Lost World: The Rice Family in the Philippines before World War 2

One more detour before we resume my grandfather’s memoirs. Here are a plethora of Rice family photos that I gathered on my Thanksgiving trip back to Manhattan, mostly in the Philippines, from the two decades before World War 2. My understanding is that my grandfather also had a farm out in the countryside in addition to the house he had in Manila itself (see first post from memoir), several pics of which are shown here. You should be able to click an image to see it enlarged with a caption (for the ones I provide a caption for; some have handwriting that’s self-explanatory).

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The Battle of Manila, February 1945, Background (Carl E. Rice WW2 Memoirs addendum)

I’m going to take a break from transcribing directly from my grandfather’s memoirs to give a bit more context and background to the wider military developments which, at the moment we left off, were even then engulfing the city of Manila, its inhabitants, and of course my family.

Below are some maps to help the reader better visualize the location of the Philippines:

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Global map of the Philippines (in green).

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Modern map of Manila, darkened to highlight Santo Tomas, where my grandfather was interned,  and the Malate District, where my family lived.

When the U.S. Army began the campaign to oust the Japanese from Luzon (they had already invaded the islands to the south), they actually managed to embark  from the north, via the Lingayen Gulf along the northwestern coast of Luzon, due north and west of Manila, on January 9th, 1945.

You would expect that the U.S. Army would prefer to deliberately proceed southward to evict the Japanese. However, U.S. General Douglas MacArthur had received intelligence that the American and other Allied prisoners held in places like Manila and at other locations were to be slaughtered if the American army got too close. MacArthur was desperate to rescue as many American lives as he could and sent an advance force south to Manila with all haste to secure Santo Tomas among other known prison camps.

As you saw previously in my grandfather’s memoirs, this was accomplished by February 5th, 1945. Though the Japanese guards were allowed to leave, other Japanese units continued to bombard Santo Tomas for roughly a full week afterward, taking many American soldiers lives as well as, in a sad irony, many newly-freed American internees (again, as has been seen previously in the memoirs).

Perhaps somewhat naively and definitely optimistically, MacArthur declared that Manila had “fallen” on February 4th. He and his staff were said to even be planning a victory parade. Indeed, the general in charge of the Japanese Army, Tomoyuki Yamashita, did not believe he could defend Manila and had ordered his troops to abandon the city and fall back to the foothills to the north.

Had this policy been carried out by the entire Japanese military apparatus in the Philippines, all would have been well as far as Manila was concerned; countless lives would have been spared and the city, known as the Pearl of the Orient for its beauty that combined Spanish, American and native architectural styles from its varied multicultural heritage,  would have been preserved.

Unfortunately, the Japanese Navy, commanded by Rear Admiral Iwabuchi Sanji, was committed to defending Manila at all costs, and in defiance of his colleague Yamashita, was determined to inflict the maximum possible damage on the advancing American forces, and more horrifically, on the defenseless Filipino civilian population, including such atrocities as rape, mutilation, bayoneting, and ultimately slaughter. In the end, it is estimated that 100,000 Filipinos were killed during the month long Battle of Manila (some estimates are as high as 500,000), and not all by Japanese soldiers, but also due to friendly fire from the advancing Americans who were unable to always differentiate the civilians.

By the end of the battle on March 3rd, 1945, the Pearl of the Orient was reduced to a pile of rubble and laid waste in one of the most vicious urban battles of World War 2.

It is against this backdrop that we return to my grandfather’s memoirs…

Carl E. Rice WW2 Memoirs: February 10th and February 11th, 1945

Saturday, Feb 10th—All last night was an inferno; our guns firing over the Camp from the Cemetery, How they roared and crashed; shells whizzed, screeched, fluttered and made other weird sounds; We ran from the Gym and spent part of the night behind the Seminary, it rained and was cold; I went to kitchen and got some hot coffee; this morning our battery of 105’s inside the compound is firing and many batteries from places on this side of River; Japs are firing into Camp from south side of river; they go over the Gym close enough to hear them and are exploding toward the Education Building we moved from and where the 5th Field Hospital is; several in Hospital with wounds have been killed today by direct hits on Hosp.

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American artillery crews firing on Japanese positions from the grounds of the recently liberated Santo Tomas University during the Battle of Manila, February 1945.

