Nepomuceno Granados Rey - Johnny
at birth following the Spanish naming convention)
Nepomuceno Granados (Johnny) was the eighth child born
to Ramon Granados and Maria Concepcion Rey. He was born
on April 7, 1918 in Washington, DC. His life includes
playing baseball with Babe Ruth, processing German prisoners
in Africa during WWII and developing a career in heating
/ air conditioning and refrigeration. Johnny currently
lives with his daughter in Southern Maryland.
of, Juan (Johnny) Granados
biography was written from the memories of Johnnys
early life by his younger brother, Tony, and as Johnny
himself recalled of his later life which he dictated
to Tony on July 30, 2004
full name is Juan Nepomuceno Granados, Rey. He was named
after his great uncle, a priest in Aracena, Spain. He
is best known as "Uncle Johnny" or just "Johnny;"
which is what we will use in this biography.
was born on April 7, 1918. A precocious child, he was
his own man by the time he was walking; or maybe even
a little before that. Regardless of his age, when Johnny
wanted to do something, there was no stopping him. Sometimes
this resulted in a few bumps and bruises, like the time,
as a toddler, he was rampaging around on the front porch
in his walker. He was supposed to be learning to walk,
but he was actually learning to fly. He got a running
start on the porch one day and went airborne over the
8 porch steps and made a hard landing on the ground
breaking the walker. Of course, he sustained a bump
or two but, as usual, he shook it off and was ready
to try again. Our mother had to hide the walker to save
his life. She decided to finish teaching him to walk
but under more control.
8 years later, he had developed such a pesky reputation
as a mischievous child that there were multiple complaints
from the neighbors about him almost every week or so.
My mother became so tired of neighbors complaining that
she decided to chain Johnny to the leg of a large, heavy
table while she did her housework. Today, she could
go to jail for that kind of child restraint but she
was at her wits end and this was the best she
could do to allow her to fulfill the daily needs of
her husband and seven other children.
came a day when a neighbor again turned up at the front
door and started to complain about Johnny. When she
went through her litany of his devious activities, my
mother smiled and said with great confidence that it
could not have been him, because he had not been out
of the house The neighbor said that she was sure it
was him. My mother invited her in to see that he was
chained to the table. When they went into the living
room, the chain was there but Johnny wasnt. He
had gotten free, sneaked out of the house and went about
challenging the neighborhood in retribution for past
interruptions of his fun.
Johnny grew to his pre-teen years, he became very muscular,
street smart and fleet of foot. Nobody anywhere near
his age could outrun him. He was never caught when appropriating
something he wanted that didnt belong to him.
As an example, with Johnny as our leader, two other
boys and I were silently stealing some worthless, but
interesting junk, from a neighbors barn. Hearing
us, the barns owner sneaked up, and made a dash
with loud curses to catch us. Fortunately, he singled
out Johnny to catch because he was the biggest kid in
the group. Going after Johnny was a profound mistake
on the chasers part. Johnny was always very fast
but when somebody was chasing him, he ran like a deer.
The chaser gave up and came back huffing and puffing
to the barn. The rest of us were hiding nearby to make
sure Johnny was not caught. The raid netted us absolutely
nothing but some vigorous exercise and a few nervous
about 13, Johnny decided that he needed a bike. Buying
a bike, even a used one, was totally out of the question.
All the money that anybody had in our house went to
buy food. After deciding he needed a bike, Johnny devised
a plan to make one. He first "found" a bike
frame. We never asked where. Soon after, he got other
bike parts, one at a time, until in a month or two,
he had put together a complete bike. I have a feeling
that there were a lot of bikes in our area from which
various parts were mysteriously missing. At least he
was thoughtful enough to spread his acquisitions around
so that no one suffered too badly. As he had correctly
predicted, when the parts were incorporated into a whole
bike, there was no way a particular part could be identified.
was always the first to do the most dangerous stunts
feats and dares. When we went to the river to swim,
he would be the first to dive off the highest bank or
tree, swim in the dirtiest water to show off and stay
under water the longest. Actually, where we went swimming
every day in the summer was a sewer run-off. Raw sewage
would be piped from local houses into creeks, which
flowed into the river in which we swam. In some places,
a little farther down stream where we would normally
not swim, it was so bad that we could walk knee-deep
in the diluted sewage that had settled to the bottom.
