Category Archives: People

Bradley Justice, 1954

Buck Camp has been kind enough to allow me to pass on his reminiscences of getting a traffic ticket in Bradley when he was only 14 years old.  Incredible as it may seem, at that time it was possible in Arkansas for a 14–year-old to obtain a completely unrestricted driver’s license.

Buck writes:

“[The first ticket] I got, I was fourteen years old.  Dad had started letting me use the Jeep regularly [ …I got my full driver’s license at age fourteen in Arkansas, and the jeep was an Army surplus 1943 Ford], and I had gotten pretty good as I learned to drive that ‘mean machine’ on gravel and in the mud as well as on ‘blacktop’ (asphalt).  I learned that in loose gravel, for instance, that I could, at slow to moderate speeds, downshift, turn the wheels slightly, apply the brakes, correct the steering forward, and go into what I called a ‘four-wheel drift.’ Well, one night right after dark on the gravel road outside Bradley, I approached a stop sign at a ‘tee’ intersection where the old gravel road met the new blacktop highway coming from Bradley.  I could see both ways, and the only car in sight was about a half mile away coming from Bradley on the blacktop towards the intersection.  Applying the cool ‘four wheel drift’ tactics I had just learned, I simply ‘slud’ in the gravel sideways and through the stop sign at probably ten miles per hour, screeched and lurched onto the blacktop, and headed toward Bradley and the oncoming car.  Sure enough, as I got closer to the approaching car, he turned on his red light (they were red, not blue ‘in the old days’) and with my luck it was the only State Trooper in Lafayette County — he stopped me right in the middle of the highway and asked what in the heck I thought I was doing.  I got a stern lecture, my very first traffic ticket, and was told that I had to appear before the local ‘magistrate’ in Bradley.   The magistrate (a part-time job) just happened to be George Bell, who also happened to be my Scoutmaster and the owner of Bell’s General Store at Walnut Hill two miles from Bradley (small towns are small worlds!).  Needless to say, my Dad was not pleased, but, being my Dad (and he was also the Mayor who appointed George Bell to his post as Magistrate!), he went with me to “court,” which was in a room at Tyler’s Gulf gasoline station to appear  before “Magistrate Bell.”  I was shaking like a leaf, afraid I’d have to go to the ‘Bradley jail;’ but no, my fine was five dollars, which was a lot of money in those days for a fourteen year old (hamburgers were a quarter and cokes were a nickel!), and I didn’t have it … my Dad (thank goodness) paid it for me [I didn’t want to go to the infamous Bradley jail] … but he got it out of me later, and a lot more….!!!!

By way of explanation, the ‘Bradley jail’ was a wooden structure built on the east side of the railroad tracks near the water tower.  It was basically a wooden building about 10 by 15 feet square with a concrete floor.  The walls and ceiling were 2×4’s nailed together to make a “wall” four inches thick (lumber was cheap in those days), and it had a tin roof that got really hot in the summer time.  There was no ‘office’ or ‘jailer’ nearby; the constable simply took people there, locked them up with (literally!) a bucket of drinking water and an empty pail for “excretion,” and they just  had to stay there till someone from the Sheriff’s office in Lewisville 23 miles away came to pick them up.  And if they were forgotten at meal time, well … they just shouldn’t have done something bad in the first place.  It was not the kind of place you wanted to go for even a short stay!!!!”

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The ‘Bradley jail’ of which Buck writes is one and the same as the Bradley ‘Calaboose’ referred to in the 11/7/07 post on this site.  The new blacktop highway to which Buck refers is Highway 29, which underwent some minor rerouting and was paved in 1954.

Many thanks to Buck for his generosity in sharing this piece with the readers of this site.

George Bell, Scoutmaster of Troop 72

I received an e-mail from Don C. Barnett, who had read the 5/12/08 post on George Bell and the Bradley Pioneer.  Don wrote:

“Thanks for your posting about Mr. Bell and the ‘Bradley Pioneer.’  I enjoyed it very much.  It does bring fond memories of George W. Bell.  Mr. Bell was Scoutmaster of Troop 72 for a number of years, when I was a Scout.  One of the places the Scouts would camp was in a wooded area behind his home at Walnut Hill.  I will never forget being around a campfire, before “Taps” and Mr. Bell would recite from memory the poem, ‘The Cremation of Sam McGee,’ by Robert Service.  The hair on the back of your neck would stand up.

I know Mr. Bell helped a number of Scouts to do the right things in life and we all are better persons because of George W. Bell.”

