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World War II vet Johnnie Jones retires again at 88

Posted: February 11, 2014 11:59 a.m.
Updated: February 12, 2014 5:00 a.m.

World War II veteran, textile worker, service station owner, grocery store employee and newspaper delivery man Johnnie J. Jones is finally retiring -- at the age of 88.

Born and raised in Camden, Jones saw Europe while in the Army. He said he was drafted in 1944 and served as a combat engineer in Company B of the 1264th Combat Engineer Battalion.

“When you turned 18 you had to go register for the draft. So, four months and one day after I registered I was inducted,” he said. “They didn’t waste any time.”

Jones said his basic training was done at nearby Camp Jackson, then he went to Camp Kilmer, N.J., in advance of being sent to Europe.

“Our job was to keep the roads open and build bridges. Most of the time we were three or four miles back from the front lines, keeping the roads open. It was muddy and these Army trucks would come by loaded with bodies and blood running out of the back of the vehicles,” Jones said.

Ask Jones what kind of machinery he operated during the war, and his answer was simple.

“A shovel. I had a big, old shovel,” he said. “Sleeping in a pup tent was kind of cool at night. I’d wake up in the morning and my pants legs would be frozen. In the chow line you’d think you were going to get a hot cup of coffee and it would be hot tea. That was disappointing, but you learned to drink it. You didn’t have much choice.”

Jones said he served in several countries during the war.

“England, France, Belgium and Germany,” he said. “When we got into Germany, we knew we were really making headway then.” 

Jones said he made several friends in the Army, mostly guys from northern states.

“Most of the fellows in our company were from up north. We called them Yankees. We had a reunion in 1993,” he said. “Since then, I don’t know any of them that’s still around.”

After being discharged from the Army in 1946, Jones went to work at the Kendall Mills Wateree Plant textile mill for six years. He then worked for DuPont for nearly seven years. A downturn in DuPont’s production resulted in a business opportunity for Jones: the chance to open a service station.

“DuPont had their first big layoff and I was in it,” Jones said. “The service station in Burndale was being built. Mr. Detriville was the Gulf Oil distributor and I asked him for a job when the station opened. He said, ‘why don’t you open it?’ I had no training or anything with service stations and he said Gulf Oil would give me two weeks of training. I was in the service station business for 39 years.”

Later, Jones went on to run a service station on Broad Street, next to what is now the Kershaw County Government Center.

After retiring from the service stations, Jones went to work for Food Lion, then was approached by Camden Media Co. Publisher Mike Mischner about delivering the Chronicle-Independent and other publications to stores and vending boxes. He accepted the offer and has worked for Camden Media Co. nearly 16 years.

“I go to where the paper gets printed and pick them up and come back and deliver them. We put them in the boxes and the convenience stores and wherever they’re sold,” Jones said.

Mischner said Jones has been an ideal employee.

“Johnnie Jones is one of the nicest guys that I’ve ever known. He is a real role model as it relates to his character and his work ethic. It has been a pleasure to have Johnnie here for all of these years,” Mischner said.

Jones said he has an activity that will keep him busy in his retirement.

“I have a woodworking shop and build porch swings, glider rockers and wishing wells,” he said. “I just enjoy stuff like that.”

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