Through the years, the Conshohockens – the Borough of Conshohocken, the Borough of West Conshohocken, and the neighborhoods that are included in the Conshohocken postal district in Plymouth, Whitemarsh, Lower Merion, and Upper Merion Townships – have shown true love in special circumstances.
Building a house for a hero was one of those special circumstances.
Sam and Doris Holland moved into a three-room apartment on March 31, 1945, their wedding night.
While Mr. Sam Holland did return to work at John Wood Manufacturing Company, he stayed there for only a few weeks.
He received a pension from the Federal Government that, according to quotes of people in The Conshohocken Recorder, “barely gave him a living”.
The people of the Conshohockens and nearby communities decided to help the Hollands as the couple built their lives together.
Local leaders in West Conshohocken hit upon the idea to have Mr. Sam Holland elected as the town tax collector. The idea of electing Mr. Sam Holland as tax collector was likely seen as the best way for the community to help provide an income for Mr. Sam Holland and his family.
According to a news article dated November 7, 1945, in The Evening Times of Sayre, Pennsylvania, Mr. Sam Holland had the support of both political parties.
Let that set in for a moment.
Both Republicans and Democrats jointly agreed to back Mr. Sam Holland.
According to a news article dated February 6, 1946, in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Mr. Sam Holland was “unanimously elected tax collector of West Conshohocken”.
Let that set in for a moment.
All the voters that voted in the General Election in 1945 voted for Mr. Sam Holland.
Unfortunately, it turned out to not work well.
Mr. Sam Holland resigned from the position on May 19, 1948, following a major problem in the collection of taxes. He had only served about two years of his four-year term.
Another effort to help the Holland Family – providing them with an accessible house – worked much better.
Mr. Sam Holland was living with his new bride in a second-floor rental unit in West Conshohocken. According to a news article dated September 7, 1945, in The Conshohocken Recorder, Mr. Sam Holland “is required to climb approximately 15 steps every time he leaves or enters the apartment. This creates much hardship for the youth dependent entirely on artificial limbs.” A news article dated September 21, 1945, stated there were “twenty steps” to climb.
Whatever the actual number of steps is somewhat immaterial to a man who lost both legs.
Seemingly independent of one another, an individual and an organization both began efforts to raise funds to build an accessible house for the Holland Family.
This Aubrey Holland Home Fund was created by The Conshohocken Recorder at the suggestion of Mrs. Earl Buchler of Sixth Avenue, Conshohocken. She sent $1.00 to the local newspaper to initiate a fund similar to one that she explained had been set up for another disabled American veteran in another city.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1074 in Conshohocken also began efforts to raise funds for the Holland Family.
Shortly after the creation of its Fund, The Conshohocken Recorder transferred sponsorship of the Aubrey Holland Home Fund to the VFW Post.
This fraternal organization contributed $1,000.00 to the Fund. The goal of the VFW Post was to raise sufficient funds so that the Holland Family could have an accessible home of their own.
The Conshohocken Recorder continued its strong support of these efforts. In a news article dated December 7, 1945, the newspaper reported that more than $7,500.00 had been donated by that date to the Aubrey Holland Home Fund. Among the donations was a gift of $430.00 from “individual members of the Saint David’s Golf Club”. The newspaper reported that “just a few years before he entered the Army, he served as a caddy at Saint David’s and was known to many members of the club.”
People from throughout the Freedom Valley – and beyond – contributed to this Fund, including individuals from Norristown and Bridgeport, from Swedesburg to Plymouth Meeting, and from the South Pacific to the Hawaiian Territory (Hawaii was not yet a state). Union electricians and steelworkers joined beauticians and doctors as donors to this Fund to help the Hollands.
On February 5, 1946, the VFW Post – on behalf of the people of the Conshohockens and beyond – presented Mr. Sam Holland with a check in the amount of $9,000.00 so that he and his wife could have an accessible house of their own. (Additional funds came later.)
