December 7, 1991, was the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. We were honored to interview people from Grundy County and beyond for the Grundy County Post about their memories of the “Day of Infamy.”
King Coal was still on the throne during World War II, and the late Pat Morrison of Palmer told us about it. “I was working in the mines at the time the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor, and I guess I heard it on the radio that day. The Palmer Mines were going full blast and miners were deferred as essential to the war effort. I told them that I had two brothers in the service (Rooster and Doodle Morrison) and I wasn’t any better than them to go, but when I went to Nashville for a physical, they pulled me of the line and said that digging coal was as important as carrying a gun, and I was needed back here.
“At one point, I went 18 straight days without seeing daylight, without coming out of the mines. I was running a coal-cutting machine and would just lay down in the warm coal dust and catch some sleep when I could. The late Fred “Humpy” Morrison, a mine boss, brought our breakfast, dinner, and supper in to us. “
The late Doug Flynn of Palmer was also a miner and shared his memories with us. “The late Andrew ‘Tight Eye’ Anderson was a World War I veteran, and he and I were coming out of the mines that Sunday afternoon when the miners coming in for the next shift told us about Pearl Harbor. I’ll never forget what ‘Tight Eye’ said, ‘Well, the United States is in the war.’ During the war the mines worked every shift and the miners were paid around $20 per shift. John L. Lewis, president of the U.M.W.A. (United Mine Workers of America) called the coal miners all across the county out on strike. A government man came to the Palmer mines, raised the flag over the tipple, and said the miners would be working under the flag for the rest of the war. Lewis’ action caused controversy between the unions and government, and some wanted him tried for treason. Some of the things rationed during the war included gas, tires, meat, sugar, and shoes.”
Flynn went to work for Tennessee Consolidated Coal Company at 16, retiring at age 71 in 1984, with 52 years and 11 months of service. When he applied for his Social Security, the process was very simple – his only place of employment was TCCC.
The late L.H. Burnett of Pelham had gone “up north” and was probably working in a war related industry back then. “I was just married (October 3, 1941) and living in Detroit, Michigan, on Pearl Harbor Day. “My wife, Gladys, and I heard the news on the radio. Later in the afternoon, we went over to the home of Lillard and Janie Davidson who were also from Pelham. A young couple from Kentucky was renting an apartment in their house and her brother was in Pearl Harbor. They were packing to move back to Kentucky to be with her family. We never did know if he survived the attack. I spent the 2 years, 6 months, 14 days of service in World War II in the Army Air Corps.”
Raymond Hargis, 88, lives today in Manchester. He’s a former Grundy County Court Clerk and Grundy County Superintendent of Schools. On the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, his memories were still fresh. “In 1941 we were living in Old Hickory, Tennessee, near Nashville, where my father worked at the DuPont plant. On December 7, we were coming out of church when someone told us Pearl Harbor had been bombed. I became 18, in 1946, registered for the draft, and was classified I-A. Some people criticized President Truman for dropping the atomic bomb on Japan in 1945, but it ended the war. Experts had projected up to a million casualties if there had been an invasion of Japan, and I would have been about the right age in 1946 and might have been a part of it. It was also estimated at the beginning of World War II that it could last as long as 1947 or 1948.”
County Judge Roy Partin of Tracy City is deceased now, but had vivid memories of Pearl Harbor Day on the 50th anniversary in 1991. “I was sitting on the porch of my uncle Ed Goodman’s house in Tracy City that Sunday when I heard it on the radio and being only 15-years-old, it scared me. I was called up five times for a physical in WWII, but they wouldn’t take me because of a curvature of the spine. Whether they are volunteers or drafted, I think we should recognize all our veterans and do everything we can for them.” For many years county executives in Tennessee were called “county judge” as was Judge Partin. Today the position is known as Grundy County Mayor. Judge Partin’s daughter, Emily Partin, still lives in Tracy City.
Join us soon for Part III of “Remembering Pearl Harbor”! the battle cry that united America, saved our nation, and the precious freedoms we still enjoy 75 years later.
The late Elbert “Ebb” Layne of Pelham was a World War II soldier who served in the South Pacific. We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of his daughter, Janelle Taylor, in bringing you this series.