A Memory From High School Days

A Memory From High School Days

The following is a guest post from my dad, Howard Weilmuenster. He was a member of the last class to graduate from the high school at Middletown, Missouri; the following year the high school was closed, and the Middletown students in these grades were bussed eight miles away to Wellsville.


A Memory from High-School Days

 It was, to the best of my recollection, in the fall of 1944. World-War 2 was in full force, and we didn’t know when the end would come. The Middletown school was a 3-story stucco-covered building. The grade-school was the lower-level, then two floors of high-school, and above that, the attic – used for storage, with flooring on perhaps half of it. No air-conditioning in those days, some windows were left partly open, when the temperature was pleasant outside.

 One day, we were in class, and soon we could hear a strange sound, a sound that was completely different to anything we were used to. A humming sound, that kept getting louder and louder, and soon we were looking at each other with quizzical looks. One of us went to a window, and there were already a couple kids and a teacher outside, looking up. Within two minutes or so, the building was emptied, and everyone was looking up at the sky.

 Then, they came into view – American Bombers, a huge formation, coming from the west, heading east, (years later, I learned that they stopped in St. Louis for refueling). No one could count them; it seemed they blotted out the sky. Thinking back on it, I would estimate there were more than 100, perhaps even as many as 125… or more! The noise was so loud, many of the kids had their hands over their ears. It seemed that every window in the building was rattling; we learned later that a few of them cracked.

 And then, we heard a much louder sound – one of the bombers had dropped out of the formation, and ‘buzzed’ the high-school. It was so low that we could see some of the personnel waving from the gun-turrets.

 It was an experience that would be very hard to forget, I would say — as I think back on it now, 72 years later.

 Epilogue:  I phoned Willard Leverett in Middletown last week, and he had something to add. The pilot of the low-flying bomber was W. H. Steele (a first cousin to Gloria, Willard’s wife), and very shortly before he reached the high-school — he had just buzzed his parents’ farm out west of town. He got just a bit too low, and clipped a few branches from the tops of a couple trees. When the planes arrived in St. Louis, they had to pull a branch off the wing – where it was still hanging.

A few men, neighbors of Henry and Ruby Steele, got together (perhaps the day after the incident) and, with tree saws and axes, they cut more branches off the tops of several other trees, north and south of the damaged tree(s), so that the damage, now more wide-spread, could not possibly be blamed on one airplane–just in case there would be an investigation that might cause trouble for a hometown pilot. 

 —Howard Weilmuenster

Comments

  1. Luanne Andrews says:

    Awesome story! I can hear your voice, Howard, as I read it. I’d never heard an account or f this and it must have been something to see for so many kids that had never even been out of the county! Keep writing! I waited too long to get all of dads good stories…please let us hear yours!

  2. Tracy Koss says:

    Thank you for sharing

  3. Thanks, Howard! Richard and I really enjoyed reading this story.
    So many of us have good memories in that school.

  4. One thing I’ll mention: Middletown High School was in operation two years after I graduated in 1945. My wife Alma’s cousin, Paul Leslie Chandler graduated in 1947 — the last class. HW

    • Thank you for that clarification! You should know, this has already been the MOST Read Story in the history of this blog so far. I think you should get started on a memoir!

  5. Kendall Sterling says:

    This is a great story. I can imagine the rumbling of all those big engines, perhaps the vibrations felt in the ground and even the building itself, as the B17s flew overhead, and everyone’s heart beating just a little bit faster as the war, for a minute or two, flew over Middletown. What a thrill it must have been when the one plane broke formation in homage and greeting to those below! I also love the photo of the old high school. I went to elementary school in a building like that – those old schools were great places for learning, and it’s so sad that most of them are no more.

    • I agree completely! Thanks so much for your comments and your help in finding a suitable photo of the type of plane we think it might have been that day.

  6. So awesome to hear of the history of my hometown

  7. Oh, Howard, thank you for taking the time to share this memory! I delighted in the reading and it picturing it exactly as you saw it. One thing that I will always treasure is the time you always so willingly have shared recounting the treasures you have gathered over the years. Yes, the other comment was correct, your voice can be heard in the reading….as well as your face telling about the tree limb! Thank you!!

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