Saint Robert’s Negro U.S.O. Club Chimney Memorial

By Laura Huffman

As any soldier, sailor, airman, or marine will relate, a USO sign is a welcome sight. Pulaski County historian Terry Primas summarizes in his 2005 Old Settlers Gazette article that the familiar logo is a “beacon of comfort” for service members and their families and it continues to “signal support for men and women in service to their country.”

Primas writes:

“Local communities found the USO to be their avenue for participation in the war effort during World War II. U.S. troop strength grew from 50,000 in 1940 to 12 million in 1944. USO clubs sprang up in more than 3,000 communities, as the centers became a ‘Home Away from Home.’ The clubs were volunteer driven and by the end of WWII, more than 1.5 million citizens had served doughnuts and coffee, helped write letters, danced, or simply talked to lonely GIs.”

Waynesville, Missouri had a front row seat to the massive buildup of troop strength in the days leading up to and during the duration of World War II. The Seventh Corps division had located a large military training installation just two miles southeast (as the crow flies) from the courthouse on the town’s public square.

The influx of soldiers into the rural farming community quickly revealed a need for recreation for the men stationed at Fort Leonard Wood. According to Primas:

“A campaign to establish the USO in the Fort Leonard Wood area began in March of 1941. As the military was still segregated, plans called for separate clubs for White and ‘Colored’ soldiers. Space for a Service Center for white soldiers was secured in the Knights of Pythias Hall in Rolla. In August of 1941, Ruth Chambers, Y.W.C.A. Director of Fort Leonard Wood Area, and Sara Long, Negro U.S.O. Director, attempted to establish a Negro club in Rolla. However, no landlord would rent them space for a colored club. Mrs. Long relocated to Lebanon where she established a club in a tent about a mile east of town. Subsequently, land was purchased in Old Town in Lebanon and the government erected a building for the Negro club. It was the first U.S.O. building dedicated in the area. The following year, a Negro club was built in Rolla and operated by the National Catholic Community Service.”

Image via 2005 Old Settlers Gazette

Image via 2005 Old Settlers Gazette

At Waynesville, the new U.S.O. building for whites was dedicated March 7, 1942. Primas recounts Mrs. Chambers description:

“a beautiful California type building—a new building, stucco, all one floor. The main lobby is two stories high with a penthouse, which was originally designated as the Jewish wing.”

Image via 2005 Old Settlers Gazette

Image via 2005 Old Settlers Gazette

The next day, March 8, 1942, Sterling Chavis (director of the club), Post Commander LTC. F.H.L. Ryder and others dedicated the U.S.O. Club for colored soldiers just outside the main gate of Fort Leonard Wood in unincorporated Pulaski County. No descriptions of the club have been located thus far. It is known that the location of the club and the building became Chimney Trailer Park and then later Chimney Pawn & Gun after Earl Livingston purchased it in 1951. Primas reports that the building was subsequently torn down and Mr. Carney, of Rolla, salvaged building materials to use in the construction of the Manor Inn.

Image via 2005 Old Settlers Gazette

Image via 2005 Old Settlers Gazette

For almost six decades the lonely remaining chimney marked the former location of the Colored U.S.O. Club. After Earl Livingston passed away in 1980 and after the death of Earl’s son, James R. Livingston in 1996, the chimney was donated to the City of Saint Robert. In an effort spearheaded by (then) St. Robert Mayor George Sanders the chimney was dismantled November 2009 and placed in storage to be reassembled at another location. George Sanders died in 2016, before the project was completed.

Original location photo by Laura Abernathy Huffman October 2009

This view of the chimney in its original location was captured by Laura Huffman October 2009. The approximate coordinates are 37.799113, -92.138011.

However, his vision was carried out by St. Robert Historical Preservation Committee. July 11, 2017 a groundbreaking ceremony was held at the future home of the reassembled chimney. Dr. Charles Slider, Waynesville Mayor Luge Hardman, Saint Robert Mayor George Lauritson, Kevin Curtis, Frank Aterbert, Julius Nutter, Representative Steve Lynch and Walter Reese each turned a shovel of dirt for the observance. Work progressed and the chimney was reconstructed using its original bricks. Reassembly of the chimney was completed, and a dedication was held October 19, 2018.

