Thursday, April 23, 2009

"As I Remember It" by Raymond R. Stone


I, Raymond Reginald Stone, was born May 16, 1919 at Hastings, Oklahoma (Jefferson County), the second son of Henry Luther and Annie May Stone. I had one brother older than me, Edsel Luther Stone, one sister younger than me, Celesta Audean Stone, and one brother younger than me, Wendell Leon Stone. My brother, Edsel, died in 1935 and my sister, Audean, died in 1987.

Early in my life we moved from Hastings to a farm about five miles west in Cotton County. It was about halfway between Hastings and Temple, Oklahoma. This is where we lived when I started to school at Pleasant Ridge School, District Six. I was five years old. You see, in 1924 when Edsel was six years old and was ready to start to school Mama and Daddy made me start to school with him so he wouldn’t have to start by himself. When Edsel failed to pass the third grade Mama and Daddy made me stay in the third grade with him. We spent two years in the third grade!

We lived two miles from the schoolhouse and we had to walk both ways unless the weather was bad; then Daddy would come to pick us up in the wagon. Edsel and I graduated together from the eighth grade in 1932. When I graduated from Pleasant Ridge School I was the salutatorian of our class. There were eight of us in the eighth grade class.

After graduating from Pleasant Ridge I entered high school as a freshman at Temple, Oklahoma, and graduated there as a senior in 1937. All the years that I was in school we continued to live on the farm and I helped Daddy with all the work on the farm. I was not an outstanding athlete but I did play basketball, baseball and track. I ran the mile and the 1/2 mile in track. In 1936, five of us boys had just graduated to the senior class and we decided to take a vacation. Walter Wilson, the mail carrier’s son, had just obtained a 1929 Model A Ford Touring Car. We put all the groceries and bedding that we could in that car and headed out for Dallas, Texas. We planned to sleep out under the stars and cook all our own food. We all chipped in and pooled money to buy gasoline and food. We were going to the Dallas Centennial -- celebrating Texas’ 100 year birthday. We didn’t have much money. I had $11.15. The other boys had about the same. Walter Wilson who owned the car put $5.00 in his shoe in case we had car trouble. He put a shoe heel under the foot-feed so we wouldn’t drive too fast. J.D. Bowers and myself were the only ones with much driving experience, so we did most of the driving. It didn’t take us long to get rid of the shoe heel. We couldn’t get enough power to pull a hill. We did get to Dallas and to the celebration. We slept out under the stars at Lake Dallas. We went to all of the free stuff. The barker on the stage outside one of the shows was trying to draw a crowd to go inside. Naturally all five of us were right in front of him just dying to get inside to see all of the dancers. He motioned us all on in for free just to help draw the crowd. We got pretty well acquainted with one of the show girl dancers. She was called “Flaming Fanny”. When we left Dallas we named the car “Flaming Fanny” and years later I had a fox hound (and a good one) whose name was “Flaming Fanny”.

After graduation I wanted to go to college at Oklahoma A&M but I wasn’t able to afford it. So, in 1938 I joined the “CCC” camps (Civilian Conservation Corp), a program started by President Roosevelt to give young men jobs. We could enlist for six months at a time and we were paid $30.00 a month. These were regular camps. We lived in barracks and were furnished our clothing, food, and other necessities such as medical needs. The camps were commanded by and supervised by regular Army officers. We were issued army clothes and stood in formations just like army life, except we were not issued guns. There were about 200 men in each camp. We worked an eight hour day, five days a week. We did various kinds of work. We worked on farms, built tanks, lakes, etc. We did forest work, built parks, terraced fields, did contour work on grasslands; most anything that had to do with soil conservation. I was stationed at Duncan, Oklahoma. We did a lot of work for the farmers who furnished the equipment such as plows, tractors, teams (mules or horses), whatever we might need. I was in the CCC Camps for nearly two years. My last six months I was assigned as a dental assistant. I worked for an Army dentist. We traveled from camp to camp all over Oklahoma. We would spend two weeks in each camp. I polished lots of boy’s teeth on the side in exchange for show tickets or post exchange tickets. The machine the dentist used for filling teeth was a portable one that had to be pedaled by foot. I was the one that furnished the foot power.

