Monday, November 28, 2011

A father's fight

One of the best stories we've heard this holiday season is one broadcast by Des Moines television station WHO-TV. It was told by Erin Kiernan, evening news anchor at the NBC affiliate, and it was a very personal story. It shared the trials and tribulations of Erin's dad, a native and long-time resident of Chadron, Larry Moody.

 About a year ago, Larry's family was told to prepare for his death. He had suffered a ruptured brain aneurism, and the prognosis was not good. But family, friends, and much faith brought Larry back from the brink of death. It was not an easy journey, but Larry and his wife Cheryl (Haskell) persevered. Larry's multi-month bout with his debilitating condition came just a few years after he had retired from Nebraska Public Power and the Army National Guard in Chadron. He and Cheryl moved to Chandler, Arizona in 2007. He had given up smoking and when his Class of 1960 gathered for a reunion last year, he included "walking, cardio and weight training" among his interests and hobbies. 

For the many childhood friends who grew up with Larry Moody and knew his parents -- Kenny and Wanda Moody -- and sisters Nancy and Rebecca and brother Lynn, it was no surprise that they all grew up with a great sense of humor. But it was Larry who inherited that robust and infectious laugh from his dad. How wonderful that his family will enjoy it again this holiday season and, hopefully, many more!  What a heartwarming story this is, for Larry and his family -- and for all of us.

Thanks to Larry and Cheryl's talented daughter,  Erin Kiernan, for compiling a remarkable story, which was broadcast on WHO-TV and was entitled "A Father's Fight."  Unfortunately, as of today (7/3/12) the video link to that story is no longer available.  