But we were never deterred and continued to swim every
day a little up-stream from the bad stuff.
Of course, there were times when we inadvertently swallowed
water while we were swimming, playing or horsing around
in the water but we thought nothing of it. On the theory
that getting a little bit of a disease keeps one from
getting the full blown disease, my guess is that we
were orally inoculated for every disease that you can
possibly get from swimming four hours everyday in concentrated
Did we ever get sick? We probably did, but we never
connected it with our swimming. Whenever we felt logy,
wed just sit it out for a day or two until we
got better. We never complained to our father for fear
that he would make us drink a big glass of Epson Salts
to clean us out. Epsom Salts would give us a roaring
case of diarrhea and terrible stomach cramps that seemed
much worse than any sickness. Incidentally, my father
never knew about the sewage situation and only a few
parents in our area let their kids swim in that "river."
As kids, we could never understand why.
day when Johnny was climbing a tree alone, he slipped
and a pointed part of a dried branch near the trunk
pierced the front of his leg. He limped home and treated
the puncture himself. The wound soon became infected
to the point where he had to go to a doctor. We seldom,
if ever, went to doctors in those days. Usually, the
doctor would come to the home and that would be when
you either broke a bone on had some life-threatening
illness. Everybody knew the doctors car and when
it was parked in front of someones home; it became
an immediate topic of concerned gossip. I think Johnny
rode his bike to the doctors because it was a
few miles away. The doctor treated him with iodine and
some other nostrums, which must have worked because
he was soon back to his old self. Blood poisoning (sepsis)
was fairly common in those days because of the lack
of antibiotics. Even "lock jaw" could be contracted
if one happened to get a cut or stepped on a rusty nail
when visiting a barnyard. Because we always went bare-footed
during the summer, stepping on a nail or being cut by
broken glass was not uncommon. So common in fact that,
when we saw some kid limping, we guessed that he had
stepped on a nail, and we were usually right.
dark night Johnny, two other boys and I were walking
down Edmonston Road about a mile from home. It was close
to 9:oclock, which was pretty late for us to be
out. I must have been about 8 or 9 years old at the
time, and Johnny 11 or 12. One of the boys had stolen
a pack of cigarettes and began passing them around.
We all took one and lit up. Smoking a real, completely
unbroken, and un-smoked cigarette was a major "man
thing" to do. Most of the time, when we wanted
to show our machismo smoking ability, we simply looked
around until we found a butt on the ground. Wed
pick it up and light up. We called them O.Ps.,
"Other Peoples." I still wonder why we never
got a disease from this terrible habit. We had no sooner
lit our cigarettes and taken a few puffs when a large
shadow shot across the dark road and grabbed both Johnny
and me by the nape of the neck. A flood of angry Spanish
words ensued. It was my father. He had appeared out
of nowhere. Actually he and Beano were out looking for
us because it was late and we were not home. Johnny
quickly put his cigarette out and threw it away. He
was the one with the street smarts. I was so shaken
that I just threw mine down without putting it out.
The red glow was quite visible in the dark. In Spanish,
my father said, "pick it up," which I did.
Then he said, "put it out," which I did. Then
he added, "dont drop it." And I didnt.
we got home, my father sat me on a chair in the kitchen
and told Beano to get me a glass of water. Then he said,
"Eat the cigarette." I didnt think he
really meant it, but he repeated it with a bit more
emphasis, "Eat the cigarette!" So, I ate it
and washed it down with the water. That was bad enough,
but the worst was yet to come. He made me go down into
the cellar because I was not fit to be with decent people.
The cellar was dark, and at eight years old, I knew
that there were things down there like the Shadow, Frankenstein,
Dracula, and other horrors waiting to grab a bad
boy like me. After about a half-hour of crying,
yelling and pleading, my father relented and let me
come up out of the cellar.
ordeal was not over. He sent me to sleep in the same
single bed with Johnny. This was almost worse than being
in the cellar because I knew Johnny would tease the
life out of me. Besides, I had a bad case of poison
ivy (to which Johnny was immune, of course) and itched
all over. It was a horrible night. The bottom line is
that to this day, some 75 years later, I have never
smoked another cigarette. If I even thought about smoking,
I would remember how my father literally appeared out
of nowhere and caught me. That did the abstinence trick
for me until I grew old enough to realize that smoking
was not something I wanted to do.
was a game we used to play called "Pocketbook."
