MacGregor's War
© 2006





Table of Contents


Ch 1 The Crash
Ch 2 Evelyn McCurdy
Ch 3 Discovering Hawick
Ch 4 Writing Home
Ch 5 Holding Hands
Ch 6 The Letters
Ch 7 Aunt Dora
Ch 8 Teresa Carney
Ch 9 The Surprise
Ch 10 The Return to Ohio
Ch 11 The Draft
Ch 12 Hetrick
Ch 13 The High Street
Ch 14 Return to Molesworth
Ch 15 Re-assingment
Ch 16 Pas de Calais
Ch 17 The Underground
Ch 18 Marjolaine Meyet
Ch 19 Ardentes to Gibraltar
Ch 20 The 7 Day Pass
Ch 21 The Return to Hawick
Ch 22 Heading Home
Ch 23 Epilogue








I started this book back in 1997 or 1998. Memory seems to fail me on the exact time and date but it’s fair to say it has been in the process for quite a long period of time. 

In any event, about 8 or 9 of us formed a writers forum on the internet where we could post and critique each other’s work and a few of the names that still come back to me are CF and Lee C.  I got to meet CF for the first time at the Sacramento Highland Games held in Woodland, California and several times thereafter in Surrey at the annual Surrey Gathering.  I was also lucky enough to meet Lee C at one of the Surrey Gatherings.  I would like to thank them and the others who participated in the group for reading my stuff a time or two and helping me along the way.  Also the name Stephanie Lee from Chicago comes to mind. She added a touch to the character Gillian MacKenzie. 

Another person who added significantly to my book was Sylvia from Scotland who helped with the Scots dialect.  Although my Father was from Scotland and had the brogue, it never rubbed off on me so thanks to her for all of the help she gave to me.

The Graphics for the cover of my book was done by M&M so a very special thanks to her for doing that for me. 

There is one other person who made it all possible and that was Diana Gabaldon.  It was her books about Jamie and Claire that drew us all together in places like Surrey, Canada; Oberlin, Ohio; Woodland, California; Fergus, Canada; and many others throughout the U.S as well as overseas.  So thank you Diana for giving me the inspiration to write a book.





This is the story of a young American boy named James MacGregor who finds himself hurled into World War Two war torn England in early 1943. Fresh out of high school and basic training, he is assigned as a tail gunner in the U S 8th Air Force, 303rd Bombardment Group based in Molesworth, England. During the period 1942-1943, the United States set up dozens of bases such as the one at Molesworth. These bomber bases were scattered all over the countryside in southern England with Major General Ira C. Eaker  designated commander of Detachment, HQ 8th Air Force.

Early in the War, the B-17 Bomber was the work horse of the 8th Air Force and was aptly named the “Flying Fortress” because of it’s many gun turrets. A tour of duty for the men who manned these planes was not a time period measured in months but rather the number of missions each man had to fly before being sent back to the US. This number was set at 30 missions and in 1945 upped to 35 missions.

As the story opens, we find MacGregor waking up in the Cottage Hospital, Hawick, Scotland as a result of his bomber straying off course while returning from a mission over Wilhelmshaven, Germany and crash landing.


MacGregror’s War   © 2006

by GK “Scotty” Walker






James MacGregor
Molesworth, England 1943






















Chapter 1

The Crash

When I opened my eyes, I was in a darkened room just staring up at the ceiling where a fan was slowly rotating.   A faint smell of antiseptic wafted down from the blades with each revolution.   I hurt, Oh God did I hurt all over.  The angelic-looking woman was nowhere to be seen, and all I could feel was this terrible agonizing pain.  My chest felt as though sharp knives were thrust in me and each breath I took made it worse.  I tried to rise up but the deep biting stabs made me give up immediately.

Where the hell am I?   What happened?    I allowed my hands to roam the surface where I was lying to see if I could determine where I was.  I wanted to scream because the pain was so intense but I felt if I did, it would somehow get worse.  My right leg throbbed with each beat of my heart. It didn’t feel as though I could touch it for some reason, almost as though it was separate from the rest of me.   I lay there soaking wet; the sweat rolling down my forehead into my eyes.  They were stinging badly and I could do nothing about it.

I squeezed my eyes shut to ease the burning and just when I thought I’d died and gone to hell, I felt a cool cloth wiping my forehead and a soft voice saying, “Easy lad, easy”.  I opened my eyes again and the angelic-looking face was back, looking down at me.  I couldn’t make out the features in the darkened room but the white glow atop her head told me she must be an angel come to get me and take me out of this hell.  I wanted to reach up and touch her but my arms felt like lead and once again the vision started fading away.   I didn’t want the face to leave me again but I had no control over it and once more it slipped off into the darkness.


 It had been a long day for Gillian and her shift had ended, yet she found she couldn’t leave. Her new patient had shown signs of coming out of his coma and she wanted to be there when he woke. Gillian sat in a chair several feet away from his bed and started to doze off when she heard him cry out in pain. This soldier along with another was brought into the recovery ward almost 3 days ago.  He was very badly injured in a violent crash of an American Bomber just across the Teviot River north of Wilton Park and her heart went out to him immediately.

He looked younger than her 23 years.  What a brave man he must be and at such a tender young age.  As a nurse, Gillian experienced first hand the rigors of war.  It had been almost a year now since the Cottage Hospital had been given a government grant to care for badly wounded soldiers, many with arms and legs missing.  She should be used to it by now, but she just couldn’t find it in her heart to detach herself from all the horror and just do her job. Then again, she was very young herself and perhaps the kind of detachment she needed wasn’t to be hers until she aged a bit more. So many men had already given the ultimate sacrifice and she loved them all for they fought for a better world.   The war had affected everyone in Scotland, even those in the Cottage Hospital in the small town of Hawick and there seemed to be no end in sight.

She had a bowl of cool water and a washcloth ready.  He had been running a high fever and she knew that the cool water would help to relieve some of his discomfort. She took the bowl to his bedside and started to wipe his face while providing words of comfort. He was waking up and was undoubtedly in pain, scared and confused.


 I hadn’t realized until I heard the voice saying ‘easy lad, easy’ that it was a real person in front of me and not my imagination playing tricks on me again.   Once more the vision returned and I reached out to touch the hand wiping my face, my fingers grabbing the wrist and not wanting to let go for fear it would again escape me.

“Well noo, yer awake lad”, came the voice.

 It was a woman’s voice, very soft and gentle and the words had a different sound to them, almost as though I had heard them before but I couldn’t remember where.  Everything seemed so strange.  I’m James but where the hell am I?  What is this place and who is this woman talking to me?  Nothing made any sense.

I tried to think back to the last thing I could remember.   Waking up, breakfast, briefing……..yes, our bomber squadron had assembled in the briefing room and we found out that we were going to bomb the U-Boat yards at Wilhelmshaven, Germany.  The flight plan called for us to head directly north towards Scotland, then East from England, across the North Sea, and enter Germany coming in from the north off the Ocean.  This would give us the least amount of time over Germany and the U-Boat target area.  The total estimated flight time was 7 hours.  Our return flight would be along the same route. 

The  Flight Path from Molesworth to Wilhelmshaven and Back

After the briefing, we began our preparations for getting underway.  The ground crews were busy fueling the plane and loading the bombs, checking out all the normal things before turning the plane over to the crew. Even though this was my 15th mission I still had this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach at the thought of going up. 

We had a new crew with 2nd Lt. Mitch Cunningham Pilot and 2nd Lt. Doug Mason, co-pilot.  Both Hetrick and I had flown with Lt. Mason on our 13th but our plane took some flak on mission 14 with four guys getting banged up pretty bad from shrapnel and new men were quickly assigned to take their place.   I had the feeling that both the planes and the men who flew them were expendable.  There were ten of us on each plane and if we didn’t come back, we would simply be replaced with new men and new planes.  Mechanical failures caused four of our aircraft to turn back before they had reached the English coast, but the remainder of the formation proceeded on the briefed route in accordance with the pre-conceived flight plan. 

At 1215 hours we were getting close to the target area and I could see the black puffs of smoke exploding to my right and left as we began to take flak.  The thought of getting hit triggered something in me and slowly the events of the mission started coming back.  As the engines droned on, the flak became very heavy, almost thick enough to get out and walk on. It was about 1225 hours and we had no sooner dropped our load of 12 five hundred pounders and then came the sudden loud blast behind my head and a horrific gaping hole about two feet in diameter just a few feet to the rear of my gun turret. The wind came gushing in with pieces of metal and other debris being blown frantically about.  The abruptness of the explosion so close to me sent chills through my entire body.  My right leg began to tingle and I took off my heated glove and reached down to my calf only to find that a piece of shrapnel had apparently torn my flight suit open and I drew back a hand filled with blood. The plane began jerking terribly with Lt. Mason saying, “My God we’re hit badly up here.  Both Lt. Cunningham and Lt. Meyers are dead.”

The plane began shuddering and continually got worse as we began banking to the left away from the others.   The whole damned thing began shaking so bad that I thought the tail was about to fall off.   I could see the smoke streaming by my turret and then what appeared to be part of a wing flap.  I was terrified at the thought of us going down and being all alone in the tail turret was not exactly the place I wanted to be right now.   I looked around towards the front of the fuselage and I could see Hetrick standing there at his waist gun position but Joe Brown was slumped in his harness apparently shot up bad.  Jesus Christ, things were not looking good.  The pilot and navigator both dead and Joe Brown looked on the way.  Thoughts began to run through my head that this could end up being my last flight.  I kept thinking of the planes and crews that didn’t come back from previous missions......Rudy, Fred, Gonzales, we were all having drinks only a few weeks ago and now they were gone. 

Suddenly the smoke stopped streaming past and the vibrations lessened somewhat and again Doug, “OK guys, we had an engine fire but it’s out now and the engine is feathered.  We’re badly damaged but still in the air.  Be ready to bail out if things get worse.  We’re headed back to England.”

Holy shit, bail out!!   We had a little training on jumping but not in the midst of an air strike in middle of Germany.  I sat there and prayed that the Lieutenant could get us back to England. Three and a half hours I thought to myself, we need this damned thing to stay up for at least three and a half more friggin hours. The way it shook and howled, would we even make another minute?  It was freezing cold with the air gushing in right behind my head and my flight suit was not much help.   We were at 26,000 feet, it was forty below zero and we no longer had the protection of the other planes.  The Krauts must have seen us pulling away from the others and were quick to come right up our ass from both sides with their FW-190’s and I began to blast away with my twin 50’s.   One of the FW-190’s started moving in on us fast now.  I let loose, with a long continuous fire from my guns.  He came straight at us, so close I could see the pilot then he seemed to just explode and disintegrate as he spiraled out of control downwards.  The second plane came in right behind him. For a minute I thought he was going to ram us and then he veered off to my left and was gone.  I had a sick feeling in my stomach knowing that I just killed someone.

Fortunately we ran into some heavy cloud cover and there was not much that I could see in any direction.   I prayed that the clouds stayed with us; alone like this we were a sitting duck for the German fighters.

The flak had all but diminished but the plane continued to vibrate as we started the long trek back to England.   As I sat there freezing, my thoughts trailed off to home and Evelyn.   What time was it back in Ohio now?  Early morning?  Evelyn would just be getting ready to go to work.  God, I would like to be there now.  I imagined holding her in my arms and kissing her.  The soft touch of her hands holding mine.   I thought of the nights we would dance in our stocking feet in the living room, just the two of us with our bodies pressed together and the radio playing soft music.  She didn’t seem older to me somehow and it didn’t matter to me that she was almost twice my age.  We were so happy the last time together.  Maybe this is how it will end, here tonight in the sky all alone over Germany.   I closed my eyes and dreamed.  I had to take my mind off the desperate situation we were in and so I allowed these pictures of Evelyn to keep floating through my mind.   I wondered if I would ever see her again.

One hour and fifteen minutes, twenty minutes, forty minutes went by and suddenly I could see the water down below us.  The waves were flickering in the half sun lit sky and then we ducked back into thick cloud cover and they were gone.  We must have reduced altitude as it was not near as cold as it had been just half an hour ago.   We were headed back across the North Sea then.  Christ, when I saw the water we looked so low, so friggin low!    What the hell were we doing down so low.  Doug must have taken us down to about 5000 feet.  Nobody was talking, just the terrible shuddering of the plane and the weird sounds of metal flapping in the wind and the loud whooshing noises, as the air continued gushing in.

Finally Lt. Mason again, “Well guys, we’ve got two good engines and we seem to be holding our own. We’re still in the air and that’s the main thing.  I’m fairly sure we’ll make land but I’m steering by the seat of my ass up here.  All the navigational stuff is blown away so all we can do is a visual for ‘Dogtown’.  The weather is lousy as usual over jolly old England, socked in from Molesworth to Scotland.    Time now is 1547 so that should be less than 30 minutes from now. When we reach land, I want all of you guys to keep your eyes open for any sightings; especially the waist gunners and Fletcher in the belly turret and MacGregor back there in the tail.  Give me a ‘Ho’ just to make sure you all heard that.”

We would normally all have been talking at once but tonight was different. It started up front with Fletcher, Ho....Hetrick, Ho.  The silence of Joe Brown hanging there in his gun harness across from Hetrick made me half sick but I managed....MacGregor, Ho….

It was Lt. Mason again, “Hetrick, is Joe Brown ok?”

“He’s dead sir.  Some shrapnel tore his belly open really bad and he’s hanging there with a pool of blood below him.”

“Oh Shit.  OK, the rest of you guys, keep alert.  We may only get one shot at this so yell out the minute you see anything.  I’m on a slow descent so no sightings and we’ll have to turn around and ditch in the ocean.”

We were in really thick cover now and there were no intermittent sightings of anything.  I sure hoped they could see more up front than I could back here.  Ten minutes, twenty minutes, thirty minutes; Jesus, there has to be some land down there. Forty minutes, what next?

I couldn’t remember.

 “Where am I?”   I said to the girl, and before she could reply, “Did we make it?”

“Easy lad, ye’ve been in an awful airplane crash but yer safe noo”, came her reply. Yer in a hospital in Scotland and I’m nurse MacKenzie here to take care of ye.  They brought you in ore three days ago noo and ye’ve got a good many broken ribs, several bad burns, and ye also hae a broken leg.  Yer plane crashed joost north o’ the river  ye see and they brought ye here ta the hospital.”

“Scotland.  Jesus!   We were supposed to be landing in England.”

“Well, it isna far ta England lad.  Is that where ye were headed then when ye crashed?”

“Yes, England, Molesworth, England.   The others, I said, what about the others?”

“Best no ta be thinkin aboot it, noo.” she whispered. “Ye’ve got the need ta focus all yer energy on gettin better. Ye are lucky ta be here alive an speakin ta me.”

Was there really nothing that she could do for this man? She was so tired and wanted to go rest but at the same time, she didn’t want to leave him. He needed her so badly and in a way, she needed him.

 “What do they call ye, Lad?” she asked gently.

She had seen his dog tags with the name James MacGregor and for some reason she felt that if he could tell her his name, then everything would be all right.

“MacGregor. James MacGregor.”

“Tis a pleasure ta meet ye, James. My name is Gillian, Gillian MacKenzie.” 

That made him smile and Gillian knew that all would be well.  

When I woke again, it was daytime and my body ached all over.  The nurse said my leg was broken.  I felt down my right leg, a hard cast as far down as I could reach.  She said not to be thinking about the others now.  I had the sickening feeling that I was the only one to make it.  I was lucky to be here were the words she spoke.  I tried to look up and down the rows of beds but my chest was hurting so bad, I could only manage a twist of my head.  She told me her name last night, what was it?  The hospital ward the night before was cast in the shadows from a single light at one end but I could see that she was very beautiful. Her voice seemed to flow out to me as though I was the only person in this large ward room.  I was quite anxious to see her in the daylight.

Three days I had been here she said.  I was all mixed up on days and times.  If this was true, it must have been close to the 14th of June now.   I closed my eyes for a few minutes and when I opened them, there at the foot of the bed stood the nurse and an old man in a white smock.

“James, this is Doctor Buchanan come ta see ye.  He’ll be wantin ta ask ye soom questions.”

He looked so familiar to me.  Who was it that he reminded me of...... my father?  The same grey hair and the balding head in front with the furrowed brow.  God Almighty, I must be dreaming all of this.  First I’m in Scotland and now here is this guy that looks just like my Dad.

“Good mornin lad, yer lookin a mite better than last I saw ye.  Nurse MacKenzie says ye been wi a wee bit o’ fever.”

Yes, that was her name, MacKenzie, Gillian MacKenzie.

He placed his hand on my forehead and I could feel that my head was clammy against his dry hand.

“Aye, it seems ta be gone noo.  Let me hae a look inta yer eyes lad.  Look straight inta tha light.  Hae ye been feelin any dizziness?”

“Only when I try to raise up, Doctor Buchanan.”

“Aye, ye’ll be a bit woozy fur a few days noo.  Ye got some nasty burns and scrapes but all ye need is some time ta heal lad.  Ye have been in a coma for nigh on three days now.  How does yer leg and chest feel?  Not sae good wi’ all tha bones broken, eh? When ye get a wi’ bit better, I hae a souvenir for ye, it’s a piece o metal that came oot of yer leg. “

“Yes, I hurt all over Dr. but the leg is the worst.”

“Aye, I’ll see tha nurse MacKenzie gives ye soomthin ta ease tha a bit more.”

In a few minutes, they were on to the next bed and on down the row to visit the rest of the patients.    I couldn’t get over how much the doctor looked like my dad.  He looked enough Like Dad to be his brother but that hardly seemed possible even if I was in Scotland.  It must be a coincidence as the last name was Buchanan.  None the less, it was something to think about.  How could they be brothers though unless Grandma was married twice??  Just then, the man in the bed next to me spoke.

“Hello, I’m David Sinclair.  So that was your plane that made all the noise.  It made an incredible blast and caused quite a commotion here in the hospital with all of us wondering what had happened.  Like the nurse said, you’re sure lucky to be alive.”

“Hi David, I’m James MacGregor.  I guess I am lucky at that.  How did you make your grand entry?”

“Oh, nothing quite so spectacular; I was in Sheffield on furlough and was on my way to Edinburgh to visit my uncle and I got into an automobile accident.  This was the closest hospital so I ended up here.  I knew I should have taken the train”

We talked on for a while about one thing and another and then Gillian MacKenzie was back with some pills for me to take.

“Here ye are lad.  Swallow these doon and I’m sure tha pain will be gone in no time.”

“Thanks nurse Mackenzie.  I hope you’re right about that.”

The pills Doctor Buchanan prescribed for me were quick to put me to sleep and it wasn’t until almost dark that I woke up again.  I could smell food.  It wasn’t something that I had thought about but the growls in my belly told me that I was hungry. A very young girl no more than 14 years old brought me a tray of food and was off to the others without saying a word.  It was just some broth and jello.  I could not remember taking the last bite and it was morning already.

“Gday to ye lad”, came the voice of Gillian MacKenzie as she hovered about me.  “Jamie, is it noo and a nice name it is ye hav.  I’ve come ta clean ye oop as best I  can.  Ye dinna have a lot thats no covered with bandages.”

She was much more beautiful than I had believed in the dim light the other night.  Her eyes were so green, somewhat like the Creoles that I had seen in Louisiana while in basic training, a kind of unreal bluish green.  She had a slight amount of freckles on her nose and cheeks and red hair, all tucked up under her white cap.  Her eyes were dancing about and every so often, a glance down at me.  I couldn’t take my eyes off her and every time her glance caught me, her lips curled in a little smile.

“Where in Scotland are we? What town is this, Miss Mackenzie?” 

“Yer in a small toon called Hawick”

“Hawick, Oh my God, are you sure that’s the name?   Is it spelled H-a-w-i-c-k?”

She looked at me a little startled and said, “Aye Lad, do you ken of it?” 

“This would be the Cottage Hospital then?  My father was born in this hospital. He was born in Hawick!!!” 

“Are ye sure lad, this is sooch a small toon”.  Gillian thought he must be hallucinating as she began to wash his arms.

 “Yes, I’m sure, it sits up on the high ground overlooking the parks, doesn’t it?” 

“Aye, it does that alright. It’s verra strange that ye cam to be here. Are ye sure aboot it lad?”

“The Horse, the 1514 Horse!  A picture of it is on the desk at my mother’s home in California.” 

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” she said, “yer nae hallucinating then, tis the horse memorial statue in toon.  Do ye ken anyone in Hawick?” 

 “My father has lots of friends here in Hawick but I have never met any of them.  I even have relatives here in Scotland but not quite sure where they live.  My parents lived in Glasgow for several years and both of my sister’s were born there.  Then they moved here to Hawick because it was my Father’s hometown.  I guess work was hard to come by then so they moved to Vancouver, Canada in 1920.”

“Och, I thought ye were an American.”

“Oh, that I am.  In 1922 my parents picked up stakes again and moved to a place called Struthers, Ohio. My father was told jobs were plentiful there.  I came along shortly after that.”

“Well, I hope ye are able to meet soom of yer father’s friends.”

“He spoke often of a man named Billy Burnet.  I think he was my Dad’s grade school teacher.”

She seemed startled that I knew the name.

Aye, that would be Drumlanrig Saint Cuthberts Primary School.  Mr. Burnet worked there many years back. He's headmaster at Henderson High School noo. I think he would like tae see ye. Would ye like me tae tell him yer here?  Henderson is joost across the street and doon a ways.  I can stop in on mei way home"

"Yes, that would be great nurse MacKenzie."

End chapter 1 


MacGregor’s Crashed B-17 Bomber






Chapter 2

Evelyn McCurdy


I had been here in the Cottage Hospital for four days now; five counting today.  I was still not able to sit up on my own and as I lay in bed daydreaming, my thoughts drifted to Evelyn again, this time going all the way back to the day I had first met her.  It was about two weeks before Christmas and  I had been out delivering groceries when I noticed the sign in the front window of the house right next to the store, `Room for Rent’. 

When I got back to the store, I asked my boss Morris about it and he told me Mrs. McCurdy lived there and she was having a hard time making ends meet.  He went on to tell me that her husband had been an alcoholic and beat her very badly one night.  It was soon after that she divorced him and ever since that time she had been living alone and just barely getting by.  The name sounded familiar to me but I just could not place her.

At the time, I was living all the way up on the north side of Youngstown and had to drive to work so I decided to go over and talk to her.  The minute she opened the door, I recognized who she was.  She would often come into the store for groceries and I remembered helping her on several occasions find what it was she was looking for.


Evelyn McCurdy, Struthers Ohio 1942

“Hello Mrs. McCurdy, I’m Jimmy from next door at the store and I’m interested in finding out about the room you have for rent.”

“Oh yes Jimmy, come in won’t you.  I can show you the room.  It’s very small but I will allow kitchen privileges if I can find the right person.”

She led me upstairs and showed me the bath and then into the bedroom and it had a single bed, a dresser and a small desk which was adequate for my needs.  She had mentioned finding the right person and I assumed I was ok otherwise she would not have gone to all the trouble of showing me the room.

“How much is it Mrs. McCurdy?”

“It’s $12.00 a week but that includes the kitchen privileges or I can let you have it for $10.00 a week if you are willing to do a few chores around the house.”

I was paying $12.00 a week where I was and had all that way to drive so this looked like a good move to me.

“I’m sure I can do the chores and this will save me a long drive to work, how soon can I move in?”

“Well, that certainly was a quick decision but I’m so happy you decided to take it.  I know that I will feel more comfortable having someone that I somewhat know living in the house.  The room is empty so you can move in anytime.”

I paid her the money for the room and told her I would move in this coming weekend.  She gave me a key to the front door and told me to be sure I locked the house whenever I left if she was not at home.  I decided to pack my car with all my stuff on Saturday before I came to work and I could move in on Saturday night after work.  I went back over to the store and told Morris that I was now his new next door neighbor.

“I had a feeling you would take that room.  When are you going to move?”

“It’s a really good deal for me.  I’m going to move in this weekend then starting on Monday, I can walk to work.”

