Autobiographical Narrative,
including Twenty-Four Years of U. S. Army Service
by Elton D. ("E.D.") Winstead
June 14, 2001

 

Part 1: The Early Years in Wilson, NC Through Enlistment in the U. S. Army 1934

The normal place to begin any narrative is at the beginning.  I was born in the town of Wilson, North Carolina on ___________, 1913.  We lived in the 1000 block of West Gold St.  Whether I was born in the hospital or at home, I don’t remember and there is no one left to clarify that little detail.  Daddy owned the corner lot next to the house in which we lived when I was born and he built a house, after World War I, in 1919.  That was the wrong time to build.  Prices were high and materials were difficult to get on time.  The house was designed and planned to be brick but the bricks were not available; so the house was constructed using wood weather boarding.  The old house had been a school.  I remember very little about the first six years, but a couple of things stand out.  I was the third child at that time and four (4) years later another sister was born.  There were two older siblings.  My brother, five years my senior, and a sister who was about three years older than I.  She died in 1916 from a diagnosis error and the accompanying double surgical procedure.  I really do not remember her, but have vague “memories” of a small white casket at the old house.  Could be that I have heard about the funeral rather than remember it.

The new house was a four (4) bed-room bungalow, with no central heat and with just one bathroom.  Whether those deficiencies were the result of poor architectural planning, poor advice, incompetent contractor, limited finances, cutting corners, or all of the above, I have no way of knowing.  But while the house served us well until it was “lost” during the depression of the early thirties, it was never “the house” that it was supposed to be.  Shortly after moving in, I apparently was in one of my “exploring” modes and went out onto the roof.  But that apparently was not enough; so I climbed up on top of one of the chimneys.  Somewhat dangerous, but that is not what I remember.  One of our “friends and neighbors” saw me and reported (tattled) the scene to mother.  My convenient memory does not cover mother's’ action or reaction.  Mother and daddy had the bedroom downstairs.  My grandfather, older brother and I slept in one bedroom and my younger sister had a separate room.  It must have been the custom of the day, but one of the up-stairs bedrooms was designated as a “guest room” and much of the time was unused.  But for long periods of time, it was used.  We always had someone staying with us.  A cousin, Lorene,  about my sister’s age came down from Nash County and stayed with us in order to go to the Wilson Schools.  My grandfather’s sister, aunt Cinie (Cinora) was with us for awhile as was aunt Nan Strickland, one of mother’s great aunts.  One of mother’s sisters, aunt Laura Strickland, lived with us for a time and I think until she was married to Robert White from, Mathews County, Virginia. 

Looking back, I could have been a “small” problem for my parents.  I am not sure about my age at the time, but we went to Mt. Zion Methodist Church which was about eight or nine miles from Wilson.  I did not want to go the Sunday School Class with my age group and sat in the main Sanctuary where the adult class was meeting.  No one bothered me or told me that I had to go to class.  Whether I was just stubborn, shy, or “ornery” I don’t know and for how many years that situation went on, my convenient memory draws a blank.  I do remember my first day at school.  We lived about eight (8) blocks from Woodard Elementary School or in some cases called Kenan Street School.  My brother Ollin was in the sixth(6) grade at the same school; so mother thought that he could get me to the first grade satisfactorily.  It was not a problem until sometime during the morning, perhaps, late morning, or lunch time, the teacher said: “Go to the cloak room and get a lunch.”  Of course, she could have said “Go and get your lunch”.  I dutifully went to the cloak room and got “a” lunch.  It was someone else’s lunch.  After I ate someone else’s egg sandwich, I saw a neighbor in the hall.  I went out to visit-without the teacher’s knowledge or permission.  He had to go back to his class, 3rd  or 4th grade, I think.  There I was; standing in the entrance hallway of the school, with the front door unguarded and the street and sidewalk in plain view and beckoning.  I went out the front door and hit the sidewalk running.  I made the eight (8) blocks or so to home in record time.  When I arrived home, mother wanted to know what I was doing home, and without my brother being with me.  My answer was that I had gotten out early.  A true statement, but not exactly the "whole” truth.

