Andy and Clifford Dale in Odessa
The Grahams’ of Cochran County – Chapter 62
I arrived in Morton, Texas about a week after my discharge from the Army and my sister Mary was kind enough to put me up in her small house. I slept in the kitchen. This was a one bedroom house. I was too late to start to college in the fall semester and too early to start in the spring. Mary got me a job at one of the implement house repairing bole pullers. When I left the country several years earlier, human beings did the bole pulling while dragging a cotton sack but all that had changed while I was gone. These mechanical bole pullers had bushings in them that would wear out pretty often and have to be replaced. That was my job. Replacing the bushings. It was a job that put food on the table and helped Mary with the rent.
Several things happened while I was trying to decide where I was going to college and what I was going to major in. I was a little disappointed in the church because some old soreheads had split the church and I was pulled in each direction on where to attend. I went with the old established congregation and made some of my friends mad at me because I did not come to their side. I was even teaching a class soon after I arrived. Mary’s house had these little gas heaters and I turned them up pretty high one Saturday Night to keep the house warm knowing Mary would adjust the heaters when she got home. Unfortunately she did not return home that night but elected to spend the night at a girlfriends house. I woke the next morning with the worst headache that I have ever had. I was close to asphyxiation. I was scheduled to teach class and did get dressed while vomiting with the dry heaves between getting my clothes on. I did get to church but had to find a substitute teacher because there was no way I could heave through the meeting.
Another thing happened to change my life. I visited with Neva Kennedy some because I was interested in her daughter Kat Kennedy. Kat was several years my junior but mature well beyond her stated age because her father had died. He had been one of the leading attorney’s in Morton. Neva on the other hand was one of the heavier consumers of alcohol in Morton. Neva depended on Kat to go to the Flats and buy her the booze she needed to prevent the DT’s. Kat was glad to have my help. I would visit with Neva more than I visited with Kat. Neva was an RN but I do not remember her ever working in the profession. She did see some potential in me I guess or perhaps she was grooming me to be a productive husband for her daughter. For whatever reason the subject of me going into pre-med was the subject she most advised me on and suggested that I pursue. Seeing the controversy in the split congregations also was a discouragement on entering the ministry. I was not sure which college I was going to attend. I did know that when I left Morton I would have to find a job to help me support myself in the process. The GI Bill had not been passed for the returning Korean Combat Veterans and all the tuition and fees would be mine. I had no transportation. I would have to replace that Oldsmobile that I gave to the recovering alcoholic and school teacher. I would have to get my drivers license.
George and his wife Zylphia had settled in Odessa, Texas. In December of 1951 he called and invited me to come to Odessa and live with them and their two boys, Andy and Cliff. He was a relief theatre projectionist at the Ector Theatre in Odessa and he said that they were in need of hiring a full time projectionist. He proposed that I could enroll at Odessa College and get some of my preliminary credits behind me. Sounded like a good idea to me and I told him I would think about it and let him know in a few days.
Another thing that happened while I was living in Morton was the birth of Vicki VanLandingham. My sister Katie VanLandingham and her husband Babe VanLandingham were living in Morton. They already had two sons, Don and Dick. This beautiful sister of theirs was born with special needs. Talk about a life changing event for that family. Vicki never lacked for attention or necessities. Babe was in the vending machine business and he would pay me some extra money to help him go service the vending machines. I was accumulating more than I was spending.
The other important thing was that my job at the implement house was winding down because the cotton harvest was just about complete. It seems that all these things came in place and I was off to Odessa, Texas to start a new chapter in my life. Mary was about to move on to Lubbock to go to work at Reese Air Force base.
Bob and Edith had been living in Morton but he was looking for working of National Cash Register. They were about to leave Morton. Not many Grahams’ will be left in Cochran County.
The Grahams’ of Cochran County – Chapter 61
This letter was saved for me by my mother who gave it to me shortly after I returned from the Korean War. As your can see, this letter was written pre-Korean War. The date was November 17, 1948. In early 1949 I was shipped out of Korea to Hokkaido, Japan.
I am finally home now after the war and almost out of the Army. They do not want to release me until I have served 3 years I signed up for and the one year Truman gave me because of the Korean War. The did let me have a 30 day leave before I had to report to Lawton, Oklahoma to be reassigned for my remaining few months.
It was sort of a whirlwind thing being home. Bob and his wife Edith were living in Morton and they said that I could stay with them. My folks lived in the back of the Main Street Drug Store just across the street from the Lubbock Court House. Not much room back there. I visited Morton some but not many friends left there. A friend of a friend, Steve Eckstein was going to take a trip to Searcy, Arkansas and he invited me along because he knew that before I entered the service I was seriously considering the ministry. We stopped the night in Oklahoma and spent time there with a friend of mine who had married a Graham, not related to me. Then we went to Searcy and Steve secured one of the dorm rooms for me. This dorm was virtually empty because it was summer session. He went his way and I got very bored looking at four walls. Also I was not used to the 11pm curfew they had in the men’s dorms but I did appreciate the no smoking regulation because I did not smoke at that time. I was not impressed with Harding and it was very expensive and I was not entitled to any GI Bill for educational purposes at that time.
