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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

A long, strange trip

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Eddye Phillips was widowed when she was 40. Her husband, Murray Phillips Jr., died during the great flu pandemic in 1919. At the time they had five children, ages 2 to 17, four boys and, the youngest, a girl.

Eddye and Murray Phillips. Eddye's relationship with her youngest boy Wilson was always special. [Photo courtesy of Ginger Phillips]

Their home was just two blocks from the New Madrid Main Street. The Phillips' were Catholic and the school and church were just a block away. Years after the home was demolished, Dub and Edna Riley acquired the lot and built a nice home there.

Eddye had her hands full, especially with the youngest boy, Wilson.

One Christmas, young Wilson was given a .22 caliber rifle. He wanted to target practice with the new gun and painted a target on a wooden building in the back yard to shoot at. Unfortunately, the building was his older brother's pigeonnier, or pigeon roost. You can imagine the results as the bullets penetrated the wooden siding and "disturbed" the roosting birds.

The home had a large porte cochere on its side, in which Eddye parked her automobile. The 1920s-era vehicle had a rag top and a flat front windshield in a metal frame--typical of the times.

One Saturday evening, the teenage Wilson and his friends decided they would take the vehicle for a ride--without his mother's permission. They pushed the car down the driveway and into the street before cranking it to a start. Off they went for a fun evening.

A popular meeting place was the Old Washout several miles to the northwest of New Madrid. Wilson and his group headed there in his borrowed car. Sometime that evening he managed to roll the car over into a ditch. The group easily righted the car and had it back on the road, but the windshield was destroyed in the rollover.

Back in New Madrid, the adventurous group rolled the car back up the drive and parked it in the porte cochere as they had found it earlier that evening, without its windshield, of course.

The next morning, Eddye hustled her children, including Wilson, out the front door to walk the single block to the Catholic Church for Sunday Mass. Her windowless car caught her attention.

"Oh my goodness," she exclaimed, "someone has hit my car."

Wilson remained silent, convinced his mother had no suspicion. There is no record of the subject of his prayers at Mass that morning.

Wilson Phillips at the U.S. Naval Academy his plebe year. [Photo courtesy of Ginger Phillips]
Wilson spent his first year of college at the U.S. Naval Academy. His mother was very involved in obtaining him the appointment. But after his plebe year he was back at home--something to do with his age according to his daughter.

Late that summer, Wilson was off to continue his college career at the University of Missouri in Columbia. He needed transportation and Eddye gave him her car, still with no front windshield.

The trip to Columbia in those days was an ordeal, but the pleasant summer weather made the driving easy, even without a windshield. Wilson arrived in Columbia and enrolled. Soon, Christmas break arrived and it was time for the trip home.

But the weather wasn't quite as nice as it had been last summer. In fact, a blizzard was blowing across central Missouri when it was time to leave for New Madrid, and here was Wilson with a car with no windshield.

Undeterred, Wilson and a friend who was to make the trip with him, sought out two large cardboard boxes. They cut arm and eye holes in each, donned some heavy clothing and covered their laps with blankets and made the long, cold windy drive home.

For drivers in the opposite direction, the pair must have drawn some interesting looks as they headed down the highway in their cardboard boxes.

Eddye never let on whether or not she knew what had happened to her windshield, but Wilson's trip home that Christmas evened the score.

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