I always thought my Uncle Ben looked like a cross between the actor James Garner, who played cardsharp Bret Maverick and private eye Jim Rockford, and the actor John Wayne, who played John Wayne. Benjamin Joseph Fleagle had the lantern jaw and tall squared forehead of Garner and he was all squinting John Wayne around the eyes. In this photo of him with his younger brother, my dad, I can really see the James Garner in him again. Your mileage may vary, but you have to admit that these two handsome bucks might easily be taking a break from a movie set on the back lot at Metro Goldwyn Mayer. My dad looks to be in danger of becoming James Dean, only without the tortured soul.
My cousin Nancy has this photo and there’s nothing written on the back of it, so we have neither date nor location for this happy moment. Well then, let it forever be a happy moment, sometime in the years right after the Second World War I would guess, since my dad was born in 1930 and here looks to be older than 15 by a few ticks. Ben was six years older and had served in that war – he was 21 when it ended in August 1945 – but he still looks pretty fresh-faced here. Nancy’s husband Joe says it looks like the brothers are wearing army belts. My dad didn’t serve until the Korean War, but it’s possible he may be wearing a belt given to him by one of his veteran brothers. – mdf
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From the collection of Nancy Stake.