This 30 day leave went by way too fast and before long I was at Lawton, Oklahoma. At Fort Sill the clerks tried to find a place that wanted a short term fellow. This was in June 1951 and I was due to be discharged in October. Well it turned out that over in Louisiana at Fort Polk they did need a clerk typist to help in the officers documents storage and updates. In a couple of weeks they put me and several other men on a bus to Fort Polk, Louisiana and dropped us off at Headquarters for processing.
They did let me have passes right away and I was able to start going to DeRidder, Louisiana with two of my new buddies, one of the few people on base who had a car. My job was very boring but I stuck with it and was insulted when the captain came to me one day and offered me an extra trip if I would re-enlist. I was also introduced to a de-segregated dining room. At that time I did not like coffee and at breakfast one morning I was eating with one of my friends who was black and he was drinking coffee. I embarrassed myself by making a comment to him “you better not drink too much of that coffee or it will turn you black”. I was trying to hide my red face under the table but he was kind to me and he said he understood.
One of the members of the church at DeRidder was a recovering alcoholic and he had a very nice wife who invited us to lunch frequently. He had an old Oldsmobile that he was trying to get rid of and I was looking for a vehicle that I could drive home when I was discharged. We made a deal and I bought my first wheels ever. I was so mad the last week of my stay at Fort Polk, La that I could spite fire. The top sergeant came around for inspection and he noted that I did not have anything on the shelf that was supposed to have my backpack and stuff on it. I had already checked that in because I was leaving in less than a week. I missed out on telling my friends at DeRidder a fond farewell because of his dumb actions. More reason not to reenlist!!!!
I pack my Oldsmobile on October 8, 1951 and I was out of there. I was in no hurry to get home some I planned to stop Dallas and attend the State Fair. I remember my folks went to that in 1936 and wanted to see why they abandoned me to take the trip. I was not disappointed. I stayed at the Adolphus Hotel and that was a neat experience. I did not want to drive in Dallas much at night so I took a bus to Fair Park. In leaving the venue I went out to catch a bus and could not remember which one I was supposed to take to get back to the hotel. I got on one but did not ask the driver where he was going and that was a mistake. He took me to the flats and then said everyone get off because he was taking the bus to the barn. I could see Downtown Dallas in the far distance so I took off on foot and after about two hours wound up at the Adolphus Hotel a very tired puppy. Went through some scary neighborhoods too. Morton, Texas here I come
GAG at the end of his tenure as County Judge of Cochran County – 1938
THE GRAHAMS’ OF COCHRAN COUNTY – CHAPTER 60
It took several days for me to be processed out of Korea and then I was transferred to Japan to board ship for the trip home. It is interesting to note that I departed Japan for the United States of America exactly 3 years after I left – April 22, 1951. The travel time on the ship was going to be fewer days because we would be traveling the “northern route”. Out destination was Seattle, Washington. The ship that I had boarded was the USNS General Leroy Eltinge. She was one of the ships that assisted in the Inchon Landing in September 1950. Now she was bringing me home. I have a list of about 650 men on the ship passenger roster that is growing brittle with age.
As we were coming through the channel approaching Seattle the night before we arrived we were told that there would be a car light welcoming party when we got to a certain area of the inlet. Indeed it happened with horns honking and lights flashing it seemed like hundreds of car and people inside were welcoming us home.
The trip seemed to pass pretty fast and the welcoming city of Seattle went all out to line the route where I trucks were passing from the ship to the Military Base. The first thing I noticed when I checked into the barracks was this funny picture tube that had motion pictures on it. Someone explained to me that it was called television. My first experience of seeing a television set. The clerks were busy getting each of us transportation back to our homes since all of us were getting a 30 day pass. They gave me a train ticket that took me to San Francisco and was to carry me to Los Angeles then a long journey from Los Angeles to El Paso and up to Lubbock, Texas. There was a train layover in San Francisco and I aborted my train ride and chose to fly instead. I had saved some money while overseas and had a Bank of America account. I went into the bank and told clerk that I would like to take some money out. He asked me what my account number was and I had no idea. He wanted to know if I had a blank check. I told him that I had never received any. I started looking in my wallet that had been through thick and thin on the battle fields of Korea and I did find a crumpled up deposit slip that I handed the fellow. He said that this was sufficient. “How much do you need” he asked. I think I told him about $500.00 so I could by the air ticket on Braniff.