The Ground Breaking ceremony was held July 11, 2017. Image by, and courtesy of, Waynesville-St. Robert Chamber of Commerce.

The Ground Breaking ceremony was held July 11, 2017. Image by, and courtesy of, Waynesville-St. Robert Chamber of Commerce.

 

Rendering of the Negro U.S.O. Club Chimney Memorial in Saint Robert, Missouri upon completion.

Rendering of the Negro U.S.O. Club Chimney Memorial in Saint Robert, Missouri upon completion.

Today, the chimney is a daily reminder of the United States military’s segregated past and a tribute to the African-American soldiers who endured segregation while in service to their country. President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 9981 ending racial segregation in the military July 26, 1948.

Completed Negro U.S.O. Club Chimney Memorial on Missouri Boulevard in Saint Robert, Missouri. Image by Beth Wiles for Pulaski County Tourism Bureau.

Completed Negro U.S.O. Club Chimney Memorial on Missouri Boulevard in Saint Robert, Missouri. Image by Beth Wiles for Pulaski County Tourism Bureau.

 

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History & Heroes: Five Fast Facts- Frank H. Wielandy

Pulaski County Missouri History and Heroes

Frank H. Wielandy, the “Father of Missouri State Parks,” owned and named Blue Jay Farm, now a rustic resort, near Dixon in Pulaski County, Missouri.

Blue Jay School Crayons

1. In 1928 Wielandy conducted an unsuccessful Republican primary campaign for Missouri Governor.

2. Wielandy was Missouri Fish & Game Commissioner under Governor Arthur M. Hyde.

3. Wielandy was known as the Father of the Missouri State Park System.

4. Wielandy was a charter member of Coldwater Outing and Game Preserve near Clearwater, Missouri, in Ste. Genevieve county.

5. During the 1920s, while scouting for Missouri State Park sites, Wielandy visited a location near Dixon in Pulaski County. Wielandy became so enamored with the property that he and his brother, Paul, purchased the 360-acre property for themselves. Frank and Paul were also co-owners of Blackwell-Wielandy Book & Stationary Company. They named the property Blue Jay Farm in honor of their well-known Blue Jay writing tablets, pens, pencils, & crayons.

Sources:

The West Plains Journal (West Plains, Missouri) 19 July 1928
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) 1 July 1958
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) 23 February 1968
https://thelocaltourist.com/blue-jay-farm

History & Heroes: Five Fast Facts is an occasional series of interesting facts regarding namesakes and historical figures in Pulaski County, Missouri.

History & Heroes: Five Fast Facts- C.W. Parker

Pulaski County Missouri History and Heroes

Chester West (C.W.) Parker is the namesake of Waynesville R-VI School District’s Parker Fine Arts building located on the Middle School campus.

Image via Ancestry.com user Joyce Connolly

Image via Ancestry.com user Joyce Connolly

1. In 1921, at the age of 19, Parker was the principal of an elementary school in the Picher, Oklahoma mining district. He also served as principal at Licking, MO High School. Parker served as Superintendent of Schools at Conway (MO.), Ozark (MO.), Ava (MO.), and Waynesville during an administrative career that spanned 44 years.
2. Parker served as Mayor of Waynesville, Missouri for six years.
3. Parker was a published author and wrote “countless newspaper articles.”
4. Parker was quite the good-natured prankster and is fondly remembered by Waynesvillians for his April Fools’ Day antics.
5. Parker married Kathleen Ezzsell in 1927 and they had three children. His son, Eddie Parker, is the inspiration for Paul Newman’s character “Fast Eddie” Felsen in the 1961 film The Hustler.

Sources:
http://pulaskicountyobits.blogspot.com/2017/03/chester-west-parker-1901-1998.html
Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, Arizona) 13 December 1990

History & Heroes: Five Fast Facts is an occasional series of interesting facts regarding namesakes and historical figures in Pulaski County, Missouri.

