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Category: Letters

Letter from Johnson Franklin Cunningham

Posted in Family Biographies/Histories, Letters, and Primary Sources: Letters, Documents, Diaries, Histories

Johnson Franklin Cunningham, pictured below with my great-great grandfather Amos Blakey Cunningham, sent the letter that follows to Amos’s daughter Dessie Cunningham Gray. I think it could mean a great deal to an African-American family if I only knew how to get the information to that family. If anyone knows of a good place to send this letter that might help it get into the right hands, please let me know. I have written about Johnson Franklin Cunningham in previous posts:

Johnson Franklin Cunningham and Amos Blakey Cunningham

Lexington, Georgia

Rte. 2 Box 8

Sept. 13, 1952

Mrs. John R. Gray

Pampa, Texas

Dear Mrs. Gray:

Your letter has been received. I was happy to know that you all arrived safe and that your father made the trip just fine.

I too was sorry I did not get to see you all again before you left for Texas, however, I am hoping that you can make a trip back to Georgia again soon.

Thanks very much for sending the pictures. I have enjoyed looking at them. I shall pray continually for your boy and all others that are in Korea.

I am inclosing a copy from those papers in this letter that you want.

Best wishes to your father.


J.F. Cunningham

The pages that follow appear to be a record of slave and free births in his family and are not in an order that was discernible to me, but may make sense to someone who knows more about the family.


Isabel child of Tillis was born on the 8th day of July 1856

Alford child of Tillis was born on the 29th of June 1858

Eliza Ann child of Charlotty was born on the 5th day of April 1859

George Alexander child of Charlotty was born on Monday the 12th of November 1860

Louisa child of Charlotty was born the 7th of December 1862

Hal child of Tillis was born on the [blank space] of June 1860

Green child of Conelia was born on the 14th day of August 1862

Lucy child of Elizabeth was born on the 23rd day of April 1862

Isaah child of Tillis was born on the 4th October 1862

Warren child of Conelia was born on the [missing word] of Jan. 1864

John Washington child of Thena [unsure if that is the correct name; handwriting difficult to decipher] was born on the 1st day of March 1865

Green Terrel of Franklin County was born on the 19th day of October 1829

Correy Isibel child of Kidy was born 1st day of September 1872

Mandy child of Kidy was born the 15th September 1874

Dewit Clinton child of Kidy was born on the 1st day of Oct. 1877

Samuel Terrel Sherman child of Green T. Conelser [handwriting difficult to read] Terrel was was born on 31st day of January 1871

Thomas child of Tom T. Julian was born on Tuesday the 8th day of Oct. 1867

John Henry child of Tom T. Julian was born on the 16th October 1869

Susan Anna child of Latty was born on the 22nd day of March 1874

William Robertson child of Julian Anna Tom was born on 30th day of June 1874

Clarinda Allin child of Latty T. Tom was born 26th day of April 1878

Mandy child of Charlotty was born on the 13th day of September 1864

Martha child of Henrietta was born on the 25 day of April 1865

Johnson Franklin child of Charlotty was born on Saturday the 17th day of July 1868

S. Elizabeth child of Sarah T. Robert was born on Monday night the 7th of December 1868

James William Rufus child of Henrietta was born on the 14th of January 1867

John Terrel child of Conelia Ann Warren was born on the 27th of January 1868

Eddy child of Sarah T. Robert was born on the 25 day of June 1865

Rolley James Franklin child of Sara T. Robert was born on the 25th December 1866

Charlotty (or Charlotte), Henrietta, and Elizabeth are sisters, the daughter of a woman named Louiza, and all are mentioned in the will of Barbara Williams, November 5, 1850, along with their brother Robert. Barbara Williams owned them and left them to her niece Mary Anne Penelope Anthony in her will. Later, Mary Anne Penelope Anthony would marry Johnson Franklin Cunningham, for whom the writer of the letter quote above was presumably named. Thus, the slaves passed from the Williams to the Anthony to the Cunningham family. Johnson Franklin Cunningham concludes his letter as follows:

My father was a bought slave from Toll Goolsby. His name is James Tolbert Cunningham. You’ll know my family by the name of my mother’s name Charlotty.

