Friday, June 25, 2010

Mike Fowler often relived his army days

Mike Fowler
Leora (Leola) and Mose (Mozell) always had a house big enough for their children to stay when they came home for a visit. When Mike Fowler returned to Austin after serving in World War ll, he was expected to live with his parents before striking out on his own.

On the surface Mike, my first favorite uncle, seemed to be "normal" until he was spooked by an airplane, gunshots or firecrackers. One afternoon the family was outside playing games and jumping rope. A plane flew over our house. What happened next was scary. It was the first time we witnessed Mike having a post war panic attack.

The instant he heard the plane I think he began reliving the war. Mike started running and dodging an enemy we could not see. Luckily, it did not take long for him to recover. Just as quickly as the episode started, Mike was his old self again.

Not knowing the seriousness of his war related condition, we silly kids laughed at him. Whenever we wanted to see Uncle Mike "have a fit" we would light fire crackers and throw them behind him. As an adult I now know that the firecrackers must have sounded like a succession of gunshots, sending him into a panic. Our poor uncle jumped toward the sky. He always looked frightened as he searched for a place to hide.

Every day we were outside someone managed to get a firecracker or two. We played that game with our uncle until it stopped being funny. As usual he took it in stride. The Army did not call his post war condition Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The word  was not used until the Vietnam war ended. It was obvious that Mike suffered PTSD before it was labeled as such. I heard older people in the family say he was "shell-shocked", which means combat fatigue.

"Uncle Mike" as my sister Marie and I called him, was the softhearted one of his sisters and brothers. He was not ashamed to cry when he got emotional. What I liked the most about him is, he thought I was good cook, no matter how awful it tasted. I was about 11 or 12 years old and knew nothing about real cooking. He never discouraged me. He and my Uncle Cluck were the first to send me to a real beauty shop to get my hair done by a real beautician. The woman, who liked to talk while she pressed and curled my hair, burned my ears and scalp each time she ran the hot comb through my hair. It was not a pleasant experience.

I also remember Mike having a couple of gold teeth, as did his sister Gertrude. That was the fashion back then. They polished the gold teeth with baking soda. Mike was also a "sharp" dresser. After he moved to Los Angeles he fell in love with the race track and playing the horses. Occasionally he and his wife Ann came to Austin to see his mother and family.

Mike Fowler was born to Mose and Leora Fowler January 20, 1919 in Justice Precinct 3, Bastrop, Texas. He had two sisters Imogene Fowler-Gray, Gertrude Fowler-Smith and three brothers Johnny Mose Fowler, Raymond Fowler and Israel Fowler.

When he died of a heart attack July 18, 1983 in Los Angeles, California, Mike was living with his second wife Ann. They had no children together. His first wife, an Austinite, was Erma Gene Elder, who he married June 4, 1940. He was 21.

Mike Fowler leaves behind to mourn him, his wife Ann of Los Angeles, a sister Gertrude Fowler Smith, a brother Johnny Mose Fowler both of Austin, and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, friends and other relatives. He is preceded in death by his mother Leora (Leola) Sterling, his father Mose Fowler, two brothers Israel Fowler of Washington, D.C. and Raymond Fowler of Lorain, Ohio, one sister Imogene Fowler Gray of Austin.

Mike is interned at Riverside National Cemetery, Section 3, Ste llll, Los Angeles, California.

This photo was taken in Los Angeles or in Ohio when Leora went for a visit. Pictured are (l) Ann (Mike's wife) Mary (Raymond's wife) Leora (c) Mike and Raymond (r).

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