Tuesday, November 13, 2018

An Alabama Family in World War II, Part 41

The Run Up to the Invasion of Europe
By Glenn N. Holliman

April 15, 1944, my father, Bishop Holliman (1919-2018) received a ten-day leave in Boston after another tiring convoy trip to and from the European Theater. He took the occasion to train to his home in Irondale, Alabama. 

Crowded, the trip took the better part of two days to make the journey.  It took another two days back before his leave expired on April 25th, hence only six days home.

Left in 1940, 20 year old Bishop Holliman, right and his friend, a Methodist minister, Paul Nelson Propst.  Bishop would name his son, Glenn Nelson Holliman, after Paul with whom he maintained contact for the rest of Paul's life, one of the few pre-war friendships Bishop was able to maintain after the service.

The length of Bishop's military obligation, 3 years and 10 months, had weakened most of Bishop's many Methodist Church relationships.  Charles Ferrell helped Bishop gain employment as a youth assistant for the North Alabama Methodist Conference, a job that enabled my father to pay much of his way through three years of Birmingham-Southern College from 1937-1941.  

'Big Mama' was the family name given lovingly to The Rev. Charles Ferrell's mother. My Uncle Charles was assigned to the Ensley Highlands Methodist Church in the fall of 1944 after a pastorate in Huntsville, AlabamaLeft to right are Charles H. Ferrell, his mother Loudelle, her daughter Carolyn and Mrs. Ferrell in black.

He had hoped to see his sister, Loudelle Holliman Ferrell (1914-1998), who lived in Huntsville, Alabama with her husband, Charles, a Methodist minister and their children – Hal, Carolyn and the latest addition, two-year-old John Melton.  Time and distance did not permit a visit.  His brother-in-law Robert Daly, Sr. observed in his letters that gasoline rationing now limited most civilians to three gallons a week.

Bishop, who had been at sea for much of the past eight months, was fatigued.  Generally, on his destroyer, the USS Barker, he was on radio duty for four hours on and four hours off around the clock.  He wrote Loudelle that he probably would not try to return home again between sea duty unless he had longer leave time, that the emotional experience of saying good bye to his parents and loved ones, and the coming and going was wearing on him. 

The truth is Bishop’s world had enlarged beyond his childhood home and experiences.  Forty years later he wrote by late 1943, he finally felt at home in the Navy, had learned his job and had some buddies on the USS Barker.  After 2 ½ years in the military, his world had grown larger – numerous trips to the Mediterranean and others up and down the Eastern Seaboard.  He had met persons from all over the United States, persons of different cultures and faiths (or no religious traditions).  For my father and millions of other, the war expanded personal horizons.
Right, Bishop Holliman and his brother Euhal at the Vena Daly home in Irondale, Alabama in 1967. Note the hats worn by men in that era!

His return north-bound train did stop in Attala (Gadsden, Alabama) and his brother Euhal (1912-1989) and his family, wife Edna, and children Jerry, Terry and Anne, turned out in their Sunday best to greet Bishop for the few minutes as passengers got off and on.  My father wrote how touched he was by their short visit.  Euhal, the father of three children and with a fourth on the way (Jean born 1944), was called up for his physical but not conscripted that spring of 1944, probably due to his family responsibilities and his health.  He had suffered debilitating rheumatic fever as a baby.

Below at the home of Bishop Holliman in 1954, Johnson City, Tennessee.  Far left and far right, twins born 1940, Jerry and Terry Holliman, Euhal's sons and middle, left and right, Glenn N. Holliman, b 1946 and Rebecca Holliman Payne, b 1950, all preparing for a game of baseball in the front yard.  Jerry and Terry had traveled with their grandparents from Alabama to visit.  Bishop was a field representative for the Social Security Administration, and made numerous relocations in the 1950s and early 1960s.  We lived in Johnson City from 1952 to 1957.

His brothers Melton and Ralph (stationed in England), both worried Euhal might be drafted and hoped he would not be due to the above noted reasons.  Although 17 years of age separated Melton (b 1908), the oldest son of Ulyss and Pearl Caine Holliman, and Ralph (b 1925), the youngest son, the four brothers were close emotionally.

