War Ends/Peace is Better
"WAR ENDS! This was the message on headlines around the world on August 14, 1945 when Japan surrendered. V.J. Day! The lights finally came on again 'all over the world.' Within two weeks of the surrender, Gowen Field, AFB, Boise, Idaho was made a separation center. A point system had been devised whereby those with the most points were given a 'first out' priority. I qualified and became a civilian once again on September 16, 1945. This was one of the happiest days of my life. Offered a Captaincy to stay in the Reserves, I declined.
"Cynthia and I jumped in our 1940 Chrysler Club Coupe and made a beeline for our hometown--Monticello, Illinois. Nothing seemed more urgent than to put the war behind us and once again be with friends and relatives. I bought a civilian necktie and shirt and wore them through the airbase gate on departure. I recall driving through Salt Lake City, Utah about 5 p.m. and thinking we could get another 100 miles or so before dark. Little did I realize towns in Utah were few and far between. We did come upon a small town with a tiny hotel. They had one room with a single bed. We gladly accepted the accommodations, even though two orange crates were used for room furniture. 'Beggars can't be choosers,' my mother always said. My only other recollection on that trip home was the 'foreverness' of the State of Kansas, driving west to east on Route 40. In 1945 all highways were two-lane. I thought the road would never end. Missouri was a welcome sight.
"Home at last! Mother and Grandma 'Nannie' Griffith put on the usual family gathering with a big dinner. Coping with civilian life (and dress) gradually became 'old hat' The job I left in the bookkeeping department at the National Bank of Monticello was guaranteed me by the government I was welcomed back and was made a paying and receiving teller and promoted to Assistant Cashier. Herbert Mohler was still Vice-President and continued his friendship. Cynthia and I spent many pleasant evenings playing bridge in their home. He was like a second father to me. His son, Albert, was a good friend.
"Through Mr. Mohler, we were able to purchase our first home, located at 1002 N. Union St, in Monticello, IL. He brokered the deal without commission and I received a 'G.I. loan.' The price of the house was $8,000.00, 20 years at 4% with nothing down. This was the maximum loan available to veterans under the G.I. Bill of Rights. Thousands of veterans were given a good start in life using its benefits. Most were smarter than I, in that they took advantage of another of its provisions and went to college and obtained a degree. I made inquiry at the University of Illinois and was told I could enter as a second semester sophomore, based on my Air Force schooling. By now I was about 25 years old and had been married for three years. I thought I was too nervous to study and doubted my ability to make the transition from the Air Force to being a college student As I look back, I realize I lacked adult guidance. If someone had given me a push in the right direction, my life might have been different but not necessarily better. In all honesty, I have always felt self-conscious not to have earned a college degree. Obviously, the decision was mine and mine alone. In the end, we all have to make decisions in life and be prepared to be responsible for them.
"Being somewhat 'hyper' from the war, I soon discovered I was a natural-born 'joiner.' I became active in many of the civic organizations in Monticello. I chaired the annual Community Chest drive one year and was an active Secretary or Treasurer of many other organizations.
"Having previous scouting experience, I agreed to become Assistant Scout Leader of Troop #22, Boy Scouts of America, under the leadership of Darrell Tippett. I had come up through the scout ranks and was well-qualified. I was in the first class that was awarded the 'Order of the Arrow' at Camp Drake, Danville, Illinois. One of my life's regrets was the fact that I never earned my Eagle Scout award. However, I did not earn the swimming or life saving badges--both required of an Eagle Scout. Again--if some adult had taken me by the hand and worked with me to get these, my life would have been more fulfilled. It was not to be and by my sophomore year in high school, scouting took a back seat to what I thought were more interesting and pressing school activities. Coming from parents who had separated and being raised by my mother and grandparents, scouting gave me an opportunity to take the correct path in life when the fork in the road presented itself. Had I not learned the scouting values and become a true believer, I could very easily have become a juvenile delinquent--a ship without a rudder.
"In the fall of 1945 I became a member of Roy Hamm Post #101, Inc. of the American Legion. My father-in-law, Bill Norris, a veteran of World War I, was a member and a past Post Commander. I actively supported the American Legion programs and served as Finance Officer for a time. In 1952 I was elected as Post Commander and in 1953 became Commander of the Piatt County Council. I recall serving on the Legion firing squad and blowing taps at several funerals. In 1945--46 we met many Wabash trains returning the remains of local servicemen who had died and had been buried overseas. They were returned to Monticello for their final resting place.
"For several years I wrote articles for The Piatt County Journal which I titled 'Legion-Aires.' I used it as a public relation tool and to solicit membership. I started the first American Legion baseball program in Monticello. This was successful under the coaching of Lonnie Bealor. This was a program sorely needed since Monticello High School had abandoned baseball several years before. Little League teams had been formed in Monticello, but there was no advanced program for them once they reached their age limit. Legion baseball filled the void.
