The Brethren Service Center Serves and Is Served by Seagoing Cowboys

Dormitory and gym where much of the relief work was done at the Brethren Service Center, New Windsor, MD, March 1947.

The Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Maryland, March 1947. The gym in center of picture is where much of the post-World War II relief work was carried out. Photo courtesy of Howard Lord.

As noted in my post of May 22, many a seagoing cowboy and cowboy supervisor ended up spending time at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Maryland, while waiting on his ship to sail. The seagoing cowboy office was located there, along with a swarm of activity related to other Church of the Brethren relief programs.

Ernest Bachman, supervisor of the SS John J. Crittenden crew of November 1945, noted that his men were assigned the task of raking leaves. J. O. Yoder’s time at New Windsor overlapped with Bachman. Yoder arrived on November 13 and was surprised to meet Carol Stine from his home town in Goshen, Indiana, working there as a secretary for the seagoing cowboy program. After that, he didn’t stand a chance.

Carol Stine, right, works out details for a seagoing cowboy. Photo courtesy of Brethren Historical Library and Archives.

Carol Stine, right, works out details for a seagoing cowboy. Photo courtesy of Brethren Historical Library and Archives.

The next morning, Yoder notes in his journal, “Carol Stine collared me after breakfast and made me say I’d do dishes. Lots of ‘em and about 3 of us did it. Couldn’t sneak away quick enough and so found 3 potato peeling knives in my hand and potatoes in pan all set to go. Never imagined a whole bushel under table was to be peeled for supper. Well – peeled for 3 hours right up to dinner time and had about ¾ bushel done. Ate a good dinner and went to my room and wrote.”

Yoder then spent a couple of days getting squared away in Washington, DC, to be a supervisor with UNRRA. There he met Bachman. They traveled back to New Windsor together on the 16th, and Bachman got collared, too. “Backman [sic] and I washed and wiped dishes,” writes Yoder, “while a speaker on CPS camps (Mr. Banta I—–) started talking to a meeting in mess hall.”

Saturday, the 17th, Yoder strolled around campus looking for work and ended up helping to build a new bed on the Center’s V-8 truck. That night he got in on some of the culture of the Center. “Ora Zeigler gave a very colorful talk on this trip through devastated Europe -,” Yoder wrote, “had many contacts with the most horrible evidences of starvation throughout entire war area…. Nearly every single person in that area has lost considerable weight due to insufficient amount of calories. Babies and small children are housed in large auditoriums, etc., where all windows and doors have been blasted out and cold winds are sweeping through. He told of picking up stiff and lifeless bodies – the way millions will go during the next year. The people of these countries will quite definitely favor the country giving the best relief….”

Sunday at the Center provided a day of rest. Yoder skipped church, “as I ain’t got a suit [with me],” he quipped in his journal. “I played the victrola in lounge and enjoyed it very much – Bolero, Lord’s Prayer, etc.” He went out to the nearby Roger Roop farm in the afternoon to see the Heifer Project cattle collected there for shipping. Later that night, he reveled in a game of Rook with a group of Kansas seagoing cowboys.

Volunteers bale and package used clothing to send to Europe after World War II. Photo courtesy of Brethren Historical Library and Archives.

Volunteers bale and package used clothing to send to Europe after World War II. Photo courtesy of Brethren Historical Library and Archives.

Yoder’s time in New Windsor was lengthened when UNRRA lost his papers. As the next week rolled on, he made himself useful. He helped “pack and truck bales of used clothing to store room. Then went with truck to Post Office and got several hundred packages of old clothing, etc. – sent here by churches and peoples from all parts of U.S.A.”

Women sort relief clothing to be sent to Europe. Photo courtesy of Brethren Historical Library and Archives.

Women sort relief clothing to be sent to Europe. Photo courtesy of Brethren Historical Library and Archives.

