I was the first in my family to play the accordion, at age 4.
The first to jump out of an airplane-with a parachute. The first to be crown bearer at the junior Prom with Sally Colligan (both age 6).
I was much cuter then.
Was the first in my family to be audited by the IRS.
I had a First Communion, a first kiss, a first fish and the first sibling in my family to reach the age of reason, driving, voting and old.
The jury’s still out on the “reason” part.
These were just a few of the “firsts” in my life.
I was the first born son and grandson of the clan in 1950. The news clipping stated, “The Bauers (my Mother’s family)have an Heir.” It went on to site the various statistics of my birth; height, weight, male and so on. Along with the names of my parents, grandparents, aunts and an uncle. It was two column inches and might have been on the first page.
Just so happens that Grandpa was a linotype operator at the local newspaper so there was a little journalistic bias involved in reporting the arrival of his first Grandchild.
Speaking of nepotism, I played on a Little League baseball team. My Uncle Hank was the coach and my dad was an umpire from time to time.
I was the first to pitch a no hitter. In one inning I walked every batter.
Despite that connection, I was the first I think, to be suspended from the team for swearing. Imaging that, a twelve year-old swearing. My cousin was the one who ratted me out. A@@!$%&.
Along those same lines, I was the first of the third generation to work at the Milwaukee Journal. Not as the usual apprentice but a part-time copy desk clerk while attending Bryant & Stratton Business College. Both my uncle and Grandfather worked there and got me the gig.
In 1969 Milwaukee was still in the throes of the civil rights movement and experiencing the aftermath of the riots of ’67. Many black protesters had been arrested for damage done to Macy’s and Gimbel’s department stores in conjunction with The Welfare Mother’s March in September.
While walking through the Milwaukee County Jail with a reporter, I was spat on and cursed by grandmothers behind bars. That was a first.
Until then the only black person I ever saw was probably Hank Aaron.
I was also the first of the third generation, to be fired from the Milwaukee Journal. Because I was from the small town of Wild Rose I took a lot of ribbing, most of it good nature d but one 18 year old punk just wouldn’t let go of it, so I punched him out. Another first.
I was not the first in my family to graduate from college. That honor goes to my ten years-younger sister, June.
I did attend many more schools than she did. Five or so, I think. No degree to show for it but I sure had a lot more fun.
I was the first in my family to get drafted into the Army but there were a lot of us back in the day. Doesn’t really count.
While in Basic Training at Fort Campbell, Kentucky we were all mustered into a small classroom and while sitting at attention a sharp dressed Special Forces Ranger in his spit shined jump boots and green beret on his head came strolling down the aisle proudly asking, “who’s got what it takes to jump out of airplanes?”
Now the first rule in the military was “never volunteer for anything.”
Oops, too late.
Jump school took place in the 90 degree heat of Fort Benning, Georgia with the blow sand drop zones peppered with scrub brush surrounded by tall Georgia Pines.
And running, always running. Like Forrest Gump running.
“Up the hill, down the hill, around the hill, through the hill…..Airborne!”
Out of the first 300 or so jumpers on their first jump from a C-130 Hercules aircraft I was the first and only one to be medivacked off the drop zone.
You see, there was one preferred way to execute a successful parachute landing fall or in the Army vernacular, a PLF.
It involved landing on either right or left sides of the body in a gentle roll beginning with touchdown on the toes of the feet, lateral surface of the leg, thigh, torso and shoulder with arms extended. After landing you would then spin around to put yourself in a position facing the chute, then jump up and run around it to expel any air remaining inside.
Another technique to be used when drifting forward, was to twist your body to either the right or left when touching down so as to get into the proper PLF form as described above.
The last landing form and the one that was to be avoided at all costs was precisely the position in which I found myself.
After exiting the aircraft at 1200 feet my chute deployed properly (which was nice) and I was enjoying the bright sunshine and quiet air through which I was gliding back to earth.
At some point I realized that the wind was causing me to drift backwards. Now, you have to remember that there was no control of the T-10 parachute. Not at all like the equipment of today. You simply went with the direction of the wind.
In my mind I could hear the drill sergeant proclaiming, “When drifting backwards gentlemen, your points of contact will be your toes, butt and head, in that order if you fail to conform to the proper PLF attitude as you touch down.”
Oops, too late.
The next thing I remember was the drop zone officer screaming at me for running circles around my chute (while unconscious) as he was trying to collapse it, so I wouldn’t be dragged off through the brush, and pop red smoke at the same time. He continued the tirade while I was being helped by Medics, into the Huey with the red cross on the sides.
Not to worry though, as I was flying back over the drop zone I looked out through the open doorway of the chopper and saw the DZ Captain loading my gear into his jeep while at the same time the other 299 were humping their stuff a mile or so to the waiting buses.
Came in first. Again.