In late 1939 I was back home on the farm and I was doing most of the farm work. Daddy was busy trading cattle. In 1940 I helped him plant all his crops and worked them. In late summer I laid the crops by. I was now 21 years old and decided to go on my own. Me and three other men in an old 1934 Ford headed for California. We thought we might get rich. We didn’t. We went to work for the harvest in the peach orchards. We were paid five cents a lug (about half a bushel). We had to use 12-foot ladders to pick the peaches in most of the trees. I decided to see how much I could make in one hour. I worked as hard as I could for one hour in 113 degree heat. I gathered 13 lugs--sixty-five cents. I was wet from my head to my toes from sweat.

Next we went to work in the grape vineyards. I started boxing grapes for thirty cents an hour. I got promoted to putting lids on the boxed grapes and made thirty-five cents an hour. Then, I got promoted to swamping on trucks, loading the boxed grapes on trucks, and made forty-five cents an hour. After the grape vineyards we worked picking cotton. The fields were making two bales per acre. I don’t even know how much I made there. I do know that I heard from home that Daddy was making one bale per acre from the crop I had laid by for him.

While I was in California the World War II draft was enacted. I was 21 years old and had to register; so I had to register in California but had them send my registration back home to Temple, Oklahoma. On November 22, 1940, I was drafted into the army. Five of us from Cotton County, Oklahoma, were drafted and sent to Oklahoma City for physicals. Three of us passed the physical. Two did not pass. One was too short and the other had pink-eye. They sent us to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to Dodd Field. There we received what little basic training they had at the time, and then we were sent out to various army units.

They kept me in Company C of the Reception Center where I received my basic training. Because I could type they sent me to a recruiting station in Lubbock, Texas. I stayed there for two months. My ability to type helped me many times in respect to jobs. As recruits our pay was $21.00 a month. While I was in Lubbock the government came out with an order that the Army would automatically promote so many draftees. I was promoted to Corporal which paid $36.00 a month. However, I still couldn’t draw but $21.00 for four more months. When I got back to Fort Sam Houston I was quarantined in a barracks with some recruits with the mumps. Then they made me a drill instructor. I remained a drill instructor until November when my year as a draftee ended. We were then offered the opportunity to re-enlist and they sent me to Camp Wolters Reception Center as a Supply Sergeant. That was quite a promotion.

There I sat in my supply office a few days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1940. I looked out of my window at the large warehouse where they issued new recruits their clothing. There was a long line of men waiting to receive their clothing, and low and behold, there was a bunch of the same men who were recruits with me at Fort Sam Houston. They had taken their discharge after one year, but here they were now coming back in. Now there was no enlistment time. My eighteen month enlistment didn’t matter. We were all in now for the duration.

Fort Wolters was a large Infantry Training Center. Generally there were from 30,000-plus men training there at that time. They had just finished building the Reception Center. It was doing a lot of raining about that time and we waded around in mud for quite some time. This Reception Center received all of the draftees coming into the Army from this area of the country. The draftees would be processed into the Army here and take some training. Then they were shipped out to Army combat units. One of the enjoyable jobs of my service here was when recruits were shipped to other stations (Army units). If there were 50 or less men in a group, a non-commissioned officer (NCO) carried them. If over 50 were being shipped very far, an officer and some NCOs carried them. During my year at Fort Wolters I made a lot of trips with recruits. I think during that time I was in or through 38 different states. My longest trip was to Pendleton, Oregon. We weren’t allowed to tell the men where they were going because of security about troop movement. You can imagine how confused these men were about making that long trip to Oregon and not knowing where they were going.

My largest group of recruits was from Fort Wolters to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The group consisted of 200 African Americans on four Greyhound buses. We left Fort Wolters in the morning and I had to feed the men in Wichita Falls, Texas. I called from Jacksboro, Texas, to a cafe there to start fixing a lunch (this was during the days of segregation). You can realize my problem. When we got there, the cafe really had the smoke rolling, cooking steak and potatoes. I paid for the meal with meal tickets ($ .75 a meal). That was what we used to pay for meals when we were transporting men unless they were being transported on the trains with Pullmans. Then we paid $1.00 a meal.

