Cerro Gordo County

Lt. Vernon J. Orr


Vernon Orr Gets Naval Commission

Vernon Orr, nephew of Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Dickinson, Mason City, has been commissioned lieutenant junior grade in the U. S. navy and is stationed on a ship in the Pacific. Orr, whose family resides in Canada, attended Mason City junior college and Iowa State Teachers college. He enlisted in the naval reserve and received his ensign's commission upon graduation from the naval school at Northwestern university

Source: The Globe Gazette, Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa, Tuesday, July 21, 1942, Page 8


Natives Lost Vitality When Whites Stopped Wars, Headhunting

"It may seem strange, but the natives have lost their vitality and spirit since the white man has stopped their tribal wars and head-hunting," writes Lt. Vernon J. Orr from an island south of the equator and west of the international date line, in a letter to Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Dickinson, route 4.

Their mortality rate is high from tuberculosis and chronic malaria, and their life span is perhaps 45, though they look 75 when they reach that age, he adds.

Despite tales of abundance on a tropical island, food is a serious problem, he writes, and both the men and women chew betel nut to keep away hunger pains and for another reason - "it is their scotch, rye and gin. They go on betel nut jags after a little 'christms' (death in the family) or a big 'christmas' (one year after such death) that leaves them dopey and jittery. The natives mix the betel nut with lime obtained by burning coral and peppermint leaves."

Everything on the island eats coconuts, even the dogs, writes Lieutenant ORR. And the dogs, he adds, are a low breed that can not bark, only howl, just a degree above the dougu, the wild dog of Australia. Parakeets feed in the coconut trees in the daytime succeeded by the flying foxes at night, as well as by bats of 2 or 3-feet wing spread.

A real sight, he says, is to see the big crabs called coconut crabs, some of them weighing as much as 10 pounds, hold the coconuts with their small claws and husk them with their big ones. They are, however, very shy and will not work if they think they are being watched.

The island itself is a beautiful one, mountainous in some parts and hilly and swampy in others, surrounded by colorful waters abounding in fish of nearly every size and color. In the costal swamps are mangroves 30 feet high on which grow small brown orchids called mustard orchids.

Fronds of the tree fern are used by the natives as we use spinach. Good shade spots are furnished by the banyans; frangipanis bloom all the year around and white lilies with red and yellow centers are as big as frying pans.

The half dozen white men - there are no white women - are a queer lot, writes Lieutenant Orr, but decidedly content with their life. They are plantation owners and lords of them, lonely as great rulers are, but knowing and enjoying their power. They have control over the natives, subject, however, to government control which is kind and sympathetic to the natives.

There are no missionaries, he says - too few natives to make it profitable and adds, "In my estimation this is a blessing for both the natives and the whites."

Lieutenant Orr is a nephew of Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Dickinson, and lived with them while attending junior college here. His family lives in Canada. He enlisted in the naval reserve and was at Pearl Harbor during the attack there.

Source: The Globe Gazette, Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa, Tuesday, September 21, 1943, Page 6  (photo included)


Lt. Vernon Orr is missing in action in the south Pacific, according to a telegram received here Thursday by his aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Dickinson, route 4. Lt. Orr’s home is in Canada but he made his home here with the Dickinson’s while attending junior college. He has been in the service since before Pearl Harbor.

Source:  The Globe Gazette, Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa, Friday, December 01, 1944, Page 13

NOTE: Lt. Orr was declared deceased with his death date as the date he was reported missing in action.