The Arrival

by Judy Sparanese

She arrived in San Angelo, Texas, after a long, hot, dusty and crowded journey by train. It was early summer and she was eager to join her husband, an army air corps pilot stationed at Goodfellow Field. After months of following him to several bases, it was good to think about settling down for awhile. Initially, she had no appetite due to the hot weather. It was weeks before she was able to eat a decent meal and that turned out to be a bowl of chili con carne. This Irish girl from Brooklyn, used to overcooked meats and vegetables, found the chili to be the only thing she could enjoy eating. Shortly after arriving, she landed a secretarial job for an executive of a local company. Jobs were easy to get in a country turned topsy-turvy by war.

They rented rooms in a big white frame house with a huge porch. Housing was in short supply in those days what with all the military arriving and looking for places to live. They considered themselves lucky to be with a hospitable family, even though they had to sacrifice some privacy by living and sharing common areas with strangers. A few months later, she found herself pregnant for the first time. The nausea caused by the heat was replaced with another kind of nausea which lasted a few months. But the joy of the expected child overcame any temporary discomfort. He was ecstatic in his usual way, dancing around the room at the announcement, lifting her up in the air in his strong arms and falling more in love with her than ever, telling everyone he knew about this exciting event about to happen. In fact, he was ecstatic about everything in his life right now. They had met at a church dance in Brooklyn on the evening of the attack at Pearl Harbor. Shortly after, he enlisted in the army.

They were married January 9, 1943. Children of the Depression, and now faced with the reality of World War II, they were always ready to have a good time, to live for the moment. There was not much planning for the future when the present seemed so nebulous. And they danced their way through time, always on beat, to the music of the “Swing Era.” After basic training, officer candidate school and pilot training, this high school dropout had finally earned his wings and was a full fledged pilot. He was assigned to Goodfellow Field which was an advanced air training base where San Angelo Air Corps Basic Flying School was established in 1940. He spent the duration of the war training men as pilots and carrying out other stateside assignments.

Even though he applied many times to be sent overseas, he was valued as a trainer and was never re-assigned. The child, a healthy baby girl, was born at 4:11 a.m. at Shannon Hospital in San Angelo four days before D-Day. At the time he was 25 years old and she was 24. There was nothing unusual or significant to remember about the birth. It must have been lonely for her to give birth away from her family but there was a community of other army wives in the same circumstances and there was a tight bonding among them. One can only speculate on their hopes and dreams for their future individually and as a family. What was in store for this tiny family with no home and no wealth and a war that seemed to go on forever? In fact, it would be another year or so before victory was declared, first in Europe on May 8, 1945 and then in Japan on August 15, 1945.

No one of their generation was untouched by the war and it changed them forever as they marched forward into the oblivion of the 1950s.

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