Chapter 6

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Gang
Keeney
Contributors

Chapter 6

Over-The-Hill Breakfast Gang

 

I was invited to join the "Over-The-Hill Breakfast Gang" which meets every second Friday at Schnuck's Restaurant on the Belt Line in Belleville, IL for 8:30 A.M. breakfast. It is a great gang of old East St. Louisans and they have given me a number of stories which I have made a part of my book.

The group was started in 1987 by Earl Morris, Joe Frank and Ben Friday. Earl, Joe and Ben got together on one Friday morning for breakfast. Earl hadn't seen Ben in 25 years and the three of them had a lot to talk about.

After the breakfast they decided they would meet the following Friday and bring two other fellows they had talked about. By word of mouth the group has grown to 28 fellows.

They now meet every other Friday at Schnuck's Restaurant on the Belt Line in Belleville. All 28 fellows grew up in East St. Louis and graduated from the two high schools, East Side and Central Catholic. They all married East St. Louis girls and all went to service in World War II and all came home safe and sound.

Seven of them enlisted in the Army at the same time when World War II broke out and all were sent to the Pacific. The seven are Joe Frank, Mancil Woodring, Hersel Lillis, Gene Smith, Jim Borders, Frank "Jack" Bauers and Jack Schoterneyer. The rest of the fellows were sent to other parts of the world.

Earl Morris, Emmett Salmons, Bob Donham, Bill Delaney, Delmar Seel, Dick Snyder, Charley Keeney, Tom Martin, Pepi Kruta; now all retired.

The fellows are so glad to see each other and talk about their high school days, World War II and their families. The conversation may be a little exaggerated but full of fun and happiness.

Once a month they sing Happy Birthday to those who have birthdays that month and are presented with a pancake with a candle on it and a card. No one can lie about their age.

It's been a beautiful friendship and they hope it can continue on for years to come. They have been very fortunate enough to have only lost two members, in 1988 Ben Friday former owner of Friday's Florist and in 1990 "Pepi" Kruta of Kruta Bakery fame.

 

 Click here to see photos of the Over the Hill Breakfast Gang

 

EARL MORRIS, CHAIRMAN

Subsequent members are: Frank Willmont, Irvin Nicholson, Glenn "Bud" Recklein, Frank Kruta, Thomas Prosser, DDS, Ed English, Ike Harris, Walter Elliott, Ed sage, Bob Anderson and Beryl Smith.

 

 

Armed Forces

The following information was submitted by Eldridge Eugene Smith:

Eldridge Eugene Smith, Illinois National Guard, 11 Bel Aire Ct. RR2, Collinsville, IL 62234.

The Metro-East Area has furnished a great number of men for the Armed Forces during all armed conflicts. Many of these men were members of Illinois National Guard Units.

 

World War I

Headquarters & Supply Company 124th Field Artillery

Battery "'D" 124th Field Artillery

Battery "E" 124th Field Artillery

Battery "F" 124th Field Artillery

These Units were inducted into Federal Service on 3 July 1917. They were released from active duty of 8 June 1919.

 

World War II

Units of the 33rd Division from the Metro East area were the 2nd Battalion of the 123rd Artillery Regiment. Headquarters & Headquarters Battery, East St. Louis, IL Service Battery East St. Louis, IL "T" Battery East St. Louis, IL "F" Battery Alton, IL

These units were called to active duty on 5 March 1941. They were sent to Camp Forrest, Tenn. for basic training and advanced training. They participated in fall maneuvers in Arkansas and Louisiana.

After maneuvers the units returned to Camp Forrest. Here they took Army Ground Force Tests.

The men over 28 were released from active duty at this time. Note: After Pearl Harbor most of these men were recalled to active duty

In January 1942, the 2nd Battalion entrained for Indian Town Gap, Pennsylvania for supposed shipment to Ireland. (Rumors).

On January 15,1942 the Unit embarked for the South Pacific as a member of Task Force 6141D.

After 39 days aboard ship, the Task Force arrived at Melbourne, Australia. They were shown great hospitality in Australia. They lived in various towns, living and eating in Australian homes.