Their sister Virginia’s husband during that spring, Walter Cornelius in the Army Air Corp was training in Mississippi and Tennessee.  The Holliman family as with millions of others were now dealing with a long war, one that did not yet suggest an end in sight. 

Unknown to the American public, hundreds of thousands of these soldiers, sailors and airmen were about to enter major battles in Southeast Asia (Burma), the Pacific (the invasion of Saipan and the Philippines and for the Holliman sons, France (D-Day and the sweep across France).  Before the summer and fall of 1944 would pass, tens of thousands of American homes would be receiving dreaded telegrams from the War Department announcing the deaths of their sons.

Melton (1908-1958) who wrote daily from England to his wife, Ida (1905-1995), remarked in early April 1944:

“Of course Honey, you know how much I miss you and Patsy, b 1942.  I am glad you have her with you; she is so sweet.  We are fighting for the loved ones at home.  That is the reason we are here. So that she and you can live peacefully, and she can grow up unafraid.”

Above in 1942, Melton and Ida Hughes Holliman.  Melton wrote daily while in the Army to Ida and their young daughter, Patti (whom Melton called Patsy). 

By late May, Melton was complaining that he had moved ten times since arriving in England, that the mail had slowed and that he was stationed at a port (evidently on the English Channel, a jumping off post for the Invasion). Finally, on June 2, 1944 he had received a temporary assignment in his military occupation, a pharmacist.

From finishing his training in January 1944, Melton had been traveling and waiting, moving and waiting, perhaps not realizing that hundreds of thousands of other men also were moving into position for the June 6th Invasion of Europe.  Historians have noted that the U.S. military in England was like a ‘coiled spring’, tightly wound and ready to be unleashed on a Nazi occupied continent.  Melton, Ralph and Bishop were all part of the great enterprise that was about to free western Europe from tyranny. 

Left, Bishop's son, Glenn, b. 1946 passing through the Straits of Gibraltar, October 2018, 75 years after his father made the same journey to the Battle of Sicily, and 74 years after Bishop sailed through on June 5/6, 1944.

The night of June 5, 1944 my father’s destroyer approached the Straits of Gibraltar moving from east to west, once again on convoy duty.  

That day, the U.S. Army liberated Rome.  

The next morning, Bishop Holliman would hear over the ether waves the alert for all U.S. ships that the great invasion of France was on.  He and millions of others hoped against hope that the end of the war was drawing neigh. We know the brutal conflict would continue for another 11 months in Europe and Japan would not surrender until August 1945.

And Melton would be a casualty before the year of 1944 was out.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

An Alabama Family in World War II, Part 40

Three Holliman Sons in Route to the Invasion of Europe
by Glenn N. Holliman

The sons and daughters of Ulyss and Pearl Caine Holliman of Irondale, Alabama wrote hundreds of letters to each other during World War II.  The contents of this correspondence are now a precious history of one family and the travail of that global conflict.  Thanks to the sharing of my cousins and late father, I have scanned and saved them in one folder, available to all descendants. GNH

In early February 1944, Melton P. Holliman (1908-1958) oldest of the seven children of Ulyss and Pearl Caine Holliman of Irondale, Alabama, finished his medical corp training at Camp Barkeley, Texas and traveled three days and four nights by train to Camp Reynolds near Greenville, Pennsylvania.  The huge train had 18 Pullman cars and carried 492 men. 

Below, Bishop and Melton Holliman in 1942, the year before Melton entered the Army at age 35 leaving behind wife Ida and daughter Patti.  Bishop, single, had joined the Navy the month before Pearl Harbor December 1941.

Melton arrived to 18 inches of snow and temperatures as low as 5f, quite a change from the Texas plains where he had spent five months learning to be a soldier in Uncle Sam’s rapidly expanding Army. According to Melton’s very home sick letters, the food was terrible and the weather, for an Alabama native, even more so. 