I was able to catch a taxi out to the airport and get a flight to Denver, Colorado with a 12 hour layover. During the layover that I was able to get some rest in a place they had for GI’s who were in transit. The next morning I boarded my flight to Amarillo for a brief stop and then a landing at Lubbock airport. I had notified my family that I had changed plans and would not be coming in on the train that the Army and provided for me but to expect me on the Braniff flight. There must have been 20 to 30 family members waiting on me at the airport. The news media apparently noticed the large crowd. I went to the Drug Store that my parents operated and later that day I received a call for an interview. I also received a call from a lady who’s son was in Korea and she had not heard from him for awhile. She wanted to know if I knew him. She seemed disappointed when I told her I did not know her son.
I kept pinching myself to see if all this was real!!!
THE GRAHAMS’ OF COCHRAN COUNTY – CHAPTER 59
After my squad had delivered the prisoners to the lst Battalion area we then were transported by jeeps up to the front again. This time we were crossing the 38th Parallel that used to be the dividing line between North and South Korea before the war started. Our task was to probe the area going north to find the enemy. I was hoping that we would find some more enemy that were willing to give themselves up and not give us any fight. We were north of the town of Inje and close to the Hongch’on Reservoir. We were involved in an operation that the big wigs called Operations Rugged and Dauntless. I think they liked to use those big words to impress themselves. All it meant to me and my squad was more walking and climbing hills and trying to get shot at so we could find the enemy.
At night we would secure a hill and the surrounding road so we could keep the enemy from getting behind us and causing havoc. These Chinese especially liked to do just that. When we would stop for the night we dug fox holes and put out watch stations out front with trip wires to set off flares to notify us of welcomed guests. The next morning we would retrieve all the wires and flares to be used at the next stop. From April lst to April 11th we made good headway and found only a few stragglers who were wounded or just had had enough war. It was on the evening of April 11th that the Captain came up to my position and said “Graham you are being rotated home tomorrow”. With that good news I started digging my foxhole a few feet deeper.
True to the Captain’s comments, just after morning chow a jeep came up on the road and I took my gear and headed behind our lines to be processed and get out of this terrible unfriendly environment. I did ask the jeep driver to stop by the 7th Division Headquarters area so I could see my old buddies from the G-3 section. One of my buddies was Robert Tate and he snapped a picture of me leaving the front that I did not know about until I make contact with him 60 years later.
It is interesting to know that Truman fired MacArthur that same day so I can say I share significant history with one of our Generals.
The Grahams’ of Cochran County – Chapter 58
Personal experience during the Korean War 1951. In the previous chapter I described contact with the enemy (North Koreans and possible the Red Chinese). After a few days rest behind the lines the lst Battalion of the 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division was on the move toward the front line again. We were on the Eastern Front and moving toward North Korea. We had not entered North Korea yet since we had been evacuated from North Korea by ships. We were about a days march from the 38th Parallel that was the division between North and South Korean peninsula. We were expecting to have some viscous fighting as we approached the parallel.
We had been given some ROK troops to take with us to fill our depleted ranks. As we moved forward we were met with some North Korean soldiers with a white flag and no arms. The South Korea Soldiers with us started interrogating them and found that they were tired of the war. The South Korean Soldiers took off up the hill and started firing at something. They left me and my squad to guard the North Korean captives. In a few minutes South Koreans came down the hill carrying a deer that had been their object of gunfire. After they got back to our position one of the South Koreans took his long knife and disemboweled the deer. I was quite surprised when they pulled out there canteen cups and started reaching into the deer cavity for some of the remaining blood. They were happily drinking the blood and offering some to me which I refused.
My squad was selected to escort the prisoners and the deer and a few of the South Koreans to the rear. The battalion Lt. Col. wanted to interrogate as many of the prisoners as possible and especially the officers. As we were departing there was some gunfire from Sgt Skaggs (not his real name) squad. I sent one of my squad up to see what was happening. He came back rather excited and perhaps agitated and gave few details but suggested that I go look. When I got to that area it was apparent that Sgt. Skaggs had made a couple of North Korean Officers kneel and he shot them in the back of their head. If I have PTSD that incident may be the cause of the problem. I hated war and after that finding I hated war even more. The information had already reached our captain and they started asking me for details. All that I could truthfully say was that I did not witness the episode but had heard the gunfire and found two dead officers from the North Korean Army who apparently chose not to surrender with their enlisted men. I was not sure that they had not fired at Sgt Skaggs first.
I was getting increasingly frustrated with this war. I prayed for my rotation home soon. Man’s inhumanity to man was the theme of my dreams and thoughts for many days to come.
G. A. Graham County Judge, Cochran County, Texas 1934-1938