Saturday, July 6, 2013

1954....around September...not the best time to “sail the Atlantic”.

 1954...around September...not the best time to “sail the Atlantic”.

We boarded a ship that actually was a converted enemy transport the Germans had built (I think).  I don’t remember the name of it but  we joked that the Queen Elizabeth luxury liner passed us going into New York and then passed us again going back to England!  If our ship had gone forward as much as up and down we would have been in Bremerhaven in about three or four days but this trip took a week!
We were shown our one the the most cramped spaces you could imagine. I found out that if you volunteered for night watch you could spend most of the trip on the top decks...and also eat in the officer’s mess.  Of course no one was dumb enough to eat.
Everyone was sick.  I think the only thing I could keep down was some cake from time to time.
In the quiet but rolling hours before daylight I had plenty of time to think about the past and not worry too much about the future.
I had never really known my Dad.  He was in two world wars...and not home much until 1945.  In WW1 he was an artillery officer stationed mainly in Texas...but in the early 1940’s he was sent to what was then Persia...because as an engineer, who built roads, his expertise was badly needed to build airstrips for FDR’s big lend lease project for the Russians.  My Dad should be a “Hero” in the Soviet Union!  He worked with Russian and British officers to get the airstrips built in what is now Iran so that masses of food and badly needed supplies could be airlifted into the areas like Leningrad where the Germans had entire cities blockaded and surrounded. 
A few years later he would get to our home in Paris, Illinois for a few days R & R  and then be on his way to the Pacific. 
During this time of war a couple of things happened  that I can remember even though I was in the first or second grade.
When I was about five years old I was hit by a car at the stop sign in front of our house in Paris.
The guy had stopped and I was crossing in front when he took off and ran over me.  I guess my Guardian Angel showed up (he’s been hovering around my entire life saving me from misfortune) as the only injury was a minor one...a bump in the head from something under the car.
I recall sitting on our front steps and listening to FDR’s speech about the Japs bombing Pearl Harbor
My sister, Jeanne, had married a sailor who was stationed in south Texas so Mom moved my other sister Sallee and me down to Brownsville.  It was interesting but rough as the Texas school system insisted on making me go through to first grade all over again...and in a hot school with no air conditioning of course.  
Well...I loved tortillas and there was a tortilla factory near the school so we would stop to buy fresh tortillas almost everyday.
One day the whole family went to Boca Chica beach to take a walk on the sand.  I wanted to check for Nazi submarines reported in the area (yes they actually captured one later) and I was so intent in searching the sea I stepped right into a dead and decaying shark on in the sand.  Not something you soon forget!
We would be moving back to Paris after just a year or so in Brownsville but before that we were all routed out of bed about 4am by Mom who was excited as she had word that the President would be passing through town very early in the morning on his train going to Mexico for high level war talks.  so we hopped in the car and drove to the train station at the border to wait.  Sure enough the Presidential train slowly rolled by and onto the bridge but, of course, FDR was hidden in sleep somewhere...but what the heck...we saw his train!
One more note about the border.  Some friends and I would play in the wooded area near the Rio Grande river (which you could walk there wasn’t much water.)
We played a lot in the tunnels that were all over the place...without knowing their real use by Mexicans to get into the U.S.
We never ran into any Mexicans in those tunnels...but I guess we were just lucky.

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