Oklahoma woman recalls British cadets training in her town after the passing of the Lend Lease Act during the Second World War
My vivid memories of the Second World War actually started a little before 1941. My mother and I visited her sister in EI Dorado, Arkansas, in August 1940. One Sunday my uncle drove us to Shreveport, Louisiana. We saw a great building project going on - more buildings than we could count - at Barksdale Air Force Base.
That was the first that we could imagine the United States in another world war. My uncle had been a field orderly for a field Army hospital in France in World War I and was dumfounded that we were to get into another terrible war.
In August 1941 came another indication that our involvement was getting closer: the Lend Lease Act. My hometown, Ponca City, Oklahoma, was selected as one of several training sites in the United States for a Darr School of Aeronautics.
We saw our first flight of British Empire pilot trainees. They arrived about every six weeks in groups of about 50. They came from all over the British Empire. On their first opportunity for weekend liberty, they all flocked to downtown Ponca in gray flannel double-breasted suits.
It didn't take long for townspeople to open their hearts and homes to all of them. I was 18 and in a business college as a student. We girls had great fun dating them. We danced, we picnicked and we went to the movies.
On December 7, 1941, I attended the Poncan Theatre with one of the cadets. As we walked the 15 blocks to my home for supper, we stopped at a cafe for hot chocolate.
That's when we learned Pearl Harbor had been bombed by Japan. My date was practically dancing on the table; as for me, I was like many in the room - stunned. But we all knew it meant the United States was in.
During that time, the Cuzalina's drugstore soda fountain was a popular place with cadets and dates. We Okies got a laugh when Mr. Cuzalina, who welcomed all who came, called to a group of cadets as they left the store, "Now you all come back." As a group, they turned and came back - right then!
Jane Curtis Waldroop
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