It had been a week now since Pearl Harbor and still the news kept coming in on the small radio Morris had in the back of the store.  We were in it now having declared war on Japan, followed by Germany and Italy.  I was busy in the back most of the morning stripping the tops off canned goods and later putting the stock on the shelves.   I had thought about enlisting but after talking to my Mother on the phone, I gave up on that idea.  She wanted me to come out to California and see her before making such a decision.  I didn’t have enough money to make such a long trip but she told me she would send it Western Union.  I would turn 18 this coming year and wondered about my status as far as being drafted and decided to check it out sometime in next few days.  After work, I moved my car into the driveway between the McCurdy house and the store and drove all the way to the back to unload my stuff.  There was a nice covered porch in the back but I could see right off that the railing needed repairs.  Mrs. McCurdy was home and she greeted me at the door.

“Hello Jimmy, I see you have your things with you.”

“Yes, I’m all set to move in.  I don’t have a lot of stuff so it won’t take me long.  Is there somewhere I can park the car when I’m finished?”

“You can pull it to the left alongside the garage.  It’s paved all along there.  If you have time after you are done, we can sit down in the kitchen and go over the chores.”

It took me less than an hour to unload all of my boxes and clothes, a far cry from the huge truck load that carried all of my Mother’s things to California a few years back.   When I was all done, I moved the car alongside the garage and went in through the back door which led directly into the kitchen.  Mrs. McCurdy was standing at the sink preparing some food.

“Hi, sit down and have a cup of coffee with me and we can talk about the things I need you to do for me.”


As I sat down, she brought a cup and saucer and placed it in front of me, then poured the coffee.

“Do you take anything with it?”

“No, I drink mine black.”

“Me too.”

She sat down across the table from me and as I sat there this close looking at her, I couldn’t help but notice how pretty she was.  I thought she noticed me staring at her so I looked away. 

“So what chores did you have for me Mrs. McCurdy?”

“There are several important things I need you to do on a regular basis.  One is to tend the furnace and take out the ashes.  Those buckets of ashes are much too heavy for me to drag up out of the basement.   Another thing is the garbage.  I would like you to take that out daily and put it on my compost heap out back and last, I would like you to shovel the snow should we get any.  As we move into spring, I will need some help with the garden out back.”

“OK, I can do that with no problem.”

We had a coal furnace in our old house here in Struthers so tending the fire and doing the ashes was nothing new to me.  We even had a garden out back and did the same thing with the garbage on a compost heap.  As I sat there and sipped on my coffee, I could not help but wonder how old Mrs. McCurdy was.  She appeared to be about my sister’s age so I thought she might be about 30.   She showed me the portion of the refrigerator I could use and warned me not to use the front left gas burner on the stove because it had some kind of problem.  I thought I might have a look at it later on.

“I suppose you didn’t bring any food with you just yet but you can use the cupboard over here on the right.  Are you hungry?  I can fix you something.”

“Oh, I forgot.  I still have a few things up in my room.  I need to run up and get them because some are perishable.”

I went up and got all the food I had packed from my other place, some of it going into the refrigerator and the rest into the cupboard.  This whole arrangement seemed much better to me, most of all being closer to the store.  Mrs. McCurdy seemed much friendlier than my previous landlady, Mrs. Pollatz.

While I was putting all of my food away, I watched as Mrs. McCurdy busied herself with a plate of food for the both of us and she had me sit down at the table with her.  It had been a long time since someone had fixed me a meal such as this.  I was not much good at cooking and usually ended up making a sandwich or a can of Campbell’s Vegetable Soup.  As we sat there talking about one thing and another, I could see that she wanted to know more about why I was living alone and not with my family.

“Where were you born, Jimmy?”

“I was born here in Struthers, up on Wilson Street.  My parents had left Vancouver, Canada so that my Dad could get a job in the Steel Mills.  They had originally moved into the Sheet and Tube housing down at the end of 5th Street and just before I was born, they bought the place up on Wilson Street.”

“Do they still live there?”

“No, in 1937 we all moved to California.”

“By all, you mean, you, and your Mother and Father?”

“My sister’s too.  I have two sisters, Dorthia and Kathleen.”

“Oh my, the names Dorthia and Kathleen MacGregor really ring a bell with me.  When I was in high school, there were two girls with that name but surely they were too old to be your sisters?”

“That would be them.  They were both much older than me.  My mother was 45 when I came along.”

“Really, Oh my God, it’s so hard to believe that Dorthia and Kathleen are you sisters.  I used to pal around with them.  Are they doing well?  So, where in California did your family move to and how did you happen to come back here?”

“We moved to Hollywood.  They took all the money from the sale of the home here in Struthers and bought a small home up in the hills just north of town.  Dorthia has done real well. She graduated from nursing school and bought a small rest home that was faltering and has since built it into a very nice convalescent hospital.  Kathleen has not done nearly as well.  She took to drinking and it has more or less ruined her life.  As for me, I went one year to Hollywood High School and hated it.  The only good thing that came of it was that they advanced me one whole year because of some California entrance tests they had given me.  That following summer I had saved up enough money working for my Uncle George to make a trip back to see all of my friends here and decided to stay and spend my last year in school here in Struthers.”

“So you have more or less been on your own since you were 16 then?”

“Yes, after I graduated from high school, I got the job at the store and I have been there ever since.”

After we had eaten, I told Mrs. McCurdy that I would do the dishes but she insisted on helping so I washed and she dried.

“This is my first experience at renting a room out and so far, I think I am going to like having your company.  I want you to feel at home here and not feel obligated to spend all of your time in your room.  If you like, maybe we can split the food bill and both of us have meals together like we did this evening.”

“That sounds good to me but if you are to do the cooking, you have to let me do the clean up.  It’s only fair if we do it that way.”

“Good, it sounds like a wonderful arrangement to me.  I’m going into the living room and listen to the news now if you would care to join me.”

She had a small Emerson Radio just like my Dad’s over in the corner and tuned in the evening news on WKBN.  It just seemed to go on and on about the destruction to the US Fleet at Pearl Harbor.  They went on to say that the attack destroyed twelve American warships, 188 aircraft, and killed 2,403 American servicemen and 68 civilians.

“When will you be 18?  With the whole world at war now, surely they will find you a good candidate for the army.”

“I’ll be 18 this coming June.  I am going to check with the draft board the first of the week and see what they can tell me.”

Once the news was over, we sat there for a long while talking about a variety of subjects and it was nice, probably for both of us, not to have to sit alone in the evening.  Mrs. McCurdy told me that she worked in Youngstown at Stambaugh-Thompsons as a sales clerk.  She said the money was barely enough to get by on and that she was thrilled to have the extra money from me for the room.  She also mentioned graduating in 1925, the same year as my sister Dorthia so I knew right off that she was about 34.  It was almost 10 O’clock when I went down to tend the furnace for the night.

Things went on much the same for the next week, however, we started spending much more time together at the kitchen table drinking coffee and playing cards or checkers to pass the long cold winter nights.  It was getting close to Christmas and there was not enough money for gifts or a tree so I decided to get her a card.  On Christmas Eve, we were about to close the store and I asked Morris if he minded if I took one of the trees that we had left over.

“Yes, by all means, take one.  I think we only have about 3 left though. All the good ones have been picked over.

“OK, thanks”

Mike the butcher had to clear out some of his meat because of the holiday and he gave me several nice cuts of beef.  I was always first to get home from work so I took the best of the three trees and my package of beef and headed for the house.  I set the tree up in the living room and put one of my white sheets under it.  Mrs. McCurdy had a string of lights around the window so I took them down and draped them around the tree.  It was a bit barren but I thought when Mrs. McCurdy got home she might have some decorations.  Then I took the card and went into the kitchen and sat down at the table to sign it.   I sat there for the longest time wondering what to say to her.  I knew that financial problems were still a major concern for her just as they were for me but maybe things would improve with the two of us pulling together.  I took the pen in my hand and just started to write.

Mrs. McCurdy,

When situations begin to get you down, remember there's someone in Heaven who loves you and watches over you.  He knows the hardships you have been going through and I’m sure this coming year, with the both of us working together, things will be much better for you. I want you to know that there is someone on Earth who cares too… I do. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

James MacGregor

After I had signed it, I took it into the living room and put it on the stand next to the tree.  I went upstairs to shower and just as I was finishing up, I heard Mrs. McCurdy putting her coat away in the hall closet.  I laced my shoes and headed downstairs.  As I turned the corner into the living room, I saw that she had already gone over to the tree.  She had just finished reading my card.  She turned and faced me and I could see her eyes welled with emotion.

“Oh Jimmy, how sweet of you…….and the tree as well.  It was quite a shock to come home to this.”

She came right up to me and hugged me.  Her body was trembling slightly and I sensed that she was close to tears.

“It’s so wonderful having you here with me.”

“I hope you have some decorations for the tree.  It looks so barren the way it is.” 

“Yes, they are on the top shelf of the hall closet way in the back.   You will have to get them down while I go fix dinner.”

As she walked into the kitchen, I saw her bring her handkerchief to her eyes and dry the tears.  I got a chair and stood up on it looking in the back of the closet for the decorations.  I saw one marked X-Mas and took it down and opened it.  There were dozens of ornaments, icicles, even a white star for the top of the tree.  I walked into the kitchen and told her about the beef Mike had given me.  She decided that we would have the roast beef tomorrow for our Christmas Dinner.

It was the first of the year before I checked out my draft status and I found out that I had to register within 30 days of my 18th birthday.  The days blended into weeks at the McCurdy house and with each passing bit of time, Mrs. McCurdy seemed more a part of my life.  

 It was Thursday, the 5th of February at about noon when the snow started coming down.  By 5pm it was 8 inches deep and I began to worry about Mrs. McCurdy getting home from work.  When we closed the store at 6pm, I made my way through the snow to the garage and got out the shovel and began working on the driveway.  By the time I got to the end, there was another two inches had come down.  I shoveled a path to the back door and then went in and put on some coffee.  It was almost 7pm when she finally got there.  I opened the back door just as she was coming up the steps.

“Oh My God, I didn’t think I was going to make it.  The car was sliding all over the place.  I could hardly see where to turn into the driveway but then I noticed some bare spots where you had been shoveling right there at the front.”

“Yes, I just finished before you got here.  I think we are in the midst of a blizzard.  I have some fresh coffee in the pot.”

“I can’t tell you how thankful I am to be home and how wonderful it is to have a man around.”

“I was worried that you might not make it.  This is the heaviest snow we have had for a couple of years now.”

As we sat at the kitchen table drinking our coffee, I could not but help notice the changes that had come over Mrs. McCurdy in the past month.  She was smiling more, talking more and maybe it was just me but I thought with some of her comments that she was happier than she had been in a long time.  We were too late for the evening news so when dinner was over, we sat down in the living room and listened to music.

“What kinds of music do you like Jimmy?”

“Oh, most anything is ok with me.”

She kept going from one station to another finally settling in on a song by Glen Miller.  I had been to the pavilion in Idora Park one night and Glen Miller and his band was performing.  The place was packed.

“Oh, that one is nice.”

“Why don’t you start calling me Evelyn, at least here in the house.  Mrs. McCurdy makes me sound so old and married and I’m not you know.”

This was another one of those comments that Mrs. McCurdy threw my way that left me wondering how to interpret it.  I know that it would have been too bold for me to suggest it but I was ok with it now that she wanted to be called Evelyn.

“Do you know how to dance?”

“Yes, I used to go up to Idora Park to the dances all the time.  They get some really good bands up there.”

“I love to dance; come Jimmy, let’s give it a try.”

She stood up and extended her arms out to me and almost instantly we were gliding across the floor together to the tune of Stardust.  She didn’t hesitate to come up close and rest her head on my shoulder.  There was the faint smell of her perfume and the warmth of her breasts against my chest as we danced round and round the room.  It was an incredible feeling holding her in my arms like this and I wondered if she was experiencing the same feelings as me.

By morning the snow was 2 feet deep so there would be no going to work today.  I turned on the radio and found out that almost all the roads in Struthers were closed.  It had been years since we had a blizzard such as this and the snow was still coming down.  It was a good thing I left the shovel at the back door because the garage doors were buried with snow.  I began shoveling my way from the porch to the garage and then from there to the front of the house.  I could hear the scraping noise of shovels up and down the street as others were doing the same as me trying to dig out.   It was several hours before I had the driveway cleared all the way to the street.  From there, I could see that the store was still locked.  I cleared the sidewalk all the way to the front of the store then came back and did the walk way up to the front door of the house.  Once I had finished, I took the shovel and put it on the back porch again and went into the house.   Evelyn had made some coffee and she baked up a batch of sweet rolls that she glazed with white icing.  This was the third or fourth time she had made them and they were absolutely delicious.

“It’s such a mess out there.  I don’t think there will be any busses or cars running today.”

“Yes, I just heard on the news that all of the bridges in Youngstown are closed.

“You know you have me hooked on these sweet rolls.”

“I’m so glad you like them, they’re not easy to make though.  You have to let the dough raise 3 times. Have you ever tried your hand at cooking?  I would imagine living alone you had to do a bit of it.”

“Before I came here, I lived on canned soup and sandwiches.  I am a lousy cook.  One of the best parts of being here with you is the food……well that and having you to talk to.  I guess what I am trying to say is that I like living here with you.”

“It’s been good for me too in many ways.  Before you came I was mired down in hatred for Nick but I have been able to put it behind me and move on.  Don’t ever drink Jimmy.  It will only bring you unhappiness.”

“All I need do is look at my older sister and I know what that’s like.”

We talked for several hours before I heard the sound of the first snow plow to go by.  I walked back outside to see how they were doing and on the second pass, the driver told me it would be tomorrow before they had the main roads cleared.  Evelyn was glad to hear that because she could not afford the time off work.

By 2pm the snow had stopped coming down and I asked Evelyn if she would like to go sledding.

“Go sledding, are you crazy? The snow is 2 feet deep and where would we get sleds?”

“Right next door at the store there are enough cut up cardboard boxes to make a dozen sleds.  We can go right down that steep hill into the park.  It’s just on the other side of the store.  It will be fun. You’ll see.”

“You are so crazy but I am bored just sitting here so I’m going to say yes.  You’ve done this before I take it?”

“Yes, it’s been a while but we used to do it all the time.”

We both bundled up in winter clothes and Evelyn found some old leggings that she used to wear.  Meanwhile I went out to the garage and got a couple pieces of clothes line and a pair of scissors to cut some holes in the cardboard and we set out.  Once over alongside the store, I found several boxes that folded out over 6 feet long and then we tramped over to the other side of the store to where the steep hill was.  I showed Evelyn how the box flaps would fold up each side of her legs when she was sitting down and I punched the holes with the end of the scissors and ran the rope to hold them in place.  In a few minutes we had a cardboard toboggan with me slated to be in front and Evelyn behind me.  Then I made a rope handle for the front and left the scissors and extra rope on top of the other piece of cardboard.  Once it was all done, I pulled it right up to the edge of the hill and we got in.  I had Evelyn wrap her legs around me and come up real close.

“Oh my God Jimmy, I hope this works.”


Speeding Down the Hillside on a Cardboard Toboggan

It was a clear shot from the top of the hill down into the park.  As soon as the homemade toboggan broke the plane, we went sailing down the hill faster and faster.   I could hear Evelyn screaming in my ear and holding on to me for dear life.   There was a slight hump about half way down and the whole toboggan went into the air for a brief moment. By this time the trees to the right and left of us were just a blur as we went whizzing by.  I felt Evelyn’s arms tighten around me just as we leveled off at the bottom of the hill and went shooting out over the playground.  We went about half way across before coming to a stop.  Evelyn was screaming and laughing at the same time.  Then like two kids, we lay there in the deep snow laughing and making snow angels.

“You didn’t tell me it would go so fast.  Can we do it again?”

“Yes, we can do it again but now comes the hard part of getting back up the hill.”

I grabbed her hand and just as I started to pull her up, my foot sank in the deep snow and I came tumbling down right on top of her.  We both lay there motionless for a moment with the full weight of my body against hers staring into each other’s eyes before we broke out in laughter again.  I finally got up and pulled her to her feet and told her to follow me.  As best I could I made my way back to the foot of the hill to the wide stone steps that led down into the park from up above and the two of us trudged to the top of the hill.  We went down the hill another two times before deciding to call it a day.

It was close to 5pm when we got back to the house.  Evelyn put water on for coffee and then the two of us got out of our winter clothes.

“I had a wonderful time Jimmy.  You have a way of making something out of nothing.”

“It was fun; like riding the roller coaster at Idora Park only without all the people.”

“There was something about laying there in the snow at the bottom of the hill with the two of us in hysterics laughing.  It was the most excitement I have had in years.   I didn’t want it to end.”

I sat in the kitchen, the two of us talking, while Evelyn busied herself with supper.  She began to show me how to make various dishes from time to time and was really pleased with the discounts and specials Mike was giving me on meat.  Later that night we listened to the news with hopes that the major roads would be open by morning.

Winter drifted into spring and all of our indoor vegetable plants were flourishing.  We had cabbage, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, radishes, cauliflower, and lettuce. By April, I had the garden dug and had moved all the indoor plants out side.  I also began to make plans to go home and visit my Mother.  She had sent me the money and now that winter was all but over, I wrote to her and said I would be home at the end of May.  There was talk of gas rationing coming along soon and I needed to go before that happened.  I decided to talk to Morris in the morning.

I waited till break time to spring the news.  Mike had just finished making us all a bologna sandwich and as usual, we were all sitting there listening to the radio.

“Morris, I don’t think it will be too long before the Army has their hands on me and I would like to go home and visit my Mom before then.  I promised her I would come and see her. Do you think I can get the first two weeks in June off work?”

“I’m sure we can get the new kid to work a few more hours while you go home so don’t worry about it.  He’s out delivering groceries right now and I’ll tell him when he gets back. By the way, when do you have to register for the draft?”

“OK, thanks.  I have to register at the end of June so by then we will know what’s going to happen.”

“So only a couple weeks after you get back, you could be Army bound then.”

“Yes, and the uncertainty of everything is driving me nuts.”

That night I talked to Evelyn about my trip and although it would not affect her in the same way as Morris, she was both glad and sad at the same time.

“I’m really going to miss you.  The past six months with you here has changed my whole life for the better but I know you have to go see your Mom.  What worries me more is the fact that you might have to go into the Army.   Just the thought of war frightens me and the thought of you being part of it…….I just don’t know how I will handle that.”


End chapter 2






Chapter Three

Discovering Hawick

The morning proved to be rather busy for Gillian and the other nurses. Several more patients, all part of a Government Assistance Program designed to accommodate war casualties, were brought in, all needing special care. There was one soldier who was so badly injured that it was just a matter of time before he passed on. There was too much internal bleeding and nothing that could be done. Gillian's heart broke for this man. She couldn't help but to think about what his family must be like and how they would react to his death. She knew that every family tries to prepare themselves for just such an event when they have a loved one going off to fight, but the reality of it was something different altogether. She prayed that this man could live but deep down inside, she knew it was futile. He didn't have much time left.

The afternoon was not as hectic and Gillian found that the pace was slow enough to allow her a break. She went to the dying soldier and sat down in a chair next to his bed. He didn't have much longer and she just couldn't let him die alone. He was looking in the opposite direction from her and was staring out the window. His mind was obviously on life outside the window; he hadn't heard the starchy rustle of her uniform.

It was a beautiful day filled with blue skies and sunlight. She could hear the cheerful birdsong and the leaves whispering in the trees. Without thinking, Gillian reached out and grabbed his hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. At that he turned his head to look at her and said, "Do you see how brilliantly blue the sky is?" He knew he was dying and it tore at her heart. He is just a baby, she thought.

"Aye, I do. Do ye mind if I share it wi' ye?"

The young man smiled warmly, squeezed her hand and said, "That would be nice. My name is Christian Porter."

His breathing was getting labored and Gillian had to struggle to keep back the tears.

"Weel, Christian, my name is Gillian and I thank ye for spending this time wi' me. Is there anythin' at all that I can be doin' for ye, noo?" she asked softly.

She watched his face as a single tear fell down his cheek.

"I'm scared. You being here with me means more than you could ever know." His imploring and pain filled eyes remained locked with hers. "Please tell my family that I didn't die alone. That I had a beautiful angel holding my hand. They will feel better knowing that." He winced, then, and coughed violently but he clung tightly to her hand.

When the coughing stopped, he looked at her again and whispered, "I told them before I left that I love them all so very much it hurts. I need to say it again, though. Could you please be sure that they know it?"

"Aye, Christian. I'll do that for ye. Ye can depend on it." At that he kissed her hand and smiled. She smiled back but it was all too much and Gillian let her tears fall. The next moment his chest shuddered with a last breath and he was gone. She held his hand for a few moments more and before she pulled the blanket up over his head, she drew her fingertips over his empty eyes to close them, kissed his cheek and said "Ye're the angel, Christian, ye brave young lad. I will forever be thankful that I could share the earth and the sky wi' ye. Go in peace." She told herself that she must be strong and to pass his message along immediately.

All of a sudden she needed to see young James MacGregor. He was asleep but just seeing him breathe steady was enough to reassure her and make her smile. He was going to live. He was such a handsome lad and quite tall she thought. It wouldn’t be long before he was up and about. She was having a difficult time looking at him directly on for some reason. It seemed that every time their eyes met, she had to look away. Tomorrow she would shave his face......maybe then it would be easier to have a good look at him.

Nurse Gillian MacKenzie



The medication that Dr. Buchanan had given me put me to sleep most of the time. It was intended to ease the pain but I didn't like being asleep most of the day. The evening was fast approaching when I woke again.  I could hear all the clatter of trays and the routine bustle of the ward and knew that it must be dinner time I was hoping to see Gillian MacKenzie but it was another nurse that was bringing the trays. She was much older, maybe in her fifties but very pleasant in her manner.

"Here, let me crank ye up, lad. I'm nurse Mary Beth and will be wi' ye until morning”.

I wasn't too crazy about the nurses cranking the bed up. I hated to let on about the pain. It made my chest hurt terribly. Seven broken ribs they said; and I felt every one of them.

She placed the tray of food on the table which swung over the bed above my lap. Soup of some sort, jello, pudding, milk, jelly, tea, and a slice of bread. Much more than I thought I could eat.

“Nurse Gillian said yer faither is from Hawick. Where is yer faither noo, lad?"

"He's in California, Hollywood California.”

"Och my, what would a Teri be doin in California?"

As I started on the jello, I smiled to myself at the familiar sound of that word. I remembered my father explaining to me a Teri was a Hawick word for one of the town's natives.

"We moved there because my Mother went out there to recover from and illness and she liked it so much she got him to move. I think he likes it now but he won't admit it to my Mother."

She continued to fuss with things, getting me water and a napkin.

"How long ago did yer faither leave Hawick. Were ye born in America?"

"Yes, I was the only one in the family to be born in the United States. My father left Hawick in 1920. He always told me work was hard to find in Hawick. He last worked at the Wilson& Glenney Mills here in Hawick. Is it still here?"

"Och yes, my oldest brother works there. A warper he is.”

"Oh, my father used to be a warper as well."

I wondered if there were still some old guys at the Mill that would still remember my father. I knew that my father would be delighted that I was here in Hawick let alone if I got the chance to talk to one of his friends of so long ago. I must have been hungrier than I thought because I ate almost everything.                                        


The effect Christian's death had on Gillian shocked her. When she got home that night she sat alone in the dark and started to cry. All the emotion had been building for days and she just couldn't hold it back any longer. She cried for what seemed like hours. The tears were not solely for Christian, but for all the souls that death had claimed. She told herself that death is a natural part of life, but she had a hard time accepting it for the ones who still had so much life left to live. The young ones. Their time was cut short and it saddened her. What a senseless waste.

