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Morrows' annual reunion reunites really big family

Twelve children in family were never all together until parents' 50th anniversary
by: Barbara Sherman HARDY FARM STOCK – The five Morrow siblings who made it to the 2011 reunion pose in Cook Park, including Bob (second from left) and Joe (center).

When the extended Morrow family gets together for its annual reunion in Cook Park in Tigard, it's a short trip for King City resident Bob Morrow, who looks forward to it every year.

Bob is somewhat of the family historian, bringing hundreds of old photos to the Aug. 7 reunion, with the back of each one carefully labeled with the names of those in it plus the date and place where it was taken.

"When my second-oldest brother's in-laws died, they got a box of photos, and not one of them was identified," Bob said. "You won't find mine that way."

Bob also can recite the dates of many important events in the family as well as the birthday of each of his siblings, which is a considerable feat considering there were 12 kids in the family. The four oldest brothers are now gone, and the youngest died last spring, but the rest are still going strong.

At the reunion, some family members used ceramic mugs covered with family photos that Bob gave to them several years ago.

One shows him with his first car that he bought from a junk yard for $7.50 in 1941.

"For a dime, we'd get a gallon of kerosene and could drive 3 miles to the swimming hole and back," he said. "I got my money's worth out of that car."

Another ceramic mug photo shows Bob's six older brothers, all of them wearing overalls and some holding New Zealand rabbits that the family raised for food. "I was about 1 ½ months old when that photo was taken," Bob said.

Looking at a photo of his fifth-grade class, Bob said, "I can name most of them because we went through high school together."

Showing a junior high photo to someone, Bob started naming the students, pointing out he was doing it upside down.

There is a lot of history to cover: "I had two aunts and two uncles born before the Civil War," Bob said.

His parents, Alonzo and Ethel Morrow, lived in McDonald County in Illinois, where Alonzo was a sharecropper.

"We moved to the town of Macomb when I was 6 years old," Bob said. "Families needed help on the farm, so they had a lot of kids, although four to six was more the average."

One of his most embarrassing moments took place at the end of his first day of school when he had to go to the bathroom; when he left the outhouse, he got teased for using the one designated for girls. "It took a while to live that one down," Bob said.

Most of the family moved to Oregon in November 1941.

"Mom's brother lived here and wrote every month, 'Come out here. You won't get anywhere in that hick town,'" Bob said. "Our oldest brother came out in 1933, and a couple more came, and then a couple more.

"I was the oldest of the remaining kids at home. We packed up everything, and eight of us, including Mom and Dad, moved out here - Joe drove one car, and I drove the other. Harold and Hal were married and stayed in Illinois."

Four of the brothers - Bob, Joe, Don and Harold - fought in World War II in the European theater at the same time.

Don was in a tank destroyer unit, Bob was in the 2nd Infantry medical unit, Harold worked at a Navy post office in England (where he met his English wife), and Joe was with the 11th Armory.

"None of us got a scratch," Joe said. "I saw Don and Harold a couple of times."

And Joe was able to meet up with Bob in the city of Remagan, Germany, in March 1945.

"I saw a truck with a 2nd Infantry insignia and asked the driver where they were," Joe said. "Bob was with the 2nd medical division, and they were 60 miles away. My commander let me use his Jeep and driver to go see Bob."

In a bulging evelope are photos of Bob in Germany, France and Belgium during the war taken with his Kodak 120 box camera.

He enlisted in the Civilian Conservation Corps in October 1937, left in April 1940 and got drafted May 6, 1942.

Stationed in Wisconsin, Bob was home on furlough when he met his future wife Laura, and they corresponded after he went back to war.

"I left Europe in June 1945 and had 30 days home before I was supposed to go to Japan," Bob said. "I was on a train visiting my girlfriend, and it stopped in Minneapolis. People were going crazy because the war had ended. If the war had gone on, I would have been sent to the jungle. Was I ever thankful?"

Bob left the service Oct. 1, 1945, and he and Laura got married in May 1946 and had two sons; she died in 1992, and Bob moved to King City in November 1995.

As for his varied career, Bob said, "You name it, I did it."

Concerning the abundance of family photos taken over the years, Bob said, "I think my mother slept with that old Kodak 116 box camera."

Among the photos, one of Alonzo and Ethel's 50th wedding anniversary stands out because it was the very first time that all 12 kids were together in the same place; the photo was taken in August 1955, a month before the actual anniversary.

With the oldest, Leland, born Nov. 28, 1906, and the youngest, Max, born Dec. 8, 1934, they never all lived at home at the same time.

"We would get together from time to time, but one or two would always be missing," Bob said.

With the huge extended family, "we have to rent a hall every time we get together," Bob said.

Ethel died at age 91, and Alonzo died at 83, proving that longevity runs in the family. And if you need more proof, just take a look at that reunion photo taken in Cook Park this summer.