This involved putting an old wallet into the middle
of Edmonston Road, a two-lane, concrete road about a
mile from our home. Some green paper and a few Chinese
coins would be sticking out of the wallet so that it
looked like a real wallet with money in it that had
fallen from a car or buggy. After putting it in the
road, we hid in the bushes along side of the road to
watch the fun. This was in the country where there were
very few cars.
a car came by, it would invariably run over the wallet
and then slam on the brakes. When the driver took his
foot off of the accelerator to put on the brakes to
stop, Johnny, the fast one, would run out, get the wallet
and run back into the bushes. Most of the time, the
driver would back up and then go back and forth where
he thought he saw the wallet. Sometimes he would get
out of the car and look around to make sure he saw what
he thought he saw. Finally he would give up and drive
away thinking that he (women didnt drive in those
days) had been seeing things. When he drove away, thats
when we all broke out into peals of knee-slapping laughter.
of the cars that came by one evening was full of 20-year
old toughs. They were part of a the Fleshman gang.
They delivered ice to the area homes for Mr. Fleshman,
the iceman. (Refrigerators had not been invented then.)
When they slammed on the brakes and tumbled out of the
car, they were serious about getting that wallet and
the money. Johnny ran out, grabbed the wallet and ran
back into the bushes. Unfortunately, they saw him and
went running after him. Johnny then took off like a
gazelle and was making headway until they spread out,
surrounded him and caught him. We kept telling them
that it was a joke and that it was not a real wallet.
Johnny showed them the wallet with the Chinese coins
and kept telling them that neither the wallet nor the
money was real. Finally, they let us all go and returned
to their car laughing, punching arms and agreeing that
it was a good joke.
he was about 14, Johnny had an early morning paper route.
The subscribers homes were pretty far apart up
in the hills and it took a fair amount of time to serve
them. This was especially irksome in the wintertime.
Our older brother Ramon had just bought a new, black,
Ford sedan. He was working at a Gulf gas station at
the time and kept his car in perfect condition both
inside and out. On cold mornings, when Johnny had to
deliver his papers, borrowing Ramons
car was a daily temptation. Johnny finally succumbed,
and after "borrowing" Ramons keys, he
would push the car backwards out of our driveway and
turn it so it was headed down the road. (I said Johnny
was strong.) After pushing it a little further, he got
in, started it and went about delivering his papers
in Ramons most prized possession. Coming back,
hed speed up the car, cut the engine and glide
silently into our driveway after making a harrowing
ninety degree turn to avoid hitting a utility pole that
was right next to the entrance of our driveway. This
went on for some time. Ramon used to brag about how
well his car ran, and he was especially proud of the
way it started immediately on cold mornings. He didnt
know that Johnny had just driven it about 10 miles
came a day when Ramon had to leave for work a little
earlier than usual. It was an especially cold morning
and when he went to get into his car he unconsciously
put his hand on the hood. It was warm. He opened the
hood and the engine was warm. He didnt need an
explanation; he guessed the answer right away. The next
morning, he got up early and watched while Johnny started
pushing the car out of the driveway. Ramon ran outside
and interrupted his car-stealing so that
Johnny had to go back to delivering papers on his bike.
he was fifteen, in his sophomore year at High School,
our father, for reasons known best to him, took Johnny
out of school and put him into St. Marys School
for Boys in Baltimore. Our mother had died two years
before and since our father was away all day teaching
at his Spanish school in Washington, he decided this
was the only way to keep Johnny under control. St. Marys
was a school for juvenile delinquents operated by an
order of religious brothers. Many of its inmates
had committed crimes like grand larceny, attempted murder,
and so forth. They were not promising Eagle Scout material.
Although Johnny may have been a "bad boy"
as perceived in those days, he was certainly no criminal.
