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March 24, 2023 - VFW Post 8904 Veterans and Auxiliary members remembered those who served in Kosovo during Operation Allied Force during a ceremony held March 24, 2023, at the Shelby County Veterans Memorial.
“Twenty-four years ago, on March 24, 1999 NATO launched an air campaign called Operation Allied Force to halt the humanitarian devastation that was unfolding in Kosovo,” said Larry Hume, Post Quartermaster. “The decision to intervene followed more than a year of fighting within the province and the failure of international efforts to resolve the conflict by diplomatic means.”
Hume continued, by stating NATO announced the suspension of the air campaign on June 10, 1999 once it had concluded a military technical agreement within the federal republic of Yugoslavia.
“NATO casualties were light, and the alliance suffered no fatalities as a result of combat operations,” said Hume.
Hume shared that two American Army helicopter pilots Chief Warrant Officer 3 David Gibbs, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kevin L. Reichert, died when their A64 helicopter crashed in the early hours of May 5, 1999.
“Now the crash was not due to enemy fire, but two of America’s finest died that day serving their country,” said Hume.
VFW Post 8904 member and Kosovo Veteran Stephen Smiley placed a memorial wreath in honor of those who served. Taps was then placed as presented by Richard Lundy, Post Commander.
“Today our presence is a small, but heartfelt ‘thank you’ to the Kosovo veterans who served and if it were not for you everyone here today, this small band of Patriots, this day would have gone on unnoticed in Shelby County Texas,” said Hume. “The service and the sacrifices of these veterans would not have been remembered and we cannot let any group of veterans be forgotten. That is our charge, a charge that we take very seriously as a sacred duty.”
March 20, 2023 - The Piney Woods Photographic Society held their March meeting this past Saturday, March 18, 2023, at the First United Methodist Church, Center, TX. There was a workshop presented on "Photographing Flora" presented by Billie Jones with the monthly challenge being "Flight". Each member submitted up to 3 photographs where a form of flight was the main subject. To view all the challenge photos submitted view the PWPS Flickr page, https://www.flickr.com/photos/144059157@N04/52754375300/in/pool-pineywoodsphotographic/.
For more information, about the Piney Woods Photographic Society, check out or Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/groups/PineyWoodsPhoto or contact Billie F. Jones, 936-591-2426 or any club member.
After much deliberation and members voting for their "Favorite" photo, the results are as follows of the March Challenge are:
1st Place Favorite, "I'M OUTTA HERE" by Janice Carter
2nd Place Favorite, "WINCHESTER" by Bobbie Jean Wood
3rd Place Favorite (Tie), "GIRLY BUBBLES" by Summer Koltonski
3rd Place Favorite (Tie), "FREE FALLING" by Billie F. Jones
March 20, 2023 - At 3:17 PM on Thursday, March 18, 1937 a natural gas explosion in the London School in New London, Texas took the lives of 294 people, most of them children. This event was so tragic and horrific that tears welled in the eyes of some Timpson Area Genealogy and Heritage Society members as they listened to Jim Ross share a minute by minute account of the disaster at the Society's March meeting.
“In October of 1930 Dad Joiner's Daisy Bradford #3 well struck oil a few miles southeast of the community of New London in Rusk County and the great East Texas Oil Boom was on,” began retired educator and Honorary London Museum Ambassador Jim Ross. “Crude oil was selling for a dollar a barrel and a single well might produce 50,000 barrels a day. A lot of people were getting rich and that included school districts located in the oil fields. The London School District had more money per student than any other district in the country. No expense was spared in construction of the London School, which cost a million dollars and opened in 1933. Two key decisions were made in the construction of the school. First, it was decided that it would be heated by natural gas because it was so plentiful and cheap. Each room had its own gas heater, fed by a two inch natural gas pipeline beneath the school. Second, since fire was a concern, concrete, cinder block, tile, and steel were chosen as the building materials. Only the roof trusses were made of wood. The foundation was of pier and beam construction with a crawl space beneath eight inch thick concrete floors.”
“Viewed from the air, the school building was shaped like a capital E, with the upright portion of the E as the front, facing Texas Highway 42. Ironically, this is almost exactly the same configuration as the older portion of the current Timpson school building, which replaced the one destroyed by fire one week before the London School disaster. The elementary school was a separate building to the north. There was a frame gymnasium to the east of the building and a road circled behind the main school building,” Ross explained. “At 3 PM on March 18, most of the kindergarten through fourth grade students had boarded school busses lined up on the road behind the main building. The busses were waiting for the conclusion of a PTA meeting going on in the gym which included a program of students presenting The Mexican Hat Dance. School did not dismiss until 3:30 and many students and teachers remained in the main building, however.”
