He had served his country well during a period when evil threatened to take over all corners of the world. Serving in Guam, the Philippines, and in post-war Japan, John had come home from World War II with honor. Standing a gangly six feet, two inches tall, the home folk had even more reason to look up to him than his height. He returned to driving a cab as he’d done before the war and began to date a dark haired girl some five years his junior by the name of Juanita. They were quickly becoming an item and, one thing leading to another, John got up his nerve to ask a question one night while driving Juanita around town in the taxi.
“I don’t supposed you’d consider marrying me, would you?” He often spoke in a quizzical tone, making those around him chuckle.
“I suppose I would,” Juanita replied, mocking her husband-to-be’s tone..and that was that. Juanita was thrilled inside, but trying her best to match John’s nonchalance. Her mother, on the other hand, was not thrilled in the least bit at the aspect of John becoming her son-in-law. She had a dim view of men in general, having been abandoned by Juanita’s father during the depression to raise the infant Juanita and her five older brothers on her own.
John quickly knew that his job driving the taxi would not support himself and new wife, despite her extra income working part time at the local five-and-dime. He sought gainful employment here and there, but with an influx of men coming home from the war, jobs were scarce. The new couple struggled to make ends meet, and the new mother-in-law’s opinion of John wasn’t improving.
Then, a friend of a friend mentioned the railroad was taking on trainees and war veterans were being given special consideration. John quickly went down to the local depot and was granted an interview on the spot. He made the most of the situation. By the end of the meeting, he was selected for one of the new positions. After he’d completed a three week period of trainee trips, he would be hired full-time as a brakeman. His elation quickly faded when the railroad official told him, “You do realize that there is no pay for the trainee period...” No pay, for three weeks.
John went home, somewhat perplexed by his situation. He knew the railroad position was too good to pass up, but three weeks seemed like an eternity to a couple that were living virtually day to day. He and his new bride calculated how much money they needed to survive the three weeks. Fifty dollars would get them through, fifty dollars. He went to the bank, where he was met by an man that had known him since he was a young boy.
“There’s the war hero,” the banker said, thrusting out his hand to shake John’s. “What can I do for you?”
John explained his situation. The banker listened carefully, nodding his head understandingly.
"Sure, John, we can help you out. All we need is two co-signers, and the money’s yours.”
Two co-signers?? For fifty dollars? John felt a prideful indignation beginning to tighten his jaw.
“You mean I can risk my life for this country for the past 4 years and I’m not worth fifty dollars?” He got up and left the bank.
Pride can the toughest, most bitter pill to swallow, but John knew what he had to do. There was only one other source where he might be able to obtain the money. He drove himself out to a farm a few miles from town. Reluctantly knocking on the front door, he was met by a woman with a suspicious scowl creasing her weather-worn face.
He looked her in the eye and said, “Ma’am, I need to borrow fifty dollars so I can get a job on the railroad and provide your daughter with a better life.” He felt his jaw muscles tighten as his clenched his teeth after the last word had left his mouth.
My grandmother looked at my father with a little more respect that day, nodded, and went to get the money. His career on the railroad lasted the next 37 years, and his family wanted for nothing.
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