As she sat there staring out the window and crying, Gillian heard her mother's soothing and loving voice whisper, "Och, Gillian, dinna cry, my love. The Almighty, He takes the very special an' precious souls early because He wants tae have them close by. All the young people who leave the earth early have fulfilled their purpose in life. Dinna be sad for them, my dearest darling, for they are all so verra happy noo. They are wi' their Father. Ye must believe me for I ken what I say. Ye are verra special, my Gillian. Ye have great purpose in life. Dry yer tears noo an' always remember that I love ye."

Her mother had died two years back and Gillian missed her terribly, yet she knew her mother was always there with her. Tomorrow she will try to spend some more time with James. She really liked the young man and thought to herself that he was really quite bonny. Just thinking about him made her smile and before another moment could pass, her tears stopped and she felt better. Before she went to bed she looked up at the star filled sky and said, "I love ye, too, mither, an' I thank ye for yer words of comfort. Please go an' find young Christian Porter. He is a good man and I ken that ye will love him." She then blew a kiss skyward and whispered, "Keep this wi' ye, the both of ye, and always remember my love."


I had a very restless night waking up several times and finding it hard to get back to sleep. I knew that all the others in the plane were dead. It was so hard to believe that I kept pushing it to the back of my mind. And I felt guilty for surviving.

I had to urinate badly and was searching for the container. Just when I thought I would wet the bed, the nurse Mary Beth came down the line of beds and saw my plight. In a moment, she had produced the bottle and spent a couple of minutes across the aisle of the ward, presumably fussing over one of her charges. She returned and took the now warm and half-full urinal away to the sluice room. I settled myself down to try and sleep again.

It was daylight when I woke again and there sitting next to the bed was a man wearing a flat Tweed cap and reading a book.

"Ah, yer awake, Lad", he said, "I'm Billy Burnet".

Billy Burnet, Hawick Scotland 1943



He wasn't at all what I expected to see. He looked no older than my father and he had a long grey beard, small round spectacles. His eyes were set very close together and his nose was fairly long and pointed. He was wearing a brown suit with a vest and I noticed that he had a gold watch fob much the same as my grandfather's. It was almost like looking 10 years back to the last day I saw grandfather's watch as he lay there in his coffin.

"Hello Mr. Burnet, I'm James MacGregor."

He put his glasses in their case and put them in his suit pocket and said, "Aye, I ken, Miss MacKenzie stopped by and told me ye were here. Everyone in the hospital and many in toon have been talkin' of ye. Verra strange yer plane crashin' in Hawick. Ye must hae been way off course tae come doon here. So tell me aboot Arthur. It's been nigh on a year since I had word."

"Oh, yes, my Dad. Well they are in California now, you know. They left Ohio with a truckload of household belongings about three years back now."

"Aye, and what of Hilda. She was such a bonnie lass ye ken. 'Tis been almost twenty years since seein' the both of them."

I wondered if he had heard that my mother and father had almost divorced over going to California. 

"She's doing very well. They bought a home not too far from downtown Hollywood and both seem quite happy now. Mom, recovered fully from her hysterectomy and Dad is in good health as well."

"When ye get well, ye must come tae the hoose. My daughter Annaliese is aboot yer age and asked if she might come and visit wi' ye."

"That would be wonderful, Mr. Burnet. The days pass very slowly here and it would be nice to meet her. There's not much I can do but talk. I can't put my mind to book reading even though they have plenty of magazines and such here."

"Well, it's done then, lad. I'll tell her tonicht and she will be here the 'morn."

We talked for well on an hour before he had to be off to the School and promised to stop in on me again. Somehow, I drew comfort both from the conversation with Mr. Burnet and being in my parents' home town. I didn't feel they were thousands of miles away.

Billy Burnet had no sooner gone than Gillian MacKenzie was there with a tray of fixings to shave me. She began by tying a fluffy white towel around my neck and then proceeded to lather my face with a brush. At one point, she came so close to me that I could smell the fresh fragrance of her. It had seemed an eternity that a woman had been so close to me. I wanted to ask her about some writing paper and pen but it would have to wait until she was done with this.

"Are ye ready fer me tae take the hair off yer face noo?" 

She was sitting alongside me on the bed now and all I could manage was a very weak "Yes, I am."

Gillian began shaving me with the expertise of a professional. I could tell she had done this job many times before, as she deftly scraped the razor over my face; first on one side, then the chin and then the other. She tilted my head up and did my neck and when she was all done and had wiped my face clean, she said,

"Weel noo Jamie, let's see ye lad."

She put her fingers under my chin and turned my face directly straight on and looked into my eyes.


Gillian was determined not to look away. His features were overwhelming, she thought. He had deep blue eyes that seemed to have locked onto hers and though it was only a moment, she felt the sudden urge to look at the rest of him. Very quickly she let her eyes look at his lips, his black wavy hair, his dimpled chin and back to his blue eyes again.

"Aye lad, a fine lookin man ye are noo with the whiskers all gone."


This was another new experience for James. While Gillian had managed to sponge bathe him, he had never been shaved.....not even by a barber. He was more than excited to have her fussing over him and the closeness of her was almost more than he could stand. As she stretched to get to his face, he could feel her body touching him. She was so beautiful up close and had such a wonderful vibrant look about her. When she took his chin and turned his face, he had a very strong feeling that she was experiencing the same emotions as he was. As he watched her eyes darting about his face he said in his best attempt at a Scottish brogue, "Aye Lass, and a fine looking woman you are too," and with that, Gillian stood up and, smiling, gathered the shaving gear and removed the towel from around his neck.

"Nurse MacKenzie, do you think that it would be possible to get a pen and paper so that I can write home?"

"Well noo, I think that could be arranged providin' yer no' sae formal, lad. Ma name's Gillian. I'll be wi' ye at least a month and I'll be callin' ye Jamie if ye dinna mind."

Mind, I thought to myself, thrilled would be more like it. She looked absolutely beautiful today and if she came that close to me again........well, what could I do but look at her. She couldn't help but know that she was a very pretty woman. One look in the mirror would tell her that. I watched as she poured fresh water out of the pitcher and into my glass. She had this way with her eyes......a fast look at me and then away and back again followed by the little curl of her lip as she smiled.

"Gillian, that's a lovely name. I've never heard it in America before. I need to write home awfully bad. My Mother worries about me a lot and as you know, the only thing I own at the moment is this gown you have me dressed in."

"Aye, thats all the clothes ye'll be needin fer a while noo." She laughed sweetly and said, "I'll do my best for ye, lad, but supplies are limited. Yet I suppose pen and paper willna break the bank, noo would it?"

She was feeling better today and was happy to see that Jamie was in fine spirits as well. They say that laughter is the best medicine, and although there is no physical evidence to prove that such is true, Gillian thought it couldn't hurt to smile and laugh to lift the lad's spirits.

 All of a sudden James's eyes took on a look of great sadness. Concerned, she asked, "What is it, lad? What makes ye so sad?"

He struggled with his emotions as he spoke. "I know the rest of the men from my aircraft are dead and it is very painful for me. I don't even remember what happened."

Gillian realized that she had made a mistake by not telling him what had happened, but she honestly felt that he wasn't strong enough yet to handle the news. However, it slowly dawned on her that he needed to know.

"I'm sorry for keepin' the news from ye, but I didna think ye were strong enough yet. Not all the men perished. There is one other that survived. He is in a serious condition, though. I didna want tae tell ye anythin' aboot him until I kent that he was goin' tae make it. His name is Jack Hetrick." She grabbed his hand and looked at him with regret in her eyes, "Do ye think ye can forgive me, lad?"

"Jack Hetrick, Christ Sakes, Jack's alive? Where is he, Gillian?"

"Well noo, he's in a special room at the other end of the hospital and he's verra bad off still."

Jack was from Texas and was a real cowboy. I had met him at radio school and we had been together ever since.

"Can I see him?"

"Yer in nae condition to move aboot today lad. Ye can hardly sit up tae eat just noo. Maybe after a day or so, ye can.  Besides, Mr.Hetrick is still verra sick and he wouldna ken ye were there."

"Gillian I could kiss you right now. You’ve made me so happy with the news of Jack."

Gillian looked at me and her lip curled in a slight smile. I hadn't meant to blurt out that part about kissing her; however, the thought of it was rather intriguing. I looked up into her eyes and they seemed to be smiling down at me. She was still holding my hand in hers and I felt her give me a slight squeeze. I thought I detected a slight blush as she said, "I'll be back shortly with the pen and paper."

I watched as she walked away. It had seemed an eternity since I had thought about a woman; let alone being with a woman. I wondered if Gillian might like me enough to have me over to her house when I got better. I knew so little about her and yet she seemed so nice. Maybe we could go up on Miller's Knowes. My father and mother told me of how nice it was there, far above the town.

In a few minutes, Gillian was back with a pad, pen, and clipboard.

 "Here ye are, Lad".

Before she could leave, I said, "What’s it like up on Miller's Knowes?"

"Well, for someone from America, ye seem tae ken a lot aboot Hawick. It is far oop on the hill, quite beautiful oop there. Ye can see most of the toon. I often go there just to lay in the tall grass and look up at the sky and dream of far off places like America and Canada. I would like tae visit there one day but I dinna think I could stay awa' from Scotland too long."

End Chapter 3








Chapter 4
Writing Home


After leaving Jamie to write his letter home, Gillian decided to check in on Jack Hetrick. She was pleased that Jamie wasn't angry at her for withholding the information about Jack Hetrick surviving the plane crash, but she honestly thought it was for the best. She hadn't anticipated Jamie's reaction. To tell the truth, it never occurred to her that Jamie and Jack might be close friends, though thinking it over, she realized that men thrown together in wartime were bound to become close. She was glad of it, though, because she knew that the two men really needed each other now. They were both very badly injured and in a strange place far away from home; although the young Mr. MacGregor seemed to know a lot about Hawick even though he had never lived here.

She reached Jack's bedside and saw that he was still unconscious. He had been that way since before he was brought into the hospital due to a serious head injury and now he lay in the bed motionless, his head swathed in bandages. Gillian set her hand on his arm and said softly, "Good day tae ye, Mr. Hetrick. My name is Gillian an' I am here tae tell ye that ye need tae come oot of yer sleep noo. Jamie MacGregor survived the crash wi' ye and he needs ye, Jack. I ken that ye need him as well. We are takin' care of the two of ye as best we can, but we need ye tae be helpin' us noo. Fight it, Jack! I ken ye can beat it."

She wasn't sure if he could hear her, but she squeezed his arm and decided to keep talking to him. Giving him words of encouragement. "Ye are such a brave lad and ye have so much life ahead o' ye. Ye look like a smart and interesting young man and I think I would like tae talk wi' ye, lad, when ye decide tae wake up. Och noo, ye've come this far already. Come back tae us, Jack. Jamie's waitin' tae see ye."

She stayed with him for a few minutes more. She would have to get back to her ward shortly.  She looked down at his tender young face and sent up a silent prayer for his swift recovery. She would come back at her next break and check on him again, hoping there would be some improvement in his condition. She really hoped that Jack would wake up soon so that he could be reunited with Jamie.

Jamie. The thought of him made her smile. Such a warm and tender young man; so handsome too. She liked him the first time she saw him. When she returned to her ward, she looked across the room to Jamie's bed and saw that he had fallen asleep with the pen still in his hand.

She went over to his bedside and gingerly took the pen and clipboard away from him to place them on the bedside table. She was almost tempted to read the letter he started to see if he had written home about her. She doubted that he did, but she was curious anyway. As she flipped the clipboard over she was overcome by guilt and was instantly ashamed that she would consider invading someone's privacy. So, she quickly placed the letter and pen on the bedside table and turned to go back to her duties.


I didn't know whether to write to my Mom or Evelyn first. It was hard to believe that I had been in Great Britain less than three months and so much had happened to me in such a short time. In fact it was even harder to believe that a year had gone by since getting drafted. I thought I had been lucky to be placed in the army air force at first but with all that had happened I wasn't so sure. Then again with all the doggies on the ground, maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.


Dear Mom and Dad,

All is well with me. I can't tell you where I am because they told us not to give any information out about locations or how many are in our group.

This secrecy is so hard, I know, but I think you will know where I am when I tell you that I got a visit from Billy Burnet yesterday.  Now, don't panic. I am in the hospital therel. I can't tell you much about it, as I said, but please believe me when I say I'm okay.

Billy Burnet and I had a nice long talk and he will be back to visit with me soon. He sends his best regards and looks forward to hearing from you soon. He wasn't at all like I expected him to be. He is the Headmaster at the High School now. I hope to be able to get about the "Grey Auld Toon" very soon now. I broke my leg and some ribs but it is all going to heal nicely, so they say. So don't worry, I'm fine.

I have met a very nice young lady here. Her name is Gillian MacKenzie. She is a nurse at the hospital and she is taking very good care of me. She is quite pretty too. I was asking her about Millers Knowes as you had mentioned it so often. I think she will take me up there once my leg gets out of the cast and I am able to get about again. I can hardly wait to get down the hill to the High Street and look around. I don't know how long I will be here. At least a couple of months anyway.

My address is still the same, APO 3852564, N.Y., N.Y. I don't know when the mail will catch up with me. I hadn't thought to ask but you could put a note to me in with a letter to Mr. Burnet and I may get it quicker that way.

All my love,

Your son James

Well, now to tackle the other letter.


Dear Evelyn

I miss home so very much. I can't tell you where I am as they said we should not put any information in letters as to our whereabouts. "Loose Lips Sink Ships" they said.

I can't begin to tell you how much I miss you. I wish we were sitting at the kitchen table right now just talking and having coffee. The only thing I can tell you is that I broke my leg and it is still in a cast.  I'm OK though, so don't worry. It is healing nicely and I'll be up and around in no time. I would imagine that work there is much more plentiful with the war on and such.

All I can think about is coming home. I'm sure that it will be a long while before that happens. If you have any trouble with the cars, go up and see Glen. I know he will still be there, having the bum leg that he does....


just how long that would be was something that I thought of very often. Well, I had plenty of time to think now, lying in bed watching the world go by. As I sat back against the pillows with the pad in my hand, I felt very sleepy and found my eyelids were getting very heavy.

When I awoke, the pad and pen were up on the stand. I wondered if Gillian was still here. I wasn't sure of the time, not dark outside yet though, so she might well be here. She had been so nice to me.  My thoughts then turned to Jack. He was a bit worse off than me but I was sure he would be OK. If God had wanted to take him, he had the chance to do it already.  As I lay there thinking, Gillian came into the ward.

"I have good news for ye, Jamie!" exclaimed Gillian . "Ye have been given the liberty tae raise yer carcass up an' oot of that bed! I am here tae help ye do it lad!"

She smiled brightly at him and laughed when she saw Jamie's look of confusion as he looked from his cast to her face.

"Walk? Isn't it rather soon to take the cast off, Miss MacKenzie?" I knew that if I called her Miss MacKenzie, she would probably say something about it. She didn't have a ring but she could well be a Mrs. to some lucky guy in Hawick.

"Please call me Gillian, ye sweet lad! And no, the cast wilna come off fer some time yet. That disnae mean that ye canna be up and about, though."

At this James smiled and asked, "And you are here to help me, would this be considered grunt work or job satisfaction?"

She laughed and said, "I dinna ken the meanin' of grunt work, but I'll have ye know that I volunteered fer this assignment. So, if ye are askin' aboot satisfaction, then ye should ken that I shall be verra satisfied, indeed, tae see ye at yer full height an tae be the one tae help ye propel yerself aboot."

Her enthusiasm was contagious! James was greatly amused by this and was in just the right mood to play along. "Weel noo, ye wee lass," he started while mimicking her accent, "what incentive do ye have that will urge this carcass to propel himself aboot? After all, ye have been takin' such good care of me since my arrival that I have become accustomed to bein' a slave tae yer services."

Gillian, while feigning mock surprise, replied with "Ye want incentive do ye? Slave tae my services, is it? Ye are a feisty one, aren't ye! Did I think fer one second that' ye were at all serious, I would put yer other leg in a cast, ye wee scoundrel! As it is, how would a seat by the windae suit ye?"

James liked seeing this playful side of her and couldn't help but to share in her good humor. "Tell me first,  how are you to help me to, as you put it, propel my carcass about?"

"Well, it'll no' be right away. Ye have tae understand ye've been in that bed, virtually flat on yer back for some time now. If ye get up sudden like ye'll go all dizzy an' end up flat on yer back on the floor. So, for the first couple o' days, ye will be sittin' in the chair. Then if ye are alright after that, we get ye a pair o' crutches.  A bit o' practice an' yer away!"

"Why nurse Gillian, I do believe you have just offered me the incentive I was looking to find. Do you think that you can handle me?"

"Ye needna be afraid for I am stronger than my stature would have ye believe. Noo, give me yer hand, lad, and let's begin this adventure!" She held out her hand, smiled sweetly and wiggled her fingers in invitation.

The thought of getting out of bed and on my feet had been on my mind for several days now. The pain in my chest was still there but more bearable now than it had been and I was very excited about getting to the window, but not without some trepidation.  So far my only view of Hawick had been looking up at the ceiling, the fan and back and forth down the long row of beds. I slowly edged my body to the side of the bed, being careful of my leg, which felt very heavy, covered from knee to foot with plaster of paris. I carefully sat up on the edge of the bed and felt quite dizzy. I waited a few minutes, until my body got used again to being in the vertical position. Gillian stood patiently by my side, waiting for me to steady myself. I felt slightly scared at first but the feel of Gillian's shoulder under my arm and her arm round my waist soon had me thinking different thoughts and I gingerly stood up. It was so gratifying just to hear her speak and here I was now with my hand on her shoulder with her soft words of encouragement in my ear. She felt very soft to the touch and I wondered if I dare a slight squeeze. I thought better of it and so we slowly moved toward the chair with me hopping clumsily and her steadying hand guiding me until I sat heavily, but gratefully into the wicker chair by the window. I felt exhausted by that small effort, but glad I had done it.


She liked that he seemed happy at the idea of him having to hold her to keep himself upright. In all honesty, she wanted to feel his arms about her and that was why she volunteered to be the one to get him out of bed. After struggling to his feet, she immediately put herself under his arm and grabbed hold of him while he found his balance. She was surprised to find that Jamie was almost a foot taller than her five foot three. Once his balance had been set, the two very slowly started to shuffle and hop to the window. Gillian praised him repeatedly with "That's good, Jamie!"

"Now yoo've got it!" until they reached their destination.

Once reaching the window and getting Jamie seated, Gillian was so exhilarated and happy for him.

"Weel done, lad! We'll rest up a bit here before we put ye back tae bed."


It was a little hard getting down into the chair but once seated, I felt much better about the short journey from the bed to the chair. As I looked up at her, she had that little curl at the corners of her lips. Her face was a little flushed but she looked so beautiful just now. I finally managed to say,

"Thank you for being so kind to me. One of these days I won't be so restricted and I will be obliged to return the favor."

"Weel then lad, best ye get yerself healed first", as she left me there to look out the window.

The hospital was on the high ground overlooking Volunteer Park. They played Rugby there and right next to it was the Cricket Pitch, all of this as described to my by my Father.  With the war on, I wondered if there were enough men left in Hawick to play any of these games now. Everything was such a beautiful green outside, no sign of war out there, just the immense green lawns, beautiful flowers, and all sorts of trees everywhere. I don't know what I expected to see, tanks, jeeps, soldiers? There were a good number of men here in the hospital but not too many in uniforms. I got the impression that most of them had been brought here to recover, more on the order of a rest home than a hospital. There was only the one doctor and all these patients, some with missing arms and others with legs amputated. I would have to ask Gillian about the others. In any event, outside it looked as though I had come down in a neutral zone where the war seemingly didn't exist except for the wounded like me. They must  be sending the wounded soldiers to hospitals throughout Great Britain, I thought.

I felt as though I had lived in this town. It was a weird feeling that I was looking down the hill at a town that I knew only from my father's talking of it so often. It would not be too long before I would be up and about, but how long would I be here after I was well enough to walk? I wondered how long it would be before the army caught up with me. I was most anxious to walk down to the High Street and visit the Hawick News.

Billy Burnet had been sending my father the paper as far back as I could remember. It would be nice to see Wilson&Glenny too. And what about Gillian. She had such a lovely face and her eyes seemed to take in everything as they danced about. I wondered about her hair as it was always tucked up underneath her white cap. It appeared to be an auburn color, almost a mahogany I thought and I remembered seeing a few reddish wisps under her cap. As I sat there looking out the window, the sun was overtaken by fog that seemed to slide in and replace the warm rays. I hadn't been in Great Britain long but the sun never seemed to stay out the whole day as it did back home. I hadn't been in Hawick long either and already I had my eyes on another woman, Gillian MacKenzie.

Jesus, what was it I needed, a flock of women? It was bad enough I had Peggy and Evelyn to think about let alone adding another.  As I sat there and pondered over my problems, I noticed a woman headed my way.

"Hello James, my name is Annaliese but everyone calls me Anna. Billy Burnet is my faither."

Annaliese Burnet

She extended her hand to me and as we shook hands with each other, I couldn't help but think that Hawick had its share of pretty women. She was strikingly attractive with her wide brimmed hat and long curly locks.  I invited her to pull up a chair. The wicker chairs were quite light and she managed to slide one over as she seated herself facing me.

"Hello Anna, so nice to meet you. Your dad told me you would be over. I'm so glad that you came as the days seem to drag along so. I never heard my Father mention you, just your Dad. I can remember all the way back to when I was 6 years old and the paper coming from your Dad in Hawick all the years of my life. It was always folded the same way down to about the size of a letter and neatly tied with a heavy string."

"Really? I was the one that took most o' those little packets doon tae the Post. Da was always sure tae have me take it on Monday efter the week end."

"I was always fascinated with the stamps on them. They were so much different than ours and I used to pull them off and save them.”

"So, how are ye gettin' on? It must hae been an awful experience for ye with the plane crashin' and all. Da took me out to the hillside where ye came doon and there was no much left but the tail and the engines strewn aboot."

As she was talking, I couldn't help but notice the brogue being a little different than Gillian and the others; sort of softer, somehow. Besides being a very attractive person, she had a lovely voice and when she smiled, the most beautiful white teeth I had ever seen. I wondered how old she was, perhaps 25-26. By this time, I was beginning to understand all the words that had been spoken in this tongue that was so different from my own.

"Oh, I'm doing o.k. I feel so bad about the rest of the crew but two of us made it and I guess we have the tail of the plane to thank for that. From what you’ve told me, that’s the only part that didn't break up.  I have no idea what my friend Hetrick was doing back in the tail section.  He should have been up forward in the waist gunner opening. I think I will be able to see him soon and find out what he remembers of the crash. He's still quite ill, of course, but I hope we'll talk soon."

"Da says tae have ye over for supper once ye get well enough tae move aboot. Do ye have anythin' special ye would like me tae cook, James?"

"Well, since you asked and the food here in the hospital is not all that great, do you know how to make Yorkshire Pudding?"

"Aye, Yorkshire Pudding is one o' my specialties. How aboot a leg of lamb thrown in for good measure wi' some nice roast potatoes an' gravy?"

"You are making my mouth water just at the thought of it. Anna, it’s been a very long while since I had just such a meal. I can hardly wait. My Mom used to make it all the time."

Just then, Gillian came over with some pills and a glass of water for me.

"Here ye are, Jamie, take these doon now. Hello Anna, how are ye? I havna seen ye in a long time noo.  Are ye back tae stay or do ye have more studyin 'tae get back tae?"

"Hello Gillian, I'm home for the whole summer and then it's back tae the University in Edinburgh for one mair year. Ye look well, Gillian. This hospital work must agree wi' ye."

"Aye,  it does. I'm so glad I took the nurses trainin' otherwise I wouldna hae the opportunity tae tend the likes o' this handsome man sittin' next tae ye. James has told me that yer Da and his are friends from away back."

The three of us chatted for a while and then Gillian excused herself and went back to her work. Anna said that she also had some errands to run and would stop in and see me again. Once more she promised to fix a grand meal for me after I was able to get up and around by myself.

