Preston man shares stories of military, career and family
Thursday, July 31, 2014 2:47 PM
The life story of Art Callanan is one he has most likely relayed bits and pieces of to friends and family members, taking little time to think of himself as inspiring; though, it can be said that inspiration is simply found in the telling and listening of any life story.
Art Callanan of Preston is shown with his wife, Ruth. They have
been sharing adventures since 1955 giving Art many stories to tell. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Preston, a town of 1,300 people, may seem small to many summer passersby, but for Art, the size is three-times that of his own hometown. Art has lived in Preston since 1954, but he and his nine siblings spent their childhood in Comfrey, Minn., with a population of 380.
Born in Nora Springs, Iowa, in 1931, Art and his family soon moved to a farm in Comfrey. After graduation from Comfrey High School in 1949, he enlisted in the Air Force, where he spent times abroad and in the country, from 1950 to 1954. Art was 19 when he enlisted and remembers spending his 21st birthday in Korea.
“My mom tried to send me an angel food birthday cake in the mail. I don’t know how long it took to get there, but I remember it being sour,” Art recalled as he described his birthday abroad.
Art’s job in the Air Force was in air police security, and he went to the Pusan Perimeter on Feb. 10, 1951, where he and his fellow security team ran jeep patrols.
“Pusan was my first stop in the war. It’s hard to say what I remember of my days in that place. Something that does stick out in my memory is seeing a train bringing in the dead and the wounded before they were loaded into a plane,” Art noted.
It wasn’t long before Art moved to Taegu and worked security for a radar unit. He recalls every day seeing F84 jets flying out from his unit for missions. His time in Taegu was followed by his last placement at a marine base in Kangnung. Here, too, Art took an interest in the Marine Corsairs that flew out of the base.
In 1953, Art returned to the United States to continue his work in the Air Force at Ellsworth Air Force Base, previously Weaver Air Force Base, in Rapid City, S.D., before he was discharged in 1954. The most noteworthy memory of the time Art spent there was when he got to see President Dwight Eisenhower visit the base to dedicate the base to its new name to honor Richard Elmer Ellsworth, a general killed in a plane crash.
In 1954, Art returned home and moved to Stillwater, Minn., and began working for the Department of Agriculture out of St. Paul. Stem rust was once the most dreaded disease for some crops; barberry bushes transfer this rust to small grains. Art’s job was to find and eradicate these barberry bushes. This career led Art to his current home in Preston, in the fall of 1954, where he was sent to hunt barberry during the winter.
Once this job “fell apart,” Art began working at Preston’s National Bushing & Parts Company, a company that has around eight stores in the state and sold automotive parts.
It was also around this time that Art met his wife, Ruth.
“She was workin’ at the Red Owl grocery store. We used to go up there during lunch and she was always there waiting on us,” Art remembered. “We started dating soon after and on Aug. 27, 1955, we married in the Catholic church.”
The Callanans bought their first house in Preston in 1960. Art and Ruth raised their eight children in this house, which was built in 1856 and is one of the oldest houses in town.
“I love being in Preston,” said Art. “My wife has lived here all of her life, and all of our children grew up here, and even some of my grandchildren live around this area.”
After retiring at age 66, Art has spent his time reading, being with family and belonging to the F & M Summit Club, where he and Ruth have had the opportunity to spend time with other senior citizens and go on many organized trips.
Art recalls their trip to Ireland in 2004 as an amazing experience that allowed him to see the stunning green scenery and travel in his ancestral land.
“We traveled in Dublin and went to west Ireland. The temperature was perfect,” he recalled. “I remember noticing how skinny their roads are in comparison to ours and often we had to wait for herds of sheep to cross the roads. It was definitely different than the white tail deer we wait for here.”
When asked to tell stories of his life, Art, while remaining modest, does not hesitate to make it known that he has lived a full life. From his time in the Air Force, to his various jobs around Minnesota, to raising his eight children with Ruth in Preston, it is clear that Art has lived a full life.
The stories he tells will be an inspiration for and remembered by his many children, grandchildren and friends.