Retired New York State Trooper
From toys: In the 1930s, I worked at Fisher-Price in an old frame house in my hometown of East Aurora, N.Y. There was a woman at a desk in one corner and a desk for Mr. Fisher or Mr. Price in the other. They would give me a lithograph of a duck or an animal stuck on wood and covered with a copper template. Then I would saw around that on a big band saw.
To two-wheels: My first motorcycle was a hunk of junk — a 1921 Harley that was frozen to the ground. My grandfather and I pried it loose, took it home, took it apart, and somehow got it running. I paid 10 bucks for it and sold it for $20.
On the road: In October 1935, another fellow and I thought we would ride to Florida. I had my first decent bike then: a 1931 Harley-Davidson. We had an old WWI canvas trunk and a blanket roll across the handlebars, then away we went.
Round trip: We dumped it coming down a hill in West Virginia, and in Georgia, we hit a cow. Killed the cow, bent the handlebars. We had to wire my dad for money to get back home.
Live to ride: In 1936, I passed the exam to join the New York State Police and became a state trooper. They knew I rode so that is how I ended up on the motorcycle patrol.
Safety first: We wore Stetson hats, not helmets, back then. The first few weeks you damn near broke your neck because the brim was so stiff it would pull your head back as you rode. I never knew why the hat didn’t fly off.
Submarine patrol: I served for three and a half years on a patrol craft, PC-469, which was a 180-foot sub chaser. You couldn’t dwell on whether or not a torpedo would hit you.
Tales from the South Pacific: I was at Iwo Jima. Our ship was a control vessel, and we watched as those Marines went ashore. They were really something. Nothing happened until they got ashore; then all hell broke loose. Oh, it was noisy. I don’t enjoy fireworks anymore.
Made in Japan: We were on a little island near Okinawa when a kamikaze came right at us. If he had hit us, we would have died. But at the last second he flew over us, and we blasted the hell out of him. I saved a splinter from a hunk of the propeller that was floating in the water.
It’s a wonderful life: I turn 100 on June 26. It surprises me, too. It’s a mystery, a gift, and by the grace of God.
Marital status: Married to Doris Blanding, 96.
Recent accolades: Howard recently received a letter congratulating him for being a Mason for 67 years.
Collector: Howard has collected everything a person can imagine — old woodworking tools, coins, stamps. Moreover, photography has always been a big hobby.
People don’t know: He’s the oldest living retired New York State trooper.