Camp Reynolds was a way station, a temporary posting for those troops about to be sent to England, an island said to be groaning of the weight of weapons, tanks, an Army Air Corp and a million or so G.I.s.  They were there for the forthcoming invasion of Nazi Europe, to topple Hitler and to liberate a broken Europe. 

Camp Reynolds, Greenville, Pennsylvania was potato field  in 1942.  By 1943, up to 75,000 troops at a time were passing through this replacement center awaiting transfer from training to assignments in either the Pacific or European Theaters.  Today the location is an industrial park, after briefly serving as a P.O.W. camp in 1945/46.

It was ‘hurry up and wait’ until early March 1944 when his group moved near to the transport docks in New York and Brooklyn.  There for yet another three weeks, Melton and many others waited for a ship to take them overseas.  There was leisure to see New York City for the first time and to write home about ‘the most wonderful view I have ever seen’ from atop the Empire State Building and the delicious steaks at Jack Dempsey’s Restaurant.  

He toured the then new Rockefeller Center, home of NBC Radio and Music Hall, and took long walks with his buddies along the side walks of New York, marveling at the diversity and size of the largest city in America. 

Once headed back to the deployment barracks, he marveled that the black soldiers did not sit in the rear of the bus and later that a Negro chaplain had preached to an audience of mainly white troops. 

His younger brother, Ralph (1925-2017) had arrived in England  in the autumn of 1943 after a rough ride on a troop ship over the North At antic.  While he could not tell the folks where he was in England, we now know he was an clerk with a headquarters company of the 9th Army Air Force.  First he was based in Bournemouth near the English Channel and later near Oxford, England.  As duty stations and work went in that WWII Army, Ralph, an enlisted man, all 19 years old, was fortunate to log flights and keep company records of transports, airplanes that on D-Day would haul parachutists to Normandy and later fly supplies to the continent. 

Ralph wrote the folks back in Irondale of his trips to London and seeing Big Ben, Parliament, Buckingham Palace and other sights. He promised to take his young wife Motie to see the same some day (and he did so decades later).

Right, Ralph in 1941, age 16.  

For my father, Bishop (1919-2018), he spent most of the winter of 1944 at sea on the USS Barker, Destroyer 213, a radioman who listened for German U-Boats signals.  Christmas 1943 was spent at sea, and again in January convoy duty took him from Norfolk to Africa and Bay of Biscay and then back to Boston. 

He wrote “Our mission was to sink subs but as far as I know we didn’t sink any.  However, there aren’t that many left out there.  We had several exciting experiences and one or two narrow escapes.  All in all, it was a rough trip, and I am certainly glad it is over.”

Above, Bishop in Boston on liberty at the Bunker Hill Monument.

After ten days off the New England coast for sea trials and firing practice, it was back to Norfolk and another convoy in mid-February, this time to the Mediterranean to escort supply ships for General Mark Clark’s Army which was slowly pushing up the mountainous terrain of Central Italy. 

For Melton, classified a pharmacist now making $80 a month, almost all sent home to Ida and Patti, he wrote that he had a job to do and the sooner he got to it, the sooner the war would be over. 

“I hear the Allies bombed Rome and the monastery (Monte Cassino).  They shouldn’t have waited so long to do it.”

March 29, 1944 Melton sent a V-Mail that he had arrived in England.  Now three sons of Ulyss and Pearl were in the European Theater and the invasion of France was only months away.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Well Nigh Fifty Years On

by Glenn N. Holliman

A half century has passed, fifty turns around the sun and now all seven children of Ulyss and Pearl Caine Holliman are gone.  This family, founded by a 1907 union of a 23 year old young man and a 19 year old girl, both of a rural Alabama county, both the children of farmers, led to 18 grandchildren who scattered across Alabama and America.  And so many great grandchildren that this writer cannot catalog them all.

The picture below was taken at a July 1968 family reunion on the front steps of the Irondale, Alabama 'White House' constructed in 1946 by Robert W. and Vena Holliman Daly.  Vena had long been anxious for a larger home than the one her family occupied for many years in the 2300 3rd Avenue North block, on the hill overlooking the railroad yards of  Irondale, Alabama.

