Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Interview With My Grandfather (And Grandmother) Part 2

Today's installment of my interview is the story of how my grandparents met. One of my greatest frustrations with my grandfather while he was alive was his... shall we say... minimalist storytelling style. I long(ed) to know what was really going on in his head. He had a complete inner world that he only gave the briefest glimpses into. So when I asked him about the night he met my grandmother, and he gave me only the barest bones of the story, I brought my grandmother (Frankie Abbott Maxwell)to flesh things out.

B: Well, I hear you were quiet a character too, but in a different way. What did you all do for fun?

S: Well, we didn't do a great deal. I liked to hunt. I was... I took a bandolier of ammunition one time and went out in a pillbox... was shooting at quail. I shot 'em 49 times at a covey of quail on the ground and finally the MPs come out and got me and wanted to know what in the world I was shooting at and I told them crows.

So they took my name and about a week later I had an officer call me in a room down there and says, asked me what I was shooting at, and I says quail, and he says "Did you kill any?" And I says, "I got 4." He says "You come back here with me, and he give me a 22 rifle and a box of shells and says, "Use this. It don't make near as much racket." (laughs)

So the rabbits lived hard. I killed 7 rabbits one day and brought them back to the mess hall and we peeled about a half bushel of potatoes, french fried them, and fried the rabbits, Was just sitting down to eat and the door opened, and everything's blacked out, and a colonel and a major come in. And they wanted to know what in the world we were doing in there, having a party? The colonel saw that plate of rabbit, reached over and got a hind leg and handed one to the major. He sat down and eat with us and said, "Now boys, any time you boys want to have a party, it's alright with me." So we... they set down and eat with us. We had quite a time.

B: Did you ever trade meat with the British?

S: Aw yeah. I'd swipe meat from the mess hall, take it to a couple down in a little old town called Weston. They'd give me eggs. We didn't have any eggs. I'd get eggs and bring them back to the barracks and cook them.

B: How did you meet these people?

S: He was a caretaker or something at the mess hall, kept the boilers going, and I met him. Got to go rabbit hunting with him. The British couldn't shoot the pheasants and hares because you had to be a property owner or something to be able to hunt them. I'd go out with him and I'd kill pheasants and scare him to death. But I told him in America, whatever you got up, you could kill. So I had a good time. His wife knew my plane and she sweated me out every mission I made. So I give her my silk scarf and she crocheted or knitted... I guess it's called crochet...embroidery. Embroidered the name of each of my missions into my scarf and give that to me when I finished my missions.

B: What happened to your bomber jacket?

S: Oh, my bomber jacket. I traded it for a German luger on the way home. Then I run the luger off on a tip board or something. Never kept it. I didn't think I'd ever want the stuff after... I give most of it away.

B: Well, what happened when you came home?

S: Well, when I come home I went to Atlantic City and I stayed about 2 months. Finally they give me a 30 day leave and I come home. I went back. They sent me to Florida as an instructor at gunnery school down there. I stayed down there til I finished that and I was transferred to Charlotte as an instructor and I was training new pilots and gunners, you know. When we cracked up I had to bail out and I broke my leg. That ended my flying career. Went into the photo lab. They put me in the photo lab and I was developing gun camera films and stuff, which is very interesting.

B: And why is it interesting?

S: Well, you got to see the fighter kills and things and fighters. While I was there I met my wife.

B: How'd that happen?

S: Well, I just went to a USO show one night and I met this girl.

B: And what was your first impression of her?

S: I don't know what my first impression was, but we kind of hit it off right off the bat. So I met her people, every night or two... We only went together 5 months and a few days and we got married. It's lasted pretty good. We celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary this past August. I guess it'll last.

B: (laughs) I guess so! I can't believe you don't remember more about meeting her.

S: Well, I don't remember a great deal. She must've been a pretty good looking girl, or I wouldn't have had nothing to do with her.

B: Nana, pull up a seat next to Papa. He's having difficulties remembering how you two met.

F: I'll tell you the whole story in just a minute. Can I... Are you on?

