Rural System's


recording the real lives of rural people and their wisdom

Parts of the life of Thomas Alexander Walbridge, Jr.

Tom, usually called "Doc" in 2006 was born June 11, 1919.

His family had 14-acres of orange trees near Sutter's Mill in California and they were being badly damaged by rabbits. As a young man, he was told that his summer chore was to put up a chicken wire fence around the orchard for its protection. When of college age, he decided to enter a program of study of animal husbandry at Davis. Before leaving, a friend suggested that they go to the University of Washington (Seattle) together to study forestry ... so he did! He studied logging engineering. Then in 1942 he entered the US Navy. That story is below.

After the war (1945) he joined the faculty of Montana State University and taught Survey and Mapping. His wife Jeanie finished her studies there. He got advanced degrees there and in 1950 joined Bowater Corp (Tennessee) at the time the largest newsprint mill. (Sir Eric Bowater had come from England to start the mill.)

From 1967 to 1973 he headed the Forest Harvesting Institute, a cooperative program of many forest-oriented companies. He was stationed in Atlanta and was partially with Bowater.

In 1972, John Hosner attracted him to the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. There he taught

Jeanie died in 1987 and he re-married shortly afterwards. He retired in 1996 but continued to work with classes and Prof. Mike Aus at Virginia Tech on forest road construction, one of his favorite activities.

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Thomas Walbridge

Thomas (Doc) Walbridge, 88, of Blacksburg, former Forestry Professor of Virginia Tech, passed away on Monday, December 10, 2007. He was preceded in death by his wife of 46 years, Jean Glenn Walbridge. He is survived by his son, Glenn Thomas Walbridge, of Sedona, Arizona; his daughter and son-in-law, Sandra and Charles P. Linkous, of Blacksburg, Virginia; three grandchildren, April Byrd, of Radford, Virginia, Charles F. Linkous and Benjamin Thompson, of Blacksburg, Virginia; three great-grandchildren, Calista Price, Chyanne Byrd and Elsie Byrd, all of Blacksburg. A memorial service will be held Friday, December 14, 2007 at 1 p.m. in the McCoy Funeral Home Chapel. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Humane Society of Montgomery County, P.O. Box 287, Blacksburg, Va., 24063-0287. Arrangements by McCoy Funeral Home, 150 Country Club Drive, SW, Blacksburg.

Published in the Roanoke Times on 12/11/2007.

by Dr. Walbridge (as provided to Giles, November 1, 2006)

In very early February of 1942 I was sure I was going to be drafted, and decided that I had better do something about it. One of my fraternity brothers came into the house and announced he had just enlisted in the V-5 program for naval aviators. He said there was also a V-7 program for Deck Officers, and the great thing about both programs was that if you were accepted, the Navy wouldn't call you until you graduated.

So, on February third I went to the Naval Recruitment Office in downtown Seattle and got in line for a physical examination. As I was standing in line naked with my urine bottle and a number on my chest, a Chief Petty Officer walked up to me and told me to get out of the line, that I was too short to be an officer in the Navy. He said that I had to be 5feet 8 inches.

Crestfallen, I returned to the fraternity house in a blue funk. My buddy came in and said,"You flunked the physical!" When I told him that they threw me out because I was too short, he showed me a letter he had which stated the height requirement had been lowered to 5 feet 6 inches! So I put on thick boot sox, jumped in my car, roared back to the recruitment center, stripped, found another urine bottle and got back in line.

The same Chief tried to throw me out of line again, but, armed with the letter, I talked him into seeing the Medical Officer in charge. The next thing I knew I was standing naked in the office of two medical doctors. They asked me to parade around, bend, stretch and finally to expand my chest. One of the officers said, "Well he's a windy little bastard, I guess we might as well let him in."

I qualified to enter the V-7 program on February 3, 1942! Oh happy day!

I graduated from the University of Washington June 10, 1942 and eagerly awaited orders from the Navy. A month later there was no word. I was living at Jean's house with her sister and her parents. I was about to go crazy with nothing to do and I couldn't get a job because I was on call.

My father-in-law saved my life by suggesting I take inner-city kids on three day hiking trips in the Angeles National Forest for the City's Summer Playground Program. It was a great job, Sunday through Wednesday, and it paid 24 hours per day! So I had the rest of the week to spend with Jean.