 Hawick must be an awfully small place as everyone seemed to know the others by first name. Annaliese, what a beautiful name I thought. I was certain that I would go there for dinner as soon as I could walk again.

My thoughts were soon interrupted by a man who walked up to me and said, "Hello, would you be James MacGregor?" He was a short man probably in his sixties, a round pudgy face in spite of his lean body, grey business suit, and a flat cap to match. His face was very ruddy and he had a pleasant smile.

"Yes, I'm James MacGregor", as I extended my hand out to greet him. He had a firm solid grip and in a moment, he pulled up a chair.

He said, "I'm JR Robertson. I teach at Henderson School part time and write for the Hawick News. Billy Burnet told me ye were here. I am a friend of yer faither too, but only by mail."


JR Robertson, Hawick Scotland 1943

I had never heard my father mention a JR Robertson before and wondered why as my father was not one to leave out anyone in Hawick that he could talk about, not even the local band that played at so many festivities.

"My father never spoke of you," I said, hoping not to sound rude.

"Aye, it’s only been a few years that yer faither and I have corresponded. He writes quite often tae the editor of the News, ye see, and it all ends up on my desk. He has some verra stong opinions aboot many things."

"That would be my father", I said, smiling at this stranger. He seemed to know my dad, anyway.

"Well, I have come tae do a story aboot ye, lad. I thought ye might tell us aboot yersel' and we could manage somethin' in the News that the Hawick folks could relate to. It is quite an event, yer plane crashing just north of Teviot and you and the other young lad being the only survivours and yer faither livin here and all."

As we sat and talked, I could see that Gillian was having a conversation with Nurse Murray and I got the feeling that it had something to do with JR Robertson as they both kept looking our way.


"Gillian, that young patient of yours seems tae be the popular one, aye?" said Nurse Murray as Gillian approached. "What wi' Billy Burnet, then Anna, and noo JR Robertson visitin'. He's no' from aroond here, I ken that."

"No, he is from America. His father was born here, though. Spent a good many years here before movin' on. The lad says his father told him so much aboot Hawick that it almost feels like home."

"Och, I thought there was a good reason fer it. So, these gentleman are friends of his father, then, and Anna, I wonder what brings her here? He is definitely a bonny lookin' laddie noo, isn't he? Have ye noticed how he seems tae look right through ye with those big blue eyes o' his? And that dark wavy hair. It's nae wonder ye spend so much time tendin' tae his needs. I watched ye the other day shavin' the ye ken if he's got a girl back home, Gillian? I'd be willin' tae wager ten pounds  that he's nae a virgin. Ye'd better watch yerself."

Gillian hadn't really thought about it. In fact, the realization caught her off guard. He hadn't mentioned having a girl back home, but that didn't mean that he didn't have one. Then again, it was highly unlikely that such a handsome man would not have a girlfriend. She wondered about his age as well. He seemed to be a year or so younger than her 23 years.

"Why, Laura? Are ye plannin' on seducin' him then?" Gillian teased. She didn't want to let anyone know that she had feelings for the young man, especially if she stood no chance in catching his heart. And besides, patient nurse relationships were frowned upon, even in wartime.  At the same time, the thought of someone else being after him didn't please her, especially Laura or Anna.  Gillian always felt so intimidated by Laura's looks, what with her own freckles and ugly nose. She needed to know Laura's intentions.

"Not me, you, lass! I see the way ye look at him. You're smitten!" Laura chided with a laugh.

"An' how do I look at him?" Gillian asked, truly shocked that she had been caught. It wasn't that obvious, surely.

"A woman gets a look aboot her when she takes a likin' tae a man. It takes another woman tae see it,.  Do ye need me tae find oot if he as a girl?"

"No, don't be daft."

 She was beginning to feel embarrassed and became conscious of a hot red flush creeping up her neck and face. Then as Laura looked at her with a knowing smile, Gillian felt herself give in. She wasn't very good at hiding her feelings anyway. Why try to deny them, then. She knew Laura could read her face and admitted defeat. She looked Laura straight in the eye and smiled back and said, "I can do it myself."

The Cottage Hospital Hawick Scotland 1943

End Chapter 4







Chapter 5
Holding Hands


As she made her way down the row of beds, Gillian could see that Mr. Robertson was still talking to Jamie. He had been here nearly an hour now. It was time for Jamie to be getting back to bed, as supper would soon be along and she didn't want Jamie to be overtired, either. As she approached, Mr. Robertson was just getting to his feet and she smiled at him and said, "Well Hello Mr. Robertson, yer just in time tae help me get this hulk o' a man on his feet so that I can get him back intae his bed."

JR wheeled about and said, "Hello, Miss MacKenzie. What would ye have me be doin' then? Anythin' tae help a busy wee lassie."

"Just grab under his other arm like this and we can lift him up oot o' this chair and help him tae the side of the bed." Gillian showed Mr. Robertson where to place his arm in Jamie's armpits to get the best purchase and supply the most support.

I could offer little help as pressing down with my arms still caused pain in my chest from the broken ribs, but in a few seconds the two of them had me on my feet and I was able to hop over, if somewhat painfully, to the bed with the two of them at my side. Once we reached the bed and my backside was safely deposited on top, Mr. Robertson bid the two of us goodbye and promised to return within the week.

Gillian was very good at handling me, even though I was a good head taller than she was, and she was stronger than she looked. She had my legs swung onto the bed and the covers back over me in less than a minute, despite the heavy weight of the cast.

"There noo, how was yer first day oop?" She was awfully close to me again as she tidied up the last of the covers and fluffed up my pillows and I could feel the strange sensation in my belly this caused as I watched her going about her work.

"It felt good.  I can't wait to start moving around again.”

I looked directly at her and studied her face; the long line of the nose, those pools of a strange blue-green that were her eyes, the corners of her mouth turning up, looking like she had some deep dark secret hidden inside.  She caught me staring at her and her eyes fixed on mine for a brief moment before they went to the bedside table where the two letters were still laying.

"Are ye finished wi' writin' the letters?  They've been there a whole day noo, lad."

I had finished the letter to Evelyn but I needed envelopes and stamps.  It was frustrating being stuck here without my clothes, money, shoes. I had given no thought to any of those things until the need came for stamps.

"Where are my clothes, my wallet and things? I have money to buy stamps in my wallet."

"Nonsense, the only thing ye have need for is rest and gettin' healed. When ye came in here the nicht of the crash, yer clothes were half torn off ye and what wasn't, was cut off by the doctor tendin' ye. I'll see to the letters, if ye like."

I tried to remember what I was wearing the night we got hit. Flight suit, heated cold weather gear, heated boots, flight jacket and yes, I remembered now, my wallet and all the rest of my belongings were still in a locker in England. They had warned us not to take any personal belongings on bombing missions just in case we had to ditch over Germany and we could be identified, if captured. Well, there was nothing I could do about that now.

"The letters? Yes, I need two envelopes and two stamps."

"Och, is that all ye need? I'll be right back."

I watched as she turned and walked away from me and noticed that she not only had a pretty face but a fine body as well. I was still thinking of the closeness of her as she helped me into bed as she returned with two envelopes with the stamps already on them.

"Here ye are lad, now address them and I'll see that they get posted."

She handed me the pad and the two letters and fussed about with the items on the bedside table while I picked up the pen and started writing on the envelopes. I had no problem with the letter to my folks but I wondered about addressing the letter to Evelyn and ended up with

Mrs. Evelyn McCurdy, 120 Poland Avenue, Struthers, Ohio, USA.

"Are ye done already then?" as I handed her the letters.

Before she could get away, I took her hand and said, "I want to thank you again for all the things you have done for me. I feel so helpless stuck in here, but you make it bearable. I appreciate it very much."

Her hand felt so good in mine that I didn't want to let go. It was the same feeling I had when I first woke up, only now it was not fear that she would disappear, it was in anticipation of what might happen in the days to come. Her left hand was very soft and delicate and of course, I couldn't help noticing the obvious absence of any rings on either hand. I had this foolish feeling that she was somehow attracted to me and I wondered what I might do to find out.

"Mrs. Evelyn McCurdy." said Gillian aloud. "I wonder who she is? Obviously she is somewhat special if he is writin' a letter to her. She's marrit, though." Gillian was closely inspecting the letter before she dropped it in the mail box. "Och, Gillian! Shame on ye! Ye're inspectin' the man's letters and fer no good reason at all. Yer actin' like a wee school girl and no like the woman ye are." After this moment of self-reprimand, Gillian dropped the letters in the box and continued her walk home.

Why was she so curious about this Mrs. McCurdy? Most likely she was a close friend of his family or possibly one of James's school teachers. Maybe she was the mother of one of his close friends that died in the crash. There could be numerous explanations as to who this woman was. At that she decided not to think about it any more. Anyway, it was none of her business. What was she really concerned about anyway? If he was writing a letter to a sweetheart, he wouldn't address it so formally, would he? This reasoning made her feel better. Besides, Jamie didn't look at her as if he had a girl back home. Then again, maybe she was just imagining things. Maybe he wasn't interested in her at all. Well, she would just have to wait and see. "God!" she thought to herself, "what am I doin', carryin' on like a lovestruck schoolgirl." She shook her head and walked on.

The following day, she decided to check in on Jack Hetrick. When she arrived at his bedside she discovered that the young man had also come out of his coma. 

"Well hello, Mr. Hetrick! It's sae good tae see ye awake at last!" Gillian said with a smile. She was very happy to see that he was conscious. She knew that Jamie would be very happy as well to hear his friend was on the road to recovery.

Jack had never seen Gillian before but the voice sounded familiar. As he was looking at her, wondering why, Gillian sat down in the chair beside the bed and said, "I'm Nurse MacKenzie but ye can call me Gillian."

"Gillian. What a pretty name. You can call me Jack. It's a pleasure to meet you."

Jack started to hold out his hand to shake hers, but the movement brought on a jolt of pain that he wasn't prepared for. Gillian saw him wince and struggle and reached out and placed her hand over his.

"There noo. I wouldna move any mair than ye have tae. Ye've been in a terrible accident and ye were badly hurt." Gillian gave a slight squeeze to his hand and continued with "I do appreciate your gallant effort, though. I am glad tae see ye trying tae move. It's a good sign, Jack. Yer no as badly damaged as we feared."

"Can you tell me what happened? When I woke up a little while ago, my head hurt something awful and the other nurses were fussing about me so much that I didn't think to ask them. Where am I?"

She wondered if it was a good idea to tell him everything given his weak state, but then she remembered her mistake with Jamie. So, she grabbed his hand again and said very gently, "Ye are in a hospital in Hawick, Scotland. Yer plane crashed and ye sustained a lot of injuries. In fact, we weren't sure if ye were goin' tae come back tae us, Jack. Aboot two-thirds of yer body is bruised tae the bone and ye banged yer head fairly hard. Ye have a couple of broken ribs, as well. Ye've been unconscious for almost 4 days noo."

Jack just looked at her and calmly took it all in. "Did anyone else survive? Am I the only one?" he asked quietly.

Gillian had been dreading this question but had resolved herself to answering it when she decided to tell him what happened.

"I'm so sorry, Jack. Most of the men died in the crash. There is one other survivor though. He has been praying sae hard fer ye and I see that it has done ye some good. Yer friend Jamie MacGregor also received some heavy damage and is recovering in a ward on the other side of the hospital.

Jack's face brightened and a huge smile spread across his face. "MacGregor is alive? What wonderful news! He is going to make it, isn't he?"

"Och, aye!" she exclaimed. "Young Mr. MacGregor has made some wonderful progress. In fact, just yesterday we got him oot of bed and gave him some exercise. His leg is broken and in a cast and he's got some broken ribs too, but yesterday, with some help, he was able tae hobble over tae the window where he sat fer a wee while. He asks aboot ye often. He will be sae glad tae know ye are awake and makin'good progress yerself."

"You must tell him hello for me and also that I thank him for praying for me. Your voice sounds familiar to me, Gillian. Have we met before?"

Gillian smiled and said, "Weel, no formally. I introduced myself while ye were still unconscious."

"You did? Well, please forgive my silence, then. I am normally not so rude."

This made Gillian laugh and upon seeing it, Jack laughed, too.

"Weel noo. Ye've a fine sense of humor. That is good tae see, Jack!"  The smile on her face slowly faded. "I should be gettin' back tae work noo, she continued, "but I will give yer message tae James. He is goin' ta be sae happy!" 

Jack smiled and said, "Will you come back to visit me? Also, do you think that either James or myself might be able to visit each other soon?"

"Weel, it may take a couple of days before either one of ye is well enough to visit, but I will come back tae see ye before then."

"Good enough, and thank you for looking out for me."


The following morning I awoke to find that Gillian was nowhere about and Nurse Murray was taking care of the morning breakfast, with the help of an orderly, both of them handing out the trays to each bed's occupant. It wasn't long before she got to me and as she was getting the tray positioned on the table, I asked, "Nurse Murray, where is Gillian today?"

"Och, tis her day off, lad", came the reply. "They do let us oot of here one day a week, ye know."

It was selfish of me to think that she would be here seven days a week to take care of me. After all, this was a job for her, war or not. And I wasn't her only patient.

"She'll be back tomorrow then?"

"Aye, lad, are you wantin' her for somethin'?" she said as she looked at me with one eyebrow raised and I could swear I could see a twinkle in her eye.

How could I tell her what I wanted to know without seeming too obvious? I had to think of something and in a hurry as she would soon be on her way to tend the others.

"Nothing that can't wait until tomorrow. She’s been so nice to me since I’ve been here and I was just wondering if she.........if she is........if she has a boyfriend here in Hawick?"

God, what a stupid thing to ask. I knew the minute I said it that I had made a mistake.

"Well noo", she said, with a knowing smile, "I think she is a wee bit taken up wi' ye laddie if ye want the truth of the matter."

I looked at her rather startled. I had not expected such a sudden revelation and the thought came to me that they actually were discussing me the other day. A wee bit taken up with me; what the hell had they been saying to one another? I was beginning to feel rather uncomfortable.

"What makes you say that, nurse Murray?"

"Well noo, it doesna take a lot of brains tae see the way she fusses over ye like she does. Aye, lad, shes like a bird in the breeze flittin' aboot since ye got here. Now, eat up yer breakfast," she said changing the subject," and we'll get ye goin' on the crutches."

Before I could say another word, nurse Murray was off up the ward with the food cart and laying out trays onto tables for the other patients.  Well, it may have been a stupid thing to ask but it got the answer that I was looking for. So Gillian MacKenzie was attracted to me and me to her for that matter. I thought it very strange that out of all these guys in here that she liked me.

Sure enough, after the breakfast trays were gathered up and cleared away from the ward, Nurse Murray came bustling up to my bed, carrying a pair of wooden crutches with a determined look on her face.

"Right, lad, here ye are. Now let's get ye up an' standin'." The nurse whisked the sheets off my body and deftly swung both my legs over the side of the bed, despite the heavy weight of the plaster cast.

 "Noo, take yer time, lad." I slowly raised myself up to stand and the crutches were placed under my arms. I dutifully followed Nurse Murray's instructions; weight on crutches, lift legs and move forward, weight on crutches.

 Before I knew it, I had gone from one end of the ward and back again. By the time I reached my bed, I felt tired and a bit sore, but ready for anything. Nurse Murray was beaming proudly at me. "There ye are! Nothin' to it, eh? Noo you keep practicin' and ye can go tae the toilet yersel', as long as ye let a nurse ken. We dinna want ye breakin' the other leg, do we?" And with that, the nurse sailed down the ward, leaving me to my new-found freedom.

I had just started to eat my lunch of some unidentifiable concoction I thought could be stew when Gillian walked in. I didn't recognize her at first, as she was not in her uniform and her long auburn hair was way down the middle of her back. She was wearing a plaid red and black skirt and a white blouse and white knit stockings up to her knees. She seemed to be glowing with excitement as she came directly over to me. She was much prettier than I realized. It may have been the clothes or the hair but there was something about her this morning that made my heart beat a little faster, it might even have been the knowledge that she liked me. Her eyes seemed to sparkle like diamonds and there seemed to be a radiance about her, almost as if she was bathed in light, but she still had the familiar curl of her lip as she smiled at me. Jesus, she was one beautiful woman.

"Good day tae ye”, sang Gillian as she approached his bedside. She had a lively spring in her step as she came closer and stood next to me. "Have ye seen how glorious it is today? Why, it's just heavenly!" she exclaimed, glancing at the window, then back to her patient. James stared at her for a moment before the realization that she had addressed him struck home.

"Uh, yes, I can see out the window from here. It is not the same as being out in it, though."

Upon hearing this, Gillian beamed.

 "Weel, we shall see what we can do aboot that noo. Do ye feel like walkin', lad?"

It was her day off and usually she spent her free time reading a book, running errands, or just basically catching up with day to day life. Today, however, she couldn't get her young patient out of her mind and before she knew it, she found herself walking automatically towards the hospital, but not to work. She had decided to try to get James outside for a while, if he thought he could handle it. She wanted to tell him the news about Jack. She couldn't wait to see his face when she told him. And she felt he could do with some fresh air. Being cooped up in the ward was making him look pasty-faced.

"You came by to take me walking outside? But it's your day off".

He was very happy to see her and even though the words that Nurse Murray spoke to him were very fresh in his mind, he wanted to hear some reassuring words from Gillian herself. Only then would he believe it.

"Aye, it's my day off, but I couldna keep this day all to myself.  That would be selfish. I thought that perhaps I woold check in on my favorite patient, but if I have come at a bad time..." she started, but he quickly interrupted her.

"No, no, no! Not at all. Please." He gave a short laugh,  It's not as if I'm going anywhere, is it? I’m happy to see you and I would love to go for a walk with you, Gillian. I can't support myself yet, though, so I will need some assistance."

"Weel, that is why I am here." she announced happily. "The fresh air will do us both some good, aye?"

Forgetting about his meal, lying in bed really didn't do anything for his appetite, James reached out his hand.

 "Well, then help me up cause the sunshine awaits!"

The Cottage Hospital Main Ward

Gillian helped him with his robe and the one slipper he would need, before giving him the crutches and helping him to stand. He'd had a few opportunities to practice using the crutches before she had arrived, and it hadn't taken him long to get the rhythm needed to move a decent distance. All this practice had helped his body get used to being upright again too. He steadied himself and put his weight on the padded blocks under his arms, gripping the cross struts half-way down with his hands, then gingerly swung his legs forward.

The two shuffled their way slowly across the ward until they reached the door at which point Gillian asked, "How are ye doin', lad? Do ye think ye can go a wee bit further, or is this too much fer ye?"

His leg hurt very badly, and leaning on the crutches was making his ribs ache, but James wasn't going to pass on this opportunity.

"My leg does hurt, but it’s not so bad. I want to continue."

Gillian helped him walk towards a bench just outside on the lawn in front of the hospital, then skillfully eased him down on the bench before she ran back into the ward. A minute later, she returned with a low stool. She gently lifted the plaster-encased leg onto the stool and took the seat next to him.

I looked around and soaked up the warmth of the sun, taking several deep breaths, relishing in the warm, fragrant air, inhaling the fresh outdoor smells, listening to the birds chirping merrily in the trees nearby. God! It was so good to get outside, even just for a short while.

"Ah, Gillian! Thank you so much for stopping by today. I hadn't anticipated being allowed outdoors just yet, but it feels so good, especially with such beautiful company."

She was very happy that she stopped by, too, she thought to herself. As he finished speaking she felt a blush creep over her cheeks.

"Thank ye. That is kind of ye tae say."

She was very nervous. So much so that she couldn't bring herself to look at him. She sat with her hands in her lap, twisting the fabric of her skirt. Her palms were clammy with sweat and her heart was going like a triphammer. She took a deep breath to calm herself.

"There is another reason I wanted tae get ye outside. I wanted tae be alone with ye for a while, away from all the goings on in the hospital."

She waved her hand absently towards the ward inside. Her voice started to shake and she had to clear her throat before she continued.

 "That way we can have a chance tae really talk tae each other; withoot interruptions. Since I dinna have tae work today, we can take our time, aye? I hope ye dinna mind."

He laughed softly and said, "No, I don't mind a bit. I wanted to spend some time with you, as well."

She felt herself blushing again. She suddenly realized what a lovely smile he had; warm and genuine. That smile gave her the courage to tell him about Jack right away so that they would have time afterwards to talk about other things.

"I have some good news fer ye, Jack's awake."

"He is? Can I see him then?"

"No, not yet.  I said he is awake noo, no runnin' aboot like you are.  A few more days, maybe a week, and I'll take ye doon tae see him. He shouldna be havin' visitors just yet. Give it time, but I promise ye will see him."

I knew somehow that he was going to be ok. Jack was a survivor but perhaps a little help from the Man up above didn't hurt either. As we sat there talking about Jack, with Gillian explaining how ill he was, but reassuring me he would be ok, I could see that she was nervous about something as she was fidgeting with her skirt again. I wanted to tell her again how much I appreciated all that she had done for me but I felt that it was more than that. I was attracted to her, plain and simple, and if nurse Murray was right, Gillian also had some feelings for me. We both started to talk at the same time.

"Gillian do you,"............

Jamie, I've...........

"You first, Gillian"

She chuckled a little, with slight embarrassment, I thought, and then looked at me straight on. With the sun shining down through her hair, it seemed more red than auburn and her eyes were darting back and forth;  she took in a deep breath.

"Jamie, I have something tae tell ye and I'm no good at sayin' it, so best I'll just let it oot lest ye think I'm bletherin'."

"What is it Gillian?"

"I've taken a likin' tae ye, lad. I can't help my self. Nurse Murray says I'm smitten and I think she is right. It is drivin' me near oot of my mind. I canna stop thinkin' aboot ye, and I ken that I dinna have the right to feel like this but I couldna keep it in me any longer."

The words she had just spoken came so quickly that I didn't have time to think. I was immediately filled with surprise at the suddenness with which she blurted this out. My first thought was Evelyn. She sounded exactly like Evelyn; the only difference being the brogue.

"You were the first thing I woke up to after the crash. At first I thought you were an angel and that I was dead or dreaming."

I smiled at her, thinking she did look like an angel.

"Then came the real you. I don't know how to say this, it’s so crazy.  When I first looked at you in the daylight, my heart skipped a beat and I wondered if you liked me. Do you remember when I asked you about Millers Knowes?  I wondered if you would go up there with me one day. I think what I'm trying to say is that I share the same feelings as you do."

"Och, ye do?  yer no' just sayin' it so that I willna feel bad?"

"No, I'm saying it because it’s true. I have these weird sensations whenever I see your smiling face and it’s much worse when you come close to me. I think that I’m guilty of this smitten thing too."

"Oh my, and all this time I thought it was just me."

She moved closer to me, her eyes smiling and her lip curling into a smile and she put her hand on my upper arm. There was a long silence as we both sat there in the sunshine and enjoyed the moment. As she returned her hand to her lap, I took my own hand and put it around hers. We sat there for several minutes just holding hands and not looking at each other.

Gillian had thought that she would feel better once she told James about her feelings for him. She had prayed that he felt the same way, but after hearing his words, she was surprised to find that she didn't feel better at all; in fact she felt quite unsettled. He was holding her hand and although she enjoyed this contact with him, the knot in her stomach grew tighter. She was confused and afraid to look at him. 

Och, Gillian, ye wee daftie! she thought to herself. This is what ye wanted, isn't it? Why are ye no happy? Are ye losin' yer mind, girl?!  James noticed that she was becoming distant and he grew worried.

"Gillian," he said softly "why do you look so worried? You haven't said anything to me for several minutes and I’m beginning to wonder if I've offended you. Have I done the wrong thing?"

Gillian gave a small start at this. She had been so lost in her own thoughts that she almost forgot he was there.

"No, ye havna offended me, lad." she replied quietly. "I am nae good at sugar coatin' my thoughts so I beg ye tae bear wi' me for a bit."

She still couldn't look at him, so she spoke to her knees.  Before she could start talking again, James squeezed her hand once more.

