Dick Hitchcock grew up working in his father’s butcher shop by the Grant street bridge and playing football for New Castle High. After he left school, he switched his game to golf. Throughout his twenties, he won tournaments for Trinity Episcopal in the church golfing league and for the independent grocers in the small business league. He organised charity golf matches, gave and received toasts at golf club dinners and helped with the annual banquet for aged local golfers. His arrest in February, 1942, for driving while intoxicated, was uncharacteristic; the sole transgression in an otherwise blameless life.
The golf leagues had closed for the winter in October and the courses had been shut due to heavy snow since the new year. America had been at war since the beginning of December, and the third draft lottery was scheduled for March. By the time the golf courses reopened in spring, Dick was in the army. He was sent to Camp Blanding in Florida for training, then to north Africa to join the 5th army. He earned a good conduct ribbon and was promoted to corporal.
Dick saw his first fighting in September, 1943, when the 5th army invaded Italy. He landed at Salerno and took part in the battle to liberate the town. Five thousand men died in the first week as the army pushed north towards Naples. After twelve days, they reached Pompeii, where Dick was shot by a sniper. The bullet hit him in his hip, passing through the flesh without hitting the bone. He recovered quickly and rejoined his unit near San Pietro, where he was promoted again, to sergeant. A month later, a mortar shell exploded close by him. He was struck by a shower of rocks. His arm was broken; his elbow smashed to splinters. He made his way to the rear, where he was transported to the coast along with other wounded soldiers—a lieutenant who had been shot in the jaw; a Korean private from California who had lost an eye when a bullet had gone through his skull; a soldier whose feet had been shot through by machine gun fire—and sent back to America.
Dick was in the Valley Forge hospital in Pennsylvania until the summer of 1944. He visited New Castle when he got out. The summer golf fixtures were well underway. The First Presbyterians led the church league, with the First Baptists five points behind. In the small business league, New Castle Moose were eight points ahead of Universal Sanitary and Manufacturing. Mixed foursome tourneys were being held every Sunday. Dick was the guest of honor at a dinner at the Castle Hills golf club. He was unable to play, of course.
Dick spent the rest of the war at Camp Butner, in North Carolina. After he was released from service, he returned to New Castle. When his father retired a few years later, Dick moved away, first to Washington, DC, then to Big Bear City, California. He died in the veterans hospital in Santa Monica in 1970, at the age of sixty. He was buried in the Los Angeles national cemetery.Sources: New Castle News (7 Sep 1904, “List Of Meats For Saturday”; 13 April 1926, “Grid Candidates Start Training”; 11 June 1934, “Dick Hitchcock Tourney Winner”; 20 March 1935, “Church Golfers Enthusiastic At Meeting Tuesday”; 14 April 1936, “Golf Captains Meet Wednesday”; 4 Aug 1936, “Golfing Events On Local Links”; 24 Oct 1938, “Fish For Trout”; 17 June 1939, “Swinging Along Local Fairways”; 29 May 1940, “First Methodists Still Lead League”; 26 Sep 1941, “Church Bowlers Organize Loop”; 7 May 1942, “Local Board One Announces List”; 28 July 1942, “With Men In US Service”; 1 Sep 1943, “In US Armed Service”; 30 Sep 1943, “Troops Moving Through Pompeii”; 23 Nov 1943, “Dick Hitchcock Wounded In Italy”; 3 Jan 1944, “Sgt Hitchcock Wounded Again”; 13 June 1944, “Dick Hitchcock On Radio Program”; 20 June 1944,”Senior Committee Has Fine Dinner”; 13 July 1944, “Hitchcock Out Of Army Hospital”; 18 April 1945, “Sgt Dick Hitchcock Gets purple heart”; 15 Aug 1948, 13 May 1952; 19 June 1970, “Deaths Of The Day”).