1943, Entertaining British Sailors in New England, WW II
In 1943 I was living with my parents and four older sisters in a big old Victorian home in Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts...nothing fancy, just lots of rooms filled with love.
In February my father asked me what I would like for my 10th birthday. "A British sailor" I replied...and that's exactly what I got. Dad and I went to the Union Jack in Boston and came home with 2 British officers...a big mistake. They were exceedingly dull, snobbish and unappreciative. We almost gave up but decided to try our luck again and this time we hit the jackpot with a 16 year old sailor and his older mate. They took to our family like ducks in water.
The first night was spent in playing jokes on each other...short-sheeting the beds, etc. and just becoming acquainted. I remember that, after I went to bed, I heard a sound like sobbing and tip-toed downstairs to see my mother cradling the homesick young sailor in her arms. I'm sure he got a good night's sleep after that.
Writing about those days in 1943 has made me realize that I was too young to understand the loneliness that so many of those boys must have been experiencing. For me, at age 10, it was a time of great excitement and expectations. We lived quite near the railroad station, and it was a treat to watch the incoming trains from Boston and to see "our boys" arrive. Many of them were based in Boston at the Fargo Naval Base and would come out every weekend or day that they had off. We often had 5 or 6 boys at the same time.
As I mentioned before, the officers proved to be unacceptable...very Britishly (is that a word?) proper and no fun at all. But the regular, run-of-the mill sailors were a delight. Ron Brown was a regular, as was Bert Entwistle (father of the yet-to-be-famous son John, of the "Who"). Bert and his wife actually came back to the states years later to help my Mother celebrate her 90th birthday.
We only deviated once away from the sailors. That was to invite two Australian belly gunners to our house. Their names were Happy & Jack and Happy became my special friend. When he finally left to go back to action I remember saying "Happy landing" and being very proud of my 10 year old's ability to make a pun of his name. Sadly he was the only one of the entire group that we entertained that was killed...and his friend Jack was shot down and finally returned to his home, but in an almost vegetated state. Obviously, being on a ship was much safer than being in the air. (I sorely regretted my parting remark.)
Another fond memory is drinking tea by the gallons and then having our tea leaves read by Paddy (from Wales). He managed to make it seem like the future was to be a wondrous place...even in the midst of that war. He was just one of the 126 sailors who graced us with their presence during World War II...a life-changing experience for us all.
*Note*....this is a re-writing of one of my earliest blogs and I apologize to the loyal bloggers (who have been with me since I began my blog in July of last year) for the repeat. However, I have only so many memories and want to intersperse some of the earlier ones in the next few months so that I will have enough to finish out a full year of blogging by this July. Thanks for bearing with me. Ginnie