At one point we had 125 Japanese soldiers in the Reception Center. All Japanese people were moved away from the West Coast because of the attack on Pearl Harbor. These soldiers and all other Japanese soldiers were finally shipped to Mississippi where they formed a Japanese Battalion. They fought with honor in Italy.

Well now, here in Mineral Wells (Fort Wolters was in Mineral Wells, Texas) is where I met and married the lovely red-haired young 19-year old Irene Gailey. Our honeymoon was spent in Jacksboro, Texas, on November 14, 1942. Then, it was back to my Army duties. Incidentally, those Japanese boys gave me and Irene a beautiful set of dishes for our wedding. After all, I was their supply sergeant!

Well, somebody finally caught up with me. I had a 1-A physical classification, and Reception Centers were 2-B units. There was a new Battalion being formed in Camp Campbell, Kentucky. So, they sent me there as a part of the cadre as a supply sergeant. I also carried about 30 recruits with me. We became the 782nd Tank Battalion in 1943. We took up training to become an effective combat tank battalion. I was assigned to A Company as Supply Sergeant. The company had 18 medium tanks. I think they weighed about 34 tons each. We trained there nearly a year. Irene came and we lived at Clarksville, Tennessee, while she was there. But, Linda Kay was going to be born soon and I was going to be training in the Tennessee Maneuvers for about three months. So, we decided that Irene should go back home to Mineral Wells where Linda Kay was born on March 14, 1944, in the Norwood Clinic. I spent nearly three months of cold, wet winter in the boondocks of Tennessee. This is when I was promoted to First Sergeant. We spent Thanksgiving dinner standing out in the cold, cold rain. Christmas was almost as bad. From there they moved us back to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where we trained for quite a while. Irene and Linda Kay (Mrs. Gailey came with them) came to live with me. As a First Sergeant I was authorized living quarters on the post. We went to the Quartermaster warehouse and checked out some bedding and other necessities. We had a two bedroom apartment. One bedroom was upstairs and one was downstairs. Another couple lived with us. They were not supposed to; but we always referred to them as visitors. Now after a while they decided to ship our Battalion of heavy tanks to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. They wouldn’t let us on their streets with these heavy tanks so we were put in an old calvary area somewhere out in the sand dunes.

Mrs. Gailey returned home and Irene and Linda Kay went to Cleveland, Ohio, to visit a friend, Elinore Sullivan. Elinore and her husband were the ones that lived with us at Fort Knox. They stayed about a week with Elinore then they came to where I was at Fort Bragg. We lived in Dunn, North Carolina. After being here for a while, they decided to ship us again all the way to Camp Cooke, California. We rode a troop train all the way from Fort Bragg to California. What a long, long ride. We came across the southern part of Texas along the way. While I was in training at Camp Cooke Irene came to be with me for a little while. She had to come out on the train. I met her about midnight in a little place called Lompac. We had a small apartment close to camp. She had to leave Linda Kay with Mrs. Gailey so she couldn’t stay very long. While she was there I took a three day pass and we went to Los Angeles to see the sights. I rented a car and we had a most enjoyable time. She went back home and that turned out to be the last trip she would make with me (while I was in the Army).

While we were at Camp Cooke they used some of our tanks to make a movie. It was something about the defense of Moscow. They sent us down to Fort Rosencranz, California. That is near San Diego. They were giving us amphibious training, preparing to send us to the Pacific. Then they moved us from there back up to Camp Cooke. About that time the Belgium Bulge broke out in the war in Europe. They immediately bundled us up again and shipped us all the way back across the USA to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. There they processed us for overseas shipment. They sent us to New York and loaded us on a large transport ship. We headed across the Atlantic as a part of a 30 ship convoy. This convoy consisted of a bunch of Army troops. The whole 10th Armored Division was a part of it. They were endeavoring to get a lot of tanks over there to head off those Germans who were attacking in the Belgium Bulge. We were 17 days crossing the ocean to LaHarve, France. We were going in such a manner as to dodge submarines. We were escorted by some destroyers. On one occasion, they dropped a depth bomb really close to our ship. We also ran into a major storm on the way over.