I continued at Kenan Street School through the third grade and was transferred to Maplewood School on Gold Street.   There was a cafeteria at Woodard School and I would take a little money to buy lunch which I shared with my friend, Jack Moore.  He lived a couple miles out in the country and rode his bicycle to school.  Sometimes he would stop by home with me after school and have supper with us.  On one occasion, at sometime during my three years at Woodard School I really got sick on a pimento cheese sandwich.  They called daddy and he came to get me.  It took awhile before I tried pimento cheese again. 

When I transferred to Maplewood, I was half year behind.  I’m not sure whether it was the last half of the 3rd   grade or the first half of the 4th grade.  Anyway, by whatever method, I was able to go into the 5th grade on time.  As usual, adults rarely know how to talk to children and the ridiculous scenario is “What did you learn in school today” and Do you like school?”  I’m not sure just how I usually answered the first part, but there was never any doubt about the last part.  The answer was always “No, I don’t like school”.  I remember sitting on the back row by the steam radiator in the 5th grade.  I took an apple to school each day -not for the teacher, but for me.  I placed it on the steam radiator and let it stay until lunch time and had a “baked apple” with my lunch.  I just tolerated school but there was never any thought of not going.  It was understood that I would continue in school and reaching the age of “16”, the age at which the law did not require attendance, had absolutely no bearing on it.  I much preferred riding my bicycle or skating in the street.  The skating in the street had the additional allure of being prohibited by city ordinance and if caught the police would confiscate the skates.  I was never caught.

Came close several times.  I never was sure whether the motorcycle policemen were just “playing” with us or really were concerned about our safety.  One  time, about dusk, the policeman idled his motor, turned off his lights, and coasted down the street.  He was there before we knew it.  I bolted; scaled a six foot fence in spite of four pounds of skates and went down the back lot of the house next to ours, came back up to the back of our house; took off the skates and went to my bedroom which was upstairs on the front and watched the policeman collecting skates.  Some of my “friends” told the policeman that I had been there.  He came in to the restaurant the next day and said that “I almost caught you last night”.  My retort was probably a little arrogant.  One of our “pranks” almost got me “caught”.  We, - the group of neighborhood children, stretched a string across the street.  In the headlights of a car the string looks like a rope.  A car came to a screeching halt and we ran.  But we ran into my back yard.  The unhappy man in the car was a neighbor, with no sense of humor, and he called the police.  Of course he reported that we had gone to my back yard; so the policeman who answered the call came to our house.  He was my uncle.  But I had anticipated the visit and had conveniently left home.  I remained away from home long enough for the police to leave, but daddy was a little unhappy with me.  Some of the pranks would be labeled “mischievous” but we did not damage property. 

My interests were toward the mechanical side.  I liked to build or make things.  I made different sizes of kites and they performed very well.  Laura, mother’s sister who lived in Virginia and with whom I spent most of the each summer gave me three (3) expensive linen handkerchiefs one Christmas.  She was visiting in Wilson one spring, looked out to watch me flying one of my kites and was a bit chagrined; perhaps horrified, when she saw that I was using the Christmas present - those three beautiful and expensive linen handkerchiefs for a kite’s tail.  During the Yo-Yo craze I made a large and heavy Yo-Yo from two automobile brake drums.  Had to use a line or rope which was commonly referred to as a “plow line” and had to stand on at least the second story platform to allow room enough for it to function.  It did work.  I built four wheeled push cars, similar to a stripped down Soapbox Derby racer.  I experimented with having both front and rear axles pivoted so the turning radius was just about the same as the length of the racer. Took some practice to turn a sharp corner and stay seated on the racer.

I enjoyed the summers in Virginia.  When I was 10 or 12 years old, or even less, I was put on the first available transportation to Mathews county, Virginia to visit my aunt.  Could be going up from Wilson to Norfolk on the train with one of my uncles who grew up in Mathews County, Virginia; spending the night in Norfolk and taking the Steamer the next day from Norfolk to Mobjack.  Aunt Laura lived on the water front and I basically lived in the creek.  Actually, the river in front of the house was North river and emptied into Mobjack Bay which was a part of Chesapeake Bay.  Two of her husband’s aunts, aunt Jenny and aunt Mary, lived with aunt Laura and they said that I would grow barnacles if I continued to stay in the creek so much. Uncle Robert White, Laura’s husband, worked for Pennsylvania Railroad, and was a barge captain on the run from the Norfolk area, Little Creek, I think, to Cape Charles on the eastern shore.  Mr. Jarvis, one of the neighbors would come by early in the morning and I would go fishing with him.  I usually remained all summer and came back home to Wilson just in time to begin school.  That scenario continued for a number of years.

