Our veterans who served our country: Clifford “Cliff” Walden

Published 10:44 pm Thursday, June 11, 2015

By Robin A. Edgar

As the war appeared to be coming to a close in Europe, some young men still chose to enlist as soon as they turned 18 in case they were needed in Japan. One such veteran was Clifford “Cliff” Walden who was born in 1927 and grew up in Landrum where his father, Dr. A. R. Walden, had practiced family medicine since 1913. After graduating from Landrum High School in 1944, he attended Clemson for a semester before he turned 18 in March 1945 and joined the Navy.

COLUMNPersonalLegacies6.12 Cliff Walden

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“By the time I enlisted, the war was over with Germany but not Japan. I preferred serving in the Navy over the Army, so I enlisted and was sent to Bainbridge, Md. in May 1945. Although there weren’t any in my group, it happened to be the first month they started to integrate blacks in the Navy. After basic training, I went to Camp Perry in Virginia and was trained on all types of heavy equipment. I learned how to drive big, heavy-duty trucks like a “six by” and bull dozers. The camp where I was stationed was actually for training Seabees, but I was never attached to their unit.

“From there, I was shipped to Port Hueneme, Calif. where I worked on repairing starters and generators. Although I had worked on motorbikes when I was younger, I had never really had any training for that sort of thing until I enlisted. After they bombed Hiroshima in August 1945, I was shipped to the San Diego Navy base before I was sent to New Orleans and discharged in September 1946. After serving 14 months and 27 days, I was classified as in the Reserves because they did not want to release me just yet, but I was never called to serve after that.

“Although I did not get to serve overseas, being in the military was wonderful. It taught me mental discipline and how to really work as a team as well as how to think and fend for myself which helped me when I was in college. It was a tempering period, which helped me to become a man. It is not for everyone as a career, but it is good training for every young man out of high school. I think every young man should serve for that very reason.”

After Walden came home, he returned to Clemson, finishing his degree in agricultural engineering on the GI Bill in1950. When he was 23 years old he got his first job with International Harvest Company in Charlotte, N.C. and married Ruth Harley from Holly Springs.

After 30 days, he went to work in sales with the company’s progressive program in Charleston, S.C. but eventually decided to move back to Landrum in December 1950. He constructed a building next door to the where the Antique Mall is today and opened Walden’s Cut-Rate Drug Store in 1951. He sold the business and leased the building three years later and bought the lot across the street where Covington Jewelers and Sissy’s are today to build Walden Appliance and Furniture Company, which opened in 1956. Retiring in 1999, he sold the building in 2000 and took up his hobby of restoring Wheel Horse tractors.

The Walden’s had five children, Clifford M. II, Sallie, Isabelle, Julie, and Stephen. Walden was very active with the Masons for 61 years, serving as Worshipful Master of Landrum Lodge in 1959 and 1964; as District Deputy Grand Master of Grand Lodge Masons of South Carolina from 1971 to 72; and Grand Steward of Grand Lodge Masons of South Carolina in 1975.

He served as trustee of Spartanburg County District One Schools from 1967 to 1999. He also served as a deacon three times and taught Sunday school at First Baptist Church in Landrum for 33 years from 1954 to 1988.

If you are a veteran and would you like to share about your experience in the US military please contact Robin Edgar at 2robinedgar@gmail.com or call The Tryon Daily Bulletin at 828-859-9151.