Presented by the Laurens County Historical Society, Dublin, Georgia. For questions and information, please contact Scott B. Thompson, Sr. at dublinhistory@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

LOOKING BACK WITH GRATITUDE - 2013


As years normally go, this year flew by way too fast. Too many friends left this world.  On this Christmas Eve, I am thankful for them and many more things as well. 

I am thankful for those who take charge and give back, for old photographs and new visions, for losing weight and gaining jobs.

We lost a lot of fine Southern gentlemen in 2013.  State Senator Hugh Gillis moved on up to the golden dome of Heaven on New Years Day.  Gillis was one of the longest serving state senators in Georgia history. Two days later, my fellow historian, Milo Smith, Jr., left his earthly home to visit his beloved heavenly family. A week later, Curtis Beall, the oldest living male UGA cheerleader, a Semper Fi Marine, and an agricultural leader also died.

We lost a true friend and the epitome of compassionate judge when Judge William M. Towson died.  Judge Towson served longer than anyone as Judge of Laurens Superior Court.  The stands of Bush Perry Field will always be a little emptier after Perry Edge, a long time Irish baseball booster,  passed away. His spirit will be sitting by the Irish dugout for years to come.  

I am grateful for the patriotic dedication of Louise Purvis, one of the last Gold Star mothers, who rarely missed a Memorial Day or Veterans Day service at the VA Hospital following the death of her son Jimmy Bedgood in Vietnam.  And here's a toast to the late Patricia Belcher, who in her last years became the "Crazy Old Lady" in the commercials for Pitts Toyota.    Mrs. Belcher was anything but that, she was one of the most caring and kind women I have ever known. 

I am grateful for the simply fantastic photography of the late Irene Claxton, whose lifetime of magnificent images will soon be available for the world to see and enjoy. 

Then there was my hard working friend, Buddy Williams. Buddy worked for thousands of hours every year and counted at least that many friends.  That's why they called him "Buddy."

The man who taught us, "It's Nice To Be Nice" has moved on.  Duggan Weaver's endless stories and works of community spirit are gone, but the memories of his smile and public deeds of charity will never leave our minds.

And here's to the late realtor Robert Hill, who accompanied me to my first World Series game in 1991.  The Braves won on the last play of the game.  It would be the only time I would see the Braves win a World Series game in person. 

And, for the craftsmanship of the late Deonard Sanders, whose artistic carpentry schools are rapidly disappearing.  

We lost another Vietnam vet in 2013.  "Tee" Holmes, whose impish grin endeared him to a league of friends in his nearly 70 years, left us all too soon.  Without "Tee," our world will always be a little bit sadder. 
This past year was sadder for those of our friends and family have left this Earth.  But, it was  much richer you see for the gifts they gave to you and me.

And, I am grateful for the life of Montrose's Jeralean Kurtz Talley, who turned 114 years old this year. She hasn't left this world yet.  Mrs. Talley is the oldest person in the world outside of Japan.  

I am thankful when I hear a Jim Croce song on the radio. If you ask  yourself who is Jim Croce, then you are part of a generation who missed the greatest music of all time.
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A big hand goes to the wheel chair ramp guys of the Dublin Civitan Club, who give up their evenings to build ramps for those who can't leave or enter their own home without help.  
I salute my good friend Pete Tyre, who serendipitously found himself as a medic in Vietnam, quietly and compassionately saving many lives along the way.   

I am grateful for the opportunity to commemorate with 15,000 others General George Pickett's failed grand and glorious charge at Gettysburg, 150 years later to the moment on the same ground.  For the opportunity to watch the play, "The Lost Colony" on Roanoke Island on the same exact spot where the first American colonists came in 1587 and to walk on the exact spot where Orville and Wilbur Wright led humanity into powered flight.

I am grateful for those who give with no expectation of any reward, those who serve with no hope of recognition and those who have the ability and desire to help others and do so.

I am grateful for the smell of daffodils on a early spring morning, the smell of fresh rain drops on a hot July evening, the aroma of fat lightered smoke floating the brown autumn countryside and the smell of evergreen in the early winter.  

For old memories remembered and new thrilling experiences, I am grateful.

For educators, who strap on their bent, but not broken, hearts every day or for as many days as the politicians will allow them to teach.  I will be grateful for the politicians when they finally learn that education is the most important thing in our country.  Speaking of education, I am grateful for the new Career Academies.  Finally someone in Atlanta realizes that technical education is critical in our ever increasingly technological world.  

For those who hold on to hope, keep their faith and try to love one another right now. For heroes, those who give all of themselves to others just when they need it most. For those who are simply grateful for what they have, I am grateful. 

To my readers in print and to the third of a million times people who have read my articles online  in the last five years, I say a great big thank you.  My greatest compliment is from those who cut out my articles and keep them to share with others or read over again.  My greatest joy is when I can make some one laugh or think back and smile and yes, even cry with the words I have been blessed to write. 

And, on this Christmas Eve, may I repeat the sounding joy that  I am grateful for the wonders of His love.  May your Christmases be merry and bright and the days of your lives be filled with goodness and everlasting light. 

And to my wife and best friend Kathy, my kids, Vicki, Scotty and Mandy, and our dogs, Bertie, Charlie, Sugar, Winston, Maggie and Emma, our cats Kit Kat and Tiger, and all of my friends, my life is much more wonderful with you in it.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

LOOK UP IN THE SKY!

       
A hundred autumns ago, its stone-covered facade rose high into the Emerald City sky.  It was the tallest building between Macon and Savannah.  It is still one of the tallest buildings between the Central City and the Hostess City of the South. A century ago, the six-story super structure represented the zenith of Dublin's meteoric growth as a regional agricultural, economic and political center of east-central Georgia.  Today, she stands on the cusp of her former glory, awaiting the day when she will rise as a phoenix once again.
The First National Bank was chartered in April 1902 with an initial capital stock of fifty thousand dollars.  The principal stockholders were Frank G. Corker, William S. Phillips, and J.E. Smith, Jr., the latter being one of the top three movers and shakers in town.  

The First National's directors chose a prime location on the northeast corner of North Lawrence (Laurens) Street and West Jackson Street.  As Dublin grew, so did the First National Bank.  The board of directors began to look around for a site to build a new bank.  They were looking for a site which would be close to the leading commercial concerns.  At that time, the commercial center of Dublin lay between Jackson Street on the north, Washington Street on the east, the railroads on the south and Monroe Street on the west.  The center of the district was at the intersection of South Jefferson and Madison Street and that's the spot where Corker chose to build the new bank.  Corker chose the old post office site on the southwest corner of the intersection.  The directors wanted to erect an impressive structure, not just one which would draw customers from competing banks, but one which would also lure professionals and businessmen from the agribusiness, which sprung up during the city's golden age.

