“It will be OK; you’ll be fine,” Florence Jamison told her children as her health was failing.
At 96, she had lived a long, full life. Growing up on a farm in Newton Township, Florence worked alongside her parents, often cooking meals to feed farm hands who came during the great depression looking for work. Later she studied to be a nurse during World War II, and graduated in 1947 with the nursing corps at Hahnemann Hospital in Scranton, now Geisinger CMC.
“She wanted to do her part,” said her son, Lee Jamison.
Jamison shared that he came from a family who modeled what love of country and patriotism was about. His father, Lester Jamison, and two uncles served in World War II. Jamison’s brother served in Vietnam.
Having so many family members who served during war time left an impression on Lee Jamison, who created a living memorial by organizing a drive-through fundraiser to be held during the Clarks Summit Memorial Day parade on Monday, May 27, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at First National Bank, 125 N. State Street.
A variety of products will be available for sale at car windows of those who drive through to purchase a taste of his family business, Annie’s Country Kitchen.
“First National Bank was generous in providing an ideal place to hold our event,” Jamison said. “(Clarks Summit Borough) Mayor Herman Johnson and Councilman Pat Williams were instrumental in planning this. We greatly appreciate their community-minded support.”
Salsa, fruit spreads, cobblers and more will be available for $10 a jar with 50% of the proceeds going to the VFW Memorial Park fund.
“Having the drive-through fundraiser on the day of the parade, I’m hoping people will stop by and get some of our great products and support the VFW,” Jamison said.
Love at first sight
“My mom met my father when he showed up as a hired farm hand in Newton Township in 1936,” Jamison said. “They were smitten. It was love at first sight. But they didn’t get married until 1950 after my father got back from the war.”
Lester Jamison signed up for the Army Air corps in 1942 after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Jamison shared that his father trained on the radio but was disappointed when he learned he wouldn’t see combat behind the lines. Later, on an Army Air Corps base, Lester and his friend, ‘Spike’ O’Hara, spotted a recruitment poster looking for paratroopers. The pay was more than double what they were making and they were guaranteed to see combat. They volunteered to transfer to the paratrooper division.
“It turned out to be the 101st Airborne Division,” Jamison said. “They got their training and then shipped overseas. My dad made his first combat jump on D-day.”
This year marks the 75th anniversary of World War II’s D-day. Learning the things his father experienced astounded Jamison. Lester rarely wanted to talk about the war but on a rare occasion he shared what that first jump was like.
“He said when they started shooting at the airplanes with anti-aircraft guns, the pilots were so scared they started weaving back and forth. Some were colliding in mid-air. They were too low and going way too fast,” Jamison said. “My dad said, ‘When I jumped out it almost took my boots right off. I still don’t know if I hit the ground first and then my shoot opened or the other way around.’ When he landed he slid into a muddy, flooded ditch. The Germans had flooded much of the countryside and he almost drowned right then and there.”
He also shared a memory of when the American troops were going through France. “An old woman came out of one of the villages. She kept saying ‘Merci, merci!’ and ‘Vive America!’ and kissed the flag on my dad’s shoulder,” Jamison shared.
Home and back again
When Lester returned, he had more than enough service, but his younger brother James was still in the Pacific fighting. Lester said “I’m not going home with him over there.” He went back and signed up with the 303rd Infantry Regiment 97th Infantry Division and was sent to the Pacific. He was honorably discharged, and sent home in 1946 after contracting malaria.
“For the most part, my Dad came through the war without a scratch, but he had survivor’s guilt,” Jamison said. “My mom said he was a different person when he returned. It really affected him his whole life. He rarely talked about the war. When I got older and I started researching, I said ‘Dad, you were part of some pretty significant historical events.’ I couldn’t believe everything he did. But he said ‘Maybe you think it’s a great thing all the things I saw over there, but I’m trying to forget them.’”
When Lester Jamison returned, he lived in Philadelphia for a time to care for his friend and brother-in-arms, ‘Spike’ O’Hara, who lost both legs from an explosion.
“That’s the kind of guy my dad was,” Jamison said.
In 1950, Lester and Florence married and settled on the farm in Newton Township. They raised four children: Larry, Lee, James and Lynn.
Lester died in 1985.
A hobby with potential
Florence held the family together, stayed active in the community and loved spending time with her kids and grandkids. In the early 1990s, she started helping her brother Warren and his wife Annie can salsa and other food items.
“It was a hobby for them,” Jamison said. “But they developed quite a following. They named their venture ‘Annie’s Country Kitchen’ after Jamison’s aunt. After I was hurt on the job, I needed to find something else to do, so I got involved.”
Jamison saw potential with the recipes his aunt Annie developed. Jamison grew Annie’s Country Kitchen into a business, selling a variety of canned products.
Jamison’s mother, Florence died on Feb. 13, the week Annie’s Country Kitchen opened in its new location on Zimmerman Street in Clarks Summit.
A drive-through fundraiser
Annie’s Country Kitchen will hold a drive-through fundraiser for the VFW Memorial Park fund Monday, May 27, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at First National Bank, 125 N. State Street in Clarks Summit. Salsa, fruit spreads, cobblers and more will be available for $10 a jar with 50% of the proceeds going to the cause.
VFW Post 7069 Memorial Day ceremonies
Abington Memorial, VFW Post 7069, 402 Winola Road, Clarks Summit, will sponsor a Memorial Day parade on May 27, starting at 11 a.m. The line of march will form at the Clarks Summit Elementary Center on Grove Street at 10 a.m. From Grove Street, the parade will turn left on State Street to Winola Road and conclude at the post home where a memorial service will be conducted. To be included in the parade, participants must register by calling the post at 570-586-9821, daily after 1 p.m.
Post 7069 will also hold services on Memorial day at the following locations: Abington Hills Cemetery, 8:30 a.m.; South Abington Park at the tank, 9 a.m.; Clarks Green Cemetery, 9:30 a.m., and Hickory Grove Cemetery, Miller Road, Waverly, at 10 a.m.