Bob Holeman conducted this series of interviews with local World War II veterans in 2011-12. Most of these 34 American heroes have passed away in the decade since).
Marvin Carraway said he was born in Winnfield but quickly corrected that to Fort Worth. The slip by the 90-year-old World War II veteran is easy to understand since his dad, Felix Drew Carraway, was a Winnfield native and the family often visited back and forth during the three short years he was in Texas.
Certainly, his recollections of growing up were of Winnfield, where the senior Carraway had a little family farm on Center Street. That was the edge of town back then. Like most youngsters of his day (he was born Sept. 28, 1921), Marvin helped out with farm chores, doing everything from feeding chickens to slopping hogs. He also remembers the smell of oil in the workshop behind the house. His father could fix anything, a trait that was unfortunately not handed down to the next generations. He kept all of his tools cleaned and oiled. Another of the lad’s memories was that he wanted nothing to do with farming when he grew up so it was no surprise that he’d end up studying business.
It was a close family community. Uncle Blanchard Harper lived across the street. (Harper’s father was S.J. Harper who had served as a state senator for this district). When Marvin moved out on his own to start a family, they lived not far away on Maple Street. In an era before buses, he walked to school for his 11 years of education and was graduated from Winnfield High School in 1938, just three years after a tornado had devastated the downtown.
While trouble may have been brewing in Europe, war was not on the minds of Americans and the young graduate was ready to put a little space between himself and the family farm. Carraway got in two years of university study in business, first at Louisiana Tech then at USL. But California was attracting young people like a magnet and he got on with a job in an airplane plant on the west coast. Then Pearl Harbor happened.
The Winnfield boy, like so many others, was quick to respond to the call to service, volunteering instead of waiting to be drafted. He selected the Army and was sent to Texas Tech for training. Though little of the training was memorable, he said he recalls the Texas dust. “It was impossible to keep out. This was right after the Dust Bowl. With the wind, dust was everywhere. It blew against the buildings and came in under the windows.”
Perhaps because of his education and business acuity, Carraway was assigned to duty as a quartermaster in San Diego, a hub of the military’s supply line. There he served all four years of the war, part of the American effort to distribute supplies and provisions to our troops in both Europe and the Pacific.
Though he hadn’t participated in any high school sports, Carraway was fairly athletic and did play a pretty good game of ping pong, a popular pastime in the barracks. But not nearly so good as another man, Don Budge, 6 years his senior, who came through and “who beat everyone like a drum.” Budge was the world champion tennis player whose career was at its peak when the war broke out.
When the war ended, Carraway, with his college business training honed through four years of experience in his quartermaster’s post in the Army, was a perfect fit for his small hometown Bank of Winnfield. It was located across Abel Street from the courthouse and Joe R. Heard was bank president. “They didn’t have computers back then or even calculators. Just adding machines. But we did all right. Of course there weren’t so many regulations back then, either.”
The new employee did whatever was asked, working to be a teller and working his way up to handle all of the bank’s investment accounts. Over time with his experience (as assistant cashier, then cashier and finally executive vice president), he coordinated the employee training. When then-president Richard Heard died at the early age of 53, Carraway was is a position to provide guidance for his son, Dicky who was still young in the banking business, as he took on the role of leadership.
The former veteran retired after 40 years with the bank, though he continues to serve on the board of directors. “It was a great place to work, with great people.” Banking has changed much through those decades. “Banking hours” were truly banking hours and he made his way to the golf course every day. He consistently shot in the low 70s, yet never competed in a tournament. “I enjoyed the game. There was enough pressure at work so why would I put pressure on myself at the course?”
He was one of the last players who actually walked the Pine Ridge Country Club course and until recent years was a familiar figure seen walking along the streets of the city.
Before the war, Winnfield was a small town where everybody knew everybody. So Carraway knew Inez Madden…and most of their other classmates. After he returned following the war, the two caught each other’s attention. They dated for several years and in 1953, they were married.
The family line continues through son Dr. Jimmy Walker and his wife Helene. They have two children, Rachel and Drew. (On the day Drew was born, his great grandfather and namesake Felix Drew Carraway died). And Rachel has a daughter, Kate.