Left to right, first row: Virginia Holliman Cornelius, Robert W. Daly, Jr. holding his niece, Suzanne Herrin Wilder, on his lap, Carol Cornelius Morton and her husband, Carl Blomstran.

Second row: Walter Cornelius, E.C. Herrin holding the youngest person attending, his son David, Mary Daly Herrin, Carol Daly (Bob's wife) and Gerry Holliman (wife of Bishop Holliman).

Third row: Euhal Holliman and Motie Holliman (wife of Ralph Holliman).

Fourth row: Glenn Holliman, his wife, Lynn, Ralph Holliman, Vena Holliman Daly, Clayton Herrin, 
Loudelle Holliman Ferrell and her husband, Charles, and Bishop Holliman.

Fifth row: Jean Holliman, Tommie Holliman Allen, Alice Holliman Murphy, Linda Herrin Bradley, Becky Holliman Payne, Kathy Holliman, Susan Cornelius Williams.

Back Row: George Hairston holding daughter Holly; Patti Holliman Hairston.

The location chosen for the new house was inside the Irondale city limits adjacent to U.S. Highway 78, the 4-lane road from Birmingham to Atlanta.  Within a generation land beside this busy highway became so valuable that developers acquired the house and lot in the late 1960s, removed the house and stately oak trees and put up a business office complex.  Today the United Methodist Church borders part of the old property line.

After the untimely death of Robert W. Daly, Sr. in 1959, Vena eventually accepted a position as matron of an University of Alabama sorority (later also at the University of Mississippi). Vena's daughter Mary and son-in-law and E.C. Herrin, and their growing family of four children moved into the home.

The year 1968 was a benchmark in American history and my personal story.  The Vietnam War was dividing the nation as over 500,000 US troops were trying to subdue a communist nationalist movement, a civil war, in Southeast Asia.  An average of 500 American men were dying a week as a result of an aggressive North Vietnamese Tet Offensive attack. The presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson floundered and collapsed as a result of the stalemate and cost in blood and treasure.

At home the Civil Rights movement climaxed with African-Americans gaining long deferred rights to vote and utilize public accommodations such as restaurants and hotels.  The cultural upheaval stressed the social fabric of the nation, especially the Deep South.  Dr. Martin Luther King, the non-violent, but confrontational leader, was assassinated by a white man that April and as a  result many inner cities in the country were torched by black angry mobs.

A Democratic candidate to replace Johnson in the presidency, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, a brother of the assassinated president John F. Kennedy, was himself murdered by a Palestinian immigrant in Los Angeles in June.  It seemed the nation was tearing itself apart with violence, both home and abroad.

A 21-year old Glenn N. Holliman, son of Bishop and Geraldine Stansbery Holliman, graduated from Tennessee Tech that June, along with his young wife, Lynn.  Within a week, a draft notice arrived from my Gadsden, Alabama board calling me to take a physical in Montgomery to ascertain if I was fit to join Uncle Sam's Army.

So, off to Alabama I went in July.  As my Uncle Ralph and Aunt Motie and their daughter Kathy, residents of Atlanta, were visiting Birmingham, my parents and sisters, Becky and Alice, headed south from Tennessee to join a family gathering that Mary Daly Herrin arranged in Irondale.

I have found only one other photograph of the July 1968 event and that is a table groaning with fried chicken, potato salad and ice tea.  Vena is identifiable in picture in a black dress and white ribbon.  Holly Hairston (Melton Holliman's grand daughter) in the foreground is facing toward the table and Loudelle is partially visible on the left.

I don't remember much about this reunion because of my personal emotional trauma.  By August, I was at Ft. Benning, Georgia and, after short stops at Ft. Dix, New Jersey and Ft. Hamilton, New York, by January 31, 1969, arrived in Vietnam.  My new home for a year was the 1st Infantry Division, forty some odd miles north of Saigon.