About the first of August, one of my friends who was also in the V-7 program, stopped by to tell me he had orders to report to Midshipman's school by August 15. This worried me because I had not heard a word from the Navy. Something must be wrong! Had I fallen through the cracks somewhere?

When I called the Navy they asked me why I had not advised them of my graduation. I got orders within two days! I have often wondered what might have happened if I had never called them. I am sure sooner or later I would have ended up in a dungeon charged with desertion.

On October 30th I reported to the USS Prairie State, anchored in the Hudson River, for indoctrination as an apprentice seamen. The next 17 days were a blur. We were issued 13 button bell-bottom pants, learned to march and how to make a bunk, became students of naval history, seamanship, and subject to strict naval discipline. Inoculations alternated between arms. We carried the inoculated arm for a day and then swapped arms for the next set of shots.

On November 17, I took the Midshipman's oath and was assigned to the "Good Ship John Jay" (a college dormitory of Columbia University in New York) which was to be my address until I was commissioned as an Ensign. It was a time of intensive study and learning. Classes included Seamanship, Navigation, Damage Control, Ordnance, and Communications.

On November 17 we were allowed our first off-base liberty. The uniform of the day was dress blues and New York was a great liberty town! Next, came Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays, and finally after three months we graduated from Midshipman's School.

On February 17, 1943 I was commissioned an Ensign in the Naval Reserve with orders to report to the Submarine Chaser Training Center in Miami, Florida by March 8, 1943.

Now Jeanie and I could be married! On our first assignment to duty we were allowed to go home before reporting, so I took the train from New York to Los Angeles. We were married February 24, l943, and got permission to drive from Los Angeles to Miami. We left February 25 to begin our honeymoon! What a trip it was, it took us 11 days to get to Miami (no interstates in those days) and during the trip I taught her to drive!

I reported to the Submarine Chaser Training Center on March 8, 1943. The training here was a repetition of material taught at Midshipman school and specific instruction on underwater warfare.We were introduced to sonar equipment used to hunt for enemy submarines and the ordnance used to destroy them. We spent hours every day on the "ping machine" (a training device which allowed us to simulate the location and course of an enemy sub, track it, and destroy it). On May 15, 1943 I received orders to report to the West Coast Sound School in San Diego on March 23rd. We had eight days to drive back to California! We made it fine but there was no time to tarry.

At this school we boarded sub-chasers and got to make real runs over World War II subs.We finally got to test our skills as Anti-submarine Warfare Officers! We used the "Hedge-Hog" (a bow mounted device which fired 33 small depth charge devices in an oval ring). For our practice runs the depth charge devices were replaced with 10 gage shot gun shells that made an unnerving explosive noise if they hit the sub. I had the honor of dropping one in the conning tower of the submarine we were training with!

After 33 days at this school, I was ordered back to the SubChaser Training Center in Miami !

I could not believe it! I checked to see if the orders were right - the Navy said yes!

So, we got in the car and made our third trip across the country.

We reported to the Sub Chaser Training Center in Miami June 26, 1943. Apparently, my only duty was to report to the center and see if I had been assigned to a ship. So, as ordered, I would dress in fresh khakis, walk down to the center and look for my name.

After a month I became worried. Most assignments were to LST's being sent to Italy! I finally took the bull by the horns, and contacted Commander Crane in Portland who was waiting for the completion of his Minesweeper, and requested duty as his Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer. On September 1, l943 I was detached from the Subchaser Training Center and ordered to report to the Ship Building Superintendent in Portland, Oregon, September 9, 1943, pending the completion of the USS Caution AM-158!

Oh happy day! I could get my wife home, my car home and serve on a ship in the Pacific!

So, one last trip across country! I left Jean with her parents in Beverly Hills and drove on to Portland to report in. Miami to Portland ... 3772 miles!

I reported to the Ship Building Superintendent on September 9, 1943 and then to Captain Crane who was to be in command of the USS Caution as soon as she was commissioned.

On September 21, 1943 I was granted emergency leave from September 22 to October 1 due to my mothers death. Jeanie and I moved into my father's house during this period to help out and settle things.

