By: Doug Overfield ∼MRC Board Member∼
The year was 1952.
Young men lined the street in front of the Susquehanna County Courthouse–saying goodbye to moms, dads, wives, girlfriends, and children–as they prepared to board a bus to Scranton, Pennsylvania. Once there, they would catch a flight to infantry training in Fort Knox, Kentucky, aboard an old C-47.
1952 might seem like a long time ago, but Montrose native Bill McLaughlin remembers it well. He trained at Fort Knox for 16 weeks to be a forward observer in a heavy weapons company.
“At the time, it all seemed so surreal, sort of like something new to do,” says Bill.
Luckily, Bill had a good buddy, Mike Flanagan, by his side.
“It was a tough 16 weeks, but we stuck it out. When you came out, you felt like a man,” he notes.
By the time infantry training was over for Bill, the Korean War was also coming to an end and he was sent to Europe.
He felt at the time, he says, that “it was good and gave the guys a chance to see the world and to grow up. It made you feel better about yourself.”
The way Bill recalls it, there wasn’t much going on in Montrose back then.
“I graduated in ‘51, and if you didn’t go to college, you got a job.”
Finding a job wasn’t that difficult because in the late 1940s and 50s there was a lot of work for men, especially in the Montrose area. Bill worked at Bendix Aviation in South Montrose.
Nevertheless, “all of the guys back then were issued draft cards, and when your number came up- it came up,” he says.
Three of his closest friends were killed in Korea. All were Montrose natives. He went on to say that everybody went into the military, and “that’s just the way that it was.”
When Bill arrived back in Montrose he felt welcomed and accepted, because many in the community hired Veterans. There were a lot of job opportunities, not only in the Montrose area, but especially in the Triple-Cities area of New York.
The local support can still be seen today in Montrose at the local VFW, Post 5642, on Route 706, and the American Legion Gardner Warner Post 154 on the Elk Lake road.
In fact, thousands attend the annual Montrose Memorial Day Parade, followed by a memorial service at Monument Square on the Green. The event, hosted by the Montrose VFW Post 5642, proudly remembers the men and women who died while serving in our country’s armed forces.
Interviewing Bill made me feel that Montrose is a terrific little community where we all know how to appreciate one another.
We have our hardships, but we know how to look out for one another. Our community’s churches and businesses are very close-knit, and I know first-hand that our outreach programs and fundraisers offer to help and assist those in need all of the time. We are a place where everyone who can helps another person in one way or another.