Friday, April 20, 2007

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


Blogger Cazzie!!! said...

I loved this post!! It is not unlike the stories my grandma had of the ww2 years in Sydney..with American sailors no less!!
Yes, there were, of course, some very very sad moments, but, these were tims people knew to let their hair down also. My Grandma met so many wonderful people..she even got engaged to an American Sailor, he was killed in action unfortunately
She spoke of many dances they all went to. How funny he was and everything.

2:08 PM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

Not every daddy would bring sailors home for his daughter to play with.

6:24 PM  
Blogger kenju said...

Ginnie, please don't think you need to apologize for re-posing a story as good as this one! I had not read it before, and it is very interesting. The only sailors I knew in the war were relatives; one a cousin and another an uncle. I think it is great that your parents entertained military men (boys, really) during the war.

8:05 PM  
Blogger KGMom said...

What a delight of a story! And what a special memory from WW II of contacts with sailors I would not have thought of. Of course they would be lonely.
I am glad you re-posted this story, as I did not see it first time around.

12:48 PM  
Blogger Ginnie said...

Cazzie: It makes my heart glad to know that our boys were treated so well in your country. Sydney or was all the same.

AC: my Dad was a big softy but he kept an eagle eye on his daughters.

Judy & KGMom: thanks for letting me off the hook as far as reposting goes. I am really getting "writers block" and need to fill in the empty places.

1:29 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

I, for one, am very grateful you re-posted it - it's lovely.

5:27 PM  
Blogger Molly said...

What a heart-warming post, I enjoyed your pictures and your stories about the sailors. The sailors must have fondly enjoyed and remembered those days with a family and spending a few moments away from the business of war.

3:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ginni --- Great story. You sure were a pretty little girl. I love the first photo of you with the sailors.

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Paddy' from Wales! I love it. :-)

I enjoyed seeing the pics again.

7:59 AM  
Blogger Pam said...

I love this story, Ginnie, it's wonderful. It brings back memories of my Dad in uniform.

Your life's journey is captivating, colorful and peppered with facinating people.

I love AC's comment!

11:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Believe me, Ginnie, your stories are great enough to read twice!
I vividly recall reading this one and enjoyed it even more the second time around.
I'm still enthralled that your family invited 126 sailors to your home. What great memories that made for you during a sad time in our country.

6:19 AM  

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