Bill Harn and Hutchison have just been killed in their shanty near the Hosp. A shell hit near the Gym about fifty feet from where White and I were sitting against the wall so we decided that was getting too close and ran with others to the Seminary, one shell exploded just at the door, killing a man named Bennet and wounding another. We spent several hours behind the Seminary.

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The fires now show that have reached the Malate district, where my family is, also Fink’s, Wilhelm’s, Leursen’s, Wilson’s and others; all we can do is pray for them, hope they can somehow get through.

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Sunday, Feb 11—Terrific battle south side of river, only sniping this side; the batteries this side keep up fast firing over our heads. Only a few Jap shells in Camp; one hit near Gym in soft ground; I decided it’s no place for me so moved up to Room 52A in 3rd floor of Main Bldg with Crumrine, it’s close to the room but also just above the KITCHEN.

Bottom photo: La Salle University (top center/left) and Rizal Memorial Sports Stadium (top right in the distance) with Taft Avenue on the left looking south east. Photo is dated Feb. 15, 1945, during the month-long Battle of Manila. My father, then five, and his family I believe lived near the stadium, but am not sure if they were to the north (foreground) or south (off in the far distance of this photo), and would have desperately been trying to reach the American lines, possibly at the same moment this photo was taken. 

Carl E. Rice WW2 Memoirs: February 8th and February 9th, 1945

Thursday, Feb 8, 1945 cont.—The fires do not appear to be on our Leviriza St yet (where my dad’s family lived) as they appear to be in Paco and Ermita, also this side of the River. Our guns are firing over the Camp from near the Cemetery; Food comes into our Camp: butter, fresh bread; the soldiers do so much for us, they sacrifice their own rations so that we may eat meat and vegetables we have been deprived of so long; they are so shocked at our pitiful condition; most of us have begun to get some strength, but some were too far gone and every day some die; some seem to relax, to let go; they held on till the FLAG came back with their last bit of strength.

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American soldiers of “C” Company of the 148th Infantry move toward the Legislature Building in Manila, February 1945.

Friday, Feb 9th—Had a night’s sleep last night in spite of shells flying overhead toward the Japs south of the river; this morning the roar of battle is continuous, our troops have crossed the river and are attacking: planes, tanks, infantry, artillery, the sky is dark with smoke; sniping continues from houses near camp but we go about our routine affairs, mainly eating, are getting so much rich food that are having intestinal troubles, some have gone to hospital and I know that Cook, died from it.

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American soldiers taking cover as they advance through Manila on Dewey Blvd, now Roxas Blvd, Manila, Philippines, February 1945.

Yesterday Mr. Amos Bellis and myself went to the emergency Hospital in Room 13 to find Tom Henderson dying from wounds received in the shelling of the 7th; later we went to the Morgue to see his body and counted eighteen who had been killed or died of wounds received then; more died later; they are bing buried in the garden, while some services were being held the Japs shelled that part of the Camp.

 

Carl E. Rice WW2 Memoirs: February 6th (cont.) to February 8th, 1945

Feb 6, 1945 Cont.—Heavy fighting continues, Jap demolition time bombs continue to explode, about 15 sq miles of the city north of the river now burned; three of our armies said to have advanced close to Manila; the First Cavalry troops who rescued us were only about 700 strong.

We are to be moved tomorrow to the GYM to make room for Hospital; Red Cross says to leave everything behind as they will give us new clothes and beds; but we know the Red Cross and will hold on to our old stuff till we see their new supplies (never did get them).

Feb 7—Shelling of Camp continues; Gen MacArthur visited Camp; at 2PM I was in Main Building to send radio, and hurried away from the crowd at the front door as we were to load our things on a truck to the Gym; just got away in time as a shell hit just over the door and killed several people and wounded many; When I finally got things loaded shells were coming our way, one hit in front of main building, killing a soldier on plaza; several just missed our roof and hit the wall behind garden, one killed some Japs hiding in a house behind camp; Nelson said, let’s get out of here, so I went down behind the building, and stayed there while shelling was heavy.

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U.S. General Douglas MacArthur (bottom center, in the hat cap) visits Santo Tomas on February 6th, 1945.