“Unbeknownst to anyone, the gas pipeline beneath the school had begun leaking and had filled the 64,000 cubic feet of crawl space beneath the first floor with explosive natural gas. The presence of the gas was undetectable because, in its natural state, gas is odorless,” Ross continued. “At 3:17 P,M the teacher in the wood shop turned on an electric sander, creating the spark which ignited the gas beneath the school. The concrete first floor was blown upwards by the explosion, causing the front portion of the building to collapse. The upright portion of the “E” facing the highway was completely destroyed, with the auditorium and two wings to the rear left standing. The building didn't explode as much as it imploded,” Ross explained. “The other buildings on the campus, including the gym where the PTA program was going on, and the school busses to the rear of the building were undamaged.”
“The first responders to the disaster were the mothers and teachers who were attending the PTA meeting. Running through the dust-filled air, they came upon the fifteen foot high pile of rubble that minutes before had been the London School. A heart-wrenching scene of mothers digging through the rubble with torn and bleeding hands, trying to free children who might be their own who were trapped in the wreckage ensued,” Ross shared. “Not long after the explosion, a man traveling north in a flat-bed truck loaded with peach baskets he had picked up from the factory in Jacksonville came upon the chaos at the school. Realizing what was happening, he began unloading the baskets for rescue workers to use in clearing the rubble.”
“As word of the disaster spread, workers from the oilfields and equipment began arriving to help, eventually swelling to about 3000. With telephone lines jammed and communication almost impossible, a man from a Henderson radio station arrived with equipment which he connected to the electric power lines, allowing calls for emergency workers and equipment to go out in a live broadcast, as well as lists of the location of injured survivors. The condition of many of the bodies made identification difficult,” Ross continued. “Believing that there had been a fire, fire trucks began arriving, only to be told that there was no fire. Roadways into New London were impassible because of the traffic. Emergency vehicles couldn't reach the school or evacuate the injured if they managed to get there. Initially, the radio station sent out calls for medical personnel, later having to change the appeal to mortuary services.”
“Because of their wealth, the school district had one of the first lighted football stadiums in the state. When darkness began to fall, workers climbed the light poles at the adjacent stadium and turned the lights to illuminate the explosion site. As rescue efforts continued into the night, rain began to fall. Workers were cold and wet but refused to stop. The thick coating of dust that covered the debris turned to mud. The Red Cross arrived and served over 50,000 sandwiches,” Ross revealed. “Gov. Allred declared martial law and sent in the National Guard. Upon arrival at the site, the Guard commander realized that he didn't have enough men to deal with the calamity, so he sent out a call for all of the Senior Boy Scouts in the area to come to New London in uniform. He issued them unloaded rifles and they worked with the Guard to restore order.”
“About midnight, two junior high students were found alive in the rubble. By 2 AM, about 150 bodies had been recovered and 300 injured had been sent for medical treatment. The new Mother Francis Hospital in Tyler which was to have opened the next day, opened early to serve the injured. Pickup trucks became ambulances. The American Legion Hall in Overton was used as a temporary morgue. Workers continued through the night, recovering bodies and occasionally an injured survivor,” Ross said.
“Walter Cronkite, a recent journalism graduate of The University of Texas, was in Dallas when he was ordered to go to New London to cover the story about 3 AM. He didn't know where New London was but was told to go to Tyler and ask directions. As he was making his way from Tyler to New London he was stopped by the National Guard and refused entry because he was a reporter, not a rescue worker. While he was there a portable light truck arrived, asking for directions to New London. Cronkite asked the driver for a ride and made it to the site. This was the first major story he ever covered,” Ross shared. He later said that the London School Explosion was the worst thing he ever saw in his career.
“By about 8 AM Friday morning all of the rubble had been cleared. Workers had removed about 4,000,000 pounds of debris. One report stated that it appears that the site had been swept with a broom. There were no more victims to be recovered. The funerals began on Saturday morning and continued for days. Local churches cancelled services on Sunday to allow funerals to be held, one after the other. Pleasant Hill Cemetery outside of New London became the burial site for about 100 victims. Some families had lost all of their children. Reading the inscriptions on the tombstones will tear your heart out,” confided Ross.
