MEMORIES OF "THE WAR"
Much has been said and written as 50th anniversaries of events of World War II have been marked. My own memories have been stirred as details have been recalled by the media of "The War," as it will be forever called by those of us who lived through that era, though this reference may be resented by those who suffered in the Korean and/or Vietnam Wars. My family was touched closely by the Korean Conflict with the call into service of my brother Jim and of our first cousin Bill Denton. After Mother died, among her treasures was every letter and photograph Jim had sent her; and after Jim’s death, we found a neat little bundle of Mother’s letters to him. But the whole country was swept up in World War II, and though I was only about ten years old when it began, memories of that time are vivid and my heart is still touched by the anguish of those years.
To most of us, December 7, 1941, marks the beginning of The War. In mid-afternoon of that infamous Sunday, my family was driving away from a visit at Uncle Toy and Aunt May Denton’s home at Delay. As we looked back, Aunt May was on the porch waving and calling for us to wait. She said, "The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor and we are going to have war." Don remembers that his Grandfather Waller came into their drive in his black 1940 Ford blowing the horn. When they went out, he told them about the bombing and impending war.
For me, there was much intense listening about the war. I remember someone remarked, "It’s bad our men and boys have to go over there, but if they don’t do that, the war will come here to us." It was impossible for me to picture that. I have thought when I have visited Washington how wonderful that our beautiful buildings and memorials have never been touched by war.
Radios were the source of much of our war news. Many families in our community had only battery-operated radios and they limited listening time to save the batteries. The newsreels we saw on those times when we got the treat of going to the "picture show" were also a very dramatic source of pictorial information about the fighting. I remember once someone thought they saw a man they knew as soldiers were landing on a beachhead. They told his family and others, and a group went to watch anxiously to confirm or deny this report.
My war knowledge prior to this time was knowing that Mr. Doss McCullough and Mr. Lawrence Hodge, both from Delay, had been in a war (World War I) and that they went over the waters on big ships. Mr. Doss had a photograph of his unit which hung over the mantle in his home and was a prized family possession. Mr. Lawrence married a young woman from New York. Mother talked of how lonely "Miss Mary" must be. Our little rural community was so different for her. Miss Mary liked hot tea in the afternoons and Mother tried to enjoy hot tea just for Miss Mary. Miss Mary also made cottage cheese, which was unheard of in Delay at that time. She wanted to share it with us, but we all thought it was a lot like the clabber which mother churned to have butter and buttermilk.
Among my family keepsakes are some of the ration books we were issued. Our family did not always buy as much as we were allotted, and Mother was indignant when someone asked her to sell them our surplus stamps.
Because Uncle Dewey Denton was a school teacher and well educated, he was often asked to help with records from Delay families. Uncle Dewey told of one man who came to sign up for ration books for his family of eleven children. The man knew most of the names but none of the ages. Uncle Dewey said he started with the youngest one and moved up about two years with each child to complete the form.
In a very small space in one end of what is now Neilson’s expansive basement, there was a little four-for-a-dime photograph place. Once Daddy went there and had a picture made as he said, "To remember me by when I go off to war." (He was never called up.) Mother did not appreciate his jest.
The photography business must have boomed with The War. Those who had kodaks (We called all our cameras "kodaks" back then) made pictures to send to those away, and the soldiers in turn had their pictures made to send home. The best picture we have of my Grandfather Houston was made by my first cousin James Houston when he came to see Papa while on furlough.
My first cousin Darrell Denton became aware that many young men his age were being called by the draft. He wondered why he had not gotten a notice and went into town to inquire at the Draft Board. He found out that Uncle Toy had requested that Darrell be deferred to help finish gathering the crop. Darrell was quite upset. He had the Draft Board put his name on the list where it should be and he was called right away. Darrell sent my mother a picture very soon; in it he looks like a young teenager.
The War seemed to remind people of the uncertainty of life. If there was not a family reunion when a soldier came home, he often went long distances to visit older relatives. I have thought when servicemen did get home they had very little family privacy. Everyone from far and near felt closer to their own family members who were serving if they could just be with another serviceman.
Uncle Howard Denton was drafted before his first child Sandra Jo was born. I recall listening as a child to Edree, Uncle Howard’s wife, helping Sandra Jo tell about the special pillow on their bed which was where her daddy would sleep when he came home from the war. Sandra Jo was two years old before Uncle Howard saw her.
