I’ve had some health issues that have precluded my writing these past few weeks. It was my intention to publish this last week, the day after Memorial Day. It’s another of my family stories that illustrate the importance of telling our stories.
We are the primary sources for tomorrow’s historians. Don’t wait to share your life stories. Don’t wait to ask your elders about their lives. And when they finish ask, “Then what happened?” There’s almost always more to the story.
Remember: You Matter. Your Stories Matter. Tell Them Well!
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Oliver Terrell Wine, Jr
I never knew my Uncle Oliver. He was my momma’s oldest brother, ten years her senior and she had few memories of him to share. Like most of my maternal ancestors I’ve stitched together snippets and fragments in my efforts to understand my family’s story. Growing up everyone always said I looked like him. I guess because I was long, lean and dark like him.
I know he was born August 31,1920 in Bath County, VA. This is up in the mountains. Near places named Warm Springs, and Hot Springs, and Goshen Pass. The Maury River runs through Goshen Pass and the winter sun makes it look like cascading emeralds. Truly one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. It is mesmerizing.
Sometime in the late 1930’s Uncle Oliver drove a local couple from the mountains of Virginia all the way across the country to Oregon. That’s a long haul today with the interstate system. Then, it must have been a grueling trip; only slightly better than the Conestoga wagon trains of the 19th century.
Once there he found work at a CCC Camp. The Civilian Conservation Corps was a WPA (Works Progress Administration) program of the Roosevelt administration that put people to work on infrastructure projects like national parks, forests, and dams across the nation.
In 1937 he called home. This was long distance at a time when phone service in their neck of the woods was extraordinary, so you can imagine how out of the ordinary a long-distance call was. He informed his parents he wanted to join the Army. He was underage and required their permission. When they resisted he stated if they withheld their approval he would forge their signature and never come home again. They relented and he enlisted.
Momma doesn’t remember if he ever came home again.
The “Date that will live in Infamy” followed in late ’41 and America was at war.
Uncle Oliver’s unit participated in the invasion of Sicily on July 9, 1943.
An artillery shell hit his landing craft; all of the men were lost.
The family had been living near Farmville, VA when he left for Oregon. They were packing to move again, this time to Richmond, when they received the War Department telegram informing them of their loss.
My Grandmother had become a member of the Gold Star Club. The parents who displayed a pennant embroidered with a Gold Star for every family member lost in the war.
Lawrence Hornbaugher Wine and Dallas Cameron Wine, his two younger brothers, enlisted shortly thereafter and she hung a separate pennant with two white stars alongside Oliver’s.
They both survived the war. It still never occurred to me to ask them about their childhoods, their experience in the service or anything for that matter. Lost opportunities.
Ask now, while you can. If you don’t, I can assure you one day you’ll wish you had.
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Til next time,