“Old friends are the best,” said Herman Nichols of Mount Airy recently.
He was reminiscing about his time in the Korean War, when his work often meant ferrying young soldiers to the war — and one time let him have a quick reunion with some of his high school friends, men he still sees from time to time nearly seven decades later.
Nichols was in the Navy, working on a troop transport ship which ferried troops back and forth from the United States to a port in Pusan, Korea. On one of those trips, at the very end of 1950 or later in 1951 to the best of his recollection, Nichols noticed a bunch of Marines on their way to the war staring at him from across the deck of the ship, so he went over to meet them.
As it turns out, he already knew them. The three young Marines were Bill Scott, Stanley Rose and Edgar Hodge, all three of whom had attended Franklin School with Nichols.
The men had a quick reunion and someone took a photo, but Nichols didn’t get too many chances to hang out with his old friends on the ship. They had their separate jobs to do.
“We didn’t eat together,” said Nichols. Sailors and Marines didn’t have their meals together. When the ship arrived in Korea, the three Marines were dispersed with the other Marines on the craft, and Nichols stayed on the ship to go back to get another load of troops.
“Everybody came home,” said Nichols of those old friend he’d run into on the ship. “We all made it back.”
Since then, Edgar Hodge has passed. Some of the others have wandered a bit in the meantime. Nichols had played semi-professional basketball for Hanes Hosiery before going into the Navy, and lived in Winston-Salem during his 30-year career at Reynolds Tobacco, from where he retired in 1987. He thinks one of the other fellows may have lived in Raleigh for a while, but Nichols, Scott and Rose are all three living in Mount Airy now.
Unlike their time in the Korean War, the three old friends do eat together now, meeting periodically to talk, according to Nichols, and to eat, according to his wife, Gaynelle Nichols.
Nichols is a member of the Franklin High School Class of ‘49, and next year will be the 70th anniversary of the graduation of his class. His Marine friends went to Franklin with him, but they were in different classes.
“I think a lot of those boys,” Nichols said. “They’re good boys.”
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.