In December 1943, Clabe and Leora Wilson were struggling to get all the work done on the farm near Minburn, Iowa, where they were tenant farmers. Since their youngest son, Junior, had joined the Army Air Force two months earlier, all five sons were serving in WWII.
Leora had located a five-star service flag to hang in their farmhouse window.
On Leora’s December 4 birthday, a telegram had arrived announcing that their middle son, Dale, a copilot on a B-25 in New Guinea, had been missing in action since November 27.
Still unaware of the news about Dale, Junior wrote home from College Detachment at Stillwater, Oklahoma.
“Mom and Dad,
“Got the pictures from home. Joe makes me want to reach right out and pet him! The one of Dad holding the gun with Spats and Joe [the Wilsons’ pet dogs] makes me think of home. A picture is better than a letter itself.
“I am bunking with a farmer who had a John Deere. We do a lot of talking on the subject.
“Stillwater is about the size of Perry. We went to a wild-west show. Boy, these old Oklahomans sure like the shooting and the flying dust. I will have to admit that I do too!
“Oklahoma A&M stands for Agricultural and Mechanical. We passed some hog pens the other day and the guys held their noses. I just laughed and said it reminded me of home! Ha!
“I got your present. I’m telling you, the figs and nuts really tasted good, although they were devoured in about 15 minutes! It reminded me of the good old times when we went to Perry and invaded the Thriftway store. No doubt that’s where you got them.
“How’s it going on the farm? Boy, how I would like to be there on the bottom today. Might get in on a little pheasant or fox hunting if I were back. You know, I could even stand the hog dust, too! Ha!
“Take Care and Merry Christmas, Junior”
This is interesting because not too many weeks earlier, Junior had bemoaned that it looked like he’d be a farmer for the duration.
A year later, his parents had bought an acreage near Perry. Even when they lived at Minburn, they traded in Perry, probably because the Thriftway would buy Leora’s eggs and butter.
Dale Wilson was still MIA, and Danny Wilson was a P-38 fighter pilot who had been sent to Italy for combat. Junior had passed Primary and Basic Training to become a pilot, just about to leave for Advanced. He wrote home from Waco, Texas, in late 1944:
“Dear Mom and Dad,
“I suppose you are having cool weather up there now. Probably some good coon-hunting weather. We had a pet coon on a long chain here at the base. We could pet him like a kitten. I don’t think I’ll kill any more of them.
“I’m in Waco for more Basic Training. The gym is right across the road. They have brand new barbells. By Christmas, I’ll be in Advanced Training in fighters. They want the younger boys in the fighters since they can stand more strain and their reflexes are faster.
“Are you having fun fixing up your new home? I’m sending home more money. Maybe it will help buy a bucket of coal or a big box of bran from the Thriftway.
Just a couple of mentions of Perry’s Thriftway store, thanks to some old letters.
Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II
Enjoyed Junior’s letters. I like how he decided not to kill any more raccoons!
After the Depression, they no longer needed to harvest raccoons for their pelts (to exchange for food and clothing through Sears) or as a meal!
I’m reading Leora’s Dexter Stories now, and it’s hard to face what happened to her three boys after she worked so hard to keep them healthy and safe in a happy home.
She still amazes me!
As strong as she was, I hope she had someone to lean on in those really tough times.
Yes, especially her own mother. I’ve been thinking about that valuable relationship.
I thought that might have been the case, but I wasn’t sure.
Always one of the most interesting blogs to read. You really learn so much about life. Merry Christmas Joy
Thank you, Sharon, especially when I wondered whether this one was worth sharing. I just love the photo of the snow-frosted cars, with even a bicycle parked outside. (And the three boys mentioned are the ones eventually lost during the war, so makes it even more poignant.)
A salute to Our Greatest Generation and Happy Holidays to you and yours. Love the post.
Thank you, Don! They certainly were! The three boys named in this story were lost during WWII. Hard to believe.
Bittersweet to read these breezy letters Junior sent home, knowing he would not be coming home in 1945–nor his two brothers. I can’t begin to imagine the pain Clabe and Leora had to endure. And they certainly weren’t alone. Millions of other families have also lost loved ones as casualties of war, then and since. This world can be a cruel place, but praise God, we have the hope of eternal life in Jesus!
Amen! Clabe had a stroke and died the next October. Leora lost three sons and was widowed within a three year period. I was a toddler so didn’t know her during her worst years, but she was such a delight as my Grandma Leora. (I was the oldest granddaughter. Guess I still am!) Thank you, Nancy.
[…] from the hospital. Leora churned four pounds of butter, which they sold in Perry, probably at the Thriftway, along with eggs and twenty hens they’d […]