How About a Date Friday Night?

Telegram

 

 

 

 

Charles waited for weeks as time dragged so slowly it probably felt more like years. Where was a letter from Olevia? Why hadn’t he got it yet? Having heard nary a word from her, he decided it was time to take action, to take a furlough to find out in person, face to face, why she hadn’t mailed a letter or sent a telegram. He couldn’t even connect with her on the telephone. Was she avoiding him? Had something happened?

 

He couldn’t wait another minute to find out if the woman that he loved with all of his heart loved him back. Surely she had told him something that made him believe she loved him or he would not have put his heart on the line like he did for her in his previous letters. All he wanted now was an answer, one way or another. By this time on Friday evening he would be in Boise and be able to speak with Olevia. Friday couldn’t come quick enough for him now.

 

Charles made it his mission to exhaust every possibility before giving up hope. Once he made his mind up there was no changing it. He would take the 300 mile trip by train from Wendover. He hoped Olevia would be at the other end at the Boise Depot to pick him up. If he didn’t see her there when his train pulled into the station, he would walk if he had to in order to get to Olevia’s home and see her face to face. Nothing would hold him back from getting an answer. He hoped it was the answer he wished for, but Charles was a realist and didn’t dare get his hopes up too high. He knew better than that. He had more life experience at twenty-six than most people would see in their lifetime. He prepared himself for the worst while expecting the best.

 

The train ride allowed his full attention to plan for an unknown future. As Charles thought about a future with Olevia a smile came to his face and made his heart feel lighter. He liked the idea of them settling down together and creating a home for their future family. He had time to think about the future without Olevia too. He would manage without her and be all right but he would never meet another woman like her. He knew that completely. This was the one woman who had entered his life through his dreams and settled into his heart from the moment they met.

 

 

 

I Would Wade Hell’s Fire

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Page 4

Who was the young man was who went AWOL and where did he end up? Why he left Wendover Field in the first place is a mystery along with why he joined the Army Air Corp. What did he think the Army was going to be like?

Jones and Peggy had just gotten married and Wesley and Carol were already engaged. Though the letter didn’t say it specifically, the “proposition we talked over in front of the depot at Boise” sounded very much like a marriage proposal. Charles was making plans for his future in the Army Air Corp and hopefully a future with Olevia. Perhaps the commission would have given him the opportunity to transfer back to Gowen Field. He now considered Boise his home and very much wanted to be there.

Charles had put his heart on the line in this letter, hoping the woman he had fallen head over heels over would give him a chance. What more could he have done? This might have been the last letter he would send to Olevia. Time seemed to drag waiting for her reply. How could he stand the waiting? Why hadn’t she replied? Had her letter been lost in the mail or had she decided she didn’t love Charles after all? All the possible scenarios played over and over in Charles’ head like a needle getting stuck in a groove on a record in a record player. He loved music but this particular song was wearing him down.

Don’t Spare the Horses

A lot went on between the lines. Expectations and misunderstandings, maybe even fear. September 4 to October 21 as the dates between Charles’ letters to Olevia would have felt like an eternity. They were both holding out, waiting for the other one to write. Why? Maybe on a deeper level they felt like they were rushing into a relationship too quickly. Olevia and Charles didn’t know much about each other at this point in time. One or both of them may have wondered what they were getting themselves into. Is this what they wanted?

Both of them had their work that kept them busy in addition to Charles’ studies and Olevia’s chores at home. After a long day it may have become a real challenge to come up with something worth writing, something interesting enough to mail, especially when they could easily get distracted by a game of bowling or a movie. It would be difficult for Olevia to choose not to go to the USO dances with her friends in Boise. Thoughts of what they wanted and what they needed must have been reeling through both of their minds.

Olevia and Charles had enjoyed spending time together from June to August and now it seemed so long ago. The time they enjoyed being together had gone much too quickly. They had a lot of fun times around town with their friends. They wished the fun times could have lasted a little longer. Would they get the chance to do it all again?

Charles had been gone for almost two months now since his transfer to Wendover. Could it have all been a dream? A wonderful, whirlwind romance in an era of constant change and a possibility of being transferred overseas, even further away from each other? It seemed that they were a world apart already.

Common sense told them both that they should allow this relationship to develop naturally over time but with the war in full swing, there seemed to be a universal push to live life now. There might not be a tomorrow. The world being at war probably caused everyone’s energy to vibrate at a higher frequency, causing a sense of urgency that normally wouldn’t have been so prevalent.

Maybe the romantic dream was already over. It had hardly started. They would both know soon enough. If Olevia didn’t answer Charles’ letters, it would be pretty obvious.