The poem to which Don refers concludes with these lines:

… The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,

But the queerest they ever did see

Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge

I cremated Sam McGee.

                            – – Robert Service.

Whatever happened to … the Bradley Pioneer?

I recently received an e-mail from Buck Camp, who is the son of the late J. W. “Buck” Camp, Sr., longtime Mayor of Bradley about 40–50 years ago.  Buck asks:  “Does anyone know if any issues of the Bradley Pioneer newspaper, edited and published in the 1960s by George Bell … are in a library collection or if any still exist?”  The short answer to Buck’s question is an emphatic “Yes.”  And, like many parts of Bradley’s history, therein lies a tale…

George Bell, shown below in 1971, published the Bradley Pioneer from 1960 to 1976. The only two photographs I could find of George are not very good photos.  One is slightly out-of-focus and the other suffers from badly deteriorated 35mm slide film. 

041606 Kids & friends 71 George Bell B

For almost all of the sixteen years the Pioneer was published, George prepared it on a Linotype machine.  The picture below is of very poor quality, but it shows George at work in 1968 on that cumbersome apparatus.

012104 George Bell 68 B

A Linotype machine is just that.  The operator types in one line of type at a time.  The machine forms a mold for that line of type.  The machine then pours hot lead into the mold, which cools to make the actual print that is struck by the ink of the printing press.  Once done, the lead goes back into the hot lead pot to be melted and reused.

Shortly after George ceased publishing the Pioneer in 1976, the late Dr. John Ferguson, Executive Director of the Arkansas State History Commission, visited him.  Dr. Ferguson asked George if the History Commission could microfilm the issues of the Pioneer that George still had.  George replied that he was willing for the issues to be microfilmed, but that sorting sixteen years of issues would be next to impossible. 

I heard about Dr. Ferguson’s visit and its unsuccessful outcome, and volunteered to help George in the sorting of the back issues of the paper.  Perhaps the word “volunteer” isn’t entirely accurate, because I did demand one form of payment for my efforts.

George kept his back issues of the paper in the back room of his building.  Sixteen years of issues had been stacked haphazardly during that time into daunting piles, many of which were even taller than I am.  Apparently, George would place a few back issues of each week’s edition onto whatever pile was smallest.  This went on for sixteen years.  It was a rather large room, roughly 16 feet by 20 feet, and it was crammed with back issues.

For two very long days, George and I, with an assist from Ricky Kennedy, sorted back issues.  We got some saw horses and sheets of plywood and made makeshift tables for sorting.  We first sorted papers by year of publication and then by issue number.  Of course, most of the issues had many more copies than we needed. 

It turned out that George had saved all but 8 to 10 issues of the Pioneer published during those sixteen years.  Those were boxed up and Dr. Ferguson later picked them up, took them to Little Rock for microfilming, and returned them to George.  My “price” for assisting George in sorting the back issues was that he would give me the second most complete set.  There were about a half-dozen issues for which only one copy had been saved, so my set was missing around 15 issues total.

I later donated my set to the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives, known as SARA, in Washington, Arkansas.  To the best of my knowledge, they are still there today and open to inspection by the public.  SARA’s web site is www.southwestarchives.com.  SARA is now a branch of the Arkansas State History Commission.

When I was last in the offices of the Arkansas State History Commission (www.ark-ives.com) in Little Rock about three years ago, an attendant showed me the four microfilm rolls of the Bradley Pioneer.  At that time, copies of each roll could be purchased for $75 each.  Like everything else, though, I suspect that the price has increased since that time.

Letter from an American Hero (Part 2 of 2)

I asked Glynn McCalman, Clyde Vernon McCalman’s brother, to write a paragraph or so describing Clyde as he was before he entered the U. S. Army, and Glynn was kind enough to provide the following:

“Clyde Vernon McCalman was born June 13, 1923, to Odell and Gertrude McCalman at their farm home on the old Shreveport Road south of Walnut Hill.  He and his brothers, Marvin, Byrd and Glynn, attended school at Bradley, where Clyde excelled academically and socially.

Clyde continued to excel as a student at Ouachita College during the early years of World War II.  He was exempted from service in the war because of his status as an ordained minister, but he was uncomfortable with that exemption.  After the death of a close cousin, neighbor and friend, Harland Bird, in a bombing raid over Germany, he felt compelled to offer himself in the conflict.

He volunteered for service in the Army on March 17, 1944, and was killed on the same day one year later, March 17, 1945, in the final weeks of the war in Europe.  The letter (in the previous post) was written in the month preceding the month of his death.”