"During my time in Monticello, through my time in scouting and in American Legion work, I participated in our Memorial Day activities by walking the cemetery and placing flags on the graves of all war veterans of record. Many times I blew taps at the annual Memorial Day service. Working in American Legion programs had become a near-religious experience for me. When I moved to Oklahoma City in 1961, Post #101 in Monticello presented me with a gold card Life Membership award. I was one of the first two Legionnaires to be so honored.
"A few years ago, while in Monticello, I talked to Clyde Foster, who was then a past Post Commander. I told him that as veterans and Legionnaires, we should be ashamed of the way the Civil War 'Soldiers' Circle' at the Monticello cemetery had been allowed to deteriorate. He mentioned this to his grandson, Clay Weidner, who was looking for a project to complete toward his Eagle Scout award, and lo and behold, he ended up with a restoration project that looks great and dignifies the burial site of our ancestors.
"I was not the only one active in the American Legion. Cynthia, too, was interested and active. She participated in the work of the local Legion Auxiliary, held
offices in it and was its President in 1960. Cynthia was also active in the Monticello Womans Club and in Modern Mary Circle of the Methodist Church.
"The year 1950 turned sorrowful for the Bradleys. Cynthia became pregnant but lost the baby girl in September. We named her Linda Kay. After many hours of hard labor in the local (Kirby) hospital, a specialist was called in from Champaign who helped with the delivery, but the baby was stillborn. We buried our baby in the Monticello Cemetery not far from her great-grandmother Bradley's grave and on a plot next to where Cynthia's parents, Glee and Bill Norris, are now buried.
"Two years later, Cynthia gave birth by Caesarian section to another daughter, Janice Renee. She was bom in Burnham City Hospital in Champaign, Illinois on October 25, 1952. Two weeks after we brought her home from the hospital, our black cocker spaniel, "Duke," died--I always thought from a broken heart, since he was having to share our love and affection. He was registered and a good dog. We missed him but never got another pet until 1961. Janice was given a kitten by my relative, Agnes Ahlrich. She insisted on taking it to Oklahoma when we moved, and we did. She had named it 'Punky." It was a nice pet but died from jaundice about two years after our move. Jan was devastated, of course. At age 9, it was hard to learn the world is not perfect.
"In July 1951, my Grandmother "Nannie" Griffith died. Mother and I had made our home with her and she was a treasure of my life. Incidentally, in our genealogical research, George Lindsley and I have found that my Grandmother Griffith and his Grandmother Emma Longworth were first cousins. Thus we are third cousins!
"In 1953, Mr. Raymond Quinlan, who had been my high school commercial teacher, suggested that I should run for City Treasurer of Monticello on the Republican ticket. He had had the position for several years and wanted to step down. I ran and was elected for a four-year term. I was then re-elected to an additional term but resigned in November 1961 when we moved to Oklahoma City. During this period I supplemented my meager income by keeping account books for local Monticello merchants-three different merchants, as I recall. 'Andy' Anderson was then Vice-President of the Monticello State Bank and was Mayor of the city. His advice and assistance were always helpful to me, both as a city treasurer and as an accountant.
"In 1959 I asked a friend how one could become a Mason. Shortly thereafter I found myself learning the Entered Apprentice degree from my good friend, James C.(Jim) Clodfelter. In due time I was selected to be the candidate for the Master Mason degree at the annual Past Masters' night. Another proud moment in my life. Talk about being taught humility--I had not studied or done any memory work since about 1944. In learning my first degree I thought I must be the dumbest guy in the world. The work finally came together and I rejoiced in becoming one of the brothers in Fraternal A.F. & A.M. Lodge #58. In 1960 I attended a 3-day Fall Ceremonial in Bloomington, IL and became a 32° Consistory Mason of Lodge Council Chapter Consistory, Valley of Bloomington, Illinois. I continued to hold my membership in both bodies.
"It was also in 1959 that my father died. He lived in Palatka, Florida at the time. Burial was in Akron, Ohio where he had had his career in the American labor movement. He had founded the 100,000--member International Chemical Workers Union of the American Federation of Labor and was its president for ten years, 1944-1954.
"In 1949 I had received a phone call from Mr. Kenneth Linsner of Monticello. He was western Sales Manager for Centaur--Caldwell Division of Sterling Drug, Inc. in
Monticello. He needed an assistant, offered me the job, and I accepted, leaving the bank for what looked like a better opportunity. I had my own private office and personal secretary. Life was looking up! Five years and three months later (now 1954) I was notified that the work I was doing was to be done in our main New York City office and I was discharged with three months pay and a 'good luck' wish. To say that I was devastated is an understatement. Married, having a two-year-old daughter and a mortgage, this tested my resolve.
