More copies of local history book signed by Shire, Erdel

More copies of local history book signed by Shire, Erdel
Dave Faries

“Marvin Leslie McGee of 916 West Latney, this city, an employee of the International Shoe company, was holder of the very first number – 158 – pulled from the gold fish bowl by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson shortly after 11 o’clock this morning. McGee is on vacation in Michigan.”
“Brother of Former Resident Killed Somewhere in Pacific.”

“Woman’s Place is in the Brick Plant, Too, These 40 women Say.”

“Capt. Tony B. Lumpkin, of this city, has been reported missing in action on the North African front, since April 1st … Capt. Lumpkin, who is Commandant on leave from the Missouri Military Academy, was stationed with the U.S. troops in Great Britain several months until the invasion of North Africa.”

Excerpts from the pages of the Mexico Ledger tell the story of how folks at home in Audrain County experienced World War Two. But it is the reflections and memories of co-authors Donald R. Shire and Laura White Erdel that bring meaning and life to the clippings in Mexico, Missouri in the Making of the American Empire, 1941-1945.

The book, which was released just as the pandemic hit, has been a local sensation regardless of COVID-19. A release party and book signing scheduled for March of last year was canceled. Plans to have the Mexico Area Chamber of Commerce sell the book were scratched when that office was closed to the public.
Sales benefit the Audrain County Historical Society, which also was forced to close its doors.

Yet sales were brisk when boxes of the brand new hardcover were brought to the Ledger and signed by Shire and Erdel, the daughter of longtime newspaper owner Bob White.

Recently the co-authors returned to the Ledger office to sign another few boxes of books.

The two are uniquely placed to offer insight into Audrain County and Mexico during the war years. Shire was a child at the time. He remembers the fenced enclosure on the square where residents delivered their scrap metals to help fuel the war effort. He remembers victory gardens. He remembers paper drives.
And he remembers how the town lost one of its beloved citizens – Major Fred Locke Morris – to the war. Morris died while crossing the Rhine.

“He was my grocer,” said Shire, “and one of Dad’s best friends.”

Erdel’s father rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel during the war, serving with Generals Robert Eichelberger and Douglas MacArthur and had many tales to pass on. Once he escorted Eleanor Roosevelt on a morale-building tour.
“Mexico Fire Brick Used In U.S.S. Missouri, World’s Mightiest Ship, Which Will Be Launched Saturday.”

“County Goes Over Top In Bond Drive.”

“A Silver Star was awarded to Lt. Col. Thomas R. Bruce, commanding the battalion. Colonel Bruce already had the Bronze Star with clusters. He is 30 years old and before the war was in the insurance business with his father at Mexico. Other Battery B boys who were honored on this occasion included: First Sgt. John B. Rickard of Mexico. Staff Sgt. William F. Bishop of Mexico, Staff Sgt. Jack C. Towne of Mexico, Sgt. Claude C. Reams of Centralia, and Tech Fourth Class Walter B. Winfrey of Sturgeon.”

“There Are No Japs In Audrain County Census Shows.”

All proceeds from the book benefit the Audrain County Historical Society; Shire and Erdel provided their work at no charge, calling it “a labor of love.” They also gave appreciation to the Miriam Arnold Edmonston Foundation Inc. and the Griffin Family Foundation for the primary grants, making the printing of the book possible. Other contributions were made by Arnold Funeral Home, Central Bank of Audrain County, Jim and Judy Dye, William K. Maloney, Miller Tire, Molly Maxwell Shellabarger and Wayne Shellabarger. Lori Pratt and Christine Shire served as manuscript editors.

Signed copies are also available at the Mexico Ledger office, 113 East Monroe Street. Books are $30 each and are also being offered in a two-for-one package with America Comes of Age for $50.

General Manager Nathan Lilley contributed to this report.


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