People visiting the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center on most Mondays might see the friendly, familiar face of Edgar Bradshaw.
“My official title is greeter,” Bradshaw said. “When they come into the business office, I find out what their needs are and attach them to their specific need.”
It’s a volunteer job he has relished for eight or nine years.
“I feel like I’m there in the office to help cut down on the time they have to spend there,” he said. “I feel like I’m helping them. I’m older than most of them, but I feel like I’m in better shape than a lot of them.”
Or they might see Bradshaw two-stepping across the floor at the Hatbox dance hall.
“I go every Tuesday night,” he said. “I mostly two-step. They have line dancing and square dancing, but I never learned that. I learned to dance at the old country dances, where they had a fiddle and a guitar.”
A dance partner, Terri Hutson, says Bradshaw “dances my feet off.”
Some people might even see Bradshaw outside walking the perimeter of Country Garden Assisted Living Facility, where he lives. He tries to do that every morning, even when the temperature dips below freezing. He said the walk is about three-fourths of a mile.
“I keep in shape by not sitting in a chair,” he said. “When I wake up, I do 25 knee-bends and 25 bend-overs. Then, after breakfast, I get out and walk. I sit down and rest, then I get out and walk some more, just up and down the halls. A lot of residents here do the halls.”
When people see Bradshaw, they’re likely to see an active, busy man.
“I just have to keep active,” he said. “At 93 years of age, I don’t have too many years left. I want to keep active as long as I can.”
Over his nine decades, Bradshaw has gotten used to being active — from finding a way to making a profit at a general store, to serving in two wars, to working in wholesale after the Korean War.
Meet Edgar Bradshaw
CAREER: Veteran of World War II and Korea; retired from Anderson Wholesale.
EDUCATION: Kiowa High School, class of 1937.
FAMILY: One son and one daughter, five grandchildren, three great-grandsons.
CHURCH: West Side Church of Christ.
HOBBIES: “I don’t have any hobbies except for staying alive as long as I can. When I worked for Anderson’s I didn’t have any hobbies.”
Earning a living
Edgar Bradshaw grew up in the small town of Kiowa.
“Eighteen miles south of McAlester on U.S. 69 and the old Katy railroad line,” he said. “You might say I was a country boy. I lived in town, but Kiowa at the time was only 500 to 600 people. There were only 10 or 12 of us in my senior year when I graduated in 1937.”
Bradshaw said he was the only one of nine children to graduate from high school.
“At that time, if they didn’t want to go to high school, they didn’t have to,” he said.
After graduating high school, he worked in a general store for $10 a week.
“Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it,” he said. “We sold groceries, dry goods, hardware. We’d open up in the morning at 7 a.m. and stay open till 6. When anyone with a nickel to spend came in, we’d stay open for them.”
When Bradshaw got married to a McAlester city girl named Lou Eva Meadows, he got a raise to $12 a week.
“When they put the ammunition depot down there, I was given a choice. I could get a raise to $15 a week or I could get 5 percent of dry goods sales,” he recalled.
He chose the 5 percent.
“The ammunition depot people needed lots of clothing,” he said. “I sold a lot of clothing and overalls.”
“When I got up to $30 to $35 a week, I knew that was good money,” he said.
There soon would be a need for the ammunition from the depot. Bradshaw said that just when he started making money at the store, the war started.
Bradshaw remembered an ominous prediction from his third-grade teacher.
“She told us history repeats itself, and if history repeats itself, you boys would be just right for the next war,” he recalled.
Bradshaw was 22 when the United States entered World War ll.
“I went into the Army Dec. 15, 1942. I remember it well,” he said. “I decided to volunteer for the Navy, and they examined me and found nothing wrong with me.”
Examiners said he had flat feet, so he did not make the Navy, he said.
“But the next week I got a letter from the Army saying report to McAlester,” Bradshaw said.
Bradshaw went to bases in Texas and Louisiana before heading to Europe.
“They had already kicked the Germans out of Italy and France, and we had the Germans backed up,” he said. “We got there in time for the Belgian bulge.”
The Battle of the Bulge was considered the Germans’ final offensive after the Allies got into Europe. Bradshaw was with an artillery unit that was behind the lines, backing up the infantry.
“The Germans went as far as we could see,” he said. “We registered our artillery on different spots. When we knew the Germans were starting to come out, we started firing.”
Bradshaw said he almost got shot while going through a town.
“There was a sniper left, and he took a shot at me,” he said. “He hit the ground close by.”
When a bullet hits so close, Bradshaw said, it “sounds like bacon frying.”
He said his unit was by a river when the Germans surrendered. The German army was caught between American troops and Russian troops.
“And they did not want to surrender to the Russians,” he said.
World War II
Bradshaw had little time to rest after World War II.
Within five or six years, he had enlisted with the Oklahoma National Guard’s 45th Infantry. He said he was able to enlist as a young officer. He recalled having to defend Pork Chop Hill early in the Korean war.
“We never did move much,” he recalled. “We were just shooting at each other with artillery.”
Home from Korea, Bradshaw was ready to settle down with his wife. He got a job as a salesman with General Foods.
“That’s how we came to Muskogee,” he said. “General Foods had me move to Muskogee. I worked for General Foods for five years until they reorganized.”
He said he was not part of that reorganization.
Bradshaw then landed a sales job with Anderson Wholesale.
“I was with them 27 years until I retired,” he said.
Upon retirement, the couple moved back to McAlester at his wife’s request. However, by then, most family members had left that area, he said.
“All we were doing was sitting around looking at each other, so we came back to Muskogee,” he said.
Bradshaw lost his wife in 2000, just short of their 60th anniversary. He remarried in 2003. His second wife died in 2008.
HOW DID YOU BECOME AN OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE?
“I went to work for General Foods, and they moved me to work here.”
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT MUSKOGEE?
“It’s my home now.”
WHAT WOULD MAKE MUSKOGEE A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE?
“I don’t know. I can’t think of anything.”
WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING IN MUSKOGEE?
Retired from Anderson Wholesale.
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
“It’s all spare time now. I try to exercise. I go dancing and keep active.”
WHAT OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE DO YOU ADMIRE?
“I can’t think of anybody. I like everybody here, so I can’t name a particular person.”
WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE THING TO HAPPEN TO YOU IN MUSKOGEE?
“When my first wife passed way. She passed away in 2000. I married another woman in 2003, and she passed away in 2008. She had a dog and the dog took up with me after she died.”
HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP MUSKOGEE IN 25 WORDS OR LESS?
“It’s a good place to live.”