Interview With Penina Keen Spinka


From the interview with Penina Keen Spinka of Sun City, AZ conducted by Patience Rogge by telephone from the Fort Worden History Center on December 5, 2006.  Ms. Spinka is the daughter of Jack Keen (1920-1990), who served in the US Army at Fort Worden during World War II from 1942 until he suffered the loss of his hearing (date unknown).  Here she relates two stories her father told her about his Fort Worden days:

“It was the first time he had to be on guard duty.  He was very nervous because he had never held a gun except in practice and he was hoping he wouldn’t have to shoot anything or anybody.  He was doing the walk he was supposed to do and he heard a sound where he wasn’t expecting one. He was very tense. He said, ’Who goes there?’ the way they taught him to and he didn’t hear anything, just some more noise.  He had his finger on the trigger when he heard ‘HOO’.  It was an owl, what he had first heard  was a fluttering of wings. He had thought that maybe somebody was trying to take pictures of the Fort.”

How he lost his hearing:

“He wore glasses.  They didn’t have enough helmets for people who did.  His helmet didn’t fit over both ears with the glasses on, so he pulled it tight over his right ear but left his left ear was exposed to the sound of the cannons.  It was pretty loud.  The more target practice he did the less he could hear out of his left ear.  He told someone who suggested he have his hearing checked.  He did, and it turned out he had lost most of the hearing in his left ear.  They (the Army) said, ’We don’t need a deaf soldier here.  Why don’t you go home? Here’s some paperwork, fill it out, get it signed, and you can leave.’                  So he did and he never even stopped to ask if he was entitled to anything at all.  He just said to my mother, ‘I can go. Let’s get out of here before they change their minds.’  So they went back to Brooklyn and that’s probably why I was born before the end of the war.”

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