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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

And Across the State of Missouri

Good evening,

Staying in Hannibal, Mo tonight on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi. Wish we could see it from our room. Not much to say--more rain. Shortly after leaving Cameron we came across the boyhood home town of JC Penney and a museum. Decided not to stop--too early to start absorbing history. Besides, General Jack Pershing seemed more interesting and so we stopped in LaClede to learn about this man who held the highest rank ever granted in American military history. He was a SIX star general and in total charge of all American forces overseas in WW I.  He had full authority to deal with the commanders of British and French forces without having to consult Congress or the President. He was awarded the Medal of Honor which he refused on the basis that all soldiers faced danger and did their duty as a matter of course--it was their job.

The visit started with a 40 minute movie on his life and, since he was so involved with our mission in the Great War, the history of the US Army to that point. Next we visited the old schoolhouse in which he taught for two years prior to getting accepted at West Point, a school he attended primarily because it provided him with a free education. He soon embraced the Army life and was class president all four years and was Senior Captain at graduation--an honor also held by Robt E Lee among others.

He commanded Co D 10th company cavalry in Montana and when he returned to West Point as an instructor was so rigid a disciplinarian that he was greeted with total silence in mess and was referred to as Nigger Jack behind his back. This racist name was changed to Black Jack when he assumed command in Europe and was the subject of newspaper coverage.

He liked to drink, gamble and court the ladies--he was a player!  He did, however, make some powerful friends through the years, including a man who would one day be President and would promote him several ranks above more experienced and senior men. This only added to the jealousy and resentment that followed him through life. He finally married in his 40's--the wealthy young daughter of a prominent Wyoming Senator. Didn't hurt his career any, although from all evidence of contemporaries as well as correspondence they were very much in love. They had four children, three girls and a boy.While he was serving in the Philippines the home in which he family resided in San Francisco burned to the ground and his wife and three daughters perished. I cried when they spoke of the loss. How devastating. To his credit, he cherished his surviving child, his son and the boy was taken care of by his aunt, Jack's sister, May.

One of the narrators of the film,Gene Smith, had such a pleasant way of telling the story that I purchased his book: Until The Last Trumpet Sounds. I think I will really enjoy it since I know so little about WWI or Pershing. I remember my parents speaking of him--Dad was 14 during the war, Mom 16. I also remember that he was commandant at Camp Johnson in Winooski--and lived in one of those brick houses on Officers' Row, which form that semi-circle of buildings still, just past St Mikes on Rte 15.

Our last stop was the house---a simple one with two stories. He lived there from the age of 6 until 22 when he left for the Point.  The State ranger who gave us the tour said there is little that belonged to them but there are several bedroom sets and a shotgun that are Pershing items. He also said he read the General's book about The Great War--said it took him two tours in Iraq to be able to finish it--so dry and boring.  Well, he obviously didn't know his grammar very well!  LOL

As an aside, the yellow house diagonally across the street that is so beautiful sat empty for many years after the wife of the doctor that lived there in the 40's disappeared. He claimed she ran away and that the massive blood in the cellar was from the fish he had cleaned there. He WAS acquitted and moved away. The lady who owns it now, she bought it in 1998 for 13,000, had the house lifted and a new cellar installed. The vacant lot across from the Pershing House was the site of a house in which the owner committed suicide in the 1929 Crash, as was the shed in the back of the Pershing House. The Friends of Pershing had the shed torn down.  Apparently, Marilyn Monroe's grandfather, Hogan, also committed suicide here and is buried in the cemetery down the road. There has been some effort to find evidence she ever visited here but so far there has been none found. All of these suicides were related to the Crash of '29.

Several towns later, Marceline, is the boyhood home of Walt and Roy Disney. After spending 2 1/2 hours at LaClede, we decided to save that tour for another day. This is the third time I've passed Marceline by. Next time for sure.   It is interesting how many successful folks have come from this flat agricultural land. One of the places we stayed had a Nobel Physics Prize Winner in recent years, within 10miles distance we went through the home towns of two astronauts, Amelia Earhardt, Eisenhower, Pershing, Disney and many more. But looking around there is nothing to keep anyone here who is not into farming or raising cattle. If there are talents outside those realms or interests then having lived a hard working life requiring persistence and dedication, these children of the land take these life lessons elsewhere to develop the talents and interests.

Now, I;m going to climb into the whirlpool with Jack Pershing and relax. Until next time.......

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