Company A (my company) was assigned MP duties on the ship going over. Company B was assigned duties in the Mess Galley. I had to keep regular guards posted at all times. There was a complete hospital unit on our ship -- doctors, nurses, all hospital personnel. They were on “C” deck, about the 3rd deck up. My company was quartered on the same deck because of security. As an MP I had to keep a guard posted at the entrance to their section of the deck. We had to keep all unauthorized people away from their section. It became a real benefit to our Battalion that they were on the ship with us because they unloaded before us and were sent on to Camp Lucky Strike on the sea coast of France before us. There were a lot of processing camps in France all named after cigarettes.

We were unloaded on the 17th of January at LaHarve, France, about midnight. We marched down those cobble stone streets covered with snow, carrying our full field pack to a train station. They loaded our entire battalion (about 600 men) into box cars. These were box cars with real high wheels under each end. In the First World War they acquired the name of 40 and 8 box cars. That was because they would hold 40 men or 8 horses. We put about 40 men in each car -- a pretty tight fit. The men were tired and sleepy and most of them were laying down across each other just about any way they could.

We were headed for Camp Lucky Strike on the French sea coast. This was the very dead-end of the railroad. The depot set at the end of the track. From the last water-stop for the engine, it was all down hill to Camp Lucky Strike. The brakes gave out on the train. Going down hill with no brakes! The train kept getting faster and faster waking most of us up. Finally it began to rock from side to side and then there came a big crash. Cars were thrown off the track, some turned over, and some went over the tops of others. The engine ran completely through the depot building. Some of the Frenchmen said that old train was coming down the track with the whistle wide open. It was about seven o’clock in the morning.

There were trucks there to meet us and carry us to Camp Lucky Strike. The drivers and a lot of Frenchmen were a big help. We had men pinned under cars. The cars just had a door on one side. One of “B” Company cars was turned over and they didn’t have any way out. We were really proud of our own medics who were of great help to all of the injured. Out of our entire battalion we had 58 men killed and about 150 badly injured. As I said, I was glad that the hospital unit had unloaded before us because they had already arrived at Camp Lucky Strike and were set up for business. It didn’t take them long to get busy taking care of us.

“D” Company suffered the most. Their cars were next to the engine, the “C” Company, “A” Company (my Company), “B” Company and then Headquarters. I came out fine, just got a small cut on my head and was pretty shook up. My Company, “A”, only had four men killed -- one officer and my Company Clerk. I don’t remember the others. The entire battalion had a bunch of men injured. They were sent all over to different hospitals, some were even sent back to the USA. As First Sergeant I had a difficult time learning where all of “A” Company’s men were. This took our battalion out of action and we didn’t go to the Belgium Bulge where we were headed.

They had to replace about 200 men in our battalion, so they sent us infantry soldiers. We trained them on the tanks for about a month, and finally we were ready to go again. Our Army had already pushed the Germans back across the Rhine River. They sent our battalion up. “A” Company was sent up by train. All the other companies “roaded” their tanks and equipment. We stopped at the Rhine River where combat was still happening. We crossed the river at Cologne on a pontoon bridge that the engineers had built. Since we were a small battalion of tanks, we were mostly assigned to Infantry divisions. It was hard to know who we were assigned to. It seemed like we spent most of our time chasing after Patton’s Third Army. He was going through Germany like a storm. But sometimes we would be assigned to the Ninth Army which was in the northern part of Germany. When the war ended in 1945, we were assigned to the Second Infantry which was a part of Patton’s Third Army. We ended up in Checozlavakia in Sudaten Land which was the first place Germany invaded when the war began. We were there doing occupation duties for about a month or two. We would send a tank and crew to the little villages. These people in the villages were glad to see us and treated us all real nice. Soon we were on a train on our way back to France and from there, on our way home. We crossed the Danube River on our way to Frankfurt, Germany, and then we went on to LaHarve, France.

