John Marion

Tokyo Rose, the infamous “Mata Hari of radio” during the Second World War and the propaganda voice of the Japanese Empire, has a connection to our own John Marion. However, John’s name and reputation seemed to have remained untarnished by this fact. More about this to be revealed later.

John was born in Detroit at Harper Hospital and grew up on the near East Side, near the old City Airport. His family moved to Dearborn, and he graduated from high school there. He describes Dearborn as having been a “pretty segregated city under Mayor Orville Hubbard” and says he was glad to move to Ann Arbor. He says it’s refreshing to live in a city, and belong to a facility (MLM) that are welcoming to all cultures and people.

The perfect day for John now includes that extra hour of sleep in the morning, enjoying a cup of coffee and his wife Elena’s home-made cranberry bread, some warm sun, and probably a round of golf. Maybe a movie at night. Did he forget pickle ball? Did he forget the Cellar Cats? Maybe not. John retired in March of 2015 after driving for a transportation company out of Dearborn. This involved driving a big rig carrying new cars to dealerships. He was up everyday at 4:30 and on the road by 6, driving to several surrounding states. Despite the rigors of the work, John says he really enjoyed it, especially important was the opportunity to meet all kinds of interesting people in the various smaller town to which he drove. Sitting in a small town restaurant shooting the breeze with the local folks, John really got to know these people. In fact, he recalls one guy who said he’d give him the keys to his summer cottage if John and his family wanted to vacation there.

My curiosity about John’s experience as a transporter of new cars caused me to inquire about more detail related to that job. John said the two most often-asked questions are (1) Do the cars ever fall off the truck? and (2) can someone, if they see a car they really like on one of those car haulers, pay cash to have the driver deliver that car to their house? The answer to number 1 is “Yes” and the answer to number 2 is “No.” (I guess they could ask, but a cash deal is out). John says a car falling off the truck is rare, but it has happened – probably due to improper securing procedures. But, he warns, it just might be a good idea to avoid being too close to a car-hauler.

Many of us know John as the Cellar Cats Band drummer. John says his interest in playing drums probably started when as a child he would be “tapping on the arm of a chair with his fingers” while listening to music on the radio. He had his first drum set at age 15 and he says The Beatles were especially inspirational. After being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1972, John was sent to Germany where he was a member of a tank company. But, it was there that he began playing drums in a band which went by the name of “TOKYO ROSE,’ and therein lies the innocent connection with the infamous voice whose radio broadcasts to our troops in the South Pacific and throughout North America were intended to be demoralizing. The sensuous female voice, speaking perfect English, would tell the American forces how bad their losses were and how hopeless was their cause. It is now thought that there was no single woman who was Tokyo Rose but rather several women, unconnected to one another, throughout the Japanese Empire, including Tokyo, Manilla, and Shanghai who were broadcasting to U.S. forces. It is even doubtful that the name “Tokyo Rose” was used by the Japanese broadcasters and that the name first appeared in U.S. newspapers in 1943. But, for the record, in 1945 Iva Toguri D’ Aquino, and American-born Japanese disc jockey attempted to return to the United States. She was accused of being the real Tokyo Rose. She was arrested, tried, and became the seventh person in U.S. history to be convicted of treason. Her conviction was overturned in 1956 because of lack of evidence, and she was released from prison. Twenty years later she was given an official presidential pardon. John Marion played no part in this bit of history.

After finishing his stint in the army John used the GI Bill to attend Eastern Michigan University where he majored in Communications and Speech. He had developed an interest in broadcasting and in sound mixing. But, being broke, the pull of the open road, and a well-paying job in trucking, eventually took him away from college. And so began a long and rewarding career in transporting new cars to nearby surrounding states. John had met Elena in 1982 and they were married in 1986. They have two children – daughter Nicole, 30 and son Logan, 27. Both children were able to graduate from college debt-free, thanks to John’s ability to provide a good life for his family. Incidentally, if you have ever noticed the car in the MLM parking lot with toys mounted all over it, it is John’s wife’s car. John has three brothers and a sister and he describes the family as very close. “We all get along real well.”

Far from being the Tokyo Rose drummer in the early 1970s, John now enjoys being a Cellar Cat, part of a seven piece band, that has performed at various venues including LIVE in Ann Arbor and at the Zal Gaz Grotto Club on West Stadium. They will reappear there this March. The band plays classic rock, some R & B and Soul.

John also played softball for several years and was second baseman on Banfield’s (yes, the iconic bar on Packard) Class B city championship team. He also plays a lot of golf and says, “I don’t exercise unless there’s a ball involved.”

John began playing pickle ball 6 or 7 years ago, took some time away due to his wife’s illness, but has come back as a regular since he “turned off the alarm and began enjoying that second cup of coffee in 2015.” He especially enjoys pickle ball because it elevates the heart rate and because of all the “fantastic people that play at MLM.”John says “playing pickle ball at MLM provides not only physical exercise, but mental exercise as well – trying to remember everyones name.”

John and Elena hope to some traveling “sooner rather than later.” He says Ireland and Scotland are high on the list. His grandmother was an O’Brien and he feels an affinity for the area.

John Marion is 65 years old.

(Any perceived or real errors, grammatical or otherwise, are not the fault of any human being, living or dead)

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