The biggest snow fall I remember in this area happened in 1927 and I think the date was March 3rd; rather late for a snow in this area and the snow was 30 to 36 inches on level ground - not drifts.  I remember that daddy spent all morning getting the car from the driveway into the street and the rest of the day getting it back into the driveway.  My brother and I walked to school.  I followed in his tracks.  It was an exercise in futility to go to school that day, but limited communications did not allow notification that the schools would be closed.  Schools were closed the next day and I do not remember for how long.  The snow removable equipment consisted of warm weather and just to let it melt.

My brother was an artist at the piano, had a wonderful tenor voice, was a good basketball player, and a superior left-handed baseball pitcher.  I was proud of him and to the best of my knowledge, I was never jealous of him nor of his accomplishments.  My sister, about four years younger than I, also contributed to my growing up.  Sometimes her memory of some events is different from mine.  She will tell you that I grew up tormenting her, and that I joined the army to avoid going to college.  There are a couple of gaps there.  As reported by her, and I remember too, I did fix for her a cornbread sandwich.  The filling for the sandwich was “octagon” soap.  In retrospect, maybe I did torment her.

I manifested no real interest in music other than the joy of listening to music especially when my brother was playing the piano and singing.  I could have taken piano lessons but with no interest that seemed to be an exercise in futility and a waste of time and money.  But that changed when I attended a revival at the Elm City Methodist church.  The visiting minister, a lady, played the saxophone and I was fascinated.  My parents bought a saxophone for me and I proceeded to irritate the neighbors with my practicing.  I played in the High School Band and Orchestra.  I had mistaken ideas about the trombone.  I thought that it was good for nothing but just “blasting”.  I remember one time that the band was playing for a game at high school and the trombone was just behind me.  During a particular number the “music?” coming from behind me just did not sound right.  Small wonder - the band finished the number and the trombone , in addition to being a couple bars behind the band was on the wrong number.  It was years later before I heard a professional musician performing on the trombone and it was smooth and beautiful.

During my younger years, daddy worked as a clothing salesman for Gay Brothers.  And later he operated a grocery store.  But I remember more clearly the dairy, restaurant, and the farm.  On Gold Street there were at least thirty cows on the back lot at one time.  We delivered milk to customers and at that time, the delivery was to the home.  The Bar-B-Que restaurant on Tarboro Street began as a Short Order Hamburger Sandwich and Hot Dog Stand or restaurant on Barnes Street with no chairs; just stand-up service.  Later, that expanded to a restaurant around the corner on Tarboro Street.  I worked at the restaurants and performed all tasks necessary except cooking.  I washed many dishes and also was a table waiter.  Two or three of my episodes at the restaurant stand out.  The “meat supplier” of Bar-B-Que pigs for the restaurant often ate at the restaurant.  He asked daddy one day if he would cook some chitterlings for him.  Daddy said that if the chitterlings were supplied they could be cooked.  As soon as he left to go get the chitterlings I went to a close by seed store and got a handful of shelled corn.  While the chitterlings were cooking I quietly put the corn in the cooking container.  When they were served there were corn grains on the plate.  The customer just pushed them aside and continued to enjoy his lunch.  Another time I put cayenne pepper on the red hot stove in the kitchen.  The results cleared the restaurant.  I was left to close the restaurant one night.  As the cook left he stopped by the tobacco case and got a plug of chewing tobacco.  I went back to the books and recorded a charge of twenty cents.  When he was paid for the week he protested the charge.  Daddy just asked if he got the tobacco and of course the answer was “yes” so daddy just collected the twenty cents.  There were many meals supplied to friends and relatives of employees which were not paid for.  My brother and I decided that we were drinking too many cokes each day and decided to save daddy money.  We made a new year’s resolution to quit drinking cokes.  We did quit.  I remember that I did not drink any cokes for about six (6) years.  The dairy expanded and daddy rented pasture and barn space on land which is now occupied by the Wilson Recreation and Swimming Pool Area as well as some prestigious homes.  He bought a small farm just outside and on the north side of Wilson and moved the dairy to that location.  Some farming by tenants was done; raising tobacco, corn, and some grain and vegetables.  I don’t remember any cotton.  He actually enjoyed his work.  He taught me many things - integrity, honesty, and a sense of values which we hear so much about being neglected today, and he also taught me about work.  But not what he thought he was teaching.  I learned that there must be a “simpler” way to make a living. 

