On September 16th, David Hymes will mark his centennial birthday. Most of us know David as our Past National Commander, but I got the opportunity to sit down and speak with him about his story for the past 100 years.
According to David, he was born on the kitchen table. “My mother couldn’t leave my sister alone in the apartment, and my dad was away working. To be honest, I don’t even know if we could have afforded to go to the hospital. So, I was born right there,” said David. David grew up on the West Side of Chicago, and he went to Marshall High School. His parents owned a small produce store that they both worked at 7 days a week. “We weren’t rich, but we always had food on the table,” he said.
“I wanted to study dentistry, but my parents couldn’t support it,” said David. After he graduated high school, he ended up getting a job at the local post office while he attended Northwestern at night. He studied for 6 years, and he graduated as an accountant or, as David calls it, “a Jewish engineer”.
After graduating, David and his friend rented a car, and they took a trip to Denver. The day after they drove back was the day that David’s draft number was picked. While he was at basic training, Pearl Harbor was hit, and as he put it, “my two year mandatory service turned into a four year mandatory service.”
He first got stationed in Panama, and he was able to transfer to Finance. After he reached sergeant, David was able to attend Officer Candidate School, and he obtained the rank of second lieutenant. He spent sometimes in the states before he was transferred to SHEAF headquarters in Europe.
“When I arrived there, I asked the guy what my job was going to be. He told me that I was going to be a postal finance officer, and I asked him what the hell a postal finance officer was. He said, ‘I heard you had a degree in finance and that you worked in a post office.’ I said yes, and he said, ‘there you go.’” He was in charge of getting supplies for different units that were in combat on the European front. While on duty, Mr. Hymes was shot in the arm, and he was hospitalized for nine months. He was discharged from the Army when he finished his rehab, and according to David, “I did not go back to the post office.”
The first job that David applied for was an accounting job. In those days, you had to put your religion on your application, and when he went for the interview, the manager said that they did not hire Jews. David told me that he said some things that would have not made his mother proud. However, he got another interview lined up for an accounting position at a liquor distribution company, and he ended up working there for a couple of years.
Around that time, David met his wife, Evaline, and they found an apartment in Hyde Park, Chicago. They ended up having two daughters. He also went into business with his brother in law, where he worked until he was 90.
He joined JWV in 1963, and he helped form the Dr. Samuel Pearlman Post 800 in 1967. He served as the Post Commander from 1970-1972. He subsequently was elected to the Illinois Department Commander in 1976. He served on the National Executive Committee from 1976 to 1994. He was then elected to National Commander in 1994. He also has served on the National Museum of American Jewish Military History’s board of directors.
David’s wife, Evaline, passed away in 2004, and David said he sold his house for an apartment in Chicago. He ended up retiring 3 years later. “I mailed all my accounts, and I told them that their accounts had been paid in full because I was retiring,” said David. He says his grandson is getting married in September, and he cannot wait to be there.