RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Winston Churchill

My Granddaddy, An Air Raid Warden During World War II

Posted on

I continue to be surprised by my family’s history. Looking through another family envelope the other day. I found a certified picture ID for my  granddaddy, John Alexander Cox, known as Alec,who was an air raid warden in Charleston, SC, during World War II. He never talked about it.

He was too old to serve as a soldier, but I never knew he held this civilian job.

As war spread across the globe, cities and states were responsible for coordinating preparations for war-related emergencies.

Image result for WWII civil defense posters

The civilian defense program against air attacks began with pilots who flew along the coastlines and plane spotters who manned towers to watch for approaching enemy planes. There were also blackout drills that forced people to practice their response to the air-raid alarm signal—a series of intermittent siren blasts.

Air-raid wardens supervised the blackout drills, cruising up and down neighborhood streets to make sure no light escaped the houses. By early 1943, there were about 6 million volunteers in public protection roles such as air-raid warden.

Image result for photos of american air raid wardens

Blackout drills were planned in advance and advertised. Street lights were turned off at the scheduled time. Anyone outside was to take cover inside. Those in their homes were instructed to pull down the blinds on their windows and keep the light inside to a minimum. People in cars were to pull over and find shelter in the nearest building. The idea was that enemy planes couldn’t target what they couldn’t see, and that any light visible from above could attract bombs and gunfire.

Charleston, being a prime military target, citizens lived in expectation of being bombed at any moment by enemy planes and that their attack would come under the cover of darkness. Sirens sounded all over the city to signal the start of the drill. Air raid wardens and their assistants walked up and down the streets of their assigned blocks and looked for signs of light emanating from houses. If they saw any, they blew their whistles, shouted, banged on the house, rang its doorbell, whatever it took, to alert the residents of the light.

Teenagers often served as messengers and wore a Civil Defense armband with a lightning bolt superimposed on a triangle within a circle on it.

Image result for photos of american air raid wardens

One young messenger told this story.

As an air raid messenger, I had to carry messages through the dark streets from one air raid warden to another. During one drill, a warden handed me a message and told me to deliver it to a warden two blocks away—PRONTO! I took off into pitch-black darkness on my bike as if the lightning bolt on my armband had come alive. I had gone half a block when I suddenly became airborne upon running into the back of a parked black coupe automobile. I skidded across its roof and down onto its hood, rolled down onto the ground, got up, shook off my daze, ran to the back of the auto, picked up my bike, pushed its front wheel back in line, took off again, and delivered the message.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill was accurate when he described our country. “I thought of a remark . . . that the United States is like a ‘gigantic boiler. Once the fire is lighted under it there is no limit to the power it can generate.’ Being saturated and satiated with emotion and sensation, I went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful.”

Posters about the importance of secrecy were everywhere, and everyone took them seriously. It wasn’t too far-fetched to suspect that the guy standing next to you on a street corner or sitting at the next table in a restaurant or bar might be an enemy spy.

Security was a matter of great concern, especially in a city as heavily military as Charleston. In addition to posters on the subject everywhere, large signs with strong warnings that no photos were to be taken were posted all along the waterfront. Security was so intense that radio stations could play only songs approved by the Federal Government for fear that the broadcasting of certain selections could be used to transmit information to the enemy. The few approved songs included the works of Stephen Foster. “Old Folks at Home” and “Beautiful Dreamer.”

Image result for photos of american air raid wardens

There were drives every week to collect scrap paper and metal to help in the war effort. Trucks picked up bundles of newspapers and boxes of tin cans from in front of doorways where they had been put for us.

WWII Civil Defense Poster

A small red bordered flag with a blue star in its middle hung in the window of each home having someone in the military.

Posters were everywhere. One flyer pictured the emergency supplies every household was supposed to keep: 50 feet of garden hose with a spray nozzle, 100 pounds of sand divvied into four containers, three three-gallon metal buckets (one filled with sand and two with water), a long-handled shovel with a square edge, a hoe or rake, an ax or hatchet, a ladder, leather gloves, and dark glasses.

Air raid protection was one of the top concerns for civil defense organizations. To assist them, the OCD published a booklet called “What to Do in an Air Raid.” OCD printed some fifty-seven million copies. Newspapers published the information as well. The booklet advised Americans to identify a central refuge room in their homes and to have stout tables on hand that they could crawl under if air raids occurred.

“An air raid warden is not a Doctor, or a Policeman, or a Fireman, but he may be called on to perform the duties of any of these,” a training paper says. “He has a position of leadership and trust that demands his best.”

