a life well lived

Monday, May 26, 2014

"Keep the home fires burning" 05/27/00

(several of mom's 2000 e-mails touched on memorial day.
sending them all early - too perfect for the day to wait.  ~elm~)

Memorial Day always brings back such memories.  Let's see - I have lived through the Great War, World War II, two "police actions" (whatever that is supposed to mean), whatever it was in Grenada, and the Gulf War.  I have had enough.

When the United States finally entered the Great War, England and her allies had been keeping Europe free by hook or by crook for three long years.  I had just started 3rd grade in Garrett Heights School in Baltimore.  The principal called us together in the big assembly room and made the announcement. 

It was a double shock for me.  I was still making the transition from the intimate 1-room schoolhouse that I had attended for 1st & 2nd grades, where both grades were taught by Gertrude Erdman (Miss Gertrude to her students) - first one, then the other, then back again.  Here I was in what seemed to me an immense and impersonal, forbidding place, and here my principal was telling me my country was at war far away.

Even thought just a little kid, I knew about the war going on overseas.  My father, to his dying day, never forgave President Wilson for breaking his pledge to keep us out of the war.  I cannot imagine an adult thinking that the US could stay out of it, but there were a lot of people who considered it strictly "Europe's war."  It was everybody's war, really,  because it threatened the peace of the world.

The Meredith boys, Frank & Harry, who lived in back of our property, and the younger Bautz boy (I cannot remember his name for the life of me) across the street all went off to war.  Luckily, my brothers Al and Bob were too young to go.

My sister, Dorothy, who was considerably older than me and had already been to Bryn Athyn for school, was concerned to hear that Roy Wells, a relative of several on this list,  had gone off to war.  She had a special place in her heart for him, so we kept him in our thoughts and prayers.

My sister Betty and I would pound out the popular tunes of the day on the big Steinway right under two big stained glass windows in our living room ("the instrument of the immortals," according to the advertisement;  it was right across from the stairs leading to the 2nd floor;  many a night we children drifted off to sleep as our father played on the piano - he knew we were asleep when the requests stopped coming).  Betty liked There's a Long Long TrailA-winding best, while my favorite was Keep the Home Fires Burning. "There's a silver lining through the dark clouds shining.  Turn the dark clouds inside out, 'til the boys come home."  It still gives me shivers.

Every Saturday, Betty and I would head out out to the Red Cross station on the 2nd floor of the fire house, contribute a nickel and pick up a ball of yarn. Over the week, I knit a square (Betty was too young), which we would take back the next Saturday, give another nickel and get a new ball of yarn.  The ladies would take the squares and sew them into blankets for the boys "over there.'

It was Margaret Bautz, several years older than me, who taught me how to knit.  I thought Margaret was a marvel, an "older woman" (she was probably 9 or 10) who knew everything.  I remember her beautiful long black hair and brown eyes.

That was a rough time for anyone with German ancestry.  A lot of people really did think that the "only good German was a dead German."  This was especially hard on our family, as we were very fond of the Linthicums across the street.  Mrs. Linthicum was German and once our country entered the war, her life was made very difficult by narrow-minded people who ran wild with their emotions instead of being lead by their reason.

Our neighborhood was lucky.  All three of the "hometown" boys - Frank, Harry and Leonard - came back, safe & sound at war's end.  Dot was hit hard by Roy Wells' death, which brought the reality of war into our home.

"Keep the home fires burning, while our hearts are yearning.  Though the boys are far away, they dream of home."

Special hugs to my near & dear - Gocky         

(My goodness, I have not thought of those dear people for over 75 years.  This evening, they are as alive in my heart as they were in 1917.  I half expect to look across the street to Betty & George Madden's house and see Margaret coming out.  Writing to you some of my memories has, in turn, stirred up long forgotten ones.  An interesting cycle.  ~KRL~)

> although she doesn't mention in this post, another great wwI  favorite of Mom's - sung at the end of her memorial celebration, at her own request - was till we meet again.  ~ elm~ <

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