Pacific Stars and Stripes, Dec. 23, 1952
By Al Kaff
SEOUL, Dec. 23 (UP) – An Oklahoma fireman and the
former mayor of an Oklahoma town put their heads together and came up
with one of the biggest Christmas presents ever seen in Seoul. It weights
10 tons—10 tons of overcoats, wool suits, heavy dresses, mufflers, shoes,
“IT WAS ONE of the biggest single donations ever
given to our people,” a Seoul city official said. The thousands of
pieces of clothing will be distributed on Christmas Eve to the Korean
people now facing another cold winter in their war-wrecked homeland.
“Smitty wanted the clothes handed out the day before
Christmas,” said Capt. Able L. Waham, former fire marshal of Ponca City,
Okla., and now fire marshal for the Seoul Area Command. Smitty is Herman
J. Smith, owner of a Ponca City clothing store and mayor of his town
when Washam was fighting fires there. “The city officials had a little
argument over whether it should be Christmas Eve or New Year’s Day,”
Washam said. Only the few Christians in Korea celebrated Christmas
as a special holiday throughout the peninsula.
Seoul Mayor Tai Sun Kim overruled his advisers and
set Christmas Eve as the time to distribute the tons of good will from
the small oil-refining town. “The clothes were sent to us in the spirit
of Christmas,” Mayor Tai said, “so we will hand them out on the day
before Christmas. We appreciate very much what the Oklahoma people
have done for us,” the mayor said. “We need clothes here badly. Most
of the people have come back from southern refugee camps and they have
lost all their possessions.”
A TRAFFIC ACCIDENT near Seoul last summer started
Ponca City’s mammoth drive for clothes for Korea. Washam explained:
“I found a child on the road who had been hit by a truck. I put her
in my jeep and drove her to a Korean orphanage where they had a hospital.
The kids there were naked. They didn’t have a stitch of clothing.
I wrote my wife about it and asked her if she could pick up a few clothes
from friends and send them over to me.
Mrs. Washam remembered that Smith, who was with
the Fifth Air Force in Korea last winter, had given away odds and ends
from his clothing store to suffering civilians in Seoul. When Mrs.
Washam told Smith what her husband wanted to do, the clothing merchant
alerted the entire town of Ponca City. Churches, civic groups, schools,
parent-teachers associations, and social clubs pledged their support.
NEIGHBORING communities—Blackwell, Newkirk, and Fairfax—joined
the drive. Most of the clothes they collected are still en route to
“I’ve received 20 big bread boxes (full of clothing)
and the rest should be here soon,” Washam said. “But we’ve got enough
now to go a long way on Christmas Eve.” Washam has turned the clothes
over to Mayor Tai, and the Seoul welfare department is making a survey
to determine the most needy people to receive them.