Feb 7 cont.—I did not go to the Gym with some who left our room; as they were fixing their bunks in the Gym several shells hit it and killed “Java” and fatally wounded Tom Henderson, and severely wounded several others and most of the folks ran over behind the Seminary; I finally made a run for the Main Building and lined up inside for chow, about 5:00PM; as we waited in the chow line, shells hit the rooms at south corner and killed and wounded many people, mostly women, some of the girls who dip out food for us were killed, Rev. Foley and Phil Carmen also killed.

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Living quarters at Santo Tomas; perhaps this is the gymnasium?

The dead and wounded were carried past me into room 13, for emergency Hospital; they were very badly mangled by shrapnel; after supper we stayed on the sidewalks north east side, it was raining slightly, many of us had diarrhea from eating too much, fighting was heavy, machine guns were firing tracer bullets at our guns, several soldiers were killed; an officer came by and gave me two cigars, said with compliments of General MacArthur; shells hit room above us and showered fragments; had no blankets and all in all it was a night to remember.

About 4:00AM Crumrine and I got into the back door of the Main Building, it was crowded, and as the emergency hospital was full and some wounded and died, there was much weeping and distress among the women and children; until daylight it was not a nice situation to be in.

Several soldiers were killed and wounded in the night fighting.

Feb 8—Daylight brought some lull and good breakfast; I at last got my longed for bread and butter; went to Gym and found my clothes but no cot so I used Graham’s as he is in Hospital, this is a fairly quiet day and got a little sleep. Battle still raging in Manila but only few shells near hear. Thousands of Japs are in Walled City and Ermita and Malate and our troops are attacking.

Carl E. Rice WW2 Memoirs: February 4th to February 6th, 1945

Feb 4, 1945, continued—This afternoon two shots were heard in room 211 where some Japs were and later on the Japs called on some of our men in room 212 to carry away a body, sewed up in a sheet; supposed to be of a Jap officer who killed himself; (next day while we were looking thru the Jap rooms I picked up two revolver cartridges for an American revolver, in a pool of blood; evidently some other Jap had reloaded the gun for his own use); night of the 4th Japs were mostly asleep, sentries at our door were asleep and one dropped his rifle; we had to step over them if we went to the bathroom.

Feb 5—This morning before six o’clock there was much moving around in the Japs rooms and loud commands, a sergeant camp looking for Mr. MOSS, interpreter, said they wished to surrender but must see Mr. Stanley, when he finally came the Jap commander walked out and met some of our officers, a push cart was placed at the front door for wounded, the soldiers fell in with their guns but left all ammunition in Lobby; so they marched away under guard of our soldiers and I hope the guerrillas got them all before they reach the Jap lines. (He’s referring to the fierce guerrilla campaign native Filipinos waged during the course of the Japanese occupation.) They marched out at 7:05AM, Feb 5, 1945.

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The aforementioned Mr. Ernest Stanley (far right, in white shirt) escorts the Japanese soldiers out of Santo Tomas after negotiating for their release in exchange for freeing the internees.

(Evidently this Mr. Stanley was a pivotal figure in the release of my grandfather and the other internees. Fluent in Japanese and also a long time internee at the camp, he was the key negotiator between the American army and the Japanese garrison holding the internees hostage. He ultimately secured a deal that allowed the Japanese to leave peacefully in exchange for sparing the internees lives, and quite likely prevented a bloodbath that surely would have resulted in the deaths of my grandfather and the 200 other internees held by the Japanese during that tense weekend.)

Our troops came in and ordered us out at once, while they looked for booby traps; we were lined up in front and given half a pkg of Jap cigarettes, were photo’d and then allowed to go for a late breakfast; my how good it was to have sugar and rice mush, and good coffee; a battery of four guns just in front of our building was firing, Jap snipers shooting from buildings around outside Camp and also from the Seminary in the compound which is occupied by priests not interned. Large quantities of food supplies for Camp were found in the Seminary warehouse, where the Japs stored them instead of giving to us. (Dicks.)

23d24c8d029cWe were given mail from the U.S. and paper to write letters home, I reported to Col. Grimes about the Army employees in camp and was told to wait till some other day, as we could do nothing now, but get fed up on good chow.

North of Pasig River great fires rage, much fighting, artillery firing heavy, several in camp wounded.