My name Johnson Franklin child of Charlotty was born on Saturday the 17th day of July 1868

I was able to discover a great deal about Johnson Franklin Cunningham with some detective work (see the posts I linked at the beginning of this one). I had narrowed his birthdate down to some time between June 11 and October 13, 1868. Also, I was able to deduce his mother was Charlotte and that his father, James, might not have been owned by the Cunninghams. However, I think J. F. Cunningham could be indicating here that his father was bought by the Cunninghams from a man named Toll Goolsby and thus not part of the existing Cunningham family. I believe Toll Goolsby may be Toliver B. Goolsby, who is listed in the 1860 Slave Schedules for Oglethorpe County, Georgia.

Letter from Gertrude Perkins Gearhart Lightle to Daughter Bessie, April 6, 1940

Posted in Letters, Photographs, and Primary Sources: Letters, Documents, Diaries, Histories

My cousin Dara sent scans of the following letter from my great-grandmother, Gertrude Nettie Perkins Gearhart Lightle.  I have discussed her story previously on this blog.

Kiona, WA

April 6, 1940

Dear Bessie,

I was sure glad to hear from you again. I looked in vain for a letter all winter.

I have been sick so much but did not go to bed as I had too much to do.

Alice and her baby were here after she left the hospital [Gertrude’s daughter Alice]. She was too weak to do anything for quite a while, then the baby got sick, too. He just began to get better when Tom came home from PWA camp sick with the “flu.” He took that & was a very sick baby. They went home with him so they took care of him, but I took it too.

I  was in bed off and on for a month, then I began to be bothered with my eyes & they are bad yet. I wear glasses to read or sew, but I couldn’t do either one for several weeks. Now I can only read a few minutes at a time.

I am glad you [sic] Mother Zeiglar is better. I think of her so often.

Now for your questions.

  1. You were born in Metaline, Pend O’Reile Co. Washington [Pend Oreille County] March the 26-27 or maybe 28th 1924. I have forgotten the exact day, but you have that already.
  2. My maiden name was Gertrude Nettie Perkins.
  3. I was born at Hector, Minnesota September 13, 1887.
  4. Your fathers [sic] name was Omar Alfred Gearhart born in Iowa (I don’t know what town) February 29, 1884.
  5. [Omar Alfred Gearhart] Died in Spokane, Washington December 29, 1930 age 46.

I never had a birth certificate for you.

Your father was Holland Dutch decent [sic] [actually Pennsylvania Dutch, or German] and his ancestors settled in the Ohio Valley. If you will write to Grandma Gearhart she can tell you more than I can. Mrs G.D. Gearhart Box 196- Maxwell, Iowa.

I am English on my fathers [sic] side. His folks settled in Virginia shortly after the Revolutionary War and were English Quakers. My mother’s folks were Scotch & Irish & one Great-great-grandmother on her fathers [sic] side was English, named Smith.

Granny’s father came to this country before the Civil War & settled in Wisconsin. His name was Montgomery & his wife’s name was MacGregor, both scotch [sic]. My uncle Sherm Young at 1320 So. 7th Street in Yakima can tell you about them.

You had mumps and chicken-pox and no real accidents & was never inside of a hospital while I had you.

I had 13 children, one was still-born (dead) and one premature as far as I know [word missing] are 11 living.

The one[s?] born dead were never named. The others are:–

John Douglas Dec 25, 1911
Ruth Isabelle Apr 9 1913
Eva Marie Aug 13 1914
Jessie Nadine, Apr 6, 1916
Alice Gertrude, Nov 23, 1918
Donald Omar, July 11, 1920
Edwin Guy, Dec 29, 1921 [my grandfather]
Frank Manley, July 12, 1923
Bessie Louise, Mar 27, 1924
Margery Feb 2 1927
Alfred Aug 5 1929

Do you know whether Margery is adopted or not? I forgot to ask them when I was up there.