"The first two weeks of 'freedom' from work seemed Utopia. However, before two months had slipped by I found myself climbing the wall and anxious to find another job. Through the friendship of one of our bank directors, Maxwell R. Hott, I received an interview in Champaign, Illinois with Mr. H. I. Gelvin, President of Collegiate Cap & Gown Co. As a result of this meeting, I was hired and assigned as a member of their sales department. The department head was Mr. William C. Blixen who, it turned out, had graduated from the University of Illinois in accounting with my friend, Francis 'Andy' Anderson. As a matter of fact, they both went to Chicago and worked for Pure Oil Co. after graduation and roomed together. A small world, for sure!
"Then another stroke of luck for me--Mr. Blixen's assistant was none other than the President's only son, Philip D. Gelvin. Philip was six months older than I and his personality and friendship enabled us to continue a good relationship to this day. Phil became President of Collegiate and when he resigned to go into the oil business, Bill Blixen became President.
"While there, I worked side by side with another U. of I. graduate, Ted Beach. Ted was noted for his ability as a high school and U. of I. basketball player. While in Champaign High School, he was coached by Harry Combes, a Monticello product. Harry became head basketball coach at the U. of I. and Ted played for him during his college days. Harry was one of the stars while he attended Monticello High School. His brother, Linden, and Linden's wife, Dorothy, were members of a bridge club we started after corning back from WWII. Other members were Arnold 'Doc' and Martha Sievers, Charles W. 'Chuck' and Lou Walker, Francis A. 'Andy' and Elenor Anderson, Arkell 'Arky' and June McCraw, and Gerald and Betty Alexander. This social gathering broke up shortly after we moved to Oklahoma City in November 1961.
"The Collegiate Cap & Gown Company for which I worked so many years produced and rented academic graduation caps and gowns to high schools, colleges and universities, and sold choir robes and related apparel to churches. The company was founded in 1926 by H. I. Gelvin and he was its president until his retirement in 1976. The company became a national leader in its field. H. I., as he was affectionately known, was also president of the Champaign County Forest Preserve District until 1975. Lake of the Woods park in Mahomet was developed under his leadership. The park has a carillon tower built and named 'HI Tower' in his honor.
"H. I.'s son, Phil Gelvin was with the company before and after World War II. Phil is a veteran of the war in Europe. He served as an observation plane pilot for the 691st Field Artillery Battalion, attached to the Ninth Army. He saw action from his entry into Normandy in September 1944 until the end of the war. He left World War II service in November 1945 but was recalled for 17 months' flight service in the Korean War. Phil became President of the company.
The year 1961 became a crossroad in my life. Collegiate Cap & Gown Company President, H. I. Gelvin, had taken the company 'public' and with money from the sale of stock, purchased Golden State Cap & Gown Co. in California and was negotiating to
purchase another Cap & Gown Co., McDowell Brothers, in Oklahoma City. I was asked if I might like to move to Oklahoma City to manage the new acquisition. After a trip there to examine the facilities and to inventory the McDowell stock of caps and gowns and academic hoods, I returned to Champaign with my report. I told Mr. Gelvin we would need to build a new budding to hold the McDowell inventory and for space to ship and receive 'our way.' Mr. Gelvin agreed and ground was broken for the new budding before we made our final move in November 1961.
"To leave Monticello was a traumatic experience. Besides leaving lifelong friends, the worst part was in leaving our parents behind. My mother lived alone which made it even more difficult for me to move so far away. She was supportive, as usual, so away we went on a new adventure. I had discovered a beautiful 8-year old home in the northwest part of Oklahoma City and had it purchased before the family saw it. They thought it was beautiful and were quite ecstatic and we continue to live in this residence at 2240 N.W. 56th Street. Our new home was a few blocks from the Belle Isle Elementary School where Janice entered into the 4th grade. Also, it was near the largest shopping center in Oklahoma City, Penn Square Shopping Mall. Cynthia had not yet learned to drive, so the nearness of these facilities was important.
"I jumped into my work as Branch Manager for Collegiate and during our annual 'Spring Rush' season, nearly killed myself working 16-18 hour days, 7 days a week. I lost 15 pounds each 'rush' season due to lack of sleep and stress. With the able assistance of John Kennedy, warehouse manager, we shipped, received, cleaned, pressed and shelved the stock. I handled all the paper work and worked up each school order before it went to shipping. The operation was a nightmare because the phone was kept ringing constantly by customers who wanted to make changes or additions to their orders. When our season ended around June 1, everyone collapsed in unison.
