Ferdinand Edward "Fred E." Lux
Ferdinand Edward Lux was born on September 6, 1922, in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, the eighth child of Ferdinand T. "Fred T." and Mary (Goerger) Lux. Like his father, he was known as Fred; to other family members he was “Bud”.
As a youngster, he was fond of outdoor pursuits. Hunting, trapping and ice fishing were among his favorite pastimes.
Bud (right) with sister Cathy.
“I used to hunt rabbits, I hunted ducks, I hunted pheasants. I used to hunt pheasants with Cy Carpenter and his brother [Roger] on a farm about six or seven miles out of town. They had a lot of corn fields. The three of us would walk down the rows in a row and try to flush pheasants out of there. We got quite a few. We got some ducks out there, too. They had a pond and the ducks would fly in. We used to get some pheasants near home, too, just walking out in the marshes. We’d flush one out and shoot it; once in awhile a duck or two.”
“I used to trap a little bit, too. The Sauk River wasn't far from the house. I used to trap muskrats along the river. Once in awhile I’d catch a weasel, or an ermine in the winter. One time I caught a mink, only one mink. I got a pretty good price for that, about seven bucks which was pretty good money then. Muskrats weren’t worth very much.”
On ice fishing: “Sometimes we’d just dig a hole in the ice and fish from the surface for crappies. Sometimes we’d sit in a dark house trying to spear a pickerel, but I never did get one. Some of the guys got some big pickerels there. They’d sit out in those dark houses all day, and dangle a little lure in the water. They would bend the tail so if you pulled the line up and down it would move around in a circle. Once in awhile a fish would come snooping around and you’d have your spear ready to drop right into the fish.”
There was a place not far from the Lux family home on Birch Street where the neighborhood kids could enjoy winter sports: “We had a place called Bunker Hill just down the railroad tracks and across a trestle. It was a pretty good sliding hill and we did some skiing there as well.
Bud (left) with neighbors Johnny and Wally Kleinschmidt.
“We had a dog we called Wags, he was a good pal of mine. He was a good pal of the whole family, but he followed me around. He was gun-shy; he wouldn’t go with me if I went out hunting. When I was about 12 or 13, I went down the tracks to go sliding on Bunker Hill. I could see a dog over there that Wags used to fight. My dog always got the worst of it because he was smaller. I saw that Wags was following me and I tried to chase him back. I used to put my arms up like I had a gun and was going to shoot and that would put him off. But he followed me and when I got across the trestle, he was still out in the middle of the trestle. There was a train coming, one of these diesel-electric trains, a small thing. I didn’t know what to do. The train was still a little ways away. I ran out on the trestle and chased Wags across the trestle to the other side. But the train had to stop and the engineer stopped by me. I was lying, puffing alongside the railroad tracks there on the slope. He really cussed me out. I had to hold on to Wags or he would have jumped into the cab and chewed the guy up, I think.”
“My father was a cigar maker for many years. During the depression there were a lot of farms being foreclosed on and he got a job trying to re-sell some of those farms. I used to go around with him on his route. He’d go to saloons and stores within about a thirty mile radius of Sauk Centre, I guess. That’s when I learned to drive. We had a ’31 Model A that he let me drive now and then. That’s when I was 14, and when I was 15 I got a license. So I spent quite a bit of time with him.
“I remember my mother very well. Saw that she had to work so hard during the depression. She worked in a restaurant and did the work at home and was just exhausted and became ill with diabetes. She didn’t stick to her diet very well and became more and more ill. She died in 1949 of complications from the diabetes and uremia. She was a hard worker.
“She used to make some of her German foods that were pretty good. She made something called “gemüse” (he pronounced it ga-MEE-zee) that was cabbage and potatoes and bacon mashed together that I ate a lot of. I had a pretty hardy appetite.”
Life on the Minnesota prairie made for some interesting weather. “I remember some awful thunderstorms, hail storms clustered together. We had hail stones almost as big as baseballs. It killed some of the lambs, killed some the sheep that were out in it. Made dents in a lot of cars. There were a lot of old cars with fabric tops and it just shredded the fabric tops. We had hail storms every now and then but nothing as bad as that one. Some of the thunderstorms were terrible during the 30s, during the drought. And the heat was terrible.
“Some of the winters were terrible too, but the winter of 1936 was memorable. Temperatures were way, way below zero for a long time. They never closed the school because of weather, but at that time they closed the school because there was a shortage of coal. We couldn’t get coal up the river so they shut down the boilers to keep the place just warm enough so things didn’t freeze. They closed the school for several days, maybe a week.”
