My First Decade - 1945

1945 - In February I was four years old beginning my fifth year. Momma was 25 and Jeanne was three in March. Daddy was 23 and at Camp Hood, Texas, taking basic training. Grandpa Maxwell was 52 and Grandma was 46.

MARCH 1945 - Dad finished basic training on Saturday, March 10, 1945, and had about two weeks before he was to report for duty at Fort Ord, California. His Training Certificate states that he was "Specially qualified for: Rifleman (745)." The following photographs were taken during his visit back home:

    Changing automobile tires was a frequent job back in those days; the roads were rough and the tires were manufactured with cotton cord. As tires aged, cracks developed in the rubber and water seeped in to rot the cotton cord. In that area the roads were very rocky and in some places layers of rock were exposed. Since the cotton cord was not as strong as the later man-made fibers and steel belts, tire cord could be broken by hitting those rock layers and individual rocks. The result is that 'blowouts' were a frequent tire failure that we don't often see today. I think they used the pry pole to raise the car because the typical bumper jack would probably have sunk into the soft earth of the yard. The road to Grandpa's house was just a trail scrapped free of vegatation with ditches along each side to keep water off the road. It went through a poorly drained area, and when it rained, water collected there and the mud made the road almost impassable. A small stream crossed the road just south of the house, but it usually didn't have much water in it and all the mud had washed away leaving bare rock so it was easy to cross.

This photo of me seems to have been taken on the same day the flat was fixed. It provides a partial view of the barn to the east. The barn blocked the beautiful view of the landscape to the east. Maybe when it was built, they weren't thinking about the view.

Jeanne and I were photographed at the back of the house at the southwest corner. I don't remember the dogs; at least there seem to be two; a big one and a little one. I'll add here that I don't have any memories from late '44 and early '45.

     During that March furlough Dad visited his relatives in Little Rock and these photos were taken. Uncle Irving also made a movie and cut up copies of it into little strips of miniature transparencies. He had a small handheld viewer that accepted 8mm film stirps.

These photos were made at Aunt Thelma's on 13th Street in Little Rock These were made somewhere
in Little Rock

The James Arthur Skipper, Jr. Family
March 1945

    It must have been a hectic two weeks; by Monday, March 26th he wrote the following letter to Grandpa and Grandma on Service Club stationary from Fort Ord, California:
    “Hello Mom & Dad: How are you feeling tonight? I’m feeling good, but I’m awfully lonesome and homesick. I made it here just fine. It sure was a tiring trip though.
     I haven’t found out anything yet about what we are to get here, but I’ve heard that we are supposed to get eleven days of training. Some fellows I’ve talked to have already been here three weeks.
     Mom take good care of my three babies for me and if any of them get sick make sure Louise lets me know about it.
     I’ll close now. Louise can tell you more from her letters.
   Goodnight, James”

     By May 8th he was on Luzon, the main island of the Philippines, assigned to the 149th Infantry. On June 4th he wrote this letter to his sister, Pauline:
    “Dear Sis and all: I guess you have been wondering what has happened to me. I'm still here and feeling fine as a Philadelphia lawyer. I’m attached to a service company in the 38th Div. And am working in a warehouse issuing equipment and clothing. I really like my job, and I have a swell bunch of fellows to work with.
     I have been into Manila once on pass. I really enjoyed it. I rubbernecked over most of the town. Watched some cock fights the first I have ever seen. Prices are fairly high there, but not in proportion to the prices in Europe. The city is in pretty bad shape, but the rebuilding is coming along. I went to a picture show while there. I really enjoyed it because it was air conditioned. Boy it really gets hot here during the day, but is fairly cool at night.
     Well, I guess I will close. I hardly know anything to write. Let me hear from you soon.
    Your Bud,

     Sometime in July, an olive-drab colored military car drove up into Grandpa’s front yard and two military men came to the house. I think the family realized what it meant. The men delivered this telegram:

    I remember that we stood near the piano in the southeast corner of the living room while they talked. Grandpa said, “Don’t cry, Jeannie babe.” to Jeanne and he told me that now I would have to be Momma’s little man. I don’t remember any other expressions of grief, but just recently someone told me that Momma had written to someone in a letter that she fell to the ground and crawled in the grass when the news came.

