During the Cold War, Joe Michaels served as Navy yeoman. Because of his special ability to write in shorthand, he was often assigned to work with high ranking officers. He joined the Navy at 17 and became known as a “kiddie cruiser”–a special class of young recruit guaranteed to be discharged one day before their 21st birthday.
He served aboard the USS Lenawee, a WW II era attack transport ship named after Lenawee County, Michigan, USA.
In summer of 2013, Debby Rampolla and director Paula Kelly of Whitehall Public Library contacted us about a group of veterans who meet each month at the library and share their stories of military service. This sounds a lot like what we do through The Veterans Breakfast Club, we responded, and we were interested in visiting the group someday to introduce ourselves and to share our story as well.
That day came at the end of October 2013, when we were graciously welcomed to attend the Whitehall veterans’ group meeting and to record some of their stories. Seven local veterans attended that day; it was a comfortably intimate group, mostly old friends and a few new comers. On some meeting days, two dozen veterans might show up. Very often, just a handful of older gentlemen turn up, WW II stories in hand. Regardless, the veterans are openly welcomed by the gracious library staff with gourmet coffee and assorted pastries—irresistible incentives to warm the mood and prime the storytelling.
On the day we visited, we were warmly met by veterans Bill McLaughlin, Dave Lotz, Dick Gardner, George Morgan, Gerald Goslak, Hal Plusa, and Joe Michaels. Todd DePastino, executive director of The Veterans Breakfast Club, served to guide the discussions, while Kevin Farkas captured the roundtable banter as an audio recording—now available to the public on this website.
The Veterans of Whitehall
Seven Pittsburgh area veterans share stories of their military experiences at Whitehall Public Library. Featuring Bill McLaughlin, Dave Lotz, Dick Gardner, George Morgan, Gerald Goslak, Hal Plusa, Joe Michaels.
Recorded as part of the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Initiative at Whitehall Public Library, Whitehall, PA, October 30, 2013.
Interviewer: Todd DePastino, executive director of The Veterans Breakfast Club. Audio: Kevin Farkas.