Obviously unhappy there, he soon broke out and came
home. Our father took him back where they beat the heck
out of him for breaking out
they called it Leaving
without permission. After a few more months, he
escaped again, made his way home and begged his father
not to send him back. Fortunately, our oldest brother,
Luis, intervened and convinced our father that he shouldnt
send Johnny back.
that time, Luis owned a cleaning and pressing shop in
Riverdale. He hired Johnny to work for him since Johnny
had leaned a little bit about the tailoring trade while
at St. Marys.
Johnny worked for our brother a short while, our father
persuaded the Lerber brothers, two Spanish friends,
to give Johnny a job at one of their two restaurants.
The Lerbers agreed to let Johnny work in their
bakery. They said they would have liked to have put
him in the restaurant but, although he was legally old
enough to work, they would be criticized for not giving
the job to an older person with possibly a wife and
kids to feed. This was during the Great Depression and
everybody was desperate to get work. In those days,
a person earning
$ 30.00 a week, with a family, would be considered very
year or so earlier, our father had taught Johnny how
to open oysters, so when the restaurant needed someone
to open oysters,
Johnny got the job. He did so well that they put a small
stall in the front window of the restaurant where the
public could watch him open oysters. Many of the same
people would stop by every day to watch him. It was
good publicity for the restaurant and a much needed
boost to Johnnys ego.
night Johnny missed his bus to East Riverdale and had
to take a streetcar to West Riverdale. This meant he
had to walk about 2 miles home. Because there were no
sidewalks, he walked alongside the road. It was late,
dark and there were no streetlights. For some unknown
reason, a car went out of its way to clip Johnny. The
driver sped away. Johnny got up, pulled himself together
and continued his walk home. He had cuts, bruises and
cinders embedded in his face from hitting the road.
His clothes were ruined. After all these years, he still
has a few cinders embedded around his temple from that
1936, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran against Alf
Landon for the Presidency, our father, normally a Democrat,
decided that Landon would be elected. He convinced Johnny
and the rest of us that this was really going to happen.
He was so convincing that Johnny made a disastrous wager
with one of the other restaurant cooks. If Roosevelt
won, Johnny would push his colleague in a wheelbarrow
down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol building to
the White House, a distanced of about 3 miles. If Alf
Landon won, Johnny would get the ride. Additionally,
whoever rode in the wheelbarrow would sound a god-awful
claxon horn during the ride. The day after the election,
the Washington Post ran a picture of Johnny pushing
his friend in a wheelbarrow from the Capitol to the
father was normally very astute politically and a great
believer in the new "science" of poll taking.
The Literary Digest poll that had so impressed our father
was based on replies from people they called on the
telephone. Unfortunately for both Johnny and the Literary
Digest, most Americans at that time couldnt afford
telephones but they could vote. That skewed the predictions
in favor of Landon. The very prestigious Literary Digest
went out of business soon afterwards.
the spring of 1938, after our father died, Johnny and
I went to live
with our older brother Ramon and his wife Kitty. Johnny
was working in the restaurant and was finally able to
afford a motorcycle; something he had wanted for years.
He used it to go to work because he had no problem parking
and it was much cheaper than a new car. I think it was
a new Harley.
when he and his friends were hanging out at the corner
of Riverdale and Edmonston Roads, A friend, Eddie Linheart,
asked for a ride on Johnnys new motorcycle. Johnny
agreed and they started north on Edmonston Road. There
were very few cars on the road in those days and after
riding 2 or 3 miles on Edmonston Road, there were none
at all. The reason for this is that Edmonston Road,
a 2-lane, concrete highway built by chain-gang prisoners,
went nowhere. It abruptly ended in the woods about 4
or 5 miles away. Five years later, the federal government
built the city of Greenbelt where that road ended. Now,
Greenbelt is also the home of NASA.
Eddie Linheart on the back seat, Johnny went for a fast
ride out on this dark and lonely road. About a quarter-mile
from the roads end, Johnny approached a car traveling
in their same direction. He slowed down a little and
prepared to pass, but as he approached, the driver suddenly
decided to make a quick "U turn. Johnny hit
him broadside. Eddie Linheart was thrown over the car
and landed on the concrete with minor scratches. Johnny
held on to the handlebars and stayed with the motorcycle.