Friday, November 25, 2011

‘MRS. NEWSY’ remembered by many in Chadron
Chadron’s Golden Age Courier-Vol. 25; Issue 11  
November 2011-Dawes County, Nebraska
(From Chadron Record 3/19/91 - By Goldie Dawkins, Record Reporter)
In the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s, every kid in town knew her as Mrs. Newsy, and she knew each and everyone of them by their first names.  Most of the young people came to the Newsy Nook to buy candy, gum, popcorn, pop, ice cream, novelties, and the very popular comic books.  In the almost twenty-five years she worked there she saw children grow up and go to college and even marry and become parents, and bring their children in to see her.
The children were a very big part of the business of the little store that was located north of the Post Office, and a couple doors south of the theater but she also knew many of their parents and grandparents who came to buy magazines and cigarettes, tobacco and newspapers.
She was a tiny dark haired woman born Dorothy Maude Jackman in Southampton, England.  She was so very tiny when she was born that the family called her Dolly.  As she grew to a teenager, her friends called her Phyllis for some reason that she never could explain.  In 1918, she met and married Roy H. Wagner, a Chief Petty Officer in the US Navy who was from the Sand Hills of Nebraska.
Phyllis Wagner 
She liked to tell about their wedding; about the black horses that pulled the coach they rode in and the white ribbons decorating the horses.  The small amount of sugar Roy was able to get from the Navy just for their wedding reception was a highlight at a time when sugar was very scarce.
Following World War I, Roy had to return to the United States on his ship but she followed on the next one and he met her in New York.  They had the long train trip from New York to Comstock, Nebraska where his parents lived on a farm.  Phyllis was shocked at the distance they had to travel because in England it didn’t take more than a day to go any place in the country.
Living in a three room farm home with his parents for a short while was a new experience for her.  She had lived in a large home in England where almost everything had been done for her.  They soon moved to Chadron and Roy returned to work on the railroad where he had been before the interruption by the War.   They rented a light-house-keeping room above the variety store owned by Mrs. Cockrel, where MarBow Archery and Music store is now, and that is where their daughter, Goldie was born.
When Goldie was five weeks old they had to move to Hot Springs, SD, where Roy was sent by the C & NW Railroad.  They lived there two years and liked it very much.  They had two bad experiences while they were there.  One night there was a terrible lightning and thunder storm.  Phyllis was very frightened and sat in their apartment over a drug store holding Goldie all night because Roy was out of town.  She said, “The lightning was non-stop.  It lighted up the room bright enough to read a newspaper.”  The rain came down like the bottom had dropped out of everything.  The next day they learned that the railroad track had been washed out and the big wall along River Street had been washed out.  If you look over the side of the present wall you can still see part of that wall lying along the bank.  
The other bad experience came because there was an epidemic of Scarlet Fever and they attended a funeral of a friend who died.  Shortly after that, Phyllis became very seriously ill with the disease and she, Roy and Goldie were quarantined in their apartment.  A neighbor brought food to the door for them.  After that crisis they returned to Chadron and lived in an apartment above the Hoke Grocery store for a while.
Roy bought a small home in the one hundred block of Morehead that had been the town’s original jail.  He fixed it up and they were very comfortable there.  They then bought a home at 520 Shelton Street which he painted and fixed up.  They moved there and rented the small house to some other people.  The Depression came along and Roy was laid off of his job.  He took several different jobs and Phyllis went to work for the Blaine Hotel as a chambermaid in an effort to make ends meet in those hard times.  The Donahues owned the hotel and Al and Ward Dandridge, better known as Ganz, worked for them.
Phyllis discovered she could make beautiful light angel food cakes. She entered one in the Dawes County Fair and won first prize and when the word was out that she made such lovely cakes there became a big demand for them so she made and sold them for one dollar.  She bought a cake decorating set with all the proper nozzles to make flowers and this made her business even better.  She won first prize at the fair for her cake decorating so many times, that other women complained they could not compete with her and she stopped entering them.   Now it can be told that Roy often did the decorating.  He enjoyed it and was good at it.
Roy leased the Standard Oil Station on the corner of First and Main Streets, across the street from Barney Lecher’s station.  He also drove the tank wagon to call on farmers to sell fuel to them.  Roy was getting a little more work and of course Phyllis was staying home.  Goldie was in school at the Prep and all was going better.
The veterans of World War I were trying to get a bonus that had been promised to them by the government and with the Depression times they could all use it.  They lost their home on Shelton Street and also the little one on Morehead.  Many people were in the same boat.  They then rented a home at 437 Chapin Street and later bought it.
Goldie eventually graduated from the Prep and married Leo Dawkins that same summer.  That was the year the bonus was paid to the veterans.  Roy and Phyllis bought a new Willy automobile.  They were selling for something like $500.
They had gotten through the Depression without the help of the bonus and they were needing a different car so why not buy a new one?  Goldie’s husband went to work for the Federal Government as an electronic technician, later being drafted into the army in World War II, doing the same work.  They did a lot of traveling, eventually living in San Francisco, CA.
Mean time, back in Chadron, Jack was going to school at the Prep, Roy was getting steady work on the C & NW Railroad and Phyllis was working for Mrs. Finney at the Newsy Nook.  When Mrs. Finney retired, Phyllis stayed on to manage the shop which was sold to new owners.
The Newsy Nook had the World-Herald Agency and there were a lot of carriers who delivered it to the homes of Chadron.  Phyllis had to meet the train every morning to pick up the papers that came in from Omaha.  The carriers came to the station platform to pick theirs up.  She counted out each route.
She enjoyed her work at the Newsy Nook.  She loved the children, large and small that came in there -- even the ones that gave her a hard time.  She very patiently waited on the kids that took a long time deciding how to spend their few pennies.  If some of the big boys picked on the smaller children or any of the children started pushing and cutting up in the shop, this tiny little woman picked up a broom and chased them out.  He brown eyes snapped and she wore a big smile while she was doing this, but the boys respected her authority and those same boys might be bringing her a small gift or compliment the next day.  The kids all called her Mrs. Newsy.  She watched the magazines that came in to be sure there was never any put on the rack that would be unsuitable for children to read.
After Roy died in 1958, her time spent in the Newsy Nook became even more important to her.  Her son, Jack, married  Dorothy Petersen from Hay Springs and they have her three grandsons:  Mike, Ron, and Dave Wagner.  It was one of the saddest days of her life when she had to retire from her work at the Newsy Nook.
Phyllis “Mrs. Newsy” Wagner died at the age of eighty, the day after Thanksgiving in 1974.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Remembering Mason McNutt

