Pine Bluffs Post - Serving all of Eastern Laramie County since 1908

By Gary Collins
Pine Bluffs Post 

Eisenhauer protects the family


Don Eisenhauer

The seven Eisenhauer Marines in Wallace Neb. on moving day in 1942. They are about to leave for Pine Bluffs, Wyo. From left to right are Don, Delbert, Bob, Lloyd, Tom, Howard and a long time nobody, Little Poot.

"Dear Mom;

I was sworn in Dec. 7 at about 6:00 and left Denver at 7:30. Sure glad to be moving at last. Quite a coincidence going out on Dec. 7 isn't it."

Donald Eisenhauer was born in Wolbach, Neb. on March 28, 1924 to Harry and Truly Eisenhauer. In 1926, his brother Delbert followed him into the world. Two years later came Robert, then in another two Lloyd was born, followed two years later by Tom. Another two years saw the emergence of Howard. Then a long time nobody: That's Loren or "Poot" who was born five years later in 1939.

From the letter:

"You should see the Denver recruiting station since the president's order on 17-18 yr. olds. You can't find a place to sit down anywhere. There were 28 in our picture in the port, but that's nothing compared to the number that took the tests that day. They say there're 1000 or more on the waiting list. I consider myself lucky to have gotten thru."

The family would move between Wallace and Wolbach. His brother, Tom, would tell his children, partly in jest, that they moved back and forth when the rent came due.

Howard recounted a time when Don was in junior high in Wallace Neb. A cousin of Don's would pick on him and this happened two or three times. When Don told his mother about it, she informed him that he would have to fight his cousin.

"I don't wanna fight. I don't know how to fight," Eisenhauer said.

The family had a set of boxing gloves in the house, 16 ouncers. His mom brought him into the house where they put on the gloves and started to spar.

"Don, you're not even trying to hit me," Mrs. Eisenhauer said.

"Well, mom, I don't want to hit you," He replied.

"But you're going to have to," She responded.

"So they danced around there a little bit more and he hauled off and punched her one and knocked her flat on the floor," Howard said, continuing the tale. "She got up and sat up on the floor and said, 'Don, I think you're ready.' And the next day they picked on him and it never happened again. She was that type of a lady. Kind hearted, truthful, but you stuck up for yourself."

From the Forward of Letters Home, Tom offers the following recollection:

"I have a vague memory of Don going to North Platte to compete in boxing matches. It seemed perfectly natural for him to uphold the honor of Wallace in competition with boxers from the surrounding "large" cities. I don't remember him ever being beaten. I do recall Dad proudly bragging about the prowess of his son."

From the letter:

"13 of us went out. 3 boys were sent back home because of an order which came in on 17 yr. olds. A boy named Abrien was one of them, a swell guy. I'll miss him. The only part about the station I didn't like was seeing those who were turned down. You've no idea how they feel."

While Don was born 5 years before the stock market crash in 1929, rural areas of the country such as in Nebraska and Wyoming were in a recession prior to that, and the depression only made things harder.

"What that meant for Dad was that jobs were hard to find and the pay was low," Tom wrote in the Forward. "In these circumstances, it was common for the oldest son to be cast in the roll of breadwinner and that was the case for Don. His earnings from odd jobs when he was 12 and older often made the difference that put food on the table, paid the rent or provided needed clothes. . .Yet he was not a drudge. He had a cheerful disposition, laid back, but always ready for friendly participation in sports and family activities."

From the letter:

"I'm having a swell time, but don't worry about us getting into trouble because the guy in charge of our group was a guard at Colorado State Prison."

In the summer of 1942, Harry Eisenhauer found work on a harvesting crew while Don had found work on the railroad but with the approach of school this ended.

"Don hitchhiked from Wallace to Pine Bluffs where my grandpa was working and looked at the town, and I think that after Pearl Harbor was bombed, Dec. 7, 1941, I think that Don knew that he was going to go into the service," Gail said. "But I think he also knew that he wanted to get his family situated and make sure that they were taken care of, that he didn't have to worry about them."

Don looked the town over then went to the school and spoke with the Superintendent, Mr. Hume.

"I first saw him from my school window, as with easy stride and graceful bearing of his fine body he came up the walk and into the schoolhouse," Mr. Hume said. "He stepped into the doorway of the office and politely waited for my greeting. On my invitation, he entered the office, introduced himself and stated his errand. He had called to inquire about our high school; to learn what courses of study were offered and what activities we sponsored."

When Mr. Hume passed away in 1957, his body lay in state at the high school, while the schools and businesses of Pine Bluffs were closed in his honor.

"He hitchhikes back to Wallace. . .and he sits down with our Mom and he says, 'You know, we should move there. There's jobs up there and its a nice community.' So they made the decision to move to Pine Bluffs," Lloyd said. "This one friend of his says, 'I got a truck.' Its one you haul cattle in. He says, 'I'll move you up there.' The next day we packed that whole thing up and we left Wallace."

So like the Joads from The Grapes of Wrath they made the journey. As they drove through Potter, Neb. their cousin ,Wayne Ziegler, working up on an elevator spotted them and wondered where those Eisenhauers were going.

"I thought that we went so far on that trip that we'd never be able to go back. It's 150 miles. That was the furthest that I'd ever gone," Howard said. "Going forever."

"Wyoming!," Tom said.

"A whole other world," Loren said.

"Anyway, we show up here in Pine Bluffs and go downtown. Momma talked to somebody and they had a place for rent down on Main Street. We unloaded this stuff. Dad doesn't know anything about this. He was out that day. He was staying in kind of a boarding room there. He comes in and there is the whole family moved in. So that's how we come to Pine Bluffs," Lloyd said.

"It was a total surprise to my grandfather, and I guess it was meant to be, but they unloaded their stuff in the apartment and then Don went and got grandpa and brought him in. And as my grandma says, 'There we all were.'" Gail said.

"It worked out good for Dad. The little town of Wallace had about 250 people, about a fourth the size of Pine Bluffs. It's not on the Union Pacific. It's not on Highway 30. It's just caught in the sand hills by itself. So there really weren't a whole lot of prospects for anybody who stayed there," Tom said.

From the letter:

"Well, I'll cut this short as a soldier that is getting off in Albuquerque is mailing these for me and we're almost there.

Your Sea-going-bell-hop,

Don E."


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