Young as I was, I recall being angry as I heard the family telling about how Uncle Howard came home by bus, caught a ride from Oxford to Yocona, then had to walk the almost 3 miles from Yocona to Delay on a cold rainy night because the person who gave him a ride stopped in Yocona. We were all furious that someone could be so callous as to let a soldier take
that walk. I am glad I did not then and do not now know who gave him this ride.
The spirit of patriotism was high all over the country. The schools had contests for collecting scrap iron. Don won at his school by bringing in old plow tools. Knowing how closely Granddaddy Waller watched after his plows and other equipment and how time and again he made repairs, I know that for him to part with old equipment confirmed the significance of The War.
We had war bond and stamp sales contests in school by grades. I still do not know how Mother and Daddy managed, but Jim and I each bought a $18.75 bond which later was cashed for $25. I remember quite well that I cashed my bond to buy my high school class ring in 1949.
To refresh my memory I have recently reviewed several sources: the account of World War II from the World Book; "Remembering Pearl Harbor", from the November 25, 1991, issue of Newsweek; "D-Day—Eyewitness to the Invasion," from the May 23, 1994, issue of Newsweek; a Special Collector’s Edition of Life titled Life Celebrates 1945, published June 5, 1995; and The Reader’s Digest Illustrated History of World War II. I have also once again turned through my treasured copy of the Lafayette County Honor Roll of Men and Women Serving in the Armed Forces of the United States of America, published by the Oxford Eagle, Curtis Mullen, Publisher, in 1944, which contains photographs and data about Lafayette County servicemen and also letters from many of them. The sources are very touching, perhaps none more than the photograph in Life showing stacks of packages marked "return to sender" because the designated receivers were missing or deceased and another photograph showing Marine Colonel Francis Fenton kneeling beside a flag-draped stretcher on which lay his 19-year-old son Michael, a Marine Private killed in action on Okinawa.
The spirit of the time of World War II has also come to me on various trips we have made. One Easter we were in Honolulu and attended an Easter sunrise service in a softly dripping rain at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in the Punchbowl Crater. As we left we were shown the grave of the famous, beloved war correspondent Ernie Pyle, who was killed on Ie Shima just west of Okinawa by an enemy machine gun. On another occasion we took a tour of Pearl Harbor. Knowing we were directly over ships with their crews still on board, our group became noticeably somber.
Three years ago we went to the prison camp Auschwitz. As we walked through the rooms where the people were gassed and by the cremation ovens, no one lingered long. A hush fell over the group at these grim reminders of man’s inhumanity to man.
Recently we saw the American Memorial Cemetery near London, England, where the atmosphere is much like that of the military cemetery at Arlington, Virginia. If cemeteries can be beautiful, this one is. Standing before the statues, the altar, and the row upon row of white crosses, we were once again reminded of the price paid for us. I found myself feeling much the same gratitude to these who died for our freedom as to that one who so freely gave His life that we might know eternal life free of the bondage of our sins.
Many of you have memories more vivid and much sadder than mine because of your age and your personal losses during The War. Those of us who lived during that time recall not only the details but also the feelings, remembering with our hearts as well as our minds. We pray never to live through such events and feelings again.
Death of The Commander-In-Chief of The War Generation
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stood at the heart of the World War II era. The following descriptions of his death notice and interment, as found in William Manchester’s The Glory and the Dream (Bantam Books: New York, 1974), show the simplicity and majesty of this controversial leader.
The New York Post, in a gesture which would have moved the President, simply headed its daily casualty list on April 16,
1945: Washington, Apr. 16 - Following are the latest casualties in the military services, including the next of kin.
ARMY-NAVY DEAD ROOSEVELT,
Franklin D., Commander-in-Chief, wife, Mrs. Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, the White House.
The following description of the interment is from pages 361 and 362 of The Glory and the Dream.
The family estate was at the top of the hill. There, behind a ten-foot hedge in the rose garden, the fresh grave had been dug. The plan was for the brief ceremony here; every relative, dignitary, friend, and neighbor was escorted to his place. As the cadet escort presented arms, six servicemen bore the casket into the rose garden. Eleanor Roosevelt walked behind it. A crucifix appeared through a trellis green with woven leaves; the Hyde Park Episcopal vicar led the prayers in a ceremony which, Margaret Truman wrote in her diary that evening, "was simple and very impressive." Raising his hand as the pallbearers slowly lowered the coffin into the ground, the rector ended:
Now the laborer’s task is o’er;
Now the battle day is past;
Now upon the farther shore
Lands the voyager at last.
Father, in Thy gracious keeping
Leave we now Thy servant sleeping.