(Editor's Note:   On November 19, 2011, Con Marshall wrote a story about  life-long Chadron resident Mason McNutt.  Mason passed away on Sunday, January 24, 2016.  Below is his obituary as it appeared on the Chamberlain Chapel website, followed by Con's 2011 story about Mason. We appreciate Con Marshall allowing us to reprint his story on Dawes County Journal  ~~Larry Miller)

Mason McNutt (1925 - 2016)

Mason McNutt, 90, of Chadron, Nebraska died Sunday, January 24, 2016, at Pioneer Manor in Gillette, Wyoming surrounded by family. Mason was born on July 14, 1925 in Chadron to Alexander and Josephine Blotney McNutt. 

He graduated from Chadron High School in 1943 and at the age of 17 enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, beginning basic training in San Diego, California. After basic training, he was sent to Hawaii and trained as a machine gunner. From Hawaii he sailed to the Marshall Islands and on to Guadalcanal to join the 6th Marine Division. In 1945 he sailed from Guadalcanal to Okinawa and was involved in the assault on Okinawa. After living on Okinawa for three months, he was sent to Guam to train for the invasion of Japan Once Japan had surrendered, he was sent to Tsingtao, China with the 2nd Marine Battalion to accept the surrender of Japanese forces in China. He returned to the U.S. on January 29, 1946 and was discharged, a few days later returning to Chadron, Nebraska. 

On August 3, 1946 he married his high school sweetheart Pauline Pascoe. They have lived their entire lives in Chadron. Mason went from being a mechanic at Prey Chevrolet in 1946 to Shop Foreman and Parts Manager in 1953. In October of 1953 he went to work for Metal Products, Co. and purchased the business in 1961. He and Pauline ran the business until 1985 when he retired. He was a charter member of the Chadron Lions Club in 1950 and served on the Chadron Planning Committee, Chadron Housing Authority, and the board of Chadron Community Hospital. He and Pauline were also members of the Immanuel Lutheran Church, where he had also served on the church council. Mason enjoyed camping, gardening, and tinkering in his shop. He spent many hours on his small parcel of land near Chadron State Park. 

Survivors include: his wife Pauline of Chadron; two sons: Bill (Dianne) of Bassett, Nebraska, and Mike (Barbara) of Gillette, Wyoming; eight grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. Services will be held on Tuesday, February 2, 2016 at 10:30 AM at Chamberlain Chapel in Chadron, Nebraska with Reverend Bruce Baum officiating. Burial will be at Greenwood Cemetery. 

The family suggests memorials to the Nebraska Lions Foundation or Immanuel Lutheran Church. Donations may be sent to Chamberlain Chapel, PO Box 970, Chadron, Nebraska 69337. He leaves loving memories to be cherished by his family. 


Things happened fast for 1943 Chadron High graduate

High school was a fun time for Mason McNutt. He was the right end on the Chadron Cardinals football team. While he scored just one touchdown in his career—on a pass from quarterback Bill Bell in a game his junior year against Sheridan, Wyo.,—he drop kicked the extra points.  He also was on the basketball team with lifelong friends such as Dave Anthony, Bevin Bump, Kenny Cavendar, Bob Folsom, Gilbert Hill and Arden Stec.

Mason McNutt, USMC - February 1946
In addition, he ran the mile for the track team, played the bass horn in the band and dated one of the prettiest girls in his class, Pauline Pascoe—his wife for the past 65 years.

There was no question what Mason was going to do when he graduated in May 1943. He joined the Marines.

A few days after commencement, he rode the train to Fort Crook (now Offutt Air Force Base) near Omaha to take his physical. Because he was just 17 years old, he took along a letter from his mother authorizing him to enlist.

“My brother Jack, who was two years older, had enlisted the Marines in the fall of 1942 at the Alliance Air Base. I had to follow him,” Mason recalls nearly 70 years later. “By the end of August the same year that I had graduated, I was off to San Diego for boot camp. In less than a year after we had discussed the battle for Guadalcanal in Miss Reno’s history class, I was there. Things happened pretty fast.”

