Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Telescope

March 22, 2014

A look back on life well lived

Local man reflects on time spent serving his country

PRINCETON — Today Dixon Jones lives quietly at GlenWood Park Retirement Village, but pictures on his apartment’s walls and albums filled with clippings and photographs testify to a lifetime of service.

“My father was a veteran of World War I. I’m a veteran of World War II, and I was called back during the Korean War. I was in the Marine Corps,” Jones, now 88, recalled.

Jones’ parents, Henry and Mary Jones, were married in Bluefield and later moved to Northfork where his father worked in an armaments company. The family later moved back to Bluefield where Jones grew up. His younger brother was born 13 years later.

“I went to school on the North Side of Bluefield; they called it Northside School, but the actual name of the school was Stinson School. I went to Ramsey Junior High and to Beaver High School, Bluefield High School. During the summer months I worked for Frank’s Bakery; it was down on Bluefield Avenue. That had a lot to do with what I ended up doing when I got in the Marine Corps,” he said.

Jones picked up a lot of experience on his summer job that served him well later when World War II started. The nation’s armed forces needed people with a very wide variety of skills.

“I started out greasing pans like everybody else, but I wound up working the ovens, making pies, doughnuts and things like that,” Jones said of his job at Frank’s Bakery. “Of course, when I went to the Marine Corps, I was filling out the forms and they were asking me, ‘What do you want to be?’ I said, ‘Well, I’d like to get in the paratroopers.’”

The recruiters had other ideas when they noticed Jones’ work experience.

“The fellow taking the applications said, ‘There’s something here about you working at a bakery during the summer while you were going to high school.’ I said, ‘Yea,’ and he said, ‘Why don’t I put you down for Cooks and Bakers School?’” Jones laughed. “That’s where I wound up.”

Training at the Cooks and Bakers School taught Jones the skills he needed to help feed hundreds of people every day. Besides baking, he learned to handle other cooking duties.

“I learned to make all kinds of foods, and butcher various cuts of meat. I got to do the whole nine yards out of that. And during my time in the Second World War, I spent my time as a cook and a baker,” Jones said. “I served the first year in the Mojave Desert with the Marine Air Force as base personnel. Then I was transferred to the advanced training for fliers in Oahu, Hawaii as base personnel.”

Working on bases never took Jones to the front lines in the Pacific, but like so many people of the era, he learned what it meant to lose friends.

“I never actually got into any actual combat situation, but a lot of the people that I was with, they lost their lives as they went on forward, you know,” he said. “I had some good friends that way. It’s hard to remember them now.”

After World War II concluded, Jones stayed in the inactive reserves.

“And when the Korean Conflict came along, they reactivated me for 14 months. I spent that time down in Camp Lejeune. In the meantime, I had worked for the Feuchtenberger Bakery, Bluefield Music Company, and I was attending McLane’s Business College.”

The new skills Jones had acquired since learning how to bake and cook served him when the Marines called him to active duty again. This time, his duties took him into offices and courtrooms.

“When I went in that time, they made me a company clerk and I had some shorthand and so forth,” Jones said.

On one occasion, his shorthand skills were needed in a Marine courtroom when new recording technology failed to produce a trial transcript.

“They called me on a case that had to do with a Marine. A man had gone in and used a machine to take notes. On that evening, he couldn’t translate his notes, so they had to throw all that out and start the trial all over again,” Jones said. “There was another guy on base who could also take shorthand, and they called him in and said we’re going to send one of you in to start with, and he’ll take notes. At a certain time, we’ll pull him out and the other will go in, and he’ll transcribe his notes while you’re taking notes. We did that for several days there, back and forth, until we got through that trial.”

The battalion was impressed with Jones’s work and wanted to make him part of the courtroom staff.

“Then my company commander said battalion wants to transfer you to the battalion office so they can use you for trials and so forth whenever they want to. I’ll tell them they can use you whenever they want to, but you’ll stay here as my company clerk,” Jones said

Jones’s commander, Captain Bledsoe, might have had an extra reason for keeping Jones on his staff.

“He was married and had a couple of children, and whenever he and his wife went out for an activity,” he said. “I was their baby sitter. Not that I was trying to make points; it just fell that way.”

After leaving the Marines, Jones became a bookkeeper and went to work as a clerk for Appalachian Power in Switchback. His new employers soon learned that he could sing.

“They knew about me singing in church choirs and they had a quartet in Bluefield, and they said they would try to get me transferred up there, and they did. I was garage clerk there for a while,” Jones said.

“The district manager would take us around at night to the Ruritians, their meetings, and he would be taking us around for entertainment, and that was a pretty good experience too,” Jones said. “Then I worked on the line crew in Bluefield for several years as a clerk and went into the records department; they called it engineering/technology.”

Jones learned to sing when he was in his junior high A capella choir, and later joined a Lutheran Church choir when he left military service.

“I’m a Lutheran now and have been ever since. I sang in the choir until the last two or three years until I lost the upper half of my voice. That’s something I miss,” he said.

Jones and his fellow veterans shared their singing skills with the public during patriotic holidays.

“I was post commander of (American Legion) Riley Vest Post 9 for nine years, and we first started doing programs in Chicory Square before they started concerts with the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. We did it there as a patriotic program on Memorial Day. Then from there on we got into some of these other things,” he said. “Another one of the things I got into was this: I was the Red Cross First Aid chairman for a while. I taught First Aid classes for the power company, fire departments, and the Civil Air Patrol.”

Today Jones lives in retirement, but he is still surrounded with memories of a life well lived.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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