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Homecoming begins with a day or memories

Published or Revised November 10, 2005

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World War II veteran Oliver Allen speaks to dozens of other veterans and their families Thursday during a reception and breakfast in their honor in the McLemore Student Center. Allen served in The Philippines until the islands fell to the Japanese early in the war, then was held prisoner until the war’s end.

The opening day of Paris Junior College’s 2005 Homecoming celebration Thursday began with memories of war and heroism and ended with recollections on life and living by one of Texas’ most regarded writers.

In keeping with the college’s patriotic theme for Homecoming this year, World War II veterans and their families were honored Thursday morning during a reception and continental breakfast in the lobby of the Rheudasil Learning Center. Dozens of veterans renewed old friendships and created new ones amid displays of articles and memorabilia from the war years.

World War II veterans like A.V. Wacasey of Paris, John Latimer of Richardson, and John Swint of Austin swapped “war stories,” talked about their families and about what they did after they came home from the war.

Later, almost two dozen of the veterans - 22 to be exact - discussed their wartime experiences with PJC history students and instructors, who recorded the veterans’ recollections as part of an ongoing oral history project to collect and eventually make public these often fascinating pieces of local history.

PJC history instructors Allen Williams and Lisa Johnson are directing the project that was started almost two years ago. They have collected more than 60 documentaries from WWII veterans in the region.

“We appreciate all the veterans who came out and volunteered their histories for this project,” Williams said. “This is a tremendous contribution to an effort to help people learn and understand more about World War II and the contributions and sacrifices these people made for all of us.”

The afternoon was given to history of a different sort as dozens gathered to remember folklorist, writer and teacher Dr. William A. Owens on the centennial of his birth. Owens, born in Pin Hook, was a poor farm boy who, in every sense, made good.

A distinguished alumnus of PJC, Owens taught and wrote for more than 30 years at Columbia University and served as dean of the Columbia Summer Session. His autobiographical works deal primarily with his rural background and professional career.

Taking part in the tribute to Owens were James Lipscomb, a producer and director of “Frontier Boy,” a film documentary based on Owens’ early life; Dr. Don Graham, the J. Frank Dobie Regents Professor of American and English literature at The University of Texas at Austin; and Sylvia Grider, an instructor of folklore and cultural anthropology at Texas A&M University.

On the schedule today is a reception at 6:30 p.m. in the Student Center for homecoming honorees and attendees and hosted by PJC President Dr. Pamela Anglin.

The Awards Luncheon will be held at 11:45 a.m. Saturday in the Love Civic Center where all alumni who served in World War II will be inducted into the college’s Hall of Honor.

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