Jack and Joe Musteen: Korean War

Jack and Joe Musteen

Joe_L & Jack_R_in Korea

This photo was pasted into a treasured binder before we had better adhesives! Dad and his identical twin brother, Jack, were part of the 936th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, Battery C, in Korea. (Click link above for photos.)* Their mother’s handwriting scrawls across the snapshot. She wrote “Jack and Joe”…though Joe is on the left. Grandma was 43 when the twins were born, and she was a 64-year-old widow as they began their tour of duty in Korea…the last of her four surviving sons to serve in and return from war.

Joe Musteen (L) & Jack Musteen (R)

Joe Musteen (L) & Jack Musteen (R)

The young men from Rogers, AR, National Guard gathered to pose for a group photo in front of the National Guard Armory before leaving to become Battery C. Their high school football rivals, “Bentonville boys,” were Battery A…between them, these young men served as two of the three large-gun firing batteries. They left on a special troop train from Frisco Station in Rogers, with 444 total young men from five local towns for boot camp in Fort Carson, CO,  on August 21,1950…three weeks before Jack and Joe were 21 on September 15.

Dad rushed back on a short leave and married Mother in a small family ceremony on Veteran’s Day, 1950. Mother made all of her clothing, including the dress she wore for her wedding. Their marriage photo was taken by Dad’s older brother, Hubert, who had been a photographer in WWII and was a successful studio owner in downtown Rogers.

Jack had married earlier, and my Aunt Pat waited for his return with her tow-headed toddler, Debbie.

Joe Musteen
Joe and Anita Kooker Musteen married on November 11, 1950 in Rogers, AR.

Dad never really talked about his time in Korea, and I don’t think Jack said much either. Evidently, Uncle Jack was in charge of the largest gun for Battery C and once lost a truckload of much needed shells to Battery A in a long-night poker game. I’m not sure that Jack would be excited for anyone to know about his temporary losing streak, but Battery A was forward of Battery C and much in need of C’s backpiled ammunition.

My brother recently found Jim Rakes’ excellent book, My Benton County Hero, which is a first-hand account of their Korean experiences. From Jim’s book I learned that Dad was technically AWOL when he traveled back to Rogers to marry Mother…though it was not an uncommon practice under some commanding officers, it was more than the 250 miles standard allowance for an off-base pass.

Mother returned to Fort Carson with Dad after their wedding. Several other wives were there, and they came back to Rogers when their husbands shipped out. She kept colorful postcards of the Garden of the Gods and other attractions. Until I read Jim Rake’s account, I had never realized how much mystery and lack of information there was about where the young men were going. As Mother and the other wives traveled back with memories and small treasures to hold, they had no real idea what lay in store for their husbands.

There weren’t a lot of places for entertainment in our small town. Several of the wives were expecting babies. They might walk in twos or small groups to visit, sometimes meandering around town in their maternity smocks on warm evenings in the spring and summer of 1951. Mother mentioned walking with Dot Watkins and others. I was born on September 12.

Anita Kooker Musteen and Rebecca Gail Musteen

Mother with me, on Grandma Musteen’s sofa

While I’m sure everyone made the best of circumstances, many situations were far from ideal. Mother was 18 and expecting her first child while her new husband was sent to war. She lived with a friend, because her father had not approved of her decision and disowned her when she married. She prepared for my arrival, attended Cosmetology College to become a Beautician (her life-long career) and waited for news.

 

Rebecca Gail Musteen

“Becky’s baby clothes…to show her daddy in Korea.”

I recently found a photo that Mother had taken of my baby clothes, pinned on a line to dry. She noted on the back “First wash of Becky’s baby clothes to show her daddy in Korea.”

One of my favorite stories tells about the first mail bag to arrive in Rogers. C Battery had been gone for weeks, and not a single letter had been received from the men.

Finally, six weeks after they left Fort Collins, a mail bag arrived at the Rogers Post Office. It was evening shift. Here’s how I heard the story:

The postal employee recognized the bag and realized these were the prayed-for letters. He said something like, “Those girls (wives, sweethearts and mothers) will not wait until tomorrow.” He knew that many would be viewing a movie at the downtown Victory Theater. He loaded the bag, drove over to the theater and handed out the mail to those who were present. I believe Mother was there that evening.

When Dad returned from Korea, they pulled a drawer from the polished, Cherry-wood desk that had been Grandma’s high-school graduation gift. Long before the days of padded infant seats, this was my bassinette as they drove to Fort Smith to secure Dad’s honorable discharge papers.

I highly recommend Jim’s book, My Benton County Hero, to anyone whose family member served in the Korean War. If you’re from NW Arkansas and can add to or correct anything in this post, please comment.

*Non-profit Korean War Project online: you may use the database or become a supporting member of the most complete records from the Korean war at this URL: http://www.koreanwar.org/html/membership.html

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Jack and Joe Musteen: Twins and Tough to Tell Apart

Jack and Joe Musteen were identical twins, dressed alike and enjoyed great advantage in being so hard to tell apart. Imagine two feisty, identical twins in constant motion, and you can understand why people had such trouble telling one from the other. Their children can usually study a photo like the one below and tell you which twin is on the right (Jack) or left (Joe).

Jack and Joe Musteen

Jack and Joe Musteen

In our small hometown of Rogers, AR, many simply greeted them by saying, “Hi, Twin.” My husband once waited for me outside a grocery store and said, “I saw your dad.” I had to smile. I’d seen him in the store, and it was actually Uncle Jack.

The twins were notorious for minor scrapes and could fool pretty much anyone. The brother who liked English in junior high attended twice a day, while the brother who liked math sat in both classes.

