By Curt Swarm
With Veteran’s Day coming up, and all the baby boomers aging in, wondering what to do with themselves, I’d like to write about Morris Stamps of Seymour, in southern Iowa’s Wayne County. Morris is 98 years young, a World War II veteran, was a teacher, football coach, and principal of Seymour High School, was married 60 years to his WW II sweetheart and has written five books. As if this weren’t enough, I’d like to point out to all the baby boomers (war babies) out there, or otherwise retired people that find life in retirement rather humdrum, that Morris didn’t start writing these books until he was 92. Yep.
His undergraduate degree from Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. was in English and history. He had considered becoming a journalist, before the war came along and rearranged his plans, so it isn’t all that unusual that he would write books. But at 92?! Most people his age feel lucky if they can hold a pen, or punch a keyboard, or remember events. But Morris is rather sharp, and one of Seymour’s prized treasures. Everyone knows him. After all, he was the high school principal, teacher, and head football coach, with a couple of conference championships and undefeated teams under his belt.
The five books he has written are available at the Seymour Herald newspaper office. The first four books, “Shoal Creek Legends (1 through 4)” contain stories he remembers from his youth in post-World War I, southern Iowa, up to his induction into the Army at the start of World War II. The fifth book, “SNAFUs and Love Letters: Memories of an Old GI” recount his experiences as a message center chief stationed in Hawaii and his letter-writing courtship of his beloved Enid. These books were published by the Seymour Community Club with help from The Seymour Herald and the journalism class at the Seymour Community High School. Proceeds go to a scholarship fund in his wife’s and his name.
Morris was kind enough to lend me two of his books. I read both in one day, something I have never done before, they are that well written, entertaining, historical, and interesting.
A couple of snafus from the “SNAFUs and Love Letters” book: Morris was about to have his first date with Enid. He was on hold at the induction center at Camp Dodge. Enid was going to prepare him a home-cooked meal. He was getting ready for the date, his mouth watering, when he was ordered to get on a train for California. Drat! “What might have been?”
He wound up in Hawaii after a long, arduous trip aboard a troop transport. He was in the Army for some time, and was working in the message center, when it was realized that he’d had no basic training! He and a buddy were given a half-day, two-week, crash course.
Olivia de Havilland (“Gone With the Wind”) had been visiting the troops. She came down with pneumonia and was hospitalized in an Army hospital. One of Staff Sergeant Maurice Stamps’ “dreaded daily duties” was to hand carry a message to General Richardson as to de Havilland’s condition. “Dang!” Morris was careful not to elaborate too much about de Havilland in his letters to Enid.
At 98, Morris Stamps feels he has a couple more books left in him. Seymour hopes so. His last book is in major libraries across the country. Seymour is looking forward to celebrating Morris Stamp’s 100th birthday. But Morris has more important things on his mind. A friend recently gave him a CD player for his television, and a CD of his favorite movie of all times, “Random Harvest” with Greer Garson and Ronald Colman. He has watched it hundreds of times. Tonight will be no exception.
Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at (319) 217-0526 or email him at email@example.com.