1968, a year in which it can be said America had a nervous breakdown, families such as this one still gathered and celebrated their loving relationships and common heritage.  At Christmas that year, three American astronauts in Apollo 8 circled the moon providing a smoothing balm to a horrendous twelve months.  And that was the year McDonalds introduced the iconic Big Mac hamburger (hmm, a plus or minus for the American waistline?).

Eventually the Vietnam War ended, African-Americans began playing football for Auburn and Alabama, air-conditioning proved ubiquitous in the South and families still gathered for festivals and funerals.  Six of the seven children of Ulyss and Pearl rendezvoused in Irondale that July 1968 and forthcoming decades.  (Melton, the first born, had died in 1958.)

Now I am age 71 (gasp).  This summer of 2018, Bishop, my father died at age 98, and the children of that 1907 marriage are no more with us.  But of course the seven still are....with us.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Passing of a Generation, Part 3

The Formal Obituary of Homer Bishop Holliman, 1919-2018

Homer Bishop Holliman, 98, passed away June 9, 2018, after a short illness in Cookeville, Tennessee.  Bishop Holliman was born in Irondale, Alabama, December 17, 1919, to Ulyss and Pearl Caine Holliman. 

He was preceded in death by his three wives, Geraldine Stansbery Holliman Feick, mother of his three children; Anne McLaughlin Holliman and Ellen Parks Cox Holliman.  Also, he was preceded in death by his brothers and sisters, Melton, Vena, Euhal, Loudelle, Virginia and Ralph.

Right in 1965, Euhal, Vena, Bishop, Loudelle and Ralph.  Below with his father, Ulyss (1884-1965).

He was a graduate of Shades Cahaba High School, Birmingham-Southern College, B.A., and the University of Alabama, M.Ed. 

He served from 1941-1945 in the U.S. Navy on destroyers in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean as a radioman listening for Nazi U-Boats. He was at the 1943 Invasion of Sicily in 1943 and escorted transports in the English Channel after the D-Day Invasion. In 2015 he was a member of a World War II Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.

After the war, he taught school for six years in Homewood, Alabama.

His career with the Social Security Administration began in 1952 in Birmingham, Alabama.  He worked in Johnson City, Tennessee; Columbia, South Carolina; Florence, South Carolina; Gadsden, Alabama and Cookeville, Tennessee where he served as manager of the SSA District office from 1964 to 1983.  He received two commissioners’ awards for Outstanding Service from Elliott Richardson, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and from Robert Ball, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. 

Mr. Holliman was a lifelong member of the United Methodist Church and was active in church and civic affairs in Cookeville including president of Rotary Club, the United Way, the Red Cross, and the Regional Library Board and was a longtime member of the Friendship Sunday School Class of FUMC. He was a Paul Harris Fellow of the Cookeville Rotary Club.  He helped in preservation of the railroad depot and its conversion into a railroad museum.  For many years he wrote a column entitled “Aunt Polly” for the Cookeville Dispatch. Upon his retirement from the SSA, he was a columnist for the Cookeville Herald-Citizen and was a regular contributor to the HighBaller, a publication of the Depot Museum.

Survivors: Mr. Holliman is survived by three children, Glenn N. Holliman (Barbara) of Newport, PA; Rebecca Holliman Payne (Paul) of Cookeville, Tennessee and Alice Holliman Murphy (Bill) of Trophy Club, Texas.  He is also survived by eight grandchildren: Grace Holliman, Bryan Payne, Erin Murphy Hensley, Chris Holliman, Jonathan Murphy, Allison Payne Mahan, Patrick Murphy and Sean Murphy and eighteen great-grandchildren; Will, Holly, Drew, Camille, Juliana, Heidi, Macy, Josalyn, Zachary, Katie Grace, Abel, Raimey, Derek, John, Jake, Killian, Ashton and Mia.
Christmas, 2017 in Cookeville, Tennessee, Bishop seated is surrounded by his children, many grandchildren and great grandchildren, the last group photograph made.  He is wearing his World War II cap.  This picture was made at the Cookeville Train Depot which he helped finance.
In addition, Lori Griggs and Logan McClain, caregivers for Mr. Holliman in his last months are recognized for their dedication and many kindnesses, as well as the staff at Heritage Point.