Lots of love & kisses,

Your [missing word]

It’s important to know the family background in order to put this letter in context, and the story I linked at the beginning of this post is the best place to start. Until this week, I had never seen a photo of my great-grandmother. Within the space of two days, I have received two different photos from two cousins and an additional photo of Omar Alfred Gearhart, my great-grandfather.

This first image depicts Omar Gearhart with his brothers John and Earl:

Omar, John, and Earl Gearhart

This image is of Omar Gearhart and his wife Gertrude Nettie Perkins with their oldest child John Douglas (circa 1912):

Omar Gearhart, Gertrude Nettie Perkins Gearhart, and John Douglas Gearhart

This final picture is of Gertrude Nettie Perkins Gearhart, her mother Isabell Lowe (sometimes listed as Mary Isabell, Mary Isabelle, or Isabell M. on the census; Lowe is the surname of her second husband, Guy Lowe), and Isabell’s mother Ophelia McKilrick (name unverified) with John Douglas Gearhart in 1912:

Gertrude Nettie Perkins Gearhart, Isabell Lowe, and Ophelia McKilrick with John Douglas Gearhart

Herman Cunningham: World War I

Posted in Family Biographies/Histories, Genealogy and History, Letters, and Primary Sources: Letters, Documents, Diaries, Histories

Herman Cunningham, WWIMy great-grandfather Herman Cunningham served in the Army during WWI. Thanks to Randy Seaver, I recently learned how to obtain his service records (for free!), but I also learned that there was a fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missiouri in 1973 that destroyed the records of Army personnel discharged from November 1, 1912 to January 1, 1960. According to NARA’s website:

No duplicate copies of the records that were destroyed in the fire were maintained, nor was a microfilm copy ever produced. There were no indexes created prior to the fire. In addition, millions of documents had been lent to the Department of Veterans Affairs before the fire occurred. Therefore, a complete listing of the records that were lost is not available. Nevertheless, NPRC (MPR) uses many alternate sources in its efforts to reconstruct basic service information to respond to requests.

What this means is that I may be able to obtain some information about my great-grandfather’s service, but probably not much. However, considering I was never able to ask my great-grandfather, I know a good deal about his WWI experience — my grandfather has shared it with me.

My Dad was drafted in WWI and was sent to Camp McArthur near Waco, Tex. for training. He was sent to Camp Dix in New Jersey where he was then sent to Newport News, Virginia where he was shipped on a boat to St. Nazairre [St. Nazaire], France.

My grandfather’s cousin Mary Davis sent me this picture of my great-grandfather (on right) with John Roy McCravey of Floydada, Texas (left):

John Roy McCravey (Floydada, TX) and Herman Cunningham (Whitfield, TX)

I am not sure who John Roy McCravey is, but I speculate that perhaps they had their photo taken because they were from the same general area of Texas. At the time this photo was taken, Mary Davis noted that Herman Cunningham was from Whitfield, Swisher County, Texas. Floydada, where John Roy McCravey was from, is located in Floyd County. If any of his descendants happen by here, I would love to hear from you.

According to my grandfather,

Dad hadn’t been there [France] long when he contracted meningitis. At that time there was no cure for meningitis. They were sent to a church (French) for care until they died. As you mentioned, only Dad and another soldier (Negro) from Little Rock survived. When Dad left the hospital he was returned to a “replacement depot.” The war was over so it was merely awaiting a ship for home. Well, Dad came down with the mumps. He turned up his coat collar and wouldn’t go to the medics for fear they would put him in the hospital again — The ship took them back to Virginia and then by train — home.

I managed to find a copy of my great-grandfather’s WWI Draft Registration Card on, but the quality is poor and it is difficult to read:

Herman Cunningham, WWI Draft Registration Card

The Card had the following information:

Name: Herman Cunningham
Age: 22
Address: Clarendon, Texas
Date of Birth: Mch. 16, 1895
Natural born
Place of Birth: Denton Co., Texas
Occupation: Farmer
Employed by: Self
Where employed: Donley Co.
No dependents
Marital status: Single
Race: Caucasian
No prior military experience
Did not claim exemption from service
Medium height
Medium build
Blue eyes
Brown hair
Not bald
No loss of hand, foot, eye, both eyes or other disability
Precinct: 2
County: Donley
State: Texas
Dated: 6/5/1918

The information presented on this card would seem to indicate that Herman Cunningham was living not in Swisher County, but Donley County at the time of his induction. You can click here to see a map of Texas counties that will show you how close Swisher, Donley, and Floyd Counties are.

