days it was about the same price. So we-- she chose the car.
- [00:52:52.68] And that was something of a problem for her, because she came from a General Motors family and I gave her-- I was working for Chrysler at the time. So she had a Plymouth instead of-- But the wedding itself was a simple affair. We had-- we went-- it was at Christ Church, in one of the smaller chapels.
- [00:53:19.19] We had just my father, and at that point stepmother, my brother and his wife, and a very close friend and his wife. And she had the same-- her mother and father and her good buddy, good pal, and her sister and brother-in-law. And that was it. We had-- the wedding was, as I say, a very simple affair in a small chapel.
- [00:53:52.06] I don't think we had music even. But then we went to Bloomfield Hills Country Club for a party afterwards, where the kids were able to decorate the car and all that. It was raining to beat the band. And they-- they decorated it in the rain and came in looking like they'd been swimming.
- [00:54:15.83] And the car was, of course, an awful, terrible mess, with all the stuff they'd painted on it and the rain and all that. Then we went at night, we went from there to spending the night in the Birmingham area. We went to a cottage a friend of mine had up in Northern Michigan.
- [00:54:40.37] The only time we could get married, though, is that one tiny weekend just after Scott had gotten-- graduated from high school. And the two girls were-- rather the younger girl, my girl, my daughter, and June's younger daughter were just going to camp the following Sunday.
- [00:55:06.11] And one of the other kids was going somewhere. And Scott was about to take off on a job before going to college. So we had that one-- and we had, of course, the complication of the families coming in from other parts of the country that-- so we had to time it pretty closely. But it came out that June 17 was the day. And that was just about it. And that next day, we scattered out and were in all kinds of different directions.
- [00:55:38.32] SPEAKER 1: OK, that brings us to our stopping point.
- [00:55:42.41] SPEAKER 2: All right.
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Dayton Journal Herald
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Elizabeth Hamill Bennett
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