When the “War of the Worlds” was broadcast on the radio in 1938, the Lux family was among those that searched the sky for signs of Martian craft approaching Earth. “That was quite a show, scared the wits out of us!”
Fred was neither an outstanding scholar nor athlete, though he did go out for football and basketball in high school. “I wasn’t much of a football player. I managed to get a broken nose and a broken little finger out of it. I didn’t play too long. I played part of two years and I never was a very speedy guy. I played a little basketball, too, but I didn’t make the varsity team, I was on the second team. I just wasn’t nearly as good as some of the other guys that were much more nimble and adept and fast, I couldn’t keep up with them. I should have just avoided sports and attended to my studies which needed a lot of attention”
A self-proclaimed “Shy guy”, he said he did not do any dating in high school. His high school yearbook from 1940, the OSAGE (oh-SA-gee), bears out that description:
“Fred is a quiet person who is a lover of nature and outdoor sports of all kinds so his hobbies are hunting and fishing. He says his ambition lies in a life of forestry and because of his love for outdoors and his knowledge along that line he could become an excellent forest ranger.”
The Class Will says: “Fred Lux wills to Bud Veeder his shy manner.” The Class Prophecy was, fortunately, not even close: “Don’t be surprised if you recognize the ‘Collier’s’ salesman in Central Minnesota. Fred Lux is making good in this work.”
During the summers, Fred stayed busy by working at the farm of his sister and brother-in-law south of Freeport: “For a couple of summers I worked on the farm at Vivian and Clarence’s place. That took me away from the kitchen table and saved a little food at home. But I ate good out at the farm. I cultivated corn and fed pigs, cattle and horses and so on. Learned a little bit about farming. That was my farming experience.”
With his interest in the outdoors, Fred had hoped to pursue a career in Forestry by attending a school in Bottineau, North Dakota. “I wanted to go to forestry school after high school, but I didn’t have any money, and I didn’t have a very good high school record either.”
After graduating from Sauk Centre High School in 1940, Fred went to work for his uncle, Everett Lux, at his farm machinery and hardware store in Long Prairie. He worked there during the summers of 1940 and 1941. “I stayed at a boarding house up there for six bucks a week room and board. My salary was 12 bucks.”
With the outbreak of World War II, Fred moved to the San Francisco Bay area in 1942, where he found work as a welder in a shipyard. “I lived in San Francisco with my sister, Toni. We had an apartment there. I used to ride the train over to Oakland to work the night shift as a welder at Moore Shipyard. Some of the ships that we worked on were Navy ships and they were much more fussy about how they were built. Some of the cargo ships were slapped together pretty fast. Anyway, I worked there for about six months. The draft board was right on my tail, so I joined the Navy. I would have joined earlier but my mother didn’t want me to. Her son Dave was in the Navy already so she said, ‘there’s no point in going until you have to.’”
Navy portrait, 1943.
Fred enlisted in the Navy in February, 1943. Basic training took place at Farragut in Idaho, then he went to diesel engine school in Ames, Iowa, where he earned the rank of “Motor Mechanic, 2nd class”. That summer he received training in the operation and maintenance of landing craft at Camp Pendleton near Oceanside, California, and at Moro Bay. He spent about four months in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, before being deployed to Ulithi atoll in the Caroline Islands. Ulithi became the major supply base in the Pacific from about October, 1944, until the end of the Japanese campaign in August, 1945.
“We used landing barges to haul supplies from the cargo ships to the Navy ships because there were no docking facilities there. So that’s where I spent the rest of the war. I worked in the shop a little bit repairing motors, but mostly I ran a landing barge with another guy. We hauled supplies day and night. It was pretty soft duty. We lived in tents on a sliver of an island (Mogmog Island) that was only about 750 feet wide and maybe a mile long.
A brief visit at Ulithi
My ship, the USS President Jackson, stopped at Ulithi for supplies late in 1944. I told my Executive Officer that my brother was stationed on the island. The EO told me to get on the transport boat and go to see him. When I got on the island I checked in with the commanding officer and told him my brother, Fred Lux, was there. The officer told me to stand behind the door when Bud came in. When Bud arrived the officer asked him if he had "kin folk" in the service? He told him yes, he had a brother. The officer asked him when had he seen me last and Bud told him he hadn't seen me for a couple of years. The officer then told him to turn around. We spent the day together on the island and then the next day Bud took the boat out to the ship and stayed for a few hours there as well.
-- David Lux
Brothers Fred and Dave Lux on Ulithi in 1944.