Daddy’s sister Ruth was married to Eugene Williams and they lived in Nash County near Strickland’s Cross Roads on a farm.  There was an apple orchard with lots of trees.  I suggested to Aunt Ruth that I could pick up the apples and I would pay her fifty cents for each bushel.  She thought that was an excellent idea and readily agreed.  I picked up the apples, cleaned them a little and sold them in town for one dollar for each bushel.  Aunt Ruth made fifty cents for each bushel; I made fifty cents for each bushel and it was a win-win situation for every one except Daddy who supplied the truck and driver for me to go to get the apples.  When Aunt Ruth learned that I made fifty cents on each bushel, she just could not stand that.  She canceled our “agreement” and decided that she could sell the apples and get the full dollar for each bushel.  Her children picked up the apples and she and her husband brought them to town to sell.  She was unable to sell them and asked daddy if she could “borrow” me to help her sell her apples.  Daddy told her that she would have to deal with me for that chore.  She asked; I said no and offered to buy the apples for fifty cents for each bushel.  After considerable hesitation she agreed and I bought the apples for the fifty cents price and sold them in about half an hour.  That little scenario ended my entrepreneurship with apples.  Greed causes strange behavior.

I grew up in what I thought to be a normal situation.  Mother and daddy were a devoted and loving couple.  I think that we lived well but not extravagantly.  I was very fortunate in the selection of my parents.  Daddy grew up as one of ten children.  He was born in 1884 and his mother died in 1903.  There were three older brothers, two of whom were married which left one older brother and six younger children at home.  So at nineteen years old daddy became the household chief cook and bottle washer.  He was strongly influenced by his mother.  He played the violin (fiddle) in a dance band.  His mother was concerned about the “company” and the alcohol at the dances.  I don’t know the date, but when he joined Mt. Zion Methodist Church, he quit the band, sold the fiddle and bought a bicycle.  He grew up with hard work, farming, managing a household, cooking, and with the struggle of making a living.  Mother, on the other hand, grew up in the “lap of luxury” and liked it.  She was born in Nash county in 1890.  Her parents were continually being “helped” by a great uncle Note (a bachelor), and a great aunt Nan (a spinster), often when the help was unneeded and unwanted.  My grandmother was in poor health but there were three other children younger than mother.  Wiley Farmer, another great uncle, from the distaff side, who had no children, liked mother and asked her parents to let her live with him and his wife.  Just why the arrangement was permitted was never explained to me.  Either mother did not know or would not tell me.  When it was time for her to start to school there was a male teacher and she did not want to go and have a male teacher.  Her going to school was delayed for a year and was enrolled in a private school.  In addition to growing up in luxury with a cook and maid service, she was spoiled.  Anyway, she lived with them until she and daddy were married.  Daddy lived in the neighborhood.  He and mother were married when she was sixteen and daddy was twenty-two. 