I weigh 130 lbs; Feb 1st weigh 128 lbs (he had lost about 35 pounds over the past year; still far better than some other internees who wasted away down to 90 to 100 pounds).

Japs are shelling camp, also sniping, machine gunning and even toss hand grenades over the walls.

We are eating rice, mongo beans found in Jap bodega, also some soldiers rations, but they have very little as are way ahead of supply trains.

Among the wounded today was the camp rat catcher, shot through the leg by a sniper. Willey and Gilman also hit.

Japs possession of most of City, heavy fighting as more of our divisions arrive.

Papers captured show that if not rescued when we were, we would have been massacred Monday, the 5th of Feb.
(The date of this entry.)

Feb 6—Camp is crawling with so-called war correspondents, photographers, and Red Cross workers; Red Cross have plenty of smiles and sympathy but nothing much else but letter paper, envelopes and radio blanks, NO much needed clothing.

This morning while at breakfast a Jap shell struck our roof and showered us with glass and cement.

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American nurses who had been captured during the Japanese invasion of the Phillipines at the beginning of the war were among the internees freed at Santo Tomas. See their story here.

As I went to breakfast the soldiers were fixing the lobby for a field hospital, one soldier was asleep on a pile of stretchers near foot of stairs, Nelson came behind me but stopped to talk to someone. Malconsen stopped me outside to have a cup of real hot tea, good and strong with plenty of sugar, sure was good, he had a patch between his eyes where had been grazed by a bullet on the night of Feb 3rd; just as finished the cup of tea, a shell went through the front wall of the lobby, killing the soldier who was sleeping on the stretchers, just missing Nelson as he passed.

We had bacon and beans for dinner, Oh boy.

 

 

Carl E. Rice WW2 Memoirs: February 4th, 1945

Feb 4, 1945—The liberated part of camp had good field rations this breakfast even though the soldiers were very short of food; but we (still held hostage by the Japanese inside Santo Tomas) had no breakfast; we are a sorry looking bunch after a night of being breastworks (i.e., human shields) in a machine gun battle; that tank cannon was fired so close once that it nearly threw me out of my bunk.

A great cloud of dust and smoke hangs over the city, explosions and firing continue outside; some Japs in the school house at the southeast corner of our wall were firing at any one inside the compound, so one of our tanks went there and fired tracer bullets into them and soon the schoolhouse and Japs were making a nice bonfire (I think he means the American tank blew up said schoolhouse and the Japanese soldier inside); also snipers in other buildings are being cleaned out by tank and machine guns; a Jap officer came to our window and looked out at our tanks, he had an American revolver, two hand grenades and was chewing Wrigley Spearmint gum, probably stolen from Red Cross box of food supplies.

The explosion of time bombs is more today, there is continuous firing of cannon and machine guns, the sky is hid by dust and smoke, looks like all the city this side of the river was on fire.

About 2:00pm the Japs allowed some food to be brought to us, corn, beans and meat stew, more and better food than we have had for over a year; I went to the Japs barricade over the lobby to carry the food pots; it was sure a sight, torn mattresses, broken furniture, blood and soiled bandages, rifles, machine guns, hand grenades and dirty Japs; and they had the nerve to smile at us and ask for the food we had left over. We gave them some and they allowed more to come for our supper.

It looked pretty bad for us this morning but Mr. Stanley, the interpreter, called to us that evening “Don’t worry, they will surrender tomorrow”.

The grounds in front filled up with soldiers, more and larger tanks, and a battery of 105’s Howitzers, all looks better but we are still at mercy of the Japs as this day comes to a noisy close.

This First Cavalry Division are the best looking soldiers I ever saw and brave, tough, and efficient, go about fighting in a business-like way; OH how I would like to be one of them and be able to work on some Japs with one of those machine guns they carry.

My life has been full of adventures and I am proud to be in this one, am sure seeing history being made, written in fire and smoke, blood and noise.

At first, when we realized we were hostages, we were all no doubt scared stiff, but as things looked worse during the night of the 3rd, we got past the scared stage, just sort of dumb resignation to the outcome, we were mostly past the limits of fear.