Thanks to Glynn McCalman for providing the above information.  For any reader of this site who may not already be aware of it, Glynn is a Bradley area historian and the author of two books on local history:  Bradley Connections and Walnut Hill And Somewhere Else.

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Clyde’s letter touches on several aspects of an infantryman’s life during active combat, such as the simple pleasure of sleeping inside a building.  Perhaps it may be useful to add a clarifying comment to some passages from the letter.

There is a reference in the first paragraph to someone named Hogue.  I have no idea who this was, other than someone who was obviously a mutual acquaintance of Clyde and my father.

The third paragraph of the letter refers to the “big German counterattack” and the awful winter weather.  This is a reference to what we now call the Battle of the Bulge, which began shortly before Christmas in 1944.  It was Hitler’s last serious attempt to break out of the encirclement into which the Allied advances had forced him.

The fourth paragraph of the letter states that “It was my division which cut off the Cherbourg Penninsula and took 1/4 of all prisoners taken on Cherbourg.”  This refers to combat operations shortly after D-Day, June 6, 1944, when the Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy in France.  Cherbourg, with its fine port facilities which the Allies coveted and which the Germans were determined to defend long enough to destroy, was taken on June 30, 1944. 

Clyde states in the letter that he has “five months of combat behind me,” so it is doubtful that he was personally engaged in active combat during the Cherbourg operations.  Indeed, that would have occurred only a little more than three months after his enlistment in the U. S. Army.  It does, however, provide an idea of how long his unit had been actively engaged with the Germans.  Another indication of constant attack operations by the U. S. Army can be found in the comment in the next-to-last paragraph that “We have not been farther back than our own artillery since early October.”

It is ironic that Clyde’s letter states that he had “a comparitively soft job – mil clerk and administrative assistant to the 1st Sgt,” yet he was killed in action a little more than one month later.  This is perhaps an indication of the ferocity of the fighting, the urgency to maintain the attack, and the need for every soldier, including the ones with a “comparatively soft job,” to actively participate in the fighting.

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Pfc. Clyde Vernon McCalman’s remains were temporarily interred at Henri-Chapelle in Belgium and were later moved to the Walnut Hill Cemetery.  Below is an image of the foot marker on his grave:

Letter From An American Hero (Part 1 of 2)

Clyde Vernon McCalman was the son of Mr. R. Odell McCalman and Mrs. Gertrude McCalman.  He was born on June 13, 1923.  In February of 1945, he was serving as a Private First Class with the United States Army on its final push into Nazi Germany.  On February 6, 1945, he wrote the following letter to Frank M. Cochran, Jr., who was serving with the United States Army in the Pacific theater.  A verbatim transcription of the letter follows the images.

                                          “Germany

                                           February 6, 1945

Dear Frank M;

     Recieved your letter of Dec. 27 today and was very glad to hear from you again.  Had a brief letter from Hogue recently saying you had moved but didn’t know you were in Air Corps.

     To be sure things are pretty rough over here but so far as I am personally concerned I can not complain — naturally, with five months of combat behind me, as an infantryman I have had some close calls — God has been good to me.

     I find it amazing how much a fellow can take when the chips are down —the big German counterattack was bad enough without the 20 degrees below weather and snow about 3 or 4 ft. deep usually.  For the past few days our Ninth Div has been making the headlines — as it did in Africa, Sicily, France, Belgium, and now Germany — It was my division which cut off the Cherbourg Penninsula and took 1/4 of all prisoners taken on Cherbourg.

     We got quite a bit of “loot” off of prisoners — I sent a good German compass home yesterday for which I was offered $10.  Could easily have sold it for twice that much.

                                              2

     Also, I have a fine 120 bass accordian which one of my buddies captured and made me a present of — as good or better than my own for which I paid $325.

     It is quite a source of pleasure to us when we get our occassional rest.  I drag it out and we have a song fest even though the Jerries may be only a couple of miles away— (We have not been farther back than our own artillery since early October.)  I can play the accordian quite well now — even more tunes than I can on the piano.

     I “lasted long enough” to rate a comparitively soft job — mil clerk and administrative assistant to the 1st Sgt.  My candle is about burned out so I had better hit the hay — Am sleeping in a building tonight for a change.  That is the good part about being in Germany —

                                             Sincerely

                                             Clyde Mc.”

 

     On March 17, 1945, exactly one year after he enlisted in the U. S. Army, and exactly 39 days after he wrote this letter, Pfc. Clyde Vernon McCalman was killed in action in Germany.  He was 21 years old.