In a news article dated December 19, 1947, in The Conshohocken Recorder, the Holland Family – now composed of husband, wife, and little children – moved “this week” into their new one-story home built with funds donated by the community as well as products and services donated by those active in the construction industry. Union carpenters, an architectural firm, and an excavating company were among those that donated their time, talents, and products to make the six-room bungalow a home.
Family life was important to Mr. Sam Holland.
“My dad ran the house like a military unit,” explained Mr. Scott Holland, one of the four sons of Sam and Doris Holland. “We each had out own chores. We each had our own responsibilities.”
“He did not have self-pity. He was persistent.”
“He never complained about his situation. That’s the way it was.”
Sam Holland’s life changed again in 1952. “He had a heart attack in that year, and was in a wheelchair from that time forward,” explained Mr. Scott Holland.
“Though he was in a wheelchair while I grew up as a little boy, he had great upper body strength.”
Civic activities were part of Mr. Sam Holland’s life from the time he returned home from Italy.
According to a news article in The Conshohocken Recorder dated August 17, 1945, the Conshohockens jointly held a parade at 9 PM (yes, at night) on August 15, 1945, to celebrate the victory of the Allies over the Empire of Japan.
Mr. Sam Holland was at the head of the parade between the Burgesses (the Mayors) of Conshohocken and West Conshohocken. The parade route was from one end of Conshohocken to the other end, according to the newspaper article, “in recognition of the many boys from all corners of the Borough” who served in World War II: Beginning at First Avenue and Harry Street, the parade traveled “Spring Mill Avenue to Walnut, to Cherry, to Elm, to Maple, to 11th, to Fayette, to First Avenue.”
For a time, Mr. Sam Holland served as the President of the George Clay Fire Company of West Conshohocken.
The Holland Family home became a place where people with disabilities would stop by for a chat or a visit.
“We would have other military veterans and other people without limbs visit our home,” stated Mr. Scott Holland. “For us, this was a normal event.”
In 1954, both Sam and Doris Holland returned the favor that the people of the Conshohockens had extended to them. The husband and wife worked with others in the area to help raise funds for a 17 year-old boy from Roxborough, Mr. Edward Slater. The young man had been pushing a stalled car on Christmas Eve of 1953, according to a news article dated April 9, 1954, in the Lebanon Daily News, when a car driven by a drunk driver hit the stalled car. “[Mr.] Slater was pinned between the bumpers of the two vehicles. His legs were amputated above the knee.”
According to the Daily Intelligencer in a news article dated March 10, 1987, Mr. Sam Holland was named the Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year in 1971 by the Pennsylvania Department of Disabled American Veterans.
Religious services were an important part of the Holland Family. Family members belonged to the Balligomingo Baptist Church in West Conshohocken. The building has recently been re-developed as residential housing.
Sam and Doris Holland moved to Upper Black Eddy in Bucks County in 1981, according to a news article dated September 30, 2013, in The Times Herald. On January 27, 1984, the Hollands sold their special house at 1038 Ford Street in West Conshohocken for $45,000.00.
Today, both Sam and Doris Holland rest in peace at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
The Washington Monument can be seen through the trees of Arlington National Cemetery in the top photograph.
Both Sam and Doris Holland rest in peace together at Arlington National Cemetery.
This is one side of the tombstone for both husband and wife.
The body of Private Aubrey (Sam) Holland was buried here in 1987.
This is the other side of the tombstone for both husband and wife.
The urn holding the ashes of Doris Jane (Ruth) Holland is with her husband at
Arlington National Cemetery.
The photographs of the Holland Family and the Balligomingo Baptist Church as well as the first photograph of the house built for the Holland Family are courtesy of Mr. Scott Holland, various dates.
The second photograph of the house built for the Holland Family is courtesy of Montgomery County, date uncertain.
The photographs of the tombstone at Arlington National Cemetery are courtesy of that governmental entity, date uncertain.
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© 2018 Richard McDonough