Sometimes in researching a story, I come across bizarre leads taking me all different directions. This happened again just recently.
It’s not like I was looking to write about a couple of WWII veterans. I was seeking specific information about a long-abandoned business near Holbrook, Arizona called, ‘Painted Desert Trading Post’. This place has mega historic significance where old Route 66 is concerned.
On February 5, 1957, a semi-truck loaded with frozen meat blew a right front tire while traveling along Route 66. Out of control, the rig careened off the highway and headed straight towards Painted Desert Trading Post.
The truck crashed into the wood and stucco structure doing considerable damage. A still attached trailer rolled over squashing a pickup truck and car. No one was seriously hurt. Newspaper articles stated that meat, ham, and bacon went flying.
Driver of the semi was a fellow named Floyd A. Austin. Intuition told me to pursue Mr. Austin’s background. Sometimes an inner voice tells me to do strange things like that where my research is concerned.
Records show that 10-years prior, on December 20, 1947, Floyd Austin was involved in a similar accident with a totally different outcome.
Floyd and good friend, Army Pvt. Jess Scroggins, were hitchhiking out of Needles, California with their wife and girlfriend. Both men had recently returned from fighting in WWII.
Pvt. Scroggins was still in the military stationed at Fort Kelly, Texas. Pvt. Floyd Austin had just mustered out of the service. More than likely they were all headed home to Illinois for Christmas.
A diesel truck loaded with barrels of oil stopped and picked them up. The two girls jumped in the cab while the guys climbed onto the trailer. Being it was a tight fit back there, most likely they squeezed between the heavy metal drums.
Near the California/Arizona border at Topock, a wheel suddenly came loose sending truck and trailer tumbling off the road. Pvt. Jess Scroggins was crushed and killed instantly while Floyd Austin sustained severe head injuries. The Needles newspaper called it a ‘freak accident’.
I dug further on Floyd Austin’s background. He fully recovered from his physical injuries. Mr. Austin stayed married to Edna until his death in 1970. Floyd’s wife never remarried.
I stopped my research after finding son Floyd Austin Jr. tragically drowned at an early age in Missouri. Once again it was a freak accident. That was enough tragedy for a story I hadn’t planned on writing to begin with.
Hopefully there are family members still remembering these two veterans. I would’ve never known their names had I not been prodded to dig deeper. I’m glad I did.
There’s nothing more I can say about Pvt. Austin and Pvt. Scroggins other than,
“Thank you for your service to our country!”