“News of the tragedy at New London spread throughout the world. Messages of condolence poured in, including a telegram from the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt and, incredibly, one from Adolph Hitler. A granite cenotaph bearing the names of all the victims was erected in front of the school in 1939. But over the years, the event was almost forgotten, largely because of the reluctance of those involved to talk about it. Everyone in New London had been touched by the tragedy and any found it too painful to recall. The grief was not limited to the community since people throughout East Texas had relatives or loved ones among the 294 victims. Teacher Laura Elizabeth Bell, age 32, is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Garrison. Henry Bryan Bowlin, age 10, is buried in the Tennessee Cemetery outside of Timpson, as is Ruby Edna Peace, age 11. Glenn Turner Wood, age 11, is buried at Corinth Cemetery outside of Timpson,” revealed Ross. TAGHS member Dru Dickey brought a photo of her relative, Nellie Barnes, who died in the explosion.
“Amazingly, some good came out of this tragedy”, said Ross. “Texas passed the first law in the nation requiring the addition of an odor to natural gas to aid in the detection of leaks.”
The Timpson Area Genealogical Society meets at 2PM on the third Wednesday of each month in the meeting room of the Timpson Public Library on the corner of Austin and Bremond Streets in downtown Timpson. The TAGHS library is located within the Timpson Public Library and is open and staffed from 9AM until 5PM weekdays. Telephone 936-254-2966 and ask for the Genealogical Library.
March 17, 2023 - The Texas State Historical Association offers ‘Texas Day by Day’ history summary with today, March 17th, highlighting the Convention of 1836 breaking up in a hurry.
“On this day in 1836, the Convention of 1836 adjourned in haste as the Mexican army approached Washington-on-the-Brazos. The convention, which met on March 1, drafted the Texas Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the Republic of Texas, organized the ad interim government, and named Sam Houston commander-in-chief of the republic's military forces before the delegates evacuated Washington-on-the-Brazos. Their hurried departure was part of the so-called Runaway Scrape, in which Texans fled the advancing troops of Antonio López de Santa Anna. Richmond was evacuated about April 1, and Houston's subsequent retreat toward the Sabine left all of the settlements between the Colorado and the Brazos unprotected. The settlers in that area at once began making their way toward Louisiana or Galveston Island. The section of East Texas around Nacogdoches and San Augustine was abandoned a little prior to April 13. The flight was marked by lack of preparation and by panic caused by fear both of the Mexican Army and of the Indians. The flight continued until news came of the victory in the battle of San Jacinto. ” https://www.tshaonline.org/texas-day-by-day/entry/207
To learn more Texas history, visit tshaonline.org.
Pictured are Delores Halliburton, guest; members Sandy Prislac, Merry Carnes, Robbie Kerr, Carolyn Bounds, Judy Matthews, Cherry Jones; guest Linda Walden; member Janette Wittmann, and guest speaker Marsha Kay. Attending but not pictured were guests Shani Oswalt, Chas and Tillie Willoughby and Billy Barnett and member Marsha Barnett.
March 17, 2023 - On March the 8th Center Garden Club and its guests enjoyed a delightful picnic lunch meeting at Boles Field. Judy Matthews was the hostess. Guest speaker was Marsha Kay, a Shelby County native and former US Forest Service employee who shared her experiences during the Columbia crash searches as well as other forest experiences that she had during her long tenure with the USFS. Her experiences recalled were both informative and moving.
From left: DRT members Gail Scholar, Merle Howard, and Maggie Casto
The Center Garden Club held its February meeting at the Agri-Life Building with Janette Wittmann and Carole Chance as hostesses. Local DRT members Gail Scholar and Maggie Casto in pioneer attire presented a fascinating program on frontier medicines. DRT member Merle Howard assisted with the program.
Center ISD students on the steps of the Shelby County Museum
March 6, 2023 - The Center ISD Building Trades program partnered with the Shelby County Museum over the past couple of weeks to give students hands on construction experience and give the museum some much needed repairs. The students replaced rotten wood around the front porch collumns, a rotten window stool, and repaired a hand rail. They also power washed the rails on the porch. After all the repairs, the students primed and then painted new wood.
Building Trades program teacher is Wayne Holt. The program includes Construction II and Construction Practically. The partnership provided an opportunity for the students to practice the skills being learned in construction. The museum provided the materials and the students provided the labor.
Work photos submitted
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Pictured are (from left): Kenneth Ramsey, Gene Hutto, Liegh Porterfield, Clint Porterfield, Mary Fausett, Larry Hume, Joy Hutto, Teresa Hume, Jan Ramsey, Richard Lundie, Mike Wulf, Mary Roberts, Derrick Roberts, and Mike Langford.
