The visit home on furlough after basic training was too brief. I had orders to report to Oakland, California where I was to embark for Korea as a member of the occupation forces that had taken over that country after the Japanese were defeated. The Army had supplied me with train tickets and meal tickets but the two day trip was boring to say the least. On April 22, 1948 I boarded the USAT General R. M. Blatchford for a 22 day trip to the Port of Inchon, South Korea. As we went under the Golden Gate Bridge the waters became a little choppy and I went below somewhat nauseated. It seems that I stayed below the deck for about three days until a lieutenant came below and gave me some crackers to eat and told me to shower and go up to chow. I was not sick the rest of the way. I had developed my sea-legs.
When we were passing close to Hawaii a soldier fell down some stairs and broke his back and some ribs so they diverted the ship to Pearl Harbor briefly to send this soldier to sick bay. We had no on-shore time there. We were taking some dependents to Guam and were then going in that direction. My brother Bob was in the Marine Corps and was stationed at Guam. It was my hope that I would get some shore time there so I could visit Bob. I had not seen him since sometime in 1947. Unfortunately, one of the dependent children on board had developed measles and we were not allow to take any shore time there. They did relent at the last minute and let the soldiers get on trucks and take a trip around the island of Guam, but no contact with the civilians was permitted.
To keep us from getting too bored, the ship published a newspaper daily (The Crows Nest) and the one on 6 May 1948 had this interesting paragraph:
KOREA: In Korea, US Military Commander, Lt. Gen John Hodges rejected renewed Communist demands that the US troops be withdrawn from Korea immediately. “There is every reason to believe that if such a withdrawal were carried out as demanded — said Hodges — the North Korean Communist Army and its horde of power-hungry camp followers and stooges, already selected and trained for the job, would take control of the rest of the nation”.
Truman and others in the administration did not listen to Lt. Gen John Hodges apparently since we know now that when the troops left in early 1949 it gave the North Koreans and opportunity to do just that. Over 30,000 young Americans lost their lives as a result of that decision.
The ship docked out in the Inchon Harbor area because the tide was so extreme that the mud flat became a two or more mile distance. When the tide came in a few of the troops and families would be unloaded and the next high tide allowed another unloading.
They took me immediately to Camp Sobbingo where the 7th Infantry Division Headquarters was located. I was assigned to the G-3 section as a clerk typist. What struck me almost immediately was the odor. It seems that the odor was more intense when certain ox pulled carts passed by. I learned later that these carried human excrement that was intended to fertilize their rice paddies.
An experience of a life time had just begun.
After I returned from Henderson, Tennessee and talked to my mentor Byron Willis, I did as he suggested and enrolled at Eastern New Mexico College in Portales. At least I think I enrolled. I was going to pay my way through college by doing interim preaching jobs in New Mexico. The tuition was cheaper because I told them I was from New Mexico since my parents lived in Ruidoso.
There was a Bible Chair at Eastern New Mexico and the chair of the Bible helped me in getting some of the jobs. The problem was transportation to and from the appointments. I was living with a young fellow who had an apartment his parents had obtained for him. He was happy to have a roommate to help defray some of the expense. He would take me in an old vehicle to the appointments until his vehicle became unreliable. I then would start out early on Sunday Mornings and hitch hike to the appointments. The Lord blessed me but then I was relying on the brethren to take me back to Portales. This worked out well until after services one night only women showed up and none of them were willing to drive in the dark. The men folk were busy with the harvest.
I started out hitch hiking in the dark and it was a long time before some brave soul stopped and ask where I was going. I told him Portales. He said get in because he was going about five mile from there and would drop me off at the road intersection. He didn’t think I would have any trouble getting on in to Portales. Well, that five mile walk took several hours and it was spooky as well as dangerous. I was looking to make some changes. The next week-end I had no preaching engagements so I decided to catch the bus up to Ruidoso, New Mexico and talk to Dad about helping me with an automobile purchase.
Mother and Dad were glad to see me. Dad say that there was no way he could help. Money was tight. He thought I ought to drop out of college and get a full time job. Mother wanted me to keep trying. After they had told me what they were going to say, I admitted that I had stopped at the Army Recruiters Office in Roswell during the bus stop on the way up and got a paper for them to sign for me to get in the service. I was still 17 and could not join the Army without my parent’s permission. Dad was all for it but mother cried some and invoked the name of my Aunt Zelma, who had been a missionary to Africa. She said that Aunt Zelma would not like that decision. Dad signed the papers and on Monday when I was supposed to be in school at Portales, I was in the recruiter’s office in Roswell, New Mexico to enlist.
