Saturday, January 26, 2013


Many times in our lives, perception and fact merge into an assumed reality.  We accept our thoughts as truth when many times they are not.  In those times we may not know or have all the information to come to a proper judgment or conclusion.  This was certainly my case when it came to my father, Cecil Kilgore.  Although I was his oldest child, I knew little of Daddy’s “comings and goings,” except that he always stayed close to home.  Then years later, I discovered that what I had believed was not factual at all, that he had never traveled outside the southern United States. 

 While I lived at home, from 1944 to 1963, my family rarely traveled beyond the concentric circle of a 20 miles radius.  When we did travel outside this self-imposed distance, it was usually to visit aunts and uncles.  There was Ruby and Johnny Chadwick who lived in Birmingham, Ruth and Ted Spain who lived in Guntersville and Sis and Jerdy Romans who lived in Muscle Shoals.  The visits were rare, but when they did occur, they were special events.  Those visits allowed me to see beyond our rural existence to a different place, and a different world.  

During my teenage years, the family actually took a vacation—Panama City Beach, Florida.  It was so unlike my daddy to take us anywhere, and we were going to the beach! What a treat!  What a great time we had!  Daddy, Mother, my two brothers, my sister and I were all cramped into a small family efficiency rental, located right on the beach. I remember that the mayor of Panama City Beach owned and operated the property.  It had a kitchenette where we prepared our own food.    We actually did this a second time within those teenage years. 

But the highlight journey, totally outside our twenty-mile radius, was a trip to Miami, Florida.  My father’s youngest sister, Lorene, and her family lived there.  That trip was framed as a vacation, but it also served a greater purpose.  Lorene and her family were going through some difficult times. Daddy wanted to go to see if there was anything he could do.  For us, it was a win-win situation.  A long trip to what we considered an exotic place we had never seen, and at the same, a visit with some dear cousins we loved very much.  I always thought that our trip to Miami was the fartherest distance from home that my daddy had ever experienced. 

Daddy was known as a “home body” and he just did not enjoy being away from his own bed.  Even over the years, when my brothers, sister and I were married and established homes and families of our own, it was uncommon for Daddy to visit and stay overnight.  On occasion, he would, but it was a rare occasion.  Staying overnight and being away from home was not a part of his DNA.

Daddy lived to be 91 years old.  During his last years, when I visited my parents, Daddy shared things from his past that he had never mentioned to me before then. During one of those visits, he told me the story of traveling back home from Wisconsin.  Then and there, I realized that I did not know much about the places my daddy had actually been during his life.  I had mistakenly believed that he had never been outside the southeastern states.  I wanted to know more.  I began asking questions.

Why was Daddy in Wisconsin?  When was he in Wisconsin?  The answer can be simply stated—World War II.  During the early years of the war, Daddy was deferred from military service because he worked at a strategic manufacturing company in Birmingham that had contracts with the navy.   Daddy worked at Continental Gin Company with the job title of machinist.  His job description was: “an apprentice operated drill press; engine and turret lathes; milling machine; sharper in machine shop; reads blue prints; used micrometers.” Working for Continental Gin for three years, with severe sinus problems, affected his health. A doctor advised Daddy to move back to the country.  He and his young wife, my sweet mother, moved back to Nauvoo to help his dad out on the Kilgore farm.  Since this affected Daddy’s draft status, some friends of the family went around the community asking for signatures stating the importance for Daddy to continue to be deferred because he was needed on the farm.  He helped farm 37 acres that produced general crops.  At that time, Papa Kilgore was in his middle sixties and was not in the best of health.  For a while, the local draft board honored the deferment request, but by June 1945, Daddy was drafted into the army. 

Daddy had to travel to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin.  I do not know if he traveled by train or by bus. He  had one-month basic training there.  Because it appeared the war might soon come to an end, he served three additional months at Camp McCoy as a duty soldier, whose responsibilities were to serve as a mess attendant.  This involved making coffee, clearing the tables, cleaning the floors, and anything else asked of him.  His rank was Private 3rd Class.  