The cars driver was drunk and went his way. The
motorcycle was damaged but still operating, so Johnny
got back on, and with Eddie on the back, they returned
to the corner. By the time they got there, Johnny was
complaining that his back was hurting badly. He called
our older brother Ramon and told him what had happened.
Ramon immediately took Johnny to the hospital where
X-rays indicated that his back was broken in two places.
He spent that summer in a full-torso, plaster of Paris
cast, which must have weighed about 30 pounds.
you can picture summers in the Washington, D.C. suburban
area in 1938, when there was no air conditioning, you
can imagine how that cast, padded with raw cotton, felt.
Sweating would wet the cotton and make the skin inside
itch to the point where at one time I thought Johnny
was going to rip the cast off.
finally made himself a back-scratcher and relieved the
itching as best he could by slipping it down his back
inside the cast. When he scratched his back with his
homemade scratcher, it not only felt good but a blissful,
beatific smile of relief would spread over his face.
and I spent most of that summer with our friends playing
Monopoly, the big new game in 1937 and 38. When
the cast finally came off, Johnny was back to work,
riding his motorcycle none the worse for wear. The doctor
told him that if he ever broke his back again, it would
never be where it had just knitted because that break
was now his backs strongest spot. After his back
healed, Johnny moved from Ramon and Kittys to
an apartment in Washington with a couple of friends.
I graduated from High School, I got a job as a laborer
with my sister Rosarios husband, Whitie. I moved
into Rosario and Whities home in far northwest
Washington, D.C. On weekends, Johnny and I would take
our cameras and spend all day Saturday shooting pictures
of Washingtons many beautiful, government buildings.
Johnnys landlord, at that time, let Johnny build
a dark room in his basement. So, after we spent all
day Saturday shooting pictures, I would stay with Johnny
overnight and wed develop and print the photos
all day Sunday. We always had a great time and learned
a lot about photography.
"Big Brother" chore Johnny performed was to
take me to a mens store a couple of times a year,
and buy me a suit and other clothing. He was my fashion
expert and taught me how to wear clothes and where I
could get the best ones for the least amount of money.
I have never forgotten this generosity.
we were in this picture-taking mode, Johnny came down
with appendicitis and had his appendix out. He met me
the next evening at the Keith Theater where we saw a
movie called, "Nurse Carvel." It was about
a famous nurse who did a lot of good things. I no longer
remember the movie, but, can you imagine someone going
into a hospital with appendicitis, having the operation,
leaving the next day and going to a movie that night.
As far as I can see, only Johnny could pull that off.
and I lost touch with each other when I moved to Philadelphia
to take a job as a messenger with the U.S. Department
of Agriculture. On October 23, 1942, I enlisted in the
Navy Reserve as a Naval Aviation Cadet. Johnny was drafted
into the Army and both of us began doing our WW-II thing
for God, Flag and Country.
was called to active duty in the Navy Reserve on February
13, 1943 and began 18 months of very rigorous training
to become a Marine Corps Fighter Pilot. Johnny was sworn
into the Army that same year at Ft. Myer, VA, and was
immediately sent to an induction center at Camp Lee,
NC. There he volunteered for the paratroopers. After
about 2 or 3 weeks, he was assigned to K.P. duty (Kitchen
Police). Johnny thought this was an easy stint since
he had just left a job at the Neptune Room, where he
had been a breakfast cook. K.P. therefore, was his first
Army assignment and he soon ended up at the officers
began coaching the enlisted men in the officers
mess, telling them what to do and how to do it. Getting
no visible response, it dawned on him that these men
didnt know what he was talking about. They came
from rural Kentucky and their idea of a kitchen was
a small room in a small house with a wood burning stove
doing double duty as a place to cook and to keep warm.
overcome this "untrained personnel" problem,
Johnny set up some procedures, which had the uninitiated
Kentuckians taking the breakfast orders from the officers.
