He remembers, mourns high school friend killed in Korean War [I Know a Story column]
On July 28, LNP | LancasterOnline covered a dedication ceremony held at J.P. McCaskey High School, honoring five McCaskey alumni who gave their lives for America’s freedom during the Korean War.
Among those who died was my friend, Donald Dundore, from the Class of 1950. I was in the Class of ’49.
He and I had much in common, especially cars. He worked for his dad, Adam Dundore, who was a close friend of my father. Adam owned an Esso gas station on the corner of West King and Mulberry streets in Lancaster.
In March of 1952, the Army draft was breathing down my neck, so I decided to join the Navy. During those days, the topic for young boys in their late teens and early 20s was always about the draft.
Don and I talked about it a lot, discussing the pros and cons of two years service with the draft or four years in the Navy. I didn’t like the idea of digging a foxhole and eating out of a tin can. In the Navy, you had a warm, dry bunk and meals in a chow hall. Granted, seasickness was a problem, but saltine crackers would help that!
The day I joined the Navy, as I headed back to work at the J.C. Penney store on East King Street, I stopped in at Dundore’s gas station to fill up. I also wanted to tell Don and his dad I just joined the Navy for four years, plus four years of the Reserves. They both said I was foolish for not waiting out the draft.
A few months later, Don was drafted into the Army.
At the time, Don’s dad purchased a gas station along the current route to 283. In those days, it was not a limited-access highway. Since Don was an only child, his dad was making this purchase so Don could start a business when he got out of the service.
Fast forward to Christmas 1954. My wife, Jackie, and I were flown home from the San Diego Naval Base by our parents to enjoy the holidays. While I was home, my dad told me about what happened to Don in Korea. After he was drafted and completed basic training, Don was transported to Washington state, where he boarded a troop transport ship to Korea. While aboard the ship, he wrote several letters to his dad. These were the last letters his dad received until he was notified by the Army that his son had been killed in action.
After hearing the story, I put on civilian clothes and went to see Adam. I wanted to express my sympathy and sorrow of losing a friend and see how Adam was doing. As soon as I got out of the car, Adam saw me and started to cry like I had never seen a man cry before. It took a while for us to gather ourselves and have a memory-filled conversation.
We moved back to Lancaster after my discharge in June 1956. I would continue to drop by Adam’s gas station periodically, and we would discuss what might have been.
Adam never again seemed to be the Adam I knew before 1952.
Thank you, J.P. McCaskey High School for memorializing my friend, Donald Irvin Dundore.
The author lives in Manheim Township.
If you know an interesting story, please write it in 600 words or less and send it to Mary Ellen Wright, LNP editorial department, P.O. Box 1328, Lancaster, PA 17608-1328, or email it to [email protected]. Please include your phone number and the name of the town you live in.
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