That included the haircuts. He recalls with a grin that 63 members of the 661st platoon had their hair buzzed off by six barbers in six minutes his first day at boot camp.

When boot camp ended, he signed up to become a truck driver, but was sent to Camp Elliott north of San Diego to learn how to fire .30 caliber water-cooled machine guns.  By Dec. 23, Mason, his buddies and plenty of machine guns were aboard an aircraft carrier bound for Pearl Harbor, where two years earlier hell had broken loose when the Japanese bombed the Naval shipyards there.

But, as fate would have it, McNutt fired a machine gun only a few times early in his two years of active duty. While bobbing on ships in the Pacific and being a part of the American forces that pushed the Japanese off the islands and then secured them one-by-one, it was learned that the young Nebraskan was an excellent typist and he was transformed into a records-keeper.

“I had taken typing as a sophomore in high school and it paid off,” McNutt relates. “When I was in the Pacific I took a test and typed 70 words a minute. The classification specialist said that was 30 words a minute more than anyone else he had tested (could type). I never touched a machine gun after 1944."

“I had a L.C. Smith Secretariat model typewriter with a 14-inch carriage. Every morning I had to prepare a mistake-free report called a ‘muster roll’ after getting reports from three or sometimes four companies. It also was my job to keep records on those who were missing in action or killed. I became a clerk-typist, or as some called it, an office clown.”

Call it what you may, but by the end of the war, McNutt was an acting sergeant major, the top-ranked enlisted man in his battalion. That meant at age 20 he was giving orders to graying men who had been attached to the Marine Corps for 20 to 25 years.

“Some of them didn’t like it, but I guess we got along all right,” the long-time Chadron businessman and civic leader remembers. “By then we knew we were about to head home and there was no use starting another war.”

The Marines in McNutt’s regiment had been through plenty by the end of the war, including what has been called the bloodiest battle of them all. That was the battle for Okinawa, a long, narrow strip of land about 350 miles south of the Japanese mainland.

U.S. forces wanted it because of its proximity to Japan.  Bombers could easily make the round trip to drop their payloads on Japanese targets from there and it would serve as the base for the land invasion of Japan that was being planned.  

The problem was, more than 100,000 Japanese troops were extremely well entrenched on Okinawa.

The move toward Okinawa began in early 1945 when the 2nd Marine Battalion, 22nd Regiment, 6th Division formed and trained on Guadalcanal, which had been captured during heavy fighting in late 1942 and early 1943.

“We were training on Guadalcanal the same time other forces were invading Iwo Jima and the famous picture of the troops raising the flag was taken,” McNutt relates.  “We landed at the north end of Okinawa on April 1, which was both April Fool’s Day and Easter Sunday. What kind of a coincidence was that? Our battalion didn’t meet any resistance initially because the Japanese thought we were going to land on the other side of the island.

"During the next 28 days, the Marines made their way to the south end of the island, which is about 65 miles long, to relieve Army troops near Sugar Loaf Hill.

A picture of Sugar Loaf Hill that McNutt possesses shows a rather nondescript hill. Some 2,000 Japanese  had dug caves deep into it, were equipped with machine guns, mortars, grenades and satchel charges, and were not about to leave their fortress without taking a heavy toll on American forces.

“We attacked Sugar Loaf on May 8 and that’s when things turned nasty,” McNutt notes. “Our battalion, made up of 980 men, experienced 120 percent casualties. That’s because many of the replacements also were either wounded or killed. It was horrible. It all happened in just four or five days before all the Japanese were either killed or captured.”
The replacements were definitely rushed into battle. McNutt relates that most of them were given a haircut and taught how to march, but bypassed the real rigors of boot camp before they boarded a ship and crossed the Pacific. They learned how to fire a gun during the voyage and once they reached Okinawa platoon sergeants “trained them on the run, showing them how to dig fox holes and things like that,” McNutt says.
While the battle for Sugar Loaf Hill was one of the worst on Okinawa, there were many others during the 100 days before the Japanese were defeated.

