nterview: James O. Murrell (jm)
Medium: Audio and video tape
Date: 8 April 1998
Place: 2123 Woodview Dr. Marion, IN 46952
Collected by: Morgan Marcuccilli (mm)
mm: Could you please state your name and our location?
jm: Ok, Jack Murrell, 2123 Woodview Dr. Marion, IN, ok?
mm: Do I have permission to tape you with an audio tape?
jm: Yes, and videotape, and you have permission to give this information to the Marion Public Library.
mm: Could you describe your family, like your parents and sisters?
jm: I live in Marion, IN 46952. I have a wife, Patti, one brother and a sister-in law, one sister and a brother-in-law, and two sons each married and each with two sons. So that's, that's the family. (reading questions himself) When did your father come to Marion? Describe how he eventually...do you want me to read?
mm: I can just read them to you and you can just talk about it.
jm: Ok, well alright.
mm: When did your father come to Marion and describe how he finally decided to open Murrell's Men's Clothing Store?
jm: He came to Marion, IN shortly after World War I, and he, uhh, he joined a men's, men's store, and from there he opened Murrell's Men's Store, uhh, and from there he opened Murrell's Men's Store another two or three years later....he did very well.
mm: What year did he open the store?
jm: Uhhh, he opened about 1920, 1919, 1920 ummm...
mm: Do you want me to go ahead?
mm: Did you grow up working around the store?
mm: Did you help out a lot?
mm: So what other types of jobs did you have?
jm: Newspaper, lifeguarding, I was a movie usher for several years in the theatres.
mm: Where did you lifeguard?
jm: Well, Matter Park was the biggest, uhh, pool in the state. It held one million dolla uhh, a million gallons of water, chlorine, and all that kind of stuff, fenced around and...
mm: Did you like that job?
jm: Well yeah, you had to work ten till ten, and you worked two out of three days, and that's where all the girls came (laugh). You know these guys, well we had about eight or nine lifeguards and you were alternators, so...
mm: So this is when you were in highschool?
jm: Well, highschool and also in, uhh, 1941 I was still a senior and college. Some of guys were still goin' being drafted and all that kind of stuff. Most of these guys were football players, but I, uhh...
mm: You got in anyways? (laugh)
jm: I got in anyways. (laugh)
mm: So did you attend Marion High School?
jm: Oh yes, kindergarten through, all the way.
mm: What year did you graduate?
mm: Do you have any memories from highschool? Sports you did...activities?
jm: Well, not so much. Let's see what I've got here...I was doing the movie things and became Vice President of the senior class.
mm: What movies did you see?
mm: Do you remember any of the movies you saw?
jm: Yeah, I think so. I enjoyed them. I was, we had school newspapers and yearbook and school plays and things of that kind. It was pretty good, and then ofcourse that's 1991. 1991? '41, whatever it was. Anyway...
mm: What was, do you remember the name of the movie theatre in Marion at that time?
jm: There were four; the Paramount, Indiana, Luna Lyte, and the Lyric. There had been one before that, that folded.
mm: Oh. So how was your family life prior to the war?
mm: Were you aware of the political situations in the United States and Europe, and what was going on?
mm: Oh really?
jm: I really wasn't, I was just remaining active, uhh...
mm: Did your parents read the newspaper? listen to the radio...
jm: My grandfather owned a flour mill and feed mill, and where the dam is, that was Thomas Milling Company. And, uh, he had some farms and stuff. He was bank director, very well respected. My father owned a men's store and sold cars at the same time. It was in the later part like 1936 on up to when we couldn't make any cars anymore, so that's...
mm: So when did you graduate, and what did you decide to do next?
jm: When did I, uh, I graduated in 1941, and then I went right to Purdue from there, in the fall. And I stayed there until the draft got me.
mm: Were all your friends being drafted?
jm: Yeah, you know it was kinda, kinda funny, because the first year when the draft hit, I worked hard on my books and homework, and then all of the sudden when you get close to being drafted, you just quit, quit gettin into the books. mm: Yeah. You had the ROTC training, also there?
