Jefferson County Historical Society


Crystal City Graduating Class of 1938 - written April 16, 1945
By: Norma Portell, Mary Flo Poggemeier, and Paul Harter
Transcribed by Lisa K. Gendron (mailing addresses have been deleted)

The Spirit of '38 has arisen and brings you news and tidings of your classmates of yesteryear. It's been some time since we were sitting on top of the world (we thought) in May '38 and the members of our graduation class are now far flung and have had varied and interesting experiences since those carefree days. With this letter it is our purpose to bring you a resume of the events in the life of each member during the past seven years.

Everyone remembers Mildred Struckhoff from Kimmswick who played the xylophone. After leaving good ol' C.H.S., she headed for the big city of St. Louis, where she was employed by Purina Mills. All the while, she was carrying on a heavy correspondence with a sailor at Pearl Harbor. In 1942, that sailor, in the person of Wilbur Becker of Festus, came home and they were married, but he didn't stay here long; instead he returned to his ship and sea duty. At the present, Chief Yeoman, and Mrs. Becker and their son are stationed at Dallas, Texas.

Bob 'Speeddemon' Hess entered the University of Missouri in the fall of '38 to study mechanical engineering. He graduated in February of '43 and in March entered the armed forces with a reserve commission of 2nd. Lt. That uniform must have convinced the girl friend, because in June Bob took unto himself a bride, Miss Mary Lou Gwinn of Slater, Mo., who is a mighty cute little brunette. Incidentally, they are expecting an addition to their family circle in July. Bob is now stationed at Wright Field, Ohio, where he is connected with the Armament Laboratory of the Engineers Division.

Patti Black, who is no longer Black, also attended the University of Missouri. After a few months of school, Pat decided that she would be a housewife and became Mrs. Wallace Mitchell. Unfortunately, Patti's husband passed away within a short time; she went to St. Louis to work. In May 1943, she became Mrs. Chas. A. Zimmerman, and now makes her home with her parents in Silica while her husband, who is a Lt. with the Signal Corps, is serving Uncle Sam in Belgium. Pat spends her time taking care of Jr. Zimmerman, who came to stay last July.

Dorothy Wolk was married shortly after graduation to Joe Alcott, who is now a seaman 1/c stationed at Washington D.C. Dorothy and her daughter have very recently joined Joe there.

Louis Walz, another lady-killer, went to work for the local glass factory shortly after school was out that long ago spring. Then when the war broke out he went to work for Emerson Electric in St. Louis, later offering his services as an air cadet. March 21, '43, Louie told his pals "so long" and reported to San Antone, Texas where he started the grind. His training took him all over that big state, but in January '44 he received those coveted wings and gold bars, plus a leave to come home and show them off. At the present time, Louis has been overseas about eight months, based in India, Assum Province. He pilots a C-47 and expects to have his missions completed and to get home sometime this summer. He's still single, kids.

Red Wilson worked at PPG for while and then went to St. Louis where he was employed by Emerson Electric for about three years. While there, he was married to Miss Amy Baldridge, a registered nurse. They now have a son named Ronald Clifford, who will be a year old in May. At present, Red is serving Uncle Sam. He's been in service for about a year and a half. His wife and son make their home in St. Louis.

One fair lady from our group continued her schooling at Lindenwood College. Ann Donnell's original plan was to study drama, but she met R. K. Barton, the shoe-polish man, who convinced her it would be more fun to play house than play at drama, so she became Mrs. Barton, December 31, '38, and maintained a home in St. Louis until 1941 when Ann's better-half answered the call-to-arms. Their home was transferred to Rolla, Mo. and then to California. Ann is now keeping the home fires burning in University City, Mo., with her two children Bonnie and R.K. III, while 'ol' man' (we're kidding Ann) now a Lt. Col. is in the South Pacific.

Juanita Hoffman worked in our local glass plant for awhile, then decided to further her education by attending a business school in St. Louis. Shortly after that, she became Mrs. Fred Wyat and now makes her home in Idaho. At present she is assisting her husband with his newspaper business.

