I talked to World War II veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor Wetzel Sanders for a story in today’s Charleston Daily Mail, commemorating the Pearl Harbor attacks’ 70th anniversary.
Wetzel is one impressive dude. The 88 year old is still sharp as a tack — he just retired in May after 11 years as a bus driver — and was cooking up some Mexican cornbread when I talked to him Tuesday. I asked him if he makes his cornbread really spicy.
“It’s not too hot, but enough to know it’s Mexican,” Wetzel told me. I threatened to come over and have dinner with him and he welcomed me on. Lincoln County’s a little far to drive but I have a feeling his invitation was sincere.
Throughout our interview, Wetzel kept referring to himself as “Sundown” when telling war stories. It’s an impossibly cool nickname (reminded me of “Sundance“) and I asked Wetzel how he got it. This is what he told me:
When he was growing up, he had a friend whose dad raised chickens. Wetzel and his buddy would occasionally sneak into the chicken pen and grab one of birds, then sneak off to the woods where they would butcher their ill-gotten fowl and have a chicken fry.
Wetzel told that story to his army buddies once. A sergeant asked him, “When’s the best time to steal a chicken?” He replied, “Well, anytime after sundown.” The name stuck.