Monday, November 11, 2013

Vietnam - the War of Our Generation

It's mere coincidence that the article last posted here was about Howard Skidmore, a decorated WWII 'Ace' pilot who managed the Ko-Op until joining the war effort. But during the mid and late Sixties, the war of our generation was in Vietnam.

My connections were that my two older brothers were in the Navy - one training pilots at the Naval Air Station Meridian (MS) and the other on a carrier off the Vietnam coast. I remember when Lyle Mowery attended the Fairbury funeral of a close hometown friend who died in the war. A schoolmate and neighbor from my hometown was killed in 1969. Others from Findlay, IL also served; another neighboring farmboy was severely wounded, endured a long recovery, and today lives with the effects of those injuries.

Wars are terrible, and young men and women often make huge sacrifices. In this trying to recognize and remember those persons from my Ko-Op days who served, I risk unknowingly leaving people off the list . . . but here goes with those known:

Kel Thrush - When he graduated, I thought he was off to a management trainee position with Sears. However I've learned that he never made it to that job, instead was swept into the military and the war effort. Lives in Louisville, KY.

Russ White - Took a break from EIU in late 1967, joined the army and was stationed at a landing zone south of Danang in Feb. 1969 when he was wounded. After recovery, he was assigned to a burial team at Ft. Lewis for 8 mos. Russ returned to EIU, graduated and went into teaching, finished a doctorate at UofI, and retired as the Supt. of Schools in Wilmington, IL. Russ lives in nearby Bonfield.

Sam Steinman - Graduated in 1969. Married Brenda Karcher (Who worked at the Short Stop) and in the fall after his basic training, he was selected for the honor guard at Arlington National Cemetery. Sam is a Vice President at AGCO Finance and lives in Suwanee, GA.

From earlier postings here, I know that both Gary Cook and Ken Lowry served in the Air Force.

There were also many who roomed above the Ko-Op but did not work downstairs. Certainly, several served in the armed services. I'm aware that Sonny Greco left EIU and went into the Army from 1966-1968. He was a staff sergeant and was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. Like Russ White, Sonny returned to EIU and was a 1972 honors graduate (Served in state government positions - Dir. of personnel under Gov. Jim Thompson and Dir. of finance for the state department of transportation). Sonny was also a Springfield, IL businessman. He died in June 1993, 46 yrs. old.

Earlier this year another close childhood friend and neighbor, Coy Thomas died after years of battling cancer. Coy served in the US Army from Nov. 1967 to Nov. 1968, in Charlie Company, 2nd Platoon, 3rd Squad, in the 22nd Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. He was no less a casualty of the Vietnam War, a soldier exposed to Agent Orange. Coy earned a Bronze Star, two purple hearts and a Combat Infantry badge as well as a good conduct medal - several of his service mates "are still trying to figure out who the hell in the US Army put Coy in for the good conduct medal!" He left behind numerous tales of his wartime escapades.

Today is Veteran's Day, a day when we honor the service and sacrifice of men and women from all armed services. It also marks the anniversary of the end of World War I - - "the war to end all wars." If only that were true.

Friday, October 11, 2013

World War II Hero Who Managed the Ko-Op?

During his last year at Eastern (1940-1941), he managed the original Ko-Op on Lincoln Street. * 
(Walt Warmoth was the owner)

More about him:
He was born on a farm near Villa Grove, IL on April 25, 1920.

Captained the basketball team at Villa Grove. Graduated from high school in 1938.

Worked on a farm to save money for Eastern Illinois State Teachers College (Became EIU in early Sixties).

Fall 1938, he worked at Walt's Little Campus.

When he attended Eastern, there were only seven buildings on campus; "everyone was happy with the two new buildings" - - the Science Building and Lantz.

Was on Eastern's basketball team; started as center in the first basketball game played at the 'new' Lantz Gymnasium (Now McAfee).

Spent 3 1/2 years at Eastern before he enlisted in the Navy (WWII) - did not graduate.

Became a Navy pilot (Fall 1942).

Assigned first to the USS Santee and later to the USS Cabot * * (Became friends with journalist Ernie Pyle during Pyle's stay on the USS Cabot; subject of an Ernie Pyle column).