So grateful for Granddaddy’s service, as well as so many unknown others who stepped up to fight for our country during World War II. Those on the home front were heroes, too. Thank you for your service!

Image result for quotes about wwii homefront

Advertisements

Boone Hall Plantation and Secretariet

Yesterday, John and I took a mini tour of Boone Hall in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. Rather than horse-drawn carriages going through these gates, there was a line of cars waiting to enter.

Image result for boone hall plantation and pecan trees

Boone Hall Plantation is one of America’s oldest working plantations, continually growing crops for over 320 years. This antebellum-era plantation is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

During the tour of the house, the guide shared its history with us.

The earliest known reference to the site is in 1681 is when a land grant of 470 acres from owner Theophilus Patey, to his daughter Elizabeth and her new husband, Major John Boone as a wedding gift.  The land became known as Boone Hall Plantation though it is unknown when a house was built on the site.

The Boones began growing rice, cotton, and indigo, and thus began a long history of providing Boone Hall crops for the South Carolina low country and the world.

Image result for rice growing in field photo

Image result for field of cotton

The Horlbecks brothers, Henry and John, were architects who designed and built many buildings and landmarks in Charleston, purchased the plantation in the mid 1800’s.  By 1850, Boone Hall was producing 4,000,000 bricks per year using 85 slaves. Besides manufacturing bricks, they ventured into commercial pecan production. The plantings became known as the world’s largest pecan groves in the early 1900’s.

This 1900 house was the residence then.

Image result for boone hall plantation and pecan trees

The Horlbeck family also improved the plantation by completing the Avenue of Oaks that lead up to the plantation house in 1843.

boone hall plantation and gardens

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thomas Stone, a Canadian, bought the plantation in the 1930’s. He built the present house and planted crops such as cabbage, potatoes and tomatoes. The crops became popular low country commodities for shipping to the northern markets.  Mr. Stone used hand made bricks that were discovered in the woods at kilns previously used.

The house is three stories with a full basement and measures about 10,000 square feet. Unlike original plantation houses, the new house has a full-sized kitchen in the house along with seven bathrooms. The first floors houses the kitchen, library, dining room, loggia, and game room. The second floor has seven bedrooms, and the third floor has two rooms, a bathroom, and a full-sized attic.

 But crops have not always been an integral part of this farm.

My husband John has often talked about the Clydesdales that his father owned. Mammy and son Champ helped with the farming, and the four sons loved those horses for their strength, their height, and the excess hair near their feet. The two were gentle, and Champ was young enough to frolic in the field. When Mammy was tired of riders, she would stop, and the riders would simply slide off.

Rather than a tractor, Oliver used the horses to plow, pull the wagon which was his truck, and pull the mower, hayrake, and baler. These horses were trained to only his signals and his voice. For almost 20 years, they worked hard for Oliver until John’s dad died.

Ten of these majestic animals were visiting Boone Hall, so that is why we chose this excursion yesterday on a hot, June day in Charleston. (There is something about going down memory lane that is memorable.) Again there was gentleness, as the small hands of little people gingerly reached through the fences to touch the horses. We patted Ozzie, as he was getting a bath.

 

And then we went on the house tour to hear more about horses and their past with  Boone Hall.

When the guide mentioned thoroughbreds, my ears pricked up. My dad grew up in Shelbyville, Kentucky, in between Lexington and Louisville. And the Derby run at Churchill Downs, the Keeneland race track in Lexington, and numerous other names flashed in my brain. This is what he shared.

Princequillo (1940-1964) was a thoroughbred race horse conceived in France and born in Ireland. He was known for his performances in long-distance races and his successes as a sire. When World War II broked out, his pregnant mare/mother was shipped to Ireland. As the war escalated and the German bombing of England increased, it was obvious that racing was going to be put on hold. So Cosquilla, the mare, and her colt were shipped to the United States.

Image result for princequillo

In 1940, the Stones sold the plantation to Georgian prince Dimitri Jorjadze and his American wife Audrey. (Jorjadze was a member of the Russian Georgian nobility who became exiled after the overthrow of Tsarist Russia and the Bolshevik takeover.)The prince raced horses under the nom de course, Boone Hall Stable, with the most notable of his horses being Princequillo who in 1943 was the fastest distance runner in the United States.

