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McClellan: 100 years of memories, war and two women

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Wayne Scott turned 100 in July. 

Wayne Scott lives in a modest house in Affton. The backyard is really nice. Pots of flowers are scattered about. It is a pleasant place to while away a summer morning before the heat takes over.

I sat with him in the backyard last week. He told me he took Social Security when he was 62. “Who knows if you’re going to make 65?” he asked with a grin.

He turned 100 in July. His mind is still sharp, and his health is remarkably good.

He served in the Marine Corps during World War II. He was on Guadalcanal. At my urging, he talked about his service, but mostly he talked about women. He has always enjoyed their company.

Scott was born in the small town of Bolivar, Missouri. His father was a cobbler and had a shoe shop in the nearby city of Joplin. When the Great Depression hit, the family moved to St. Louis. Scott was 7 or 8 years old. His father found work at a shoe repair shop.

Scott went to Cleveland High School. He also got a job as an usher at the Capital Theater downtown. That was a prestigious job for a kid. He was in the in-crowd. He used to go dancing at the Casa Loma Ballroom.

When he graduated, he got a job as a riveter at the Curtiss-Wright airplane company. The war in Europe was raging. As a worker in the defense industry, Scott could have avoided military service, but after Pearl Harbor, he decided to enlist. Why the Marine Corps? He seemed to ponder the question.

“It caught my fancy,” he said.

He did boot camp in San Diego. Then more training at Camp Pendleton. The night before he was shipping to the Pacific, he saw a pretty young woman at a bus stop.

“I’m shipping out in the morning, but you look like somebody I’d really like to know,” he said.

That probably was not an unfamiliar line to attractive young women anywhere near Camp Pendleton. In fact, it was still in use 25 years later, although I cannot recall it ever working.

But there must have been something about the smooth former usher. The young woman wrote down her name and address.

“Write me,” she said.

Her name was Edna, and she and Scott exchanged letters for the duration of the war.

By the way, Scott’s service would sound familiar to most veterans. He was a cog in the big machine. He was assigned to the Air Wing, and he drove a gas truck, helping to fuel the Mustang fighter planes. He got to Guadalcanal after the island was declared secure. There were still some Japanese in the hills, he said.

Later, he went to other islands. He became a clerk. He was promoted to staff sergeant. On one island, he had his own jeep. He used to drive out to a lagoon and watch the planes fly in and out.

When the war ended, he returned to California and received his honorable discharge. Of course, he looked up Edna.

But he was a south St. Louis kid, not a Southern California guy. He came home. He replied to an ad in the newspaper for a glass salesman. He was good at it. Soon, he was a regional salesman. He was in Texas when his family called. He had been recalled for service for the Korean War.

Although it had an ominous ring in the beginning, his recall turned out to be a wonderful thing. He was assigned to Camp Pendleton as a trainer. The other trainers were guys like him, veterans just a couple of years older than the trainees. Cool guys with a certain attitude.

“It was like we were teenagers again,” Scott said.

He got together with Edna. He was with her mostly, but not exclusively. He also dated Donna Reed’s younger sister. He still has her publicity photo. She is in a bathing suit, standing on a rock while the waves lap around her. She is a vision.

But she could not beat out Edna. Scott and Edna almost got married but did not. When his reserve duty ended, he came back to St. Louis and returned to the glass business.

One night, he and a friend went to a bar on Gravois. A young woman’s sweater fell from her chair to the floor. Scott picked it up and handed it to her.

“Dance with me,” she said.

Her name as Jane.

“It was like I had danced with that girl my whole life,” Scott said.

They got married. Jane was unable to have children, and that was a disappointment, but they had a wonderful life. Of course, there were spats. Jane was very upset when she discovered that Scott had saved all the letters he had received from Edna.

Jane ordered him to throw the letters away. Which he did. Mostly.

“I saved he good ones,” he said.

Jane died in 1996.

Scott never remarried. He has a housemate these days, but it is not a romantic relationship. She is much younger. She used to be a cook on a barge line, Scott said. A friend of a friend. “We take care of each other,” she told me.

Scott showed me some keepsakes. A few were war-related items. He has a log of the various islands he served on. Handwritten in real time. It seemed historic. Also, some Marine Corps memorabilia. But mostly, he showed me photos. Most of them included one of two women — Edna and Jane. Or Jane and Edna.

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