Hello Readers and welcome back to the Hometown Heritage Blog!
Since it is Memorial Day this weekend, I thought it would be a good idea to share another story about a veteran from our Oral History collection today. Leo-LaVonne Carr shares this story about learning code and the end of World War II:
“[W]e lived in an apartment. We…five miles from where we worked and this lieutenant and his brother lived in the same apartment building so when they would call them they would run down and they’d get me and we’d go down to the signal corps and decode it you know. So the….very day before the day was over with the Japanese we decoded it and we got the message that five o’clock the next day the war would be over. So we had to make up messages to ever tributary all over the whole United States….the Marines, the Navy, the Army…the everything. But we couldn’t tell anybody. They locked us in there and we was in there all night and all day and even the girls that worked daytime, they couldn’t come to work. They had to go back home ‘cause we was getting all this stuff ready you know. And so at five o’clock that night we had all these empty tapes. We had the policemen were this way. The teletype…or telegraph company was this way and the fire station was this way and down below us was the radio station and we took empty tapes and we threw it out and we said the war was over. Well all those tapes got caught on the streetcars and the buses and the messages just went through just like that. Well then we sent the message to Fort Leonardwood and all the smaller places where they had the service guys and they stole the jeeps, knocked the fence down, stole the trucks, came to Saint Louis and you could buy booze in any drugstore and everybody got drunk and the roads were wider than this kitchen and by the time we got all the messages sent out and could go home all these people hanging on each other drunk, going up and down the street singing and then all the bands came to the big park right in the middle of Saint Louis town…the city of Saint Louis and they played and everybody was dancing. Everybody was drunk and I was dead on my butt.”
It sounds like it was one of the biggest celebrations anyone has seen all over the country, but unfortunately for Leo he was too exhausted to join in! You hear a lot of similar stories about parties happening in the streets when the news was announced (and even a few famous pictures). Most of you readers are probably too young to remember the end of World War II, but do you have any other stories (or maybe stories from your parents and grandparents) about the end of different wars? Let us know in the comments, and join us next week for another Hometown Heritage blog!
Hello readers and welcome back to the Hometown Heritage Blog!
Today I want to tell you about tomorrow’s event, Art Tour Odd # Thursday 8! Similar to other Art Tour Odd # Thursdays, this event will take place in the lobby of the Hotel Pattee starting at 4:30 P.M and ending at 6:30 P.M. This time, however, our host will be Jennifer Drinkwater! Jennifer Drinkwater is an Associate Professor at Iowa State University and a Community Arts Coordinator. Some of you may recognize her, as she has been active here in Perry. She is part of the Latino Americans: 500 Years Of History events, which started earlier this year. Her role in those events is to help create a mural for Perry, based off several Oral History that we helped to collect. During tomorrow’s event, she will be talking about how she creates her art and the art of Gary Ernest Smith. The evening promises to bring a fresh perspective to the artwork on display. The event is free and open to the public, so we hope to see many of you there!
As some of you may know, here at Hometown Heritage we have hundreds of Oral Histories, somewhere around 600. Many of these histories contain stories of life in small town Iowa, but many of them also contain stories about the wars American have been through, from World War II to the present. Some of these stories describe how difficult it is during the war, what it was like to finally come home, and how some people felt the war had changed them. Some, however, contain humorous little stories about people finding a little happiness in dark times. Today, I’d like to share one with you all that I found to be rather entertaining!
This story comes to us from an interview with Dale Grow. It was during World War II, and Dale described what staying in the barracks was like. He said that “everything was blacked out. At night before it got dark you put the plywood up on all the windows and the lights had to be dimmed and all that kind of stuff you know and bed check Charlie would come over every night at nine o’clock see.” Charlie, according to Dale, was a plane that would check to see what they were doing. Clearly, the point was to make their barracks as undetectable as possible, so that the enemy could not find them in the dark. This is just a small portion of the story, however.
The real interesting part of Dale’s story is what would happen at night, and how one night Dale sneaked out to go see the cook. The cook’s name was Ben Eilers, and he was from Iowa. One night Dale went to visit him, and Ben was making apple pies. The surprising thing about these pies was that Ben was making them in square tins, so that they could be cut into squares for the commissioned officers. The rest of the story is as follows:
And he had just taken ‘em out of the oven. Oh my god Ben, we ain’t even had any fruit. And you had to get up in the morning and steal milk out of the carton. The milkman did bring some…we’d get a carton of milk but anyway…what have you had to eat? And I said well not…not too great. Not too great. And he went back in the cooler and come out with a steak and fixed me a steak to eat and fried some potatoes and stuff and I set there and ate it. When I got ready to leave to go back to the barracks of course it was dark...just black as all get out. But I could feel my way back to the barracks and he said now here…I don’t give a damn whether these officers have pie for dinner tomorrow or not. And he give me two tins of pie to take back. But there’s one stipulation…you gotta get the tins back here, tonight. Well when I got back to the barracks the blackout boards…had to take ‘em down so you could get a little air in so you could breath and I flipped the damn light switch on. The platoon sergeant was right at the door…oh he jumped up and give me hell. And I said sit down Bud, sit down. I got some pie here and he shut the lights off and we had a table in the middle of the barracks and I said nobody eats pie ‘til you get two people volunteers to take the pie tins back. Ben told me…we all liked Ben real good…Ben told me he had to have them back. Well he picked out two guys and they said they’d take ‘em back. That’s how we got our pie. Anyway he took ‘em back and we…we could say we had pie.