Approximately five days were spent here, then they embarked on ships of the same convoy they had arrived in.

On 16 March 1942, the Task Force arrived at Port of Noumea, New Caledonia. Here the 123rd Field Artillery Battalion became the 223rd Field Artillery Battalion and a member of the American Division.

From this time on a number of men received Field Commissions. Others cadred new Artillery Units. Some returned to the States to Flight School and Officer Candidate Schools. One Officer returned to become a member of Darby's Rangers.

 

KOREAN WAR

Once again, when the call came, men of the MetroEast area were ready. They were members of the 209th Field Artillery Battalion, part of the 44th Infantry Division.

Headquarters & Headquarters Battery, East St. Louis

Service Battery 209th Field Artillery Bn., East St. Louis "A" Battery 209th Field Artillery Bn., Alton

"B" Battery 209th Field Artillery Bn., Belleville, IL

"C" Battery 209th Field Artillery Bn., Edwardsville

The Units were called to active duty on 15 February 1952. They then moved to Camp Cooke, California for training. Later the Artillery Units trained at Camp Hunter-Liggett Reservation in California. Later when Camp Cooke was turned over to the Air Force to become Vandenberg Air Force Base, the unit was sent to Fort Lawton, Washington.

Not many of the original members were left when the move to Washington was made. A great many had been sent to Korea as replacements. Some had been sent to Germany and others to Alaska.

The men were released from duty individually as their tours ran out in the units to which they had been sent.

 

The following piece of history was submitted by Jim Borders.

 

THE ILLINOIS NATIONAL GUARD

Prior to World War I several units of the 124th Field Artillery Regiment were recruited in East St. Louis. Other units of the 124th were from Springfield, Urbana and Peoria. The 124th was a part of the 58th Field Artillery Brigade, 33rd Division. The 58th Brigade served in France as an Army rather than as a Divisional Brigade. At no time was it in action with its own 33rd Division. Instead it served with great success as supporting artillery to five other divisions. A memorial to the fallen members of the 124th Field Artillery, as well as other East St. Louisans, still stands at 25th Street and Lynch Avenue.

On August 15,1937, Headquarters Battery and "E"' Battery of the Third Combat Train were organized and mustered into the 123rd Field Artillery, 58th Field Artillery Brigade, 33rd Division.

In March 1938 the Units were on active duty at Belleville at the tornado disaster.

On January l, 1941 the unit designation was changed from 3rd Combat Train to 2nd Battalion. At the same time service batteries and anti-tank batteries were added to the Battalion. Headquarters Battery also picked up anti-tank platoon.

On March 5,1941, the division was called into federal service, for a year of active duty. In the summer of 1941, the division participated in the Louisiana Maneuvers. After maneuvers, the anti-yank batteries and platoons were separated from the Field Artillery and assigned to the new Tank Destroyer Corps.

On December 7, 1941, the year of active duty was extended "for the duration".

January 13, 1942, the units were designated 123rd Field Artillery Battalion, Task Force 6814, Americal Division (the only U.S. Army Division with a name instead of a number). On the 15th the Battalion boarded trains for movement overseas.

On February 26th, 1942, the Battalion arrived at Melbourne, Australia. Needless to say, the Aussies were more than happy to see the U. S. Troops, as their fighting units were in North Africa. The Battalion moved to New Caledonia, a French Island off the northeast comer of Australia, arriving March 15th.

April 18th, 1942, the unit designation was changed to 2nd Battalion, 200th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force 6814, Americal Division. About this time the Battalion came into possession of some 18 pounders in addition to the 155mm Schneider Howitzers already or hand. The unit was assigned the task of defending Bourail Bay and its environs, the gun crews were thinned out to man the 18 pounders.

August 15th, 1942 found the unit called 223rd Field Artillery Battalion, Americal Division. The Army spent a great deal of time deciding whether the unit was to a separate battalion, or part of a regiment. The 223rd had quite a few of its members gain direct commissions, went to Officer Candidate School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The unit lost many members who were transferred to other units due to their critical MOS positions, or went out as cadres to form new units.