jm: Yeah sure, yeah...that was a good thing, that's the reason I went to Fort Sill, which is where they trained the artillery people, ahd that was one of the major...it was just, well they still had all the polo ponies there. If you had been there very long, you know like in '39 or '40 or whatever, the young guys that were officers, they had there own polo court and a polo field, still there, anyway, but it was a great school. I was...
mm: At Purdue or Fort Sill?
jm: It was Fort Sill. It was Fort Sill. And it runs for a sixteen week training, what we had already done at school, and I was down in Ozark country, where they had snakes and all kinds of things. I didn't like that too much. We went out on what they call a thidwack, where you walk, ohh it was just terrible. It was raining all the time, and all that. And I sat down in the rain, and I took my mess kit with drink and food and all that kinda stuff, and...and the mail came. One of my very good friends sent me a letter, and in it was a picture of himself with three girls and a red convertible.
mm: They were back at home, at Purdue?
jm: No, no he was in Alabama.
mm: Where was Fort Sill, was that in...?
jm: He's out there with a pretty car and three pretty girls, and he gave me a notice. Now listen, switch to the Air Force, they are having a drive. Ok, so anyway, I thought well that's a lot better than I've got here. I transferred to the Air Force since they were having a drive, so...
mm: So you didn't like Fort Sill at all?
jm: Well, no.
mm: (laugh) with the artillery and everything-
jm: Yeah, that was difficult. Anyways, all that noise, but anyway, I went to...they gave me options. They wanted me to either go out and win my, uh, instead of going through everything, I'd go out and win my commission in combat. Well that didn't sound to good. (laugh) And then, there was another thing where you go to school, a college thing called Star, and that's where they'd put you. And then I could go to the Air Force, which was the most strenuous. I went to Shepard Field, Texas after Fort Sill.
mm: Um, what was the general feeling of you and your friends, like did you want to go into the draft or did you not like the draft, or people wanted to go to war?
jm: Well, I'll tell ya, almost everybody was gung-ho for going into the service. They really were. You know they got about thirteen million people in the service.
mm: Um, so, after you joined the Air Force, what kind of training did you go through after that?
jm: First thing in Shepard Field was kind of a place where they put these guys who want to be in the Air Force, um, they were really wanting to get a commission and that kind of stuff, and I ran into two of my friends at the same, both football players (laugh), and, uh, they give ya all kinds of physicals. They took all my wisdom teeth out...
mm: Just to go?
jm: Just to go (laugh) yeah, all that kind of stuff. Then when the orders came through, I was sent to Shepard Field which is in Wichita Falls, Texas, that's kind of in the lower part. Then the orders came out and we got out on these trains. The trains at that time, uh, didn't have anything in there. It took three days to get to Denver...
mm: This is after...
jm: No, this is right at the furthest part. You just weren't helped by getting any food or anything.
mm: In the train?
jm: In the train, you get into Denver and WHAM it is beautiful. The difference is, well it was real hot stuff that came out of Texas, but when you get into Denver it was just super. Then it was a sixteen week school-
mm: So did each thing teach you a different...
jm: Different kind of thing. This was a university kind of training. We only got six hours of flying time there, and then the rest of it we learned how to do map reading or radio, all kind of stuff, weather, uh, then you would go into another pool. I went to Santa Anna, and that's where you'd become a pilot, co-pilot, navigator, or a one other thing. That's the time I was there with Johnny Mercer and all that kind of stuff.
mm: So what did you become?
mm: What were you chosen as? Pilot...?
jm: Pilot, yeah. Anyways...
mm: So this is when you are in California now?
jm: California, so you get sent to another where you really start learning to fly. First choice, uh, mine was Visalia, which is here (shows book). Uhh...
mm: What type of plane is this?
jm: It was called a PT, a Primary Trainer.
mm: And this is in Visalia?