After taking the orders, they would tell Johnny in their
country lingo what the officers ordered. Johnny would
then tell them how to order the food from the kitchen
and how to serve it. This system worked very well, so
much so that Johnny came to the attention of the Sergeant
in charge of the officers mess. The Sergeant asked
Johnny what he did before coming into the service. When
Johnny said he worked in a restaurant, the Sergeant
wanted to have him transferred immediately to the officers
mess under him. He asked Johnny if he had volunteered
for any other duty so that he could process him properly.
When Johnny said that he had volunteered for the paratroopers,
the Sergeant was crest-fallen because the paratroopers
had the highest priority for men and was the only place
from which he could not negotiate a transfer. So Johnny
remained on temporary duty in the officers mess.
few days later, he transferred to the paratrooper training
base at Camp Blanding, Florida. Walking was not allowed
at this training base unless you were going to sick
call, and youd better be sick. Double-time was
the rule for all trainees, all the time and everywhere.
After about two weeks training, he was instructed, along
with other trainees, to jump off of a platform about
ten feet high into a sawdust pit. In doing this, his
feet went flat and he was unable to continue his training.
was then sent to the combat engineers training
base in Durham, N. C. After 10 weeks of a 12-week basic
training course, a group of four, including Johnny,
was detailed to build a bridge across a little creek
in one hour. They were given a saw, a hammer, a hatchet
and a couple of other basic tools. They chopped down
two trees and put them across the creek and made the
bridge. No big deal.
that successful effort, Johnny noticed a group of trainees
crowding around his Sergeant. It seemed that the Sergeant
had a weekend pass and was planning to spend it in Washington,
D.C. The men were giving him names of girls to visit
while he was there. When the men left, the Sergeant
complained to Johnny that the girls names he had
gotten all seemed to be kids. He was 27 and not about
to go out with teen-agers. Johnny suggested that he
visit the Neptune Room where he had worked. He said
he had a lot of friends there and suggested that he
see his former boss and tell him that he was Johnnys
Sergeant. If he did, Johnny said, at least hed
get a good meal. The Sergeant went to Washington, D.C.
Sunday at about 2 a.m., Johnny felt somebody tugging
on his foot. It was the Sergeant. He said, come with
me. Johnny staggered to his feet, wondering what was
going on. He followed the Sergeant to his quarters.
There, the Sergeant reached under his bed, got a fifth
of Vat-69 Scotch and poured Johnny a huge drink. Then,
with a big smile, the Sergeant told him about his Saturday
visit to Washington. He said he had checked out all
the girls his men had recommended and didnt find
an adult in the whole lot. In desperation, he took a
cab to the Neptune Room. When he told Johnnys
boss that he was Johnnys Sergeant, he was treated
like royalty. They fed him, bought him drinks and even
took him to a nightclub on Bladensburg Road. The girls
who went along took him dancing, after which they all
ended up at Johnnys roommates apartment,
staying there for the night. All in all he said hed
had the best time of his life. Score one for Johnny,
he gained the Sergeant for a friend.
next week, the eleventh week of boot camp, the Sergeant
went up to Johnny and said in a low voice, "Take
a screw out of your rifles sight and put your
rifle in ordinance for repair. Make sure you get a receipt
for it. The Sergeant further explained, "they
have three weekend passes for seven hundred men,
he continued, and if you stand in line with your
rifle like the others, theres no way in hell youre
going to get one of those passes. Ill see what
I can do." Thanks to the sergeant, Johnny got one
of the passes and spent a memorable weekend at home
in Washington. That same weekend he learned about Ronnie
(Veronica T. Femiani) from her sister who also worked
at the Neptune Room. He met Ronnie, and began a relationship
that ultimately resulted in a happy marriage and 3 children.
boot camp, Johnny was sent to New York to join a large
group of troops being sent to Africa as replacements
for troops fighting General Rommel. They were put aboard
a ship and Johnny ended up in a stateroom. He figured
that it was a mistake, but he wasnt about to tell
anybody. As a result he made the 21-day trip across
the Atlantic in a fine stateroom complete with shower.