"I had asked the Champaign office for permission to do some selling of choir robes to our local churches. This certainly was not my intention in accepting the Oklahoma assignment. I left Monticello to take the Oklahoma Branch Manager job for $12,500.00 per year. Obviously the thought of earning a little more money by selling robes was of interest to me. In a short time, selling robes became a primary part of my job and for 17 consecutive years, I received the 'First in Robe Sales' award at our annual sales meeting. During this time, I wrote $100,000.00 in sales in 1972 and received a telegram from Phil Gelvin, congratulating me for being the first sales representative to achieve this plateau. A special award was created for those salesmen who would follow. A second plaque came my way in 1979 when our company President, William C. Blixen, said I was the first ever to sell over $200,000.00 in one year. Another plaque was awarded me in 1982 when Blixen's replacement as President, Mr. Charlie Fultz, told the sales force I had exceeded $300,000.00 in robe sales. This record still stands today. When one considers inflation since 1982, this $300,000.00 looks impressive, if I do say so. In August 1989, I was honored in being inducted into the Collegiate Hall of Fame for 'outstanding performance as a sales representative.' These four plaques are proudly displayed in my office today, but the dozens of others received over the years are gathering dust in a Collegiate No. 10 carton. (See author's addendum at end of chapter.)
"In speaking at various sales meetings, I often told them that 'the road to senility is paved with plaques.' Nearing 79 years of age as I write this, I am just about there. I pay tribute to my co-worker and friend and secretary of some 18 years, Fay Mobley. She helped me attain these sales achievements, since she handled our walk-in customers when I was out of town and shared the duties during regular office hours. Her encouragement was important to my success. Fay's strong points were in promoting good customer relations, and her ability to sell. For 'kicks' I put a personal name plate on
her desk one day that read, 'Connie.' I always told her she 'conned' the customers. Many of our local pastors thought that was her real name.
"Before leaving for Oklahoma I had become active in the Collegiate Cap & Gown Credit Union and was elected President in 1959. In 1960-61 I took over as Treasurer. With an able and cooperative Board, we tripled our assets and had to borrow money from other credit unions to satisfy our loan demand. When I resigned to make the Oklahoma move, our factory superintendent, Dick Spitz, took over the Treasurer's job and kept the program going strong.
"Continuing my natural affinity for joining, I became a member of India Shrine Temple, A.A.O.N.M.S. in Oklahoma City in the spring of 1962. I wanted to continue playing my trumpet and joined their marching Brass Band. A few years later I became a member of "The Royalaires Dance Band'--a 16-piece orchestra playing the Glenn Miller sounds of the big band era. In collaboration with my new friend, Carl Jones, we improved the band. In addition to playing most of the Shrine functions, we also did some commercial work. Eventually we became a Union band and hired professionals from time to time to fill in the lead spots. We worked steadily for several years at the Moose and Elks Lodges, as well as for high school class reunions, wedding receptions, and club dates. I was the Unit Director for over three years. This job kept me busy, trying to book the band and keep it working most week-ends. When the country and western craze took over, jobs were hard to come by and the band disbanded after a New Years eve gig in 1993. This was an exciting and challenging time in my life, but I did not miss getting home at 2:00-3:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings from out-of-town jobs. I accepted no pay for any of our jobs, even though we paid union scale to over half of the band. Not being a good musician, I felt paid by just being accepted by such a good group of guys and being invited to front the band. There's an old joke in the music business, 'If you can't play, they make you the Director.'
"Cynthia's dad died of a sudden heart attack in August 1964. We had been in Monticello following my annual Collegiate Cap & Gown Co. sales meeting in Champaign. We had left Bill alive and well, sitting in his porch swing. Our return trip from Monticello was always by way of Kansas City, KS where we traditionally spent the night with my Uncle Harold Bradley, Dad's younger brother, and his wife, Marguerite, better known as 'Margie.' They lived in Shawnee Mission. We had just arrived at their home when a phone call was received that Cynthia's dad had died. Of course, we turned around and returned to Monticello. Bill liked to hunt and fish and I spent many a day with him in the cornfields, looking for pheasant or rabbit, or quail, or even a squirrel. We also journeyed together to Canada on a fishing trip. This was one of Bill's favorite experiences. One time he caught a large catfish which just filled our bathtub and we had numerous neighbors and people coming in to see it. Cynthia's mother continued to live in her home in Monticello.