The bank secured the services of A. Ten Eyck Brown, an Atlanta architect and  one of the leading architects of the Southeast.   Although he was primarily known as a designer of public and office buildings, one of Brown's earliest designs was the fabulous Georgian Hotel in Athens, Georgia, which was completed in 1909. The hotel was as elegant as any hotel outside of Atlanta. Five years later, the Clarke County Courthouse, a four-story yellow brick building, was completed next door to the hotel. The courthouse in Athens was one of three major courthouses designed by Brown and completed in 1914. Brown designed the Neo-Classical Revival style courthouse in Salisbury, North Carolina. The Rowan County Courthouse features huge Ionic columns on its portico. 

Other noteworthy Brown buildings in the Atlanta area include: the Ten Park Place Building near Five Points, which features the rare modernistic style of architecture; the Cooper Street School and various schools built in the 1920s while Brown was the supervising architect of Fulton County Schools, Spotswood Hill - the home of Georgia's premier historian, Lucian Lamar Knight - The Atlanta Municipal Market, St. Anthony's Church, the Luckie Street YMCA, and the Thornton Building on Pryor Street. Brown also designed the Third National Bank and the Guarantee Trust Bank. Countless other buildings designed by Brown have fallen victim to the agony of progress.

        Brown's most famous design outside of Georgia was the Miami-Dade County Courthouse. Construction on the twenty-seven story, three hundred fifty foot tall, building began in 1925. A powerful 1926 hurricane delayed the construction period to a total of three years. The base of the courthouse is made of Stone Mountain granite, while the upper portion is constructed of terra cotta, much like the First National Bank building in Dublin. Brown designed the four-million dollar building, which was once one of the tallest buildings in Florida, in collaboration with August Geiger.


While standing nearly one hundred feet tall, the building was narrow, only thirty-one feet in width.  The first story, twenty-two feet in height, featured a mezzanine over the main floor of the bank.  As one entered the lobby, the president's office and the cashier's office were located on the right.  Behind the main office of the bank in the center of the first floor were the vaults.  The director's room was situated at the front of the mezzanine level.  The clerical staff kept the records at the rear of the mezzanine.

Most impressive were the marble floors and walls of the main banking room.  In the lobby was Dublin's first elevator, one which ascended six floors of the tallest building between Macon and Savannah.  Ornamental plaster patterns and elaborate bronze teller screens, as impressive as any in a metropolitan bank, were Brown's finishing touches to Dublin's first skyscraper.  The vaults, which included four hundred safety deposit boxes, were designed to be fireproof.  As a matter of fact, the building was constructed primarily of concrete, stone and steel and was itself virtually fireproof.  Above the bank were sixty-four office spaces, equipped with the modern conveniences of lighting and heating. However, there was no air-conditioning, except in the form of electric fans and open windows, the latter of which was most effective on the upper floors which were impervious to flying insects.  Construction of the building was completed in November 1913.  Tenants began moving in on December 5, 1913.  

The First National Bank, the last Dublin bank to survive the economic collapse following the coming of the boll weevil in 1917, closed its doors in 1928.  A receiver was appointed to disburse the remaining assets between depositors.   Mills Lane, President of the Citizens and Southern Bank of Savannah, came to the rescue of Dublin's remaining business interests by first establishing a private bank, and then in the early thirties, establishing the Citizens and Southern Bank of Dublin, which remained in the First National building until the early 1950s.

When George T. Morris incorporated Morris State Bank in the 1950s, he looked around to find a prominent location of what was then Dublin's fourth bank.  Morris State Bank occupied the bottom floor while many of the professional offices remained.

As the boom of modern banks and professional buildings began in the early 60s, the skyscraper's tenants slowly began to move out to newer quarters.  

In the late 70s, the building began a four-decade long decline.  Apathy set in.  Investors feared the cost of remodeling.   

The solid structure stood resolute against the sands of time.

Enter Gainesville attorney's Dan and Chandelle Summer.   One day, the Summers were driving home from Dexter, where Chandelle's grandfather, Cy Dozier lived.    Lights went on in their heads.  The bought the building and set out to restore it to its former grandeur, as they have done with a couple of buildings in Gainesville.    Their attempts were all for naught. 

The Dublin Downtown Development Authority has been working with a developer to renovate the old First National Bank Building for mixed commercial and residential uses. Architect Robert Brown of BBTB, Inc., in Macon, Georgia, has drawn conceptual plans for each floor, ranging from a grand bank lobby on the ground floor to a sprawling 7th floor penthouse apartment. These plans would bring the building up to 21st century fire code while retaining its historic elements. 

"The key to the DDA's plan is the ability to qualify the plans for historic tax credits, which would save the developer hundreds of thousands of dollars in renovation costs," commented Joshua Kight, the Executor Direct of the DDA. 

"While the project is still in its early stages, the DDA is working hard to give Dublin's landmark historic building another century of life," Kight added.
As she starts her second century, we can all hope once again that the no longer silent sentinel will mark the dawn of a new Golden Age for our community.  What a fitting tribute it would be to the new Emerald City for the First National Bank for all to see as we look up into to sky.


THE NAUGHTY AND THE NICE

       December 1913 was a rather eventful Yuletide season.  There were days of pleasant and nice news.  And, there were nights when the naughty ran amuck. 

The final month of the year brought the good news that everyone in Laurens County already knew. For the third year in a row, the county led the state in the production of cotton with a 50,000 plus bale crop.  

Accordingly, the banks of Laurens County reveled in their prosperity.  The county's six banks saw a one-third increase in their deposits.  Most pleasing to their stockholders was the virtual elimination of all bank debts.   The six-story First National Bank building was open for business. 

The Brandon triplets were all christened by Rev. W.R. Smith, a former minister of the First Methodist Church.  The impressive ceremony was the first known and probably only triplet christening in the history of the city.  

Once the Sun went down and the nights turned cold, things began to change.

A band of miscreants set their sights on the safe of the Bank of Dudley.  Housed in a simple wooden structure in the sleepy, isolated town of Dudley along the tracks of the Macon, Dublin and Savannah, the safe would be an easy target.  

As the criminals entered the town, they cut all of the telephone and telegraph lines, or so they thought.  They had hoped to be long gone before the town's residents could get word to the Laurens County Sheriff, some dozen crow-fly miles away in Dublin.  

The outlaws pilfered a railroad tool box, taking a pick and crowbar.  A local hardware store provided the necessary tools to pull off the caper, eliminating the need to bring their own explosives and equipment.   To their delight, the burglars found a cache of four shot guns and a half case of shells.  Twenty-five horse blankets were also taken in a futile attempt to muffle the explosion. 
The malefactors picked and hacked their way through the wall of the vault to find the iron safe.  When the nitro ignited, the safe door was blown clean off.   Inside, the hoodlums found the disappointing, but still rather large, sum of $412.00 in cash. What the culprits didn't realize was the bank kept most of its cash in a safer vault in a Dublin bank.   Leaving twenty dollars in small coins behind, the men dashed off into the darkness, confident that their scheme would be successful. 