On September 28, I received orders to the Radar School in Point Loma, California. Since the school was scheduled to last three weeks, we moved out of Dad's house in Long Beach to a room and bath in the Theological Institute near Point Loma. The Institute had been modified to accommodate three couples. Each couple had a bedroom, shared a bath, and used a communal kitchen. It was a fun experience!

On November 7, I received orders to report to the Anti-aircraft Training School in Pacific Beach. The school lasted 7 days. On November 15, 1943 I was ordered to the Fire Fighting School for two days.

On completion of the above schools I was ordered to the Small Craft Training on Treasure Island in the Long Beach Harbor for additional training.

On December, 12, 1943, I received orders to the Mine sweeping School in Santa Barbara for a three week training course. On completion of this course I returned to the Small Craft Training Center.

Finally, I received orders to Portland, Oregon and duty on the USS Caution AM158 under the Command of Captain Crane. Jeanie and I drove up from San Pedro and arrived in Portland on January 10, 1944. We found good housing at the Rose Manor Autel. The efficiency apartment had a small kitchen, living room, bath,and bedroom. Rent was $7.00 per day with the seventh day free ...$42.00 per week. The Motel was surrounded by roses.

From the time we arrived until commissioning, my duties were those of Stores Officer. I had to check the arrival of all stores and material and record their disposition. It was a grueling and tough job because much of the material was totally foreign to me and I lived in constant fear of screwing up!

The ship was commissioned on February 10, 1944 . Officers present at the commissioning:

  • Lt. Cmdr. F. G. Crane, USNR - Dalton, Massachusetts
  • Lt. J. E. Cole, USNR -Beverly Hills, California
  • Lt. (jg) E.L. Morrison, USNR -Menmonie, Wisconsin
  • Lt. (jg) W.W. Beaver, USNR -Mexia, Texas
  • Lt. (jg) R. C. Holmquist, USNR -Westport, Connecticut
  • Ensign T. A. Walbridge, Jr., USNR -Long Beach, California
  • Ensign R. L. Schulz, USNR -Huntley, Illinois
  • Ch. Mach J. R.Cukras USN -Torrington, Connecticut
  • Ch. Elect F.J. Hykes USN -San Diego, California
  • Boatswain J. E. Peel USN -San Pedro, California

    From the date of commissioning, until we were assigned to a convoy bound for Pearl Harbor on Friday, April 21,1944 we performed shakedown exercises out of San Diego, San Pedro, Santa Barbara and San Francisco, We fired our guns, tested our anti-submarine gear, swept for mines mechanically, acoustically, and magnetically and played cat and mouse with a friendly submarine. It was really intense training for conflict.

    We arrived in Pearl Harbor on Monday, May 1, 1944. Mine sweeping, gunnery and ship handling exercises were conducted prior to forming up a convoy May 10, 1944.

    Captain Crane, held the rank of LtCmdrr, which meant that in the convoys we were assigned to, he was always the senior officer present. Being the SOP, we were always leading and out front, the size of the USS Caution and the fact that it was a minesweeper wasn't important, our Captain had the rank!

    On our first trip out of Pearl, Bill Beaver, my bunkmate, and I thought it would be great to grow beards and when we got back to have pictures taken to send home. We got back to Pearl in a little over three weeks.We both had enough of a beard to trim and get pictures. The next time we headed out of Pearl was June 27, 1944. We had had such good luck with our beards, I told Bill I wouldn't shave until we got back to Pearl again if he wouldn't. So, we got permission from the Captain to grow beards. Amazingly, andunbelievablyy we did not return to Pearl Harbor for 10 months! Our beards and moustaches were awesome!. They turned out to be a good way to tell our significant others when we would be coming home ("if you see my beard in the mail, you know I'm coming back to the United States") The only problem our beards ever caused us was when we were denied access to the Officers Club, and our buddies had to bring our drinks down to where the whaleboat was docked!.

    On June 27, 1944, we took of on our first convoy - destination Eniwetok, Marshal Islands. From this date until end of typed manuscript; no further material was provided.)

    Important Words

    From his dad: Don't lie. The truth will come back to bite you.

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    Perhaps you will share ideas with me about some of the topic(s) above .


    Rural System
    Robert H. Giles, Jr.
    December 10, 2007