The Army Recruiter put me and two other like minded individuals on a bus to El Paso to be examined to see if we were fit protoplasm. The older of the three of us looked to be in his 30’s and he flunked the exam. Me and the younger fellow passed and we were given meal tickets and train tickets to Salinas, California. At Salinas there was an Army bus that could carry about 40 passengers. The bus driver was picking up recruits from the railroad terminal and the bus terminal to take them to the Fort Ord base.
The whirlwind of activity started just as soon as we arrived on base. The burr haircut, army fatigues, army boots, canteen gear, helmets etc.. Barracks assignments. We were in the 4th Infantry Training Division. October 9, 1947. Thirteen weeks of basic training before we could leave base. At the end of this 13 weeks of training the captain of the training company called about 20 of us in out of the 200 or so in that company and told us that we had been selected for leadership training. This was optional. He did not want anyone who did not want to progress up the chain of command. What to do? I was scheduled to go home on leave but this would delay my going by another 7 weeks. Fourteen of us took him up on the deal but six were so homesick they decided otherwise.
I finally got home in March of 1948 to do some visiting before shipping out to Korea. I had put on 20 pounds of muscle and was in the best shape of my life. After visiting my folks I went by Portales and talked to my old roommate and sure enough he had saved my stuff. He told me that one of my professors had gotten tired of calling me absent for the first few weeks of the semester and gave up. I then visited Leola and Gilbert who were living on the Ford Place in Farewell at the time. Next stop was at New Deal were Marguerite and Cecil were living with Amy Helen, Cecelia and MariKay (pictured with me).
After the 30 day leave it was then off to Oakland, California to the embarking points to the far east. Another long train ride. The ocean ride started April 22, 1948.
After basic training at Ft. Ord, California
The summer of 1947 went like a bolt of lightening. After the senior trip to Ruidoso, New Mexico I had to vacate my usual quarters at Mary’s and Georges’ house since George and Zylphia needed the house. Mrs. Smith was renting rooms out as I mentioned. She had lost her husband to some robbers he had stopped as they were fleeing through Morton. There is a web page called “Officer Down Memorial Page” which can also be found by typing in ODMP in the search engine and add the name of Deputy Sheriff DeWitt Talmage Smith. You will then get the story of this senseless act that took her husband’s life several years before I moved in with Harvey Hammonds.
The things that stuck out in my mind that summer was how dirty I got working at the filling station as compared to my previous jobs as a theatre projector and how hot it was that summer. The story of Harvey showing me my side of the bed (dirty) compared to his side of the bed has impressed me to this day.
I do not recall much preparation for going to college. Did I take any entrance exams? No. Did I send in any applications. No. Did I send in any deposits? No. Did I want to go to college? Yes. My father had drilled into the heads of his children that you did not need to go to college unless you were going for a specific major or purpose. I did have a purpose. I wanted to be a preacher of the Gospel of Christ. I had been advised to go to Freed Hardeman College in Henderson, Tennessee by brother Foutz. That seemed specific enough to me so my mind was set on going to Henderson, Tennessee a few weeks before school was to start and look for a place to live and work.
The summer of 1947 in Morton, Texas was a lonesome summer. I did continue going to church and be active in the few preaching jobs that were coming my way. I had to find rides from my friends but a lot of them were on the crop harvest band wagon so to speak. I was glad to see the end of summer recess coming to and end.
About two weeks before school was supposed to start at Freed Hardeman College I packed a big trunk and a smaller suit case and caught the bus for lands unknown. I had never been out of Texas except for those trips to Ruidoso. This bus trip was about a 36 hour trip it seemed to me. I was worn out from sleeping on the bus and changing buses at Texarkana.
After arriving in Henderson, Tennessee I had a taxi driver take me to the local hotel. The manager was very friendly and he told me that he had an employee who had just quit working for him and I asked him what the job entailed. He explained that this young man had sleeping quarters in the basement and his job was to put coal in the furnace at certain times during the night. I told him that I was planning to enroll in the college and wondered if I could apply for the job. He thought it would be a natural fit. We were going to talk about it further if I could get enrolled at the college. That was on a Saturday when I arrived.
