The Washington Times-Herald
---- — Putting a face on one who served
There are very few people that I remember the first time I saw or met them and the last time I saw them; one exception, David Smith. During the Great Depression, the Odon merchants were giving $5 (a generous amount at that time) for the best act. A flatbed truck was parked on Main Street, between the present Dollar Store and Clark’s business, for the acts.
The only act I remember was by two boys with boxing gloves and an elderly gentleman. The two boys were introduced as the Smith brothers, Bob and David, and their father as referee. The two brothers really gave us a good fight. Bob, the big brother, had an arm length on David and delivered several stiff punches. David stayed on his feet and fought back. The crowd was yelling for the little brother. At the end of three rounds, the referee lifted big brother’s hand as the winner. Yes, the long arms. Their act won them the $5.
David was very athletic and later as a welterweight golden gloves champion won several fights. He only lost one; he received a broken nose and the referee stopped the bout. David was still on his feet, ready to continue.
He also excelled in basketball, playing what is now called a point guard. He could dribble that ball while a team mate was trying to get open under the goal. If necessary, and no one was open, we would see his long shot. Yes, he made many three pointers before the semi-circle was marked for three points; his were long twos.
David was a handsome dude, seemed to know everyone. During summer he usually had a job when jobs were scarce. He would help neighbors and I remember when he would ask me to help put up hay, pitch fork-style when loading and unloading. I could never keep up with him.
The last time I saw David was on 7 Dec. ‘41, Pearl Harbor day. We each had dates that worked in Bloomington and were home for the weekend. The state highway was through the Crane area at that time. We had heard about Pearl Harbor; no problem going to Bloomington at 6 p.m.; but returning about midnight was different.
Upon arriving at the Burns City gate, it was closed. Two Marines, on horses and with guns at the ready angle, were guarding it. They were nervous; so was I. “How did you get in here?” David answered, “from Bloomington, on the state highway to here.” “No, you didn’t, the Bloomington gate is closed.” They held us for about an hour (a long hour for Dave and I) before releasing us. Someone had been slow in closing the Bloomington gate.
David returned to Gary, Ind., the following week, quit his job and volunteered for the Air Force. After cadet training he received his appointment as an officer, lieutenant, and received an emblem of wings as pilot of a fighter plane. Instead of going overseas to fight Germans, as he had hoped, he had excelled in cadet training; he was selected to train cadets in Florida.
He was killed on 7 Dec. ‘43, exactly two years after Pearl Harbor and our trip to and from Bloomington. A trainee in a separate plane, with communication between his and David’s plane, made a fatal mistake. Both David and the trainee were killed.
David was the son of Russell and Hazel (Wadsworth) Smith.
Fred A. Overton