A.P. Whipple, living nearby,  was awakened by three explosions of nitroglycerine.  He jumped from his bed, gathered his night clothes and sought out to investigate the source of the explosion.  Whipple spotted the band of yeggmen firing his gun and ducked as the fleeing felons escaped into the moonless, cold, rainy evening.  He suffered a slight wound in his thumb when the night watchman  fired back after Whipple refused his order to return to his quarters.   

Turns out, the rogues forgot to cut a single, yet critical line of communication, the main telegraph line of the Macon, Dublin and Savannah Railroad.  

As the town's folk rushed to the scene, a telegrapher was summoned, sending reports of the crime throughout the state.   Within minutes nearly every sheriff in the State of Georgia was alerted to the despicable act.  

As the dawn broke, quickly organized, heavily armed  posses set out on foot, on horseback and in automobiles to scour the countryside for any sign of the gangsters.  When the trail turned cold,  law enforcement agents gave up. 

Two days later, former railroad engineer J.H. Dover  and Thomas Daly, believed to have been the ring leaders of the Dudley robbery, were arrested when they arrived at the Central of Georgia Railroad Depot in Augusta.  Among their effects were portions of the money and checks taken from stores in Green's Cut on the night of the third of December, along with a quantity of nitroglycerin, guns and ammunition.  

Down the road in Cadwell, the theretofore silent Christmas night was shattered as Town Marshal John Owen went to the home of Henry Mullis to arrest one of his kinsmen.  When Marshal Owen attempted to leave the Mullis home, a multitude of Mullises pulled their pistols, furiously firing at the beleaguered marshal.  When the firing ceased, both Mullis's and Owens's bodies were bleeding a bright Christmas red all over the floor. Mullis was wounded by friendly fire from an inebriated ally.  Both men recovered.  Apparently, only F.M. Joiner was arrested and placed under a $1000.00 bond.

The Christmas season of 1913 was not so jolly for one Lewis Davis, alias Lewis McLaughlin.  Davis was tried  in August  and convicted of the 1904 murder of his wife Selma in the Brewton home of Ben Burney, the victim's father.  Davis, in the presence of several competent witnesses,  shot his wife three times and fled to Key West, Florida and Cuba  After a nine-year absence Davis returned for a picnic in Ocilla when the sister of his former wife spotted him and reported his presence to authorities, who immediately took the felon into custody.  

At his trial, evidence was introduced that Davis came in "talking big," that is until his wife and mother-in-law confronted him.  Davis, in his own defense, told the jury that his father-in-law attacked him with a stick of stove wood. Davis testified that he pulled his pistol and shot his wife  in self defense.  In the commotion which followed, Davis slipped away and wasn't seen in nine years.  

His attorneys appealed his conviction to the Georgia Supreme Court, which affirmed his death sentence on December 12.       On the day after Christmas, Judge Hawkins set his date with the hangman for January.  Despite the passionate pleas of Davis' attorney, R. Earl Camp, the execution remained on schedule.

As the January 24  hanging approached, Laurens County Sheriff J.J. Flanders began to make the necessary preparations for the indoor hanging in the Laurens County Jail.  To start out the new year right, Sheriff Flanders purchased a new grass rope which he boiled in tallow.  To make the hanging apparatus work properly, the Sheriff walked next door and picked up a tombstone from the  Laurens Marble Company, which was located in the former courthouse building.  The dense stone  made an ideal weight to hold Davis' flinching, wiggling, dying body until he drew his last gasp of breath.  

Davis's pastor made yet one final futile plea to spare his life.  He asked for a 30-day respite to allow the condemned man ample time to make peace with his God.  

 Promptly at 1:25 on a Saturday afternoon, Davis walked calmly to his death.  He confessed that he did indeed kill his wife with malice aforethought as he affirmed that he was ready to go straight to God's glory.  Twenty minutes after the trap dropped, the attending physicians pronounced that he was dead.  

Monday, December 16, 2013

THE LAST CHRISTMAS

THE LAST CHRISTMAS
Christmas in Laurens County in 1940


The year was 1940.  It would be the last Christmas before the war.  It was a Christmas when Dubliners and Laurens Countians put their differences aside and celebrated the birth of Christ in its true form. A little commercialism could be found, but the main focus was the religious aspect of the 25th of December. Many were worrying about the impending war in Europe.  More than a hundred local men and boys in the Georgia National Guard were training in Fort Jackson, South Carolina for a war they hoped would never come.

A county-wide celebration began on the courthouse square in the late afternoon of the 12th.   Several thousand citizens gathered in downtown.  Streets were blocked off for several blocks in all directions.  Late shoppers were serenaded by the bands of Dublin High School and the Laurens County Marching Band seated on a specially constructed grandstand.  Music filled the air -  broadcast from loud speakers in the courthouse tower.  The boys of Cadwell, Dudley, and Rentz vocational classes aided Georgia Power employees in stringing the lights on trees and the courthouse itself.  A manager scene was constructed on the grounds.  The lighting also included the traditional tree of lights on the Carnegie Library grounds (now the museum).  Another part of the display of lights was a new neon sign placed on the steel frame of the river bridge wishing new comers a "Merry Christmas!"  Later the sign was change to read "Welcome to Dublin" for west bound travelers and "Thanks, Come Again" for east bound visitors on their way out of town.

Dr. C.H. Kittrell, President of the Dublin Lions Club, served as the master of ceremonies.  He hailed the gathering "as the most impressive Christmas display our community has ever had."  Dr. Kittrell praised the unity shown by members of the community and its significance in the Christmas season.  The Rev. Claude E. Vines prayed for world peace in his invocation.    Bob Hightower, chairman of the event, praised the spirit of cooperation by the business and professional men of Dublin, except the five "scrooges" who refused to donate to the program.  In all, Hightower and his associates raised more than fifteen hundred dollars.   Rev. W.A. Kelley, Superintendent of the Dublin District of the Methodist Church, called for a renewed observation of the spiritual significance of Christmas.  By then, children began tugging on their parents sleeves asking "when are they going to turn on the lights?"  Mae Hightower made here way to the stage where she threw the lights, just at the moment of dusk.  In eclectic voices the crowd filled the air with "oohs", "aahs", and "wows." 

The second phase of the celebration came five days later.  The ladies of the Dublin Garden Club, led by its president, Mrs. Carl Nelson, sponsored a city-wide outdoor Christmas lighting contest.  Mrs. Howard L. Cordell, Sr. and Mrs. Marion Peacock headed the committees which were able to secure out of town judges to evaluate the fifty-four contestants.  The judges made their decisions based on the suitability of the lights to the type of home, the size of the decorations in proportion to the size of the house, and the total artistic and color effect of the decorations.

Mr. and Mrs. O.L. Chivers, whose home still stands on Bellevue Ave. across from the Piggly Wiggly, won the first prize.  The George T. Morris home, now home to the Chamber of Commerce, finished in a second-place tie with "Green Acres," the home of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Geeslin.  Third place was awarded to Mr. and Mrs. James F. Nelson, Jr.