"In May 1970 Janice graduated with honors at Northwest Classen High School in Oklahoma City. Along with several of her girlfriends, she enrolled at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, OK that fall. She majored in Elementary Education and graduated with a BS degree in 1974. To celebrate, the three of us flew to Hawaii for a short vacation. It was a wonderful trip and I recommend it to everyone. Jan got her first job as a first grade teacher at Ranchwood Elementary School in nearby Yukon, OK. She continued her education at OSU and received her Masters in Education degree in July 1979. Both grandmothers came to Oklahoma for her high school graduation and again in 1979 when she married Jon DeMoss. The wedding took place in the Chapel of St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City, OK. The reception and dinner was held at the local Elks Lodge #417. The Royalaires played for a dance following the
dinner. My cousin, Dr. R. E. 'Dick' Bradley and his son, Don, came from their home in Gainesville, Florida for the occasion. Lindsleys came from Monticello and brought Jan's two grandmothers.
"In 1979 Cynthia and I flew to Great Britain to attend a reunion of the Second Air Division, Eighth Air Force, in Norwich, England. We went by bus to those airfields in East Anglia from which we flew in World War II. Our bus was to take us to two airbases. One was our base, the other was Hethel, the base of the 389th Bombardment Group which, with the 445th at Tibenham and our 453rd at Old Buckenham, made up the 2nd Combat Wing of the Second Air Division.
"Finding Old Buckenham was more difficult than locating Hethel. We had lunch at a local pub and then set out for the base. I couldn't imagine why the driver was unable to drive directly to it. After all, our Main Gate had been only a 10--minute bicycle ride from the village of Attleborough. I had made that ride a number of times, and didn't get lost. But this was 1979--more than three decades had passed, and the whole countryside, once filled with USAAF airbases and known as 'Little America,' had reverted to agricultural use.
"The driver finally stopped at a small thatched-roof cottage at the side of the road to ask directions. It turned out we were at a place that was at the south side of the field. The lady of the house answered our knock and, learning our purpose and that we had been there in 1944, her eyes disclosed her delight that we had returned. She remembered those times when the thundering bomber engines had awakened the English neighbors as they prepared for take-off, and she remembered a number of the airmen of the 453rd.
"The bus backed up and followed directions to the base. It wasn't far. We passed through a farmer's gate and were driving across a grainfield when the farmer saw us and came to meet us. He explained that the land the airbase once occupied had been divided into two acreages. Where our Nissen huts and administrative building had been located had become a grain farm operation. Our air strip and hardstand area was now a hog farm. It was difficult to find even traces of our base. The only building still standing was a large Nissen structure that had been our fire station. It was now part of the hog farm operation--contained many pens holding many, many very large hogs.
"The runways, hardstands and taxi-ways were scarcely visible--badly broken up. I brought home a piece of the asphalt paving from our main runway. Being back there, remembering the thousands of take-offs and landings that had been made there, the heavily-loaded bombers that had crashed on take-off, the badly damaged Libs that barely made it home and then crashed and burned . . . memories . . . one's feelings were difficult to express. It was an experience to last a lifetime--to go back to Old Buckenham and to England. The people of Norwich and East Anglia were still as wonderful as we had remembered them. The old farmer expressed their gratitude for what we had done there. 'If it weren't for you,' he said, 'we would live in a far different world today!' It was a nostalgic experience!
"We made the trip with my golfing buddy, Ray Wallace and his wife, Ruth. They were not part of the reunion group so they went on to Scotland. At the 453rd reunion group we chummed with our good friends, Don and Mimi Olds. Her parents lived in Edinburgh, Scotland. We four travelled there by train. While in Scotland I rejoined Ray Wallace and played a few rounds of golf at the 'Old Course'--St. Andrews, where the sport of golf was born.
"We then went by train to the English port of Southampton and took a ferry
across the Channel to the French port of Cherbourg. I had been there 35 years before-but at an altitude of 15,000 to 20,000 feet, on missions to bomb V-1 'buzz-bomb' sites. The harbor at Cherbourg is immense--too bad the Allies did not have use of it earlier in the invasion. Hills rise up behind the city and port and on the highest of these is Fort du Roule. It holds a commanding view and was heavily fortified. The German army established a strong--point here that couldn't be taken by frontal assault. Its guns reminded me of the movie, 'Guns of Navarone,' taken from Alistair McLean's novel, and the heroic struggle to silence those guns.
"While in Normandy we also visited St. Marie Eglise and the churchyard there where American paratroops made their landing in the early hours of D-Day, June 6, 1944. We also visited Utah beach. This territory is well-known to George Lindsley as he came to France in 1944 via Utah Beach and was later based in Cherbourg. He has written his story in his book, Letters to Margaret.
