In a few weeks I will be attending a family reunion and am thinking a lot about my grandmother. She was epitome of what a patriarch looks like. What a strong woman she was and her strength came from her faith. She went to the same church from the time she moved to Pasadena in 1942 until the day she passed away.
In this chapter my father gets a furlough and my mother heads from where she is living in California to meet him in Nebraska. They have been engaged since June of the previous year but have not seen each other since he drove to Southern California from South Carolina to propose. Dad does not write any letters during this trip but my mom’s mom, Grandma Susie (The Little Old Lady from Pasadena in her later years) wrote some letters that were also in the suitcase. From those letter’s you get to know Grandma Susie and she fills in the blanks on what went on during this time.
World War II
Grandma Susie’s Wisdom
As I related in the last chapter there are no letters from Dad during his furlough. What I did find in the suitcase were letters from my Mom’s mother, Grandma Susie that cover this time. Grandma Susie was quite the story teller and her letters include a lot of information about family and the day-to-day happenings so I will try to condense them to a manageable chapter.
21 February 1944, Pasadena, California
Dear Kids, We received your telegram just before Dad went to work and must admit we were surprised. Especially Dad for he said whenever anyone asked you Vi if you were going to get married while you were gone you’d said no. He said if he had known you were going to, he would have had a long talk with you, but I know you reached your decision after you met in Lexington. You both know we think a lot of Lefty and think he’ll be very good to you-our only objection is the war, knowing the life of an Army family isn’t easy, and we’re hoping you both are old enough to overcome all obstacles in your life and be very happy. Now you both will have more responsibilities and I hope your family responsibilities will help you be a better soldier instead of distract from your Army duties Lefty for during this war you are a soldier first and a husband second. You are now taking on the biggest job of your lives-the job of being happy in your married life-of having a happy home, wherever and whatever it may be, and this happiness is up to both of you, together and individually-for no one can make you happy unless you want to and try to be happy, and with both of you I think controlling your tempers and being reasonable will help a lot. I know we all get mad at times we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t, but I’ve learned as I grew older that my temper hurt me more than anyone else and made me and those I love most very unhappy. No two people think the same on everything and when you do disagree try to talk it over and decide whose way is best. Right now I’m feeling kind of sorry for myself for I had always hoped I would be there to see my daughter married, but don’t let that make you unhappy for above all else I want you kids to be happy and I know you are so that is all that matters. It seems impossible our little Snoodles [sic]is to be married Wednesday-Why it seems like it has been only a couple of years since I was a bride myself. So crowd as much happiness as you can into your lives while you are young for the years go rushing by so swiftly before you know it you’re 40 and you wonder where in the world the time has gone. I hope you had a nice wedding and that it was a lovely day. We were married on a Wednesday. Hope you had a talk with your Dr. and minister before you were married, sorry you didn’t get to talk to George.-Oh well maybe you found someone just as good or better. Our dreary weather continues, so dark and raining all the time. Lefty if you are as good to Viola as the Big English man (my grandfather) has been to me she will never have cause to complain and Vi if you aren’t’ as good a wife as I have tried to be so help me I’ll take you across my lap and spank you big as you are cause being Pops wife has been plum easy. We are looking anxiously for your letter telling us your plans. You know Vi we’d like to have you come back and stay with us until the war is over but whatever your plans are let us know. God Bless you children and all the happiness and good luck in the world. Lots of love, Mom and Dad We hope you bought something new to be married in, if not a dress at least a new blouse and let us know what it cost and we’ll pay for it-for at least I’d like to buy something for your wedding even if I couldn’t be there.
My parents were married 23 February 1944 at the parsonage of the Methodist Church in Lexington Nebraska.