Rev. Ralph Gilliam led an impressive and inspirational candlelight service at Henry Memorial Presbyterian Church on the Sunday before Christmas.  Participants in the program included Blanche Coleman, C.C. Crockett, Leah Kittrell, Charles Alexander, Sara Veal, Noble Marshall, and the music club of Dublin High School.  The choir of the First Baptist Church presented a cantata at the regular Sunday morning worship service. Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus came to Buckhorn Methodist Church for an "Old Time" Christmas.

The third major event of that Christmas was a county-wide Christmas Carol program on the courthouse square, just two days before Christmas.  A.J. Hargrove, the master of ceremonies, presided over a program which featured thousands of local school students.  The children assembled at the school building downtown (now the City Hall.)  One group, after another, formed on the school grounds and marched to the courthouse serenading parents, shoppers, and merchants along the way.  At the courthouse they did an about face and marched back down the other side of the street. At four o'clock many church choirs assembled at the courthouse for the main part of the program which featured the traditional songs of Christmas, featuring soloists Mrs. Annelle Brown and Blanche Coleman.

An integral part of that Christmas in 1940 and each one since then has been the giving of gifts, especially the toys for the children.  Smith's Jewelry had special last minute gifts for momma and daddy or for the special girl or man.  Silverware sets sold from $15 to $150.00.  Bill folds and belt sets were popular at two dollars or so.  Bulova, Waltham, and Elgin watches were the most popular, all for less than forty dollars.  A solitaire diamond engagement ring sold for $49.75 with the matching wedding duet for only $24.75.  America's finest glassware sold from 25 cents up to $12.00.  

Across the street at Lovett and Tharpe, shoppers could shop until 10:30 on Christmas Eve for the last minute gifts.  For the boys, Daisy air rifles were a dollar, Wilson basketballs were two dollars and seventy-five cents, and Wilson footballs sold for a dollar and twenty-five cents.  The Westfield  bicycle, the top of the line, went for the sum of twenty-eight dollars.  Tricycles were four dollars and wagons brought three dollars apiece.  For the lady of the house, a husband could pick up a new Frigidaire refrigerator, range, or water heater for $120.00 and up.  Tree light strings, the old-fashioned kind with larger light bulbs, sold for fifty cents to a dollar.

Santa Claus came that night.  Toy lead soldiers, baby dolls, comic books, and tea sets, along with the requisite new sets of clothes found their way under the trees.    For the last two decades the county and city had suffered through a long and dark economic depression.  Things were beginning to change.  As Charles Dickens said in his "Tale of Two Cities," "It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times."  Our country was about to enter into a world war that would change the course of the history of man forever.

That joyous season of Christmas had  two sad postscripts.   Homer Jordan and M.C. Kincey broke into McLellan's Department Store.  The two men helped themselves to the contents of the store early on Christmas morning.  Otherwise, Sheriff I.F. Coleman and Chief J.W. Robertson reported that the day passed quietly, the only Christmas in recent memory that they didn't have to lock up a few drunks."  While all but ten local National Guardsmen returned home for Christmas, two Monroe Georgia soldiers were passing through Dublin on their return to Camp Stewart.  Just as Sgt. Roger Malcom and James Peters passed under the Merry Christmas sign on their way to Hinesville, they lost control of their car and crashed into the bridge.  Sgt. Malcom didn't survive. It was his last Christmas.  Christmas is a time to cherish with your family and friends.  Remember the true "reason for the season" and have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

DUGGAN WEAVER


The Nicest Man In Town

The late Duggan Weaver knew it was "nice to be nice."  He spread that message for most of his adult life as an insurance agent, Sunday School teacher, Mason, Lion, Gideon and library supporter.  His multitude of friends knew him in those ways.  You might not know that Duggan served our country as a member of the US Navy for nearly four years. This is a little told story of Duggan Weaver and how the events of December 7 , 1941 changed his life forever.  Here is his story in his own words of that fateful day, seventy two years ago this week. 

"I was working in Louisville, Kentucky living at the YMCA. I was across the street at Taylor's Drug Store drinking a cup of coffee; a boy came in and said the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor," Duggan recalled in an interview with Mac Fowler of the Laurens County Historical Society.  

"I thought he was kidding, but he said, "No". I thought some crazy nut had come by and dropped a bomb. I walked across the street to the Y and people were gathered all around listening to the radio. The news caused the hair on your arm to stand up! It was a day one will never forget." 

"The next day I went to work at Belknap Hardware Manufacturing Company. They distributed radios, which was very rare. Not many people had radios (especially in Dudley, Georgia. We didn't even have electricity in Laurens County). The company distributed radios all over to the place there were about 1500 employees. We listened to the news and everyone was afraid." 

"That night I went to the Navy Recruiting office and signed up for the Navy. I had been turned down by the Army before leaving Laurens County and placed in 4F. The Navy took me. If you were warm, I think they would take you. I left Louisville on the 19th of December 1941. They put me on a train to Great Lakes, Illinois. The Naval Training Station at Great Lakes was running over. They issued us a few clothes, I was there two or three days and they sent some of us to the Naval Pier in Chicago, Illinois. The Naval Pier was built some fifty years before the war. It had nothing to do with the Navy. The Navy had taken it over about six months before the war. It was going to be converted to a school to handle about eight thousand men, but it was not ready and we had a solid mess. They did not have the equipment to issue dog tags and other identification. Three weeks from that day, most men had been inoculated and they were sent to sea. Sam Rundell, a fellow I had met there and I had the highest test grades and didn't go." 

"They sent us back to the Great Lakes and we slept in hammock in an Air Force hangar. Then they put us in a barracks and we went to school from 8:o'clock in the morning until 8 at night. I was in Quartermaster Signal School. The later part of June 1942, they sent us to Norfolk, Virginia to broad the Ship USS Merak. They took us to Cuba. Most of the outfit stayed in Cuba, but after a few days, they put me on another ship, USS Pollux, a brand new ship on it's first run. We went to Puerto Rica, Virgin Islands and left there and went to Trinidad to a PC Base. After two weeks, they sent us to downtown Trinidad, about a block from our Naval Headquarters."  

"I will never forget, we came into Key West and the Captain ordered and had me send a message "We need 150 bunches of bananas at least". We had about sixty monkeys plus some apes or whatever you call those bigger ones on board. They were for a wildlife preserve owned by one of the Roosevelts" 

"The ship was loaded with we had smelted copper bars and palm oil out of Africa. It had been built to haul tung oil out of the orient. There was a fine crew on there. I loved everyone that I had anything to do with. They treated me like a King and they gave me my own room and bathroom. These Norwegians hated the Germans. This ship left Oslo, Norway, the day the Germans moved in." 

