The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

School Money

By Russel E. Pangle © 1985

Issue: March, 1985

From Grayson Avenue in Waynesboro, Virginia to the Waynesboro Nursery near Lyndhurst is a long way to ride a bicycle and then work ten hours before riding home again. I was working at the Waynesboro Nursery in June of 1941 for a dollar a day trying to save enough money to pay for my school clothes and supplies for the fall, but after I received my first week's pay of six dollars, I knew I couldn't save enough money to make any difference. By the time I bought my brown bag lunch and paid for my bicycle repairs, there was very little money left to save.

I wouldn't quit my job though, at least I had a job while most of my friends were still looking.

My five feet-ten inches of height and 165 pounds had allowed me to pass as eighteen in order to get this job, but the fact that I hadn't worn boy size clothes for the last two years was a financial disadvantage.

I was dragging a burlap sack filled with straw to kneel on as I stripped suckers off of the young peach tree stumps at the Nursery when I overheard one of the ex-CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) members remark that the Virginia National Guard paid nine dollars a month for one weekend a month and two weeks of summer camp. I quickly figured that I could save more money with the nine dollars from the Guard, since they also furnished uniforms and food, than I could by continuing to work at the Nursery.

I was prepared to falsify my age to join the National Guard without any thought of the consequences. At fifteen I looked eighteen years old.

On the fifth of June 1941, I went to the Stock Yards in Staunton, Virginia with my grandfather. I hadn't told him or my parents what I was planning to do, so when he wasn't looking, I left the Stock Yards and walked two miles back to the Post Office Building in Staunton.

When I got to the Post Office Building and went upstairs to the Virginia National Guard Office, I found a big green sign in the door glass saying the Guard office was closed indefinitely.

"So much for the offhand information on the Guard," I had grumbled as I went back down the hall toward the steps. As I was about to start down the steps, a voice called out to me and asked who I was looking for. I turned to face a big man in an army uniform.

I explained why I was there and he told me that the Virginia National Guard had been mobilized and was at Fort Meade, Maryland. In other words, they were now Regular Army Troops.

This Army Recruiting Sergeant invited me into his office to explain and in the next half hour I had taken a test "just to see if I could make it in the Regular Army." I passed the test, then went down town to take the physical examination, which I passed and then I was on my way back to the Stock Yards with my enlistment papers for my parents to sign.

Even though I was "eighteen" years old, I still had to get my parents to approve my enlistment. At that time 21 was the minimum age.

On the ninth of June I went back to Staunton, Virginia with my papers signed. Of course I had signed the papers for my parents. On June 10th, 1941, I was sworn into the Army Air Force at Richmond.

On November 1, 1945, I was honorably discharged from the Army Air Force at Maxwell Field, Alabama as a Staff Sergeant, at the age of nineteen.

I had found the perfect way to pay for my high school education.