As you can see, Dale sneaked out to get his barracks some pie! Even the platoon sergeant was not as mad as you would think, having a soldier sneak off at night and get some pie that was not meant for them. It goes to show that sometimes it really is just the little things in life. Readers, do you have any good veteran’s stories, either of your own or someone else’s that you know? If you do, we would love to hear them. So, feel free to share them with us!
Good Afternoon Readers!
Today I have another interesting story from out of our collection of Oral Histories. This story is about a darker time in Perry and America’s history: segregation. This story comes from the Oral History of Glen Theulen. It is about a high school dance that he attended and danced with an African American classmate, and the reactions of people at the dance:
“When I was in high school…I was a junior…we had a dance up on the old gym floor up here…the old high school. And the whites were not to dance with a black girl, never and vice versa. And so… So anyway why the…the dance goes on and so I went over and I said to Sophia White, I says come on Sophia let’s dance. Oh we can’t. I said come on, come on, let’s dance. And Sophia White is the sister to Roy White. Okay. Sophia was a year ahead of me…brilliant girl…and man we got on that floor and jitterbugged and I thought every teacher in that gymnasium was gonna have a heart attack and I’d forgotten about that but Kenny Appenzeller, kid from Perry…farmed outside of town here… When I first got home here in ’89 said you remember the night that you got old…got the…Sophia White on the floor? He says I thought the teacher was gonna have [unclear]. I thought she was gonna…and I said well I kinda remember that, yeah. And you know I just never…”
Unfortunately, we do not know what Kenny thought the teacher was going to have, as the translator for the script could not make out the words being said. However, as you can see, segregation was a real thing here in Perry. Even dancing together was not allowed, and from the sounds of it almost gave all the teachers heart attacks! Clearly, dancing with Sophie was completely unexpected, even if their jitterbugging was amazing. It is such a shame that a simple act of dancing with another person could lead to such awful words and hate. Thankfully, segregation no longer exists in our country today, and we have come a long way on discrimination. Do you, readers, have any stories about segregation? If you do, please feel free to share them with us!
Good Afternoon readers!
Perhaps some of you remember that a while ago I did a blog post about a chicken perched on the shoulder of D. R. Jones. Well, I am happy to bring you an update on that story!
Recently, I was looking through our Oral History Collection when I stumbled upon an interview with Dick Shoesmith. There were many interesting stories in his interview, especially about the Korean War. As I looked through, I found a story that wasn’t about the war, but was equally as interesting. That’s right readers, it was a story about the shoulder chicken. Dick was asked about his family and their arrival in Guthrie County, and the following story ensued:
Well my mother…she was…my other great grandfather came from Wales and she…her name was Jones, which is Welch and we still have people in Wales yet and also in England yet that we correspond with. In fact there in England there’s a homestead of the Shoesmiths’ that’s over four hundred years old and there’s still a clan of Shoesmiths live there. And I don’t know too much about my grandfather came from Wales but I know my great grandfather, he was an auctioneer and he lived down around Fontanelle and Orient down in there and he’s the one responsible for the Red Cross rooster, General Pershing. It was a black rooster that somebody bid on and they says oh just resell it again and it was for the war effort and every time he went to an auction you always had this black rooster that was perched on his shoulder and he always sold that…just kept sellin’ it you know and then raise money and his name was D.R. Jones. And he was a…with the DOT back when the white pole road started down around…went through Casey…which would be Highway 6 now or the Interstate 80 and he was the one responsible for getting the highway to run through the little town of Casey instead of bypassing Casey there. And his…well this rooster is on display down at the historical building yet. In fact they had it in…out at Guthrie County conservation on display. You can ask for it to…to go on loan there and we took some family over to Panora one year to see this. They’d never seen it before.
As you can see, the shoulder chicken was a Red Cross rooster and was apparently named General Pershing. It seems that he was to be sold at auction to raise money for the war, most likely World War I. However, from the sounds of it, the chicken was always given back to him so he could repeat the process! There is no indication of how much money was raised, but it feels great to finally know why this rooster was on D. R. Jones shoulder in the picture. In fact, it appears that the rooster was on display at the historical building in Casey. I cannot confirm this myself, but it is possible it is still there. Perhaps a trip down to Casey and Guthrie County is in order!