"I stayed at Key West two or three days and fussed with them and fussed them. I kept telling them that Carl Vinson was our Secretary of the Navy and he was from my District and that I was going to call him. I always tried to wear my hat square and be a good Navy man. I got into a lot of real situations that were real bad. One was that I couldn't even get on a Base and get any food. The Navy had a place there that I could sleep. After fussing, I got over the fence and got something to eat. I got a man to write me a note saying "Let this man in and out whenever he wants to," After about a few days, they put me on a ship, US Kansan and back to Trinidad. I stayed there two or three days. I had to carry my entire luggage plus a lot of signal equipment." 

         " I left Trinidad and went back to Key West. After two or three days, they put me on a British ship,. We came to New York, then back to Guantanamo Bay. I was the only American on board. We had a strange kind of thing to happen. I would flash the lights and hoist the flag and things that the Commodore would tell me to do. There was always one American signalman on every ship regardless of what country it was from to tell the Captain of the Ship how the Navy wanted him to do.  The Captain went ashore and came back laughing and said "Some man over there asked me about you being on this ship and said he'd give me every map of this whole area if I'd get you ashore."  The British Captain went ashore (we had to buy our food). He came back and said that they had us down as being lost at sea for a week. The Captain and his ship were going to Nova Scotia, I told him, "Nobody's told me what to do, I don't know." The next morning, I was ready to go. We went up through the East River and there was a place there where we took on a new pilot. He said, "I expect you better get off. I don't know where we're going or what you're going to do." I got off and the Coast Guard got me and kept me all day under house arrest. 

I didn't have any ID; I didn't have any orders. They wanted to know why an American sailor was on a British ship. I could talk all day about that day! I told them I had heard of the Armed Guard Center over in Brooklyn. I was not in the Armed Guard, but I thought that's where I need to be. I called the Armed Guard Center and decided that's where I should be."

I was born with a hernia; it was bad.. The Navy took me but standing all day long on those decks I was having a fit. I went to see a Dr. in Brooklyn and he told me, "Man, yeah you need to get something done about this." He sent me to the Brooklyn Navy Hospital. I got to come home to Dudley from the hospital and went back. The weather was horrible back to Brooklyn. It was January.. I had pneumonia and almost died.. 

I got back to Trinidad and they put me on the same ship, the Columbia. ans Army transport that they had named the Gen. Harry Rethers. I was in good shape there because they had an Army gun crew and we ran by ourselves.  A few times, I put up a flag and answered airplanes or something like that. We went to British Guinea and Dutch Guinea. I was there for a few weeks and went back to Trinidad but I don't remember the name of the one I was on but it was a nice one. It was taken from Germany during World War I. They had cleaned it up and it was in A-1 shape. I got to New York and they told me I had plenty of time. I went over to the Signal Shack and I had plenty of points to go home, but we've got to have sailors, we have sent for sixty five today that had gone home. They assigned me to a tanker, the Axtel J. Byers. Our first trip was to Russia; British Isles, Scotland and we left there on my birthday, September 15, 1943. We lost nine ships, I didn't know if I would ever see Dudley again! Horrible! Horrible! I had seen ships blown up before but this was a terrible situation. We got back to New York and I thought they would let us go home. They sent us straight to Tampa, Florida for dry dock because this ship had been torpedoed before I had gotten on it. We had some Navy men on board, but I was responsible to the Merchant Captain. My job was to keep him happy. We got along fine. So I got to come home for two or three days. When I got back, we made two or three trips into the Mediterranean, three to the British Isles, five to Venezuela and eight or ten times to the Texas area"  I was discharged September 14, 1945." 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

LASS O. MOSELEY

A Master of Many Trades

Lass O. Moseley's vocations numbered in double digits. A master of many trades,  Moseley, a former Laurens County man, became one of the most popular men in Atlanta in the mid 20th Century.  

At time or another, Moseley was a baseball player, congressional secretary, Army clerk, newspaper writer, radio station manager, Army officer, alderman, public relations officer,  hotel manager, executive, tourism official and several other professions.  And those were his day jobs.  It would be as a manager of four of Atlanta's finest and most famous hotels that Lass O. Moseley would become a legend in Atlanta. 

Lass  Olen Mosley was born on February 1, 1894 in Johnson County, Georgia.  Little is known of the early years of this son of William Moseley and Effie Virginia Page Moseley,   "Lasso," as his friends called him for short, spent part of his youth in Wrightsville and later  in the southeastern corner of Laurens County in the county line community of Orianna.

Lass Moseley was a pretty fair country pitcher in his youth.  On August 5, 1912, Moseley faced fifteen batters from neighboring Rockledge  The five-foot, six-inch tall, eighteen-year-old  Orland  pitcher, weighing in at 158 pounds, struck out fourteen batters without allowing a single ball to be hit into fair territory.  Only two walks marred an otherwise perfect game.  

At the age of 19, a still young Moseley helped organize a Temperance Union in Orianna to drive out the illegal sellers of whiskey and other demonic alcoholic beverages.  
After attending Emory University, where he was inducted in the Pi Kappa Phi Honor Fraternity, Moseley accepted a position as the personal secretary of Congressman William Washington Larsen, Sr. of Dublin,  Moseley served in that post until he entered the armed services during World War I.

Moseley, who desired to be a naval pilot in World War I,  was assigned instead as  Chief Clerk of the Adjutant General Department of the American Expeditionary Force. As an Army Field Clerk in France, Moseley received a citation from AEF Commander General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing for "Conspicuously meritorious and efficient service." 

In 1920, Moseley, a renowned expert on the history of the game of baseball, played ball for the Thomson, Georgia entry in "The Million Dollar League," a loosely organized, independent  league made up of teams from the Southeast.  Superstars like Cy Young and "Shoeless" Joe Jackson made the jump to this league during its heyday.  Moseley, an avocational golfer scored a hole in one in 1936. 

Before leaving his position with Congressman Larsen, Moseley was elected in 1921 as the Secretary of the Kiwanis Club of Dublin, the city's first fraternal/civic club.  He made his home in the capital city of Atlanta, a place more worthy of his immense personal talents.

Moseley, who had worked on the short-lived Dublin Tribune,  took a position with the Atlanta Constitution, sometimes appearing as a writer, but primarily as Program Manager of the newspaper's radio station, WGM.  WGM followed quickly on the heels of WSB, which was owned by the Atlanta Journal, a competitor of the Constitution in those days.  

When Mr. and Mrs. George Pollock of Atlanta were trying to decide the name of their new boy, they chose William Grady Moseley, whose initials spelled the call letters of their favorite radio station. In the process they honored Moseley, who transformed the whole event into a photo opportunity to promote the station.  

WGM went out of business within a year.  Its owners donated the tower and equipment to Georgia Tech, leading the way for the university to take over broadcasting programs.  Today, WGM, the second radio station in Georgia and one of the first in the South, operates under the call letters of WGST.

