The Second World War began during my first year out of college, my first year of teaching. In Eagle Pass, Texas, a small town on the Mexican border, all my first graders came from Spanish-speaking homes. Although in most of their homes money was scarce, each week those children brought dimes to buy stamps for their War Bond booklets. With vigor they sang all the patriotic songs I taught them, including "Remember Pearl Harbor" and "Goodbye, Mama, I'm Off to Yokohama."
I couldn't carry a tune, but angel-faced Romelia could, and her voice was loud and strong. I had her lead the songs I didn't have Victrola records of. The children especially loved "The Marine's Hymn," but it was a borrowed record that I had to return. I ordered the record, in which Tyrone Power narrated Marine history and a Marine band played and sang the hymn.
I thought the record would never arrive. Twice a week I'd walk down Main to the town's only music store to check on it.
The Hispanic gentleman who worked there would shake his head and say my record had not arrived. Finally I complained, "I ordered it weeks ago. Surely it should be here by now."
The gentleman spread his hands in a helpless gesture. "Well, you know these movie stars," he said. "Tyrone Power - he might sing. He might not sing."
Before our town's Army Air Corps station was completed, the young women of the town helped entertain soldiers at nearby' Fort Clarke by attending their dances. We were driven the 40 miles or so in a huge covered Army truck that transported 20 or more of us. Later, a USO was set up in Eagle Pass, as well as a Cadet Center, where we danced with the cadets in flight training at the new Army airport.
But it was not all fun and dances. By 1943 things were looking grim. Bad news came often. Several of my high school classmates were reported killed or missing in action. I felt the losses deeply. I found myself crying a lot.
My cousin Louis, who had been in Naval ROTC and was now a full-fledged ensign, came home on leave, resplendent in his uniform. "You should join the WAVEs," he told me. "I've seen them in Massachusetts. They wear good-looking uniforms and white gloves, and they march along singing."
I'd been thinking about joining the service, and I decided to follow his suggestion. After WAVE officer training and communications training, I was sent back to Texas to Corpus Christi Naval Air Training Base and Naval Air Station. Our first night there, several W A VB friends and I went to the Officers Club for dinner. As we walked in, Tyrone Power was just leaving. We heard he was a well-respected pilot, but he left for active duty right away. We never got to meet him, and I never got to ask him why he waited so long to sing the "Marine Hymn" for my first-grade pupils.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
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.