Many of the writings of H. Bishop Holliman, his memories of Irondale, Alabama in the 1930s, his war memoirs and reflections on life can be found at www.bholliman.com, a virtual archives of Holliman and associated family manuscripts and papers.  - Glenn N. Holliman

The Passing of a Generation, Part 2

Further Reflections on the Passing of My Father, 
H. Bishop Holliman, 1919-2018
by Glenn N. Holliman

In 1919, when my father first saw daylight, the victorious allies of World War I forced a revengeful Treaty of Versailles on a defeated Germany.  That same year an angry and disgruntled 28 year-old German army veteran of that War to End All Wars joined the fledgling National Socialist party in Munich.  Adolph Hitler’s acquisition of power in 1933 would eventually turn my Father’s life upside down, as it did hundreds of millions of others around the world. 

The 1920 Federal Census reported that for the first time a majority of Americans no longer lived on a farm but made their lives and daily bread in a town or city.  As with millions of others, the trajectory of the Holliman family in the early 1900s was in the direction of urban life. 

Part of farm life continued into Alabama urban areas.  Here ca 1921, Bishop plays in the family chicken yard.  He is still in ‘baby clothes’.  The family raised chickens for decades and for a time in the late 1930s had a milk cow. 

As normal for many Americans of the time, Bishop’s parents, Ulyss and Pearl Caine Holliman, had only sixth and eighth grade educations from a rural county school.  However, thanks to the move to Irondale, Alabama during World War I, the educations attained by their children would make an incredible difference in their lives and those of the grandchildren, i.e. yours truly.

May 1921 Ulyss Holliman contracted for $2,000 a six room, 28ft by 42ft unpainted house to be constructed at 2300 3rd Avenue North on a large hill lot in the E.N. Montgomery sub-division.  The plot overlooked the busy railroad yard and tracks that dominated the central corridor of Irondale. 

Above, left to right, six of the seven children of Ulyss and Pearl Caine Holliman - Vena, Euhal, Loudelle, Melton holding Virginia and Bishop in front, ca 1923 before Ralph was born in 1925.  Both Melton and Euhal in knickers and caps.  Vena in her Sunday best. My father is wearing a hat held down by Euhal, and carries a stick and wears white short pants.

It was the existence of the railroad that had led the Hollimans to Irondale Pearl’s father, William Lee Caine, from Fayette County took a job as a watchman for the railroad and moved his wife Lula Hocutt Caine and daughter Vista to this new community, only a few decades old.  A short time later, perhaps 1917, Pearl’s family followed as did her other sister, Maude Caine Cook and her family.

The all-wooden house was wired for that new marvel of that generation – electricity – but alas not running water or an indoor bathroom.  Such would be added in 1936.  Until then the family heated water in a huge cast iron pot every Saturday night and took a bath as my father said  ‘whether we needed it or not’.  As Irondale had suffered a devastating tornado in the early 1900s, my grandfather built a simple earth shelter into the side of the hill.  Fortunately, it was never needed, and it eventually collapsed.

Below the house at 2300 3rd Avenue North, Irondale, Alabama in 2013.

My grandfather caught the bus, later the street car, for the short ride to Birmingham to work six days a week, from the family home in Irondale, Alabama.  Later thanks to the Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, Ulyss’s work week was reduced to forty hours.  My branch of the Holliman families were Republicans, unusual for the times in the Deep South.  

Ironically, although opposed to most of the domestic programs of the 1930s Democratic administration, few persons benefited more from Federal programs than did my grandfather and father – for example, Social Security, labor unions, paid vacations, public works and college work programs.

As the fifth child of seven, my father grew up surrounded by siblings in a religious home.  His parents raised the children in a conservative Methodist tradition, prohibited dancing, card playing, alcoholic beverages and insisted on weekly attendance at church, often twice on Sunday. 

