0910 June Emory
June Emory has long been of service to her community.
Tapestries are sometimes used to describe the lives of interesting people. That metaphor seems fitting when describing June Emory’s life. A common thread that seems to course thorough her tapestry is service to her community.
She was an air raid warden during World War II, she served on the board of the local chapter of the American Red Cross for twenty two years, she was the women’s chairman for the National Veteran’s Day Celebration for thirty two years, and she served as a volunteer for the Birmingham Art Museum for fifty one years.
One might think at the age of ninety that Mrs. Emory would slow down, but she is still active in the community. She attends every Mountain Brook City Council meeting and pre-council meeting.
It was service to the community that has allowed her to meet dignitaries in government, celebrities, military figures, astronauts, and veterans. In short, some of the most interesting people in the country.
The path that led June Emory to Mountain Brook is an interesting story as well. Her father was a corporate attorney so the family lived all over the country.
She first met her husband, Horton Emory, when her family lived in St. Louis.
It seems that Horton had been calling on June’s older sister and her best friend.
One evening when Horton was coming over for a visit, June’s sister was upstairs getting dressed when Horton arrived. June thought he sounded like a “stuffed shirt” and wanted no part of him. She asked her mother if she could be excused so that she could to go to her room and avoid meeting him.
Her mother told her that since the servants had gone home, that June would have to answer the door and greet Horton. “I was so stubborn back then,” Mrs. Emory explained, “I was rude to Horton. I didn’t even invite him in.”
But Horton made an immediate impression on the younger sister. “I realized looking at him through the plate- glass window as he stood on our porch, that it was love at first sight.”
“You hear that a lot,” Mrs. Emory said, “but it was true for us.” Horton told June’s mother a few hours after he arrived that he would marry June one day and he was right.
During the interview this week, June took pictures from a table in her living room. “This is my father and me on my sixteenth birthday,” she said. “It was taken in St. Louis at the Union League Club, which is an exclusive men’s club”.
The second picture was of a dog tied to a bumper of a car. “I got this as a birthday present that year,” she said, “Not the dog, the car.”
Upon examination, one could see the initials RR on the grillwork. “It’s a Rolls Royce convertible,” she said with a grin on her face.
“I was really taking a picture of my dog, but he wouldn’t stand still so I tied him to the bumper of the car so that I could snap a picture. If I hadn’t taken a picture of the dog, I wouldn’t have a picture of the car,” she explained.
“I loved that car, but I sold it not long after the picture was taken and used the money to run off and get married to Horton,” she said with a smile.
When her father came home the next day, he was furious. He tried to buy the car back, but it was purchased by an emissary from the British government. This was during a time when war with Germany was eminent, and the Brits were buying Rolls Royce’s and Bentley’s because they were the only cars with frames strong enough to support armor plating.
“When my father went to buy the car back, he was told the car had already been shipped to port to be loaded on a ship to England,” she said.
“My father was not happy,” Mrs. Emory said as a matter of fact. “Not only had she sold the Rolls, but she used the money to buy a train ticket and run off to get married.”
The Emory’s were married shortly afterwards and lived in Mobile, Alabama.
When Mrs. Emory was pregnant with her first child, doctors recommended that she move closer to relatives.
“Horton’s family lived here,” she explained, “so we decided to move to Birmingham.”
When Horton and June moved from Mobile to Mountain Brook in 1939, Dexter Ave. was a two-lane dirt road.
Horton Emory had an opportunity to buy a huge parcel of farm land in Mountain Brook near where she currently lives for $500. His father thought it was a foolish investment, so instead, they bought three lots on Dexter where they built a small frame house set back from the road. They moved in the new house in 1940 and Mrs. Emory has been there ever since.
Not long after they moved in, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and America went to war. Horton Emory volunteered as an air raid warden for Mountain Brook but as the war raged on, he volunteered for the Navy where he served in the Pacific, the Atlantic and the North Sea.
“When Horton enlisted, I took over his duties as air raid warden,” Mrs. Emory said. “The sirens usually went off around 2 a.m. and I was always sleeping. When you heard the sirens, you didn’t have much time to get ready, so I had a floor-length green cape trimmed with black velvet that I threw on over my nightgown,” she said.
Mrs. Emory’s station was the corner of Euclid Avenue and Cherry Street. Most of the time when the sirens sounded, it was because American troops were being transported from Anniston Army Depot to Birmingham and on to the front lines. The air raid wardens managed cross traffic so the military convoy would not have to slow down.
“I can still remember the whooshing sounds the trucks made as they passed through the streets of Mountain Brook,” she said.
It was around that time that June volunteered for service with the American Red Cross.
“I was a Gray Lady,” she said. “Nurses were in short supply because of the war, so I worked at Hillman Hospital in the operating room.”
Mrs. Emory went on to serve with the Red Cross for a total of twenty-two years. She served two terms as chairman of volunteers. She also served as a chaperon at United Service Organization functions. USO provided morale and recreational services to members of the armed forces.
June and Horton were also one of the founding families for Saint Luke’s Episcopal church in Mountain Brook.
The original church began in a converted farmhouse where the Emmet O’Neal Library now stands. Her older children were two of the five children christened at the very first service on Easter Sunday.
Later the church moved into the old Mountain Brook Methodist church, which currently serves as the Steeple Arts Academy of Dance.
Mrs. Emory carried the chalice in the procession from the second building to the current building on Montrose Road.
June Emory also served as the women’s chairman for the National Veteran’s Day Celebration for thirty-two years.
“You know the Veteran’s Day Celebration in Birmingham is the largest in the country,” she said. “Through the years I got a chance to meet some incredible people.”
She met General Omar Bradley, General Alexander Haig who was Secretary of State under President Reagan; Casper Weinberger who was Secretary of Defense under Reagan; General Colin Powell, Secretary of State under George W. Bush. Powell had the added distinction of being the first African-American appointed to that position.
One other person Mrs. Emory met as a part of a Veteran’s Day Celebration was Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of Charles Lindbergh. Mrs. Emory has a book that Mrs. Lindbergh, sent her after Horton passed away in 1973. The book, entitled “Hours of Gold, Hours of Lead”, was written by Anne and the inside cover has an inscription to June. There is also a personal note in the book expressing Anne’s condolences for the loss of Horton.
Mrs. Emory was a volunteer for the Birmingham Museum of Art for over fifty years.
When asked if she has any advice for young people coming up today, she is quick to say, “Get involved. We live in a country where we can participate in the political process. It’s a shame that more young people are not taking part,” she says.
“I go to all the council meetings and pre-council meetings which are all open to the public, and many times, I’m the only citizen there! It’s a mystery to me.”
In closing, Mrs. Emory talked about her life in Mountain Brook. “I had the best marriage anyone could imagine. Our love just kept growing and I can truly say that I loved him more the day he died than on the day we were married.”
She went on to say that she has four wonderful children and has had opportunities to serve in her community during a remarkable time. “My life here has been a gift.”