"I don't want you to sugar coat anything when you speak with me.  Just speak straight from your heart. I want nothing but honesty between us. As long as you remain honest with me, I can handle anything you have to say, whatever it is. If you need a couple more minutes to gather your thoughts, please feel free to take them. Patience is a virtue, they say, and God has graced me with a lifetime's supply."

She laughed at that and then turned to him to look him full in the face.

"I dinna need any more time, ye sweet man." she said with a smile. She grabbed his hand in both of hers, closed her eyes and said silently to herself, ‘Go on, Gillian, talk tae the man.’ At that she opened her eyes, looked into his and said, "Ye said ye think ye have taken a likin' tae me an' I like hearin' that. I thought I would feel better once I kent how ye felt aboot me, but I am surprised to learn that I don't."

Jamie was about to speak and, seeing it, Gillian quickly said, "Please let me finish. Ye need tae let me get this oot afore I explode."

He laughed at that and said, "Well, I wouldn't want that."

She smiled brightly and went on before he could continue. "It's just that I dinna ken much aboot ye, lad. What I mean is, ye may have a girl back home that ye may be wantin' tae get back to. Even if ye don't, ye may be wantin' to go back tae America as soon as ye can. If ye leave, James, and ye have let me fall into this tizzy wi' ye, I dinna think I could bear that. I ken it is unfair to say this but I never want tae live anywhere but in Scotland, an..."

After hearing that, James couldn't help himself and he had to interrupt.

"Whoa! Hold on Gillian! You are getting way ahead of things here. The war is a long way from over and you have me taking up with you and leaving for home all in the same sentence. We don't know what's ahead, but there isn’t much we can do at the moment but wait and see what happens. I've just told you that I am attracted to you very much. Why is it that you have me rushing off somewhere so quickly?"

She looked desperate as she said, "Because, ye are getting better and will soon be released from the hospital and then what?  Ye dinna live here, lad, and ye have family back home. I look at ye and I ken that yer days here are no' enough and it hurts me. I canna help it. I ken I am bein daft, Jamie, an' if ye want tae leave I will understand."

Almost immediately she became ashamed at her words and she looked away from him. She has always prided herself on being a strong and independent woman and here she was acting like a desperate and dependent little girl. She'd probably scared him off now.  She didn't like herself very much at the moment.

She was right. I did have a girlfriend back home.  I knew that I could never expect her to understand my relationship with Evelyn, her being twice my age and a divorced woman. How could I ever expect her to understand that situation when I didn't understand it thoroughly myself?  Peggy also entered my mind. What in God's name could I ever tell her about Peggy that would make any sense.   With Gillian, everything felt different.  I could end this right here and now but something about Gillian wouldn't let me do this. She was a real angel come here to earth to help was also true that I was falling in love with her. This sparkling wonderful thing that was happening between us was alive like a new flower in spring. I could see that Gillian was visibly upset and it was up to me to take the hurt away and get her back to the lovely happy person that walked out here with me.  

"Gillian," I said, "I can't lie to you. You’re too wonderful a person for that. I do have a girlfriend back home."

She looked up at me with a look that I had never seen from her before but I continued on. I wanted honesty from her; I'd better be honest back. It was only fair.

"I would give anything in the world to be back home but the fact is I am not home, I am here in Hawick and I think that I am falling in love with you. It is also true that I may not be here long. I will be back to my job in the Army. You must know how things are. This is a fact, plain and simple."

Gillian started to speak but I kept on talking.

 " I was lucky this time but just as sure as we're sitting here, I'll be back in the tail of another plane with my machine gun pointed out the turret and watching as plane after plane gets hit and falls to the ground in a ball of fire and smoke. It’s only a matter of time until I’m next."

"Jamie MacGregor, you must not think like that!!! I can barely make do wi' the fact that ye have a girlfriend back home but the thought of ye been taken away from me afore I've had a chance tae ken ye......maybe even forever..... is more than I can bear. I've nursed ye back to health, lad, and I willna hae ye talkin' such nonsense."

It wasn't nonsense I thought to myself. I had been up fifteen times now and 20% didn't come back, many had to bail out over enemy territory and who knows how many were killed. The days that I didn't go, there was the constant waiting for the squadron to return and the counting of heads and those that were gone were replaced with new men and new planes and the next night it was the same thing all over again. We were expendable, that was a fact of war.

"Gillian, you have to understand that the war has brought us together and the war may take us apart, but I’m here with you now. This is happening today, Now! We cannot deal with what might happen, so let’s just take those things that we can deal with today. We have time to get to know one another better and no matter what happens tomorrow, or the day after, we’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that we have lived this moment together.......this very treasured moment. Just sitting here with you holding hands is more than I had hoped for."

I could see the tears begin to stream down Gillian's face as she spoke.

"I want this too but I canna bear the thought of givin' ye up to the war. Also the thought of ye goin' back tae America, I want ye tae stay here, what aboot that? "

"I feel as though I belong here in Hawick. My roots are here.  Many of my relatives live in Edinburgh and Glasgow. It's not up to me to choose just now as the Army has control of where I go, you know that, but if I’m to love you properly, I can't be in Ohio now, can I?"

"This is no just an overnicht thing then, yer taken up wi' me?"

I could hear the hope in her voice. "No, it’s not just an overnight affair that I'm looking for. I've realized I want more than that."

Gillian took a tissue and wiped her eyes dry.

 "Och, it makes my heart beat fast tae hear ye say that. Come, lad, tis time tae get ye back inside. The sun is goin' behind the clouds noo and it will be rainin' soon, I think, and we canna have ye catchin' cold."

It rained clear through the next day which produced a gloomy atmosphere as rain will often do. Inside the ward, things were quiet. Gillian had been avoiding Jamie all morning and she knew that he noticed. He tried to get her attention a couple of times but she pretended to be busy with routine tasks the ward demanded. When she went home the day before, after her talk with him, she couldn't help but notice that there was something tugging at her mind. As she was walking home while lost in her thoughts, the rain started pouring down and Gillian didn't bother to seek shelter. The conversation she had just had with Jamie kept running through her mind and getting wet was the least of her worries.

He said he had a girlfriend back home and even though she was waiting for his return, he said that she, Gillian, was the one he was in love with. But doubts played in her mind. How did she know that he didn't tell his other girlfriend that very same thing? He wants her to lose herself in the moment with him and she just wasn't sure she was capable of that.

Thoughts of Tim Graham came rushing back to her and struck like an arrow in her heart. Gillian had fallen madly in love with the handsome Mr. Graham and he left her after professing his love and commitment to her. He had told her that it wasn't her.

"It isnae you, Gillian. 'Tis me. I am no' ready fer a commitment an' I ken that I am bein' unfair tae ye, but I canna help it."

"Tim, what are ye talkin aboot, ye fool? Ye asked me fer the commitment, remember?"

"I ken that, Gillian, an' I am sae sorry fer it. Ye must believe me, lass, fer I never wanted tae hurt ye, I swear it."

The memory was so painful that she started to cry. She hadn't seen it coming. She had thought that everything was perfect between them. Good thing it was raining, she thought, because it hid her tears from the passersby.

The conversation with Jamie the previous day kept running through Gillian's mind. "He said that he thinks he is falling in love with me and that I may lose him in the war and that I would just have to accept that," she thought to herself," That's why I must give my heart to him." The thought of it terrified her. It seemed to have taken forever to heal from her other heartbreak and she wasn't sure if she should or could risk another one. Could she ever trust another man again. She knew she should talk to him about her thoughts, but she just couldn't bring herself to do it just yet, at least not until she knew how to put them into words. She decided to check on him briefly and say a word or two. She wanted to keep up the illusion of being busy, and anyway, she knew he wouldn't be fooled for long, so she walked swiftly to his beside.

"'Tis such a busy day fer me, Jamie. I have the need to leave early today and I am tryin tae get all my work done sae that I can go." 

She had already fed an excuse to the other nurses about an appointment she had.

"Gillian, I..." he started but she interrupted him.

"I just came by tae check up on ye. Are ye feelin' well?" she asked as she stuck a thermometer in his mouth.

She tried her best to sound distant; if he couldn't speak, she didn't have to lie or think of excuses.  Due to the obstruction, of course, James could not speak and after staring at her for a minute, he nodded. What the hell was going on? The hurt look on his face almost made her cry.

"Good." she said as she removed the thermometer. "Hopefully I will have more time tae talk wi' ye the morn." She then smiled as best she could, dropped the thermometer into the receptacle on the wall above Jamie's head, and gave his shoulder a squeeze before walking away. She couldn't look him in the eye anymore, because she knew that she would break down and cry. She needed one more night and would talk to him tomorrow.

End Chapter 5 








Chapter 6

The Letters


I sensed that something was drastically wrong. Gillian had been avoiding me for almost a day now and I was certain it had to do with our conversation about Evelyn. Of course it had to be expected the atmosphere would be strained after all the revelations. God! Things were getting so complicated.  Nurse Murray helped me out of bed and over to my favorite spot in the chair by the window. As I settled back into the chair, she said, "Well noo James, is there anythin' ye need?"

I felt very depressed and decided to write another letter home, maybe it would take my mind off Gillian for a bit.

"Yes, nurse Murray, could you get me the letter writing pad next to my bed, I'd like to write another letter to a friend back home."

"Och my!!" she said, slapping her hand on her forehead, "I almost forgot tae bring yer post. That joost reminded me. A package and a bundle of letters came for ye no less than fifteen minutes ago. I'll just be away an' fetch them."

She hurried off down the row of beds. I was very excited as the mail service had left a lot to be desired. It had been two weeks here in the hospital and three more prior to that since the last mail. Laura Murray was back with the package and the letters in a matter of minutes.

"Here ye are, Laddie", she said. "it just slipped my mind aboot the post," and she handed me a month's worth of letters and the package. 

"That should keep ye busy wi' the pen for a while." And she was off again down the row of beds in a rustle of starched linen.

The package was from my Mother but I was more interested in the bundle of letters. They were tied together with a piece of twine and had been put under a single label marked ROX- Cottage Hospital-Hawick. I wondered about the ROX and then it finally sank in, Roxburgshire. It was the abbreviation for Roxburgshire. I fiddled with the string and finally got it undone and leafed through the six letters to see who they were from.

Three from Evelyn, one from Glen, one from Loretta and one from Georgie Munton. I wondered what the hell he wanted but it would have to wait until I had read those from Evelyn.


My Dearest Jimmy,

The news of the war is so upsetting and I worry about you every moment. I pray every night that you will be kept safe and come home to me once this horrible thing is over. Jimmy, I love you so much and miss you terribly.  Every night before I go to sleep, I think of the wonderful moments we had together.

I hate having you so far from home and in harms way.  Morris and Mike both send their best regards. Mike is getting ready to retire so we may soon see a new butcher in the store. Also, Morris now has his wife working the cash register as he is having a hard time trying to replace Grace. She is now working out in Ravenna. There has been a big increase in the steel mills since you were here last. President Roosevelt even came to Struthers to the Sheet and Tube. People were lined from Stop 14 half way to Youngstown just to see him. I could not go as I had to work but I read about it in the Vindicator.

Jimmy, I have to scold you for having that money sent to me. You should not have done that. I know that you love me but we are not married or anything like that. I am going to open up a bank account and keep it safe for you until you return.

My Mother is still doing well. I was out to Massillon to see her last week. All the rain made the driving miserable as the windshield wipers almost quit whenever I go up a hill. The car has been running extremely well other than that and I hope that it continues. I'm so glad the warmer weather is finally here as the furnace was such a chore for me. So many things on my mind........I wish you were here with me.

Jimmy, I miss you so much. I love you darling. I will write as often as I can. I look forward to your letters. Please take care of yourself. I love you.



Just as I finished reading the letter from Evelyn, I looked up and Billy Burnet was back to visit.

"Hello lad", he said, "ye look much better than ye did the last time I was here. Are they takin' good care of ye?"

"Oh yes," I said as I folded the letter and put it back with the others.

"The care has been excellent but the getting well has been too slow for me. I am anxious to have my leg cast taken off. It's causing a sore up under my knee from the rubbing."

"Aye, ye'll be runnin' up and doon the steps soon.  I've come tae see ye aboot the relatives ye have in Edinburgh. Arthur told me aboot yer cousins Albert and Victoria and yer Aunt Dora a long while back noo and I took the liberty of contacting them for ye. Albert is away off with the RAF somewhere in North Africa but Dora was verra excited and wants to come doon tae Hawick in a day or two. Edinburgh's only a short drive north of here ye ken. Aboot 50 miles. She will bring Victoria with her. I expect they will make a day of it. I hope that it's alright wi' ye?"

"Dora. Yes, my mother spoke of her often but I never ever thought I would get to meet her. It’s more than all right, it’s wonderful news."

Dora was the only one to stay behind in Scotland when the family emigrated to Canada. I knew that her husband Victor had died quite a few years back.  I was trying to remember how old Victoria would be. Dora had sent pictures to Mom way back before the war and as I recalled, she should be close to my age.

"Is there anything that ye need from toon, lad? It's only a minute up here tae the hospital and I would be glad tae get it for ye."

I laughed at this as at the moment, I had absolutely no possessions that were mine; no clothes, no wallet, no money, not even any shoes. I'd lost everything in the plane crash.

"Thanks Mr. Burnet but right now all I need is for the Army to catch up with me and get me back into uniform. I really don't know if they have any idea where I am or even if I am alive. I did get some mail today so the APO must know where I am. It’s a funny feeling to be sort of lost here in Hawick without a stitch of clothes to my name. That’s not so unusual for the Army Air Force though. They have a saying, Snafu which means Situation Normal, All Fucked Up so it doesn’t surprise me that there is no official word from them with orders as to what to do next.

"Don't worry aboot a thing Lad, I'll see to it. How tall are ye, 6' or so? And what aboot yer waist,32.? And yer shoes, size 11, shirt 16 with long sleeves? Dinna worry, lad, I'll soon sort ye oot."

 With a twinkle in his eye, he was off as quickly as he had arrived. I had no idea what he had in mind but it was nice to know that he wanted to help. It amazed me how kind and helpful people were, even to perfect strangers.

As soon as Billy Burnet was gone, I opened the second letter from Evelyn.

My Dearest Jimmy,

Another week has passed, darling. There is not much to tell you except that I love you very much and miss you. It has been a while since I have heard from you and that has caused me some concern. The letters seem to come all at one time and then a long spell in between. This war is turning everything upside down. The weather has taken a turn for the better, a bit more rain but it has helped my garden out back. I don't have time to tend it like I should though.

I have had a promotion at work and I am finally off the "floor" and into an office where it is a little easier on my legs and feet. Stambaugh-Thompsons has had many changes these past months. The younger girls are all leaving to go and work at the defense plant in Ravenna. I was almost thinking of it myself and then this opportunity came along. It was a nice increase in pay too. I have also taken to going to work on the bus. They have weekly passes now and I can ride for half the money it takes for gasoline. Also, with gas being rationed now along with almost everything else. I can use my allotment of gas coupons to visit my Mother and other places that I can't get to on the bus. Morris hates this rationing business.  I guess all the extra paperwork gets him down and I think that he really misses having you here. He asks about you every time I go in.

Well darling, I had better get off to bed now. I would give anything to have you here with me tonight. I am so lonesome without you.

With All My Love




I went immediately to the third letter.  I no longer had my pen knife that I had previously used to open letters and my fingers were making a very ragged job of it. I tore the end off this one and that seemed to work much better. It was a single page.



My Dearest Jimmy,

Jimmy, you must promise me something; promise to please come home to me. I don't think I could go on knowing that something might happen to you. It is this damned war that has caused all of this. I keep thinking back to the night you gave me the Christmas was the first moment that I knew that I loved you. I pray every night that you will be kept safe.  I will go to sleep tonight worrying about you. Jimmy, I don't know what I would do if I lost you to this war.


I am sure that you knew all of the Stromp girls. The one named Loretta is to be wed to Steve Vargas in a few days. I didn't know her, just saw it in the newspaper tonight. At least she will be married in a church. We had so little time together that I am not too familiar with all of your friends.  I thought that you might like to hear what is happening to some of your school pals.

I am off to bed now. I love you, darling. I will write a longer letter this week end.

With All My Love,




God, what a mess I am in again I thought to myself. Here I am holding hands with a Hawick lass and telling her that I am falling in love with her and Evelyn back home pouring her heart out to me. I began to wonder if it was love or just a flirtation that would go away once the Army got me back in its grasp. Did I even know what love was? Did I, at 19 years old, know what the hell I was doing? Here I was wanting two women again. My Mother would probably disown me if she knew the things that I had been doing. I thought perhaps it was just a strong desire on my part to have sex; after all, Gillian was a very attractive girl. Then again, Laura Murray and Annaliese were also quite attractive and I didn't have this intense feeling for them. I had to talk to Gillian. I had to let her know what was going on in my head. Maybe tomorrow we would have some time alone together and could talk this thing out.


The weather was beautiful the next day which certainly helped in perking up Gillian's attitude. She walked to work slowly because she was still working up the courage to speak with Jamie; she knew she must talk with him today and get the air cleared between them. He didn't deserve the treatment she had been giving him. After all, he had been nothing but honest and sincere with her. Oh, but she knew she had fallen in love with him and that was exactly why her task was proving to be so difficult. She still wasn't sure about what she would say to him, but she was trying not to think about that too much. Sometimes it is better to let your heart and not your head do the talking. That is what she had resolved to do. She would just start talking and then see how it goes.

When she arrived at her ward, she immediately looked to his bed. He was sleeping. Carefully she approached his bedside and watched him for a few moments before starting her work. He looked quite peaceful, lying there, but there were faint shadows under his eyes. Maybe he was worried about the situation too. About an hour passed before Jamie woke up. When she saw him looking at her, they locked eyes for a few moments and she gave him a reassuring smile. A moment later, Gillian told one of the other nurses that she was going to take him outside for some exercise and fresh air. He watched her as she approached and oddly enough, it helped build her confidence.

"Good day tae ye," she said quietly. "Ye are lookin weel today. Did ye get a good night's rest, then?"

James's smile seemed somewhat apprehensive, which did not escape Gillian's eye. A tiny seed of worry planted itself in her thoughts and a churning feeling started in her stomach.

"Actually, no, I didn’t sleep very well; I've wanted to talk with you." His face suddenly took on a very serious look.

At that Gillian quickly said, "Aye, I ken that. I have been wantin' tae talk wi' ye as weel, lad. Do ye think ye can manage a wee bit of fresh air?"

"I can if you can."

Gillian helped him with his slippers and then watched him rise slowly upright. She handed him the heavy wooden crutches and stayed beside him, but she was careful not to touch him. Together they slowly made their way outdoors to the bench they occupied just a couple of days before and Gillian waited until he had eased himself down on the seat, then sat down beside him. James was the first to start. He was determined to sort this mess out and he was going to get his say in first.

"Gillian, why have you been avoiding me?" Straight to the point, then.

He looked so hurt that she had to look away for fear that she may lose her courage. As she stared at her knees she said, "I ken I hurt ye and I am so sorry fer it. I needed some time to sort out my thoughts and my feelings, Jamie."

She paused for a few moments before speaking again. She would have to be careful.

 "I have thought verra hard as to what I might say tae ye, but I couldna form verra many complete thoughts. So, I have decided to just speak from the heart and see where that takes me."

She saw him take a deep breath, as if he was going to speak, so she quickly said, "I was verra much in love wi' another man once and I lost him suddenly and I canna go through that again."

She looked up at him at this point and lost herself in his eyes. She mustn't stop now.

"I thought I would never get over him but I did, eventually. Ye want me tae just live for the moment and tae Hell wi' the morrow? I need tae know aboot the morrow,  an' I need ye tae understand that. God help me, I do love ye, man, an' had I no been sae hurt before, I might be able to toss caution to the wind, but I canna do that. I need tae know where I stand wi' you. I need more from ye, an' I need tae know what yer plans and intentions are."

There was a long silence between the two of them as they just sat there staring into each others eyes. Jamie could feel the tension building between them; like an electric charge. She wasn't done yet, though.

"I do not ken enough aboot ye tae just lead my life that way fer ye. I am no saying that tae hurt ye. It's only fair that ye ken everythin' that I am thinkin' an' feelin'."

She wanted to say more but she just couldn't find words. She decided to just wait for his response.

"Gillian, I knew the minute that I laid eyes on you that I had these feelings for you and I sensed that you felt the same way but there is something that I must tell you."

She was looking directly at me and her eyes seemed glazed as though she were about to cry. What could I possibly say to her that made any sense? Jesus, my life was all screwed up and here I am trying to drag her along with me.

"Gillian, I am afraid that what I am about to tell you might change everything but I don't know what else to do. I haven't been able to sleep the past few nights thinking about this but you have to know.  This woman back home is twice my age. Her name is Evelyn McCurdy. I received a letter from her just today and she wants very much for me to come home to her. Just before the crash, she was all that I could think about and when I woke up, there was Gillian MacKenzie." There; it was out now. But I had to tell her the truth. I owed her that at least.

She did not take her eyes off me the whole time and before I could go on, a tear spilled from her eye and trickled down her cheek. I felt terrible and I bowed my head so that I would not have to look at her.

"I don't understand why I have such a strong attraction for you but I do. I shouldn't be wanting you but I do. I am in love with you, Gillian MacKenzie, and my heart is breaking because I don't know what to do. You are asking me for plans and intentions and I'm spilling my guts out to you about a girlfriend back home. What the hell kind of plans are those?"

I leaned over and put my face in my hands and sat in silence. Her voice, when it came, seemed so far away.

"Are ye in love with this Mrs. McCurdy then? Is she a marrit woman yer carryin' on wi'?"

I spoke without removing my hands from my face.

"No, Gillian, she was married to a horrible man who was an alcoholic and abused her badly. She suffered through many beatings but when he beat her badly one night, she called the police and they took him to jail. She divorced him after that. All this happened before I met her. She is not married now. She is much older than I am and has led a very sad life for a long time. I don’t know how to explain the love part, I don't think it is love as much as it's the need to help her. She is very vulnerable right now and needs me to lean on.  It is different than the way I feel about you right now. Evelyn and I have this sort of need for one another. She needs the security of a man and I needed the physical love that she gave so willingly."

I finally managed to raise my head and look at her again. She hadn't moved and our eyes met once again.

 "I want to hold you in my arms so bad it is driving me crazy Gillian but deep down I know that you must get up and walk away from me and never look back."

The tears were streaming down her face and I could see that she was visibly shaken. Her lip was quivering and she was struggling to speak. Finally she managed to get it out.

"I'll do no sooch thing, Jamie MacGregor."

I felt stunned, but before I could react, two women approached, one in her early twenties perhaps and the other in her late forties. As they drew closer, I got the shock of my life. It was as though my mother was there in front of me. There was no mistaking; it had to be my Aunt Dora and Cousin Victoria. I pushed myself to a standing position.

 "Aunt Dora, is it you?"

Victoria age 13, Grandmum and Dora
Edinburgh, Scotland 1935


End chapter 6








Chapter 7
Aunt Dora 


Gillian quickly wiped her tears, hoping the two women didn't notice.

"Weel, noo that ye have some company, I shall be needin' tae get back tae work. I'll be back in a wee bit tae bring ye back tae yer bed."

 At that Gillian walked away quickly so that the new arrivals couldn't see her face, though she was glad in a way; the timely appearance of Jamie's relatives gave her a perfect excuse to get away from him for a little while so that she could sort things out. Her heart felt as if it were trying to escape her body, to just get away from the pain. She needed some time to think.

Gillian was moving all over the ward in a random fashion, doing little tasks here and there while she was lost in her own thoughts. Some of the other nurses on duty that day stood huddled in a group at the far end of the ward and watched her strange behavior and knew right away that something must have happened between her and the young man. Well, it didn't take long for gossip to spread. The hospital grapevine operated very efficiently.

"Och! Will ye look at Gillian!" exclaimed one of the group.