Another day he wrote, “went to the gym and helped unload a truck of relief boxes brought up from P.O. Weighed and noted each box then heaved it up to the top of the stack – clear up to ceiling! Toward noon I helped fill a shipping box with all sorts of toys, dolls made and donated by various church groups.”

Later, he helped prepare shipping cases for old shoes that had been rebuilt at the Center. “Nearly 40 cases containing from 85 to 150 pr. shoes are ready for shipping,” he wrote.

Volunteers repair used shoes sent to the Brethren Service Center after World War II. Photo courtesy of Brethren Historical Library and Archives.

Volunteers repair used shoes sent to the Brethren Service Center after World War II. Photo courtesy of Brethren Historical Library and Archives.

Other days found him helping carry boxes in the food canning department or helping Carol Stine sort cowboy application blanks.

Volunteers help can food to be sent to Europe. Photo courtesy of Kenneth West.

Volunteers help can food to be sent to Europe. Photo courtesy of Kenneth West.

Canned food ready to box for Europe. Photo courtesy of Kenneth West.

Canned food ready to box for Europe. Photo courtesy of Kenneth West.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yoder’s three weeks spent at the Center weren’t all work and no play, however. Evenings were filled with games of checkers, Chinese checkers, jigsaw puzzles, singing around the piano, folk game activities, reading, and writing letters. Finally, on Monday, December 3, Yoder had his orders to report to New York City where he would lead the cowboy crew of the SS Clarksville Victory on their journey to Poland. There, he would have the opportunity to see firsthand the devastation which Ora Zeigler had described.

Next post: The Roop Farm

 

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A Seagoing Cowboy evaluates his trip to Europe

The last days of June 1945 were a busy time for UNRRA and the Brethren Service Committee. In six days’ time, they had five livestock ships complete with seagoing cowboy crews on their way to Europe – three to Greece and two that docked in Trieste, Italy, with animals for Yugoslavia. The fifth was the Liberty ship Zona Gale with 31-year-old Clarence H. Rosenberger on board.

Crew of the SS Zona Gale

The seagoing cowboy crew of the SS Zona Gale en route to Yugoslavia, July 1945. Clarence Rosenberger is the man on the left leaning against the rail. Photo courtesy of Weldon Klepinger

Clarence was the pastor of the Church of the Brethren in Shelocta, Pennsylvania, at the time. He wrote the following reflection on his trip that appeared in the September 22, 1945, Gospel Messenger, the magazine of the Church of the Brethren.

A “Cowboy” Evaluates the Trip to Europe With Relief Cattle

Our experiences as “the cowboys of the S. S. Zona Gale” is at an end. As I look back I can begin to appreciate what a wonderful opportunity we’ve had.

Primarily, we filled a pressing need by aiding in the moving of relief goods to war-stricken people. Stock tenders are almost impossible to find around a seaport and we spanned the gap. We have the satisfaction of knowing that the stock we cared for is now helping to provide food for hundreds of people.

Some of us whose consciences will not permit us to further the war effort found in this an opportunity to serve Christ, our nation and mankind in a constructive way.

As a result of observation and study, I have gained at least a bit of insight into the physical, economic and political needs of Europe. I have begun to appreciate how much of our good fortune in the United States is due to a combination of circumstances.

We’ve also had the opportunity of knowing intimately hundreds of soldiers and sailors. [The Zona Gale, like the F. J. Luckenbach and the Virginian, picked up soldiers in Naples to bring them home.] We’ve talked with them frankly. We’ve heard their problems, fears and anticipations. We’ve heard of experiences under fire on land and sea. We’ve shared the danger of mine-infested seas.

Finally, we’ve had the opportunity of knowing the joy that comes with setting foot once again on good American soil.

These first trips were a sort of feeling of their way for the Brethren Service Committee as they decided how much of a commitment they wanted to make in servicing UNRRA’s cattle attendant needs. Reflections of the cowboys like this one no doubt helped the B.S.C. sign on for the long haul.

Article used by permission, http://www.brethren.org/messenger.

Next post: The cowboys mingle with soldiers.