My mom grew up an only child in Barnesville NC And my dad five miles down the road in MariettA NC. These towns were and still are farming communities of mostly cotton and tobacco. Most families had small farms and the children of farmers worked in the fields as well. The community was close knit and still is and their lives were determined by rain- too much or too little. Sunshine – too Much or too little. Church, never too much of that they would say. It was a simple life but whenever money is determined by Mother Nature, well you understand, money was tight for many. My mom was a year older than my dad. They had dated some, in high school, but after graduation, she left home to go to ECTC which is now ECU. There were very few men in college then because they had all just joined the service at the start of WW2. My father still a senior in high school, planned the week following graduation to join the Navy.
My mom, whom My grandparents said was so homesick two hours away in college, probably would never have lasted thru to graduation. But during her first year, she caught the fever. The one that everyone else was catching. The one to Join the service and go help the cause. So, that’s what she did ..just out of the blue.. she joined the navy and was sent to the Navy base in Key west FLorida. Joining the navy was so out of character for the mom that I knew. She was spoiled by the sweetest man ever to walk this earth, my grandfather. I’ve always been told that it about killed him When she informed them that she had joined up to be a navy wave. Her mom was the 13th child of a farming family and tough as nails. My grandmother did not have the laid back demeanor that my farmer grandfather had. She didn’t play.. ha she had more energy than anyone I’d ever met. Their lives revolved around a community church called Bethesda and a community school. My grandmother played organ and piano there for about 30 years at least, taught Sunday school, cooked for any sick person, took care of the sick, worked like a man in the field etc. They had just one child and loved her dearly so it was such a surprise that she would go so far away. My mom said everyone was joining up, and if you didn’t join you felt left out or that you were not doing your part. She told me, it was so glamorized by the movies, posters, etc that you felt like you didn’t measure up if you didn’t join a branch of the service.
My father was stationed in Norfolk and stayed there the duration of his years in the navy and never even went over seas. He was one of 3 brothers, his Father died when he was 2 and his mother raised 3 boys alone for many years. All 3 went into different branches of service. One in the Air Force and the other in the Army. My Fathers brother, Ed was quite the war hero. This book tells all about it. He was one of the OSS carpetbaggers. Below is a post made by my cousin regarding his grandfather Edward Jones. No one in the family knew the secrets he kept. My father said his brother Ed never spoke of his harrowing time after being shot down. Etc. so this is how the story gets dicey and a bit scandalous. My mother had dated both brothers many times….This was not uncommon in the area… my mom said that most people just piled as many people as they could get in a car, and you were on a date but usually not alone. Plus there were only just so many boys in the area, so you went out with several over the years.
My mom always said that the years in key west were her happiest and most adventurous years ever. She worked in the supply shop So the sailors could replenish the essentials they needed before going back out to sea. she met girls from all over the U.S. he was still in contact with my dad up in Norfolk and after going home on leave he proposed and they agreed to meet halfway several months later, in Dillon S.C. And get married. They spent one weekend together, got on trains and went back to serving their country until the end of their duty.
I look at some of the kids today that are freshmen in college or seniors in high school and I can’t see them doing what the thousands of men and women that age did in the early 40’s. Are today’s kids less responsible? Less mature? Less willing to serve? If the need was there, would our college kids, quit school to join if called upon. What kind of determination and adventure those 18 year olds had when the war was breaking out. How many of them questioned themselves when they were in the trenches. Most veterans you speak to say they would not have planned it any other way. It shaped them into the people they are. Do we thank them enough? I do not think so. We have become, I’m afraid immune to the sacrifices that they give every day. I feel that I need to work on that and be grateful for the men and women that make so many sacrifices. I’m so spoiled. To me making a sacrifice is going without coffee if I run out. The next time a veteran wants to tell you about their war days or time in the service, listen you just might learn what sacrifice is……
My favorite pic of my mom living it up in key west, 1945.
Why is it that we miss opportunities to ask our parents what their dreams and wishes were for their lives. We forget as children that our parents, were more than just parents. They were alive and young and they experienced things, happiness, heartbreak, love, that they never talked about. Ask questions and write them down to reread.
One of my neighbors died about ten years ago. He had been in the air force in WW2 and was a fighter pilot. He gave his flight suit to my son, which we still have. He didn’t speak of the war much at all. Every Veterans Day I brought him a gift, and I would ask him questions. He was landing his plane on the deck of the ship when the cable that catches the plane failed and he tumbled into the pacific. As he described the event, it was harrowing to say the least. I was by his side the night he died alone in the hospital. I wanted to shout to the doctors, “Do you know what all this man went thru in his life? And this is the way he’s going out of it?” Everyone that’s been in the service has a story, and the stories are amazing and should be listened to.