Below the family ca 1924 in a highly productive garden.  Cousin James Cook has joined the photograph, probably taken by Ulyss Holliman.  

The family did purchase a radio in 1929.  Bishop remembered his Mother allowed him to stay home from school to listen to the inaugural speech of President Herbert Hoover that year.  

The Hoover years were cursed with the Great Depression, the central reality of my father’s adolescence in the 1930s.  In 1933 Hitler became chancellor of Germany and by 1941, Dad was in the U.S. Navy and once again the United States was in a World War.

For several years I have been writing the history of this Alabama family before and during World War II.  The stories of Bishop, his parents, siblings, in-laws and the children to come are articulated at this blog site.  If I live long enough and my mind stays clear, I hope to carry on these stories into the post war years. The formal obituary of my father is contained in the next article on the Passing of this Generation. - GNH

An Alabama Family in World War II, Part 39

Melton Pearson Holliman’s Difficult War
by Glenn N. Holliman

My Uncle Melton died early in 1958, age only 49, prematurely taken by heart disease.  He was a pharmaceutical salesman in 1943, having learned his craft while working in his Uncle Floyd Caine’s drug store in the late 1920s.  Melton was the first born of Ulyss and Pearl Caine Holliman’s seven children, and the first to pass away. 

Another three decades would elapse before another child of my grandparents would leave this world, this being my Uncle Euhal Holliman in 1989. According to his daughter Tommie Holliman Allen, Euhal also had heart issues, complicated by rheumatic fever contracted when a child.  This chronic condition, plus being the father of four children, kept Euhal from being drafted during World War II.

The draft by 1943 was reaching deeper and deeper into the available pool of able-bodied American males.  That August, Melton, age 35, was inducted into the Army at Ft. McClellan, Georgia and within a month was shipped to Camp Barkeley, Texas for basic and advanced training.  From September to February 1944, except for a six-day furlough in January 1944, he slogged through first the dust and then the mud of this hastily established military facility on the Texas plains. 

Left, Melton in uniform; note the medical corp insignia on his collar.  This picture suggests a physical resemblance to World War II swing band leader, Glenn Miller.

Melton’s letters home, which I have used to construct this narrative, are poignant, expressing the homesickness of almost every G.I. caught up in the maelstrom of World War II.  My uncle had additional reasons to pen moving words back to Alabama.  

He and his wife of eleven years, Ida Hughes Holliman, had adopted in April 1943, a curly haired, red-headed bundle of joy, an infant daughter, Patti (whom Melton called Patsy).  Melton was to miss the critical, unrecoverable months of Patti beginning to walk, talk and capture the hearts of the entire Holliman clan.

“Christmas Morning, December 25, 1943

My Dearest Precious Ones,

There is a lot I could write this morning, but it would make me bluer and I know you’d be blue when you read it….so I won’t do it.  Deep down in your heart you probably know how I feel.

I spent all of yesterday in the hut.  Did not even go to the PX after I called you.  It rained most of the day and the mud was awful.  We will have our Christmas dinner at 1 pm.  Will have turkey and all the trimmings.  The mess hall is gaily decorated in ‘Xmas’ tree and everything. 

Last night after we went to bed the choir from our chapel came through the company streets singing Christmas songs.  There were about 50 soldiers in the choir…the singing was beautiful.  Before we retired, all of us in the hut sang songs.  I was a half way leader of the singing.

Above, Melton, back row, second from right, and his fellow troops.  Note the tar paper huts, constructed in 1940.  The camp once held 50,000 trainees before closing in April 1945 near the end of the war.  No doubt these are the fellow homesick soldiers who joined in the singing on Christmas eve.

I heard this morning that we were to finish up here entirely January 15th.  I am still classified a pharmacist. 

I hope you enjoy your Christmas party at Moma’s.  I sure wish I could be there with you.  I am not on KP today.  The Jewish boys were put on; I think that was fair enough.  They don’t observe Christmas.  

