This picture was taken at the train depot in Lima sometime in 1951. It’s a picture of my father, Ross Thomas, in his Army uniform, hugging my mother, Joan Thomas. Looking on are mom’s brother, Ron Lloyd, and his wife, Moneta. The picture was taken by one of dad’s buddies from the window of the troop train he was on as it passed through Lima on its way from California to New Jersey. The story behind the picture is a little longer.
Dad received his draft notice in the fall of 1950, just as the Korean War was starting. He reported for basic training in February 1951. Dad says that at the end of basic training, an officer asked if anyone in his company had experience with boats. Dad raised his hand. He didn’t tell them that his experience with boats consisted of driving a small boat with a 5 hp outboard motor on Lake Erie, but apparently that was good enough for the U.S. Army.
He was sent from basic training to California, where he was trained to pilot a landing craft (LSM - Landing Craft, Mechanized). At the end of this training, he came home on leave, fully expecting to be sent to Korea upon his return. At the time, he was engaged to my mother, but when he got home he told her that he didn’t want to get married right then, as he was afraid he would be killed in Korea and didn’t want to leave her as a young widow. Mom wasn’t buying it, however, and gave him an ultimatum; we get married now, or forget it! Family lore has a different wording for mom’s ultimatum, however, it isn’t fit to print in the newspaper. The ultimatum worked, and they were married in the church parsonage in Gomer shortly thereafter. After a brief honeymoon overnight at a hotel in Lima, Dad returned to California.
When dad got back to California, he was surprised to find that his company had been shipped out to Korea, and he had been transferred to another company! His new company was to board a train bound for New Jersey, where they would board a ship bound for Greenland. And in an even stranger twist, his troop train was scheduled to pass through Lima on its way to New Jersey. Dad was able to get to a phone and call mom with the details of his upcoming trip.
At that time, the new Mrs. Thomas did not have her driver’s license (something a young woman didn’t need back then). Dad had to talk her into getting it some years later. Dad’s train wasn’t scheduled to stop in Lima, but mom talked her brother, Ron Lloyd, into taking her to Lima so that they could at least watch the train as it passed through town. Imagine their surprise when the train came into the station and stopped! Dad says that there was some kind of mechanical issue that needed taken care of, but, at any rate, he was able to talk his way off of the train for a few minutes. Dad also said that all of the other soldiers were hanging out of the train’s windows “hooting and hollering” as he hugged his wife.
Dad continued on to New Jersey and boarded the ship bound for Greenland. They were sent there to assist in the unloading of ships carrying construction materials for what became Thule Air Force Base. He wasn’t able to use his boating skills, however, as the Navy wouldn’t allow Army personnel to unload their ships. He spent six months in Greenland working on the docks as a stevedore. After Greenland, he was sent to Panama for a year, where he was able to ‘drive’ an LSM. I have included a picture of him on his ship. Dad’s the guy at the top.
Mom was able to join him in Panama for that year, where they set up their first home on the Army base. When Mom flew home at the end of that year, she was eight months pregnant with my brother, Don. Dad had a couple more months of service to finish up, so he had to take a couple more train rides, this time to and from Spokane, Washington.