jm: Visalia. You had, uhh, a pilot, uhh an instructor everyday, and there all of the sudden they were starting to slack off on training pilots.
mm: How come?
jm: They were just getting too many. They were just, just too many. Where you live, uhh...
mm: Do you wanna hold that up for the camara?
mm: Where you live?
jm: Where you live. Each one of these things has eleven beds or eleven guys, uh, we both wound up, another guy and I, out of eleven guys there was two us in Sixteen.
mm: Everyone else didn't make it through?
jm: Didn't make it through. Some of em had four, some of em had three (laugh) anyway...
mm: So they were gettin really like hard and advanced?
jm: Yeah, it was...they had you hustle.
mm: So what were other types of planes that you fly?
jm: Then there was the BT-13 or 16, which was in Merced, California. It isn't a very nice aircraft because it kind of too heavy and the wheel won't come up, and uhh, it is just the next bigger size. A lot of guys get-
mm: Taken out of that? (laugh)
jm: Just like the first one. And, uh, I got to Williamsfield, Arizona, which is where I got my wings there.
jm: Williamsfield, it's right out of Pheonix. (laugh) It used to be right inside Pheonix which was about fifteen miles out of Pheonix, but now it's inside.
mm: Inside cause it's grown.
jm: Anyway, so went through all that. There were two-hundred and forty of us that went through the training and got the wings. When the papers came out, there were two-hundred forty of us, and four of us got to go to Williamsfield. No...
mm: Randolf Field?
jm: Yes, this is the West Point of the Air and it was just...
mm: Now what was that for? Just the next step in flying, or...
jm: No, this was, uh, this was for what they consider the best pilots they got, and they are used to train other pilots.
mm: Hmhm, that's an honor.
jm: And, I went up there, I tell ya I wanted to fly the Black Widow Spyder, the night rider which was just beautiful and just went crazy, but anyway, I tried to get out.
mm: So you were chosen as an instructor, but you didn't want to do it.
jm: Well I didn't...I went to talk to this colonel at the field at Williams and he said, "Jack," he said, "after the war is over, you'll thank me. I'll get you home straight." And I thought, well, ok. I had, there was one guy, a guy from Kansas that's a little older than was and was married and just had a little baby. He said, "Ok, why don't you go with me and we will drive to Randolf," and he had a big Lincoln continental, (laugh), which and we drove from his huge farm.
mm: So where was Randolf Field? Kansas, oh he had the farm in Kansas.
jm: Yeah, bigger than West Point (laugh). He was a, I'm still in contact with him.
mm: Oh really?
jm: Yeah really, he and his wife, he was a super-super guy. Anyways, I finally decided when I left his office, well ok. It's probably be better, and I would learn more. So I went, we went to his house for a big day for what was called a Delay- in-Route. You could get there when you were on delay and...
mm: So, did you enjoy all the training you went through, and what types of stuff did you do on base besides learning how to fly planes like?
jm: Well, at, at here we had a football team, yeah a football team, and there were forty All-Americans on the team.
mm: Oh really?
jm: And the um, they were all, uh, each, they had almost a pro-football to teach each guy about flying and that kind of stuff, but, uh, the guy that each, there would be five guys, and each soldier was a football player. There'd be one for each five guys. You'd have your own coach in other words, so...
mm: So, did you play this? You played?
mm: Oh you just went to the games?
jm: No, no, that was the best team in the country with Blanchard and people like that. Are you familiar with that name?
jm: Ok, but Bob Pastor he was a boxer and he was teachin me to do the jumps and all that kind of stuff.
mm: Did you go to dances and things like that?
jm: No, not really. Uh, this city of where this is, San Antonio, uh, there were five military things there. All kinds of infantry and all kinds of guys, and most of the guys would never get a pass to get to San Antonio in the city.
mm: Oh really, so you had to stay on base?
jm: Well I didn't, but they were trying to take good care of us.