There was a black man named John Lassiter who worked for daddy  I suppose that his “job title” would be “odd job” or “handy man”.  He had a room in the garage building at our home on Gold Street.  He was a loyal and excellent worker.  We called him John.  In general, he and others like him were referred to as “colored” or “Negroes”.  I still think that the term Negro is a perfectly good and legitimate word but apparently it is construed today as a derogatory and racist term.  Some time during the late 1920’s while I was still in high school and must have been less than 16 years old, daddy told me and John to go out to the farm, dig a hole in a field which he designated, and bury a mule which had died.  John and I dutifully went to the farm to bury the mule.  I don’t remember just where the dead mule was at the time or just how we got the animal to the burial site.  There was no tractor.  Maybe we dragged  the mule with the truck.  John and I dug a big and deep hole which we thought was big enough.  We maneuvered the mule to the edge of the hole and pushed him in.  That mule proved to be as ornery and uncooperative in death as he has been in life.  He dropped into the burial hole on his back with all four legs sticking straight up and protruding above ground level.  Obviously that presented a dilemma.  I told John to get the sharp ax.  I chopped all four of the legs off sufficiently short to allow all of the dead mule to be in the hole and covered when we filled in the hole. 

I graduated from Charles L. Coon High School in Wilson in 1930.  I was not a good student but did manage to do enough and learn enough to earn the diploma.  There were a couple “run ins” with one teacher.  For one of my “imagined” infractions she made me stand outside the classroom in the hallway.  I did not even slow up in the hallway but went down to the principal’s office to see him and to ask that I be transferred out of her class to the classroom of a teacher which I considered a little more “reasonable”.  As a senior, I resented being treated as a juvenile.  I should have known that the principal would talk to the teacher.  Anyway, she wanted me to see her after school and wanted to know where daddy was.  I was not about to take her to talk to daddy, but did tell her that mother was at home.  We got in her T-Model Ford and went to see mother.  Mother knew her and as we went into the house and called mother, I continued to walk and left the two of them alone, but did stand close enough to “eaves-drip”.  Mother supported me, much to the chagrin of the teacher.  When my brother heard about the problem, he convinced me that the action that I had to take was to “apologize” even if I did not want to, because I had to have her signature on my diploma to graduate.  She was the same teacher who had told him that he could not play basketball and if he insisted and continued to play she would see to it that he would not graduate.

Sports never played a large part in my life as I was growing up.  As stated previously I enjoyed skating and riding my bicycle, but I was small for my age and was not big enough to play any of the sports in school.  But boxing has entered my life on several different occasions.  Charles L. Coon High School had an excellent Boxing team for a number of years.  Some of my friends were on the boxing team and I used to spar or practice with them. 

It must have been the summer that I graduated from high school that I was “approached” by one of my acquaintenances and asked if I would be interested in driving for his father during the summer.  He had a job that he liked and his father needed him, or someone to drive for him.  And it seemed that if he could get a replacement, then his father would let him take the other job.  So I took the job of driving a new Essex for Mr. Webb.  Mr. Webb worked for a tobacco warehouse and spent the summer visiting farmers while they were harvesting, barning, or “putting in tobacco”.  It was strictly a public relations exercise for the warehouse, and the ultimate “pitch” was to encourage the farmer to sell his crop at the warehouse for which Mr. Webb worked.  We covered several counties around Wilson.  Each morning we went by the butcher shop and got “cold cuts” and the fixings for sandwiches.  Just where we would be at lunch time was unpredictable.  It was an interesting summer and I enjoyed the privilege of driving the new car.  Mr. Webb was interesting and very easy to work for.  After I graduated from high school I registered for Atlantic Christian College to begin in September 1930.  I attended one year, and performed poorly.  Daddy was negotiating with Southern Dairies to sell milk to them wholesale and to get out of the home delivery business.  The Depression of the early thirties created many problems.  He lost the house on Gold Street and moved to the farm.  Since the move from Gold Street was at the wrong time of the year to move tenants off the farm, he rented a house in the country and close to the farm until the tenants could move after harvest season.  I told him that I had no interest in farming and saw no reason to stay and work on the farm.  He agreed and I went to work for Southern Dairies.  I suspect that he got the job for me along with his contract to sell milk to them wholesale.  I worked with Southern Dairies for about one year and had a home delivery route, drove long distance truck to Rocky Mount, NC, fired the boiler, washed bottles, helped pasteurize and bottle milk and drove the truck with the load of bottled milk back to the Wilson Plant and helped make ice cream.    There was no Labor Union.  While working at Southern Dairies boxing came into my life again.  Someone organized a boxing “card” and I was matched against one of my friends.  I think one of my supervisors was involved in planning the event.  It was an interesting evening.  I won the bout and if I remember correctly, I was paid $5.00.  I suppose that makes me a professional.  At the Southern Dairies Plant additional jobs continued to be added for me with no change in pay.  Two of us; the home delivery route  drivers (salesmen) went into the manager and told him that there would be immediate changes or he had two home delivery routes for the next morning's delivery with no drivers.  He increased the pay.  Later, I broke my right arm cranking the long distance truck.  After my arm healed, I was terminated. 

