Growing up before World War II
From Youth to Warrior
Edgar became deeply fascinated with airplanes and the idea of flying when he was about seven or eight years old. I could still remember that story he told me about one afternoon when he heard an unfamiliar sound from afar. Curious as he was, he bolted from the table to the door only to find that the screen was locked, leaving him with a waffle print on his forehead for days.
He hurriedly unlocked the screen door, and once outside, he began to look where the strange sound was coming from. Then there it was—a biplane. He looked back to that moment that made him decide to become a pilot when he eventually enlisted for the Navy Air Corps, a warrior of the skies.
Edgar was born in 1920, part of the decade Tom Brokaw called the Greatest Generation, in a humble farmhouse in Howard County. However, he had no memory of this place because his family moved to Huntsville when he was around three years old. It was brought about when his Dad assumed managership of a Kroger grocery store. The neighborhood in Huntsville where they lived in was a lot like being in a desert island—houses were far apart, cars were few, and children were rarely seen on the streets.
There was not much to do in Huntsville. Toys were few, no TV or radio, couldn’t read books, and playmates were not available. So what does a young active boy do to occupy the hours of each day?
He helped his Dad manage the store, that’s what. His first jobs were weighing and packaging the bulk products and cutting tobacco slabs to size as ordered by the customer. The one principle he learned at that early age was he should always keep busy as a worker. On Saturday nights, the store would be open late, and the family tradition was for him to have his weekly bath while waiting for his Dad to arrive home. His mom would occupy the time by reading him Bible stories to which he was intently listening while chewing a stick of Horehound candy.
Life in Huntsville, Missouri, was very pleasant, with long quiet days to play. But just before he was to enter fourth grade at the age of nine, they moved to Sedalia, and he felt that he no longer had the attention he was getting in Huntsville. It was a good thing he became preoccupied with the piano and other instruments. Music was somewhat the center of his life other than going to school.
As a youngster, he found himself inclined to always want to do better. He had already proven his worth as a musician, like the time he improvised in the school recital. This time, he wanted to test himself in athletics.
When he entered junior high, he wasn’t big enough for football or tall enough for basketball. For a warrior, he was just average. He found himself gravitating toward jumping events. By the time he got through junior year, he was placing in jumping events, but he had some stiff competition. He knew he did okay, but he realized that he had to keep improving.
But no amount of sports training could have ever prepared him for the Depression that ensued in the thirties. One would think that this is what the world is all about, and he have already braced himself for future hardships. Sedalia was at its lowest ebb of the Depression economy during those days. He lost the life savings he had started in the bank when living at Huntsville, leaving him with only fifty-seven dollars.
As the depression years began to fade, new hope began to enter America although European countries seemed to be casting threats toward the possibility of a peaceful world. As early as his junior year in high school (1937), he found myself concerned about the rumblings of war being reported in the newspapers, and somehow, he just had a feeling that his aspiration of flying would lead him to become a warrior in the impending world conflict.
Have you also felt that way? Were your personal aspirations meant for bigger things? Share them in the comment section below. You can also reach out to me in Twitter, Facebook, or Goodreads. Looking for stories about life before the Second World War? Read Of Raincrows and Ivy Leaves.