Saturday, June 19, 2010

My father

My dad loves to talk about his life. I'd like to get a recorder this summer and record everything he says when we get together, just because it's all intriguing and should be saved for my kids. Today he told me about his career in the Army. He joined right after Pearl Harbor, and for some reason they flagged him as a likely soldier despite his lack of education (he says that during the Depression, no one in his small town went to college except the sons of lawyers and doctors). He was moved rapidly from private up to (I think) staff sergeant, and then sent to OCS in Orlando. Orlando then, he says, was a cow town. He became a lieutenant, and trained pilots in plane recognition. He wound up the war in California, having never been sent overseas, and was discharged as a captain.

I asked him why he didn't stick with the military, since he'd obviously done well and had a promising career. He shrugged and said that having gotten that far without getting shot at, he didn't want to push his luck. He said he might have considered the Reserves, as his best friend did, except that the nearest air base was too far from his town by the available public transportation (streetcar, ferry, and walking). He told me how his best friend had gone into the Reserves as a lieutenant and gotten called up for the Korean War. He managed to never see action either, but wound up a lieutenant colonel. "But," my dad said, "he was lucky. He could have wound up dead."

His meanderings then drifted to his love life. After the war, he said, he was planning on going to the University of Virginia on the GI Bill, but he met a girl and decided he needed to stick around Portsmouth. ("Shame on you," I said. He answered, "She was pretty.") He dated the girl for twelve years ("we were more or less living together, but you didn't admit that back then"), but then she went off to Mexico, leaving him behind in Portsmouth. I asked why they never got married, and he said it just never seemed right somehow. Not long after that he met my mom, and within three months they were married. "But," he said, "at first she wouldn't go out with me. She was twenty-six, and I was past forty, and she thought that at my age, if I wasn't married I had to be... you know... gay."

This is possibly more than I wanted to know about my parents *snickers*. Nevertheless, it was all interesting, though I've heard much of it before (not the gay part, though!). I have got to start recording these conversations!

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Ellen. You really should start recording them. I've talked about my grandfather a lot on my blog. He appeared on a local cable history show back when I was first married (25 years ago!). He did so well that he wound up doing four episodes. We got the tapes and I transcribed them. Then my aunt on my mom's side (not the same family as the grandfather) interviewed my maternal grandmother on tape and I transcribed those memories as well. So we have binders from both sides of the family filled with family stories. I love having them at hand.

    There, now you have more incentive. :)