Baby, my prayer is that next Christmas we can be together…so I hope you had a Merry Xmas and I love you very, very much.  Melton”

Left, Patti Holliman (Hairston) and her first cousin, John Melton Ferrell, third child of Charles and Loudelle Holliman Ferrell, 1943.

Sadly, Melton would not be home for Christmas in 1944. In late autumn, he was evacuated from his medical unit in France and  hospitalized in England for high blood pressure and other unspecified ailments  December 1944.  He later was shipped home and reunited with his wife and child in the winter 1945.  Apparently, this serious episode was the first manifestation of a heart condition that would later take his life prematurely.

Below, the training schedule for part of December 1943 at Camp Barkeley, near Abilene, Texas.

Living in the barracks required a strict regimen of tidiness and hygiene as the demerit list indicates!

Next posting more on an Alabama family engulfed in World War II and how their lives were forever changed.....

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Passing of a Generation, Part 1

The last child of Ulyss and Pearl Caine Holliman has Passed, and the Greatest Generation comes to an End
By Glenn N. Holliman

My father, Homer Bishop Holliman, left picture 2002, born December 17, 1919, breathed his last at 3:10 p.m. on Saturday, June 9, 2018.  He was surrounded at his Cookeville, Tennessee hospital bed by his three children – Becky, Alice and yours truly.  And my two children, Grace and Chris and Becky’s son, Bryan.  His last illness was only a few days and mercifully largely free of pain and discomfort.

My Dad lived through 40% of the history of the United States, his days largely spent in the 2oth Century America.  A prolific writer, he recorded stories of his family, his growing up in Alabama and his observations on the time and culture in which he moved and had his being.

His parents, Ulyss and Pearl, born respectively in 1884 and 1888 in rural Fayette County, Alabama, were descendants of 17th century immigrants from the British Isles.  In 1836, my branch of the Hollimans migrated to west Alabama from the Carolina's.

Dad’s grandfather, John Thomas Holliman, 1844-1930, photo right 1900, fought in seven major battles for the Confederacy in the 1860s serving under Braxton Bragg, James Longstreet and Robert E. Lee.  He returned home in 1865, became a ‘dirt farmer’, had six sons, the last being Ulyss.  My father knew his grandfather and remembered him as a tall ancient man, thin with a long white beard.  John Thomas Holliman was almost illiterate and died a year before his wife, Martha Jane Walker.  My great grandmother’s father, Samuel Walker, experienced the three days at Gettysburg and the siege of Petersburg, including the tragedy at the Crater.

Ulyss married Pearl Elmer Caine, a neighboring girl, when she was 18 around 1906.  (Pictured below in 1945.) He is listed in the 1910 census as a farmer.  Soon the children began to appear – Melton in 1908, Vena in 1909, Euhal in 1912 and Loudelle in 1914.  Some time in those years, the family left the farm and moved to the village of Fayette.  There Ulyss found employment in the local lumber mill.

Their world was rapidly changing – oil lamps were giving way to electric lights and horses to motorized carriages.  And 50 or so miles away by railroad, a ‘magic’ city, powered by coal, limestone, iron ore and northern capital, was growing rapidly offering economic opportunity and a way for a father to better support his four children.  So in 1917, this Holliman family moved to a suburb of Birmingham – Irondale -  a railroad switching yard for a growing number of freight and passenger trains that tied an emerging southern economy to a more financially robust America.

Before long, three additional children came along – Bishop in 1919, Virginia in 1922 and Ralph in 1925.  Pearl was 37 and Ulyss 41, when their family was complete.  Ulyss, good with his hands, took employment as a carpenter with the Birmingham Electric Company, a corporation which ran the municipal street car line.  When my grandfather was born, there were no street cars in Birmingham and when he died in 1965, there were no street cars.  But in between these technological eras, he worked 32 years repairing the wooden cars and supporting a family of nine persons.

That move from the land, where countless ancestors had toiled, to a newly industrialized urban area changed everything for my father’s generation.  As President Franklin Roosevelt remarked in the 1930s, this generation had a rendezvous with destiny, and so it was to be.

Continued soon to Part 2….