The next day was Sunday and I went to the Church of Christ close to the college. It was a nice service but the people did not seem to be too friendly. No invites for lunch. They did say that there would be no evening service that Sunday since the young men going to the college were not back in town yet to enroll and do the evening preaching. That disappointed me a great deal. I decided to go to the Baptist Church that night but did not like the loud piano playing. I was a little disappointed with my first full day in Henderson, Tennessee.
Monday morning I walked down to the college campus to see about enrolling. There was an information desk with a young lady sitting there and I asked her who I should see about enrolling. She was a very polite young lady and she said “there goes the registrar. You should talk to him”. I caught up with the registrar and he gruffly said “I can’t talk to you now. I am going to a meeting”. I turned around and looked at the young lady. She had heard the rebuff as well and was holding the palm of her hands up in and apologetic fashion but did not give me any alternatives.
So this was Freed Hardeman College and this was Henderson, Tennessee. Not a very good first impression. I went back to the hotel and the manager was understanding. In fact he was the only friend I had made in Henderson, Tennessee. I headed back to Morton, Texas. I talked to my friend Byron Willis and he suggested that I might try Eastern New Mexico College in Portales, New Mexico. They had a Bible Chair there and I could get a good deal of preacher training while getting a degree in liberal arts, what ever that was.
This series of pictures shows the group that was very influential in my life. In the top pictures from left to right you see Barbara Odum, Charles Graham, Wynelle Prather with Charles Abbey, Barbara Odum with Charles Graham. In the bottom pictures you have Charles Abbey sitting on top of Billy Watts then the right lower picture shows Wynelle Prather with Barbara Odum.
Charles Abbey did not wind up with Wynelle Prather and Charles Graham did not wind up with Barbara Odum. Billy Watts wound up with Barbara Odum and they later became missionaries to New Zealand. They did a great service there. But I digress.
After Barbara dumped me for Billy Watts, I really got interested in going to Freed-Hardeman College in Henderson, Tennessee to become a preacher. I kept working at that goal thru the rest of the senior year. The person who planned the baccalaureate service selected me to give the benediction prayer. The senior trip planning committee had selected Ruidoso, New Mexico to be our destination. I was thrilled because I planned to go and spend a few days with my mother and dad in Ruidoso but return to Morton to work at a filling station. I still needed to save money in order to go to Freed-Hardeman.
The senior trip had some challenges but all in all it was a neat trip. One complication was that “Snooky” Russell (who later became my brother-in-law) wanted to be around Wynelle Prather and she wanted to avoid him like the plague. She was still interested in Tommy Abbott. My aunt Ruby Graham was visiting Ruidoso about that time and she wanted to drive me and some of those that I selected from the group around the mountains. I selected Wynelle and some others but did not select Snooky because of Wynelle’s insistence. Snooky went into his Motel Room and pouted the rest of the stay in Ruidoso.
Another complication of the senior trip to Ruidoso was and incident that happened when me and some of the guys were showing off with our throwing technique. There were a lot of small river rocks around the place and the challenge was to throw the rocks down hill as far as we could. I was playing around with some left-over rocks and was using my left hand to throw. BAD!!! The first left-handed throw hit the neon sign of the Motel we were staying in. I went in to the manager and admitted my guilt and told him I would pay for the damages. He said it would take $10.00 to fix the sign. I then sheepishly went to my parents who were living in another part of Ruidoso and asked for a loan to pay for the damages.
When the main group left to go back to Morton, Texas I went to my parent’s place and stayed a few days. Ruby Burns who was one of the trips sponsors stayed and helped clean out the Burns Cabin so my parents could take it over. Her son, Billy Dane Burns had built this cabin but traded it for the café in Morton, Texas so he could produce an income. A few days later Ruby Burns drove me back to Morton. There was a move in place for me as well because George and Zylphia wanted to move into Mary and George’s house.
Harvey Hammonds was a young fellow who had graduated a year ahead of me and needed a roommate for a room at Mrs. Smith’s house. Mrs. Smith’s husband had been killed by some robbers who he had tried to arrest years earlier. Harvey and I shared the same bed. I came home from the service station in the evenings where I had been filling the gas tanks for customers and greasing the automobiles on the grease rack and was not careful about bathing. About two weeks or so into my stay, Harvey discretely pointed out to me how more soiled my side of the bed than his side of the bed. That permanently changed my habits from weekly bathing to daily bathing. You live and learn.
Barbara Odum – 1947