Prince Dimitri Jorjadze

Jorjadze placed him under the care of future Hall of Fame trainer Horation Luro. Princequillo won several important races at longer distances. He broke the Saratoga Race Course record for 1¾ miles, and his performances were such that he is considered to be the best long-distance runner. Princequillo’s descendants include Secretariat, Triple Crown Winner in 1973:  1977 Triple Crown Winner Seattle Slew; and US Horse of the Year winners, A.P. Indy and Cigar.

Related image

Seattle Slew

Image result for secretariat photo

Secretariat

I truly love seeing random threads come together for weaving, and I loved the tour of the Boone Hall Plantation house. (below)

Image result for boone hall plantation and pecan trees

Winston Churchill – “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”

He Doffed His Hat To Me!

Walking toward the visitor’s center at Musgrove Mill Historical Site on Saturday, I met a re-enactor. He, not only bowed to me, but doffed his hat! In response, I nodded my head.

Image result for 18th century American doff

The action of respect took me aback. Silent words of greeting were spoken, and for a moment, I felt like a queen. No, I was not attired as one; there was no crown on my head or long gown trailing behind me, but my presence had been noted with 18th century courtesy. In those years, this cultural expression was one of recognition, respect, gratitude, or simple greeting between two persons.

In retrospect, I believe I might have straightened my shoulders a bit and walked on with a slight smile. The unexpected salutation made me more aware of the manners that have changed in our world.

There is a connection between doffing and donning. One of the first uses of it in print can be found in Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur, published around 1470. He wrote, “Doffe of thy clothes, And knele in thy kyrtylle” (tunic or petticoat).

Image result for 18th century American doff

The English bard, William Shakespeare, frequently used  ‘doff,’ often in a figurative manner. In the balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet, Juliet entreats Romeo to change his name with the words, “Romeo, doff thy name.” In the The Taming of the Shrew,  Baptista chides the bridegroom with “Fie, doff this habit, shame to your estate”.

Obviously, we can don hats, clothes, or even character traits. Equally easy, all can be later doffed. These archaic words simply describe the actions of “do on” or “do off.”

A minister calling on a parishioner

From the 16th to the 18th centuries in England, the donning and doffing of hats was governed by a code of etiquette and custom that it is hard for us now to appreciate. Each man of standing wore a hat, and the form of hat and the rules were a part of society. This custom filtered down in society to the working classes, who greeted the gentry with a doff.

English settlers brought this custom with them, and polite society expected this courtesy on a new continent.

In the 21st century, men no longer routinely wear hats. Both my grandfathers and great-grandfathers traditionally wore hats when they left their homes. When they entered a building, they removed their hats. My dad owned a few hats and wore them occasionally for specific times; he owned a rain hat, a golf cap, a Master’s hat, and a Derby hat. Slowly hats have lost their places.

Whether a national leader or a farmer, men doffed their hats well into the 20th century.

Image result for art print: british prime minister winston churchill doffing hat outsidBritish Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill

On July 4, 1892, there was a joint meeting to celebrate our nation’s birthday. This clear, sunny day was lightened with a calm breeze off the Potomac River.

The Daughters of the American Revolution, the Sons of the American Revolution, the Sons of the Revolution, and the Order of the Cincinnati met together at 9:00 at the Church of the Epiphany in our nation’s capitol. The organ refrain of God Save the State was as loud as the singing of America in this special religious and patriotic service.

A Chaplain gave directions for the order of the processional to the monument, and the men and women, on foot and in carriages, took their places. The Daughters of the American Revolution were at the end. As the parade reached the corner of G and the Fifteenth Street, business men hurried out of a hotel.

Police held back people and cars from interrupting the walk. Seeing the elegantly dressed men and women in the street, a gentleman asked, “Officer, what is this?”

The response was, “The Sons and Daughters of the Revolution.”

In one motion, that same man doffed his hat. All down the street, man after man followed suit as the men and women passed. Until all in the procession passed, no hats returned to their respective heads. It was a tribute to not only those who walked the streets of Washington, DC, but also for the memory of those who fought during the Revolutionary War. (from First “Safe and Sound” Movement by Helen Hardin Walworth, Founder and Honorary Vice President General NSDAR)

There are no photographs of this scene, but in my imagination those doffed hats respectfully speak to both the past and the future of our nation.

Golf has been dubbed the gentleman’s sport. I grew up in a family of golfers and was privileged to attend the Master’s on several occasions. There is something about how the golfers greet their fans as they walk up the fairway. Standing to their feet and loud clapping greet the golfers, and the players respond with a doffed cap or visor.

Phil Mickelson

Albert Einstein said, “I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.”

No, doffing one’s hat is neglected in society these days, but respect is always in fashion.