Saturday, June 30, 2012

John R. Blalock

The post today is dedicated to my father, whose funeral will take place later this day. John Reuben Blalock was born in Condon, Oregon, on November 3, 1911. He died June 18, of this year—he was 100 years and seven months old.

He was still an infant when the family moved back to Tillamook, the home of my grandmother. According to my uncle Miles, they made the trip by wagon. When they passed through Portland, the family spent the night at the Multnomah hotel, an unheard of extravagance on the part of my grandfather.   

My Father

My grandfather had been a Baptist missionary to the Pacific coast. The family moved to various places in Oregon, California, and Idaho, but the hamlet of Beaver, in Tillamook county, was always considered home.

After high school my father came to Portland to attend what was then called Western Baptist Theological Seminary on S.E. 28th and Salmon (the building is still there). After graduation he was called to preach, and to join his uncle in Tia An, China, as a missionary. His uncle had been in China for many decades prior to this time. When my father set out for China, it was during the great longshoremen's strike of 1934. Being unable to secure passage in the United States, he travelled to Vancouver, B.C., where he took passage on the Canadian Pacific steamer, Empress of Japan, for Shanghai. Little did he know that he was stepping into the mouth of a lion, that the Orient was about to explode into war, although that would surely not have deterred him.

The Canadian Pacific liner Empress of Japan

During most of the time my father was in China, the Sino-Japanese war was underway. Things became increasingly difficult, and by 1941 it became necessary to leave Tia An. My father left for the Philippines with three Chinese-American orphans in his care. They arrived in Manila just a few days before Pearl Harbor and, therefore, a few days before the Japanese occupation of Manila.

My father and the children in his charge spent the remainder of the war as prisoners of the Japanese. As the Allied forces made headway in the war, the conditions in the camp became very grievous, and the prisoners were approaching death by starvation. Just prior to the execution of a Japanese order to kill the entire camp, there was a dramatic, and successful rescue made by the coordinated efforts of the Philippine guerrillas, U.S. Army troops with amphibious tractors, and the paratroopers of the 11th Airborne. 

The story of these events, written by his own hand, can be found at

After returning to the United States, my father spent several years following in the footsteps of his father, doing mission work on the Pacific coast. During this time he married my mother, Mary Marshall, an Ohio girl. They had two children during this time, my brother Thomas and me.

My father then was called to go to the land of his former captors. In the fall of 1953, the Blalock family set off in the M.S. Hikawa Maru (the subject of an upcoming post) for Yokohama, Japan. The remainder of this tale will have to wait until some future date. I must now get ready for one of the saddest events of my life.

Uncle Thomas, missionary to China, with my mother and her two kids, and some more of the old home folks in 1953