It took 21 days instead of 4 or 5 days to make the trip
because they had to zigzag to avoid German submarines.
day before they landed, they could see the straits of
Gibraltar; which meant Africa. That same day, they were
ordered topside to listen to a talk by the Colonel,
The Colonel harangued them with stories about the invincibility
of Rommels forces and how he was winning in Africa,
etc., etc. The result of this "pep talk" to
the troops was that it demoralized and scared the living
daylights out of them.
disembarking, they went to a bivouac area to put up
their tents. Every morning trucks would come by and
when a name was called, that person climbed into a truck
with all his gear and away they went. Troops whose names
werent called were given the rest of the day off.
one of those days off, Johnny and some of his
friends decided to explore the area. They went to the
top of a cliff overlooking the harbor. Looking closer,
they saw a grotto in the cliff with a statue of the
Blessed Virgin in it. They decided to find out how in
the world anybody could get to that statue. They went
down to the base of the cliff and found that there actually
was a way of getting up to the grotto. They climbed
up to it and discovered that practically every inch
of the grotto and the statue was covered with names.
Not to be outdone by earlier visitors, Johnny found
a small spot on the statue to write his name. He said
if you dont believe him, climb up to the statue
and see for yourself.
Johnny and his friends returned to the bivouac area
he found that all the buddies with whom he had trained
had been taken away in the trucks. The next morning,
his name was called but before he got into a truck,
the Sergeant in charge said, Come with me.
He was taken to an officer who asked, "are you
a Catholic? "Well," Johnny replied,
"I was baptized and confirmed but Im not
a practicing Catholic." The Lieutenant said, "I
didnt think so," and added that he needed
someone in record keeping and Johnny was the one he
thought could do the job. He pointed to a camera that
was set up and asked if Johnny could operate it and
develop film. Johnny had been taking pictures with all
kinds of cameras for about 10 years so he said yes.
The Lt. said, this job calls for a Tech. Sergeant.
You cant get the stripes right away but youll
eventually get them. Thats how Johnny became
a Tech. Sergeant and an Army photographer.
on, Johnny, along with another Sergeant, a Corporal
and some enlisted men, began processing prisoners, mostly
Germans, in North Africa. The terrain was flat and brown
and the air was dry and very clear. They could see for
miles. Johnny saw German prisoners marching eight abreast
in a line that ran about a mile long with every man
in perfect step. These were members of Rommels
elite, "unbeatable Afrika Corps, which had
just been beaten. Johnnys team was processing
them in groups of fifty. They took everything away from
them and then gave each of them a manila envelope for
their personal effects.
he was in the service, Johnny and Ronnie corresponded
every day. Ronnies letters were about 8 pages
long. While Johnny was overseas, Ronnie wrote over eleven
hundred letters to him and Johnny answered them all.
Johnny got out of the service, he and Ronnie wanted
to get married right away. He got the license and they
proceeded to a Catholic Church because Ronnie wanted
to be married by a priest. Upon learning that Johnny
already had the license and they wanted to be married
as soon as possible, the priest went ballistic. He said,
very angrily, that there were many things to do before
they could get married. Announcements had to be made
for three Sundays, and he went on and on about all the
rules, etc. Johnny said he had been overseas for three
years, and that he and his fiancée had been waiting
for four years to get married and they intended to get
married there or somewhere else.
the priest verbally threw them out of the church, they
met another priest outside who had just gotten out of
the service. That Priest asked what the problem was
and they told him their story. He then asked, "When
do you want to get married?" Johnny said they would
like to get married the next day, a Sunday. The priest
said, "come to the church around eleven oclock."
Johnny asked his best friend to be his "best man,"
and when the three of them arrived at the church, who
was there to perform the ceremony but the priest that
had given them such a hard time.
turns out that the priest they met in the street was
the pastor and the unsympathetic priest only a "spear
carrier." He reluctantly performed the ceremony,
mispronouncing their names so badly that the best man
was in paroxysm of stifled laughter. In spite of the
bumpy beginning, a very strong knot was tied that Sunday
that stayed tied until Ronnies death from Leukemia
in 1970. Johnny and Ronnie had a very short honeymoon,
and he was back at work the next day.
time after they were married, they learned that the
very strict priest who refused to marry them and threatened
them with hells fire, ran off with his housekeeper.
leaving the service, Johnny was back working at the
Neptune Room as a cook. He had always been interested
in machinery and how it operated, This interest led
Johnny to an up-coming opportunity for an important
seems that the restaurants maintenance workers
didnt work on the weekends. On one Saturday, an
emergency developed in one of the many restaurant machines
with no one available to fix it. Johnny smelled rubber
burning and figured that a belt was burning. He located
the problem, turned the machine off, went to the maintenance
shop, got a belt and replaced the worn one, solving
one of the owners heard how Johnny averted a possible
dangerous fire, he suggested that Johnny use the G.I.