mm: So, can you talk about your experience meeting Johnny Mercer and his family? This wasn't in there (refering to questions) but if you can tell about it.
jm: Oh, ok alright. I think I gave you most of it.
mm: Well, this is for the tape.
jm: It would be about the same. Um, when Pattie and I were in Georgia-could you stop the...
jm: Um, there was a fella from Savannah who uh, could you
jm: I had a friend from Savannah. His name was Pope B. MacIntire, and he was my age. His family lived next door to Johnny Mercer, and his older brother was the same age as Johnny Mercer. He, this Pope B. MacIntire slept above me, and he said one day, he said, "Would you like to go," we were in Santa Anna, "Would you enjoy going to Hollywood and meet Johnny Mercer?" And I said, "Oh come on..." I did (laugh).
mm: You didn't believe him.
jm: I didn't believe him at all. And I just took a little dob kit. And I went with him, and I told you the bungallo, white bungallo house, and how small it was, and we got there, and I still didn't believe him.
mm: Not until you actually saw him face to face?
jm: I thought you know, this is not very big. You'd expect him to be really a big shot, and it wasn't.
mm: And he was very popular?
jm: He was very popular. We got there, and when they opened the door I didn't think it was him, and his wife came to the door, and two little children. So, anyway, it just turned out to be a great two weekend, just really great.
mm: So he, he took you out, and...
jm: Oh yeah, he took us to dinner, he took us to several dinners where there were like eight people or ten, maybe more than that. He would take through all the buildings, and the Hollywood screens and the stars and all that kind of stuff. And the would be writing like this, there were several songs he was trying to write. You know going through all this kind...but he just couldn't be any nicer.
mm: Well, um, do want to describe some of your experiences as an instructor?
jm: As an instructor?
mm: Where did you go to instruct first?
jm: I came back to Williamsfield from Randolf. So, um, we were...Mullenbroke and I were both better instructors cause we had gone to-
mm: So there were some instructors who didn't have to go or didn't get to go to Randolf?
jm: That's right, yeah. They just didn't.
mm: Can you talk about your experience with your first student?
jm: Yes, yeah. Well the first student, usually I have five students run through the course. I had five guys, and the first one, his name was Roc, and it's spelled differently. Well, we would go out to a airbase that is just, there aren't any planes stationed on it, there aren't any buildings on it, it's just to come down and land, and go on back to the field. Then I took this guy, and (laugh) and I mean, I didn't think he would get on the ground. One of the more experienced instructors said, "Jack, you're gonna have to shoot him down." (laugh)
mm: He wouldn't land?
jm: He wouldn't land, and he made seventeen passes.
mm: That's funny.
jm: And I thought, you know, boy this terrible. He might crash or something, but he didn't. I think it was his big head partly, it was his first time, too.
mm: Well, um, during this first year as an instructor, did you know about the things that were going on during the war, like around the world? Did you talk about your brother, he was in the war?
jm: Well yeah, we did that by mail. I'd write my brother every week or two, uh...
mm: What kind of things did he write you about? I mean what happened over there?
jm: Well, uh this was probably the best, well not the best, but anyway. Bob is two years younger than I am, and he got across, and got into this combat, the combat one, and uh, there was a guy by the name of Bob Simons that was the Richard's Men's Store's son. On the very first combat mission he went on, a guy in front of him got wounded, and he just jumped up and went to rescue this other guy and got killed.
mm: So you knew this boy who got shot.
jm: Simons, yeah, he was my brother's best friend in highschool, close to him.
mm: So where was your brother stationed?
mm: Where was he stationed, your brother?
jm: He was in the same area, the same, he was in the same unit.
mm: Oh, do you know of any battles that your brother was in?
jm: Yeah, Battle of the Bulge.
mm: So, um, did you keep in touch with your family at home. Did they come visit you or did you write them letters?
jm: Oh yeah, sure, I wrote a lot of letters. I really did.
