Seagoing Cowboy Crew Reunions

Edgar Metzler, Ron Graber, Don White, Owen Gingerich, and Al Meyer reunite this week in Goshen, Indiana.

S. S. Stephen R. Mallory crewmates Edgar Metzler, Ron Graber, Don White, Owen Gingerich, and Al Meyer reunited this week in Goshen, Indiana. Photo credit: Mary Ellen Meyer.

Several seagoing cowboy crews became close-knit units who didn’t want their friendships to end when they walked off their ships. Earlier this week, I had the good fortune to participate in the 70th anniversary reunion of the S. S. Stephen R Mallory crew of Mennonite high school and college students who went to Poland. What a joy to hear them reminisce about their experiences that summer of 1946 which I highlighted in my June 24 post!

Second reunion of the S. S. Stephen R. Mallory crew, 2001. Photo courtesy of Bill Beck.

Second reunion of the S. S. Stephen R. Mallory crew on their 55th anniversary, 2001. Photo courtesy of Bill Beck.

Many of the Mallory cowboys stayed in touch individually through the years, but I learned that it wasn’t until their 50th anniversary that they gathered for their first reunion. Held at Camp Friedenswald in Michigan, their time there brought them together in a bond that has grown stronger through the years. They have met regularly since that first time.

 

 

Crew members of the S. S. Rock Springs Victory, 1997. Photo courtesy of Lowell Hoover.

Crew members of the S. S. Rock Springs Victory, 1997. Photo courtesy of Lowell Hoover.

The S. S. Rock Springs Victory crew of March 12, 1947, to Ethiopia also reunited for the first time for their 50th anniversary, meeting at the Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas, as theirs was a Heifer Project shipment through UNRRA.

 

 

 

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Plans laid on the ship come to fruition. Courtesy of Hugh Ehrman.

Members of the Clarksville Victory crew gather in Kokomo, Indiana, for a five-year reunion.

Morgantown Victory five-year reunion. Photo courtesy of Hugh Ehrman.

For the S. S. Morgantown Victory crew of December 11, 1945, the bond was so strong on their return from Poland that they planned for a five-year reunion which was held in Kokomo, Indiana. They continued to meet through the years, with their last reunion, to my knowlege, in 2007.

Families joined in the reunions, making friends of many cowboy chidlren. Photo courtesy of J. O. Yoder.

Families joined in the reunions, making friends of many cowboy children. Photo courtesy of J. O. Yoder.

Clarksville Victory crew, 2007. Photo courtesy of J. O. Yoder.

Clarksville Victory crew, 2005, at Camp Alexander Mack. Photo courtesy of J. O. Yoder.

 

 

The Clarksville Victory crew left the U.S. a day after the Morgantown Victory, and the two ships were in port in Poland at the same time. This crew also has gathered frequently through the years, most recently, I believe, in 2005.

It’s been a privilege to be part of some of these later reunions. Thank you, seagoing cowboys, for your many stories!

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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

 

In Memoriam

I’ve received word of the passing of two more seagoing cowboys and share memories of another:

Julius H. Hornberger left this world February 8, 2015, just two-and-a-half months shy of his 100th birthday. Julius was on the SS Rock Springs Victory when it made its delivery of Heifer Project cattle to Ethiopia in the spring of 1947. We’ll hear more about this crew on Easter Sunday. Here is Julius exploring Djibouti, where the ship docked. Rest in peace, Julius.

 

Julius Hornberger in Djibouti, 1947

Julius Hornberger stands to the right of the camel in this photo taken in Djibouti, Africa, spring 1947. Photo by Howard Lord

Donald L. Klippenstein passed away February 18, 2015, at age 90. Don was part of the SS Clarksville Victory crew that delivered horses to Poland in December 1945. His crew had a number of reunions through the years. I was fortunate to join them at Camp Mack in 2005 and hear their stories first-hand. Being on one of the first UNRRA livestock deliveries to Poland after World War II, this crew saw some war atrocity remnants that later crews weren’t able to see. Watch for future posts about this Clarksville Victory trip. Don is the one standing on the right in the picture below. Rest in peace, Don.

Don Klippenstein at Clarksville Victory reunion, 2005

Don Klippenstein, top right, met with some of his Clarksville Victory crewmates at their 2005 reunion. Photo courtesy of J. Olin Yoder

 

This year’s frigid temperatures have reminded me that it’s been a year now since we lost seagoing cowboy Cletus Schrock on February 3, 2014, in a very cold and snowy week in northern Indiana. But I have warm memories of my interview with Cletus at his son’s house several years ago and the lovely meal my husband and I had with that part of his family. Cletus was an Amish farmer at the time of his trip to Poland aboard the SS Carroll Victory and has an interesting story that I will relate in a future post. Rest in peace, Cletus.

Cletus Schrock and some of his Carroll Victory crewmates, spring 1946

Cletus Schrock poses third from the right with some of his crewmates on the Carroll Victory, spring 1946, en route to Poland. Photo courtesy of Cletus Schrock

Peggy Reiff Miller interviews Cletus Schrock

Cletus shares his seagoing cowboy experience with Peggy Reiff Miller. Photo by Rex Miller