1 March, Pasadena, California
Dear Kids, Well I’ve been trying to write a long letter to Clara and George for the last 2 ½ hours. Finally got it wrote-seemed like there wasn’t a lot to write-like when I write a lot of crazy stuff like stories etc which reminds me. Yesterday after Dad went to work Grace and I and Anna Grey went over to Mrs. Chapman’s to finish up some of those slips we’re making for the navy relief and of course the faster we worked the faster we talked and we told a few stories. Anna told one of the guy who went into the store to buy his wife a nighty and the sales lady said they had 2 styles and asked which one he’d rather have, the style with the ruffle around the neck or the style with the ruffle around the bottom and he said “Oh give me the one with the ruffle around the bottom it’ll be up around her neck before morning anyway.” Pop said a fine way for a bunch of church woman to talk! Anyway I thought it was cute-not like his shipyard stories. Well I’m sort of getting off the subject. Mrs. Chapman served us coffer and cream pie this afternoon. I had to go down to help cook the church night supper. We had apple cobbler and were going to serve ice cream on it. Well they won’t sell one person over a qt. at a time so George took 8 of us down to the coast and we each bought a qt. I told him you were married and he wanted your address so I imagine you’ll hear from him. Say Della is working your pillow cases and she wants to know if you want her to send them straight to you. She said she started them as soon as you left for she was sort of expecting it. George said he wasn’t surprised after what you said at the last church night supper. Betty Winters said to give you her best wishes as did a couple of women who sang with you in the choir. Miss Sayre came up and someone was asking about you and of course she had to get all the low down and she said “You mean little Vi is married? Why the little dickens!” The service starters worked on Navy wives layettes at their last meeting. Well it sounds like you kids got to see a lot of people while you were in Kansas gosh I don’t know how you got to see so many in such a short time. When you get settled and rested from your trip you’ll have to write us who all you seen. Has Brookville and Salina changed much? You must of seen Pop Halsey cause you paid Dads dues . I think you kids have done a very good job of writing to us. So busy and so on the go from place to place. I don’t see how you found time to write. Thanks for taking the time for we have been so glad to get each letter and card and to know you are so happy and getting around so good. I imagine we can thank Lefty as much as Vi for the letters cause I know how she is about writing. Lots of love Mom and Dad
There are a dozen letters from Grandma Susie. Most of them are just daily happenings. But there are a few that pertain to Mom and Dad. Rather than bore you with Grandma’s washing and ironing here is some key information.
8 March, Pasadena, California
Dearest Family, We got your letter yesterday that you had written the next night after getting to Durham. Sure was glad to hear you got there and had a good nights [sic] sleep although it sounded like you must have slept some on the train Vi but I’m wondering if Lefty had a chance to sleep for taking care of you. I thought you’d just about come sick on the way to camp. I hoped you wouldn’t get sick to your stomach for Lefty’s sake as well as yours especially if some of the boys in his outfit were on the same train. So am glad you didn’t feel so bad, I really think those shots have helped you a lot. We were in hopes Lefty that she would be clear over that before you got married, don’t worry about it too much she may feel like the dickens for a few hours but it isn’t fatal. I never heard of a girl dying with cramps-sometimes we feel too sick to die ha ha!
My mother had Endometriosis. She would suffer three miscarriages between my sister and me and would eventually have a hysterectomy a few years after my brother was born.
We picked up 4 sailors on our way to Burbank. They were going to school here in Pasadena and just came out here to get to “the corner of Sunset and Vine,” and do Hollywood. Gosh two of them didn’t look a day over 16, I know one of them had never shaved yet you could tell by looking at him. Coming back we picked up 4 soldiers-they were older a couple of them were pretty tight. Gosh you make me dizzy, Omaha, Chicago, Pittsburg, Washington, Greensboro, and Durham all in one paragraph! Why at your age if I’d done Carneiro, Brookville, and Salina all in 2 days I felt like I really made a trip! Listen here kid I think you’ve been doing the United States the last three weeks! If anyone asks you that’ll be a honeymoon to tell the Grandchildren about. How far is Durham from camp? And can Lefty make pretty good time coming and going? After all he does have to have his sleep. Yes Vi I knew as soon as we got your telegram that you’d stay with Lefty as long as you could, that is as it should be, and I don’t think you’ll get very homesick for Pasadena-remember how I acted when Pop came out here without me? Just think how lonesome Lefty would be without you and how lonesome you’d be if you were back here without him! The two of you know how you’d have to put up with my scolding you just like before you were married, every time you got lonesome and cried. And now that you’ve had some time together you’ll be more lonesome without him than you were before, so just be thankful you’re together every minute you can be and crowd all the happiness you can into each hour so if you do have to be separated for a little while you’ll have a lot of pleasant memories to tide you over till you can be together again. But you just mustn’t think of the miles just think how doggone lonesome you will be if Lefty does have to go overseas. So until next time, Lots of love and best wishes. Mom and Dad.
In the last letter from my grandma, she encloses a note from her younger sister. It really says a lot about who my father was so let’s read on.
I don’t know where you get that stuff about your son-in-law being bashful or quiet. If you had seen him hugging Mom all the time and kissing her and everyone else. In fact Vi put on a good act of bawling cause she was being “left out” so early in married life. (but she loved it) I was surprised at the way the folks “Fell for” Lefty.” He does seem to fit right in though. He loved Mom’s dumplings and kraut and pudding. We were all sorry when they had to leave but were so very glad they could be with us when we needed them.
Grandma’s sister Clara lost a son just before my parents arrived in Kansas. It was a hard time for Aunt Clara and her husband George. I am glad that my parents were able to bring them some happiness in their time of need.
This pretty much sums up how all of Mom’s family felt about Dad. He always fit in and went out of his way to do whatever was in his power to help them out. Dad and Grandma Susie became fast friends and after Pop died Dad became the main man in her life.
It seems as though Mom is now living with Dad in a boarding house in Durham, North Carolina while he is at Camp Butner. What a happy time it must have been for both of them. Sadly I know this will not last as it is just about time for Dad to be sent overseas.