After moving to Atlanta, Moseley returned to the Armed Forces, joining the 122nd Infantry Regiment of the Georgia National Guard as a Captain.  Moseley served in the Guard until the early 1930s.   In 1927, Gov. L.G. Hardman named Moseley as an Aide de Camp and Colonel on his personal staff, an honorary position assigned to the closest friends and supporters of Georgia governors in the 20th Century.  

Lass Moseley left the Atlanta Constitution in 1927 to accept a position as the Public Relations Officer of the Dinkler Hotel chain in Atlanta.  He soon became the manager of the Ansley, one of the South's most popular hotels.   Within six years, the popular hostelry manager was chosen by his Georgia colleagues as President of the Georgia Hotel Men's Association. Four years later in1937, the hotel managers of Atlanta selected him to lead their organization. 

During his tenure with the twelve story Ansley  Hotel, Moseley was elected as an alderman to represent the 6th District on the Atlanta City Council.  His supporters urged that he be named as Chief of Police following his short term on the council.

In 1932, the owners of Piedmont Hotel hired Moseley to help manage their "New York" style hotel, which covered an entire city block.  

After two years at the Piedmont, Moseley began a decade long tenure as the manager of the Winecoff Hotel. As manager of the Winecoff, Moseley was often called upon to help promote tourism in the city and in the state of Georgia as a whole.

On the fifth anniversary of the beginning of World War II and some two years after Moseley left the Winecoff, the grand building burned, killing 119 people in still the country's most fatal hotel fire.

Moseley left the Winecoff to manage the Henry Grady Hotel, whose Paradise Room was called the "Showplace of the South."  The Henry Grady, a top gathering spot for Georgia politicos for decades, was built on the site of a former Georgia governor's mansion.  Moseley managed the Grady Hotel until the mid 1950s.

He was often called upon by Georgia governors to serve on committees dealing with tourism in the state, heading one such organization in 1945.  In the early 50s he was on a committee to explore the future use of Jekyll Island. 

Lass O. Mosley died on February 12, 1962 in Atlanta, which was richer for his forty years of service to the capital city.  


Friday, November 22, 2013

THE SORROW OF THE INNOCENTS

Remembering the Day Innocence Died In America



It was just after two o’clock  on a cool, cloudy, Friday afternoon when we heard the news.

“President John F. Kennedy has been shot and he is dead.”

For a generation of young Americans, the killing of President John F. Kennedy just two blocks north of U.S. Highway 80 in Dallas changed our lives forever.  Adults, teachers, parents and even battle hardened veterans, were crying.  The innocent children could not understand why.   Sadly, there were those who were taught to hate who cheered and  reveled as the sorrowful sobbed all around them.

The events of the “Four Dark Days” unfolded on televisions across the county and around the country as families and friends gathered around their black and white sets to see what was going to happen next.  As it happened, history happened right before everyone’s eyes.   

Nearly everyone alive over the age of 55 remembers where they were when they heard the news. What you are about to read are the memories of a sampling of local school students, now in their late 50s and 60s.  Many remember that Friday autumn afternoon fifty years ago,  as if it were yesterday.   You can read the numbness in their words, the pain in their tears, and the sorrow in their souls - the sorrow of the innocents. 


STUDENTS MAY I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION




Three gun shots rang out in Dealey Plaza at 1:30 EST.  Within minutes, the news of the shooting spread rapidly across the nation.  School principals across the county received the word that the President had been shot.  Thirty minutes later the news came that the President had died.  It then became their task to notify the students of the tragedy.  

Angie Bedingfield Alford was playing on the playground of Cadwell Elementary School when her teachers,  Paulina Shaluta and Mrs. Grace Bedingfield,  came outside to tell us: “It felt very surreal. My mother was devastated. We stayed glued to our black and white TV in the days that followed,” Alford recalled.

At Moore Street School, Principal Sally Horne spoke over the intercom telling the students the news. Vicki Adams Blizzard distinctly remembers, “It was after 2:00 when our principal, came over the intercom and announced the news about President Kennedy. It was  a cloudy November day right before Thanksgiving break. School let out early. I remember going home and watching television, stunned and saddened.”  

Renee Fraser put her head on her desk and cried.  After school was let out early, she kept on crying.  Like nearly everyone in the country, Renee and her family were glued to their television sets for the next four days. 

Cheryl Belcher still remembers when the announcement came over the speakers, “Everyone gasped and stood still. It was quiet in the hall full of kids. I think we were all shocked and afraid of what it might mean for our country. It made me realize how fast things can change. It also made me realize our country is vulnerable, even with all the protection our country has.” 


THE DAY THE TEACHERS CRIED


For many school students, the assassination left an indelible mark on their memories.  For many students, it was the first time that they had ever seen their teachers and principals crying, even the tough football coaches had tears in their eyes.

John Pike was in Coach Sapp's Health/PE class. The principal called all the teachers to the office. When Coach Sapp came back, he was crying. Edward Tanner remembered, “Coach Sapp told us what had happened and then he had to ask the few who were cheering to stop.”

Peggy Hood Pridgen, a 6th grader at Saxon Heights, remembered that suddenly all of the teachers gathered in hall, crying, whispering. “Finally Mrs. Garner announced, "President Kennedy has been assassinated. A brief moment of silence, Peggy remembered, “Then we clapped because we had no idea what that big word meant! We quickly learned from her face that wasn't the appropriate response.” 

Dublin Mayor Phil Best was in the 2nd grade in McRae, remembered his teacher crying as she rolled in a television so her students could watch history happening in front of their eyes.

Nan Barfoot’s most vivid memory of that day was the moment when her health teacher Evelyn Tanzine went out into the hall after a knock on the door.  “She came back, she was crying. She could hardly get the words out. ‘President Kennedy has been shot and he died.’ Holy cow! We all sat in stunned silence, you could've heard a pin drop,” Barfoot harked back to that day.  

Becky Stewart Meeks recalled, “I was in the 5th grade at East Laurens. Our principal broadcast the radio announcement over the intercom system. I remember a teacher from another classroom went running down the hall screaming.”

There was total silence in Mrs. Harris’ 7th grade class.   “Mrs. Harris read the announcement as she cried.  No one knew what to say or do,” Danny Hooks recalled. 


WAS IT A DREAM? 




Rosemary Reinhardt Digby, a senior in high school at Dudley High School, recalled “I was walking back from lunch when one of my classmates told me the president had been shot. My first reaction was "what is the joke?" No joke. We went in the school library. I can still see Walter Cronkite's face when he announced the president was dead. I don't think any of us realized the impact of the death of a president. My Mother told me how she remembered the day Roosevelt died and how devastated everyone was. The same feeling we all had during that time.”

Elouise Franks  was ironing her husband’s clothes. “I had to stop for a while it was so unreal for this to happen - a real nightmare to me, she remembered.

Darlene Calvert Farrell remembers the still which  fell over everyone as if they had lost their best friend.