    Daddy was a little over 23 when he was killed. Momma was 25, I was 4, and Jeanne was 3.
     She wrote this letter to Dad's older brother and his wife. It is postmarked Solgohachia, Ark., July 6, 1945:
               Thursday night
Dearest Nila & Irving,
     There isn't much I can say tonight but I feel that I should write you.
     I got the telegram from the war department yesterday saying that James
was killed in a plance crash June 26th on Luzon. He was flying supplies
to the front. (I know that from his letters.) He wrote on Monday night, 25th,
saying he had been working that night on a "food drop" which was to be
taken up on Tuesday. He said "I guess I will go up again tomorrow."
He did and the plane crashed.
     I thought you might come out tonight. Do you have enough gasoline?
I will have a memorial service in this church by a Baptist minister soon.
Maybe on the 15th, though I doubt if details can be arranged by then.
I would like for all his relatives and friends to be here so please tell them all,
and I'll let you know as soon as a definite date is set.
     No words could ever express the awful, awful feeling inside me.

     There was probably more than one memorial service. This photo of the Skipper siblings and their spouses must have been taken after the memorial service at Lanty. From the left are Nila, Irving's wife; Thelma, Dad's oldest sister; Pauline, the younger sister, and Momma. The men from the left are Irving, Coleman, Thelma's husband; and Joe Noland Skipper, Dad's little brother, who was 14. Pauline's husband, George Yawney, was still in the military. They were in the front yard of Grandpa Maxwell's house near the corn field to the north. The field eventually was planted with fruit trees. The little dirt road to Lanty leads through the trees behind them to the northeast. This was only two years since they had gathered for Josephine's funeral.

Pauline Yawny and Hattie Pearl Martin
Mrs. Pauline Yawny and
Miss Hattie Pearl Martin

    Momma was left a young widow with two little children and no income except military death benefits and insurance from our Dad. She lived with her mother and father in a little frame house far out in the country. The house had no electricity and no indoor plumbing and no telephone. The nearest relatives lived about a quarter mile away at the end of a little lane through the woods. There were neighbors a quarter mile in the other direction along a slightly improved dirt road.

    The nearby relatives were Grandpa’s widowed sister, Dove, and her three younger children. Mentioned on the previous page. This photo shows Dove's daughter, Hattie Pearl standing by Momma's sister-in-law, Pauline Yawney. The photo was taken at the northwest corner of Grandpa Maxwell's house on the day of the memorial service. Pauline was in the photo of Momma with the Skipper family in the photo above. Pauline was 26 but she doesn't look seven years older than Hattie Pearl to me.

    The neighbors west of the house at the intersection of what is now Lanty Lane and Wonderview Drive were Vic and Lucille Zimmerman. They were a young couple just a little older than Momma.


From the January 20, 2003, issue of U.S. News & World Report:

    “Psychologists are watching the baby chimps at the Leipzig Zoo and their drooling human counterparts in town. “For the first 10 months you can’t tell the difference between chimps and humans,” Paabo says. “Then the human children realize that behind your eyes is something that they can direct. That there are other people like me.” “

     I was shocked when I read this because it reminded me of a very early memory. When I was very young, I had a sensation that I could remember a time when I realized that there was a world filled with other people that existed beyond my immediate circle of awareness. I can’t vouch for the reality of this, but it was a very real memory at the time. Could it have been a memory from my first year or two? It’s hard to believe that this could be so. Maybe it was a realization at age six that there was a world beyond our immediate family? But as I remember the early memory, it was about a world beyond self so it surely was earlier than six.

Momma, Jeanne, and I
This photo may have been made in late 1945 or in the spring of 1946.

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Originally Posted 1/28/01
Revised 1/15/05 w/counter at 322