Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Family Business Tells Changing Story of American Commerce

A steady stream of delivery men to the Reservoir Inn at 4900 Moffett Road in Mobile, Alabama, told the changing story of American commerce.

As companies grew and merged over the years, you could watch local or regional product names change to national brands.

In the above photo, Wilmer Graham, a delivery man for Graham's Dairy, stands beside his truck with Beatrice Valara Pierce (1921-1993). Wilmer and Bea were lifelong friends. This photo was taken in front of the Reservoir Inn, which belonged to Bea's father, N.B. "Bonie" Pierce.

At the time, the Reservoir Inn was an early form of the convenience store that sold gasoline along with convenience food items. It also included a bar, whose patrons often included milk delivery drivers just getting off their shifts early in the mornings.

Note the 8-digit phone number for the dairy painted on the truck. The truck lettering also gives the location of the dairy as Moffat (now spelled Moffett) Road.

Bea is wearing bobby socks and saddle shoes, which became popular in the 1940s. British and American governments rationed silk and nylon during World War II. So women couldn't wear traditional stockings. The British came up with a substitute, a short ankle sock. Young girls and women picked up the British style, calling it the bobby sock after the British slang word for police officers. This style remained popular into the 1950s.

Wilmer is wearing either spats over his shoes or wing-tip shoes.

Note that the ground in front of the Reservoir Inn is unpaved. Later it was paved.

Did your family operate a business? What story does it tell?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day Salute: Ralph Poore

Ralph E. Poore during training maneuvers in 1941.
He is holding a Browning Automatic Rifle, or BAR,
and is wearing a World War I style helmet. The Army had not
yet issued the "steel pot" helmets used in World War II.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm again posting my Veterans Day Salutes to my family.

A young Ralph E. Poore worked at a number of jobs in Depression Era Laurel, Mississippi, in order to survive. He worked at Bush Dairy and a local furniture company. But nothing offered much of a future.

In December 1940, a 22-year-old Ralph enlisted in the U.S. Army. Recruiting officers assigned him to the Headquarters Battery, 29th Field Artillery Battalion, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Georgia. He eventually served in a forward observer liaison unit.

Over the next four years, the men of the 4th Division became among the best-trained troops of the U.S. Army. The Army welded the 4th Infantry Division into a powerful, highly mobile offensive force that could protect armored divisions.

As a unit of the 4th Division, the 29th field artillery helped put together the nuts and bolts of a motorized division. Training with General George S. Patton’s 2nd Armored Division, they helped write the manual on U.S. armored warfare.

As sergeant in the liaison unit, Ralph moved with the forward infantry units. When an enemy position blocked the infantrymen’s progress, the forward observers called the target location to the fire direction center. After wiping out one target, the artillery then moved on to the next.

On D-Day, June 6, 1944, Ralph landed with the early waves the 8th Infantry Regiment combat teams, which the 29th Field Artillery supported, on Utah Beach. Over the next seven months, Ralph stayed on the front lines with the infantry to help bring artillery fire down on the Germans when it was needed.

He fought through the hedgerow country, the breakout of Operation Cobra and passed through Paris on the way to the Siegfried Line. For his heroic actions in saving the lives of three other men in a minefield in the Huertgen Forest, Ralph was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart.
A restored M7 Priest at the Fort Sill Field Artillery Museum
depicts self-propelled artillery support during the Battle of the Bulge.
The 29th Field Artillery used this type of gun.

When the Germans broke through U.S. lines in December, Ralph and the 29th Field Artillery helped the 4th Division hold the southern shoulder of the Bulge.

Because Ralph had been continuously on the front lines since D-Day, the Army gave him leave back to the States in February 1945. He returned to the front at about the time Germany surrendered.

After the war, Ralph lived for a short time back in Laurel, then re-enlisted in the Army, serving until 1949. He settled in Mobile, Alabama, for the rest of his life, until his untimely death in 1976.

Veterans Day Salute: Alonzo Geiger

Alonzo W. Geiger, photo courtesy of Caroline Geiger Mulican and Kerry Cayten

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm again posting my Veterans Day Salutes to my family.

Alonzo Winfield Geiger was a 22-year-old laborer at the Marathon Lumber Co. in Laurel, Mississippi, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1918 for service in World War I.

Alonzo became a private first class with Company C of the 102nd Engineers with the 27th Infantry Division. The 27th Division spent all of the war with the British Fourth Army and the contributions of the Americans in breaking through the Hindenburg Line sometimes have often been overlooked.

The 102nd Engineers arrived at the front in advance of infantry and machine-gun units. Their dangerous job included repairing roads nearly destroyed after three years of shellfire.

In an attack on the Hindenburg Line on Sept. 29, 1918, Maj. Gen. John F. O’Ryan sent three companies of the 102nd Engineers to occupy a reserve position north of Ronssoy. He had run out infantry units to put on the line in the bloody and ferocious battle.

Photo courtesy of Caroline Geiger Mulican and Kerry Cayten
The engineers weren't needed and the war ended for Alonzo and the other men of the 27th Division when they were pulled back for a rest on Oct. 1.

After the war, Alonzo returned to Laurel and opened a gasoline service station on Central Avenue. A hard worker all his life, Alonzo could be found in the station six days a week. Sundays he reserved for church and visiting family.

Veterans Day Salute: John H. Poore

Gondrecourt, France training area

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm again posting my Veterans Day Salutes to my family.

After John H. Poore was inducted at Bay Springs, Mississippi, on June 15, 1918, he entered Company A of the 152nd Infantry Regiment. This regiment arrived in Europe on Oct. 5, 1918, and never saw combat. 