Candace Spicer Christian and her sister Heather were planning on going with their parents George and Barbara Spicer to celebrate their anniversary.  “I remember sitting in our den watching CBS. We did not go out to eat that night and I could not understand why. I remember my dad saying it was too sad a night for us to be celebrating,” Candace reflected.



YOU HAVE TO BE CAREFULLY TAUGHT


Oscar Hammerstein, II in the opening verse of his song, You Have To Be Carefully Taught in the musical South Pacific wrote, “You have got to be taught to hate and to fear.”  Sadly the assassination of President Kennedy brought out the worst in those children who have been taught to hate others they disagreed with.   Although widely popular across the country, President Kennedy was hated by some Southerners. 

Tom Patterson was taking his post as a Hillcrest Elementary Safety Patrol guard. When the bell rang, kids streamed out of school. “The first to approach my beat was my younger brother Hunter, who said ‘President Kennedy got shot in Dallas. A fellow safety patrol kid reveled in the news because of the President’s compassion for the plight of African Americans. Hunter & I were both so shocked we didn't know what to say,” Patterson remembered.  Meanwhile, Tom and Hunter’s sister Calli walked home down the street to see her mother Alice sitting on the ottoman with her face in her hands, sobbing. “I was barely six and trying to understand why my mother was so sad about a man she didn't know dying. I knew something was terribly wrong,” Calli remembered. Pam Holmes heard a similar remark a Johnson Street School.  

Gail S Rogers, a 7th grader then, remembered when the news came over the intercom that the President had been shot. “In the midst of overwhelming sadness, one boy jumped up and yelled, ‘I’m glad someone shot him,” Gail recalled.   Stunned and sad, Gail loved the Kennedys and even named her first baby doll Caroline. 

Some of the kids in Marcus Clements’ American History class at Adrian High School clapped as well.  Mary A. Lewis was walking to the Band Room in preparation for a music festival that evening when she heard a young boy yell, “The South Will Rise Again.”


LORD HAVE MERCY!


For African-Americans, the death of John F. Kennedy was a double blow.  For the first time in American history, an American President was beginning to establish policies to create equal rights for African Americans.  

Phyllis E. Turner was watching TV while her mother, Mrs. Equilla Speight Edwards,  was outside hanging clothes on the line.  The program was interrupted when Walter Cronkite who made the announcement.  As if it was yesterday, Phyllis recalled, “When I heard the news, I ran out to the porch and yelled to my mother, "Mama! President Kennedy's dead! My mother dropped everything, ran inside the house, sat down on the bed and said sadly, "Lord, have mercy!"

Sharmen May Gowens was in her 4th Grade class  at Susie Dasher School. “Mrs. Cruise came back into the classroom and told us "Class, I have some bad news. President Kennedy has just been shot. I screamed out, ‘Shot?! Oh, NO!’ I started crying and so did the rest of the class. It was a sad, sad day,” said Gowens, who was so moved by the death of the president that she composed this memorial poem a few months later. 




Mr. Kennedy, I remember
That day in late November
I was told you were killed,
I knew it couldn't be "for real.”
I cried, cried and cried,
But on that day you died.
That day was very sad
For two children lost their dad.
November twenty-second, nineteen sixty-three
Was when this country was sad, sad as could be.
You strove for the truth and right
With all your heart and all your might.
I will always remember you
As a man who was true
May God ever bless
This country to be a success.
While you lived, you did your part
You will always live in my heart.
May you forever rest in peace
For my love will never cease. 

                             Sharmen May Gowens



HITTING CLOSE TO HOME


Some Laurens County residents were close to the scene at the time of the shooting.

Becky Wood  was living in Garland, a suburb of Dallas.  She turned down a chance to go to see the President and went to school that day.  “When the announcement came over the intercom, the room was completely quiet until the sobs began by teachers and students alike.  Even the slumber party we had planned was a solemn occasion. Somehow, it felt we lost more than a president that day,” Becky recalled. 

Rudy Collins  was in the 3rd grade in Dallas.  Her father, who worked at the Dallas Times Herald, came to pick her up.  He was crying. Rudy saved all the pictures in the magazine and papers. She still has them.  


THE END OF INNOCENCE


There are some historians who divide the 20th Century into two parts, the time before the assassination and the time after that fateful day.  To many, the assassination represented the end of innocence of what was good and right in America. 

“ I think this event was the beginning of the end of innocence for my generation,” Kim Butler maintained.

Kay Middlebrooks Baeumel left school and jumped off the back porch as most Moore Street students always did.  She cried all the way to her home two blocks away. “ I can still remember it like it was yesterday,” Baeumel said.

Lorene Flanders was her 1st grade class at East Laurens when the announcement of the president's death came over the intercom. Her teacher, Miss Orlene Gilbert, began to cry.

“After a moment I went to her and told her that no one would shoot the president. I knew that the president's brother had something to do with the government, and I told Miss Gilbert that it must have meant that the president's brother had been shot. It was inconceivable that someone would shoot the president,” recalled Flanders, who kept telling her fellow students returning from recess that no one would shoot the president.”

Mary A. Lewis was preparing for a band festival that evening on the old football field. She remembered, “I was afraid of what would happen next. They told us the band festival would go on that night because the out of town bands had already left for Dublin. That night, the combined bands from Dublin (high school, and Junior High) and from the visiting town (can’t remember which one) played the national anthem. I cried.”

But the killing wasn’t over.  Mary and her family returned from Mass just in time to turn on the television to see the first live telecast of a murder, Jack Ruby’s shooting of the prime suspect, Lee Harvey Oswald. 

“I held my baby brother in my lap for the funeral. I told him someday I would tell him that he saw it all. I watched, as young John Kennedy broke the nation’s heart with a salute. Then life went on,  but it never was the same again.” Mary lamented.












Friday, November 15, 2013

PETE TYRE: The Serendipitious Savior


      Pete Tyre never set out to be a savior of lives when he studied about Jesus during Royal Ambassadors meetings  at the Baptist Church.  He never  dreamed of trampling through deadly Asian jungles while he was camping out with the Boy Scouts and hunting with his father in the woods around Laurens County.  Pete never pondered of being in the middle of highly intense and deadly firefights when he was standing on the sidelines of Battle Field while his teammates won game after game.  All of that changed when Pete Tyre joined the United States Navy after high school.

Those of you who know William Craig "Pete"Tyre, know him as an arrowhead hunting, joke telling, fun loving, music afficionado.  Some of you may know that he is a nurse, who spent four decades in the health care field.   Most of you don't know that nearly a half century ago, it was Pete Tyre's job to follow the Marines of the 1st Marine Division through the jungles of South Vietnam.  When a Marine fell, Tyre was there to pick him up, stop the bleeding and keep him comfortable until help could arrive.

He can't tell you how many lives he did save.  To this very day he thinks more about the lives of Marines that he wasn't able to save.

In high school, Pete, the son of Bill and Evelyn Tyre,  played football on Coach Minton Williams' state championship team.  Although he only played in a couple of games, Pete persevered,  staying with the team and never missing  a practice.  

