Marjorie was a student at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia. It now claims university coed status, but back then it was an all girls school.
She remembers she was studying Chemistry with her three roommates. The radio was playing; probably something by the Glenn Miller Band or the new teenage heartthrob, Frank Sinatra.
As if it were yesterday, she recalls exactly how they heard the devastating news.
“We interrupt this program to announce that Japanese planes have destroyed our Navy in Honolulu.”
She says all four of them gasped! They were frozen in disbelief. Their cozy structured world of classes and saddle shoes and movies on Friday night suddenly seemed like frivolous play.
They ran out into the hall. “We didn’t know what to say. We were simply stunned,” she says in a quiet voice, touching that incredible memory very gingerly.
The other rooms emptied out. There were low, confused murmurs interspersed with tears.
They were required to eat every meal together in the dining hall. Things were different in 1941, and just possibly better; at least for innocent young women away from home for the first time.
A delightful lady named Mrs. Bushnell was what they called the mealtime hostess. It was her job to teach them manners, and which fork to use, and how to act when served in a fine restaurant. They loved her. She wore a long dress to dinner every evening.
Marjorie still remembers exactly what Mrs. Busnell said. “This is VERY serious, girls.”
There was no other topic that night.
The next day, December 8, without taking a poll or forming a committee, the President of the United States of America, President Franklin Roosevelt, responded swiftly and decisively to the attack. He declared war! The draft was instituted.
Mrs. Busnell added new and unexpected lessons in lady like conduct during the strange turn of events. “When you see these boys around in uniform, be very kind and gracious,” she admonished.
I’m sure there were other behavioral reminders as well.
Marjorie says by March or April the landscape was peppered with uniforms.
“ On the ride home to Massachusetts in June, the train was packed with servicemen. I sat on my suitcase the whole way.”
This day will slip right by for most of us who were not born then, but there are still some healthy, bright, still functioning folks who lived through World War II and have first hand accounts. I am having lunch with three of them today.
All I have to do is prime the pump by saying, “Tell me exactly what you were doing when you heard the news on December 7, 1941”
Then I will sit back and listen, and most likely take notes. Stories about everything from rationing sugar and coffee to bad tires that blew out every single day will be shared. The fellow in our little group was a commissioned officer in the Navy, with yet another perspective. He proudly wears his cap that says WWII Vet on the front.
For a short time, I will be on the outside looking in and they will speak of things I will never know. They will talk. I will hear. There are still lessons to learn.
Beautifully written, Linda. Yes, this brings back memories of my mother and other relatives and neighbors telling about that time in our history. May we never take for granted the freedom we enjoy.
07 Dec 2005
Thanks so much for honoring this hallowed moment in our history. Several years ago, I pastored a church in Massachusetts. One of my deacons was a Pearl Harbor survivor, 19 years old at the time. I honor him and the others who served by watching Tora, Tora, Tora on this day each year. As a citizen and retired Navy chaplain, I never want to forget the confusion and courage of those days.