We were loaded on another troop ship headed back to the good old USA. This old ship was really crowded. We didn’t have the luxury we had on the one going over. It took us only six days to get back across the ocean. We landed in Boston, Massachusetts. Our battalion was processed and sent to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. We were all then given thirty day furloughs so we could go home. I was in charge of all the men going to Texas. We were sent to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. After our furloughs were over, we all had to report back to Fort Sam Houston where I was in charge of getting everybody back to Fort Bragg. While we were on furlough the war ended in the Pacific and our battalion did not have to go there. The Army started discharging men based on a point system based on the length of time you had been in the service. I ended up with 80 points and was immediately eligible for discharge. They offered me the opportunity to re-enlist and they would send me to a recruiting station in Baltimore, Maryland. But I decided to take the discharge instead. I was discharged and back in Mineral Wells by the middle of October, 1945, after serving four years and eleven months in the Army.

Back home as a civilian I went to work for General Mills in Wichita Falls, Texas, where I packed 2-, 5- and 10-pound bags of flour. We rented a small house there but we were running up and down the road every weekend. We were either going to Mineral Wells where Irene’s folks lived, or to Walters, Oklahoma, where my folks lived. So we decided to move to Mineral Wells where I joined Mr. Gailey in the dump truck business. In 1947 we had a little boy, but he died at birth. We saved the name we had picked out for him in case we had another son later. In 1948 I carried my truck and followed the wheat harvest up north. I ended up in North Dakota.

Irene stayed home most of that summer. I would send home money as often as I made it, which wasn’t too regular! Irene decided she would rather I get a job where we would know how much money we would have to spend each week. I went to work for Jacques Power Saw Company as a welder. We now had another mouth to feed since our son, Reginald Ray, was born on March 25, 1950. He was born in the old Nazareth Hospital in Mineral Wells, Texas. Our family was now complete.

In 1951 the company I was working for went bankrupt and I was out of a job. Fort Wolters had opened up again to be used by the Army Engineers. I decided to apply for a warehouse job and was hired the next day. This was a civil service job. I stayed with that job and advanced to warehouse foreman. I stayed employed by civil service until Fort Wolters closed again in 1974. If we were 55 years of age or older and had 20 years service we could retire. I took my retirement with 27 years of service with the government (including my Army service).

I stayed at home and loafed around for about a month or two. Irene’s birthday was coming up on the 6th of October; I asked her what she wanted for her birthday, and how much money could I spend on it. She said all she wanted for her birthday was for me to get out and get a job. The next day I went to work for Perry Equipment. I worked there for eight years until I retired again. This time for good.

In 1955 Irene and I moved our little family to a three acre place southeast of Mineral Wells. We now owned three acres of land, a little rock house, and 37 pecan trees (as of 1998, the pecan trees are 70 years old). We bought our new house from Irene and Henry Tuggle who were members of our church and life-long friends. Linda Kay was in the third grade when we moved here and Reggie was just getting ready to start school. This proved to be a good place for our kids to grow up and we have lived here ever since. In 1958 we brought Irene’s sister, Vernelle’s, baby home to live with us. Ann stayed with us until her daddy, Leon, decided that she needed to be with her sisters, Judy and Peggy. So then, Ann went to live with Mr. and Mrs. Gailey. We still think of all three of those girls as our girls.

In 1963 we decided that we needed more room for our family, so we added a big new living room and two-car garage to our house. It was a pretty addition and gave us room to have people out whenever we wanted. It also gave us room to have all the family in for all of the holidays. This is a tradition that has continued to this day. Everybody still comes to our house for the holidays. (Most of the time.)

In 1972 our house burned to the ground. We lost every material thing that we owned. I had built some really nice furniture pieces when I went to a woodworking school. We were able to save a few of the pieces, but most of them were burned. We rebuilt on the same site, and that is the home where we now live--still big and warm enough to house all of the family whenever they want to gather in.