The unit lost their bulky 155mm Howitzers, and were issued 155mm guns, informally known as "Long Toms." This required additional training with the new weapons, and the unit finally finished up serving in the Philippine Island war zone.

After World War II, Hq. Battery, 209th Field Artillery, 44th Ill. National Guard Division was formed in East St. Louis. It was called to active duty 15 February 1952 for the Korean War. The unit moved to Camp Cook California 7 March, and on to Fort Lewis, Washington in December of 1952. Although many members of the unit later saw duty in Korea, the unit itself, never left thr states. At the end of the Korean War, the 44th Division was deactivated.

 

Contributed by Hersel Lillis was the following article about the 33rd division.

 

33RD DIVISION

There were about 80 East St. Louis boys in the Illinois National Guard which were part of Headquarters Battery and "E" Battery of the Third Combat Train which were organized and mustered into the 123rd Field Artillery and 58th Field Brigade of the 33rd Division.

Members were William Agin, Harry Anderson, William Armbrecht, Ray Arnold, Charles (Chess) Baricevic, Jack Bauers, Eddie Beckette, George Bock, Jim Borders, Lloyd Carr, George Cralle, Harry Cralle, P. H. Crawford, Lloyd Davis, W. D. Deadrick, Sylvester Dehler, Bill Delaney, Robert Donham, Walter Elliott, Charles Emmer, Ray Flack, Joe Frank, Ben Friday, Robert Gillick, Eugene Gricius, Norman Havel, R. F. Holden, Elmer Horvath, Miles James, Joe Johnson, Gene Johnson, Charles Keeney, Hank Koegter, Pete Kreitemeyer, Leonard Kohlmeyer, Joe Kruta, George Leezy, Wallace Leezy, Hersel Lillis, Leo Maliszewski, John Malec, Robert Martin, Tom Martin, John McLain, Ralph Miller Jr., Earl Morris, Robert Mohr, Irvin Nicholson, Morris O'Brien, Jimmy Powell, Ivan Powell, Virgil Prise, Tony Przada, Cecil Riley, Melvin Royer, Emmett Salmons, Delmar Seel, Louie Starman, Willie Starman, John Schoterneyer, Ted Skrabacz, Leo Skrabacz, Ted Skrabacz, Berle Smith, Gene Smith, Frank Snow, Dick Snyder, Herb Semmelroth, Curt Ulrich, E. L. Wehrheim, Bob White, A. J. Weissler, Rich Wilhelm, Wallace Wilhelm, George Williams, Frank Willmont, A. E. (Red) Wilson, Mancil (Woody) Woodring, & Ed Zarndt.

 

CHARLES KEENEY

The following is a letter written to me by Charles Keeney. Since it contains many subjects of interest it is being printed as written by him:

Here are some people, places and things that may help you write the book "The Good Things of East St. Louis" What I consider "Good Things" may not be in agreement with a lot of good citizens of old East St. Louis. You be the judge! I was 10 years old in 1930, so I will start there. Feel free to call me any time if there is any question I may be able to answer. Excuse my spelling and typing for I never was the most outstanding student at old Central High. (1934 to 138).

Charles Keeney

 

Click here to read Charles Keeney's Memories of East St. Louis

 

 

RICHARD (DICK) SNYDER

Richard (Dick) Snyder was an all-state end of the East Side football team in the late thirties under head coach Wirt Downing. Dick is a retired teacher and married Peggy Henry, daughter of Frank L. Henry (who was chief clerk of the Board of Review and also a deputy sheriff).

Dick's brother, Frank, married Helen Wild who was a sister of the Wild Twins.

Dick relates the story that in 1941, the Wild twins (Lee and Lynn) walked by a barbershop in Hollywood and a producer saw them and said "There goes twin Lana Turners." He put them with Mickey Rooney (Andy Hardy) in "Double Trouble," a movie. They went on to appear in 14 or 15 movies.

