Pearl Harbor Day shares its place, to me, with the day my younger brother John left to begin his service in the Army. I can hear him yet, hurrying down the stairs after one final farewell look around his bedroom. I stood in the bathroom, crying for him and for us, as he came through for a quick kiss and hug before going on out to bid his mother goodbye. She was braver than me. She didn't cry until after he was gone.
I'm sure I would have cried even harder had I known we wouldn't get to see him again for more than three years. I knew many men and boys in the service, but never knew of any except John wno didn't get his leave until after finishing basic training.
He was trained to set up and run a switchboard in the field. He was needed to accompany some particular unit, but this one thing has always seemed terribly unfair to me.
The present mobile generation - used to speeding autos, flights, and viewing on TV places they have never been - can have no idea of the trauma experienced by boys who had never even been to high school or farther than 50 miles from home when they were suddenly forced to leave home and loved ones. Some did fine. Others had to be weeded out, and still others did their own weeding. For example, one shy boy I met while teaching school accidentally shot himself in the foot while hunting the day before he was to be inducted.
The wife of an old friend of our family felt she had to see her husband one more time before he was shipped out. This young mother, after leaving her baby in the nursery, stood in line for a ticket knowing there weren't enough available for all who were in line. Just as she was almost at the front, with a ticket a sure thing, her name was called over the loudspeaker with orders from the nursery to come at once. She burst into tears as she saw any chance for a ticket going down the drain, but the sympathy and camaraderie of the time took over, and those next in line to her promised to hold her place until she could get back.
I'm sure the trip itself was crowded and difficult. And what did she gain by it? Just the opportunity to stand with the crowd as her husband marched by with his squadron. He did come back to spend many happy years with her, but I'm sure many other wives saw one last glimpse of their husbands under similar circumstances.
I had made a bargain with my brother that I would teach our home school as long as he was gone. My first term began two or three days after he left, and I was in my fourth term when he returned after nearly three and one-half years.
During that time he had circled the earth by train and ship, touching all continents except South America and Antarctica. Our nomad was happy to be alive and to cease his wanderings.
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.