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STEAM CORNER

Source: Chicago Daily Tribune Monday, June 29, 1942

Steam Corner, Ind Pop 12, is very near war -- Recalls Pearl Harbor Victim Clearly by Marcia Winn

Note: Armchair strategies of the east say the middle west does not know the war is on. Miss Winn has toured small towns in six central states with this charge in mind. In this, the second of a series of articles, she tells what she found.

Steam Corner, Ind - June 26 - Miss Daisy Reed adjusted the boudoir cap on her wispy red hair and tighted the wood spigot on the vinegar barrel in her general store before she spoke. Steam Corner not know about the war? she repeate4d curiously. "Why, we had the first Indianny boy to be killed. James R. Rooe -- note this is James Brazier Booe, son of Zeb E & Ida May Coffing Booe -- he was Jimmy Rooe (sic throughout article). He's the first boy around here to give up his life in this war. Boy, we all hated it. He was an awful nice boy. Born in the big house on the road here. "Yes, maam' James R .Rooe was our Steam Corner boy. Been bandmaster on the USS Oklahoma 30 years. Went down at Pearl Harbor. "Yes, ma'am. His father taught the school here when there was a school. Half the boys from the county round here have gone," she continued chattily as she measure out half a pound of sugar with a wooden scoop. "I can't remember names well, but Miss Rosie!"

She raised her voice to a thin screech, and out from the recesses of a back room came Mrs. Rose V. Tinder. Wars? She recalls three! Miss Rosie wore a calico cap and lavendar shawl and carried a patch work pillow to ease her bones on the rocker bench. She introduced herself with a brisk modesty, "I'm the oldest person in Steam Corner. I'm 83. Remember everything. Know everybody. Remember when they sold calico right here for 8 cents a yard. Once Steam Corner even had a millinary shop. Bought my weddin' hat at it heh, heh," and she lapsed chuckling into the past. Miss Rosie had difficulty attuning her mind to the present. She easily recited names of the Steam Corner men who went in the Spanish-American War and the World War but this one... "Well, plenty of our good boys gone to it," she said flatly, "There's the Myers boy and the Riley boy and then -- who else, Daisy?"

"The Jones boy," Daisy took up the thread. "And the Coats boys and the Robetson boy and Willie Hoover. Where 's he at Miss Rosie? You know." Miss Rosie didn't know.

"There's more gone than a body can think of, "Daisy went on, "and pretty soon there's be others. Our boys enlist. Many's a hittin for the Navy. Now Velmar Hutts. I forgot him. He was in Pearl Harbor. Had almost an eye put out. He was on one of the ships, but I don't know what he done." Miss Daisy and Miss Rosie know just about everything that Steam Corner is doing in the war, for Miss Daisy's store - a rambling old frame structure, set flush with the pavement of US Highway 41, 150 miles south of Chicago is the social center of the community. One might say it is Steam Corner, for this typical American crossroads community has a population of 12, and Miss Daisy says it is "as big now as it ever were." Miss Daisy's stoe was the postoffice back in the days when Steam Corner had a post office. Now it is the place where everybody drops in.

Here the news of the countryside drifts in and the affairs of the world tuned in on the battered old radio are analyzed. Whenever the word "it" is used in the ensuing discussions, the subject is the war for the war is "it" in Steam Corner. "We're doing all we can in it," Miss Daisy tells you flatly. "Talk to some of our farmers."

What does Willie Coats think? (Note: there is a pic of him and son Eugene in the article - found on the Craig Family FB page where I nabbed this - thanks DELLIE). Willie has 3 boys in it and is about to be reduced to a single handed conquest of his 330 acres. West on the dirt side road to th eT across the second railroad and to the left is the big white frame house of Willie Coats. Father beds are airing on its immaculate porch and the flowering locust is shedding the deep pink flowers of its second blooming. Mr. Coats isn't home. He is across the road and up a lane digging thistles out of a pasture. He is an amiable, grizzled old armer, his hat pulled low over his out-thrust ears, a pipe clutched in his mouth. He is a prosperous farmer, one who has yet to accept payments from "that three A." "Don't believe in it," he says, "I'm a Republican, I am." The handsome, dark eyed boy helping him is his youngest son, Eugene, 21, who has just enlisted in the army and is home awaiting induction.

