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.

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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.