That summer I went to work with Wright’s Ice Cream Company to operate a store for the summer in Greenville, NC.  When I rode down to Greenville with the owner to see the location of the store, I was amazed.  I told him that I really did not know that much about Greenville, but just looking as we drove in, the location was off by about seven or eight blocks.  It was actually in the wrong location for Ice Cream.  He admitted that I was correct but the location was all that was available and he felt that he had to maintain a summer presence in Greenville.  My comment was that we (he) would lose money and he agreed.  The prediction was correct.  The operation lost money.  But it was a pleasant summer.  I met some wonderful people and bought a motorcycle.  There was a “blue law” in Greenville which restricted sales on Sunday.  Restaurants were exempt.  To counteract the “blue law” I went down to City Hall and bought a restaurant license.  Just as expected on Saturday a Police Detective came by and said that it is time to close - its 12 o’clock.  I did not close immediately and when he came by a little later he stated rather brusquely that “I told you once to close”.  I just put the license down on the counter.  He read it and with a rather disgusted look left with no comment - but he was not a happy camper.  At the end of the summer, I went back to Wilson and opened a “Snack Shop” in one corner room of a Tobacco Auction Warehouse.  I sold cold drinks, and “packaged” snacks in addition to Bar-B-Que Sandwiches.  My “rent” on the space was to cash the hourly slips for warehouse laborers—much of which was taken out in trade anyway. 

I operated a somewhat similar “Snack Shop” for daddy in another tobacco warehouse area earlier, but the date is a little illusive.  I know that I had graduated from high school but I’m not sure whether it was before or after my job at Southern Dairies.  Anyway, I had a motorcycle which was on loan to me.  The shop was two blocks from the high school and the temptation was just too much.  I rode by the high school; manipulated the ignition and caused the motorcycle to backfire.  I went back to the shop and parked the machine.  A friend of mine came by and wanted to ride the motorcycle.  No problem.  He took off and did exactly the same thing going by the school.  The second performance and disturbance was too much and a teacher called the police.  It did not take a too much detective work to locate the culprits.  The police just came by, felt the motorcycle motor, asked if I had ridden by the school and of course the answer was obvious.  The policeman told me to have daddy bring me by the police station.  We went and I was lectured but that was enough.  I did not disturb the school again nor did I hold any grudge against the teacher who called the police.

I’m speculating on the date, but I think it was “on or about” December 1931 or January 1932 when Jo’s parents and family moved from Black Creek, North Carolina to a farm about two miles from Saratoga, North Carolina.  It was decided that Jo could live with her Aunt Ethel Yelverton so she could remain in and graduate from the Black Creek High School, which she did and graduated in 1933.  During the interim, plans and the necessary contacts were made for Jo to be admitted to the Woodard-Herring Hospital School of Nursing.  Probably in late summer of 1933, after Jo had reported to the School of Nursing, she and a “date” were walking down Green Street, on the north side of the street, between Douglas and Goldsboro streets, and I just “happened” to be driving by.  I knew her date, at least by name, and I came to a “screeching” halt and asked if I could give them a lift.  They accepted the lift and were going to the theater to see a movie, the name of which I have no idea.  But the timing was such that they would have to wait or go in during the “middle” of the show.  I suggested going by Dick’s Hot Dog Stand.  We did and I treated to ham sandwiches and cokes.  I think that it cost me about $1.20.  I took them back by the  theater and left them.  The next night I went by the Nursing Home looking for Jo and made a date for the coming Saturday night.  Sometime before Saturday I stopped by the Nursing Home, saw Jo, and she said that she had been wanting to get in touch with me but had no address.  Basically, it was to break the date for Saturday night.  She gave me some story about “her cousin Collins was coming by to pick her up and take her to Black Creek-Fremont home to visit her aunt Ethel.  I was very skeptical and figured that is a “likely story”; said that is fine, and I will call you later.  It took about a year to get back to calling her.  In the meantime, I had been dating someone else, joined the army, and asked for a transfer to San Francisco, California.  Actually, I think that the next time I saw her was when one of my uncles was shot in a hunting accident and was in the hospital.  She was one of his nurses.  I went to Fort Winfield Scott, California in December 1934, probably sent her a card, and was in the San Francisco area until August 1935 at which time I was transferred to the Coast Artillery School, Fort Monroe, Virginia; and I saw Jo each time that I visited my family in Wilson during the fall and winter of 1935 and spring and summer of 1936.  I went back to the west coast for another year and returned to Fort Monroe, Virginia in 1937 and remained until the summer of 1938.  Each time the visits to Wilson were a little more frequent - and intense.  We were married in 1938, went to the west coast and before I become really carried away and on a tangent more will be written about Jo later; but for now I have to try to get this narrative back into some form of normal sequence.