My grandfather related a funny story about my great-grandfather’s trip home:

The train had a lay-over in New Orleans so Dad was able to try fried oysters. He had heard his buddies talk about how much they wanted to eat oysters. The waiter asked how many oysters he wanted. Well, Dad didn’t have a clue what an oyster was so he said “a couple dozen.” That was two plates piled high. Poor Dad got very sick after eating them. To his dying day he never ate another oyster.

Years later, my great-uncle Alvin Cunningham (Herman’s son) would enter the Army and fight in WWII. Here is a picture of my great-grandfather Herman Cunningham in his WWI Army uniform, posing with his son Alvin in his WWII Army uniform:

Herman Cunningham and Alvin Cunningham, 1942?

I found Alvin’s WWII Army Enlistment Record at

Name: Alvin H. Cunningham
Birth year: 1921
Race: White, citizen
Nativity State or Country: Texas
State: Texas
County or City: Floyd
Enlistment Date: 10 Oct 1940
Enlistment State: Texas
Enlistment City: Fort Bliss El Paso
Branch: No branch assignment
Branch code: No branch assignment
Grade: Private
Grade code: Private
Term of enlistment: Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law
Component: Selectees (Enlisted Men)
Source: Civil Life
Education: 2 years of high school
Civil occupation: Geographer
Marital status: Married
Height: 00
Weight: 060

Clearly the height and weight are mistranscribed or an original error, but I think the rest of it is correct. According to my grandfather:

I just read your comments on the web sites and wish to add to your data. Mostly trivia — Alvin didn’t go to France. He went to the Pacific theatre of operations. He was in the “Americal” division as an assistant machine gunner. When they were in combat on Negros Island a mortar shell landed near their gun emplacement and killed the gunner and an ammo carrier. Alvin being the assistant gunner took over as gunner. He was injured by the blast but could function. He was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart that day. When the war ended he went to the Tokyo area of Japan and served the 1st Cavalry Division in the motor pool as a mechanic. Alvin was a very quiet person and seldom discussed his war experiences.

While Alvin’s war record is somewhat unrelated to the post at hand, I will probably not have occasion to post it elsewhere. My mother told me that Alvin used to come and visit my grandfather (his brother) often. The two of them would sit in silence for most of the visit until Alvin would announce he’d better go. I think it is interesting that they felt so comfortable in their silence. Alvin died very young of a brain aneurysm, so I never had a chance to meet him, but based on my grandfather’s letters, I believe that he looked up to his older brother a great deal and that they were close.

If I am able to learn anything more about my great-grandfather’s service record, I will post it here.

Portions of this post quote a letter from my grandfather:

Cunningham, Udell. Letter to the author. July 2006.

Letter From Udell Cunningham, July 2006 Part 3: Generals in the Family

Posted in Family Biographies/Histories, Letters, and Primary Sources: Letters, Documents, Diaries, Histories

Doris [my grandmother] has two relatives that reached the General ranks in the Air Force. She had a cousin in Ardmore named Jack Thurman. He was in the Seabees during WW2 and was a 2nd Class Petty Officer. He had two sons that went to West Point Military Academy. One of the boys reached Brigadier General. He was the commander of Zweibrucken AB Germany when Wayne [my uncle] was stationed there. The other one reached Major General. Wayne has a book written by a (now deceased) General that was the first commander of Space Command at Colorado Springs. Well, in his book he told how General Thurman was used as the pit bull of the Air Force. If the Air Force had a base commander that the gen. staff at the Pentagon wasn’t pleased with they sent Thurman to the base. He would go there and find enough to fire the commander. What a job. I knew old Jack, he was a butcher at a grocery store. He must really be proud of his sons to make flag rank (general or admiral).