“[The Japanese] sent some kamikazes over there in ’45. They hit when it was just getting dark; they had just started showing movies on the ships. One of the kamikazes apparently mistook our island for a carrier, because that’s what they really wanted to get. It crashed on our island and killed a few guys and wounded about a dozen. Most of us were at the movie theater which was about 200 yards away from where the plane hit, so it didn’t do much damage. They also crashed one into a carrier [the USS Randolph] that was anchored just offshore from where we were, and did some damage on the carrier, but didn’t sink it. They had sent quite a number of planes, but only two of them got to Ulithi and made the kamikaze runs. A lot of their planes were lost on the way. It was a one-way trip of course, and by that time the pilots weren’t very good anymore. They had to have a lead plane to navigate for them. It was fortunate that more did not make it to Ulithi because there were a lot of carriers there and the lights were on all over the place.
On March 11, 1945, Ulithi was the target of a Japanese Kamikaze attack. Of 24 planes that had started the mission, only two reached Ulithi. One plane damaged the USS Randolph, the other crashed into a warehouse on Mogmog Island. The USS Randolph was repaired on site, and went on to finish the war.
“After the peace accords were signed, I stayed there for awhile trying to help close up the base. They took a lot of stuff out on pontoon barges and sunk them. I wasn’t involved in that. That was the way they closed up the bases in the Pacific. They didn’t bring the stuff back; they just took it out and gave it the deep six — Jeeps and guns and engines and all kinds of stuff. After that I came home on leave, I guess that was in October. I went home for quite a long leave, and then I went to Great Lakes Naval Training Station. I didn’t have enough points to get out of the Navy yet. They figured your points on how long you’d served and whether you had dependents. I was at Great Lakes for a little while, then they sent us to Bremerton, Washington, on a troop train. They were going to use us for relief crews on the transport ships that were still bringing troops back from the Pacific, but when we got out there they decided they didn’t need us. We stayed there a couple of weeks and it rained all the time. I came back to Great Lakes on a train and they decided I had enough points to get out. They sent me up to Minneapolis and I got my discharge there in February of ’46.”
Fred remained in Minneapolis following his discharge from the Navy, taking jobs as a welder and in the Ford Assembly Plant in St. Paul. With the G.I. Bill available to pay for college, he enrolled at the University of Minnesota, eventually earning a Bachelors degree in Biology and Wildlife Management and a Masters degree in Fishery Biology and Management.
After graduation in 1955, “… I took a Civil Service test and that led to job offers in California and one in Woods Hole, so I took the one in Woods Hole.” He ended up working as a biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service, where he remained for the rest of his working life.
On board ship, doing research on flounder, (late 1950s)
His area of expertise was commercial fishing off the New England coast. Much of his research was on “the Yellowtail Flounder and the Winter Flounder, especially, and another one they called the Summer Flounder. Life history and population dynamics, migrations using tracking fish. It was an interesting career. I spent some time at sea, sometimes on commercial fishing boats, mostly on a research boat that we owned.”
Music had always been a part of his life. Other family members recall that he would sing even as a youth. “In about 1956 I bought a guitar and learned how to play that. I didn’t get the banjo until a few years later. After I got arthritis it got hard to play either the guitar or banjo. I played the keyboard a little bit and bought a piano which I still have at home. I learned to play the piano and sing some of the old folk songs.”
He was able to retire in 1982 at age 60 thanks to his years of service to the government. “I worked in Woods Hole for 27 years, plus I had three years Navy time, so I had 30 years in. I had developed arthritis by that time, so I decided to retire pretty early.”
Fred had purchased a piece of land not far from Woods Hole and had a house built there in the mid-1960s. It was fairly secluded from the road and from neighbors; a quiet haven where he could engage in his gardening hobby. “I spent a lot of time planting trees and cultivating wild flowers from seeds that I got from a wild flower society. I kind of enjoyed that. I have a lot of wild flowers up there now. It’s quite pretty, especially in springtime.”
Fred and Jane during a visit to Ireland.
He also spent some of his retirement time traveling and attending Navy reunions. He mentioned visiting Vermont, New Hampshire, and in particular, the coast of Maine.
A big part of Fred’s life over the past five decades has been his good friend, Jane McLaughlin, who he met in 1956. Though he did not say a lot about Jane in this interview, the loving tone in his voice spoke volumes: “I should have married her a long time ago, but I just didn’t. We’ve been close friends all these years.”
Fred Lux passed away on March 8, 2005, after an extended battle with cancer of the liver and pancreas.
[Biography based on a telephone interview with Fred Lux, February 6, 2005.]