An Ensign, he flew 55 combat missions and was awarded a Purple Heart (Shrapnel wounds during one flight), the Distinguished Flying Cross and two stars, the Air Medal with three stars, the Navy Commendation Medal, Presidential Unit Citation with two stars, and the Philippine Liberation Campaign Medal with two stars.

After the war, he elected to remain in the Navy.

Worked in Naval Intelligence.

Served as military representative from the Joint Chiefs of Staff for NATO.

Rose through the ranks from ensign to lieutenant jg, to lieutenant, to lieutenant commander, to commander, to captain (One step below admiral).

In 1961 he was assigned to Head of Special Projects for Naval Intelligence at the Pentagon (Intel gathered by U2 flights and satellites).

He was part of the group that recovered Commander Alan Shepard, America's first man in Space, from his splashdown at sea (May 5, 1961).

Retired from the Navy in 1972 with 30 years service.

Who was this man?

His name is Howard H. Skidmore.
He lived in Palos Verdes, Peninsula, California.
Represented the Class of 1942 in the 1992 EIU Homecoming Parade.
Signed his letters to fellow EIU alums: "Another Panther."

Before he died (Nov. 2, 2006), Dr. James Giffin (Former Dean of School of Business at EIU and also a WWII Navy veteran who served in the North Atlantic) wrote this about Howard Skidmore:
"Skidmore and his squadron of fellow pilots literally had to put themselves at great risk to halt the Japanese. His plane was equipped with only moderate armament to protect against Japanese fighter planes who were intent on shooting it down before it could attack Japanese units, and it had little protection from the dozens of big and small naval guns on board the Japanese battleships, cruisers, destroyers. etc. The upshot of this situation was such that Ensign Skidmore and his fellow pilots literally flew 'into the jaws of death' on many missions from which many pilots and their crews did not return.

That Skidmore survived the war was largely luck. He experienced a number of very close calls, such as the time a Japanese shell blasted through the tail section of his plane, setting it afire. But the crewmen were able to control the fire and Skidmore was able to nurse the plane back to his carrier. Another time he was positioned on the Cabot's deck to take off when a Japanese suicide plane crashed onto the deck immediately in front of him -- shearing off his propeller and setting his plane on fire. In his plane's bomb bay were four 500-pound bombs which, luckily, did not explode. Skidmore and his crew escaped their disabled plane and survived. On another occasion, Skidmore piloted his plane back to the carrier with so little fuel that his engine coughed and died just as his plane landed."

More information and photographs at

Captain Howard Homer Skidmore (Online bio)

History of the USS Cabot (CVL-28) (Chapt 10)
Includes a bio of Howard Skidmore.

Howard Skidmore died February 10, 2013.

* In the early Sixties, the 'old' Ko-Op building was destroyed when Lincoln Avenue was expanded to four lanes; replaced with the building that stands today (706 1/2 Lincoln).

* * The USS Cabot, an aircraft carrier, was nicknamed the "Iron Woman" by Ernie Pyle. The Cabot spent 16 months in combat in the Pacific Theater. It earned nine battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism. The Cabot's crews brought down 356 enemy aircraft and damaged or sunk 265 Japanese ships with torpedoes and bombs launched from her deck. The Cabot was the last 'light carrier' used in WWII to survive; she was finally scrapped in 2002.

More information about the USS Cabot and Ace pilot, Howard Skidmore:

USS Cabot (CVL-28) at Wikipedia

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ad in the Eastern News (Feb. 1966)

Walt Mizener recently posted this newspaper ad on his Facebook page - - with his permission, I share it here. Today he has it framed in his New Hampshire home.
Right click and open image in another tab for larger view                                      
It is a joint ad for the Ko-Op, Walt's, and the Short Stop - - must be near the time that the Short Stop opened. Walt said that it was found in his father's house.

Notice those 1938 prices at Walt's. A meal with a jumbo milk shake for 20 cents. I can't remember when I've heard the phrase 'Combination Salad?' Tuition and room rent are a bargain. Can you still recite the sandwich list from the Sixties menu?