mm: Did you send things to your brother to? I remember you telling me-
jm: He, he would, uh, write me, anyway, uh, I sent him a hundred dollars and he'd, no...
mm: He sent you a hundred?
jm: No, I tell ya, I've got that wrong. Uh, he was wanting a hundred dollars, and...he sent me a hundred carton, I sent him a hundred cartons of cigarettes.
mm: And he sent you a hundred dollars?
jm: And he sent me a hundred dollars. It was, uh, he didn't smoke. (laugh)
mm: Was he gonna sell them?
jm: Yeah, uh, it was just that's the way it was played. I went to the PX, and I talked to this girl, it was around Christmas, and I said, "I want a hundred packages..."
mm: Did she think you were crazy?
jm: Well you were only allowed to buy two packs.
mm: Oh really, it was rationed?
mm: It was rationed?
jm: Yeah, rationed, so finally she got another girl over, and I said, "I want a hundred cartons. My brother wants to trade these in for stuff overseas. She gave them to me and shipped em, I mean I couldn't ship it, uh, or anything. She just, well it was pretty neat.
mm: Well, when you were keeping in touch with your family, how were, how was the war affecting them at home? Do you know?
jm: Well, Bob and I both wrote home a lot.
mm: Did they write to you and tell you what was going on?
jm: Oh gosh, I got stuff from my mother all the time, all the time. It was, and my sister would write, she was like thirteen.
mm: Can you talk about like the rationing they had, like what things were rationed?
jm: You need to ask her (pointing to his wife), more than anybody else. Do you wanna know? mm: Do you know, I mean, do you know anything?
jm: Well ya couldn't get any silk hose, you couldn't get shoes from the school at Ball State. She couldn't smoke cigarettes, she just, there was a lot she couldn't get.
mm: Like gas?
jm: Yeah, gasoline, three. She, uh, come home disappointed if she was at the PX, not the PX, but some other drug stores and stuff.
mm: Well, when did you get to return home then?
jm: Well did I get discharged home? Well, it was twenty...
mm: Was it when the war ended or before?
jm: Uhh, the war ended in August, and the first in May, May or June, and the other end was in August. I had to be home on normal, yeah, cause I was gonna be sent overseas.
mm: Oh you were? You were about to go?
jm: I was about to go, yeah. So they sent me to, from here, I was to take ten days furlow. So I came home for that, and then I was to go to Lincoln, Nebraska and then overseas to Japan. And uhh, then the war was all over.
mm: So you got to go home?
jm: Yeah, I got home in the winter. So, I really got home quicker than almost any guy. We got pretty lucky for that.
mm: So, what time, what did you do when you went home? Did you go back to school?
jm: Well, I got home in November, November 22 I think. I took care of Purdue and told them I wanted to get enrolled, and that was in, uhh, November, then in February-
mm: The next semester...
jm: Yeah right, the next semester. And that's when I met Patti in May, and I got her married in November.
mm: Oh really?
mm: That same year? And she went to Ball State?
jm: She went to Ball State. Yeah...
mm: So, what did you major in at Purdue?
mm: But then you ended up, how did you end up working for your father?
jm: Well, he offered me more money, (laugh) for one, and he really wanted me to stay with him. mm: So you finished school and went.
jm: Yeah, and I just had, it was in '46, and I graduated in '48, so...
mm: Well did you notice any changes in Marion after the war or when you went home?
jm: No, I really didn't. I just felt, I'd like to come home.
mm: Go back to doing what you did before?
jm: Hmhm, well, I'd known everybody here, and so...
mm: Umm, so were you involved in any organizations after the war in Marion. What kinds of things did you join in?
jm: There they are. (handing over paper)
mm: (laugh) Could you say some of em, like those that are right around 1950 and prior to 1950.
jm: Yeah, I could do that, uh...why don't you read that?
jm: Cause I think there's a lot of interesting things in there.
mm: So you, your son was born in Lafayette.
jm: Lafayette, at St. Louis' Hospital.