I had never really put much thought on just where I was headed and just what I wanted to do for an “honest living”.  To the best of my knowledge there was no burning desire for a “specific vocation” but I vaguely remember that I thought that if I could get a job with an income of two hundred dollars each month I would be able to maintain a reasonable standard of living to include some degree of luxury.  Admittedly that could indicate a naiveté, limited expectations and probably no ambition.  I have no idea from whence that figure came.  I had grown up “helping” at various chores at the restaurant, dairy, and a little “work” on the farm.  I did realize that I was getting older and needed to determine some direction.  I had jobs on a salary (small) basis and tried my hand at some entrepreneurial endeavors and needed something with a little more permanency.  When the Tobacco Market closed for the season, I was without a job.  I had talked to some “friends” who were in the army.  I was intrigued that an individual could stay in the army and retire as a Master Sergeant at $124.00 per month.  That sounded pretty good when one considered that most of the men were trying to raise families at considerably less than that retirement figure.   I decided to investigate.  I thought that it would be interesting for at least the three year enlistment and I could make additional decisions at the end of the three years.  I went down to Fort Bragg, NC and talked to the Recruiting Sergeant.  I was dressed in a relatively new suit and new hat.  The Sergeant was very pleasant but was not encouraging.  The Army at that time in early 1934 consisted of about 125,000 enlisted men and about 10,000 officers.  The Sergeant told me that he was denying enlistment to men holding Phd’s.  As we were talking, his telephone rang and he was told that a typist was being discharged, not re-enlisting, and there was a need for a replacement.  I had heard just one side of the conversation and asked if he needed a typist.  His answer was a question - do you type.  Yes.  He said sit down - at the typewriter, and copy this.  He opened a regulation and gave me a sheet of paper.  I put the paper into the machine, looked at the regulation, and started to copy.  He immediately knew that I was using touch and not hunting and pecking.  He took the paper out of the machine, threw it into the waste paper basket and said he would send me a letter in about ten days.  Since I was not 21 years old I had to have my parents’ permission to enlist.  They agreed, reluctantly, if that is what I wanted.  Both had their reason for questioning my joining the army.  Soldiers were not the most popular members of society at that time and in general were considered of questionable character and as a group “low class”.  Even Webster’s definition of a tattoo contributed to the attitude.  If I remember correctly, Webster defined a tattoo as permanent designs and marks made on the skin with ink and a needle usually found on sailors, soldiers, and other low class people.  Mother’s brother had joined the service many years earlier and had died with pneumonia in about three months after enlisting.  Daddy surprised me.  He said that I could join the army if that was what I wanted but don’t ask him for $120.00 in a year to buy  a discharge.  The fact that he knew that one could buy out of the army after one years service for $120.00 surprised me.  I went to Fort Bragg and  enlisted on February 6,1934, found a home, and remained in the army until December 31,1957. 

EDW Part 1,  EDW Part 2EDW Part 3

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Dr. Ray L. Winstead
Direct e-mail Link: RWinstea@iup.edu


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