In 1948 and 1949 Irene and I obeyed the Gospel of Christ and became Christians and members of the Kingdom of Christ on Earth, the Church. We were members of the Church of Christ at Sturdivant. In 1951 we established the Eastside Church of Christ in Mineral Wells. I was appointed an elder in this congregation along with Brother Cliff Daniels and Brother Hugh Ashley. I remain an elder there to this day. Brother Cliff and Brother Hugh have gone on to be with God.

Irene and I have had a long and, I think, happy and prosperous life. This year, November 14, 1998, we were married for 56 years. I give God thanks for all the blessings we have had in this life. We have been blessed with a rather large family and many good friends. I sit here at my desk writing these memories and I look at all of the pictures of the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in front of me and I think, “Look at what me and Irene caused!” I thank God for each and every one of them.

Psalms 127 -- “Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord; and the fruit of the womb is His reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.”

Genesis 33:5 -- Jacob met his brother, Esau, and Esau asked Jacob who those were with him. Jacob answered, “The children which God hath graciously given thy servant.”

I have told many young people as they were being married that they should remember the following lines from the poet, Robert Browning: “Come, grow old with me, the best is yet to be.”

A hope that Irene and I have is that all our heritage will be Christians.

Written this 9th day of December, 1998
Raymond Reginald Stone, Age 79

Raymond Reginald Stone was my uncle, married to my mother's sister, Irene Gailey Stone. He was a wonderful, caring man who was loved by all of his family and friends. He is certainly missed. He died at home June 9, 2002. His obituary can be found here on Genealogy Traces..

8 comments:

Kay Cox said...

Thank you, Judy for that wonderful article. I read it after he wrote it and had planned to make a copy of it for our children. I'm glad to know that you have it in your possession. It is a special tribute to his life and his life with Mom, and our life with them.

Judith Richards Shubert said...

You're welcome, Linda Kay. You know he was so special to me, I don't really have the words to express it. Yes, I have the original here in the Stone family file, so when you're ready for it, just let me know. I hope you liked the treatment of his memories with the two pictures here on Genealogy Traces.

Larry said...

Thank you so much for sharing your uncle's story. My great uncle, Kenneth Bain, was also with the 782nd Tank Battalion in Company D. Unfortunately, he did not survive the train wreck in France. I've spent the last few years piecing together the formation and movements of the 782nd and your uncle's story helped fill in several pieces.
He seemed like a wonderful man and I'm glad you were able to get is memories on paper while he was still with you.
Thanks so much for sharing this!

Judith Richards Shubert said...

Larry, thank you for leaving your comments! They validate my reasons for doing this genealogy blog. I am so pleased that you found a common link and a few answers to questions you've been trying to answer about the 782nd. Raymond would have been so tickled to have heard from you. And even though they may not have known one another, there is a good chance they did, they both experienced the horrors of war in a place far away from home. I am so grateful to both of them for their service to our country.

CeLeStA said...

This is absolutely wonderful. Celeste Audean Stone is my great grandmother and I am thankful you have shared this so that I am able to learn about my family line :)

Judith Richards Shubert said...

Hi Celesta,
It is great to know that you have found this blog through the power of "google". I began writing these posts because of Raymond and his deep interest in his ancestry, and I am delighted that you want to learn more about your family lineage.
Judy

Anonymous said...

Hello,
My name is Timothy Chapman. I am a soldier in the United States Army as was my grandfather, Dale Sterling Chapman, who served during WWII. He passed away in 2009. He had never really talked about the war so I never knew anything about his experience. After he passed my grand mother gave me some of his army stuff including paper work since she thought it would mean the most to me. According to his paper work he was in Company A 782nd Tank Bn the same unit as your uncle. I guess that would mean he was his 1 sgt. I would love to talk to you about it and see if you could help me with some of the history of the unit. Oh and if you want I could email you a copy of the paper work showing my grand father in the 782. My email is timothy.a.chapman@us.army.mil

thank you

Judith Richards Shubert said...

Hi Timothy,
It is such an honor to hear from you! Thank you for writing. I have written you at the email address you provided and I would very much like to talk to you about your grandfather and his service in the same unit as my uncle, Raymond. I appreciate your service and look forward to hearing from you.
Judy Shubert

Homsley Reunion, Seymour, Texas

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