They along with Ellalouise Sidwell had been singing professionally, starting with the Hal Havard band on WTMV, KXOK, and on the Admiral boat. Later they sang with the following bands: Ray Noble, the Bob Crosby's Bob Cat Band, Charlie Barnett and other studio bands.

The Wild Twins married brothers in a band,Tom & Jim Cathcart.

Lee and Tom now live in Grant's Pass, Oregon, after an exciting life in the construction business all along the West Coast. They have a daughter who is a registered nurse and their son is a landscape architect in Orange, California.

63-wildtwins2.TIF (136862 bytes)

Lynn (Wild) Oberlink was a widow and is now living in Indiana. The twins split in 1952 but are now back together again.

 

JEAN (PETERS) BALDWIN & FLORENCE TOCKSTEIN

Jean (Peters) Baldwin sent me a copy of Mel Torme's biography "It wasn't All Velvet".

Mel was married to Florence Tockstein A/K/A Candy Toxton who graduated from East St. Louis High School in 1938 and went to Hollywood. Torme said in his book that she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. Later, she was to marry Hal March of the $64,000 Question.

Anyway, Jean Baldwin's husband is Phil and they write a Political Newsletter for the past 10 years and are proof-readers and have editing experience. She offered help, but due to the distance involved I will need to have it done locally. I do want to thank her for her offer. Jean said she received a very good education attending East St. Louis schools. She said that when she entered the job market she was able to hold her own although her education ended with high school.

On her first job she asked the employer why he hired so quickly. He said "because you were the only one who passed the grammar test".

 

"CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN"

CLINT AND MYRTLE DONHAM

Clintand Myrtle Donham were parents of eight boys and four girls (two sets of twins). The boys were Vincent, 'Miller, Clayton "Boots", Dayton "Tad", Loren "Bud", Robert, Owen and Jim. The girls were Lorraine, Wilma, Eva and Alice. The family moved from Springerton, IL to East St. Louis in 1926.

60-family.tif (198886 bytes)

The Donham Family

Vincent was a stationary engineer, Miller a railroad switchman, "Boots" a steamfitter, "Tad" a Federal worker 'in a V.A. Hospital. "Bud" worked at Sherman Manufacturing, Robert was a truck driver, Jim a City fireman, Owen in nursing home. All sisters were married and had families.

Five brothers were in World War II. Vincent in Navy (ships repair), Boots in Navy on a destroyer, Miller with the Army engineers. Tad in the Infantry was a P.O.W. in Gerrnany for awhile. Robert was in the 6th Ranger Battalion (Army). All served overseas. All five came home after the end of the war.

Father and mother along with five brothers and four sisters are deceased. Bob and two brothers are still living.

Donhams' operated a tavern at 30th and State St. (Old Spike Simpson's Tavern).

 

SCHMIDT'S COURT CAFE

Schmidt's Court Cafe was located at 115 N. 3rd St. (across from the old City Hall).

Schmidt's nephew, Bob Brennan of San Diego, Calif., gave me some pictures of William J. Schmidt and his wife, Sadie, taken 5/25/59. It was a pub for fireman, policeman and politicians. He was a bondsman and loan man who didn't worry about the usury laws (high interest).

He always wore a hat over his toupee (a cheap one) as he was quite bald.

He was a good friend of my Dad and was a solid supporter of mine and the East St. Louis Tavern Association.

61-schmidt.tif (54324 bytes)

 

 

JIM AND ALICIA FLANNERY

On 11/24/91 Jim and Alicia Flannery celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. He and his wife were married at the old St. Joseph's Church. (My brother jack, and I were altar boys at their wedding).

Jim is the retired president of P. Flannery and Sons, Inc.

 

LINDBERGH BABY KIDNAPPED

On March 1st, 1932, the son, Charles A. Lindbergh Jr. was kidnapped from their home in Hopewell, N. J. The baby was 20 months old and held for ransom.

Bruno Hauptman was tried and convicted for the crime. He was executed in the electric chair.

 

Sources

On to Chapter Seven

 

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