A treasure of memories spanning nearly a century is Bob Markey’s legacy to his four children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
The 96-year-old retired lawyer and former city attorney for Lee’s Summit has chronicled his life in numerous short stories he composed on his computer some 10 years ago using the two-finger, hunt-and-peck method.
“It took him forever,” says daughter Terri Bryant, ... but “I’m so thankful he wrote these stories with such detail because it paints a vivid picture. It’s a glimpse into a time gone by.”
Though writing wasn’t the forte of the 1935 William Chrisman graduate, he accepted his family’s challenge to share his life by attending a library class on how to write his life story.
“They told him to think about an event and write it down, and that’s what he did,” says Terri, noting her dad’s fact-filled stories revealed his positive attitude and strong faith.
“He always had such a positive attitude in life that everything would work out,” she notes, even during the Depression and the tough times of World War II.
These chapters in Bob’s long, fruitful life might never have been shared outside the Markey family had he not suggested that Terri call The Examiner to see if I would be interested in retelling his stories in the “Around Town” column.
“So I did,” says Terri. “I came back and told (Dad) that you would love to see some of his stories. He was tickled pink.”
The stories were written as essays and weren’t in chronological order. Terri randomly selected a few stories and hand-delivered them to me.
Bob, who now lives in Blue Springs, recalls some of the fun things he did growing up on North Liberty Street in a story entitled “My Early Years in Independence.”
One remembrance was a “private club” he and his buddies built in his backyard out of discarded scrap lumber.
Bob writes: “We had many secret meetings (in the shack) until finally my parents grew tired of the awful appearance and gave the order to demolish (it) and demolish we did. We had as much fun demolishing as constructing,” he continues, “and we were getting to the age that girls were much more interesting than secret meetings.”
Bob also recalls another neighborhood project that met the same fate as his backyard shack. This daredevil project involved constructing a “roller coaster” and attaching it to a garage behind his house.
Bob doesn’t know why this homemade contraption was called a roller coaster, because “there were no rollers or loops – just a straight run from the top to the bottom,” he writes.
“We used scrap lumber to build the frame from the top of the garage to the ground. We rode down the coaster on a flat board with two parallel pieces on the bottom to fit a single track down the middle of the frame, and my mother furnished lard to grease the runners.”
As an older teenager, Bob recalls occasionally riding the “Jitney” to Kansas City with friends to hear Count Basie perform at the “notorious” Spinning Wheel Club – “without our parents knowledge.”
Bob describes the Jitney as a long sedan that could carry six passengers in the jump seats behind the front seat. Although it cost five cents more to ride the Jitney than the streetcar, Bob writes it was “faster and more comfortable.”
In another chapter entitled, “My Experience in World War II,” Bob writes: “I was fortunate enough to come home alive and without injury,” noting some of his closest friends, including two classmates, didn’t return.
His war experiences were as a naval officer in the Pacific Theater aboard the USS Wintle, a destroyer escort designed to protect ships in a convoy from submarine attacks.
Dubbed “janitor” by his fellow officers, Bob recalls the captain put him in charge of the damage control and ship maintenance department when he boarded the USS Wintle on Jan. 20, 1944.
“He probably couldn’t figure what else to do with a raw Ensign graduating from law school,” he writes jokingly.
As one of three deck officers aboard ship, Bob writes that for more than two years, “We did antisubmarine work, escorted convoys and performed other miscellaneous duties in the South Pacific ... and were always on the go.”
After Japan’s surrender, the Wintle was turned into scrap metal, and Bob remained in the Navy reviewing court-martials for an admiral in San Francisco. He left the service as a lieutenant.
Growing into manhood didn’t come without some extreme physical pain for young Bob – especially when it came to playing football on a neighborhood team.
In another story, “A Minor Miracle,” Bob tells about that fall afternoon when he found himself facedown with a mouth full of dirt, a football clutched tightly under his right arm, his left leg twisted in an awkward position and a pile of players on top of him.
“Bob writes: “When the leg twisted, there was a distinct snap followed by excruciating pain. ... When the pile of players unscrambled, my teammates tried to help me stand upright but I collapsed and rolled in pain.”
However, the worst was yet to come. Knowing Bob was allergic to ether, his doctor gave him round pieces of wood to grip in each hand as he placed his foot on Bob’s crotch, leaned back and started maneuvering the broken bones, stopping often for X-rays.
“My pain had been so intense for such a long period of time that I was probably only semiconscious when (the doctor) finished,” he writes, recalling he saw the whole process.
“As I reflect today, it borders on a minor miracle that a country doctor, with only the help of his nurse and an X-ray machine, had the skill to put me back together with only minor aftereffects.” he says, adding: “The equipment he used would in present times be considered very primitive.”
Retired community news reporter Frank Haight Jr. writes this column for The Examiner. You can leave a message for him at 816-350-6363.