Friday, October 28, 2016

A look at the past... my parents

A daughter asked that I write some stories about the past, looking at history related to her grandparents and her parents, aka me and Kathy.  As she noted, we have talked about spending time on this but when we get together there is never enough time.  The purpose of this comment is to get the information out, and the goal is not perfect writing.

So, this is a start, with a look at my parents, her grandparents on my side, before I was on the scene. There is no one around to corroborate what is written here, and what is known here is no doubt incomplete.  Nevertheless, here goes.

My parents met when they were both working at Burlington Mills, then the largest textile company in the world, in 1940.  How they met I do not know.  My mother had graduated from high school in 1937 in Hillsborough, North Carolina but, unlike two older siblings, there was no money for her to go to college, as the family needed to save money for her younger brother to go to college, more important at that time.  She took a short secretarial school course in Greensboro and got a job at Burlington.  She was good at the job, and ended up being one of the three secretaries for Spencer Love, the founder and CEO of the company.  In that role she traveled to the New York corporate office regularly, staying at a hotel for women only on the east side of Manhattan.  She traveled to Palm Beach often as well, as Mr. Love had a home and a staffed office there.  She also spent time in Washington, D.C. as Love became a "dollar a year" executive for the Roosevelt administration during the war.

My father had studied accounting at Roanoke College, his father's alma mater, about 30 miles from his hometown of Bedford, Virginia, and working at Burlington was his first job.

My parents were married sometime in 1942.  The war had just started for the U.S., and my father was in the equivalent of the "reserves" at that time.  He had graduated from college in 1939, and had been in ROTC.  Then, as part of a reserve corps, he took flight training.  So, like many other couples at that time, the catalyst for getting married was the fact that he was leaving or in training.  After a few months of initiation to the Army Air Force, he was transferred to Brazil, which for some reason had a training base for pilots and was a holding area for planes and equipment.  Then to a base in India. Then he went to Kunming, China to join the Flying Tigers. All new and strange for a small Virginia mountain town boy.

The Flying Tigers had been a "covert" operation run by the OSS to support the Chinese nationalists in their fight against the Japanese.  Once war was declared, they officially became part of the Army Air Corps.  My father was a second lieutenant and a co-pilot on B17 missions to attack air fields and ports controlled by the Japanese.  Sometime in 1943, his plane was badly damaged by Japanese artillery fire but they made it back to a field near its base and crash landed successfully.  His main injury was some sort of serious sinus disruption as at higher than normal altitudes in an attempt to avoid the artillery, the pressurization of the plane, to the extent it existed then, did not work.  He was transferred to an Army hospital in Miami for treatment and recuperation.  My mother met him there, and decided to leave her job in North Carolina.

After his recovery, they lived in Pensacola, Florida, then San Antonio, Texas, and were in Enid, Oklahoma when the war ended.  In each of these places, he was a flight trainer.  In each place, my mother was able to find secretarial work.

When my father was released from the service, they returned to the Virginia/North Carolina area to look for work.  One of the former senior executives of Burlington, a Mr. Rowe, had moved to a senior role at Dan River Mills in Danville, Virginia.  He knew my mother's skills and experience, and offered her a job as soon as she applied, and then found an accounting job for my father.  They moved into an apartment on West Main St. in Danville in 1946.

And that's it for today.


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