Gladys Heob is now Mrs. LeRoy Pruneau as everyone suspected she was when we graduated. She has two very lovely children, Terry and Vicki Lynn. LeRoy was employed at the glass factory until April 10, when he joined the armed forces as a private. Gladys is living at Route #2, Festus Mo.

Richard Becker, another of the Kimmswick boys, also went to the big city, where he was employed by the Globe Democrat newspaper for awhile, and was working himself up in the world, when he decided that he would take a try at the Navy. For quite a while, he was fortunate enough to be stationed at Lambert Field, but just about a year ago, he left for the west coast. Since then he has been out on the waters, exactly where, we don't know. He holds the rank of A.M.M. 1/c.

"Doc" Wolk is still the musician. After working for P.P.G. for some time, he, too, answered the call to arms and was stationed at Ft. Leonard Mo. While there, he was with a band (could he have been a bugler?) He has been overseas since the first of the year and is now with the ninth army in Germany. To prove that statement that he's still a musician, he requested a set of strings for a mandolin which he uncovered in Germany.

Ethel Lorch, our only red haired girl, joined the ranks at P.P.G. and there romance entered her life in the person of Homer (Red) Harmon whom she took unto her own in the latter part of '42. At present, Ethel is with her husband, who is recuperating from an automobile accident.

'Speedball' Commerford, who always came up Mississippi Avenue when the last bell was ringing, continued his schooling in medical school at St. Louis University for two years; then journeyed to St. Ambrose College in Davenport, Iowa for one year. "School doesn't get it," said Jim, so he 'mosied' on back to home grounds in 1941 where he became chief chauffeur for Vinyard's funeral home. (Hmmm, Poppa a Dr.; son an undertaker...nice combination!) In due time, of course, Jim transferred his allegiance to 'Ye Olde Samme,' going into the army December '42. After induction at J.B. (as usual) Jim shipped to Ft. Bliss, Texas where he spent a year and a half in an anti-aircraft unit. Here, Jim was everything from a telephone girl to a bugler. (At last we've found one. Tell us Jim, who in 'ell does wake the bugler?) After spending one month at Camp White, Oregon, taking M.P. training, he is now a guard at a Jap internment camp in California.

Rudy Smiljanich must have known about this war because he went into the National Guard, transferring to the army shortly after graduation. He's now a 1st Sgt. and has spent time overseas in the ETO. He has just been returned to the states after having been wounded. Rudy has gotten himself a better half and a very pretty one, too. She is a St. Louis girl; Miss Suzanne Frolo before she took the Smiljanich moniker. Rudy has spent a great many of his army days in the state of Texas.

Harv Reddick (that sentimental gentleman of swing) headed South after graduation, enrolling in the So. East Mo. State Teachers College as a music major. By attending summer as well as regular terms he so speeded up the educational process that in Mar. '41 he was qualified to accept a position as Principal and Music Instructor in the Fornfelt Missouri High School. In early '42 "he joined up" going into the Navy. Boot training at Great Lakes was followed by 3 months course in Navigation which netted Harvey a rating Petty Officer 3/c. It was during this time that Harv married a Festus lassie, Miss Evelyn Gamel whom he "sparked" at Cape. His first duty assignment was aboard the Destroyer "Barney" where he was promoted to Petty Officer 2/c and served as assistant Navigator. It was while serving in the Caribbean Sea area that Harvey decided he would like to be a "hardware man" so he applied for and was granted a commission being sent to the Columbia University in New York Midshipman School. Our former classmate did well at Columbia, ranking in the upper bracket in is graduating class of 1100 men, thus being one of the 16 chosen to remain at Columbia for 1 year as instructors. The Reddicks maintained a home in New York during this period and, of course, the home not being complete without the patter of little feet they brought forth a "young 'un" whom they named Robert Hugh. Harvey is now in Miami, Fla. and has just finished another 60 days of schooling. Orders to enter P T Boat School in Rhode Island and a promotion to Lieut. (jg) are in the offing.

