On September 10, 1944, Wayne’s brother, Verne, sent their stepmother, Ethel, a birthday card. Wayne was 25; Verne was 23. The coming week, their stepmother would be 36 years old.
Verne’s wife wrote the following note on the card:
Just a line to let you know we are O.K. and getting along fairly well. The “South” isn’t exactly what I expected it to be but I’m happy as long as I can be with Verne.1
This card is to let you know we are thinking of you. It was just about a year ago we spent a few days with you.
Wish I was home so I could help you move. I know it’s going to be a job for you. I’ll be home about the first of November and will see you then. Allen is growing like a weed and getting less work everyday. He feeds himself now and so we can once again enjoy our meals. Verne is O.K. and is keeping busy.2
Tell Granny hello for all of us.
We all send our love and wish you a very happy birthday.
Verne, Aileen and Allen
Notes & Commentary
1 As did many young wives, Verne’s wife wanted to be with him as much as possible. The casualty reports in hometown newspapers consumed more and more page space as American involvement in the war expanded. The newspapers’ pages became chronicles of sorrow. Not knowing what time might bring, when a dreaded telegram might come, time together was becoming ever more precious.
Verne’s wife followed her husband when he was transferred to Lincoln, Nebraska and then on to Alexandria, Louisiana. She had been in Alexandria for about a week when she wrote the note. She shared a sleeping room, with kitchen privileges, in a private home with her husband and 18-month-old son. People, especially elderly people, often rented out spare bedrooms to young women who were following their husbands. I wonder what stories the homeowners had of these young women. It was an easy source of income, but for some it must have come loaded with emotions.
Without transportation, Verne’s wife had nothing to do during the day but care for their son, read, listen to the radio (if the house had one), take walks, and wait for her husband to return from the airfield. Years later when speaking of Alexandria, she spoke of lizards crawling on the window and porch screens and of the sufferings of a neighbor lady who had been bitten by a water moccasin. There was no air conditioning.
Average daytime temperatures in September in Alexandria, Louisiana range from 91 to 84 degrees with temperatures in the coolest part of the night running from 71 to 62 degrees. The probability of rain on any given day is about 30%, with an 18% probability that there will be a thunderstorm. The average humidity is 96%.
“Average Weather In September For Alexandria, Louisiana, USA.” WeatherSpark (http://weatherspark.com/averages/29584/9/Alexandria-Louisiana-United-States : accessed 06 September 2014).
2 Each day, Verne had to report to the 221st Combat Crew Training School at Alexandria Army Air Base located about five miles northwest of Alexandria, Louisiana. On base, he flew training missions on B-17s with his combat crew or attended classes. Without an automobile, he either took a bus to the base or hitchhiked to and from. Most likely he had to be at the base well before 7 o’clock and couldn’t return until late in the day.
Nearly everything about everyday life has changed since then but I find it amusing that clearly, some things never change… Verne’s wife wrote the note to Verne’s step-mother 🙂
Very interesting to learn about the days of Verne’s wife.
Ethel wasn’t much older than her step-sons, was she more like a friend than a mother figure?
When Verne wrote a letter to his stepmother on August 29th (https://waynes-journal.com/2014/09/01/august-29-1944/), he called her “Sis”, which I presume was short for “Sister”. Verne’s two older brothers called her “Sis”; I can’t speak for Verne’s two younger brothers.
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