Walck gave soldiers a letter from home

PAT FRIDGEN
Dick Walck and Roy Leckron exchanged letters during World War II. Walck was a teenager in Greencastle and Leckron was a sailor. They brought postcards from each other to an Old Home Week Reminiscing session.

A. Dick Walck, 81, was just a kid when he took an interest in writing to servicemen based in the United States and abroad. At the invitation of Bonnie and Ken Shockey, he participated in the Reminiscing series for Old Home Week, sponsored by the Allison-Antrim Museum.

While in seventh grade Walck started his letter writing campaign, finding recipients on his own. "When I saw GI's I asked them for their name and address and said I'd write. A lot of them were local boys."

 He figured he wrote several hundred letters through the years, to 76 boys and three girls, and often got responses. Those letters were saved in a wooden box. He wrote to James Johnson, Richard Gordon, Bill Oberholzer, Earl Bailey, John Wine, Paul College, Harold Zimmerman and many others. When any of his pen pals died, he gave their letters to the families.

Roy Leckron, 87, was on the receiving end. "The letters were morale boosters," he said. "When you went to mail call and didn't get any letters, you didn't feel very good."

The mail that came back to Walck from the battlefield was filtered, he said. The post office would take a picture of the soldier's letter, develop the film and send the copy on, often censored. The men in the combat zones weren't allowed to say much, he explained. He also received mail from parents who were grateful he was corresponding with their sons. One man from New York was hitchhiking across country and stopped in Greencastle to visit his scribe.

Walck's stamps cost one cent for a postcard, 3 cents for a letter and 6 cents for airmail, but he couldn't remember how they were paid for.

Walck remembered Harry D. Zeigler, after whom the local VFW post is named. They played basketball together, using a bushel basket on the shed. Then his friend was the first Greencastle resident to die in World War II.

As a youngster, Walck helped the air raid warden by making sure folks turned off their house lights when required. Once he ran up the steps to remind the homeowners 'lights out'. They did "and I fell down the steps," he said to laughter from the audience.

He showed scrapbooks from the era, including pictures from the Philadelphia Inquirer and the New York Mirror, which sold for 2 cents. He has an extensive collection of war memorabilia, some of which was entered in the OHW window display contest.

Vic Moon, president of the Mason-Dixon Historical Society, said the materials would never be sold because Walck has a habit of giving it away.

"He's been very generous to a lot of historical societies," Moon said after the program. "He has a heart of gold. He's part of that generation."

Though Walck was too young for WWII by one year, he later served in the Air Force and worked at Fairchild Aircraft in Hagerstown, Md.