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My father almost made it home in time for Christmas 1945.
And Iím sure the following song, written in 1943, was still very popular in 1945:
I'll Be Home For Christmas
I'll be home for Christmas.
You can count on me.
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree.
Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light gleams.
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams.
My father boarded a ship at the beginning of December 1945. Within days of my father leaving Europe, Patton had an accident. He was bird hunting with some officers. They were being chauffeured around in a limousine. An Army truck tried to turn in front of the limousine and hit it. Pattonís neck was broken. He was paralyzed. And within a day of my father arriving back in this country, Patton died.
My father spent Christmas that year at Fort Devons, Massachusetts.
But he was discharged from the Army on December 27th.
The plan was for my mother and him to rendezvous in Boston, in a hotel, all by themselves
, for one night. And the next day, they would move in with my grandparents.
That afternoon, my mother took a train to Boston, with just an overnight bag containing who knows what. Perhaps she was wearing a dark suit and her pink rhinestone heart pins. My father got discharged that afternoon and got in a taxi with four other brand new ex-GIs. He was sitting in the middle of the back seat. I always imagine him saying, "Oh, Iíll sit in the middle. It is a long ride from here to Boston, but Iíve ridden farther in worse vehicles."
Off the taxi went, with the 5 ex-GIs and the driver.
Just 10 miles from Fort Devons, an Army truck, driven by a drunken civilian driver,
smashed into the left side of the taxi, then drove away Ė a hit-and-run accident.
My father always described that accident this way, "The two men on the left side of the taxi were killed. The two men in the middle spent 6 weeks in the hospital. And the two men on the right side walked away from the accident."
My father spent 6 weeks in the hospital.
Some one, I donít know who, took another taxi and
brought my mother back to Fort Devons, with her little overnight case.
Later her sister Margaret had to bring a big suitcase full of clothes to my mother.
That was the last time my mother ever packed lightly.
Finally, in February 1946, my parents moved in with my grandparents.
My grandparents lived in the rented half of a two family home.
On the first floor, they had 5 rooms: living room, dining room, kitchen, two bedrooms
and a bathroom, of course. Up in the attic, they had two more bedrooms.
They needed all these bedrooms because there were my grandparents,
my Aunt Margaret and Uncle Joe, who were joined by their daughter Laurel that August,
in the 2 bedrooms downstairs, and my parents and my motherís kid sister Merilu
in those two bedrooms in the attic. The following June, my parents were joined by my brother.
So that makes 3 families in all: 6 parents, 1 teenager and 2 babies,
all with just the one bathroom on the first floor.
Kenny and Cile, Summer 1946
My mother continued to work at Sikorsky's, now as a private secretary,
until she was 5 months pregnant with my brother.
My father was working as an accountant during the day,
and, using the GI Bill, going to the University of Bridgeport at night.
He was working toward his associateís degree in accounting,
which he finished when my brother was 3 years old.
For that year and a half when everyone was living together,
they all ate together around the dining room table. My mother told me that my grandmother hated having to deal with leftovers. She always said, "Wonít someone just finish up this?" And my grandfather always replied, "Save it and Iíll have it with an egg for breakfast."
During my childhood, I remember my mother saying, "Wonít someone just finish up this?" And my father always replied, "Save it and Iíll have it with an egg for breakfast." Then my parents smiled and laughed at each other, remembering those early days of their marriage.
However, when my brother was 2 months old,
my parents finally moved into their 4 room Cape Cod.
Imagine, four rooms for just the 3 of them! And my motherís kid sister told me,
"Within a year, your parents had save their money and bought
both a TV and a fully automatic washing machine. I thought they must be rich!"
I think my parents thought so too, in their home sweet home.
Home Sweet Home
Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, thereís no place like home.
Itís time to close this photo album, at least for now.
But Iíd like you to think about this. My parentsí first house, that 4 room Cape Cod, was virtually identical to hundreds and hundreds of other Cape Cods in Bridgeport and all across this country. But each of those Cape Cods had its own story.
I think if you look through the photo albums of your life,
you will find them filled with stories.
You might find that you want to share some of those stories with your family and friends.
Copyright 2001 by Kathryn Eike Dudding. All Rights Reserved.
I would like to thank my mother's sisters, Margaret Barney and Merilu Etter,
for all the information they shared with me and for their loving encouragement
of my journies into our family's past.
I would also very much like to thank Carl Meiser, of the 489th Anti-Aircraft Artillery
Battalion, for sending me the articles listed below, which told me so many things
my father never did.
Butterfield, Ralph, editor. Paton's GE Photographers. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1992.
Peifer, Charles, Jr. Soldier of Destiny: A Biography of George Patton. Minneapolis: Dillon Press, Inc.,1989.
Windrow, Martin. The World War II GI. New York: Franklin Watts, 1986.
Yeates, Francis. "Traveling with Colonel Murphy's Circus."
Author unknown. "With the Fourth Armored Division."
Author unknown. "50 Years Ago."
Copyright 2001 by Kathryn Eike Dudding. All Rights Reserved.
Here's a story about me telling this story at my father's Army reunion:
Stories From an Army Reunion.
If you have stories and pictures that you want preserved, contact Linda Briel, creator of Kaleidoscope Custom Memory Albums.