• Eugene Emery O'Reilly and a Family Caught Between 2 World Wars

    We are going to start this story a generation back with James Henry O’Reilly born in New Orleans in 1893. James Henry went to school for dentistry and in 1914 - while World War I was developing in Europe - James graduated from Tulane University of Louisiana and opened his own practice in New Orleans.
     
    No matter who you talk to from the time, The Great War was quite impactful on the United States way before our country entered the war. At the time, the United States couldn’t use the Army internationally unless they raised the money to do so, and without the support of its citizens both emotionally and financially, America wasn’t going to war. This is why the War Bonds and Liberty Fund posters we find from this era center around money and morale.
    When a German U-boat sank the British liner RMS Lusitania on May 7, 1915, with 128 Americans on board, it started a series of events that lead to the United States entering the war against Germany and their allies on April 6, 1917.
     
    The Selective Service Act of 1917 was passed in May authorizing the United States federal government to raise a national army. 24-year old James Henry O’Reilly enlisted in July and was assigned to the Navy’s Dental Corps (established in 1912) with Emory Addison Bryant at the head. When he got his assignment, he went back to New Orleans and married his sweetheart, 21-year old Eleanor Rachel Emery (b. 1896), in September of 1917 before shipping out a month later or so.
     
    This brings us to the birth of Eugene Emery O’Reilly in Richton, Mississippi on July 6, 1918 (feel free to do the math on that). After the war, James Henry continued to work with the military and eventually moved his family to Jacksonville, Florida.
     
    The reason why the story of James Henry is notable comes with a repetitive circumstance that faced this country for 2 generations in a row, and it is perfectly encapsulated in the story of Eugene O’Reilly and his father.
     
    Eugene graduated high school and went to Alabama Polytechnic Institute (named Auburn University since 1960). He pledged Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE, established at the University of Virginia, 1868) in 1939, the same year World War II was developing in Europe.  He graduated in 1940, and later that year in September, the United States instituted the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 requiring all men between the ages of 21 and 45 to register for the draft. Eugene was 22.
    Eugene Emery O'Reilly - Alabama Yearbook
     
    The bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, changed everything. Similar to his father, Eugene joined the Navy and migrated to the Marine Corps. This moved him from Jacksonville to New Smyrna Beach, Florida. He married his wife Helen Beryl Walker (b. 1924) in October of 1943. Upon his return to the States, he started his ranch called the Circle “O” Ranch in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and became an active part of cow ranching and breeding Brahmans (a crossbreed of cow originally from India).
     
    From the late 1940s, Eugene Emery O’Reilly became a staple in Florida ranching, which was a major industry in Central Florida in the decades before THE MOUSE. By the 1960s, Eugene was spending most of his time either on the golf course or with the American Brahman Breeders Association (ABBA) established in 1924 to help combat what I will oversimplify as "the Island of Dr. Moreau eventuality of ranchers being careless with bovine breeding and husbandry.”
    Eugene Emery O'Reilly - Florida Cattleman
     
    This massive double-sided porcelain sign is from that time, bringing together three stories of Florida history, American ranching, and a military family caught between 2 world wars. To find out more about the sign, click HERE or on the pic below.


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    OST SCRIPT FUN FACT:
    For decades since its incorporation in 1887, Coronado Beach had the tagline of "World's Safest Beach." Even when the name changed to New Smyrna Beach, the tagline remained. The beach may be safe, but the water is not. The New Smyrna Beach area leads the world in unprovoked shark attacks year after year. 

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