According to an article in the September-October 2010 issue of “The History Channel Magazine,” more people were killed in the Battle of Okinawa than died in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. More than 12,000 Americans were killed or missing. At least 107,000 Japanese soldiers were killed and it’s estimated that more than 100,000 Okinawan citizens also died.  The latter count included many children who were thrown over rocky cliffs by their mothers. The women, who had been told horror stories by the Japanese about how they would be treated by the Americans, then plunged to their own deaths

The article also states that more than 26,000 U.S. troops were eventually removed from the battlefield because of combat stress.

McNutt recalls that while was he trying to keep track of the American casualties, one of the names he recorded in May was that of Mickey Mittan, a Chadron High classmate. Mittan had left school in January 1943 to join the Navy and was a corpsman on Okinawa when he was killed.

After the fighting ended in June of 1945, the 6th Marine Division remained on Okinawa another month for garrison duty and then moved to Guam.  They were regrouping for the long-awaited invasion of Japan when President Truman ordered the atomic bombs dropped in early August.

“I’m sure Harry’s decision saved a lot of our lives,” McNutt says. “I saw the invasion plan. Three divisions were going to go on one side of Tokyo Bay and three more on the other side. The Japanese would have been waiting. They had civilians and even the kids trained to throw grenades.”

By mid-summer 1945, McNutt had enough points to be discharged, but no replacements were available and he had to stay put. In October, after the fighting had stopped, he was part of a detachment that went from Guam to Tsingtao, China, a huge port city located across Tokyo Bay from Japan. Now known as Qingdao, it became the headquarters for the Navy’s Western fleet and was where the Japanese surrender was accepted.

“We had a parade there every Saturday morning,” McNutt says.  “The city had been under Japanese rule since 1938 and the people were happy to be Chinese again.”

Finally, on Jan. 10, 1946, McNutt and the others in his battalion set sail aboard the USS Bolivar for San Diego. They arrived on Jan. 29, he was discharged a few days later and returned to Chadron.

Soon after arriving home, McNutt went to work for Sam Prey at the Chevrolet garage where he had worked during the summers when he was in high school. He and Pauline were married in August.

At Prey Chevrolet, McNutt went from being a mechanic, to being the shop foreman and then the parts manager.  He was there until October 1953, when he went to work for Harold Clark at Metal Products.

Metal Products was originally known as Pascoe Tinning and Heating, and was founded by Pauline’s father, Willis Pascoe, in 1920. Clark purchased it in 1945 and the McNutts bought it from Clark in 1961. They ran it until 1985, when they sold it to their long-time employee, Wayne Lembke. 

In 2005, Lembke sold Metal Products to Scott Diehl, who built a new shop and showroom on the west side of town in 2007. McNutt notes that the firm has been selling Lennox Furnaces for 81 years.

Mason and Pauline McNutt were sweethearts in
the Class of 1943 at Chadron High School and
have been married now for more than 65 years.
McNutt was one of the 30 charter members of the Lions Club in Chadron in 1950. He served as the district secretary in 1971-72 and is the club’s only surviving charter member. He also has been a member of the Chadron Planning Committee and the Chadron Housing Authority and was treasurer of the Chadron Community Hospital board several years.

He and Pauline have been members of the Immanuel Lutheran Church for more than 46 years.  They have two sons. Mike is the superintendent of the Campbell County Parks and Recreation in Gillette.  Bill lives in Bassett,  drives a semi tractor-trailer for Panhandle Co-op in Ainsworth and occasionally delivers feed to ranchers in northwest Nebraska.

Mason’s younger brother, Jim, also joined the corps shortly after graduating from Chadron High in 1945.

Mason knows he’s been fortunate, both during the war and since. He’s proud that he was a Marine and notes that he was a part of a courageous outfit.  Maj. Henry Courtney received the Congressional Medal of Honor for leading an assault on Sugar Loaf and McNutt’s battalion received a Presidential Unit Citation twice and a Navy Unit Commendation.

“I always tell people that we were in the top 20 percent of the Navy, and I’m sure that’s true.”

NOTE:  Many thanks to good friend Con Marshall for providing this story and photographs about the McNutts.  Con has been kind enough to share other stories that we've posted in the past.  Hopefully, we'll be able to add more in the future.