"From Normandy we went by train to Germany. While there we were houseguests of Jean Ann (Walker) Murray and her husband, Colonel Gary Murray, and family. Jean Ann is the daughter of our good friends, Chuck and Lou Walker of Monticello. I wanted to go to Munich to see the beer garden where the Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler, and his henchmen had plotted the seizure of power in Germany. I managed to get there, but not knowing their language was a problem! We returned to the States from Frankfurt.
"Our granddaughter, Amanda Marie DeMoss was born in Stillwater Hospital July 16, 1981. Grandson, James (Jimmy) Bradley DeMoss arrived on the scene on December 4, 1984. After 15 years of marriage, Janice divorced in February 1994 and married Robert Dean Keating on June 10, 1995.
"After having had a breast removed in 1975, my mother's cancer came back and she died from this dreadful disease April 2, 1980. She spent her last year in the Kirby Hospital in Monticello. I had a tough time trying to reconcile my move to Oklahoma City and not being with her during her illness. I hope she understood and I'm sure she did. Janice and I returned to Monticello later to close up her house and to supervise an auction of her personal property. I'm sure Jan will always remember that experience. She and her Grandma Bradley were inseparable since her childhood.
"Glee Norris, Cynthia's mother, survived until July 1982. She passed away in the nursing home in Bement, IL at age 93. This, also, was difficult for Cynthia to be so far away. Being an only child, I felt I had lost my crutch when my mother died and I came to realize that it was my turn to go next. Cynthia was, also, an only child and I'm sure she had similar feelings after the loss of her mother. Janice also accompanied Cynthia to Monticello to attend Glee's funeral.
"Back to my being a 'joiner'--I became interested in the Confederate Air Force1 after a WWII power demonstration was put on at nearby Westheymer Field, Norman, OK. An Oklahoma Wing was being organized and my good friend, Joe B. Hanna, and I became charter members in 1979. I was considered one of the 'dirty dozen' that restored our first aircraft--a C-46 Curtis Commander, which we named the 'Tinker Belle.' Tinker A.F.B. here in Midwest City let us use their ramp for one year to do the restoration, thus the name. Other aircraft restored and titled over to the CAF was a BT-13 and PT-17 Stearman and a C-45. I became a $3,500.00 Sponsor on the C--45 which enabled us to get it professionally painted in the color scheme of a similar aircraft flown in Great Britain by General Ira Eaker. Eaker was originally from Oklahoma, so the tie-in was of
historical significance. I was elected Wing Leader of the Oklahoma Wing in 1993 and served out the final six months term for Col. Wayne Cox, who had resigned in 1995.
"We moved our Wing Headquarters from Norman to Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City. I spent over 20 hours a week for over a year, converting a corrugated metal hangar into a modern Officers' Club. Today it is appreciated as our meeting room and as a 'watering hole' for some of us WWII vets who meet and tell 'tall stories' of our WWII experiences. I have loaned many of my pictures and artifacts to the Officers' Club to make the surroundings more interesting and comfortable for members and guests. In October 1991 I received the CAF 'Distinguished Service Award'--one of the highest citations given by National Headquarters, Midland, Texas. I continue my membership in the Wing but became inactive due to some internal politics. Friends expect to see me at the Club each Tuesday for a bull session and I seldom disappoint them. On leaving, I always tell them, 'It was good you got to see me.' This has become a classic line of mine and others have picked up on it.
"Golf has been a passion of mine since first asked to caddy for my grandparents' neighbor, 'Pop' Priestley, when I was 11 years old. I later became a member of the Monticello Golf Club and was a member of the Club's team after WWII. We played home games and home tournaments with other nearby towns, i.e., Leroy, Villa Grove, Farmer City, and Clinton. When Monticello was the host on Sunday morning, all teams met for breakfast at Bill & Pete's Cafe on the north side of the square, then out to the first tee. Good times and good fellowship!
"I gave up the sport for nearly ten years after moving to Oklahoma City, but bought new clubs and started practicing and enjoying the game once again. With friends, I played almost every Sunday afternoon at the Lincoln Park Golf Course in Oklahoma City. In 1972 we bought a lot on golf course property at Falconhead Ranch and Country Club near Burneyville, OK. I played my last 18 holes there in 1993 and gave it up due to some chronic back problems and my devotion to completing work on the Officers' Club out at CAF Wing Headquarters. Today my clubs sit in the corner of the room, gathering dust.
"In 1994 Collegiate Cap & Gown Co. closed our Oklahoma City factory and branch office and incorporated our operation in their new building in Arcola, Illinois. Since our Oklahoma City budding was up for sale, I opted for 'semi-retirement.' I became an independent sales representative and have responsibility only for the Oklahoma church market. I rented a small office space one block south of our old building at Fees, Sharp & Nichols music store. Being still somewhat 'hyper,' I needed something to do and working three days a week in the office, plus making evening church sales, solved these needs and prevented my drawing down my retirement funds.