A lone plane circled overhead. Advancing with precision,
a squad of cadets fired three rounds in the air, terrifying Fala. The little dog yelped, rolled over, and cringed. He was still trembling, looking frightened and lost, when the bugler blew taps.
Eleanor Roosevelt left slowly. In New York, wearing on her black dress the pearl fleur-de-lis Franklin had given her as a wedding present, she dismissed a gathering of reporters with four words. "The story," she said quietly, "is over."
From time to time questions arise at the Funeral Home concerning proper use of the American flag. The following information is quoted and/or paraphrased from Let’s Be Right on Flag Etiquette (Revised March 1985), distributed by The American Legion.
When the flag is used to cover a casket, it should be so placed that the union (blue field) is at the head and over the left shoulder. The flag should not be lowered into the grave nor allowed to touch the ground. Although the honor of having their casket draped with an American flag is usually reserved for veterans or highly regarded State and National figures, the Flag Code does not prohibit this use for any American citizens.
When used on a speaker’s platform the flag, if displayed flat, should be displayed above and behind the speaker. When displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium, the flag should hold the position of superior prominence, in advance of the audience, and in the position of honor at the clergyman’s or speaker’s right as he faces the audience. This rule now applies whether the flag is on a platform or at floor level.
When the flag is not flown from a staff, it should be displayed vertically, whether indoors or out, and susp6nded so that its folds fall free as though the flag were staffed. The stripes may be displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag’s own right; that is, to the observer’s left.
The Flag Code does not specifically describe the proper conduct during a funeral in which the casket is draped with an American flag, but the following is generally acceptable out of respect for the deceased and reverence to the flag. Mourners should stand at attention and hold the headdress over the left breast at any time the casket is being moved by the pallbearers and during the service at the grave, including the firing of volleys and the sounding of Taps. During prayer they will also bow their heads. In cold or inclement weather, they will remain covered. Those in uniform render the military salute when the casket is being moved by the pallbearers and during the firing of volleys and the sounding of Taps.
Special regulations are prescribed for use of the flag in military funerals, which are under control of the military services and which are usually limited to veterans with long and meritorious service.
We dedicate this issue of Seasons to those who died and whose families we served from May 13, through July 31, 1995.
Mrs. Linda Leggitt Traywick 05/13/95
Mrs. Mary Vinson Terrell 05/14/95
Mrs. Mary Johnston Savage 05/15/95
Mrs. Sarah Frances Briscoe 05/16/95
Mrs. Donna Mae Hickey Gardner 05/19/95
Mrs. Lillie Estelle Hanks 05/20/95
Miss Mary Jean Keel 05/24/95
Mr. William Howard McNeely, Sr. 05/24/95
Mrs. Addie Mae Callahand 05/26/95
Mrs. Frankie Sanders Griffin 05/28/95
Mrs. Maurine Davis Bryant 05/29/95
Mr. Walter Truett Hill 06/06/95
Mr. Raymond Earl Winters 06/11/95
Mr. Cecil Eugene Varner 06/12/95
Mr. David Major Jones 06/13/95
Mrs. Mary Crowe Malone 06/14/95
Mrs. Ophelia Ann Davis 06/17/95
Mr. Riley Albert Smith, Sr. 06/18/95
Mrs. Lou Sellars Schmitz 06/20/95
Mr. Jeff R. Holcomb 06/28/95
Mr. Buford Edward Black 06/28/95
Miss Dorothy Dell Shipp 07/04/95
Mrs. Clida Mae Chandler 07/10/95
Miss Callie Lois Campbell 07/12/95
Mr. William Norris Starnes 07/11/95
Mr. Felix Everett Perry 07/16/95
Mrs. Pauline W. "Polly" Kirkwood 07/17/95
Mrs. Annie Louise Lovelady 07/18/95
Mr. James Norris White 07/22/95
Mr. Clyde James Huggins 07/22/95
Mr. Kenneth Ray McGonagill 07/31/95
Bob Rosson to Serve Mississippi Funeral Directors Association
Bob Rosson, of Waller Funeral Home, was elected in May at a meeting in Grenada, Mississippi, to serve for one year as Governor, District II, Mississippi Funeral Directors Association. Active participation on the state and national levels in funeral service organizations provides information, ideas, and contacts beneficial to excellence in funeral home operation.
For Everything There Is a Season
For every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven;
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.When you go home tell them of us and say for your tomorrow we gave our today.
Inscription on British 2nd Division Memorial at Kohima