"Aye, the poor lass looks sae lost. I wonder what happened atween her an' that young soldier." said another nurse. They huddled closer, speculating amongst themselves just what exactly had upset Gillian, each coming up with a different theory.

Just then Laura Murray came through the doors, having just arrived to start her shift. She noticed the nurses standing together and whispering to each other and decided to head over to investigate. Laura was quite annoyed to see such idleness, especially when patients needed attention. She strided briskly towards the group, bristling with irritation.

 "What are ye all bletherin' aboot? We have patients tae tend to."

Her approach startled the ladies and they jumped when they heard her voice.

"Shhh! Keep it quiet, Laura!" Nurse Cameron whispered. "Tis Gillian. She is actin' verra strange and we were just trying to figure out what happened. Most likely tis somethin' wi' that young man, Jamie. She took him outside and came back without him and since then she has been rushin' aboot, no sayin' a word. She is tryin' tae hide it, but she looks ready tae burst intae tears, the poor thing! He must have said somethin' tae upset her."

"Weel, it will do nae good fer ye all tae be standin' here talkin' aboot it." Laura chided. " Go aboot yer business and I'll see tae Gillian."

She gave them a little smile because she knew that they cared, but at the same time, she didn't want Gillian to know that she was the big topic of discussion. She watched them sidle away and slowly walked over to Gillian.

Gillian couldn't control her thoughts. They were racing through her mind so quickly, she couldn't contain them. "Dinna be actin' sae surprised, Gillian!" she told herself. "Tis just the way things are. Ye ken that ye always fall fer the men that ye canna have." She had seen that the other nurses were whispering about her but she didn't care. That was the least of her worries at the moment. "Och, now Gillian." she scolded herself. "Ye ken that ye have more respect fer yerself than that! Dinna be tearin' yerself tae shreds just because a man has broken yer heart! Ye've lived through heartache before! Ye canna..."

"My, Gillian!" Laura Murray interrupted. "Ye're flyin' aboot like yer on fire, lass! Are ye all right?"

Startled, Gillian looked up from the bedside locker she was tidying.

 "Och, aye,  I just have all this energy that I dinna ken what tae do with an' I suppose I just got carried away. Am I disturbin' ye then?"

"No. I had thought that mayhap ye were upset aboot somethin' an' were needin' tae talk, but if I was mistaken then I'll let ye go aboot yer work."

 She started to turn away, but Gillian put her hand on the older nurse's arm.

"Oh, ye are no mistaken. I just canna talk aboot it just yet."

She hoped Laura wouldn't insist on discussing the subject further.

Laura covered Gillian's hand with her own.

 "I thought as much. Weel, if I can be any help at all, my door and heart are always open fer ye, lass."

At that she gave her hand a squeeze and walked away. Gillian felt the tears welling up again.

It was such an inopportune time for Aunt Dora to show up but not much I could do about it now. As Gillian walked away, I extended my hand to Aunt Dora only to have her throw her arms around me and give me a big hug. I almost overbalanced when she eventually let go and stepped back, but grabbed the arm of the bench to keep myself upright. She was a strong woman for someone much smaller than me.

"James, you look so much like Hilda. She never told me you had grown into such a handsome young man."

She beamed a sunny smile at me and looked me up and down in appraisal. I hoped she liked what she saw.  Then Victoria came forward and gave me a hug as well. I couldn't get over how much Dora reminded me of my mother. She even seemed to have the same taste in clothing, standing there in a smart grey plaid suit that could well have come right out of my mother's closet.

As for Victoria, she looked nothing at all like her mother. She had thick black hair like mine and the deep blue eyes. Her face was creamy white and she had two magnificent dimples in her cheeks whenever she smiled. She was an inch or so taller than Gillian and quite attractive to say the least. She looked very elegant in her navy blue dress and I couldn't help but notice that it was cut well down the front. Her lipstick was a deeper red than I cared for but I guessed that was the fashion these days. Still, it looked good with her hair being so dark and her face so fair.

"Well, needless to say, Victoria and I were very surprised to hear from Mr. Burnet that you were here in the Cottage Hospital in Hawick. He phoned me, you know, and told me what happened. It's a miracle that you and the other young man came out of this alive. Is he doing well?"

"Yes, Nurse Gillian, that was the nurse that just left, by the way, tells me that I’ll be able to see him tomorrow. He suffered much more severe injuries than I did but seems to be coming along ok."

At this, Victoria jumped in and said, "I noticed the nurse seemed to be crying when we arrived. What was that all about?"

I didn't know exactly how to reply to this but before I could answer, Aunt Dora was talking again.

 "How long will they have you here in the hospital? You must come up to Edinburgh and visit with us a few days before you get back to your regiment. Victoria can come down and pick you up as the train is dreadfully slow."

Gillian's crying was not something that I wanted to talk about right now. It was bad enough that she had gone off by herself before I could explain things properly. I began to wonder if I had done the right thing. She must be feeling miserable right now. God, what a mistake to tell her about Evelyn.  She said that she would not walk away from me but that was probably something that came out in desperation. "I'll do no such thing," she said. I wasn't sure that I could believe that now. I'd very likely ruined any chance I'd had to form a proper relationship with her. I decided to just ignore the comment that Victoria had made about the crying and tried to change the subject.

"My goodness, Victoria, I've just realized you have a slight Scots accent and yet Aunt Dora sounds just as though she's newly come up from  Liverpool. That sounds so strange; a mother and daughter speaking differently."

"Aye, mother still sounds very English. What with growing up in Edinburgh, I have the brogue, but not as broad as down here," she said as she looked over to the hills. "As for you, James, you sound so American. I've only talked to one other and you sound just the same as she did."

 "I would love to come and visit you in Edinburgh, but I have no idea when they will let me out of here. Up until now, I haven't even given it a thought but they’ll be taking my cast off soon and I see no reason why I shouldn't be allowed to come for convalescent leave. Other than clothes, that is. I don't have a stitch of clothes!! Mr. Burnett was in and took some measurements but he didn't say what he was up to."

As Victoria sat on the bench beside me talking animatedly, I began to have the feeling that Scotland had a corner on beautiful women. She had such perfect lips and the dimples in her cheeks when she smiled almost made me want to reach out and touch her face to see if they were real.

“It must be terrible to be cooped up here with no clothes. Has your commander no found out where you are?"

"Hah! I think Hetrick and myself are lost in paperwork somewhere. Not a word from Headquarters about our orders. Maybe another day or so and something will show up. It's not that I am so anxious to get back to the war. I would like to see Hawick, walk down the High Street, just visit all the places my Dad has talked about so much all these years. I would also like to see Edinburgh before having to report back for duty. Your coming down to see me has made that sound much more likely to happen."

“Tell me about Hilda. It has been nearly twenty years since we have seen one another. Has she aged gracefully?" Dora had a wistful look on her face. She must have missed her sister dreadfully.

"She is the spitting image of you. I was shocked when you walked up the path to the hospital. So if that is gracefully, yes. She spends a lot of time in the garden with her flowers. The awful fights my dad had with her over going to California are all over now and he has a job working for Uncle George. He has the termite business in California you see and offered my Dad a job; mostly I think to get him adjusted to the different lifestyle in California. There was a point there where I thought they would divorce one another over it."

James remembered the sound of raised voices he would sometimes hear and the awful atmosphere that used to hang over the house in his early years.

"Well, it's for the best. Your mother always was the leader in the family. If it hadn't been for her, your father would still be here in Hawick working for Wilson and Glenny in the same job he had twenty years ago."

"What do you do in Edinburgh? I know that your husband Jeffrey has been gone for some time now. Have you re-married?" James realized he had a lot of catching up to do.

"Re-married!  Heavens no!"  She gave a short laugh. "The last thing I need is another man to make life miserable for me. After Jeffrey died, it was a bit of a tough go for a while but Jeffrey had a little money stashed away and I opened a fabric shop. We are doing quite well at it. Victoria and I both work there so it makes our hours much more flexible. We have twenty three other ladies that work for us now and we seem to keep growing all the time. The government has awarded us a contract to make shirts for the army so all in all, we are very busy.  Because of the contract, we are on special gas ration which means we can travel about to buy special fabrics and materials.

By the way, I have been meaning to ask you, do you ever hear from my sister Lillian? She was divorced from George Munton and married a man named Phillip Diana. The last address I have for her is Youngstown, Ohio. Is that close to Struthers where you were born?"

"Well it sounds as though you have your hands full, Aunt Dora. As for Aunt Lillian, I was at her house just before having to leave for basic training. They had a nice going away dinner for me. Everyone there is fine. Struthers is like a suburb of Youngstown."

Aunt Dora had a very surprised look on her face when I had mentioned that I was with her sister such a short time ago. I supposed with the war, keeping in regular contact over thousands of miles was difficult.

"I didn't know you were in Ohio. What were you doing back there and not with your mother in California? Were you staying with Lillian then?"

"It's a long story. I didn't like living in California and having to leave all of my friends behind and go to a new school, so after a miserable year there, I worked two months the following summer with Uncle George to earn enough money to go back to Ohio for a month before having to go back to school again. I got a job as soon as I got to Ohio and stayed with our old next door neighbors. When it came time to go back, I called Mom and told her I wanted to stay on and finish high school back in Ohio."

"My goodness, you must have only been 17 years old at the time."

"Actually, I was only 16 and quite pleased with myself too. Independence had been a big step to take at 16.”

"I can't imagine Hilda permitting you to stay. She was always so close to the girls. What on earth ever possessed her to do a thing like that?"

She looked at me as though I had committed a crime of sorts. "Well I don't think she had all that much say in the matter. I told her I was going to stay on and graduate with my friends whether I had her blessing or not. She was furious for a while but when she realized that I was not going to be back, she accepted it."

"So what did your neighbors think of adding a new somewhat permanent addition to their family. I know you said you were working but certainly not full time?"

"Well, it was nearly full time work.  I was allowed to get out of school at noon and almost all of my earnings went to help the family I was living with.  After graduation, I moved to my own place. A woman named Mrs. McCurdy had this room to let with meals and it was right next door to the store where I worked so I moved into the McCurdy house and stayed there the whole time except for a quick trip home before having to go to the army. They lowered the draft age to 18 in 1942 and it wasn't long after that I was off to basic training."

"So you were living with perfect strangers then? My goodness, I would have been absolutely out of my mind if Albert had done something like that at 16. He's only 24 now and I worry so much about him. He's off in North Africa in the God awful desert with Field Marshall Montgomery's Forces."

"Yes, Mr. Burnet mentioned that he was in North Africa”.

That was the extent of what Aunt Dora would hear from me about Evelyn. As we sat there and chatted about one thing and another, the time seemed to fly by and it was almost lunch time. AuntDora said that the two of them would have lunch in town and then they were off to do some shopping for some woolen material. She was sure that they would have exactly what she was looking for as Hawick was well known for woolen goods. She gave me her phone number and made me promise to "ring her up" as she called it as soon as I was able to leave the hospital and she would see to it that Victoria came down to pick me up. We said our goodbyes with another quick hug from the both of them and they were gone.

Gillian found herself really in need of some advice on this dilemma she found herself in and she didn't know who to confide in. She thought of asking Mr. Hetrick about Jamie's friends. Laura, as well, had offered to talk to her if she found the need and if ever there was a time of need, this was it. After a considerable time of mulling this over in her mind, she decided to go in and talk to Laura. After all, it was obvious to her now that Laura was not attracted to Jamie and perhaps she could help ease the pain, if nothing else. She eventually found Laura in the sluice room. Perfect, she thought to herself, interruptions were unlikely.

"Laura, ye said if I had the need tae talk, yer door is open and so here I am."

"Aye, it's Jamie, isn't it?" Laura could read Gillian like a book.

"Och Laura, it is. Ye ken I was goin' tae find oot if Jamie had a girlfriend back home? Well, I got up the courage tae ask him aboot it."

"And what did he say, Gillian?" By the look on Gillian's face, Laura could guess.

"He didna try tae sugar coat anythin' Laura. He told me straight oot that he had a girlfriend." Gillian didn't have the mind to tell her it was a woman twice his age and divorced.

"What exactly did he tell ye, Gillian?"

Gillian took a deep breath and let it all spill out. "He said he had this girlfriend back home. He told me he was verra involved wi' her and she was all he could think of afore the crash and then when he woke up, there was me, Gillian MacKenzie. He said that he was in love with me, that he wanted tae hold me in his arms so bad. He said he didna ken why he had these feelings for me but he did. He told me tae get up and walk away from him and never look back. Och, Laura, I dinna ken what tae do. I've never had such feelins for a man afore. Ye ken aboot Graham and me of course but he didna want anythin' permanent and noo my heart is breakin' fur someone that says he wants me and then I find oot he has another woman."

Gillian couldn't control her emotions and began crying again. The tears spilling down her face in torrents and her hands trembling as she tried to wipe away the tears. Laura came over and put her arms around her to try and comfort her.

"There noo, it's no all that bad, really. Jamie is just as mixed up noo as ye are. He's no tellin ye to go away because he doesna want ye. He didna lie tae ye Gillian and ye have tae respect the man fur that. Did he tell ye he was in love wi' this other woman?"

Laura continued to cradle Gillian in her arms and she could see the tears slowly drying up. Gillian's face was red from all the tears and her nose was running. Her sobbing gradually died down to an occasional hiccup.

"Gillian, dear," said Laura as she handed over a handkerchief. "Blow yer nose and sit doon now and tell me if he said he was in love wi' this other woman."

Gillian did as she was told and sat down in the chair. She was very nervous at having told Laura so much and she was fidgeting with the pocket of her uniform. Well, she had gone this far, no use to hold back the rest.

"He said it was a different kind o' love wi' this McCurdy woman. That it was no like the love he feels for me. She needed the security of a man, he said.

"And the other woman, Gillian, is she married?

"Och my Laura, how did ye ken then.  She was married but her husband abused her badly and she divorced him?"

"So James was living with her I take it?”

"Yes, I wish he hadna told me." Gillian looked on the verge of crying again.


Head Nurse Laura Murray

"Gillian, listen to me. It wasna easy fer Jamie tae tell ye this. He told ye tae go awa from him because he doesna feel he has the right tae be wi' ye. Sometimes things happen in strange ways. Ye remember me tellin ye that he was no a virgin? Well noo I'm telling ye that he didna set out tae be there living with this women. He knew it was a sin but I'm sure that Jamie feels just as bad aboot it as ye do right noo. He's told ye knowin' full well that ye might be hurt by it but he's no hiding anythin from ye,lass. At least he's bein' honest wi' ye."

"Och Laura, I'm sae mixed up right noo." Gillian turned to look out the window. "I see his relatives have gone now and I have to help him in for lunch. I'm not sure I can face him just yet."

"I can do it if yer nae up to it just yet."

"No, I canna hide from this. I have tae do it. I told Jamie I wouldna walk away from him and I'm no one tae go back on my word."

As I sat there alone, I put my hand into the robe pocket and felt the three letters that I had not yet looked at. What with all that was going on in my mind, it is no wonder that I had forgotten about them. I decided to read Loretta's letter first. Maybe it would help take my mind off things for a while.

Dear James,

Just a short note to let you know that I am going to get married next week to Steve Vargas. You remember him don't you? He lives over on the North Side and had the nice black 35 Ford Coupe. I am so happy. It is to be a large church wedding and I am kind of nervous about that. I got your address from Glen so I hope this makes it to you. Glen and Bonnie are still going together. I think they will get married one of these days.

I heard that Maureen Schulick married Bill Priest. I just can't believe that. Maureen was always so nice and Bill Priest is such a jerk. All of our old friends seem to be drifting away one by one. Barbara has moved somewhere in Youngstown and I never see her any more. Both of my younger brothers are in the Navy and Bill is in the army.

Well, I must go now. Take care of yourself.




Well, for once some good news. Steve Vargas would be good for Loretta I thought. I remembered the 35 Ford very well. Steve and I had a race one night along Poland Road, me in my 34 Ford side by side going all out.

Anyway, I was happy for her. It seemed like a much better match than Maureen and Bill Priest. I opened the next letter, which was from Glen. There was no mistaking his scrawling. Glen had left school to work in his dad's garage and it showed in his letter.


Hi Jim.

Things have really been booming around here since the war started. I got me a good job at Republic Steel as a machinist and work there during the day and putter around with the cars at night. They are talking about 12 hour shifts now and that will make for a lot of overtime.

Morris keeps asking about you every time I go into the store. He looks very tired. I think he is putting in too many hours. The defense plants have sprung up all over and he is having a hard time keeping anyone there at the wages he pays. McPhee's Drug store has the same problem. Old man McPhee seems to be working night and day lately.

I see that your car is still sitting behind McCurdy's place where you left it. You ought to tell Mrs. McCurdy to drive it once in a while. It is not good for it to sit so long without being used. If you want, I can go down and charge the battery and check it out, maybe change the oil etc; just let me know. You don't want to sell it do you? Good cars are hard to come by right now.

You knew that Dad was on his last legs when you left; well he died shortly after you went and that brand new 38 Ford was still in the garage up on jack stands. He would probably have a fit if he knew that I was driving it back and forth to work every day.

Write when you get a chance.

Your buddy,




I hadn't expected Glen's Dad to make it so it was not a surprise to me that he was gone. It did surprise me that Glen was driving the Ford. He had several other cars there and the Ford was like a shiny new penny the last time I saw it. Oh well, maybe he sold the others. He did say good cars were hard to come by.


Now for the letter from Georgie. I couldn't imagine what he would be writing to me about.



Dear Cousin James,

I got your address from your Mother yesterday. All is well with her and your Dad.

James, the reason I am writing to you is because of Teresa. I don't know what went on while you were here and it is none of my business but she has really been depressed since you left. I don't understand it as you two were only together for such a short while. Whatever is wrong, it is affecting her work. I would be very happy if you could find the time to write to her. Her address is 5850 La Vista Court, Hollywood, 38, California. She keeps telling me that nothing is wrong but I know better.

I would hate to have to let her go but unless something happens, she is not much use the way she is.





Damn. What does he mean by ‘not much use the way she is’. What the hell was wrong? Damn that Georgie anyway! I was sure that Teresa was right about him now.


End Chapter 7


















Chapter 8
Teresa Carney


The letter from Georgie really had me disturbed.  I knew that I would have to reply to him as quickly as possible but what could I say to him.  Teresa worked for him and he had more control over what would happen to her than I did.

As I sat there in the hospital mulling over the letter,  my thoughts went back to the day I first met her.  It happened shortly after I had returned to California.  Mom wanted to see me before I went into the Army and so I made a rushed trip in my '34 Ford. Once I got there, I went back to work for Uncle George to get enough money to return to Ohio.  I was not too busy one afternoon and Uncle George had some real estate papers that he wanted me to take out to his son Georgie's place for signature.  I knew that he didn't like going out there because of his son being a "queer" and living with a man.  I had often heard my mother and father discussing Georgie's friends.  My father would have nothing to do with him so I well knew that George Munton Sr. felt some embarrassment over his son's lifestyle.  So much so, he would not even go to his house. 

It was the first time that I had ever been to Georgie's new home in Encino. As I drove up the street I found the houses set far back off the roadway making it hard to see the addresses.  The sign had said this was a dead end street and I was quickly coming to the end.  When I could go no further, I came upon a locked gate, a buzzer, and Georgie's house number.  I pressed the buzzer and in a few minutes, a gruff voice came over the speaker asking what I wanted.  I had never had occasion to use such a device but I spoke back to the speaker telling the person who I was.   In a few minutes the gate opened of it's own accord and I went on in.  There were about five or six other cars there and I thought he must be having a party or something. As it turned out, it was a party of some sort as there were six ladies there, three other young guys, cousin Georgie, and his boyfriend Vincent.  I was still in my work clothes but he greeted me as though I were the Duke of Windsor.  

He hadn't changed at all in appearance since I had last seen him.  He was dressed in a sports jacket and tie, every part of him neat as a pin. His dark wavy hair may have thinned ever so slightly but he still had the same manner of making people welcome.  As we shook hands, he was surprised that I was now more than equal to his 6'2". 

Cousin Georgie, Encino California 1942

"My God, what did they feed you back in Ohio?  You've grown more than a foot since you worked for my Dad." 

"Yes, mom and Dad were both surprised as well as your father.  He has these papers for you to sign."

I handed him the envelope containing the real estate papers and he took delight in showing off his new home.   I thought there would be no end to the rooms.  It was a grand palace to me with large bedrooms, adjoining baths, and a large sunken bath just off the master bedroom.  Then came the paintings.  They seemed to be everywhere, each with a light up above.  There must have been twenty alone down the long wide hallway, all nudes and as he was showing them to me, one in particular caught my eye.  It had the face of one of the young ladies out in the living room.

I asked him about it and he said, "Yes, that's Teresa Carney.  Isn't she gorgeous?"

“My God, she really is beautiful.”

I looked more closely at her fine body and found it very odd that Georgie thought she was beautiful given his inclination for a man rather than a woman. 

"Would you like to have her James"?  

"What do you mean; would I like to have her?"

"You know, do you want to go to bed with her?  Just say the word and she's yours", as he gently poked me in the ribs. 

"Who the hell are all of these girls?" 

He went on to tell me that they were all in the business and worked for him.  It took me a while to put two and two together; rube from the small town me.  These were the girls that made the porno films that I had heard Mom and Dad talking about. At least that was my guess at the moment.

When we finally joined the others, my eyes went immediately to Teresa.  It was enough to make me forget what I came for. I couldn't take my eyes off her and it didn't take her long to see that I was looking at her.  She started over toward Georgie and me and when she walked; her whole body seemed to move inside her dress.  There was that light bounce of her breasts, the movement of her hips, and a smile the same as in the painting.

I think I had undressed her three times before she got there.  She stopped and put her arm through his and said, "So who is this handsome guy, George?" 

"Teresa, this is my cousin James".

That seemed to spark Teresa's attention as she left his arm and came over and took mine.  Georgie winked at me and was off talking to some of the others leaving me quite alone with Teresa.


Teresa Carney at Georgie's Place in Encino

 She was very quick to take me off to the den away from the sounds of the others before talking to me.  We sat down together in this spacious room which was beautifully decorated with luxurious furnishings.  The one entire wall was windows floor to ceiling and it looked out onto a lovely garden with a waterfall and there were statues of naked women that appeared to be at least seven feet tall all in white carved stone.  They were of course, Venus, Aphrodite, and Astarte. At least Mrs. Truax’s help with my History had taught me something.  On the wall to the left were more beautiful paintings, all of nude women, the frame of one alone worth more than I would earn in a month.  At the far end was a fireplace that was faced with white marble and off to the right a little nook with an organ and yet another nude painting above. I wondered to myself just how much money Georgie had tied up in these magnificent paintings. 

"James, I noticed you staring at me." 

What a beginning I thought; was it that obvious.  

 "Yes, I guess I was.  It was the painting in the hallway, you see.  It is quite beautiful; you are quite beautiful that is."  

She looked at me over the top of her glass as she slowly sipped on her drink, her eyes searching mine as if to draw on my thoughts.  She was wearing a very low cut dress and it was difficult to keep my eyes off her breasts.  As she lowered her glass and returned it to the table, I thought they would spill out over the top with the slightest leaning forward but the laws of physics were not in my favor as they managed to remain covered.  She was looking directly at me now and although she was well endowed, I could see that she was not too much older than me, perhaps twenty years old but no more than that.  She had golden hair that came down beyond her shoulders and deep blue-green eyes that were surveying me bit by bit as she spoke again.

"Do you like what you see?  

God, what a thing to ask.  How could I possibly not say yes?   I wasn't used to such directness coming from a woman.  It was almost as if she had asked me to go to bed.  I didn't know exactly what to say and ended up repeating myself.

"You’re very beautiful to look at.   I'm sorry if you feel like I'm ogling you."  

"Oh no, I'm flattered that you find me so attractive." 