Bill to learn a trade and get out of the cooking business.
Cooks are a dime a dozen, the owner said, but what he
needed was someone who could fix things. He offered
to help Johnny in any way he could and he did. He saw
to it that Johnny had a car with which to go back and
forth to work and to school because of Johnnys
very difficult working and school hours.
talked it over with Ronnie and they decided that he
should enroll in a heating, air conditioning and refrigeration
school. His class was made up of high school graduates
and some college men. Since Johnny had only gotten to
the second year of high school, it was very difficult
for him to keep up with the other students. He sat in
the front row and asked question after question until
he thoroughly understood his lessons.
he became a pain in the neck with his questions, and
one day the teacher told him so. That was a mistake,
because Johnny was all over him telling him what the
teacher needed to do to improve the course and why.
The teacher finally calmed Johnny down and made no more
snide remarks about Johnnys questions.
schedule required him to work all day at the restaurant,
get off at 5 p. m. and get to school by 5:15. He would
be in school until 9:00 p.m. Then back home to sleep
and up by 6 a.m. to go back to work. Thus the need for
a car. This went on five days a week for three years.
said that he never got less than 100 on any of his tests
except one in which he missed two questions. There was
a black student in the class who used to copy the answers
from Johnnys test papers. That students
test had the same two questions answered wrong. As a
consequence, his desk was moved far away from Johnnys.
the graduation ceremony, Johnny informed the teacher
that, whereas he may have known a lot about heating,
refrigeration and air conditioning, he didnt know
a damn thing about teaching it.
did very well as an air condition, heating and refrigeration
professional except for one close call that almost cost
him his life. Johnny was working on a cooling tower
on top of the Harris Hotel at Massachusetts Avenue and
North Capitol Streets when he slipped and fell from
the tower. Not only did he fall but he was also about
to fall over the edge of the short wall that surrounded
the roof. Fortunately, his helper was sitting very near
the short wall facing outward. As Johnny was going over
the short wall, his helper instinctively caught Johnnys
foot with his own foot as it was passing by. With his
foot, the helper pressed Johnnys foot against
the inside of the short wall and kept Johnny from taking
a quick trip to the Massachusetts Avenue sidewalk.
had literally gone over the wall and was hanging, head
down, over Massachusetts Avenue. His helper could not
move for fear of releasing the pressure on Johnnys
foot and thereby releasing him to fall to the street.
As a crowd was gathering on Massachusetts Avenue, Johnny
was shouting to his helper to keep the pressure on his
foot, which he did. In the meantime, Johnny was inching
his hand up the outside of the wall until he could get
a good grip on the top of the wall and begin to pull
himself up so that he was hanging head up instead of
head down over Massachusetts Avenue. Things were looking
up (pun intended). Needless to say, he made it and put
repairing cooling towers on his Do not do.
and Ronnies first home was in Colmar Manor, Maryland.
Their three children, Jan Rey, Juan Ramon and Catherine
Rose, were born while they lived there. Ronnie passed
away in 1970, only 6 weeks after being diagnosed with
Leukemia. They had been married for 25 years.
1972, Johnny met Joyleen Taylor Galentine. Joyleens
husband had died in 1966, leaving her with four children.
Both Joyleen and Johnny felt they had found another
perfect mate in each other, and became husband and wife.
They spent the next 25 years in a happy marriage, until
tragedy struck again and Joyleen passed away in 1997
from high blood pressure.
April, 2001, Johnny suffered a stroke, which left his
right leg paralyzed, requiring him to use a walker.
The worst part of this was his inability to drive, which
really changed the quality of his life. But as you would
expect, Johnny has made the best of a rough deal and
is doing the best he can to enjoy life in spite of his