George Lotz cracked jokes and delivered the goods for McLane's Grocery Store 'til October '39 when he transferred to Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co. May 24/41 was a red letter day in the life of Miss Almeda Drury of Festus, Mo. for it was on that day that she married our classmate. Then in Feb. of '42 he went to work at Small Arms Plant in St. Louis staying there a year and returning thereafter to his old stomping grounds and P.P.G. Co. A daughter, Becky Sue, was born to the Lotzes on Feb. 13, 1943 (at George's request we ask that you note the lapse of time between May 24/41 and Feb. 13/43). George's hearty laughter still rings in the Duplate Office and his equally deep toned baritone tootings are to be heard each summer at the Crystal City Band Concerts. His address is now Festus Missouri.

Stevie Sircusa (the bashful boy with the fetching grin) pumped gas at the Shell Station back in the days when you could drive up and say "fill 'er up and no one fainted." He was working in the wareroom of the local glass factory when the President sent his greetings and later advised that Steve would look nice in a tank. After training at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, Steve, as a member of the 751st. Tank Bn. shipped to England arriving there in August '42. The African, Sicilian and Italian Campaigns saw Steve and his outfit in there slugging to such an extent that the exploits of his particular tank, Buxom Becky, were heralded in the St. Louis newspapers. He is still in Italy at this time and fortune continues to smile upon him in that he has maintained his good looks and good health in spite of the severities. We as well as pretty Gussie Coleman await his early return.

John Skiadas helped make tempered glass at the local plant 'til Nov. '41 when he went into the Army, being sent first of all to Aberdeen, Maryland and then to Camp Clayborne, La. In May '42 he shipped to Australia spending about 2 years in that area transferring then to the New Guinea Campaign. On Dec. 8/44 John came home on a furlough which was to be of 30 days duration but was cut to 20 days. He is now in the Philippines. These writers had the pleasure of talking with John while he was home and must give him credit for being a spinner of interesting tales of life as a G.I. whose job it is to baby along several of Sam's big portable power generators, as that is the work he is doing.

Paul Visnovske, our star athlete of Crystal City High, started his working days in the wareroom of P.P.G. Co. He continued there 'til Nov. '41 when Un. Sam pointed his finger at Paul and said "I want you." Paul was placed in the Ordnance Division and stationed at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin 'til Nov. '43 when he was shipped to Ireland. Paul showed the Irish how the good old game of basketball should be played, bringing acclaim upon himself with his abilities in this sport. Paul took part in the invasion of Western Europe and served well. On Dec. 16/44 while engaging in the drive in Belgium Paul was wounded and was hospitalized for 16 days in Paris, France. The Purple Heart has been awarded him but he advised that he doesn't care for more of the same, thank you.

James Burch, better known to all as Warren, is now a Corporal in an anti-aircraft group and stationed overseas. Prior to his entry into the service in Sept. '42 Warren did considerable blue print work for a construction company at Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo. He took the fatal plunge in Nov. '43 bestowing his avowals to love, honor, and obey upon Miss Mabel Janes from Murphysboro, Illinois. Warren has been overseas since Jan. '44.

You all remember "Moitle" Freese from Plattin Creek. Well, "Moitle" doesn't live there any more - she moved to Festus and became a "slick chick." (long low whistle here boys) She worked for Union Electric of Festus for 4 years, advancing to the St. Louis Area Office where she had the distinction of being the 1st girl employee at the Venice Plant. She's still single and hoping, boys.

Verna Moran, that gal from Rush Tower you'll remember, worked in the Duplate Dept. at the local glass factory for approximately 4 years after graduation and then went to the Big City, taking a job at the St. Louis Small Arms Plant. A St. Louis boy, one Ralph Gardener, in 1943 took Verna for his one and only. She continues to "pass the ammunition" for she is staying with her war plant job while her husband is overseas.

Loretta Stolzer, "Talky," in late '38 went to work for Terry, Terry, and Terry (the Broken Record revived) and continued with them until '42 at which time the firm was then known as Terry, Terry, Terry, and Stolzer. (she did all right!!) Citizens Bank of Festus was the next stop and she continues on there. The name is still Miss Loretta Stolzer.