Georgie had said all I had to do was ask and that thought was uppermost in my mind at the moment.  How can you say, "Do you want to hop in bed with me?"  I knew that if it was to happen, it would have to be much more subtle than that.  Perhaps these friends of his were able to do that but I knew those words would never come out of me.  I was very curious exactly what type of work it was that she did for Georgie.  He had said that they were all in the business and I had assumed that this meant the porn business but this didn’t necessarily mean that Teresa was directly involved.

"What is it you do for Georgie?"  

She laughed and said, "Georgie!  He would die if you called him that.  He prefers George." 

"Oh, he has always allowed me to call him Georgie; so what is it you do for George?" 

 "She said, "I do movies, short porn flix." 

She said it so matter of fact like it was nothing.   I couldn't believe it.  She looked so much the girl next door type and I found it very hard to understand why.   I knew that someone had to do these types of movies but somehow sitting here next to her, it seemed impossible that someone like Teresa would be one of them. 

I was not quite sure that I would have to be so subtle after all.  I wasn't even sure that I wanted her now; however, I was curious enough to want to know how she came to be doing this sort of thing.  The thought of making love with someone in front of a camera while others watched was more than I could comprehend.  I immediately thought of Evelyn and our situation back there.  Many nights I had fallen asleep wondering what it would be like to make love to her. I thought of how hard we were struggling to make ends meet back in Ohio and here I was amidst all this wealth and in all probability, it was made off the sale of pornography. Evelyn was as equally beautiful as Teresa, maybe even more so and I knew that she would never think of selling her body for money. 

"Oh really, you actually are in movies then?"  

"Yes, would you like to see me in one of my movies?"

I had heard about porno movies but had never actually seen one before but if what I had heard was true, it was unimaginable that Teresa could be involved in such a thing.

"Yes, I would."

I said yes not knowing that she meant right now.  She picked up the phone and dialed and in a minute was talking to one of Georgie's man servants.  I later found out that this man was also his body guard. She asked him to set up the projector with ‘Minx’ and to bring her the key. I hadn't noticed any projector when he had showed me through the house and had no idea why the need for a key.  She asked me if I would like a drink and I hesitated as I knew that I had to get back to Hollywood with the papers but thought that one would be ok.

"Yes, but go heavy on the ice and easy on the vodka". 

 She picked up my glass and walked over to a small bar that was located in the far corner of the room.  I couldn't help but watch as she moved away from me.  She had such a fine looking body and it was a real treat to watch her walk.  My mind went back to the hallway and the picture and thought of what she might look like for real naked.  I was still looking at her as she finished with the drinks and headed back.  In either direction, she was a sight to behold.  She sat down beside me again.

"Where do you live, James?" 

"I live in Hollywood".  

"Oh, where in Hollywood?" 

"Do you know where Georgie's dad lives?"  

"Yes, over on Wilcox Place isn't it?"   

"Well, our place is straight up Vine Street, a short left, and then up Holly Drive to almost the end."

Just about then, a fairly tall hunk of a man came in and handed the keys to Teresa and said, ‘It's set up, Miss’.  He looked much on the order of a boxer or wrestler with his cauliflower ears and his bent nose.  His hair was cut almost to the skull and he had deep wrinkles in his forehead, not someone I would want to meet on a dark street late at night, I thought.  He left as quietly as he had arrived and we were alone once again.  

"Let’s go” and she took me by the hand and we went out the French doors, through the garden and past the pool and through a gate where I saw that there was a guest house hidden from all the rest.   It was really beautiful back here, the gardens alive with flowers and the lawns plush and green.  There was a beautiful big oak tree in the front of the house and in the yard there were large glass topped tables with huge blue umbrellas in the center.  I continued to follow her as she opened the door and we went on in.  Then came the need for the key as she put it in the dead bolt and locked the door. 

"Is there really a need for locking the door?"

"I don't like people walking in on me when I'm looking at one of my movies." 

I got the impression right away that this house was used primarily for viewing movies as there were several sofas all facing in the same direction.  She clicked a switch that opened a large curtain exposing a floor to ceiling screen and at the same time she clicked another switch closing the window curtains that cut off the main light to the room.   She was definitely in charge and all I could do was follow directions as she and I sat down on a sofa in the semi-dark room and she clicked yet another button and the movie started. 

It wasn't long before she was in the scene on the screen and it was barely five minutes into the movie before things started to happen.  There was no real plot so far and the next thing I know, Teresa and another girl are undressing one another and kissing each other.   A this point, I began to wonder if Teresa was a lesbian but that thought was soon dispelled as a moment later, her hand dropped to my thigh.  I wasn't even sure what a lesbian was or did; only that it was two women who somehow loved one another.  The movie was very erotic at this point and in spite of what they were doing, I felt myself becoming sexually aroused.  It was difficult for me to believe that Teresa was kissing this woman with such passion and even more difficult to believe that this was causing arousal in me.  I had never seen two women kiss each other on the mouth in my entire life and now Teresa had moved down to the girl’s breasts. She patted my thigh and said, "I think you need another drink."  This time I did not protest.  Watching this, I did need another drink; maybe two.

When she returned with my drink, she sat down on the sofa, this time facing me instead of along side me.  She put her hands on my shoulders and then slowly moved them to the back of my head and began running her fingers through my hair. 

"Well, what do you think so far?"    

I didn't know what to say.  She was up so close to me now, her face directly in front of me.   The drinks had started to make me feel a little giddy and I could feel myself begin to sweat a little. 

"Do you......are this type of thing pleasurable to you?" 

"Yes, all sex is pleasurable to me."  

"But it's a girl, I said, it just doesn't seem normal." 

She was running her fingers up and down the back of my neck and her fingernails made the hair on the nape of my neck stand on end.  I wasn't in control of this situation; actually the opposite, I was very nervous and uneasy. 

"Would it be more normal if I were kissing you?" 

Before I could answer, she came so close I could feel her breath against my face, our lips only inches apart now.  My heart was beating so loudly, I was afraid Teresa could hear it.   I still had my drink in my one hand and was searching frantically for the end table next to the sofa as we began kissing one another.  I finally managed to set the drink down and put my arms around her pulling her up close to me, our mouths now fully engaged. Almost instinctively, my hand moved down her back and then along her thigh to her dress hem, my fingers searching under the hem and then slowly back up her thigh.  Her legs were bare and her skin as smooth as silk and my hand roamed far enough up the outside of her thigh to realize that she was naked except for the dress.

At the same time she was unbuttoning the front of my shirt and began to run her fingers through the hair on my chest and just as quickly, she lowered her head and I could feel her tongue tasting me, her lips surrounding my nipple.  Just as in the movie with the young girl, she was now doing this to me.  I was oblivious to the movie that was running clickity clickity click in the background.

"James, I want you to make love to me?" 

I had wanted to the minute I saw her and here she was offering herself.  It was not even necessary for me to ask.  She took my silence as a yes. 

"Bring your drink then and we'll get into the spa first."   

She wasted no time in taking my hand and leading me off to the master bedroom of this guest house.  It was almost as though I was a puppet and she was controlling the strings.  I wasn't sure that I wanted this to happen and yet I let myself be led knowing full well what the end result would be.   This room was absolutely elegant with it's heart shaped bed, crystal chandeliers, his and hers dressing rooms, sliding mirrored doors, still more nude paintings adorned the walls and in between the dressing rooms, a large sunken pool with steps leading up to a window that looked out onto a tropical garden matted with dichondra and filled with beautiful tropical flowers and plants of all kinds.   It struck me funny that the pool was already churning bubbly water.  Apparently Georgie's man servant knew to do this as well when he set up the projector. 

 We had no sooner arrived than Teresa had her clothes off and was standing there completely naked.  Her body was more beautiful than in the painting, her breasts so firm, the nipples erect. It was obvious that she sun bathed in the nude as her entire body was darkly copper toned with no white marks anywhere.  All the things that I had seen as I visually undressed her a while back were now there before me.  As I stood there looking at her, I wondered if the girl in the movie felt the same as me; a feeling of being seduced by Teresa.  Her eyes were searching every part of me as though to kindle within me the sexual pleasure she seemed to need so badly herself.  I could sense that she wanted the same from me as she had from the young girl in the movie and I wasn't quite sure that I wanted to give it.

Teresa Naked in the Spa

"Well, come on.  Are you coming in or not?"

I stood motionless as I watched her slide down into the bubbly water.  Only her head and shoulders were visible now.  I felt a sudden urge to get the hell out of there.  The sin I was living within myself with Evelyn was driving me crazy and I didn't need to add a Teresa to my misery.  I quickly buttoned my shirt and continued to look down at Teresa. Seeing this, she stood up, the soapy foam slowly sliding down over her lovely breasts and dropping silently into the water below.

"What are you doing?

"I have to go.  I can't do this Teresa, I'm sorry."

Before she could say another word, I was on my way down the hall and out of the Guest House and hurriedly back into the main house.  I found Georgie and got the signed papers.   We briefly shook hands and I thanked him for his hospitality and in a matter of minutes I was on my way back to Uncle George's house. 

It was a warm breezy night as I made my way down Ventura Boulevard past Universal City and into Hollywood. I left the window down to keep my head somewhat clear from the drinks that I had while at Georgie’s.  All the way back I thought about Teresa.  I couldn't get her out of my mind.  I kept tossing it around in my head trying to convince myself that I had done the right thing.  I stopped at the corner of Vine St. and Santa Monica and grabbed a cup of coffee and then went on down to Wilcox Place to Uncle George's place and dropped off the real estate escrow papers.  He wasn't home so I just shoved them through the mail slot in the front door.  I sat out front in the car and finished my coffee, my thoughts still of Teresa standing there stark naked.  I couldn't believe that I had walked out on one of the most gorgeous women I had ever met.  There she was, inviting me to bathe in the nude with her and hell only knows what else.  James MacGregor, you are a damned idiot!  After about five minutes of calling myself stupid, I started the car and then headed back up Vine Street towards home.

Mom was still up and she fixed me a short snack.  I told her how beautiful Georgie's new place was as she had never been there before.  We sat and talked for a while, mostly about me going into the Army.  Then she remembered that my sister had called and wanted me to stop over tomorrow and see her.   She said that she had a surprise for me.  I decided to go over to Arcadia and see her first thing in the morning as it was a long drive over and back.  I asked Mom to wake me early and then I was off to bed.  I lay awake for the longest time thinking of Teresa and what might have been.

"James, it's time to get up."

Aghhh, I rolled over in the bed.  It was Mom waking me already!!!!

"O.K. Mom, I'm awake.  What time is it?

"It's 7AM.  Time you were out of bed if you want to get over and see your sister."

I pulled on my pants and went off to the bathroom to take a shower.  I had no sooner got in and thoroughly wet when Mom said there was a phone call for me.

"Who is it Mom?"

"I don't know, it's some girl who says it's real important."

I shut off the shower and wrapped a towel around me and then out to the living room.


"Hello, James, this is Teresa, I need to see you.  Can we have lunch somewhere?"

"Teresa, I'm going over to see my sister in Arcadia today.  I'll be leaving here in about an hour."

"How about just coffee then?  Over at Al's Place on Santa Monica.  I'll meet you there, ok?"

"OK, Teresa but I can't stay long. I'll see your there in about 45 minutes."

"OK, bye"

"Goodbye Teresa"

I went back into the bathroom and finished my shower.  I hadn't expected to hear from Teresa anymore.  She didn't even seem angry and I thought that very strange considering the way I just walked out on her.  God, will I ever understand women and the way they think?  I hurried with brushing my teeth and shaving and in fifteen minutes I was out the door and headed for Al's.  I told mom that I didn't have time for breakfast figuring that I would grab some coffee and toast at Al's Place.

As I pulled up to the Cafe I recognized Teresa's car as being one of those parked in front of Georgie's yesterday.  It was a beautiful shinny black 39 Ford Convertible. I walked on in and saw Teresa sitting in a booth way off in the back.  I didn't have any idea why she wanted to see me so badly nor what I might say to her.

"Hi Teresa."

"Hi James.  I'm so glad that you could make it."

She looked beautiful even in Levi's and a sweater.  I think she knew that I was mentally undressing her and visualizing her as she was last night.  I was squirming in my seat a little bit and was glad that the waitress arrived.

"Can I get you something?" she asked.

"Yes, I'd like some coffee and toast, please."

"Will there be anything else?"

"No, that's it miss, thanks."

She was only gone a second before Teresa began to speak.

"I know that you don't like what I do for a living.  That's it isn't it?"

"Yes, that's it.  That and all the…….well you know, the things seemed abnormal to me."

"I knew it!  When I heard that you were George's cousin, I thought you were part of it and had to act accordingly.  That is not the real me that you saw last night.  I'm caught up in this thing and don't know how to get out."

"What do you mean, get out?"

"I've been doing this since I was sixteen.  I don't know anything else.  I was really down and out when George found me and took me in.  It all started off so innocently.  George has been very good to me but I want more than this.  I want the real me back.  I don't even have a boyfriend, only sex partners."

I could see that her eyes had gotten a little misty but she was much too strong to cry, I thought.  So she wasn't in it for the money and perhaps all sex was not pleasurable to her after all.

"Why can't you just quit?"

"What would I do, where would I live?  You don't know how many times I've thought about it but I don't know how to do anything else.  I can't type, I can't do anything!  I quit school when I was 15 and headed for California thinking how wonderful everything was out here and it is nothing but a cesspool of filth and corruption.  I can't go back home.  My parents are divorced and both re-married and living with other partners and neither of them want me.  I just wouldn't fit in back there any more.  Your cousin George is very nice to me but he would toss me out in a heartbeat if I didn't perform.  It's all about sex and money, big money.  There are some really nasty disgusting people behind all of this. Some of them frighten me."

"So last night was all an act then?"

"Yes, most of it; George gave me the wink to take good care of you.  I didn't see much difference between you and all the rest but when you walked out, I knew that you were not one of them.  It's part of my job to be nice to friends of George.  That's what I get paid for.  I sell myself for money.  I'm a whore for him and I hate myself and what I do." 

She was not as strong as I had thought and as she sat there playing with the handle on the coffee cup, a tear welled up and trickled down her cheek, first one eye and then the other.  I quickly handed her a napkin and as she wiped her eyes dry, she excused herself to go to the restroom. The waitress had brought my toast while she was gone and I gobbled it down with a swill of coffee.   I glanced at my watch while she was away and I knew that I had to be on my way soon.  It was a long drive to Arcadia and mostly through downtown LA traffic.  When Teresa returned, she slid in onto the seat and the seemingly the tears had been replaced with a slight smile.

"You are probably wondering why I asked to see you; maybe even what it is I want from you.  It's just that I need a friend so bad right now.  Last night, it was not all an act.  When you kissed me, I felt something different happening.  You didn't grope for me like I was some sort of animal. I felt your hands touching me, caressing me.   I even sensed that you were a little nervous about the whole thing.  Were you?"

"Yes, I was more than nervous.  I was awkwardly uncomfortable."

She began to twist one of the paper napkins as she continued to look at me.   She was such a beautiful girl and I just could not imagine her not having boy friends.  She was the one that seemed to be nervous today.  She lowered he eyes to the table as she continued.

"Did you want me last night?"

"Yes, I did.  I wanted you very much."

"Do you want me now knowing what I do for a living?"

She continued to fumble with the napkin and then moved her head up and looked directly at me.  I think she had to see my reaction to that question.   I didn't have to think about it long.

"Teresa, you are an extremely beautiful girl.  I wanted you very badly last night but I had such a guilty feeling because of a girl I know back home in Ohio.  I actually live in Ohio, it’s just my parents that live here in Hollywood and I’m going home to Ohio in about two more days.  I had no idea how things were for you and I would like very much to be your friend.  Do you want me to talk to Georgie?

I reached over the table and placed my hand on hers and gave her a gentle squeeze.

"Oh no, please don't mention this to George.  Promise me you won't.  I had a feeling it was because of another girl in your life but please don't say anything to George.  I was hoping things might be different and that we could become more than just friends."

I got the feeling that she was very afraid of Georgie.  I couldn't believe that he could instill such fear in anyone.  Jesus, he was such a pussy.  I was going to have to try and find out more about what was going on.  Maybe my Dad could tell me something or maybe even Georgie's old man if I could get him a little drunk.  I used to go to the wrestling matches with him before I left for Ohio and he would usually carry a pint of whisky in his pocket. 

"Okay, I won't say anything.  I have to get on my way over to my sister’s now.  It’s a long drive and I have to go right through downtown.  She owns a small convalescent hospital near Pasadena.  How about if I give you a call when I get back and we can talk more about this dilemma you are in?”

“Let me give you my number.”

She jotted the number down on a scrap of paper and gave it to me.  I leaned down and kissed her cheek wondering in my mind how I could help her.

“Goodbye James, please don’t forget to call.”

“I won’t forget”. 

As I strode out of Al’s and headed for my car, I noticed in  the LA Times paper, ‘Gas Rationing Begins on East Coast’.


End Chapter 8 








Chapter 9
The Surprise


In a few minutes, I was up on Sunset Boulevard and headed towards downtown Los Angeles.  Traffic was very heavy with everyone on their way to work.  I couldn't imagine having to do this day in and day out.  It was stop and go all the way to town.  It let up some as I headed out Mission Boulevard to Huntington Drive and then on into Arcadia.

It was a pleasant drive once I got away from all the traffic of the city.   Orange Groves lined both sides of the highway and the traffic lights were few and far between now.  I wondered what the surprise was that my sister had for me.  Santa Anita Race Track was on my left now and I knew I was getting close to Dorthia's place.

I had never seen her new home.  When I finally found the address, I was overwhelmed to see the magnificent house that she had.  As I drove up, I wondered if it was ok to park my car in the circular drive that led in and out of a large Southern Style Plantation type home. It was a big white house with large pillars along the front, and huge cypress trees shading the porch.  I parked the car close enough to the edge to allow another car to pass and walked up onto the brick porch and rapped on the knocker.  A young dark skinned girl opened the door.

My Sister's House In Arcadia 1942

 "Buenos Dias Senor, Que desea usted?"

I didn't have the least idea what she was talking about but decided to just tell her who I was.

"I'm James, Dorthia's brother.  I've come to see my sister."

"Espere un momento."

She left the door ajar and disappeared back into the house and in a few minutes my sister was at the door.

"James, my God you have grown so much I hardly recognized you."

She threw her arms around me and gave me a big hug.  It had only been about two and a half years since I had seen her and she looked exactly the same to me except for few grey strands that were now in her short bobbed dark brown hair.  My mother had given birth to Dorthia very early in life and me quite late thus accounting for the 16 year age difference between us.  It surprised me that I was almost a head taller than she was now.  She was very pretty for her 34 years and quite stunning in her bright red dress.

"Come in, I was just having my morning coffee.  We can go into the breakfast nook and talk.  I just can't get over how tall you are. My God, you're a full grown man now.  What's this about you going into the Army?"

She led me through the entryway past a luxurious living room and down the hallway through the kitchen and then a swinging door into the nook.

It was a very beautiful breakfast room all done in white with large bay windows looking out onto the garden.   I noticed a man working outside in the garden as I sat down.  Yes, I thought, my sister is doing very well for herself.  I began to wonder if I was the only one in the family that was poor.  I had no sooner seated myself than the young woman I had met at the door was back with a coffee pot in her hand.

"Do you want some coffee or something to eat?"

 "Well, I had some toast earlier.  Maybe just a cup of coffee."

 "Toast!!! you need more than that!!

Panchita makes wonderful Spanish  Omelettes.  She turned to the young girl and said, "Panchita, uno tortilla de huevos."

Panchita was a young Mexican girl in her teens I thought.  She was wearing a very colorful full skirt and a white apron.  When she looked at me, her dark brown eyes seemed to be smiling but no sign of it in her dark skinned face.

She had already poured me a cup of coffee and disappeared off into the kitchen leaving my sister and I alone once more.

 "So what is this Army thing?   Did you join or what?"

"No, but on my birthday I will be 18 years old and have to register for the draft.   They sent me a notice not too long back and I have to report to the draft board in Youngstown.  I have no idea what will happen after that."

“When do you have to go back to Ohio?”

“I have to leave here on Monday, the 15th.”

“Oh My, that soon?  You won’t have much time in California then?   Mother said you drove out.  What kind of car do you have?"

Not much time indeed I thought.  Everything was rushing by so quickly I hardly had time to think.  It would take a good four or five days to drive back to Ohio, about a month or less with Evelyn and then off to the Army and hell knows where from there.  I was hoping to have more time with Evelyn but I would just have to wait and see.   I would be arriving back just about at the week end and Evelyn would not be at work.

"Uh oh yes, I have a 34 Ford two door sedan just like the one that Mom wrecked.  Do you remember that?  She was going down Powers Way to pick up Daddy from work and hit that ice and spun around and knocked a fire plug off.  It's funny now to think back about it."

"Oh yes, I remember well.  Father was furious.  He ranted and raved for weeks about it and there was really nothing Mother could do."

I could see that my sister had not lost the habit of drumming her fingernails on the table when she got concerned about something.  I kept wondering about the surprise.  I couldn't imagine what it could be but I was anxious to find out.

"So how are things going at the Casa?  Mom says she only works a few days a week now.  Is that because you’re slow or what?"

My sister looked at me as though I had asked the question of the year.  She got a sort of disgusted look on her face before she answered.

"Didn't she tell you?  That father of yours doesn't want her working now that he has a job with Munton.  He is back to his old ways already wanting Mother to wait on him hand and foot.  I told Mother she would have been better off to divorce him when all the fighting was going on.  I even offered to give her the penthouse at the Casa but she seems determined to stay with him in spite of hell."

 "Oh, I didn't know.  Everything there seemed very normal to me since I have been back.  I'm sure glad I was able to get away from it all and spend the last year and a half in Ohio.  They used to argue every night and it drove me crazy to have to listen to it."

Just then the door swung open and it was Panchita with the largest omelette I had ever seen.  As she set it down in front of me, she said, "Un poco mas Senor?"

"What is she saying Dorthia?"

"She wants to know if you want more."

"Jesus, tell her no.  There is enough here for three people."

Dorthia had a grin on her face as she told Panchita, "Eso es todo."

 The omelette was delicious and I gobbled down every bite even though it was a bit much.  I wondered what it would be like to have maids and gardeners.  Not really my style I didn't think.  I really had no idea what I wanted to do as a career.  Right now, the Army was apparently going to make decisions for me and I had no idea where that might take me.  We spent about an hour in the breakfast room talking and then Dorthia wanted to take me on a quick tour of the house.  I asked how I could tell Panchita thank you and she told me there was no need.

"But I would like to thank her."

"Oh well, just tell her Muchas Gracias then."

I pushed the kitchen door open and I could see Panchita at the kitchen sink doing the dishes and as she looked up at me, I said, "Muchas  gracias, Panchita."   She flashed me a big smile and returned with "No hay de que."  I had no idea what her reply was but I waved my hand and then I was off with Dorthia to look at the house.

Just beyond the breakfast room another swinging door opened into a large formal dining room with a table seemingly big enough to seat at least a dozen people.  It had a sparkling ornate crystal chandelier over the table and of course the candles that Dorthia would always light whenever she had any of the family for dinner.  She had done this as long as I could remember. Even as a little boy, I recalled my sister having her girlfriend Peggy over for dinner at our home in Ohio and the lighting of the candles.  I had caused her a bit of embarrassment one night by asking if we had failed to pay the electric bill.  The candles were somehow important to her.  For me at the time, it was like eating in the dark.

At the other end of the dining room there were large sliding doors that opened into the living room that we had passed through on our way in. Then on into the den which looked out onto a large Olympic sized swimming pool all fenced in except for the opening from the house and a  single gate that appeared to go off towards the garage which Dorthia told me was way off in the back.   Not unlike Georgie's house, each of the bedrooms had their own separate baths with tiled tubs and showers.  Opposite the den was a large library room with books from floor to ceiling on three walls.  The second floor was all master bedroom with walk in closets bigger than my whole room in Ohio.  It was indeed a fancy home and my sister was more than doing well I thought.

"Well James, what do you think?", as she eagerly looked for my reply.

