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Friday, Aug. 26, 2016


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Shainberg Store operated for many years at the corner of Main and Mill Streets in New Madrid. Wagley Furniture now occupies the building.

Tuf-Nut Pocket Knife, [Author's collection]
What I remember best about Shainberg's is when you purchased a pair of Tuf-Nut jeans you received a Tuf-Nut pocket knife. When I was growing up in the late 1950s a pocket knife was an essential item for every boy's pocket. It was used to cut about everything from fishing line to string, paper and an occasional finger, skinning out a rabbit or shaping a sling-shot.

Back in those days you could take your pocket knife to school--yes, school--where you could play "mumblety peg" or carve your initials in your desk. I remember one time a couple of boys were having a good fist fight with the rest of us watching. The boy losing the fight pulled his knife out of his pocket. This was not allowed, and the rest of us stepped in and took the knife and let them finish the fight. When he said "Uncle" and the fight ended, we gave him his knife back.

Men have always carried pocket knives. One of the highlights of a visit to the U.S. Capitol is to see where Daniel Webster, and many other Senators--some later Presidents--carved their names or initials in their Senate desks. I guess serving in the U. S. Senate is a lot like attending the 8th grade--lots of idle time.

The desks at the Higgerson School have a lot of things carved in their tops. But, it is one particular desk that should catch your attention when you tour the school.

Initials carved by Dwight Woolf in his desk at Higgerson School Historic Site.
The desk sits against the south window wall and carved in its top are the initials "D. D. W."

The young boy who carved these initials was Dwight Woolf. Dwight graduated the 8th grade in 1961. He finished high school in 1965 and went into the Army.

Photo of: Dwight Woolf [The Chief, 1961, Courtesy of Fran Bock]
In 1967 he was serving in Vietnam in the 44th Medical Brigade when he was killed in a helicopter crash. He was 20 years old. The nation he died for carved his name in the black granite of the Vietnam Memorial, Line 77 in Panel 24E. At the other end of the Mall, where the memorial sits, is the Capitol where the Senators also carved their names.

I never knew Dwight Woolf, but every time I see those initials carved in his desk I think about him--a young mischievous boy with a Tuf-Nut pocket knife secretly carving away behind a raised book. I think his teacher might have known what he was doing, but, thankfully, didn't interrupt his important work.

This Memorial Day is a good time to reflect on men and woman like Dwight Woolf whose sacrifice for this nation has left us plenty to remember them all by.

H. Riley Bock

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