mm: Did you, were you living there? How come it was in Lafayette?
jm: Cause we'd gone to school there.
mm: Oh, ok, at Purdue. I'm sorry. (laugh)
jm: That's ok.
mm: And in 1950 you became the president of the Jaycees?
mm: And you built tennis courts?
jm: That's the first time there were tennis courts down at Matter Park.
mm: Oh neat!
jm: You know, most of the guys, most of the guys that are coming back from the service, they want to build something in the city or whatever-
mm: Do you know of other things that guys built when they came home?
jm: Yeah most of em, there's lots of em. Yeah, all kinds of things, sure, they want to do more for their city. This guy, Nolan C. Mullenbrook from Kansas, lives in a town of 600. We were talking about it, and I see him fairly often, and we were talkin' about it and he said, he ran for mayor right after the war, and he got his fannie beat. (laugh). He really did. Great guy, but all the young guys were for him, but anyway, the second time around he became mayor. Well you know, 600 people, anyway that's the way most communities work, they came back here to get your town back on its feet and that kind of stuff.
mm: Did the rationing stop right when the war ended?
jm: A lot of it did, yeah, most of it. It really gives you a good feeling to keep your city going.
mm: And everyone got that from being in the service, you wanted to help?
jm: That's right, yeah.
mm: So you were also made the chairman of the Grant County Cancer Society?
mm: This existed for a long time in 1952?
jm: Yeah, well no, it was, the people that had been running it wanted to get out of it because they had been doing it too long, and they asked me to take care of it, so I did, and then I got somebody else.
mm: Well that's neat. And what's the Kiwanis International?
jm: Kiwanis, it's like the Lion's Club and that kind of stuff.
mm: And the Masonic Lodge. These were all things you did?
mm: Well, that's great! Have you participated in anything having to do with like the war or your airtraining, like in your recent years? jm: Well if you look at the bottom of that. I ran for the legislature and um...
mm: And, um the Service Corps of Retired Executives? You joined that and became the chairman of its called S.C.O.R.E. Can you talk about what your brother did, trying to gather back all of the...
jm: Yeah, he's, he's done a lot through the library.
mm: The Marion Public Library?
jm: Yeah. He's uh...
mm: What kinds of things is he doing?
jm: Well, he's, he is, well they wanted him, he's got a computer, and the library wanted him to help'em. He went throught the Washington thing, and he went after all the soldiers who had got home.
mm: Any near here or?-
mm: In the United States?
jm: Yeah, and he'd done a real good job of that, and it took a long time.
mm: In all different like Air Force and all those areas, or what he was involved in?
jm: Yeah, he would find a medallion or whatever, and most of these infantry things and stuff like, they're usually in the same state, so he could get'em going.
mm: And you also, oh I didn't see this, you joined the Air Force Reserves right after?
jm: Fifteen years afterwards.
mm: That's really neat. So my final question is; What do you want most for adolescent groups of today to know and remember about World War II?
jm: You know I really don't know.
mm: (laugh) You don't.
jm: You know I looked at that for ten or fifteen minutes, cause that's, I don't know. I wouldn't want them to do it, but some of them it could be great. Anyways, I'm getting up to the age where I can stall now, so, but some of those things, uh, that S.C.O.R.E. thing is one of the best things I've ever done.
mm: What kind of things did you do for it?
jm: Well, S.C.O.R.E.,uh, is for guys that are retired, and they join this all volunteer, and they can meet just once a month, and they can come and get people into business, who are out of business or whatever. There's about twenty-five guys not working anymore.
mm: And it's located in Marion? All the people...?
jm: Yes, but it's around the whole country. It's sponsored by the-
mm: Air Force?
jm: No, it's uhh...
mm: Oh it's just like a business.
jm: Yeah, it would just be people who want to do something that have some skills and be really glad to help anybody.
mm: So you can use your Murrell's, what you learned from that?
jm: On retail, I can do that I think.(laugh) But we have five, five