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Many Moved North After World War I

By Charles Cooper

Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week.  As a self-employed businessman who uses his automobile extensively in his work, I’m increasingly concerned about the rising gas prices. In the past rising costs that are in line are passed off as the cost of doing business, but this is getting ridiculous and bordering on criminal.

We can’t drill in certain areas because we might interfere with the caribou’s habitat.  Personally I don’t feel that I’d be affected too much if the caribou simply disappeared but I’m sure PETA would like to tar and feather me for saying that.

I don’t see where the caribou has ever done anything for me, so how would his disappearance affect us, while many small businessmen going under would affect all of us.  I know the President says the era of oil is behind us, and the only reason he isn’t using electric power to fuel Air Force One is he can’t find a thirty thousand foot extension cord and if he tries to use solar power a cloudy day might strand him somewhere.  

Welcome to the real world we all face every day.  To quote Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”  

Sometimes I just get fed up with all the stumbling blocks that are put in our way and I just have to sound off and I appreciate the opportunity to do so.  

Now let’s change direction and get back to the original premise of this column.  I hope all of you enjoyed my tribute in a previous column about the ladies who donned coveralls and went to work in war jobs. Many had never worked publicly before, but they quickly caught on and did a fantastic job in helping us win the war.  

Many went back to being home makers after the war while other liked the independence of having a job and making their own money and continued in the work force.  In any event our country was changed forever, and I feel for the better.  

The regret I have is that the factories coming south and the jobs they created came after the mass migration north following World War I.  My grandparents on my dad’s side and all but one of his brothers and sisters were part of that migration and they never came back.  

My uncle, Charles Badley was also part of that but he moved back after his retirement. He actually went with his friend, Drew Bell, in 1916 to Chicago. They went to the division office in the Water Valley depot and the chief clerk, John Tarver, gave them passes to make the trip.      

Uncle Charlie said that young men from the south could get to Chicago one day and go to work the next as they had the reputation of being hard steady workers.  These two young men went to work in the freight house just before Christmas,  but a brutal Chicago winter drove them home in early spring of 1917, just as World War I began and they both became part of the historic Battery A.  

In 1923 Uncle Charlie, after a brief stint as a railroad special agent, went back to Chicago and stayed, There he married Ada Shoemaker, had one daughter, Beverly Anna and lived there until he retired in 1960 and moved back to Water Valley. His  buddy, Drew didn’t go back, but became a barber in Memphis.

Two of my aunts, Margaret and Sally Bee, also went to Chicago  and got jobs. They moved my grandparents, who were old and disabled, to Chicago and rented a large apartment in the Hyde Park section of South Chicago, while my Aunt Elizabeth lived with Nannie and Papa Badley until she finished school at Camp Ground.  

She and Lumpy McCain-Mixon were part of a championship girls basketball team in the late 1920s.

 After graduation she too joined her family in Chicago.  Their apartment became a home for a time for their cousin, Otto Kirkwood.  My uncle, Porter Cooper, went to work in maintenance at the University Of Chicago and was even given a house on the campus.  

My uncle, John, ran Papa’s old school wagon route for a year and then went to Chicago and went to work for Ford Motor Company and worked there until his death in 1958. My Uncle Gilmer became a successful contractor.  

They had seen their parents struggle in  near poverty as small farmers and they wanted a better life.  My email address is or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, TN 38101, so let me hear from you and have a great week.  

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