B: Well...(motions to the camera)

F: How we met? Well, we went to a dance at the auditorium in Charlotte for the soldiers. I belonged to the Victory Belles and we used to go and there'd be three or four thousand boys and a thousand girls and the load was getting bigger all the time because more were going overseas.

So this night, my girlfriend and I, Carolyn Pearson, were there and she saw this guy coming in and she says, "Ooh, I know him! That's Bill So-an-so!" And I said, "Well, who's the guy with him?" And she said, "I don't know." And I said, "Well, we have to go introduce ourselves anyhow," so we went over over and she saw Bill and he introduced us to Sam and this other guy. And this other guy was saying, "Sam give me the keys to your car. I want to go home. I mean I want to go out to your car and sit and listen to the radio. I don't want to be in here." So he says, "Ok." Sam gave him the keys. And Carolyn... the music was playing and we always went right into it...and so Carolyn says, "Oh, we're going to go dance," so they went off to dance and Sam stood there and stood there and finally he said, "Would you like to go over and sit down?" And I said "sure" because we did anything to make them feel comfortable and at home. And so we went over and...

B: Well, did you know that they were returning?

F: No, we didn't know anything about them.

So we went over and sat down and he started looking through... picked up a Life magazine, and he started turning through it. And I was sitting on the couch beside him and I thought, "Oh dear, the piece is starting, and he's still not dancng." But I sat there patiently, because that's what we were supposed to do. And finally he turned to a picture and said, "That looks just like my mother!" And I said, "I don't know. I don't know your mother! He said, "Oh."

And so music started again another song and he said, "Oh, would you like to dance?" And I got up real quick and walked onto the floor and I said, "That's my usual reason for coming here!" So he followed me out on the dance floor.

Well, normally, you got... We'd do the jitterbug and all that, and you'd turn here and a boy would get us and we'd turn here and a boy would get us and we'd turn here and another guy would get us because there were so many boys and not enough girls, but the group was going overseas now and there was not as many men as there were. Maybe two thousand to one thouand. Anyhow, that night, for some unknown reason, nobody broke in on us all night long. And so we danced. And then he says, "Well, I can't fast dance," and I said, "That's alright. I'm getting over rheumatic fever anyway, and I don't need to be dancing that fast anyhow."

And we danced a couple of dances and he said, "Oh, would you like to sit down?" And I said "sure." So we went over and sat down in a chair. We were sitting side by side in two chairs that time and he put his arm up on the chair and he says, "Put your hand on mine." And I said, "Ok," and I did just like that and you could feel him relaxing all over. And in the course of the conversation as it went on, he said um... no I said something about what he was doing, where he'd been, and so forth, and he said... Don't cry.

S: (tearing up) I'm not.

F: (laughs) And he said he's already been overseas and he'd already flown 25 missions and he was in the first outfit that went over there and that he was back. And he's been in um... Atlantic City, NJ for rest and relaxations, for trying to get calmed down, I guess, when they went up there. Anyhow, and then he said they asked him what field he wanted to go to, he said Morris Field because that was the closest to his home, 'cause he was from Gerton, NC. I said, "Oh, well that's good, so you're stationed here." And he said, "yeah."

Well, the evening went on and we danced more and then finally it was time to go home and he said, "Well, can I take you home?" And I said, " Oh, I don't know. We don't normally go out with any soldiers. We don't normally get in anybody's car with anybody." And he said, "Oh, it'll be alright. I promise you." I said, "Well, Carolyn, go with me. I was going to her house to spend the night anyhow, but I have to go by mine." And he said okay. So his buddy I think went with us and we went on out. And I don't even remember if the other guy was in the car with us or not. I can't even remember that now, but anyhow, we went went over by the house. And Daddy said... I went in real quick. They didn't go in... and Daddy said, "How did you get here?" and I told them. He said (gasps), "You call us the minute you get to Carolyn's." And I said "Okay. I promise. But he's different... I don't... I think he's alright. He's different."

So we went to Carolyn's and then the next day... he had told me that night he'd like to take us out... and so the next day, he came and we got... he came in his car from Carolyn's and he picked us up after we'd gone from...

B: Was it his car?