Pete, his classmates nicknamed him "Rim," had so much fun that inscribed under his senior yearbook picture is the phrase, "If having fun was a crime, he would be having a life sentence." 

"When I was 18, I was naive and thought I was a world traveler," said Tyre.  His mother wanted him to go to college.  Tyre, who joined the Navy instead,  was swiftly taken through new recruit processing.  

One day, after very little sleep and no showers, Pete and his buddies were forced to undergo a rapid fire, intense battery of tests while standing at a podium with a single light bulb hanging over their heads.  As the instructor screamed at Pete, he was so tired and frustrated that he simply gave random answers to the multiple choice questions.  

Scoring near the bottom of his group, Pete was the only one not to get an assignment to a special school.  He was sent to Point Mugu Naval Air Station in California.

"I had never heard of it.  I had heard of Mr. Magoo, so I had to get a map to find it," Tyre chuckled.

After six weeks in his first assignment as a janitor at the air station, Pete because so frustrated that he kicked a bucket of dirty, soapy water, unaware that a boatswain's mate was watching him.  The supervisor escorted Pete to a psychiatrist's office at the dispensary.  

"He asked me if I would like to be a corpsman, to which I responded 'What is a corpsman?"  Pete recalled  how he was unexpectedly  set on a course that would define his career in the Navy and his adult life.  Pete returned to his cleaning duties, but this time he was assigned to a medical unit.  Eventually, opportunities to perform medical duties and take courses came. Tyre loved his new role, making straight "A"s.  

After Point Mugu, there were a series of assignments at a Hospital Corps School in San Diego and another in Pensacola in an eye surgery unit.    In his early days in the Navy, liberties in Hollywood, watching San Diego Chargers games from the post and going to the San Diego Zoo were a welcome diversion from rigorous training courses.

Another major life altering change  came when Pete was sent to Marine combat training at Camp Lejeune and Parris Island for advanced medical field training.  After short stints back in California and in Okinawa, Pete was whisked off to DaNang, South Vietnam.  

Assigned to the thirty- man 2nd Platoon, Lima Company, 7th Marine Regiment, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Division, it was the new corpsman's job to go along on day time patrols, night time ambushes and sweep and destroy missions.  

"It was my job to protect the Marines.  They protected me a lot, because they needed me to help them when they were sick or injured," Pete asserted.

"It bothers me to this day  that the South Vietnamese villagers were caught in between us and the Viet  Cong," said Tyre, who tried to help the villagers he came upon.

"When the Viet Cong found out we helped the people in the villages, they would burn their houses, take their supplies, eat  their food  and sometimes kill the women and the children there.  War is so horrible, especially the collateral damage to the children.  I don't like to talk about that part of it, I get too emotional about it," Tyre lamented.

There was little time for fun.  In his 14 months in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967, Tyre had five days of R&R, one time going 41 days without a bath or taking his boots off.  After missing his mother's home cooking, Pete Tyre went from 125 pounds down to 100 pounds.  

Most of his time in Vietnam was spent in the field with little time for fun, and Pete always loves to have fun.  He missed not having iced cold drinks, forced instead to put iodine tablets in his canteen to keep from getting sick from stream and well water.  A life long music lover, Pete heard very little music except during a camp sing a long, or when his sergeant would sing every Lefty Frizzell song he ever heard.  He does remember the first song he heard as he was getting ready to come home, "Let's Get Stoned" by fellow Georgian Ray Charles.  He can still tell you most of the lyrics to that classic song.  

Life in the jungles was constant chaos, Pete will tell you.  There would be 2-3 weeks of nothing and then a rapid fire fight. He welcomed the choppers and the fighter jets which got Pete and his platoon out of hot situations.  There was always the threats of booby traps, snipers, and even children firing at them.  

"I was scared all the time, I was no hero," Pete admitted.

Tyre and other corpsman carried weapons to keep the enemy from believing that he was an officer or a corpsman.  He also carried a heavy pack of medical supplies and helped out the BAR carrier's ammo.

There were sometimes when Pete had to improvise.  He found out that cellophane wrapping from cigarette packs made an excellent tool in preventing oxygen from seeping into sucking chest wounds.  

"It was amazing that the cellophane would stop the air from getting into the wounds.  I can't say that I saved a lot of lives that way, but a lot of men were still alive when they were airlifted back to a field hospital," recalled Tyre. 

It was a long time ago that Pete Tyre quit trying to figure out why he, with no family, was saved, while others with a wife and children were not so lucky.  

"God looked after me. I was blessed and I don't deserve it," he laments.  

Pete 2nd from left.

"It was good for me and it helped me in more ways than I can count," said Tyre, who firmly believes that his time as a corpsman in Vietnam made him apply himself and become a better man.   

Upon his return from Vietnam, Pete was still not sure what his next mission would be.  He began working  at J.P. Stevens, but soon decided that he could do so much more in his life.  Using the GI Bill to take courses in medical studies, Tyre eventually obtained a Master's Degree in Nursing from the Medical College of Georgia. 
He worked at Claxton Hospital in Dublin and later at hospitals in Statesboro and Americus, before beginning a career with the Veterans Administration, first in Augusta and then in Dublin for more than a dozen years.  

"I took a job with the prison system in Florida and one time I visited the prison where the movie 'Cool Hand Luke' was filmed. Now that was cool," Pete fondly exclaimed!

After four decades in the health care field, Pete retired in 2003 and soon returned home to Dublin.

Today, Pete Tyre looks back on his days in Vietnam.  Not one to talk about the terrible times during the war, he points to his days of training as a Royal Ambassador for Christ, a Boy Scout, and a Dublin Irish football player or the grand times he spent in the woods around Brewton, Georgia, where his father taught him how to hunt, fish and survive in the woods with getting him  through the war.

More directly, he points primarily to God and ironically to his movie hero.  Tyre, an ardent admirer of Steve McQueen, often pretended that he was in a movie, thinking that it was the other guy who was going to get hit and not himself as a way of getting through the sporadic chaos and that helpless feeling grinding his soul when he couldn't save one of the Marines.

Serendipity still  seems to follow Pete Tyre where ever he goes.  The lessons he learned in Vietnam continue to save lives. Back in the summer, Pete came upon an automobile accident.  He quickly exited his car and ran to a badly damaged vehicle.  He saw a woman pinned inside.  Unable to open any door, Tyre broke a window and climbed in.  Instinctively, he pulled his shirt off and used it as a  tourniquet.  To keep his patient from going into shock, Pete kept the pressure on the wound, held her head up and kept consoling the wounded lady by repeating that  she was going to make it.

"When the EMTs got there, I told them what I had done.  I got some alcohol and washed my hands, got back in my car and left the scene" Tyre stated, humbly believing that it was his training in Vietnam which helped him to save the life of a stranger.

And so goes the life of the serendipitous savior, Pete Tyre.