March 6, 2023 - VFW Post 8904 Post members and Auxiliary gathered at the Shelby County Veterans Memorial February 28, 2023, to honor those who served in Operation Desert Storm.
The program was opened by Larry Hume, Post Quartermaster, and Kenneth Ramsey, Post Chaplain, gave the opening prayer.
“Desert Storm began January the 17th 1991. Coalition forces from 34 nations led by the United States began an aerial bombardment on Iraq. This was in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, said Larry Hume, Post Quartermaster. “A week later on January 24th, a ground assault began the liberation of Kuwait and the advancement into Iraqi territory.”
Following 42 days of relentless attacks by the Allied Coalition, in both the air and on the ground, President George H.W. Bush declared a cease-fire on February 28, 1991, 32 years ago.
“148 Americans had died in battle, there were another 145 non battle deaths and 467 were wounded,” said Hume. “Here in Shelby County we have no known casualties, but we do have many who have served.”
Hume went on to name members of the VFW 8904 Post who he knows were involved in Operation Desert Storm included Past Post Commander Mike Langford, Pastor Wilbert Simmons, Andrea Whitaker, Michael Boyd, David Hall, Nathan Jones, Larissa Livingston, and Richard Lundie. Past Post Commander Gene Hutto named his nephew Steven Hutto.
Past Post Commander Mike Langford placed the memorial wreath upon the Shelby County Veterans Memorial.
“If it were not for you gathered here today, this day would have gone by unnoticed in Shelby County, Texas. The service and sacrifices of these veterans would not have been remembered today. We cannot let any group of veterans be forgotten, and that is our charge,” said Hume.
Taps was then played as presented by Gene Hutto Past Post Commander.
Mike Wulf (left) is pictured with his daughter Delanda Wulf Agocs-Baker (right).
Operation Desert Storm Veterans Richard Lundie (left) and Mike Langford (right).
“Remember the Alamo”
March 6, 2023 - The Texas State Historical Association offers ‘Texas Day by Day’ history summary with today, March 6th, highlighting the fall of the Alamo to the Mexican Army.
“On this day in 1836, the fortified compound of San Antonio de Valero Mission, under siege for thirteen days by the Mexican army under General Antonio Lòpez de Santa Anna, was subjected to an early morning assault. After a fierce battle, lasting for perhaps some 90 minutes, the defenses of the Alamo were overrun and all the defenders were killed. The chapel fell last. The slogan "Remember the Alamo!" subsequently became a rallying cry for the Texas Revolution, and the Alamo became a shrine to fallen Texas heroes.” https://www.tshaonline.org/texas-day-by-day/entry/327
To learn more Texas history, visit tshaonline.org.
Kimberly Williams-Paisley as Charlene and Jackson Robert Scott as Young Greg in Jesus Revolution. Photo credit: Dan Anderson.
When you open your heart, there’s room for everyone.
March 3, 2023 - The RIO Theatre is excited to announced showing at the RIO starting tonight, Friday, March 3, 2023 is JESUS REVOLUTION. The film based on a true story stars Kelsey Grammar and Joel Courtney.
Movie synopsis: “In the 1970s, young Greg Laurie (Joel Courtney) is searching for all the right things in all the wrong places: until he meets Lonnie Frisbee (Jonathan Roumie), a charismatic hippie-street-preacher. Together with Pastor Chuck Smith (Kelsey Grammer), they open the doors of Smith’s languishing church to an unexpected revival of radical and newfound love, leading to what TIME Magazine dubbed a JESUS REVOLUTION.”
JESUS REVOLUTION is a historical telling, bringing to life The Jesus Movement that swept the country in the late 60’s and early 70s.
March 2, 2023 - On this day, in 1836, during the siege of the Alamo, another handful of men met one hundred fifty miles to the east in a large unfinished blacksmith shop at Washington-on-the-Brazos. There, on his forty second birthday, Sam Houston with fifty eight other duly elected delegates to the Convention of 1836 met to sign the Texas Declaration of Independence, prepared by George C. Childress and his five man committee.
Among those signing were William Carroll Crawford and Sydney O. Pennington, representing what would become Shelby County. Most of the signers wished to be on the battlefield with their fellow Texans but Houston convinced the delegates that the declaration would give the emerging republic a basis of legality and would draw more help from the United States. Four days after the signing Houston departed the Convention as commander of all military forces of the new Republic and the Republic had a constitution and an ad interim government headed by David G. Burnet and Lorenzo de Zavala.
On this day, March 2, Texas Independence Day, fly your Texas flag proudly.
Daughters of the Republic of Texas
William Carroll Crawford Chapter