"At present, I hold membership in several other organizations, but am no longer active. These include: Air Force Association; Sojourners, Tinker Chapter No. 43; Sons of the American Revolution; Elks Lodge #417; Confederate Air Force; India Temple Shrine; Distinguished Flying Cross Society; and Bombardiers, Inc. For over 30 years I held membership in the Moose Lodge, but demitted in 1992.
"Cynthia has not been idle these many years. For 15 years she was employed by the State of Oklahoma, working for the Oklahoma Tax Commission in the Connors Building in Oklahoma City. She has a deep interest in genealogy and is responsible for the family history data presented in the Lineage chapter of this book. She has been Regent of Col. John Starke, Sr. Chapter, National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and has held other Oklahoma DAR offices. Cynthia has been a
member of the American Business Women's Association for 20 years and, as this is written, is the President of the Will Rogers Chapter. She was its 'Woman of the Year' for 1999. She has been an officer in the Elks Ladies' Assn. of Elks Lodge #417; also, President of Echo Book Club and a Docent at the Governor's Mansion here in Oklahoma City.
"As I look back on my approaching 79 years of life, I find that my participation in WWII played an important part, even though it involved only 3½ years' service. I am a member of the Second Air Division and the 453rd Bomb Group Associations. Cynthia and I have attended reunions of each, including a reunion in England in 1979 and other major cities throughout the United States. I have met many celebrities, beginning with my Operations Officer at the 453rd, actor Jimmy Stewart, of whom more has been written for this book. My membership in the Confederate Air Force enabled me to meet and visit with Adolph Galland of the German Air Force, Colonel Paul Tibbets, 'Pappy' Boyington, Ensign Gay from the Battle of Midway, 'Tex' Hill, Bob Hoover, and America's WWII ace, Colonel 'Gabby' Gabreski.
"In an unusual meeting in December 1997, my path crossed that of FW Horst Petzchler of the German Luftwaffe. He flew almost every German aircraft, but more particularly, their BF 109 with JG3 and JG 51. He flew 14 missions against the Americans and recorded 4 kills--2 P-51s, a B-17 and a B-24 over Brunswick eight days after our near-disastrous mission on May 8, 1944. Most of his missions were against the Russians and until he was interned in Sweden in May 1945, he officially is recorded as having 26 kills. He was sent to Russia as a POW and was there for four years before being released. He now resides in Wichita, Kansas and until retirement, was an A/C Tool-Engineer for several of our aircraft manufacturers. He is a most interesting and personable fellow. Horst and I exchange letters, pictures and books from time to time. I'm amazed at how much alike individuals are around the world. Horst and I are now 'enemies no more' and I have asked Lindsley to include a chapter with this title in this book. If people of different countries and cultures could meet and get acquainted, we could end conflicts and wars.
"I am most grateful to my high school buddy and longtime friend, George Lindsley and his wife, Margaret, for their having the interest and in taking the time and talent to write this book of my life. Not for publication, the book is written for our present family and future descendants. I recall the thrill I experienced many years ago in doing research of my Bradley family. In a library in Indiana I found a picture-the first and only one-of my great-grandfather, Caleb Bradley. He was a Civil War veteran and was in the 2nd Illinois Cavalry. I have often wished I had taken an interest in family history when I was younger and before my parents and other relatives had died. There are so many facts and stories and information they could have provided. With today's technology--tape recorders, video cameras, and personal computers, every young person should document their parents' and grandparents' lives while they are living. We have tried to do this, and hopefully this book will go into more detail and will remain proudly on the bookshelf of my grandchildren, to be passed along to their children. It is important to know our history and to take pride in our heritage.
"Each morning I read the obituaries and when my name is not among them, I realize I have another day to enjoy life--and I do. As an old aviator, I realize I have completed the downwind leg of my journey and am on 'final approach'--hopefully for another soft, safe landing when the wheels touch down for the last time. To my heirs I say, "Keep our Flag flying, and God Bless America."
Bradley was always a leader--in his career and in the organizations that he joined. "Success," he said, "begins with a fellow's will--it's all in the state of mind." Leadership, dependability, the will to make an enterprise successful--those were the characteristics of the man that led the author to choose Always Out Front as the tide of this book. These characteristics were recognized, as well, by others. Charles W. "Chuck" Walker, of Monticello, Illinois speaks of this in his letter which follows.
Collegiate Cap and Gown Company of Champaign, Illinois recognized Bradley's achievements with awards on many occasions. At its annual meeting on July 11, 1997, Collegiate put the icing on the awards cake! It established an award that it calls the "Prestigious Herb Bradley Award." This award is presented annually to a company salesperson "for recognition of a sales career marked by the highest levels of success and professionalism in the church market." And in letters which follow, Ted Beach and Philip D. Gelvin further attest to Bradley's achievements.