Note: You can read more about Major General James D. Thurman, one of the men referenced in this section of my grandfather’s letter, at his Ft. Hood, Texas biography page. He is currently — I believe — Commander of the Multinational Division, Baghdad, commanding 29,000 troops from all nations allied with America and fighting in Iraq. He is not in the Air Force, but rather the Army. An informative article, Why I Serve: Maj. Gen. J.D. Thurman, helps unravel more details about Maj. Gen. Thurman’s background:

Major General James D. ThurmanFORT HOOD, Texas, Aug. 26, 2004 — “I came from a very patriotic family,” explained Maj. Gen. J.D. Thurman on why he joined the Army.

“When I was just a little guy, I remember going to Memorial Day with my grandfather, a World War I vet, and the whole town would turn out,” recalled the commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division. “He didn’t talk much about being in war, and he didn’t ask for medals or recognition. He made me realize early in life that the liberties and freedom we enjoy are not free.”

In the northwest corner of Thurman’s office, a rubber chicken hangs on a polished wooden plaque. The message is simple: “There ain’t no free chicken in the world, you’ve got to work for stuff.”

He said the quote represents a lesson he learned from his grandfather during his upbringing in the rural Oklahoma town of Marietta, population 3,000.

Framed flags, certificates, awards and photographs cover the walls of his office; memorabilia from almost three decades of service to his country.

“There are memories and people attached to everything on these walls,” Thurman said recently. “They represent something positive to me, even the rubber chicken.

Thurman’s father and three uncles served in World War II and Korea. And Thurman still vividly remembers the day in 1966 when his older brother arrived home from college and told his parents he was leaving school to serve in Vietnam.

“There are values and a sense of duty and responsibility to this country that I was raised with,” he said.

“There are 10 divisions in the Army and I have the honor to command one. Being with soldiers and being out there making a difference in the world, that’s why I serve. The most precious thing we have are the sons and daughters of this country and I am proud to serve with them.”

(Tam Cummings is editor of the Fort Hood, Texas, Sentinel News.)

More links:

A Google search will return a lot of sites mentioning Major General James Thurman, as he was recently in the news when he ordered an investigation into the killing of of a family of four in Mahmoudiya. I can’t find any information on a second general in the family, but did find several references to two Thurman brothers who were generals in the Air Force. They were born in North Carolina, and I am not sure I am related to them for that reason — as far as I know, the Thurmans in my family lived in the Oklahoma/Texas areas in the last 100 years. In a recent e-mail, my fellow Thurman researcher and second cousin once removed, Chris Stofel, said, “I’m attaching a letter I sent to our cousin Jerry Thurman, grandson of Albert, a little while back. Jerry’s brother Jim (James D.) Thurman is a general in the army.” Maj. Gen. Thurman and his brother Jerry would also be my second cousins once removed. My information is that Jerry Thurman is a retired colonel. I think it could be that our cousins, James and Jerry Thurman, were confused with the Thurman brothers General Maxwell Reid Thurman and Lt. General John R. Thurman, III (who are no relation as far as I know). Doing some digging, I was able to find references to the book my uncle has. It must be From One Stripe to Four Stars by Gen. James V. Hartinger, who was the first commander of Space Command at Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs, but I can’t search inside the book to see the full name of the General Thurman he referred to. It is probable that it is either General Maxwell Reid Thurman or Lt. General John R. Thurman III rather than my own relative, Maj. Gen. James Thurman.

Click on the thumbnail below to see an image of Albert James Thurman’s WWI Draft Registration Card (Albert James Thurman was the grandfather of James Thurman and Jerry Thurman). Note: It is a poor quality image and difficult to read.

Albert James Thurman, WWI Draft Registration Card

I located Albert James Thurman on the 1930 Census with his wife Mollie. Open this thumbnail image and scroll down to line 58 (near the top):

Albert James Thurman, 1930 Census

He has a son Jack W., who is 6 years old. This is my grandmother’s cousin Jack that my grandfather referred to in his letter. Here you can view Albert James Thurman’s 1920 census record:

Albert James Thurman, 1920 Census

I think this is an interesting example of how a story is passed down or told in a family, and details change or are otherwise unclear, which can result in conclusions that may not be correct.