To find out more about Camp McCoy, you can go to the following Internet address:

You can also google the words, "Fort McCoy, Wisconsin"  and discover different sites  that will give you information about the place. The name was changed from Camp McCoy to Fort McCoy sometime in the 1970s.  Now back to the story.

My daddy died in April 2012.  A few weeks prior to his death he talked to me extensively about my taking care of a military bronze marker he wanted at the foot of his grave.  He already had in his possession the granite slab on which the foot marker would rest. My daddy was always one who believed in having things in order.  Although he did not know when he was to die, he sensed it would be really soon.  His health had deteriorated badly during those last few months of his life.  He was weak and tired and knew he was not going to be any better.  

Daddy thought carefully about the facts that should go on the foot marker.  The first thing was his name-- Cecil W. Kilgore.    He said,   “No service rank by my name.”   He explained that he was only in the service for five months because World War II was concluding.  The second fact he talked about was his date of birth and his date of death.  I asked him, “Do you want the month, day, and year, or just the year?”  He said to keep it simple.  The next fact was his branch of service -- US Army.  He mentioned putting the date that WWII ended on the marker also, but I chose not to do so because of wording limitations.  The final thing to go on the marker was his term of duty, which he pondered over because he was in the army for only a very short time—all within the year 1945.   I wrote everything he said on a piece of paper and placed it in my billfold, not realizing I would be pulling it out only a few weeks later.  I asked Daddy how I would apply for the acquisition of the bronze military marker and what the cost would be.  He replied, “The funeral home will take care of it, and the government will pay for it because I am a veteran.”  When we met with Kilgore Green Funeral home in Jasper, I asked the funeral home representative about the marker.  He told me that I would need to go to the Veterans Administration office, which I did within a week of Daddy’s death. With mother’s approval, I decided not to make any reference to Daddy’s induction day, but only to say, “Honorably discharged October 1945.”

In Daddy’s military papers, there are some interesting facts about him.  His height was listed as 5” 8”. He must have grown two additional inches after his military service because I knew him to stand 5’ 10” tall.  I am 5' 8" and Daddy was taller than I.   His weight was listed as 146 pounds and his eyes were listed as brown.  Daddy was always a trim and fit kind of guy.  He took pride in his appearance. The military enlistment record lists two dependants—no names.  But those dependants were, of course, my mother and I.

I was born December 10, 1944, six months prior to Daddy’s induction.  On the Enlistment Record, it is stated that Daddy was inducted the 13th of June 1945 at Fort McClellan, Alabama.   Daddy had his immunizations on July 9, 1945. His total length of service was 4 months and 10 days.  His mustering out pay was $200.  He was issued a lapel button with “no time lost under AW 107.”  The disbursing officer, J. G. O’Rourke, Captain FD, issued a payment of $100.00   The Separation Classification Officer was W. H. Arrington, 1st Lt. AC, Asst. Adj.  The honorable discharge certificate was signed by Stanley G. Eaton, Lt. Colonel Infantry, Executive Officer. 

I was ten months old when Daddy returned home from service.  His journey home was one that he wanted to happen as quickly as possible.  He took connecting buses on the way home from Wisconsin, going from Chicago to Nashville.  When he arrived in Nashville, his connecting bus was not scheduled to leave until the next morning.  He was so anxious to get home that he decided to hitchhike home instead of waiting a day for the bus.  He was sure he could make it home sooner by “thumbing” a ride.  It was not as easy as he thought.  Without sleep, he arrived in Double Springs the next day, about the same time the bus from Nashville had arrived.  Needless to say, he had a loving wife and a little son eagerly awaiting the homecoming of my daddy, the soldier.


1 comment:

  1. This is awesome! I love reading stories about PaPa that I didn't know about before. I want to print all of these out and make a book! You are such an awesome writer! Thanks for sharing these stories! Love you!