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.
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
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.
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