By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Bill Thrift has been a man in motion for much of his life.
It started early, when his grandparents took him around the country by car. He saw the New York World’s Fair in 1939, and during different trips, climbed halfway up Mount Whitney and Pikes Peak. He slept under the stars and awoke with his quilt covered with frozen dew.
“By the time I was 12, I’d been to all 48 states,” the 84-year-old Thrift said.
Those were summer trips, so he always came back to Tupelo. But he got in a hurry to leave town during World War II, graduating a year early from Tupelo High School in 1945 to go to Mississippi State University.
“I wanted to get a year of college in before I was drafted,” he said. “Back then, if you were 18 years old, they took you.”
For the first semester, he studied alongside about 300 17-year-olds and 4Fs, men rejected for military service for medical or other reasons.
The following semester was different because he was surrounded by 1,800 students, and many were veterans returning from the war.
“They were more interested in drinking beer and playing poker,” he said. “I got in with a bad crowd.”
The Air Force welcomed him and put him in motion again. He studied radar and found himself on a remote island during the Korean War, guiding bombers to their targets. He spent 14 months at war.
“It was a boring place to be,” he said, “but I saved my money and paid cash for a car when I got back. It was $2,200 for a 1953 Plymouth. It was a great deal.”
Thanks to the Air Force, he spent some time in Manassas, Va., where he acquired a new traveling partner, Dolly.
“The love of my life,” he said.
The pair didn’t stay still long. Deployments came often, and included stops in far-flung places like Germany and Alaska.
“We had a record earthquake up in Alaska when we were there,” Thrift said. “You couldn’t stand on your feet for five minutes, and that’s a long time when you think about it.”
Tupelo called them home, but not before he went back to school and did it right, earning an accounting degree. The only problem was he hated accounting. He ditched that profession and eventually made a career out of doing title research for lawyers.
“He loved every minute of it,” Dolly Thrift said.
“Yeah, I could get in the car and go home when I wanted,” he said.
Thrift’s been retired for a while. He thought his life of motion had come to an end, but not so. The Thrifts’ daughter convinced them to move closer to her home in Missouri. The change makes sense, Thrift said, but it won’t be easy to leave.
“We’ve moved 15 times,” Dolly Thrift said.
“The worst part is hanging curtains,” her husband added.