Celebrating the legacy of the E.R. Hicks family

By Jennifer Archibald

Perhaps one of the most distinctive characteristics of the Korean War generation is their silence. Veterans of both World War II and the Vietnam War came back to talk about what they did and to form and join veterans organizations, but Korean War veterans came home and tried to pick up their old lives and forget their wartime experiences.

Ellis Rae, better know as, E.R. and Dorothy (Kuxhaus) Hicks were no exception.

As children of the Great Depression and the World War II, they were conditioned to volunteer and to serve their country. They had planted victory gardens, lived through rationing and internalized a strong sense of patriotism. So, when called to fight in the Korean War this generation willingly volunteered.

Growing up in Bennett County both of them attended one room country schools. Dorothy at the Bolzer School and E.R. at the Little White River School.

“I rode my horse two and half to three miles to school everyday. We had 36 kids in a one room school house and when I started school, I had to share a desk with a girl in the eighth grade because we didn’t have enough desks,” said E.R. Hicks.

“I loved living on the ranch and raising livestock,” he said.

“Every picture his mother had of him when he was little he was on a horse,” said Dorothy Hicks. “We were poor enough in those years that we didn’t have a lot of toys, so we rode horses for something to do.”

E.R. had to move to Martin and live with his grandparents to attend high school where he played football and basketball.

“Back in those days we had no lights so all our games would be played on Friday afternoon and it brought a lot of people to town. Martin was a bustling little place at one time,” said Dorthy Hicks. 

After graduating high school in 1946, E.R. returned to the family ranch.

The couple met at a March of Dimes benefit dance.

“He made the mistake of dancing with me. He should have never done that,” jests Dorothy Hicks.

After dating two and a half years and after Dorothy graduated from high school in May of 1950, the couple was married at the Saint Paul Lutheran Church in Batesland, S.D. on June 25, 1950.

“There was two wars that started that day we were married, the Korean War and the war between her and I,” laughed E.R. Hicks.

“I was going to be drafted and so I volunteered into the Air Force,” he said.

He was inducted into the service on December 30, 1950 and was sent to Sampson Air Force Base in New York for basic training, and went from there to Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyo. for his technical training.

The couple was then stationed at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

“I was in Priority Supply and was responsible for getting supplies for the troops overseas,” he said.

“We had a 1947 Buick Roadmaster and pulled a 23 foot house trailer from Cheyenne, Wyo. all the way to Florida and back home again,” he said.

Times were tough, making payments on both the car and little house trailer and living on $95 a month.

“We were plumb broke as a couple trying to live off base. You didn’t get enough money to hardly live,” said E.R. Hicks.

“Neither one of us had ever been anywhere. It was a tough adjustment to make,” said Dorothy Hicks.

“I didn’t like any part of it. The sooner I could get out the better. I wanted to stay on the ranch,” he said.

Hicks was discharged from the Air Force on March 30, 1953, as a Airman Second Class.

Returning to Martin, E.R. Hicks picked up where he left off farming and ranching with his parents eventually buying his own herd of Hereford cattle.

Over the years E.R. also sold John Hancock Insurance and livestock feed for the MoorMan Feed Company, he spent 18 years working on sale days at the Martin Livestock Auction and they had a milk route that made house to house deliveries.

The couple was blessed with one son, Scott Hicks, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

In 1962, the Hicks decided to open a clothing store in downtown Martin. Having remodeled the new store and setting up the fixtures in the Hicks Skogmos Store, on Feb. 25, 1962 the building caught on fire and was a total loss.

Beginning again, they opened the store in a new location which Dorothy ran for 33 years, with the store closing in 1995.

“We were involved when we were in business. It seemed like anything that went on we were involved in,”she said.

E.R. served the community by officiating basketball, as the Martin Commercial Club President, American Legion Post 240 Adjutant and Commander, City Council member, Mayor of Martin, on the Selective Service Board, as a Lacreek Electric Board member for 29 years, and on the Martin Volunteer Fire Department for 19 years.

Dorothy served as the Treasurer of the Martin Commercial Club for 19 years.

E.R., who just celebrated his 90th birthday, sold his cows in 2014 and hasn’t been on a horse since. The couple still keeps busy by buying property and fixing them up for rental homes.

502 Second Avenue, Martin, SD 57551 • 605-685-6866 • booster@gwtc.net