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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Gridley

The Draft

I've already considered one image with departing soldiers -- the one that featured the Traction car and an ISSCS man who never returned from Anzio. So here is a disconnected group of men who went:

Elmer Lawrence Wulf was from Cooksville and born in 1914. The little boy in his arms is Elmer Lawrence Jr. and was the first of four sons. In this image Elmer is in the McLean County Courthouse looking at the draft announcements. We don't know if he was one of the first to go or not, but he went into the Navy and served. Part of his service was in Farragut, Idaho where he was champ in boxing! After the war he returned to his family and had three more sons and two daughters. He worked as a book binder at Illinois Graphics and Pantagraph Printing for 40 years. He was a former Golden Gloves Boxer and Three I League player. He died at age 71 in Paducah, Kentucky.

These young men from Leroy are looking at the map at the draft office, thinking of where they might go if called to action in June of 1942. Ewing Patterson, furthest left, a little over a year later, was with the air force in Africa. Among the many reports of the location of local men, he was only mentioned once. He returned home after the war to his old job at the Schuler Tin Shop in Leroy, but later worked for 25 years on the Central Gulf Railroad. He married Phyllis Lamont in 1952 in Missouri and stayed in Leroy just 5 more years before moving to Harvey, IL. He died in 1976 after an extended illness.

The second young man in the image was Merle Spratt. Merle was not chosen to serve, but continued to farm near Leroy the rest of his life. He also served on the Leroy School Board, the Empire Township Board of Trustees and the McLean County Farm Bureau. He married in 1945 to Barbara Scott and had one son and two daughters.

Donald Spearman graduated from Leroy High School May 1942 and a month later was registering for the draft. The only mention of where he was stationed during the war was in January 1944, when he returned to Hattiesburg, Mississippi after a furlough. After the war Donald married Janet Manning in 1949. They both died in Arizona but were divorced many years before. They had just one son. No obituary could be found for Donald, but he died in 1998.

The public was vigilant for "slackers" or men who failed to serve. It must have been a little difficult for young men who stayed home for other essential service, such as farming or defense work, when other friends went to the war. A photo was taken of Emmitt Teegarden, who failed to appear for his induction into the army in March of 1941. He had passed a physical in 1940, but said he was too ill to serve. The reporter wrote: "Emmitt moved slowly to shake hands. He was bent considerably. One hand pressed against his back. He wore work clothes and bedroom slippers and he appeared to be underweight. He was no advertisement for the army." He had been treating with a doctor for an infection that was affecting his kidneys and bladder. His father was willing for him to go into the army, but he wanted the army to wait until his son was in good health to take him because "(t)hey'd only send him back in worse shape than he is now and we'd have more expense." Emmitt and the army came to an understanding about his health, and he was excused from appearing, eventually. Two other sons from the Teegarden family went to the war. George Teegarden served for two years in the Pacific. Clinton Teegarden was in a parachutist company and was killed in Germany within weeks of arriving there. Emmitt Teegarden never married until 1954 and he died the following year, never having recovered his health enough to be drafted into the army.

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