Sammie Salamon - remember the curly head - has been a hard working boy, going to P.P.G. Co. in '39 and continuing there until early '42 when he went to St. Louis to work in a grocery store. In 1940 he took time out from the daily grind of earning a living and married Miss Melva Huskey of that city. They now have a three year old daughter.

Art Freese, erstwhile son of the soil, continued at his farm work from '38 to Jan. '45 during which time he managed to get in a year of night school attending Rankin School of St. Louis and dear old C.C.H.S. On the 11th day of January of this year, Uncle Sammy beckoned to Art giving to him the following title; Pvt. Arthur Freese.

"Casanova" Leitterman, the lad whose hair was never out of place, even on the football field, started his career back when gas was plentiful, by working at Arogas Filling Station. After that he put in some time at P.P.G. Co. In Feb. '42, he answered the call to arms, was assigned to the ground crew of the Air Corps, and sent to Texas. In August '42 he went overseas, landed in Africa, made the push into Sicily and Italy. At the present time, he is still in Italy, hoping for that long awaited furlough, which we hope comes soon.

Stores seem to have a peculiar fascination for our classmates. Catherine Stevens assisted her father in his store for some time after May '38. About three years ago she became Mrs. Leo Sircusa. (that's Stevie's brother) Leo is in the Army, so for the duration Catherine is helping out at P.P.G. and hoping Leo will be back soon.

George Pappas spent a year and a half at Northwestern where he continued the "Gallopin' Greek" traditions upon the football field. He spent a little time at Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co. too, and prior to Pearl Harbor enlisted in the Army, and has covered quite a lot of territory since. He married a local lass some two years ago and now has a cute little daughter. George is now in South Africa.

"Padge" Bond was another of the old Arogas boys. He also put in time at P.P.G. Co. and then, as the story goes, in the summer of '42 he reported to Jefferson Barracks, and was placed in the Medical Corps. For two years he was fortunate enough to be stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. near enough to get home almost every week-end to see his one and only Florence Jay, who is now Mrs. Paul Bond, they having middle-aisled it June 10, 1944. Shortly after, he was transferred to Camp Barkley, Texas. He trained in Texas until last November when he was shipped to New Orleans where he is at the present time.

Bob (Abbey) Abernathy has had a very colorful career. Hang on to your seats, kids, and we will tell you all about "Illustrious" Bob. First of all, he spent 2 years at St. Louis U. where he majored in football. (or do we have that wrong Bob?) Commerce and Finance were his minors. In the spring of '40 Bob returned to Crystal city and loafed for a year - just working the night shift at P.P.G. Co. then going each morning to Lambert Field in St. Louis for flight instructions and attending St. Louis U for evening classes. (we are still wondering where he got his shut eye) Feb. '41 saw "Ramblin' Robert" heading for Canada where the R.C.A.F. awaited him. Graduated from Flight Training as a Sgt. Pilot just one month later, Bob was assigned as an instructor in his group, later advancing to Flight Commander in which position he was responsible for 10 instructors and 50 flying students. Busy man that he was in this "foreign" land Bob had a chance to give the "native" feminine population the once over and wisely chose one lovely Edith "Pat" Boland of Windsor, Canada to be Mrs. Abbey. Returning to the U.S. in May '42 he joined the U.S. Naval Air Corps, immediately was commissioned an Ensign and shipped to Corpus Christi for further training. Bob advanced to an instructor at his station and then went to Alameda, Calif. where he became a supervisor of 8 flight training schools which were located in 4 different states and had to be visited by plane. While on one of his flights to the schools in his charge, Bob made the mistake of tangling with a mountain and came out second best, wrecking one of Uncle Sam's nice new planes and sustaining minor injuries to himself. After 6 weeks hospitalization (pretty sick? or pretty nurse?) he was able to return to duty. Since July of '44 Bob has been seeing a bit of the world while flying a C-54 for the U.S. Naval Transport Service. He can't tell where he's been but the theatre-of-war ribbons on his chest remind one of an elaborate patchwork quilt, so varied are they. Mr. and Mrs. Abbey and Abbey Jr. are now on their way to the West Coast so we will have to wait until the next issue of this letter to give you an address for this classmate.