F: It was his car. He'd left it up here in Gerton all the time he was overseas and when he come back of course he wanted a car down in Charlotte...

B: Now, wait a minute. How did he have a car? I thought not many people had cars back then.

F: Well, they didn't, but he worked. He had a job and I think this was a... I don't know what model it was.

S: '38 Chevrolet

F: '38 Chevrolet! I remember it was a Chevrolet. And it was a Chevrolet. Nobody had used it much at all, I don't think, while he was gone. It was his.

And so, anyhow, we went, of all places, we went down to Matthews, NC. But first, he brought a guy so that I would have somebody with me. I said, "Well, you'll have to being a dste for Carolyn." And he brought this guy that looked as old as he does now. I guess he might've been forty, but he was grey-headed and heavy and all. Carolyn...

S: Aw...he wasn't that old.

F: To me he was. And Carolyn was even younger looking than I was and well, anyhow, a different type, and so...um... she looked at him and I said, "Carolyn, you've got to go with me anyhow! I can't go by myself!" And she said okay. They had absolutely nothing in common.

But we drove down to Matthews, NC, which was another little country town, below Charlotte. Which now, if you got to Charlotte, you don't know when you've left Charlotte and gone to Matthews. It's grown up so much everywhere.

But anyhow, we had an ice cream cone. They went in and got them and brought them out and we sat across the street in the car and ate ice cream cones and then we come back to Charlotte. And then, I don't know what we did. I guess we took them home and then come back to the house. And then, well, he said, "Can I see you again?" And I said, "Well, sometime. You can call me."

And then it got so after that my daddy liked him. My mama liked him okay... she's fine as long as I wasn't serious or anything. She didn't want me to get married to anybody. But anyhow...

B: I thought you'd already been engaged once.

F: Oh well, I was verbally engaged to Jimmy O'Neal. He was the chief accountant at Hersh (?) Manufacturing Co. So I... and still I wrote about 50 soldiers all the time. But Jimmy and I were good friends, but I really didn't love Jimmy. He was a good friend. He loved me, but I didn't love him. I liked him real well. He was a nice guy.

Anyhow, then let's see... he (Sam) would call and I was still dating other guys, going to the dances, and so forth. But Daddy got to liking him and then he'd call, and he'd call just before dinner, and I think he made it a habit after that, because he'd call and Daddy would say, "Is that Sam?" I'd say yeah and he'd say, "Let me talk to him a minute."

(mimics phone call) "Hey Sam, have you had dinner yet? Oh, good. We'll be eating in a few minutes, so c'mon over!" And he'd hang up.

And I'd say, "Daddy! I was going to wash my hair or I wanted to go somewhere or I wanted to do something!" But he always did that to me--every time Sam would call! So Sam knew to call at dinner from then on.

B: Well, we know someone's a little food oriented, anyway...

F: Oh yes! (laughs with Sam) And that was good homemade food.

Anyhow, in, oh I guess it was May... That was March I met him... In May, he asked me to marry him and um I said well...I don't... We planned on June the next year. And I said, "Well, you'll have to ask Daddy." And so he went in and I said, we're going home, and he said, "Okay, I'll ask him." And I said, "Hey, he's on the screened porch there. Just go on over and sit down and talk to him. I'll go back to the kitchen and tell Mama what's happening."

And I went back to the kitchen and I said, "Sam's going to ask Daddy if I can marry him." And she said, "humpf!" She just knew he'd say no, cause he worshipped me and he wouldn't think anyone was good enough for me.

And then in a few minutes, Sam came in and put him arm around me and said... smiled... and I said, "What'd he say?" And he said, "He wanted to know what in hell we wanted to wait for next June! He might have to go back overseas again!" And I said, "Oh Sam!"

So we didn't plan to get married right then in June, but we did get married then August the 30th, so it was like 5 months and 5 days we were married. And we've been happy ever since, haven't we?

S: (smiles) That's what they tell us.

F: Oh goodness. You should have dressed up for your picture.

S: Oh, I think I'm pretty well dressed up. I'm warm anyway...

F: And then life begins... Ok. Cut me off.

B: Alright. I'll go back to Papa.

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