It was June of 1957 and I had graduated from boot camp at Great Lakes Naval Training Center, north of Chicago. I was beginning a 30 day “leave” and had taken trains from Chicago to Wichita. After arriving in Wichita, I walked the block or two to the bus depot and caught a bus to my home town of Augusta, 17 miles to the east.

We arrived in Augusta and stopped at the Bus Depot which in actuality was McDuffy’s Service Station. Getting off the bus, I felt like I was in a strange new world. I’d only been gone about 3 months but everything felt different and I wasn’t sure why. I was wearing “dress blues” with the neckerchief and white sailor hat so I felt a little conspicuous. Boot camp was like a vacation for me but it had done its job which was to cut the apron strings and teach you to stand on your own two feet and live a disciplined and pride-filled life.

I got my sea bag out of the belly of the bus and waited to cross the street at the only stop light in town. As I crossed the street, I saw Clarence “Judy” Williams, our neighbor from two doors down, coming toward me. Judy was at least 6’3″ tall and was as nice as he was big. As we met, he shook my hand and grinned and told me how proud he was to see me in my sailor suit. I should tell you that during WWII, Judy had been a “Seabee’ (C.B.= Construction Battalion). We grade school kids knew what outfits all the local guys were in and considered them all to be heroes. The job of the Seabees was to build roads and landing strips where needed, often under fire. I remember one cartoon showing a Seabee driving a bulldozer with one hand and firing a machine gun with the other.

We walked the block to our homes, talking “Navy talk” all the way. As we got to Judy’s house, he dropped off but shook my hand and told me again how proud he was to see me in uniform. Now, after all that, I felt like a million bucks! I was home and comfortable and proud to be in the Navy.

I guess what I want you to draw from this is that a kind deed such as Judy performed can have an effect that will keep a person warm for a lifetime. It’s been over 57 years and thinking about it still makes me feel good.

Here’s a footnote:

Thinking about this story, I realized that I didn’t know how or why “Judy” Williams got his name. I sent an e-mail to his daughter, Joyce, who is a couple of years older than me but still going strong. Joyce has been a friend since we played kick-the-can some 65 or 70 years ago. Joyce’s response to my question is a good story in itself so I’ll copy it here.

“Hi Dave-

Now, about my Dad. Will be interested in hearing how he ends up in a missive to your grandkids. He was the youngest by 8 years of 8 children. They lived on a farm, and were very hard working, kids included. (They did things different in those days.) A traveling show (circus) came to a nearby town, and apparently the whole family went. At least my Dad and some of the older kids. And this was a rare event. There was a puppeteer there doing a “Punch and Judy” show. I can’t remember how old my dad was, but, not very and he was really impressed, and talked of nothing else for weeks after. Consequently, he became known as Punch and Judy, eventually shortened to Judy.

Now the strange part that I can’t explain. They lived in Indiana. My mom and dad met in Chicago, and later married. Everyone in Augusta called him Judy, and his family back home in Indiana called him Clarence til the day he died. And in later years, he preferred Clarence. Too late, everyone knew him as Judy.


Dave Thomas
January 9, 2015


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