Letter From Udell Cunningham, July 2006 Part 2

Posted in Family Biographies/Histories, Letters, and Primary Sources: Letters, Documents, Diaries, Histories

Perhaps I should list the jobs I have had in my military career.

  1. Ditch digger and pipe installation on Attu perhaps this makes me a pipe-fitter.
  2. Rigger on Mobile crane — Philippine Islands . Since the Navy bestowed the rank of MoMM3C (Motor Machinist Mate Third Class) I was supposed to be a mechanic.
  3. Mechanic at Motor pool on Hensley Field, (AF Reserve unit or sometimes called “week-end-Warrior.” This base was between Dallas and Fort Worth.
  4. Photo lab at Vance AFB, Enid, Oklahoma.
  5. Photo lab at Perrin AFB, Sherman, Texas.
  6. Photo Instructor at Lowry AFB, Colo.
  7. Technical Writer of Air Force Manuals and Training courses at Lowry AFB, Colo.
  8. NCOIC of Photo Lab at Toul Rosiers AB France.
  9. NCOIC of Manual Processing division at Schierstein, Germany. Also called IRCEP Intelligence Research Center — Exploitation Photo. We had a Machine secion for aerial reconnaissance film. I put in lots of time processing photos from spies behind the Iron Curtain. Yes, lots of Russian military were also US spies.
  10. Technical Writer at Lowry — again!
  11. Command Manager of all AF photo labs in Europe. 13 labs from Turkey, Spain, England, Germany, Italy, and Holland.
  12. Retired from AF at Lowry AFB.

My job in USAFE was in Recce operations, Europe under a Col. Andrews and our next in command was Major General Creech. He was later a full General in charge of the AF in Germany otherwise called CINC USAFE.

Letter from Udell Cunningham, July 2006 Part 1

Posted in Family Biographies/Histories, Letters, and Primary Sources: Letters, Documents, Diaries, Histories

In this continuation of writing about thing[s] I recall I may write about things previously written. Please remember that old men suffer from memory lapse. Also, I may even embellish tales previously written. These two faults were discussed recently on a T.V. program. Historians say that us old WW2 Vets do this a lot. We tend to remember a little but lie a lot and we tend to embellish stories every time we repeat them. These were discussed at length when the Smithsonian tried to put the Enola Gay B29 bomber on display with the placards saying that the U.S. did not need to drop the A-Bombs as Japan was ready to surrender. They implied that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed needlessly. The uproar from WW2 Vets made them change their stories. [See Wikipedia’s article on the Enola Gay for a discussion of this exhibit.] On the personal side of the issue I am thoroughly convinced that the A-bombs saved my life. I was in training at a base on Samar for being used as an underwater demolition job in Tokyo Bay during the second invasion of the Mainland of Japan. (The First was down on the very south island.) UDT men or commonly called Frogmen have a very short life. They were met by Jap frogmen who had spear guns — or from the demolition charger. When I was not needed to give my life during the planned invasion I was returned to “Seabee” duty. We — those in training — were placed on inter-island Ferry boats and taken to Cavite Naval Base in Manila Bay.

At Cavite we were placed on trucks and taken on the route to the big naval base at Subic Bay. Along the route the commander of the Convoy of truck[s] tried to “give” us to other units along the way. He couldn’t give all of us away and we wound up [as] surplus work slaves to existing unitls at Subic Navy Station. I was assigned to a work crew at the “lumber yard.” Actually I was called a rigger on a mobile crane used to lift lumber off trucks. Then the Filipino workers sorted and stacked the wood. The main job I did was play cards — to be interrupted when a truck of lumber arrived. Really rough duty.

Letter from Udell Cunningham, November 2005 Part 16

Posted in Family Biographies/Histories, Letters, and Primary Sources: Letters, Documents, Diaries, Histories

Halloween is coming soon. The Halloween that occurred when I was a kid was different from the social event of today. We did the trick part, but the treat didn’t happen at all. Our main trick was tipping over the outhouse, trashing the place in general. Teachers and principals bore the brunt of our meanness. One year we even put a horse-drawn wagon on top of the school house. I don’t know how the kids were able to put a wagon on the schoolhouse because they had real problems getting it down. Another time we put a snake in a teacher’s desk. Real inspirational things — but no treats.