History & Heroes: Five Fast Facts- Sam Countee

Pulaski County Missouri History and Heroes

Samuel Albert Countee was an American painter. While stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, during World War II, in 1945, Countee, an African-American Staff Sergeant, was enlisted to paint a 4-foot by 10.5-foot mural above the fireplace of the Black Officers Club housed in Building 2101. The Black Officers Club building at Fort Leonard Wood, a relic of a segregated military, is one of only two such buildings still standing. The other, Mountain View Officers Club, is located at Fort Huachuca. Countee’s artwork at Fort Leonard Wood, has been valued at more than $370,000. As of January 10, 2018 the mural is on display at Fort Leonard Wood’s John B. Mahaffey Museum Complex, giving the public a chance to view the historic artwork before it’s returned to Building 2101.

Staff Sergeant Samuel Countee's World War II era mural. Via Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office.

Staff Sergeant Samuel Countee’s World War II era mural. Via Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office.

1. Countee is a descendent of Rev. Jack Yates, who in 1866, became pastor of the Antioch Baptist Church in the Freedman’s Town neighborhood in downtown Houston, Texas. Countee’s portrait of Yates was displayed in a 1986 exhibit commemorating the Yates/Countee family.
2. African-Americans were not allowed to participate in the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts exhibition at the 1936 Texas Centennial, so Samuel Countee’s painting My Guitar was shown in the Hall of Negro Life, where it was the most popular painting at the exhibition of African-American artists.
3. In 1952 Countee won a $100 prize for his painting Brown Girl at Atlanta University’s 11th Annual Exhibition of Paintings, Sculpture, and Prints by Negro Artists.
4. While stationed at Fort Leonard Wood he also painted theater sets for USO performances- including the production of Goldbrickers of 1944.
5. After mustering out of the Army, Countee moved to New York City and continued his career as an artist. He was a popular and well-known artist in Harlem and taught art classes at the Harlem YWCA.

Sources:

Samuel Albert Countee-The Longshoreman, James Graham Baker
https://tucson.com/news/local/new-life-on-horizon-for-former-fort-huachuca-black-officers/article_ebc0a115-aad4-5220-af79-4e243cb08969.html
https://www.columbiamissourian.com/news/historic-mural-at-fort-leonard-wood-illustrates-segregation-in-army/article_7b1fbef9-f7cf-55f6-92f6-ac996af69b19.html
https://www.army.mil/article/183450/fort_leonard_wood_mural_returns_awaiting_display

History & Heroes: Five Fast Facts is an occasional series of interesting facts regarding namesakes and historical figures in Pulaski County, Missouri.

History & Heroes: Five Fast Facts- Milton Santee

Pulaski County Missouri History and Heroes

Charles Milton Santee was a surveyor and land agent based in Rolla, Missouri for South Pacific Railroad Lands. 150 years ago, in 1869 he surveyed the villages of Dixon, Hancock, Crocker, and Richland as the railroad reached those points in its westward journey across Pulaski County, Missouri.

This map of Dixon, Missouri, a fire insurance map, was produced in September 1915 by Sanborn Map Company. It shows building footprints, building material, height or number of stories, building use, lot lines, road widths and water facilities. An interactive version of this map can be viewed at http://cdm16795.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/fullbrowser/collection/sanbornmaps/id/1069/rv/singleitem/rec/1

This map of Dixon, Missouri, a fire insurance map, was produced in September 1915 by Sanborn Map Company. It shows building footprints, building material, height or number of stories, building use, lot lines, road widths and water facilities. An interactive version of this map can be viewed at http://cdm16795.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/fullbrowser/collection/sanbornmaps/id/1069/rv/singleitem/rec/1

1. Santee surveyed the village of Prairieville, Illinois April 10th, 1855.
2. Although born in Pennsylvania, as a young child he moved to Dixon, Illinois with his parents. Santee is most likely the railroad worker who named Dixon, Missouri after his hometown of Dixon, Illinois.
3. While in Rolla Santee was also a “newspaper man.” By 1886, after Santee left for California, the editor of the Rolla Herald had lost track of Santee’s whereabouts.
4. After moving to California Santee was a busy, and influential man. In 1889 he was operating a “first-class” hotel in San Diego along with his mother and sister and he was also the Vice-President of the International Company which was developing the mining interests of “Lower California”
5. In 1890 he married George A. Cowles’ widow, Jennie. George had founded Cowleston, California in San Diego county. In 1893 Jennie led a successful bid to rename Cowleston to Santee to honor her new husband.