Mrs. Bruce Reed, whom we remember as Bernice Miller is still in the old home town. For awhile Bernice trained in St. Louis to be a beautician, after which she returned home and was employed at Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co. She put her training to good use and snagged Bruce Reed, the idol of her high school dreams. Right now, you'll find Bernice preparing for a bundle from heaven. (Hope it's a boy)

Among the gang at P.P.G. we also find Jeanette DeGeare, who has been employed there since '38, except for a short period when she helped make ammunition at the Small Arms plant in St. Louis.

We all remember our beloved classmate Paul Magre. As you probably know, he enlisted in the Air Corps prior to the start of the war, and as a pilot gave his life in the New Guinea campaign. The valor and high ideals displayed by "Jim" in his career make him worthy of our highest esteem.

During the summer after graduation some of us just loafed, some worked, and some planned for the future. Betty Ann got ready to go on to school and in the fall enrolled at Christian College, majoring in commerce. After completing one year she accepted a position as secretary to the county clerk in Hillsboro (playing politics, eh?) where she can still be found. Betty Ann makes her home with her parents in Crystal City....not married as yet, but has some ideas.

Our valedictorian, Marilyn Hipes, worked in an office for the P.P.G. Co. until she convinced Clifford Portell that two could live as cheaply as one; so on August 10, 1940, they marched down the aisle and became Mr. and Mrs. A third party showed up in August '42 and was named Jim. At present, Marilyn lives with her parents, while Clifford serves Uncle Sam's army in North Carolina.

'Virg' Schwent didn't waste much time making herself useful to September '38, we found her working as bookkeeper in Citizens Bank of Festus. However, that was a long way from home, so she convinced P.P.G that they needed her in their office and has been on their payroll since January '42. She's still unattached, but rumor has it that she has a heart interest. You can reach her by addressing Miss Virginia Schwent.

Another Virginia whom we all remember is Virginia Evans. She spent a year at home and in November '39 became Mrs. Henry Aubuchon. Her present home is in St. Louis where she occupies her time by taking care of her three little girls and having dinner ready on time for her 'hubby' who works for a railroad company.

H.B. Hanes, our quick witted and snappy retort sponsor, continued on at the old stand after we all left, intimidating the poor little freshman girls and flattering the seniors, particularly the blondes. But the place wasn't the same without us, and no one could ever replace us in his estimation ('ain't' that a crock of it, H.B.?) so in June '44 he turned to greener pastures by going to Consolidated Vultee at Fort Worth, where he was installed in the bookkeeping dept. A report has it that he has now risen to head bookkeeper. (Right, Pop?)

Well, that about completes the roll call with the exception of Gerry Wheatly, about whom we know only that she is now Mrs. Orin Rauschenbach and makes her home in St. Louis, and Katherine Oberle, whom we know to be married and living in the big city also. To the best of our knowledge, J. D. May, after serving some time with the Coast Guard, is again a civilian, married and making his home in St. Louis. No information whatsoever has been obtained on Jerome Henry; perhaps some of you can help us out on that point. It is our hope that you have enjoyed this discourse and will all come through with a prompt response to this initial effort. Let us know if we've 'done you wrong' by chance, and tell us any further news or other facts about yourself or some classmate. Perhaps we can put out another edition later and all such information will be included. So long for now, SPIRIST OF '38

P.S. Oh yes, there's still Norma Portell, Mary Flo Poggemeier, and Paul Harter to report on...they're still around...they wrote this thing. Norma worked in Dr. Commerford's office til February '42 when she went into the Duplate office where she remains.

Mary Flo attended Rubicam Business School for one term after graduation, then returned home to accept a position with the Crystal City State Bank. Since February 13, 1944, she is Mrs. Joe D. Schunks.

Paul spent two years at DePauw University, and since January '43, has been working with his brother in their plumbing shop.