Interview with James T. Darrah jr.

From the interview with James T. Darrah jr. of Hattiesburg, MS conducted by phone by Wendy Los on July 21, 2011 from the Fort Worden History Center.  Mr. Darrah is the son of Colonel James T. Darrah  (1905-1988), who was stationed at Fort Worden with the 14th Coast Artillery in the early 1940’s.  The Darrah family at the time lived in house 4E on Officers Row, next door to the quarters of the Commanding Officer, General James H. Cunningham.  Here he describes a boyhood misadventure:

“I got into a little trouble while we lived in those quarters.  Living next door to the commanding general put my mother and father on pins and needles.  They had three stinky little boys who sure were a constant irritant to the commander.  I was the resident pyromaniac at the time.  Well, we had a black and white cocker spaniel named Cappy.  My job was to feed him every night.  The dog food came in wax impregnated cardboard containers shaped like a regular tin can.  Tin was getting to be in short supply.  Cappy ate half of one of these every night.  One night my parents were out somewhere on the post and I was in charge.  I was probably eight or nine.  I had emptied a container and I thought that it would make a nice flare.  So I cleaned it out and wadded up pieces of newspaper, took the heads off some matches, put candle wax and some other things in there.  I made quite a decent flare but I had to have a place to try it out.  It was dark, so nobody could see me.  Right next door there was a very convenient concrete pad that just happened to be behind the General’s garage and underneath his dining room window, and there wasn’t anyone back there.  It was well shielded from the street by a hedge and the garage.  I went back there and set my little flare on the concrete and lit it and admired it as it started to spew and sputter as the matches went off.  Satisfied, I went home and didn’t think anymore about it until the next day when the General’s aide came to call and asked my parents if they were aware of an attempt being made to burn down the General’s house the night before.  My flare had not exploded , just burned, but General and Mrs. Cunningham happened to notice it because they saw a flickering light out the dining room window, they could hardly miss it. My timing was bad.  Had they not been having supper at the time, they probably never would have noticed it.   I was in serious difficulties for a good while as a result of that episode.”

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