This story, by an uncle of Jan Merrill's, was given to me at the September 1999 reunion of the 712th Tank Battalion. Jan is the wife of Cliff Merrill, whose interview is one of a dozen featured in "A Mile in Their Shoes."
I was born in a log house on a hillside farm in Webster, West Virginia. I was born fighting for I had eight brothers and six sisters.
I remember when I was six years old, my brother John came in from hunting and said that he had shot a weasel on a log. Well, my brother Jim and I went to see it, two miles into the woods. My brothers George and Bill came to get us. Needless to say, we got a spanking.
We moved to French Creek in Upshur County, West Virginia, and I went to school there. I always had to take the cow to pasture and I had to pass the cemetery. I think that was the only time that I was really scared.
I had some friends at school and we heard about a house that had burned down so we went there to take a look around. We heard a noise that scared us away. We had a friend at school that had a mean Airedale dog, so we went and got him and his dog. The friends name was John Allen Van Trump. We went back to the burned house and told John to take his dog and see what the noise was. John Allen said it might be a bear as his dog had his tail tucked between his legs. I told my brother that I was going to see what it was. They all said, "We will go with you." So we went down there and it was only a flock of chickens.
We boys had a swimming hole. The girls got bathing suits. One day we went to the swimming hole and we heard the girls swimming before we arrived. We drew back and made some plans. We took our clothes off and ran and dived in and the girls ran out the other side of the pool. We made a deal. If they would go out of sight, we would put our pants on. When we returned home, my sister Cleo had already told my mother what happened and she was waiting for us with a hickory whip. Well, the girls won that round.
We moved to Akron, Ohio. It was a big change from school in West Virginia to the school in Ohio. I was put back a grade. I completed grade school and went on to Garfield High School. I played a little baseball.
We kids became a little ornery at Halloween time and we pulled a lot of tricks. The worst was to crap in a bag, put it on a porch and set it on fire and ring the doorbell. The owner would come out and stamp the flames out. Another trick was to tie a kite string to a water pipe and rub it with ransem. It would get the people out.
Well, in the 1930s I was out of school and could not find a job, so I joined the Civilian Conservation Corps. I was stationed at Newark, Ohio. We built fences, cut trees, and laid out farms for strip farming. I was there for four years and became a leader.
I decided that I would try to get a job. Everywhere I went they asked my age and when I told them, they said no. I went to the draft board and told them to take me in the next draft. That was when they had pictures of Uncle Sam pointing his finger saying, "I want you." I was drafted into the Army on March 7, 1941.