But tonight the Japs are more inclined to be friendly, ask food, allow us to go to the bathroom, and many of them lay down in our hallway and sleep, some are drunk and that makes them more dangerous; we cannot go to the balcony when their sentries are in the room. Some of our fellows tried to escape down a rope; “Ski” made it, but Johnnie Elam fell and broke his leg; two soldiers ran in covered by fire of other and carried him to Hospital.

Carl E. Rice WW2 Memoirs: February 3rd, 1945, continued…

FEB 3, 1945, continued—We here in the Education Building with freedom within 30 feet of us are the hostages, to be killed if Japs think it will save their face; at least they are going to try to use our lives to make a deal for theirs. There is much noise in the other parts of the camp, some scattered shots and much shouting; we told the tank men who we were and where to shoot at the Japs; there is much machine gunning, the 50 cal (sic; “caliber”?) bullets from the tanks come right through the concrete walls, the glass windows downstairs are broken, the Japs shoot from behind barricades of desks and mattresses; the prisoners on the third floor are getting it worse than we as the bullets fired upwards go through the floor and are hitting some in the legs; the tank in from of the main door to the lobby fired its cannon once; only one Jap that I saw came out, the little one with a mustache supposed to be a doctor, we can look out from behind the pillars on the balcony right down on our tanks and also see the flashes from the Jap machine guns only a few feet from us at the windows over the main stairs; the machine gun bullets come through about five inches of concrete like it was cheese, the concrete chips and ricochets fly past us and some are hit but not hurt much.

The Japs made a barricade just outside our door in the hall, of boxes and mattresses; we are not allowed to pass thru it to the bathroom.

We can hear our men in the tanks talking to each other about where to shoot; infantry are deploying behind the rolls of air strip webbing and the shacks, the town this side of the river is being destroyed by terrific explosions of Jap time bombs, the sky reflects the great fires, the Japs yell “Banzai” and other different words, and our boys keep on with bursts of machine gun bullets, outside the camp also firing and much yelling;

The Japs finally made us all lie down in our bunks and said “You sleep”, we stayed in bed alright, did not sleep all night. We were expecting to be slaughtered any minute; if some screwball had grabbed a Jap’s gun or struck one we would have been massacred; a Jap sat on the foot of my bunk where he could peek over the balcony railing and shoot at our tanks, later he got a stool and sat on it beside me. If our infantry had rushed the building we would have been killed by the Japs before our boys got up the stairs.

The Jap cars parked in front were loaded, some with chow, and prisoners from the liberated part of camp lost no time in raiding the chow truck and even waved at us with beer bottles, the fighting could not keep those starving ones from chow.

The long night passed somehow, the shooting was in spurts only and the FOURTH of Feb, 1945 dawned on the toughest spot I have ever been in; being used as a  breastwork and hostage by crazy Japs is no fun, any way you look at it; there is sort of a truce evidently between our tanks and the Japs, the boys in the tanks now look out, smoke and talk to us, they are not infantry but are the 8th Cavalry of the First Cavalry Division, say they are known as MacArthur’s Butchers and take no prisoners.

(This was actually a small advance force of American soldiers, who had raced to Santo Tomas ahead of the main American army in order to free the American internees, for reasons which will soon become clear…)

Carl E. Rice WW2 Memoirs: February 3rd, 1945

FEBRUARY 3, 1945*******************

All last night great explosions of oil and ammunition dumps in the Maraquina Valley; Terrific fires the length of the valley; This is a very noisy morning, explosions of bombs and blasting demolition charges fill the air with fumes of high explosive; crude oil and gasoline;

AT 4:30pm, just after supper, ten fighting planes came over, just above the roofs, only about 100 ft high there were more STARS than we have seen in three long years; they circled and dipped and signaled to show us that help was indeed at hand; one dropped a note in a wrench saying army would be in Monday morning, we were all crazy and paid no attention to the frightened demoralized Japs; some of their officers were in the path below our window looking at our planes, no smiles now, only fear and sullen looks; only a day or two more of starvation by these s—-b. THANK GOD.

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Not a shot was fired at our planes, we have complete control of the air, our boys were telling us by their stars that victory is complete, nothing these yellow murderers of helpless people can do to stop our army (pardon the racial language); WE cheered and cried, as sorry a looking bunch of skeletons as can be seen anywhere in this war; but most of us still have the guts our brave ancestors gave us and can see this finished.

