McCain: The navy commander in brilliant dress whites
By Kris Leonhardt
On Aug. 31, the Marshfield Honor Walk recognized late United States Senator John McCain with a banner, which was hung in front of Mitten’s Home Appliance on the corner of East Second Street and South Central Avenue.
You are probably well aware that McCain served in the United States Navy and was a prisoner of war in Vietnam and that he was a state senator for Arizona from 1987 until his time of death. But, did you know that there is some significance in the placement of the McCain banner on the corner of Second and Central?
The following excerpt from Dale Van Atta’s book “The Laird Legacy: A Biography of Melvin R. Laird” provides some information:
“At the age of ten, (Laird) decided what he wanted to be most of all was a U.S. Navy officer. Or at least wear the uniform. The dream was born on a sunny morning in 1932, when he rounded a corner downtown and came face to face with the first navy officer he had ever seen in land-locked Marshfield. The navy commander in brilliant dress whites with gold trimmings was visiting an uncle who owned a dry goods store in Marshfield, and the officer’s name was John (“Slew”) McCain Sr. The boy trailed the man for most of the day, pestering him with questions about the navy and basking in the reflected glow of that bright white uniform twinkling with brass buttons.
Not too many years later, during World War II, the boy and the man would share a beer on an island in the South Pacific, where the admiral was the commanding officer of a naval task force and the boy was a lowly ensign in that command. A decade or so later, Congressman Laird would work closely with that admiral’s son, Navy Commander John S. McCain Jr., who would be liaison between the navy and Congress. Another decade later, McCain Jr., commander of the Pacific Fleet during the Vietnam war, would be reporting to Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird. They would work together to free Navy Commander John S. McCain III from a prisoner of war camp – not guessing then that he would become a respected U.S. senator and presidential candidate.”
Back in 1921, when the Rose Brothers sold their dry goods store to C.E. Blodgett, Blodgett turned the store over to two of his sons-in-law – Wilbur M. Johnson and Harry McCain. Harry McCain was the uncle of that Navy officer in the brilliant dress whites that young Melvin Laird so intently followed around that sunny morning in 1932.
The Rose Brothers, Inc. store was renamed the McCain-Johnson Company, and the pair continued its operation from the corner of West Second Street and South Central Avenue.