Another stupid thing was taking a shoe box, filling it with barnyard droppings. Then wrap the box in brown paper and place it beside the road. We would be hidden nearby to see the unsuspecting finder unwrap their finding. Big fun. I heard that one such prankster put a wildcat in a box. This time… about a hundred yards down the road all four doors slung open and the car ran into the ditch. And we thought we were having fun.

When I was a kid we could go to the movie for a dime. When you were 12 years you had to pay adult fare of 25¢. Boy there was sure a lot of eleven-year-old kids in those days.

Letter from Udell Cunningham, November 2005 Part 15

Posted in Family Biographies/Histories, Letters, and Primary Sources: Letters, Documents, Diaries, Histories

When [we] were stationed in France, Doris [my grandmother, Udell’s wife] had to carry a “French I.D. card.” She even had to carry it when she hung clothes on the line. If caught without it she was subject to arrest and [would be] jailed. The only amazing thing about this card is that it was required of all American women over 16 and French prostitutes! The card didn’t identify which category you were. The French tried to force the Canadians to this indignity, but the Canadian general told them where they could stick it.

And then I get orders to Wiesbaden, Germany and that my family should stay in France as I would have base quarters within a month. One of the items on my base clearance was to visit the French cmdr. office to return the I.D. card to the French. I told them my wife was not leaving France and needed to keep the card. It was a standoff until I told those Frogs [sorry — that was the term he used!] I was going to call HQ USAFE and tell the Inspector General of the trouble. They went ahead and cleared me by exacting my solemn promise that we would drive by when I returned for my family. I still have the card! Well, Wayne [my uncle, Udell’s son] has it. The Frogs deny the existence of this card, but I have one.

Letter from Udell Cunningham, November 2005 Part 14

Posted in Family Biographies/Histories, Letters, and Primary Sources: Letters, Documents, Diaries, Histories

When I was a toddler Dad had to tighten the bearings on his ’28 Chevy. Well, when finished it was too tight for the starter to start the motor. They needed to get it out of the driveway to the street where they could pull it and get it going. We were hand-pushing it out to the street. There was a ditch by the sides of the road and when they almost had the front end on the level road the truck rolled back into the ditch area. I was shoving on the front fender, fell down, and the truck ran over me. We never went to a doctor, but I couldn’t walk for a long time. Mom pulled me everywhere in a little red wagon. I finally walked again. For some reason I was X-rayed after retirement and the doctors asked me when I broke the bones in my foot. I told them I had never broken my foot. They showed me on the X-ray — I guess that happened way back when I was about four years old. Back in those days you never went to the doctor unless you had money. We never had money. I saw my first doctor when I went into the military in 1943. When I went to school I needed eyeglasses to read the stuff on the blackboard. The teachers would allow you to move around the room so you could read the blackboards. I got my first glasses at age 17 when I saved enough money to get them at Plainview [Texas].

Letter from Udell Cunningham, November 2005 Part 13

Posted in Family Biographies/Histories, Letters, and Primary Sources: Letters, Documents, Diaries, Histories

While on Attu I had horse-traded for a clarinet! Later a soldier stationed on Shemya (island near Attu) wanted it and traded me a Jap officer’s class book/diary. It was a hardback book made for officer training with many pictures of all the Japs in his class with much about his training — then the last of the book was blank where he had wrote about his military life. He was a very good artist and had lots of illustrations. Anyway, about a week before coming home someone stole the book. I couldn’t report the theft because I was supposed to turn over such intelligence for their [superior officers’, government] use. I sure wish I had it now. I strongly suspected a so-called buddy from Forth Worth of stealing it.

I had a buddy on Attu named Richard E. Cook. He and I were very close buddies. He went to Montana State University and even said he enrolled me there too and reserved a place for me in the dorm. Well, I went to Texas Tech instead. He studied Chemical Engineering and later got a job with Dow Chemical at Midland, Michigan. He was in charge of the factory making Saran Wrap. I should have went north to study.

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