We were all too excited to sleep early, and were all talking and arguing about the planes we heard the tanks to the north, but many tanks had been going back and forth past the camp, Jap tanks, for tanks (sic); the Jap guards rushed out of their cars parked in front of the Ed. Bldg., and the Filipinos were outside yelling “The Americans are here”; Shorty Strongman was the first to see our tanks at the gate and we were trying to keep him quiet when the tanks crashed through the front gate, with lights on and machine guns flashing; the Japs at the gate threw some hand grenades and fired a few shots but were wiped out; this was a little after 8:00pm, FEB 3, 1945.

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The front of Santo Tomas, after the Americans had retaken it.

We were so busy watching the tanks come up the road toward the Main Building that we forgot about the Jap guards; after some shooting near the Main Building, where they killed the Lt. Abuco, who was the meanest officer in the Camp, the tanks came to our building, three of the tanks came into the driveways to the front door and began firing machine guns; then we saw that the Jap guards had not gone away in the cars but had retreated into the second floor and were barricading themselves at all the stairways and the halls and rooms; some came into our rooms, they were armed with rifles, machine guns, bayonets, had grenades and swords. Our tanks stopped firing and the officer in the center tank, just below us, about thirty feet from us as a bullet flies, ordered “COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP, I’LL GIVE YOU FIVE MINUTES”; we knew we were still prisoners of the Japs, hostages of sixty-five desperate savages. There were about three hundred of us, some women and children from Shanty Town having come upstairs.

 

 

Carl E. Rice WW2 Memoirs: January 30th to February 2nd, 1945

Jan 30, 1945—Conditions in Camp continue to get worse; altho (sp) the soybean mash, after Japs have processed it for most of its food values still has some nourishment in it and helps when added to the thin soup. So many are sick with beriberi due to starvation; their bodies so swollen that movement is difficult; face so swollen can hardly see; legs and feet like huge sausages; three or four die every day; the hospital is so overcrowded that have enlarged the GYM hospital and also many are left in quarters; stretcher bearers are busy and sometimes have two on a stretcher; I saw one dead man and one unconscious on one stretcher; NINE have died in the last thirty hours; some of us who are not sick have staggers, cannot walk far in a direct line.

Mr. Grinnel, Mr. Duggleby, Mr. Robinson and Mr. Larsen who were put in Camp Jail by Japs on Dec 23, were taken early this month to Ft. Santiago by the Jap Military Police, and have not been heard from since; during the past year none of the prisoners taken to Ft. Santiago have come back, a few have been reported as sent to new Bilibid at Muntinglupa, but most of them will never be seen again.

At night we can see gun flashes to the north, distant explosions; bombing to southeast, there is a haze of smoke and dust over the city; we are all very much excited, we believe help is near; many rumors but it’s sure that there is fighting to the north of Manila; the Japs are packing up, have sent out much of their supplies that were stored in the rooms below us.

Jan 31—The city is trembling from the blasting of buildings and piers by Japs, also much bombing in the suburbs, three of the fastest planes we ever saw flew over us so fast could just see a streak; Japs appear to be trying to destroy all the modern buildings we have put up during the past 40 years (my grandfather served in the Spanish American War in the Philippines as a young man from Kansas, which is how he ended up there and staying for most of the rest of his life; he had a very great attachment to the Philippines, so this would have been particularly distressing for him); they (the Japanese soldiers) are very uneasy and excited; our army is evidently very close.

Feb 1st—A noisy night, not much sleep, loud explosions all night as Japs used demolition bombs in port area, great fires in Cavite Province; very distant cannonading; Great oil fires, some in Port area, some appear to be in the Walled City;

Feb 2nd—Much blasting in and around Manila, planes over us but no bombing.

Every morning for the last few days we have been up before daylight; this is no time to sleep late; and from our window can see a beautiful dawn, fiery red through the clouds long before sunrise, and then the sun breaks thru and down through the blood red glare come our planes. It’s a wonderful sight; we are so thin that the early morning air is chilly; but things are happening so fast and relief appears so near that we cannot miss anything happening; the Japs are apparently going this time, not much left in their stores below us; they have several cars and trucks parked in front of the Ed. building ready to go.