When I was six, my dad enlisted in the U. S. Navy and trained at Great Lakes Naval Training Station. After boot camp, he came home briefly, then went back to await further assignment in the Outgoing Unit near Chicago. When he received his orders, he called to tell us that he would be sent to Key West, Florida, for training in sonar. Fearing she would not be able to see him for quite a while, my mother asked him if she should come to Chicago. Of course, he said yes, and they decided then and there to meet at the railway station the coming Friday. Little did they think that so simpIe a direction could turn into such a nightmare.
Being from a small town in Iowa, they did not count on Chicago having more than one railway station. Dad was waiting at one, while Mother, who had ridden the midnight train arriving about dawn, was waiting at the other. As the morning wore on, it was obvious that their simple directions were useless and that something must be done or they would never meet. Unaccustomed to the bustle of the big city, Mother could do no more than wait while Dad frantically tried to find her. About noon, he decided to go to the other station, but by this time Mother had taken a taxi to the Drake Hotel, where she sat in the lobby almost in tears. It was then that the kind lady volunteer at the Travelers Aid Society desk noticed Dad, who was pacing back and forth nearby.
"Can I help you?" she asked. "Are you expecting to meet someone?"
"Yes, I'm supposed to meet my wife here at 7:30 a.m., and she didn't show up. I sure would appreciate it if you could help me find her." After finding that Mother's train had been on time, the lady got in touch with her colleague at the other station. Yes, there had been a young lady waiting, and no, she was not there anymore. In little more than an hour, the desk at the Drake Hotel called to say that they believed that the tearful lady waiting there in the lobby was the missing person. That was all Dad needed; he took a taxi to the Drake post haste. That meeting was a historic one. Mother, who liked big hats, was wearing one the size of a satellite dish. When she spied Dad coming across the lobby, she threw caution to the wind. As the picture hat went cart-wheeling down the marble steps, she fell into his arms, and all problems seemed to be at an end. But all the hotels were full up. Again, Travelers Aid came to the rescue. They wheedled the Hilton people into letting a poor Seaman 1st Class get a room with his wife before shipping out. Then the incident we later called "the code story" came to pass.
Tired from her strenuous journey, and relieved by a clean bed, Mother promptly fell asleep while Dad talked. He had devised an elaborate "code," which he said he would include in his letters to help her know where he was at the moment. Knowing his letters would be censored, he had a plan that he felt was foolproof. But Mother was sound asleep and to this day cannot tell you what the plan, so cleverly devised, was. He thought all through the War that they knew where he was, while in fact they had no idea. My memories of the War were grim. I was just old enough to overhear their late-night conversations and to worry where my daddy might be. In 1945, Dad came home for Christmas and found to his surprise that we had no idea where he had been (he was on a Navy tug in the South Pacific). Now we often joke about the "code" and wonder if it would have really worked if Mother had not fallen asleep.
Grand Junction, 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.