by Roger M. Goetz
MEMORIAL DAY AND AFTER
Before it was changed by the U. S. Congress in 1971, Memorial Day fell on May 30, regardless of the day of the week. Formerly known as Decoration Day, its focus had been that of decorating the graves of those who fought and died in a war. In 1951, Memorial Day fell on Wednesday.
Memorial Day, or the week end near that day, also signified the opening of the swimming pool at the Ames Country Club. This was part of the growing tendency to see Memorial Day as the beginning of Summer and Labor Day as the end of Summer. Mom paid the $76.00 dues to belong to the Country Club on April 4, and she bought me a new swim suit on May 19 for $2.54.
Mom wrote about Memorial Day and the following on June 15:
May 30 the Duke’s, Bank’s, and we went to the Country Club picnic. Had nice weather.
The next day Thurs. and also Fri. June 1st we had a horrible wind and rain storm. The streets were littered with branches. I was frightened – Chas. was gone both evenings. Fri. eve the house shuddered, but we didn’t run to the basement under a table – never tho’t of it.
At Marshalltown a tornado did considerable damage. Iowa has been full of floods this spring.
Congressional investigation is still going on concerning [Douglas] MacArthur’s dismissal.
Beef price roll back is a mess. Hardly any beef taken to market – black market starting – beef supplies short in the butcher shop.
June 5 we went to the Lynn Fuhrer Lodge for the Chem. Dept. picnic.
Tues. June 12 Chuck started working on the Agronomy farm – hoed corn and he didn’t like it much, but is getting used to it. Hope he doesn’t back off too much.
Elytha Martin’s folks [her dad was Mom’s cousin] are staying here tonite. Her graduation exercises [from Iowa State] are tonite. 8 of us for breakfast and 10 for lunch tomorrow June 16.
On June 15, my parents paid $22.00 for athletic season tickets. I don’t know if this is just for football or for football and basketball all at once. Starting about this time, they went to most of the home games of both sports at Iowa State.
On Sunday, June 17, Mom started a new entry in her diary:
Chas. and I went to the Alumni dinner last night – $2.50 apiece and it was one of the most boring evenings I’ve ever spent in my life.
Chuck went to Eldora [Iowa] with Jack Moore [Chuck’s highschool friend] and his folks. Left about 9:00 and gone all day.
Daddy and Roger took the lawn mower apart and cleaned it up.
And then she wrote on June 22, 1951, Friday:
How horrible – I’m 50 today. Peculiarly I don’t feel any different than I did years and years ago.
The next day we left for Dad’s family reunion in Savanna, Illinois, on Sunday.
The following Thursday, June 28, Mom and Dad were on the serving committee at the Ames Country Club.
* * * * *
In reading Mom’s journal of expenses, one finds periodic purchases of prescriptions labeled "hormones." I didn’t think much of this for I knew that after her total hysterectomy years earlier, the doctors put her on hormone replacement and I assumed that these hormones prescriptions were for estrogen replacement.
Then I saw that on June 29, 1951, she spend $2.73 for something called Marvalon. Research on the internet showed this contained estrogen. Thirty-one years later, in 1982, Mom developed breast cancer and had a radical mastectomy. About that time they realized that estrogen replacement therapy tended cause cancer this way. Fortunately she needed no radiation or chemotherapy after the surgery. Unfortunately, her cancer reappeared (as such did with other women) about fifteen years later in the form of an inoperable brain tumor that resulted in her death.
* * * * *
Our family went, as was our family tradition for many years, to the Country Club for the Fourth of July picnic. As dark approached, everyone moved to the east side of the Club House to watch a nice display of fireworks.
I found it curious that on the previous day, according to Mom’s journal of expenses, they bought a record for $0.91 entitled, "O Soldiers Never Die." I’ve not heard this song since that time, and nearly sixty years later I can still remember the refrain and the tune of that song: "Old soldiers never die, never die, never die. Old soldiers never die. They just fade away."
I wonder if the record was issued around the time of the Fourth because General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964), whom my parents greatly admired, ended his farewell speech given on April 19, 1951, to the U. S. Congress with a reference to this song. Here are the closing paragraphs of that speech:
Efforts have been made to distort my position. It has been said, in effect, that I was a warmonger. Nothing could be further from the truth. I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition, as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a means of settling international disputes. Indeed, on the second day of September, nineteen hundred and forty-five, just following the surrender of the Japanese nation on the Battleship Missouri, I formally cautioned as follows:
Men since the beginning of time have sought peace. Various methods through the ages have been attempted to devise an international process to prevent or settle disputes between nations. From the very start workable methods were found in so far as individual citizens were concerned, but the mechanics of an instrumentality of larger international scope have never been successful. Military alliances, balances of power, Leagues of Nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war. The utter destructiveness of war now blocks out this alternative. We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature, and all material and cultural developments of the past 2000 years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh. But once war is forced upon us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end.
War's very object is victory, not prolonged indecision.
In war there is no substitute for victory.
There are some who, for varying reasons, would appease Red China. They are blind to history's clear lesson, for history teaches with unmistakable emphasis that appeasement but begets new and bloodier war. It points to no single instance where this end has justified that means, where appeasement has led to more than a sham peace. Like blackmail, it lays the basis for new and successively greater demands until, as in blackmail, violence becomes the only other alternative.
"Why," my soldiers asked of me, "surrender military advantages to an enemy in the field?" I could not answer.
Some may say: to avoid spread of the conflict into an all-out war with China; others, to avoid Soviet intervention. Neither explanation seems valid, for China is already engaging with the maximum power it can commit, and the Soviet will not necessarily mesh its actions with our moves. Like a cobra, any new enemy will more likely strike whenever it feels that the relativity in military or other potential is in its favor on a world-wide basis.
The tragedy of Korea is further heightened by the fact that its military action is confined to its territorial limits. It condemns that nation, which it is our purpose to save, to suffer the devastating impact of full naval and air bombardment while the enemy's sanctuaries are fully protected from such attack and devastation.
Of the nations of the world, Korea alone, up to now, is the sole one which has risked its all against communism. The magnificence of the courage and fortitude of the Korean people defies description.
They have chosen to risk death rather than slavery. Their last words to me were: "Don't scuttle the Pacific!"
I have just left your fighting sons in Korea. They have met all tests there, and I can report to you without reservation that they are splendid in every way.
It was my constant effort to preserve them and end this savage conflict honorably and with the least loss of time and a minimum sacrifice of life. Its growing bloodshed has caused me the deepest anguish and anxiety.
Those gallant men will remain often in my thoughts and in my prayers always.
I am closing my 52 years of military service. When I joined the Army, even before the turn of the century, it was the fulfillment of all of my boyish hopes and dreams. The world has turned over many times since I took the oath on the plain at West Point, and the hopes and dreams have long since vanished, but I still remember the refrain of one of the most popular barrack ballads of that day which proclaimed most proudly that "old soldiers never die; they just fade away."
And like the old soldier of that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty.
Perhaps MacArthur’s speech had something to do with why that particular recording was made and why my parents bought it. In any case, it must have been important to them in some way, for the purchase of records by them was not a frequent event. In fact, only other record purchase I found in Mom’s journal of expenses over the previous three years was on August 15, 1950.
The record? "Heap Big Smoke (But no Fire)" at a cost of $0.81. The singer was "The Old Redhead" Arthur Godfrey (1903-1983), to whom I listened frequently on the radio in the early 1950s in the summertime. The song was humorous in its day, but would now probably be considered politically incorrect.