Sunday, July 27, 2008

Vacationing in the 1940s

I kept to my word yesterday and spent most of the day in the chair, watching episodes from the Nero Wolfe tv series that ran on A&E a few years back. The dogs happily kept me company. About mid-morning I decided to work through one of my genealogy to-be-filed folders. I chose the Mobley line to work on and began working my way through, filing the odds and ends in my Mobley notebooks.

I got distracted when I ran across an old newspaper clipping about some Mobley cousins, the Cottles. I snapped a photo of the clipping from a cousin's collection displayed at a Turnipseed reunion last year. It concerned four Cottle boys who were serving in World War II at the same time. It was blurry and almost unreadable, but I recognized the style and realized that it probably came from the Elgin Courier and I had cds of the newspaper that covered the entire war period. I set out to find the clipping.

For most of the rest of the day and into the evening, I scanned old newspapers, beginning in 1945 and working my way back. I found lots of goodies along the way, and eventually the clipping I was looking for when I made it to 1943.

It was interesting to bury myself in the news of the 1940s. Every week some of the local boys in service were spotlighted on the front page, with their pictures and a brief description of their location and service status. A regular column, "Our Boys in Service", gave news gleaned from letters home to parents. Almost weekly was at least one front page story about a home-grown soldier wounded, missing in action, or killed.

Full page ads for War Bonds, notices of changes in the use of ration coupons, entreaties to turn in your Red Cross knitting or to pick up yarn for more Red Cross knitting, and many notices of weddings involving service men home on leave were the staple news items of the day. You get a real sense of a community united for the cause.

I found news items for the Cottle boys, the Hawthorne boys (another group of distant Mobley cousins), and for Willard Kunkel, a Mason cousin. I had almost forgotten that Willard was a part of this particular war. The first reminder was seeing this familiar photo of Willard and his new wife, an original copy of which is in my family notebooks:

Seeing this photo reminded me that I had never been able to tie down a marriage date for Willard, so I started looking for a notice of his marriage. Within a few more months of papers, I had my answer:

Elgin Courier, December 7, 1944
Willard Kunkel, U. S. N. Weds Oregon Girl
in California Rites Nov. 30

Thursday afternoon, November 30th, at 4:00 o'clock, Willard Kunkel, U. S. N., son of Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Kunkel, of Elgin, Texas, and Miss Majorie Radobough, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Radobaugh, 2658 Tenth Street, Baker, Oregon, were married in a quiet ceremony in Pioneer Methodist Church, Oakland, California.

Mrs. Betty Hutto, of Baker, Oregon, attended the bride as matron of honor and H. C. Garrett, G. M. 2c, U. S. N., Roseville, California, served the groom as best man.

Following a brief honeymoon, the groom reported for return to the Southwest Pacific. Mrs. Kunkel will remain in Berkeley, California for the present, where she is employed with the Naval Supply Depot. On his next furlough Seaman Kunkel and bride plan to come to Texas to visit his parents.

Kunkel was born at Paige, Texas, but has lived in Elgin since he was about 5 years of age, and attended the Elgin schools. He entered service March 11, 1942, has already been across 14 months; was home on 4-days leave in the summer and returned overseas. He called from California November 22nd that he was back in the states but only for a few days stay, during which he was claiming his bride.

The many friends of Willard wish him a speedy return home and a long and happy married life, attended by success and prosperity.

Finding these little nuggets of family history is always satisfying, but I found myself even more enthralled with the time travel to another period of time when there was a war worth fighting and communities clung together and worried about their boys and did everything they could to help, from driving on threadbare tires to knitting socks and scarves, to collecting scrap metal. Family history is made richer for recognizing the social history that goes along with it.


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