"Don't think we don't know a war is on," Mr. Coats says, as he places a conversational foot on a fencepost. "Gene here is my third boy to get in. I says to him, "Get in it. We got to whip 'em."

"Whip 'em fast!" he urges.

"That's all there is to it. Whip 'em or we'll all be dead - or slaves. We'd be worse than slaves. Don't know what that'd be, but it'd sure be worse. Not for me. I'm too old. But the younger generation and ones to come. They're the ones that'll suffer. Whip 'em, I says, "Whip the Japs and Nat-sees both and whip 'em fast."

yeah, and he lapsed into meditation. "Don't think we don't know it's on. Makeshelp might hard to get. Just an't hardly get farm help. Don't know how we're going to get our harvesting done. But we're doing all we can. Doing like every place else, I guess. Buying all the bonds we're able to and donating to the Red Cross. I've donated twice to it. We're overran in this township. Overran. And everybody's putting all he can in war bonds. Just tossing all their savings into them. Well gotta get back to the thistles. Come on, to his last boy at home, Let's clean 'em up!"

What do the Myers think? They have a boy, Red Who is a naval flying cadet. THeir home, a gaunt two-story farmhouse with honeysuckle and woodbine densely tangled over its little porch is a mile or so back down the road. An American flag waves from the porch, and three more flags stand in a window on which are pasted the Red Cross symbol and the blue minuteman of the war bond purchaser. Mrs. Herman Myers, a kindly gray haired woman with a sure knowledge of all happenings in the township ensconces herself in a rocker in the living room to tell of the township's war effort. Chromos of The Harp of the winds, The Reapers and Sir Galahad hang on the walls. Little Women lies open on a table. On the piano is a large tinted picture of a boy with curly red hair, a delicate face and blue eyes that smiles. This is Herman J, who enlisted on Jan 3, his 20th birthday.

"I believe we are all very conscious of the war," she says reflectively. "We do all we can. We do all we are asked to do. Of course, we haven't suffered. Maybe we should suffer more. I don't know. But things already are hard."

Many boys from the township are gone to war, she explains, reeling of a list of names. Two more have just enlisted in the navy. Many boys have gone to defense factories at Attica and Newport and nearby towns. She was on the war bond committee and knows that the township exceeded its quota in this as in all fund raising drives. 75% of the families pledged themselves to buy bonds monthly. Twice the township has exceeded its Red Cross quota and a week ago it exceeded its USO quota. Farm women are doing their part, too she says. Already they are burdened with new farm duties but they still find time to go to nearby Kingman two days a week to sew for the Red Cross. Many knit at home.

"I don't know what else we could do, "Mrs. Myers concludes.

What does Lowell Riley's widowed father think? Lowell has just joined the navy and his father is alone on his farm. Visitors found him leaning over a bucket with a steaming tea kettle. "I"m just a buggin' my potatoes," he explains. Bugs is bad this year. Not raising much anyway. Just about ready to give up. "The war? Don't beliee in war myself," he scowled. "Don't think there's any need for it if things was handled right but what they need is boys so I said to Lowell, Sure git in. At this, Mr. Riley relaxed in pride. "The boys is sure a pilin' in it he observed. They're a pilin in there plentiful now. That's all we need. Just those boys pilin in. We'll sure whup 'em now. This is a random cross-section of the crossroads of Steam Corner. Most of the boys are gone and Steam Corner is right behind them, fighting!

Thanks so much to Dellie Craig and her wonderful The Craig Family FB page :)

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