There’s a family tale about one twin being spanked twice when Grandpa grabbed one, while the other ran around the side of their barn. Grandpa thought the next boy was sobbing in anticipation and didn’t realize it was the twin he’d already punished. Both boys claimed to be the one who was thrashed twice, so we never got the true story.

Mrs. Rogers, our Guidance Counselor in junior high, was a teacher or counselor when Dad and Jack were in school. She told me once about an infamous disagreement. The twins were born in 1929, and Grandpa was still using horse-drawn equipment to grade county roads during the depression years. To make the boy’s shoes last longer, he tacked narrow strips of iron—left over from making horse shoes— around the toes of each boy’s sturdy leather shoes.

Jack (later a successful salesman) secured an usher job at the downtown Victory Theater, and Dad agreed to do both his and Jack’s home chores for half of Jack’s weekly wages. Everyone was happy until Jack received a 5-cent raise and neglected to advise Joe. Mrs. Rogers was present when Dad learned the terrible truth. She said he had Jack on the ground and was kicking him “for all he was worth” with those steel-toed shoes!

When both twins returned from the Korean War, they were at Grandma Musteen’s house for a few days to rest and visit with family. Grandma’s one bathroom was divided, with the sink and mirror facing the door, and the toilet and tub behind that wall. Mother was so embarrassed when she discovered that she had walked up behind Jack at the sink to hug him around the waist…Dad was behind the partition!

They sounded alike on the phone, too.

For a few years we lived on Hiway 94 at the edge of Rogers, AR city limits, and our huge front yard and gravel driveway would flood almost up to the house during heavy rains. It was great fun for the kids to scamper around in exciting water streams, less for Mother. Dad would often travel with teams of Bell Telephone colleagues for repair during storms or ice damage. Jack called once for Dad, and it was quite awhile before he could say over her irritated description of our home situation, “Anita, this is Jack.”

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Nathaniel Baxter Musteen & Jennie Lee Brown Children

Nathaniel married Feb 14, 1898 in Rogers, Benton Co., AR to Zelpha Katherine Kennan,* who was born Oct 22, 1878, in Rogers, Benton Co., AR. She died of tuberculosis, leaving Nathaniel with four young children. Here is a link to show all 12 of Nathaniel’s children.

Nathaniel, as a young widower with four surviving children, married Jennie Lee Brown about 19 months later on Dec 8, 1912 in Rogers, Benton Co., AR. Jennie was born Jul 31, 1887 in Rogers, AR.

Viveline, the 2nd child, died as an infant.

Viveline M. Musteen

Nathaniel and Jennie had seven children. The last were identical twins, born when the couple were ages 53 and 43. The twins were 26 years younger than their oldest half-brother, Walter.

Jack and Joe were infamous for mischief! I found one newspaper article about summer camp as young teenagers…they won the title of “Camp Pests.”

Grandma said, when I dropped by to visit once, “My children were mostly born late at night after wash day.” We can imagine a back-breaking day, using a wooden paddle and scrub board. She bent over a huge cast iron kettle of boiling water filled with soiled clothes and shavings of homemade lye soap. Feet allowed a fire to be kindled outdoors under the tub to heat the wash and then rinse water. She still had a galvanized scrub board and made several batches of lye soap, both to use and to demonstrate the process, when her grandchildren were young.

Granddaughter Jennie Musteen Hill inherited the big cast iron laundry tub that Joe used as a planter for years, until his own death.

Aunt Mary, who was almost 8 when they were born, said in her 80s that she had no idea the twins were expected.

Jack and Joe Musteen

Jack (L) and Joe (R) MusteenGrandma was expecting Jack and Joe. The children slept on the floor above Grandma and Grandpa’s bedroom in the house on 2nd street, with stairs going up though their parent’s bedroom. Mary said she came downstairs one morning to be surprised by twin babies!

The photo below is the only formal picture I know of their family group. I recently watched the few minutes of video that Uncle Hubert shot while Grandpa was alive, and I was surprised at how much Grandma laughed and smiled…what fun she was having while they opened Christmas presents with teenaged twins. Weeks after the twins returned from Korea, snippets of video captured great happiness in a holiday dinner.

Nathaniel Baxter Musteen

Left to right, Wayne, Mary, Hubert, Jack, Jennie, Nathaniel and Joe Musteen.

Parents
Nathaniel Baxter Musteen, b Aug 7 1876, d Nov 18 1946
Jennie Lee Brown Musteen, b Jul 31, 1887, d Mar 1975

Children
Hubert Lee Musteen, b Nov 1 1913, d Jun 27 1956
Viveline M. Musteen, b Jun 29 1916, d Feb 18 1918
Wayne Hebron Musteen, b Oct 29 1918, d Sep 21, 2003
Mary Virginia Musteen, b Jan 27 1922, d Feb 7, 2011
Bennie Dean Musteen, b Feb 5 1925, d Dec 31 1934
Jack Raymond Musteen, b Sep 15 1929, d Jul 19 1983
Joe Brown Musteen, b Sep 15 1929, d Dec 17, 1991

Bennie Dean Musteen

Bennie Dean Musteen

Viveline died as an infant. Bennie Dean lived to almost age 10. Mary’s son, Bennie Joe Stevenson has the names of her two brothers. This photo of Bennie Dean was taken at home. Grandma Jennie’s grandchildren will remember seeing that varnished oak side table as a constant in her living room over the years.

Until recently I hadn’t thought of Grandma as an older, single mother of teenage boys. Grandpa died when the twins were 17, and they were not quiet, introverted young men. She was living alone when the twins were sent to Korea.

Please add comments and information that I may not know or have listed here. Let’s compile interesting and enjoyable memories for ourselves and later generations.

*Zelpha’s name is shown in many online references as Zilpha.

 

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