Sources:

Texas County Pioneer (Houston, Missouri), 11 December 1869
Sterling Standard (Sterling, Illinois), 6 December 1877
Rolla Herald (Rolla, Missouri), 24 December 1885
The Dixon Sun (Dixon, Illinois), 13 March 1889
Los Angeles Herald (Los Angeles, California), 4 December 1889
https://shsmo.org/manuscripts/ramsay/ramsay_pulaski.html
http://cityofsanteeca.gov/how-do-i/santee-s-history

History & Heroes: Five Fast Facts is an occasional series of interesting facts regarding namesakes and historical figures in Pulaski County, Missouri.

History & Heroes: Five Fast Facts- Julius Ochs Adler

Pulaski County Missouri History and Heroes

Brigadier General Julius Ochs Adler was assigned to the Sixth Infantry Division at Fort Leonard Wood September 1941.

1. At the time of his death, Julius Ochs Adler was general manager and first vice-president of the New York Times and President and Publisher of the Chattanooga Times.

2. President Eisenhower, in 1953, described Major General Adler as a “gallant leader in combat” and a “soldier’s soldier.”

3. Major General Adler was the second-ever recipient of the New York Meritorious Service Medal.

4. Major General Adler retired from the United States Army 31 December 1954 after 40 years of military service. During his four-decade career he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart, World War I Victory Medal (with four battle clasps), Army of Occupation of Germany Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (with two service stars), World War II Victory Medal, Officer of the Legion of Honour (France), French Croix de Guerre 1914-1918 with Palm, Croce al Merito di Guerra (Italy), and New York Meritorious Service Medal.

5. Major General Adler was laid to rest at Arlington Cemetery after his death 3 October 1955. In his eulogy the Rev. Dr. Julius Mark praised Adler as “a distinguished citizen, a valiant soldier and a resolute patriot.”

Sources:
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Saint Louis, Missouri) 3 October 1955
The Ithaca Journal (Ithaca, New York) 14 October 1954
The Post-Standard (Syracuse, New York) 14 October 1954
The Daily Messenger (Canandaigua, New York) 27 December 1965
Daily News (New York, New York) 7 October 1955

History & Heroes: Five Fast Facts is an occasional series of interesting facts regarding namesakes and historical figures in Pulaski County, Missouri.

History & Heroes: Five Fast Facts- Cyrus Colley

Pulaski County Missouri History and Heroes

Cyrus Colley is the namesake of Colley Hollow, west of Waynesville in Pulaski County, Missouri. Colley settled on 300 acres of land there in 1832.

1. “Cyrus Colley found on his farm an artistically made rock pipe-bowl, so well preserved that one of his ‘hired men’ fixed a stem to it and enjoyed a modern weed, smoking in its bowl, as no doubt some ancient weed comforted its ancient owner- Mound Builder or Indian, as he may have been.”

2. Colley was appointed by the Pulaski County court to sell the lots of Waynesville. He had assisted in “laying out” the town.

3. “When the Texas agitation began to spread over the country, Pulaski County took up the cause as vigorously as any part of the Union. Mass-meetings were held in two different places; one at Bates’ (now Bartlett’s) Mill, and another at Waynesville. At the latter place a company was made up and organized by Cyrus Colley. They kept regular muster days for a time, but as no call was received from the authorities, they were disbanded.”

4. On January 30, 1857 Missouri Governor Trusten Polk signed “An Act to Incorporate the Waynesville Academy. The legislation named Colley and other prominent Pulaski County pioneers as “trustees of the Waynesville Academy.” A lot for the Academy was secured on the hill south of the courthouse and the lumber was on the ground at the site. However, the Academy was not constructed, and the materials were later sold at auction.

5. Colley, along with George M. Jamison (Crawford County) and Gideon R. West (Osage County) was appointed to locate the seat of Phelps County in November 1857.

Sources:
History of Laclede, Camden, Dallas, Webster, Wright, Texas, Pulaski, Phelps and Dent Counties, The Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1889, Reprinted 1974. Available online at: http://cdm16795.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/mocohist/id/71191
Rolla Herald (Rolla, Missouri) 28 August 1941

History & Heroes: Five Fast Facts is an occasional series of interesting facts regarding namesakes and historical figures in Pulaski County, Missouri.