Charles Meets Olevia

The middle of nowhere. Wendover Field had been built on the edge of the salt flats that didn’t have much else going for them. The mountains created a visual diversion from the colorless, desolate panorama. Charles Westbrook (my dad) decided to like it. He found advantages of being in a new place like this. It was part of the deal when he enlisted. Summertime allowed his body to acclimate to the season in this part of the vast United States. He realized he had never spent a winter further north than Oklahoma.He didn’t know if he would even be stationed here that long. Used to the stifling humidity and complete lack of breeze of inland Mississippi for the majority of his young life, the dry air felt good to his skin here and the cool nights brought a deep, restful sleep after working all day. He enjoyed exploring the surrounding areas on foot and bicycle in his free time, noticing the quality of the soil and whether it would be beneficial for raising crops. The farmer in him couldn’t help but analyze the arid earth. It reminded him how much he loved the green, lush landscape of Boise and the beautiful woman who lived there.

His mind once again drifted back to the days just before meeting her in June, 1943. He recalled talking with his buddy Wes. They had known each other for a couple of years now. After being transferred to Gowen Field in Boise, during one of their conversations, the subject of  Charles’ desire to meet a nice young woman came up. Wes smiled as he asked, “So, C. W., would you prefer a blonde, brunette, or a redhead?” C. W. was one of Charles’ many nicknames.

Charles didn’t hesitate. “How about a redhead!” A blind date was planned and a few nights later they walked up the three steps to Wes’ fiance’ Carol’s home. Wes knocked on the door and Carol let them in. C. W. immediately noticed a pretty redhead sitting on the couch in a flattering navy blue dress.

Wes made the introductions. “Olevia Harris, may I present Charles Westbrook.” C. W.’s heart picked up the pace. “Charles, may I present Olevia.”

“How do you do, Olevia?” C. W. reached for her hand as she stood up. He felt a quick rush of excitement and noticed with a hint of surprise that her lovely dark hazel eyes looked straight into his. This woman was a tall drink of water. He was six feet. Her soft, gentle hand fit into his rough, weathered one perfectly. She shook his hand with a somewhat firm, but not too firm, handshake.

“I’m very happy to meet you, Charles.” Olevia smiled deeply as she felt the blood rushing to her face. His curly black hair made her heart skip a beat. She sized him up in a few seconds. He looked very handsome in his uniform and his blue eyes seemed to smile right along with the rest of his tanned face. He was taller by a couple of inches – perfect for a dancing partner. She wondered if he liked to dance as much as she did. C. W. hesitated a second before he let her hand go.

C. W., Olevia, Wes, Carol, Jones, his girl Peg and a few other friends went to USO dances and clubs together, along with enjoying movies and bowling. It created a much needed distraction from the current events going on in the world. Time flew when they went out together and before he knew it, C. W. got his transfer orders to Wendover Field, Utah, about 300 miles from where he now wanted to be. Olevia drove him to the Boise train depot in her 1935 Dodge coupe that dreaded day where their kisses lingered and their embrace tightened. If only they could stay close to each other a little bit longer. They promised one  another it wouldn’t be long until they could be together again. As Charles reluctantly boarded the train and took his seat, he shook his head and wondered how he could be leaving so soon. He had barely met this woman who took his breath away even though he didn’t know much about her. He had been to her home a couple of times and met her mother. They hit it off immediately. He certainly wanted to know more about Olevia. As the train started to slowly chug away from the station for Wendover Field, he looked anxiously out the window for one last sight of her. Olevia stood alone, waving to him slowly, trying her best to smile through the tears that she unsuccessfully tried to hold back. She wondered if she would ever see Charles Westbrook again.

About Dad’s Letters

As I sorted through the letters, put them in date order and began reading them, the words absorbed my very soul. A mirage began to take shape of a life that seemed as real as if I’d been there.

Dad’s letters have been safely tucked away for over 60 years, stored on the top shelf of Mom’s bedroom closet where they have remained safe. The letters have been protected as if they were treasures. They are. I have become the keeper of the letters and feel a responsibility to create a book out of them for family, historians, WWII buffs, interested readers and future generations. They provide a portal into the lives of my parents during their young adult life when our world was at war for the second time. Dad’s written words give insight into who he was and where he came from.

Originally from Steens, Mississippi, dad joined the Mississippi Army National Guard in 1934. Two years later he was called upon to help clean up the aftermath from a devastating tornado that hit Tupelo, Mississippi on the evening of April 5, 1936. In 1939 Dad enlisted in the Army Air Corp and worked on the Tennessee Valley Authority Electrical Installation. In 1940 Dad was transferred to Guatemala and was chosen to go on a Good Will tour of South America. He was later transferred to Panama where he met Wesley Lyons who was also in the Army Air Corp which would later become the Air Force.

Wesley was from Boise, Idaho. They became fast friends and ended up being transferred to Gowen Field in Boise in May, 1943. Wesley’s girlfriend, Carol Howry, was best friends with Mom. Wesley introduced Dad to Mom at Carol’s home in June, 1943.

Two months later Dad was transferred to Wendover Field in Wendover, Utah. At that point is where these letters began.