Author's note: Bradley told of his having met and worked with Ted Beach at Collegiate Cap & Gown Co. in Champaign, Illinois. Ted learned that this book was being planned. He welcomed the opportunity to write the following tribute to Herb Bradley. In what he wrote, he says it all, says it like it is, and says it for all who have known the man. Our thanks to Ted Beach.
I met H. A. "Herb" Bradley for the first time in November, 1954 when he began work at Collegiate Cap and Gown Company in Champaign. We worked together in the Sales Department under the leadership of two future Presidents of Collegiate, Bill Blixen and Phil Gelvin. Now, 45 years later, Herb is still associated with Collegiate, strong testimony to his quality performance for the company.
Since Herb was from Monticello, we had some friends in common, including Harry Combes, a native of Monticello, who was my basketball coach at Champaign High School and later at the University of Illinois. Herb knew "everybody" in Monticello and he shared many interesting stories about the good people there.
In the early 1960's, H. I. Gelvin, founder and President of Collegiate, offered Herb the position of Manager of Collegiate's new facility in Oklahoma City. This occurred through Collegiate's acquisition of McDowell Bank Uniform Company which included their building and graduation apparel inventory. Herb accepted this new challenge and relocated his family to the capitol city of Oklahoma.
After firmly establishing Collegiate in Oklahoma, Herb began "outside" work as a field sales representative in schools and churches. This was in addition to his managerial duties. It was in the area of robe sales to churches that Herb Bradley built a record at Collegiate that is unequaled to this day. This is remarkable when you consider his volume of sales was built in a sparsely populated territory compared to the metropolitan centers in other parts of the country.
He was the first Collegiate rep to join the Century Club (over $100,000 in annual robes sales volume), the first to make the Double Century Club (over $200,000), and the ONLY rep to ever exceed $300,000 and be in his own exclusive Triple Century Club. Herb built this tremendous record through the basic selling fundamentals--hard work, product knowledge, and establishing a mutual trust with his customers. The latter was most important--people truly liked and trusted Herb Bradley!
Collegiate established a Sales Representatives Hall of Fame to recognize outstanding achievement. After inducting three "pioneer" reps in 1987 and three retired reps in 1988, Herb was the first active representative to be inducted in 1989. This is the highest honor a Collegiate rep can earn. To qualify, a rep must have a minimum of $5 million in volume during his career. Herb's picture hangs on the Hall of Fame wall at Collegiate's home office in Champaign.
The personal qualities I could use to best describe Herb are many. Loyal, dedicated, dependable, hard working, trustworthy, and competitive are but a few that Herb has demonstrated over the years.
Two "personal" experiences have always been a source of fun for Herb and me. The first occurred during our early years together at Collegiate. We had some new reps in the office for training. The man scheduled to direct the seminar called at 7 a.m. to say he had a severe throat infection so we would have to "handle it." We asked him what he planned to cover and he told us to focus on the "3-Point Plan for Increasing Sales." Well, neither Herb nor I had a clue about this but we muddled through. To this day, whenever one of us has questions about what we should say or discuss, the other says, "Just tell 'em about the 3--Point Plan."
The second happened in later years after Herb was firmly established as #1 in robe sales volume. I called him to see how his prospects looked for the coming months and he said in that quiet voice, "Well, Ted, I think I've got one more order." Of course, he always had a lot more than that, but this became his stock answer whenever I'd ask how his sales were looking: "Well, I think I've got one more order."
Herb Bradley had "many orders" as he played an important role in the growth of Collegiate Cap and Gown, both through his managerial and sales skills. Beyond this, he is a true gentleman in every sense. He has demonstrated his love for his family and his country throughout his lifetime.
I truly consider it a privilege to count him as a long-time friend.
Author's Note: In 1997, Phil Gelvin wrote his own war story entitled, "My Travels Through World War II, 1942-1945." He was commissioned in the ROTC, University of Illinois, Urbana in May 1942; was at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in field artillery; went to the Army flight school and got his wings as a liaison pilot, flying the L4H aircraft. He went overseas with the 691st Field Artillery Battalion attached to the Ninth Army and was with that unit in combat in Europe from September 1944 to the end of the war--from Normandy to Southern Germany--159 days in combat operations. On December 7, 1944 he had an unnerving experience when bullets from U.S. troops brought him down.
Phil returned to the States and was discharged in November 1945. During the Korean War he returned to service and had 17 months' flying duty in that conflict.
Table of Contents
Previous Chapter (23)