It served as a source of replacements for other units. On Nov. 1, John was transferred to Company
B, 325th Infantry Regiment for combat duty.

On Nov. 1, 1918, John moved up to the front lines as part of the 325th Infantry Regiment for the last 11 days of the war. The 325th Infantry waited in reserve as part of the 82nd Infantry Division while three other divisions of First Army’s I Corps attacked along the Meuse River on Nov. 1. Three days later the Germans retreated east of the Meuse.

When American forces captured the heights overlooking the German railroad at Sedan, they assured the
John H. Poore's grave in Union Seminary Baptist Church
Cemetery in Jasper County, Mississippi.
Photo by Larry Bell
of the war. The Germans agreed to an Armistice to begin on Nov. 11, 1918. The war ended without John having fired a shot in anger.

During the five months afterward, John and his 325th comrades waited in France for transport home. There was a shortage of troopships to take them back to the United States.

Six months after the Armistice, John returned to the United States. The Army discharged him in May 1919 and he came home to Jasper County, Mississippi.

Veterans Day Salute: Dick A. Poore

Dick Austin Poore

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm again posting my Veterans Day Salutes to my family.

In the late 1930s, Dick A. Poore drove a milk delivery route for Bush Dairy in Laurel, Mississippi. He wore a number of hats at the dairy as would be expected in a family business. Dick operated the electric milking machine, loaded and unloaded the delivery truck and kept an account of his sales.

After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Dick must have realized that life eventually would change for him. In late June 1942, about three months after his 22nd birthday, Dick registered for the draft. Soon enough, Uncle Sam called on him.

At 7:30 a.m., Oct. 17, 1942, Dick and 75 other young men lined up at the Laurel bus station for the short trip to Camp Shelby outside of Hattiesburg. At the camp, the draftees went through their first physical exams and were inducted into the Army.

Then recruiters sent Dick and the other men back to Laurel to settle their affairs. On Nov. 2, Dick and the other men again boarded buses for the 45-mile or so trip back to Hattiesburg and into the Army.

At Camp Shelby, the Army gave Dick and the other men only a basic introduction into military life. After less than 12 weeks of training, Dick shipped out for North Africa in March 1943. Around Oran, Algeria, Dick began training to be a part of anti-aircraft artillery radar unit of the Fifth Army.

On Sept. 9, Dick, his comrades and their antiaircraft artillery and support vehicles followed the infantry onto the beaches of Salerno in the first Allied invasion of mainland Europe.

The main job for Dick and the rest of the radar crew was to set up and operate the power plant and
Salerno invasion, Sept. 9, 1943

radar unit vitally needed to fight off repeated enemy air attacks on the men and supplies in the U.S. beachhead.

Leaving the Salerno plain, Dick and his comrades had to fight their way along steep and narrow roads in jagged mountains slashed by ravines and streams. Besides this Naples-Foggia campaign, Dick would take part in the North Apennines and Po Valley campaigns over the next year and a half.

The Army discharged Dick in October 1945. He returned to live in Laurel for awhile before eventually settling in Mobile for the rest of his life.

Veterans Day Salute: James Benford Poore

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm again posting my Veterans Day Salutes to my family.

James Benford Poore, a native of Mississippi, served as a landsman (that's what the "LDS" on his grave marker means) in the U.S. Navy during World War I. A landsman was a new recruit with less than three years of experience

James was the son of John Franklin Poore, who served in the 13th Mississippi Infantry Regiment during the Civil War.

James is buried in Prescott National Cemetery, Prescott, Yavapai County, Arizona.

Veterans Day Salute: Unknown Sailor and Soldier

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm again posting my Veterans Day Salutes to my family.

We don't know the names of this sailor and soldier, but the two men were members of either the Hosey, Geiger or Poore families of Jasper and Jones counties, Mississippi.

The uniforms are from the World War I period and so the photo was probably taken between 1917-1919.

The men's uniforms offer a few clues. Sailors called the style of hat worn here the “flat hat.” Civilians called it a “Donald Duck hat” or “pancake hat.” The top of the hat was 12 inches across.

Before 1941, the hat band, called a “talley” displayed the name of the sailor’s ship. In
Example of a flat hat
with the ship name
visible on the talley.
1941, with war under way in Europe, the Navy became concerned with the security of ship movements. So the services replaced the ship name with “U.S. Navy” or “U.S. Coast Guard.”

In this case, unfortunately, a shadow from the bright sunlight hides the name of the sailor’s ship on the talley.

Before the United States entered World War I, the Navy had switched to a smaller, floppier, more practical hat design. When the country entered the war in 1917, the Navy issued the many older flat hats it had in storage until the supply was exhausted.

The white piping on the right shoulder of the sailor indicates that he is in the seaman branch of the Navy. The three white stripes on the sleeve cuff indicate that he is a seaman first class.

The soldier’s uniform has no rank or unit markings. But his leggings tell us a little about him.

French civilians greet advancing American infantrymen
in this 1918 photo. The British-style puttee legging can
clearly be seen.
He appears to be wearing a light-colored canvas legging. This is a sign that he has not yet served in the war in Europe.

Canvas leggings proved impractical in the muddy trenches of Europe. So American troops quickly adopted British-style wool wrap leggings, known as puttees.

Puttees were about 8-12 feet long with 3-5 feet long tie ribbons. A soldier wrapped these around his leg starting from the ankle going all the way up to the knee. The puttees also were closer in color to the olive drab uniform.

So it seems likely that this photo was taken in 1917.