Letters & Papers from the Trunk in the Hall: Western Union; March 2, 1945

Letters & Papers from the Trunk in the Hall:

Western Union; March 2, 1945

The “Trunk in the Hall” held the letters and papers my grandparents saved – and they saved everything from cancelled checks, postcards telling of the next VFW meeting, receipts and family letters. My mother reminds me, of in those days, people didn’t throw things away like today. My grandmother unraveled burlap sacks and reused the string, the muslin tobacco bags were saved and sewed together for quilt backs, old clothes were ripped apart and re-used; the list could go on and on.When I think back now of how granddaddy’s farm looked, I can see various items laying around. There was always a pile of scrap metal pieces behind the smoke house – I guess that was his work-pile when he needed to repair something. My grandfather, like many others during those years, were very conservative people; mama still calls herself today a frugal person!

 The “Trunk in the Hall” will be an Heirloom post in the future.

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Leroy letters and cards_0006 (800x572)

Washington D.C.   Mar. 2, 1945

Mrs. Ola A. McKinley – RT.3, GB

The Secretary of War desires me to express his deep regret that your son, Private First Class Edgar L. McKinley was killed in action nineteen, February 1945 in Germany. Confirming letter follows.

The Adjutant General

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When I found the Western Union telegram announcing my Uncle Leroy’s death, it made me question – is this how the family was told – by telegram?

My mother told me that she’ll never forget that day in Greensboro with her father, when someone told him that Army men had just been asking where his farm was. He called over to the filling station in Siloam and told them to hold the Army until he could get to the farm first – my grandmother was home alone. Had he already known – was this the actual call to the family?

By the time my grandfather arrived at the farm, the Army was there – my grandmother crying “my son is dead.” What a sad scene to have witnessed – and experienced. No mother wants to ever hear that news! My  grandfather was furious with those men, telling them to get out – get off his property!

So, when did this Western Union telegram arrive – Before or After – or did they deliver it?

Mama remembers that she had never seen her father so mad and angry as he was that day. Mad at the Army for the way the news was delivered, and angry at the loss of his son – his only son. My mother was a young girl of fifteen, now an only child.

I always thought, especially in those times, that if you only had one son, they didn’t take him into service – he was the only one to carry the name. Leroy also had asthma, but that didn’t seem to keep him out either. I guess it was true in those times too – it depended on who you were and what you had. Leroy was the son of a poor farmer, so his life wasn’t looked at as important. He was drafted out of high  school – why was that? It was told that the principal had requested him drafted out of school due to poor studies; which resulted in loss of life for this young boy of nineteen. The principal offered his condolences on that very day to my grandfather, but that resulted in my grandfather laying him out on the sidewalk! I cant imagine the grief inside him as he raced to his wife, the mother of his only son – a son he would now bury; parents should never bury their children.

Leroy boy man soldier_0007

Edgar “Leroy” McKinley

To Read more: Letters and Papers from The Trunk in the Hall

For history on V-Mail:  WWII: The History of V-Mail

© 2016 Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

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8 Responses to Letters & Papers from the Trunk in the Hall: Western Union; March 2, 1945

  1. It is amazing what these letters and papers tell us, they are often a tantalising glimpse and provide more questions then answers.
    Is it possible that Edgar choice to join up? I remember my grandfather telling me that many of the young carpenters he worked with, who were in a reserve occupation, were desperate to fight and hated having to work in the workshop. The workshop (Redding, England) my Grandfather worked in made the landing craft for the D-Day landings among other things. My Grandfather didn’t mind as he was a chronic asthmatic and couldn’t have passed the medical.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Leroy was still in school when the draft board pulled him out. It was the principal who pushed for him to go; he thought he should make that decision because he wasn’t a good student. So it seemed if you were a good student, your life was worth more.

      Like

  2. shaRon whitman says:

    Loved this

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Luanne @ TFK says:

    I just imagined a scenario like this with one of my ancestors in a poem I wrote. The dreaded telegram. Oh, the trunk sounds like a treasure!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • There was much more in that trunk years ago until I began collecting stamps – you can imagine what I did. But there were many things still saved. Their entire life was in that trunk, mama says they threw out nothing!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Luanne @ TFK says:

        Ugh, I’m sorry to hear that. It sounds like you got rid of stuff . . . . I feel horrible about how I didn’t take care of two antique photo albums because I was too young to figure it out. I took care of the photos, but not the albums.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Lyn Smith says:

    Love the story, Jeanne. I would love to have been a fly on the wall when Uncle Edgar laid that principal out. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard the story of the principal suggesting Leroy be drafted because he wasn’t a very good student. Makes you wonder how many other boys were handed over to the military from this principal and others for that same reason.
    I, too, wonder just exactly how this news was delivered. I know I’ve read many stories of ‘the dreaded telegram’ or the car that pulls up with military officials. The question is was the telegram delivered with the military brass or before they arrived? Interesting.
    With Leroy having asthma, why did the Army accept him? Do I see another story in the making? Exactly when did the military start rejecting due to illnesses considered to be handicap?

    Liked by 1 person

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