Ernest “Ernie” Rose, 96, grew up in a farmhouse on the old Martin Roundtree homestead near Curtis where he was raised by his paternal grandparents, Anton and Elizabeth Rose, immigrants from Austria.
His mother, Clara (Moon) Rose, died a week after his birth in late November 1922, and his father, John, moved in with his parents so they could help raise Ernie and his older sister, Louise.
His father blamed him for the death of his mother, Rose said.
When he was about 10, Ernie’s father moved the family to Pe Ell, where Ernie remained four or five years. But he didn’t get along with his stepmother, so he returned to his grandparents’ home. He described his grandma as “a real wonderful lady.” Everyone described his grandfather as “ornery,” but he treated Ernie well. He died in 1946 and his grandmother five years later, not long after their farmhouse burned down.
His bachelor uncle, Anton Jr., was like a father to him. “He always stuck up for me, and it seemed like my dad didn’t have much use for me,” he said. “My sister was always his favorite. Matter of fact, she ended up with everything.”
After completing the first year of high school, he quit. “I never did like school.”
His uncle told him to either go to school or find another place to board.
So he left.
At 16, he milked about a dozen cows for the Burris family for $10 a month plus room and board. In the spring of 1940, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps and spent the summer at Cispus, clearing roads, cutting trees, and fighting fires with picks and shovels on a crew called “the flying ’40.” He received $30 a month, with $22 tucked into savings. When he left, he had $130 in savings.
He then delivered firewood, drove a wood truck, and later worked as a truck driver for a Chehalis sawmill. When World War II broke out, he was working in the planer shed at the Carlisle mill in Onalaska. When they wanted him to work Saturday nights, he quit.
He started working as a choker setter in the woods at Weyerhaeuser Co.’s Camp McDonald. In February 1943, he received his draft notice. He didn’t show up for work one day, and when the boss asked him why, he said it was none of his business.
“You got that attitude, you’ll find yourself in the Army,” his boss told him. “I said, ‘Well, if it makes you feel better, that’s where I was, to Tacoma taking my physical.’”
Rose admits he had an attitude after living on his own from the age of 16.
He joined the Army with Glen Ellingson, one of his friends and classmates from first through third grades at Klaber school. They trained together at Camp Haan, a coastal Army base near Riverside, California. They trained in 40-millimeter guns and later on maintaining half-tracks.
When they returned on furlough before shipping overseas, Rose married his sweetheart, Marie Friese of Lost Valley near Boistfort on Feb. 14, 1944.
“He was more like a brother,” Rose said of Ellingson. “He was my best man when I got married and I was his best man when he got married.”
As part of the 390th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion, Rose and Ellingson traveled together across the United States by train and then the Atlantic Ocean on the troop ship RMS Aquitania. However, their voyage was delayed a month for repairs to a propeller shaft, which kept them from landing at Normandy in France on D-Day, June 6, 1944. They landed in Glasgow, Scotland, June 30, 1944, and rode a trolley train to England, where they picked up their equipment. They landed at Utah Beach in France on July 27, 1944, 51 days after D-Day.
A Disney cartoonist created a gollywampus gremlin as a mascot for their unit, the 390th, which traveled through France. They stayed at Fontainebleau on the Seine River, defending airfields and bridges, before traveling east to the Moselle River.
At one point, the men hunkered down in foxholes as artillery shells landed. One hit the mess truck.
“One of them hit next door to my foxhole,” Rose said. “It’s a dud. It didn’t go off. When I crawled out of that foxhole, I could reach over and put my hand on it.”
Part of it still protruded from the ground.
They reached the German border, then traveled north to the Ardennes forest and the Battle of the Bulge, the German army’s last major counteroffensive on the Western Front.
“I was in the battery headquarters and we never got much action up there,” Rose said. “You’d never know a war was going on, but the ones up on the front lines I guess had an awful mess.”
In fact, between Dec. 16, 1944, and Jan. 25, 1945, the Battle of the Bulge claimed the lives of 19,276 Americans.
Rose was promoted from corporal to technician grade sergeant and then staff sergeant in charge of the Battery D motor pool. They crossed Germany to Austria, where they were when the war ended. They spent six months at Munich in the occupation Army, and Rose oversaw prisoners who worked at the camp.
“I’d just turn them loose and they’d go work,” he said, adding that he shared food and cigarettes with them. “You couldn’t run them off.”
Rose said they saw liberated but starving Jewish inmates while passing concentration camps. “They’d set down there and make a meal out of dead animals,” he said.
After a week of rest and relaxation in Switzerland, Rose headed home, hoping to arrive by Christmas, but instead spent the holiday on a ship.
“We spent 15 days on that dang boat bouncing around the Atlantic Coast,” Rose said. “I was so danged glad to get off that damn boat. I’ve had no use for a boat since.”
He traveled by train from New York to Fort Lewis, hitchhiked to Chehalis and hired a cab to take him to his in-laws’ home in Lost Valley.
He returned to logging for Arno Anderson Logging Company in Lost Valley and later for Weyerhaeuser before starting his own one-man logging outfit. After five or six years, he worked for the Washington State Parks Department at the Millersylvania shop. But he didn’t want to move to the Seattle area, so he quit and ran his own sawmill on his property. He also farmed and owned a herd of two dozen cattle until 1999. He worked “lots of little odds and ends—anything I could make a dollar on.”
After his uncle died in 1970, Ernie bought the farm from his estate. Three years later, he and his wife, Marie, built a new house and moved there from Coal Creek. His basement flooded in 2007.
He and Marie had three children—Marilyn Barnett, Linda Rosebrook, and John Rose, who died in December 2009. Marie died in March 2012, at 87. They have six grandchildren and many great-grandchildren and even great-great-grandchildren. Rose has been pictured several times with five generations of his family.
“When I was growing up, I had everything figured out,” Rose said. “I was going to live till 85, and that’s when I should have died. Been nothing but misery since then.”
Rose said he drank all the time but quit for eight years.
“I’ve got so many aches and pains, I got to thinking, ‘Hell, I never had those aches and pains when I was a’drinking, so I started in.”
He refers to it has his medication.
“I have a double shot of whiskey with some juice every morning after breakfast.”
• Julie McDonald, a personal historian from Toledo, may be reached at email@example.com.