Cloyd, Curtis help World War II era Jeep win battle of time

By Greg Miller
STAR STAFF
gmiller@starhq.com

   Lynn Valley residents Cloyd Carter and Mike Curtis are helping a World War II era Jeep win the battle of time.
   Carter says he bought the vehicle in about 1947. "It was in good shape then," he recalled. "It didn't have many miles on it, but it wasn't in too good a shape when Mike got it. I bought it locally. Some guy had advertised it for sale and my brother (the late Fred Carter) and I bought it.
   "We went anywhere we wanted to in it. We went to ball games in Knoxville in it. I enjoy my football games anymore by watching them on television. You can see them better for one thing."
   "I can't imagine driving that Jeep full of people all the way to Knoxville," Curtis said. "That had to wear a person out."
   "Well, you see, you didn't have that four-lane highway," Carter said.
   "That made it an even longer drive," Curtis said.
   "That old road went through all those little burgs down through there," Carter said.
   In addition to transportation, Carter recalls that the Jeep was used for other purposes. "We used to live over in the Benton Hollow and had an old hillside that was grown up with bushes. I used to take that thing, get it to running about as fast as I could and hit those bushes and pushed them down. It's a wonder it hadn't of throwed me and skinned me up or something. But when you're younger, you do things you wouldn't do later."
   Curtis purchased the Jeep from Carter in 1976. "It took me about six months to talk him into selling it to me," Curtis recalled. "I told him I wanted to restore it."
   "That's the reason he got it," remarked Carter, who said selling the Jeep was like saying goodbye to a friend. "He said he wanted to restore it. It was just sitting down in the barn anyway. It wasn't getting in any better shape, so when he said he could restore it, I talked to my brother, and we decided to let him have it."
   "Daddy had to loan me a little money so I could buy it," Curtis said. "My father (Walter A. Curtis) died in April of 1982, and I was restoring the Jeep at that time. It was running and everything, but it just wasn't detailed out. After he died, I got a block against fooling with it. I kept it running, kept it covered up, and kept it in the garage. Finally, last winter, a couple of boys from First Free Will Baptist Church, Phil Poston's son, David, and another boy by the name of Phillip Ferguson came up to the house and wanted to kind of start sanding on it. They worked on it a little bit. In my mind, I knew I had just about every part that I needed to really detail it out, so I started working on it."
   Back in 1976, Curtis told Carter that one day he would bring the Jeep to Cloyd's residence and let him see the vehicle. "I was working on it the whole winter of 2001," Curtis said. "Late last summer, I brought it up here and let him look at it."
   The Jeep, Curtis said, "is a symbol of World War II and how the United States all came together for one cause, that was to win the war. The Jeep is the most memorable thing that came out of World War II. I collect military vehicles. I have several vehicles from down through the years of the wars, a lot of Dodge military trucks. These old World War II Jeeps really have a place in my heart. I think they are really special, and most people recognize them as such."
   Curtis says he will never sell the Jeep. "I've got two sons, and one of those sons will get that Jeep when I'm gone," he said.
   Carter served in the European Theatre during World War II. "I was in Sgt. York's World War I Co., George Co. of the 328th Infantry," he said. "What you were up there mostly for was to furnish the target for the enemy."
   The much decorated Carter was awarded three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, an Infantry Combat Badge, about four campaign ribbons, and the Good Conduct Medal. "Sometimes it's easy to get Purple Hearts," he said. "You don't have to go looking for them. They'll come looking for you."
   Carter recently celebrated his 88th birthday. He attributes his longevity to luck. "All the fellows I went to school with, grew up with, they're all gone," he said. "I was just lucky. That old luck is a good thing to have at times."
   "Through three Purple Hearts, luck's been with you, hasn't it?" Curtis said.
   "Very much so," agreed Carter. "My biggest accomplishment is surviving the Battle of the Bulge. That was a bad place to be. It was like hell. I was with the 26th Division. That was one of Patton's divisions, but we weren't in the Bastone area."
   Carter and Curtis are neighbors in the Lynn Valley area. "Back in 1989, we built a house down here on Messimer Lane, so I've been pretty close for about 13 years now," Curtis said. "I actually work a little garden behind his house."