"It's lovely.  I'm really happy for you.  Don't you find it lonely here though with Gary off to sea all the time?"

It seemed like such a big house to me with only my sister and Panchita living in it.

"Oh no!!  I have my friends and I'm just as happy as a lark with him gone.  It's a little more dangerous for him now with so many ship sinkings in the North Atlantic but he has always led a charmed life and even with Hitler and his submarines, he'll be back."

I wondered about her life with Gary gone so much.  Apparently she was much more secure than Evelyn and didn't require a man around to be happy.

“How do you feel about going into the war?  Do you have a girlfriend back in Ohio who will worry about you?"

"Honestly, I haven't even thought about that part of it.  Yes, I do have a few friends in Ohio that I will miss if and when I have to leave.  I’m sure that they will send me off to basic training somewhere.  Beyond that, I don't know what to think."

"A few?  I'll bet the girls are just tripping over themselves", as she began giggling.

"My handsome grown up brother has the girls after him, I see.   Anyone I know?"

"No, I don't think so."

I knew that she would remember Evelyn McCurdy but I wasn't about to mention it to her.  I wondered if growing up with sisters older than me by almost double had anything to do with my not thinking Evelyn was so much older than myself.  Sisters?  I didn't know whether to mention Kathleen or not.

"How is Kathleen doing, or don't you know?"

"She is doing really well.  She met a nice man who dearly loves her and I don't think she has had anything to drink in almost a year now.  They live in a small place up in Santa Barbara.  She writes every once in a while.  I don't suppose you will have time to get up and see her before you go."

"No, as much as I would like to see her, I'm really pushing the edge now to get back in time.  I just hope the weather holds up.  You know how hot the desert can be."

"Yes, well it's time for your surprise.  Let me grab a wrap and I'll take you down to the Casa."

As I waited for her to get her things, I couldn't imagine what or maybe who was at the Casa.  I knew several of the people that worked at Dorthia's rest home and while it might be nice to see them again, it would not be any great surprise.  She was back in a few minutes and suggested we take her car as she knew the way better from the Arcadia house.

When we got to the garage, I saw that she had a 1941 Cadillac.  It was a beautiful car inside and out and unlike my old rattletrap, you couldn't hear it running.  Dorthia said it was the last of line to have all the chrome as everything was now being converted over to war production.  As we pulled out of the garage and onto the road, I couldn't help but feel that my sister's education is what got her to where she is right now and Teresa's lack of it got her to where she is.  I had no idea what to say to Teresa when I called tonight.   As we drove along, I rolled the window down as it was a beautiful day, the sun was warm and it was nice not to have to drive for a change.

"How many beds do you have now?"

"Well we added on a whole new wing since you were here last and we are running between 48 and 52."

"Wow that probably keeps everyone hopping.  I can remember when you only had 18."

"Damn, I have to stop and get gas.  I'm almost out."

She pulled into the first station and told the man to fill it up and check the oil.

"Yes'm", he said as the commenced to lift the hood and do his chores.  He was back in a minute and said the oil was ok and then he set about pumping the gas.

"How much gas does this thing hold?  My Ford seems to find the empty mark really fast."

"I don't really know.  It's between one or two dollars every time I fill up, that's all I know."

"Gasoline was really expensive at some places on the way out.  Twenty two cents a gallon in Nevada."

She gave a little laugh at that saying, "My goodness,  and here I am complaining about fifteen cents a gallon." 

All the coffee was running through me like a sieve and so I decided to run into the restroom while the man was filling the tank.  When I got back, we were ready to go again.

We arrived at the Casa de Las Flores at about 11:15 am and right off I could see the changes she had made.  The new wing she had talked about went off the right side which used to be all yard and it was now beautifully landscaped with trees, flowers, and shrubs with the rest turned into parking.

The penthouse as she had nicknamed it early on looked exactly the same.  It was much like a castle tower and Dorthia used it to house the hired help.  There was a kitchenette and bath and bedroom and Mom sometimes slept over when she was too tired to drive back to Hollywood.   Dorthia took me by the arm and led me directly up the stairway to the penthouse.

The Casa de Las Flores

"Who's up here?"

"You'll see soon enough", as she rapped on the door and a voice within said who is it?

"It's Dorthia, can I come in."

"Yes, it's open, come on in."

 Dorthia opened the door and with me right behind her, we both stood looking at Peggy standing there in her panties and bra ironing a blouse.  Dorthia quickly closed the door and said, "For God sakes Peggy, put some clothes on."

In less than a minute, Peggy had pulled on some Levi's and a shirt and was just finishing buttoning it as we entered for the second time.

"It's James, Peggy!  Look at him will you.  My little brother is a grown up man."

I still had the rapid glance of her in panties and bra dancing around in my head as I rushed to her and gave her a big hug.  I had known Peggy since I was about 10 or 11 years old and she was the love of my life.  Having just seen her near naked, she did not disappoint my youthful visions of what she looked like without clothes on.  I wondered if she ever knew how much I adored her back then. She was a good eight years younger than my sister and they had met while Peggy was sick in the hospital where Dorthia was in nurses training in Youngstown.

"Peggy, my God, I never expected this", as I continued to embrace her.

"Nor did I James.  I can't believe you are so tall and all grown up."

She held me back at arms length as she surveyed me from top to bottom.  Dorthia laughed as the two of us continued to stare at one another.  She looked as beautiful to me as she did back then with her thick long blonde hair and green eyes.

"Well you two, was that surprise enough for the both of you?"

We answered with another hug.  She felt so good and she must have still used the same perfume as memories of her rushed though my head to the times she had hugged me when I was just a small boy.

"OK, come on your two, break it up now.  I have lunch planned for us at the El Poche Restaurant and we have just time to get there before it fills up."

Peggy continued to tuck in her shirt as we headed down the stairs and I continued to think of her in panties and bra as I walked behind her, still surveying her backside.

We arrived at the restaurant just before noon and were seated without incident but I could see what Dorthia was talking about as the restaurant continued to fill up very rapidly.  It was a very fancy place and we were seated out on an enclosed patio all done in Mexican motif. The receptionist was Mexican as were all of the waitresses.  Peggy and I both had to have my sister help us with ordering as the menu was also printed in Mexican.  While we waited for lunch, Peggy and Dorthia sipped on Margaritas and I had a Corona Beer.  I felt that they would ask for an ID because of my age but they brought the drinks without asking.

"James is going off to the Army, Peggy."

"You are, when is this going to happen?"

"Well, I have to be back in Youngstown in about a week.  From there on I don't know.  I guess it is up to the draft board."

"Oh, you're going back to Youngstown?  I'm going back too.   Maybe we can go on the same train together."

"James drove out in his car.  You two need to put your heads together and see it wouldn't be better for the both of you to go back by car and share expenses."

There goes my sister again I thought, always trying to figure out how to save a buck.  She was back to drumming her fingernails on the table so I knew the gears were turning in her head.  It was a good idea though.  This sounded good to me as I barely had enough money to get back to Ohio as it was.  Also it would be nice not to have to do all the driving and we could possibly make it in less time if we put in an extra 100 miles a day.

"What do you think Peg?  Do you want to go back with me?   I'm leaving on Monday though so maybe that is too soon for you."

She had a slight smile on her face as she contemplated her answer.  The same smile I had seen so often in my youth.  She put her hand in her hair and pushed it back away from her face and looked intently at me with those gorgeous green eyes of hers.  She lifted her drink and tasted some of the salt on the rim of the margarita before she spoke.

"Yes, driving back sounds much better than the train.  I'll be glad to keep you company."

The way she was looking at me sent a little shiver through me and I was certain that I detected a very quick wink.  The thought of having her drive back with me was beginning to take on a whole new meaning.

"Great Peg, it was so boring on the way out with no one to talk to and we do have a lot of catching up to do."

My sister seemed pleased the way the conversation was going as she said, "Wonderful, you two can reminisce about the last five years or so then."

The lunch arrived and even though I had such a large breakfast, everything looked delicious.  I wasn't too sure what everything was but I really enjoyed the tacos and also the guacamole dip and the crisp chips they served on the side.

 Dorthia insisted on paying for the meal.  We discussed the details of the planned trip and it was all set up for me to pick Peggy up on Monday morning at 7am.  I got the impression that she was looking forward to going back with me and I was delighted at the thought of spending a few days with her. After dropping Peggy back off at the Casa, Dorthia took me back to Arcadia and I immediately headed back to Hollywood.

As I drove down the same route I had taken to get to my sister's place, I began to think of the trip home.  Jesus, on the way out, I had just pulled off to the side of the road and went to sleep and cleaned up in gas station rest rooms.  I was certain that the return trip to Ohio would be quite different.  Peggy wouldn't want to do that.  Oh well, she had agreed to pay for half of the cost of the trip which was considerably less than the train ticket so we would just have to work out the overnight accommodations.

Peggy Starr, Youngstown, Ohio 1942


 End Chapter 9 









 Chapter 10
 The Return to Ohio

June 15, 1942 Monday

I had packed my car the night before and was all ready to head to the Casa to pick up Peggy at 5:30am.  Mom had fixed some sandwiches and fruit and I was all set to go.

“Drive safely son.  Write to me as soon as you get back to Ohio.  Have a safe trip.”

“I will Mom.”

I gave her a quick hug and headed down the hill to the car.  At this time in the morning, I knew that I would beat the regular Monday morning traffic.  It was 6:45 am when I arrived at the Casa.  Peggy had already carried her suitcases to the front and was there waiting for me.

“Hi Peggy, I see you’re all set to go.”

“Good morning James.  Yes, I’m all set.  I couldn’t sleep last night thinking about what our trip might be like.”

“Here, let me grab your stuff.  Go ahead and get into the car.”

She had three suitcases and I put them in the back along with my bags and we headed up towards Huntington Drive.

“Which route are you taking.”

“I’m going back the same way I came out.  From here we will head north east towards Las Vegas and then on up to Salt Lake City.  In Salt Lake, we can pick up Route 30 and take it all the way to Ohio.”

“How long do you think it will take us?”

“It all depends on how far we can drive each day.  If we can go 600 miles each day, it will take 4 days.  I made it in 4 days coming out so maybe with you helping out a the wheel, we can do it in less.”

“This is sure a very quiet running car, did you do something special to it?”

“No, it’s probably because it is a flat head V-8.  Most of them are pretty quiet.  I thought mine was noisy compared to Dorthia’s  car.”

“Well her car is much newer too.  That sister of yours is doing really well for herself.”

“Yes, she has a knack for it I guess.  I was out to see my cousin Georgie and he is doing better yet.  Do you know him?”

“I’ve heard Dorthia talk of him but I’ve never met him.  What does he do?”

I wasn’t sure how to reply but I decided to just say it like it is with the exception of telling her about Teresa.

“He is in the pornographic business.  He makes movies.”

“Oh Jesus, I can’t imagine anyone being in that type of business.  It sounds absolutely disgusting.”

“Those were my exact feelings.  I was out to his place in Encino last week.  He bought Mickey Rooney’s old house. My Uncle George had me take some papers out there to be signed and Georgie showed me through the whole place.  It made me sick to think how hard I have to work back in Ohio just to make ends meet and here he is peddling these pornographic movies and getting rich from it.”

“That’s ok.  At least your conscience is clear.  I work hard for my money too but I just could not envisage being involved with something like that.”

“Where do you work?”

“I’ve been working up at the South Side Hospital for about 4 years now.  They were having a hard time finding nurses and even though I didn’t complete college, they took me anyway.”

It wasn’t long before we were heading north out of San Bernardino toward Victorville.  This part of the trip was the most boring because there was nothing but dry desert for hundreds of miles.  I thought we could have lunch in Las Vegas and stop for the night in Provo, Utah.  I didn’t know what to expect with regard to our motel room for the night.  I guess this thought was also on my Mother’s mind when she questioned me about going back with Peggy. 

“Have you ever been to Las Vegas, Peg?”

“No, this will be a first for me.  I really wanted to make this trip with you.  The train just whizzes through all of these places and you don’t get a chance to see much but driving, we can stop and get out and look at things if we want.”

“We can stop in Las Vegas and have lunch and maybe take a quick tour of one of the Casinos they have there.”

“Sounds like fun to me.  Maybe we will hit the jackpot and our trip will cost us nothing.”

“More than likely, we will lose a nickel or two and move on.”

I filled up with gas at Barstow.  The price was 22 cents a gallon but not too bad considering that it had to be hauled all the way out here in the middle of the desert.  We grabbed a couple of cold sodas at the station then we headed east up the Baker Grade.

“There are a couple of sandwiches and some fruit in that brown paper bag on the back seat, can you reach them Peg?  They might go good with the Nehi Sodas we bought.”

“Yes, I can get them.”

I watched as she leaned way back over her seat to get them.  Her levi’s were stretched tight across her buttocks  and once again I began to think of the motel and how that would work out. We were making excellent time and Peggy was good company.  I noticed several cars pulled over to the side of the road with the hoods up and radiators spewing out steam but so far I seemed to be running just a bit above normal on the temperature gauge.  By 11:30 am we were headed down the mountain into Las Vegas.  We were both hungry again and decided to eat before visiting one of the Casinos.

“How does this place look, Peg?”

“Looks good to me.”

I pulled into the parking lot, locked the car, and we headed into the café.  A blast of cold air hit us in the face as we walked in.  This was my third time in Las Vegas and every place in town seemed to be air conditioned.  It was such a gust of cold air at first but everything seemed very comfortable after we had been in there for a few minutes.

“What are you going to have?”

I quickly scanned the menu while watching the waitress serving the table next to us.

“Oh, I guess just a burger and fries for me, how about you?”

“I think I’m going to have a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich and coffee.”

We were both taken aback with the brevity of the waitress’s uniform.  I had never seen anyone in such a short cut outfit but I think we were the only ones that seemed concerned.  Peggy had a grin on her face.

“You can put your eyeballs back in their sockets now” as she continued to smile at me staring.

“Damnedest thing I ever saw.”

After lunch, we got the same blast of air going out the door but this time it was hot.  When I opened the car, it was even hotter yet.  We cranked down all the windows and headed further downtown Las Vegas.  I stopped at the Golden Nugget and it was Peggy’s first glimpse of the inside of a casino.

The Golden Nugget Las Vegas Nevada 1942

“Oh my goodness, look all the slot machines.  There must be thousands of them in here.”

“Yeah, I wonder how much money one of these places takes in every day.”

It was nice and cool inside and we walked down aisle after aisle of slot machines and people pulling on the handles, some of them working two machines at the same time.   We went past the crap tables, roulette tables, poker tables.  Las Vegas had it all.  We each put a few nickels in the slots and then decided we better get back on our way.

 It wasn’t long until we were back out into the arid desert with nothing but an occasional cactus or sage brush.  Peggy fell asleep and didn’t wake up until we were pulling into the gas station at St. George, Utah.  While the attendant was filling the tank, we both went to the restroom.  When I got back out, the man told me my oil was ok and we got right back into the car and pushed on towards Salt Lake City.  It was 6:30 pm when we arrived in Provo and we started looking for a motel.  I spotted a place called ‘La Loma Motel’ that looked kind of nice and we decided to go in and check it out.  We really hadn’t discussed this part of it so before we went in, I decided to get Peggy’s thoughts.

“How are we going to work this?  Are you ok with a single room with two beds?”

“I’m sure that will be much cheaper than two separate rooms, besides, all we are going to do is get a nights sleep and wake up and go.”

“Ok, those were my thoughts too.”

When we got to the desk, I asked the man if he had any rooms for the night and how much they were.  He said that he had a single room with one bed for $2.50 and the same single room with two beds for $3.00.  I took the room with two beds and he had me sign in.  Once we got the keys, we decided to go a bit further down the road and fill up with gas and eat.  I was pretty tired from driving all day and we decided that we would switch off with the driving starting tomorrow.  As we sat there at the dinner table in the Outpost Cafe, I couldn’t help but notice how pretty Peggy was with her thick blonde hair and her deep green eyes and once again, the image of her standing there ironing at the Casa with nothing on but a bra and panties flashed through my mind.

“A penny for your thoughts James.”

“I’m not sure if you really want to know Peg.”

It was obvious that she caught me starting at her.  It was a bad habit I had whenever I was in the company of a good looking woman.

“Tell Me.”

“I was thinking of you and the surprise that Dorthia had for us and us busting in on you the way we did.”

“Ah, that left an impression on you eh?”

“Yes, it did.  Whether you realize it or not, you are very attractive.  I have never told you this before but when I was just a little boy and you would come to our house and visit Dorthia, I was always so thrilled to see you.  I can’t explain it, other than I had a crush on you.”

“Really?  A crush huh? And you find me attractive? “

“Yep, I think you are, very attractive.  I also noticed that you still use the same perfume.”

“Yes, I do.  It’s called Arpège.  Do you like it?”

“Yes, it brings back so many boyhood memories of when you would come to visit.”

After supper, we headed right into the center of town to have a look around.  Peggy wanted to see as much as she could of everywhere we had been.  It was a very clean town and the main street faced straight up towards a huge mountain.  We looked around in several of the shops and then we spotted and ice cream parlor.

“Everything looks so good James, I think I will have a neopolitan cone.”

The Ice Cream Parlor, Provo Utah 1942

I ordered a double chocolate cone and we sat over in the corner watching and eating our cones as other customers came in to get their favorite picks.

It was dark by now and we headed back to the motel.  Peggy asked if I would bring in her green bag so I grabbed that and my bag.  I gave her the keys and we headed for the room.  It was fairly large compared to the room I had at Evelyn’s.  There was a stand for the bags so I put them on it and carried my shaving kit into the bathroom.

“Are you sure you’re ok with this arrangement, Peg?”

“Come over here.”

She had motioned me over with her fingers and just as I got there, she hugged me.

“This has been the best day of my vacation.   I suppose we’re both somewhat apprehensive about being in the same room together but I feel very comfortable with you here with me.”

“Ok, which bed do you want, Peg?”

“Oh, I don’t care, how about if you take the one closest to the door and I’ll take the one next to the bathroom.”


I went to my bag and laid out fresh clothes for in the morning and while I was doing that, Peggy had pulled back her covers and then went into the bathroom to brush her teeth.  While she was in there, I set my alarm clock for 5:30am then slid off my pants and shirt and crawled under the covers.  I was almost asleep when Peggy came back out.  She was wearing a blue cotton pajama top as she walked over towards me.

“What time will we leave in the morning James?”

“I have the alarm set for 5:30.  We need to be on our way by 6:00 if we want to make good time tomorrow.”

I was surprised when she sat down on the bed alongside me and started to talk.

“Do you really find me attractive?”

“Yes, you are more than attractive, you’re beautiful.”

“Oh, I’m not!!  None of the staff at work even give me a second look.  I’m 24 years old now and I should be going out on dates but most of my time is spent sitting alone at home with my Mom.”

That comment made me sit up in bed so that I could look at her directly.

“Listen to me Peggy, I don’t have a clue as to why you are not being pestered for dates but one thing I can tell you for sure, it’s not your looks.”

I put my hand up to her hair and then let the back of my hand touch her face.

“You have such lovely hair and beautiful eyes and when you smile…….we’ll let’s just say you are what a man calls a ‘looker’.  Everything about you is beautiful and believe me, I had a good look at you just yesterday.”

"Was it me that you found beautiful or was it the sight of me in my panties and bra?"

“I was thinking about that earlier today at the cafe.  In fact it has been on my mind most of the day, that and the thought of what it would be like making this trip with you.  There is no way I can separate the beauty of your face, your smile, your hair, your eyes from that of your body.  It’s all you.”

“I had similar thoughts about this trip too and I couldn’t sleep last night wondering what it would be like and now here we are in this room alone together.”

“What are you thinking Peg?”

“I’m thinking this is something I have wanted for a long time.”

“You mean the trip or us, here, now?”

“Us here now.  I have never felt comfortable around men but for some reason it’s different here with you tonight.”

I was not certain where this was going until she moved a slight bit closer to me.  Her hair was so thick that it always seemed to cover part of her face and as I put my hand out to brush her hair back, we ended up in an embrace followed by a long tender kiss.  I fell back onto the pillow with her in my arms, the warmth of her breasts pressed hard against my chest.

“Are you sure this is what you want Peg?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”  

I folded back the covers and she got in alongside me.  We lay there for the longest time in each other’s arms not saying a word.  The closeness of her body next to mine had already started to arouse me and as we kissed again, my hand found her breast through the thin cotton pajamas.

“You are so beautiful.  I guess you noticed me staring at you earlier today.  I never imagined it would happen like this.”

One by one I unbuttoned her pajama top, my hands clumsy with excitement and then the touch of her naked skin.  The kisses were one right after the other.  

“I want you to love me totally, James.  I need to know what it feels like to be loved.”

That sounded an awful lot to me like she was a virgin because making love was not something one would forget.  It seemed like an eternity, that first touch of her naked body next to mine. Then all of a sudden her warm body was pressed up against me, my arms completely surrounding her. The light fragrance of her perfume filled my nostrils and I was breathing heavier than normal, slightly nervous and excited.

She felt incredibly wonderful. My hand went to her thigh and moved slowly up past her hips and into the valley of her waist and up past her rib cage to her breasts.  She had beautiful full breasts and the nipples were swollen and as I touched them with my fingertips, they became instantly erect.   I lingered there for a long time while we kissed. I could feel her tongue touching my lips and she began telling me that she wanted me to love her fully.   I was not sure why we both seemed to want this to happen so badly but the dreams of Peggy that I had as a boy were now flashing through my mind a mile a minute.  I finally allowed my hand to move away from her breasts and explore the rest of her lovely body. Her skin felt like velvet. I was barely touching her with my fingertips and I could feel the peach fuzz hair as my hand roamed over her flat stomach.

I was fully aroused by this time and I could feel her warm hands searching my body as I was hers. It was almost as in unison that my hand felt the warmth between her thighs as she found the hardness of me. She put her fingers around me and slid her hand all the way out to the end of me and back again. I had never been touched like that before and it felt extremely sensuous.

I kept thinking to myself, We're going to fuck! How can this be?  Christ James, you are in bed with your sister’s best girlfriend.   All sorts of things were flashing through my mind as she put her leg over the top of me and rolled over onto me, much more the aggressor than myself.  She sat there kneeling over the top of me, her hands gently caressing my shoulders and my arms. As she kissed me, I could feel her naked breasts resting on my chest, my own hands exploring the firmness of her buttocks, the arch of her back, the sides of her torso and then up to the beauty of her breasts once more.

Dear God, forgive me, please forgive me. I know that I am sinning but I can't help myself. She raised her hips up and guided me to the wetness between her thighs. In a moment, I was engulfed with enormous warmth and it felt as though a thousand of tiny fingers had surrounded me, each surrendering in their own time to further penetration. It was like going into a space that didn't initially exist and forcing it open only to be captured again and surrounded by the warmth and tingling of Peggy herself.  Once she had lowered herself completely onto me, she laid herself down upon me with her full weight and her breasts were pressing heavily against my chest.

She began kissing me, her tongue again touching my lips at first and then darting into my mouth to meet mine. I seemed to be feeding on the sweetness of her mouth as though I were trying to devour her.

"Peggy, you are so incredible."

With that she began moving her hips, first taking me fully into her and then rising up the full length of me and once more thrusting me deep inside her.   All thoughts of this being her first time now dispelled from my mind.  She would have done this on her own had I let her but I responded with thrusts of my own, each one seemingly better than the previous. My head was swimming with the feel of her surrounding me. There was no beginning or end, just the precious moments of now. I wanted so much to make her feel wanted and needed and loved. I thought of what Uncle George had told me, ‘when you are making love to a woman, make sure she is the one who sends the first message’. George Munton was all man and I never could figure out how his son Georgie came to be so feminine.  I wasn't quite sure what George meant by that until Peggy began to breathe heavily and then she said, "Oh my God James, whatever you do, don't stop now."   My heart was pounding so wildly that I thought it would burst through my chest but stopping was not even a word that was in my vocabulary at the moment. Just when I thought that nothing could feel any better than this, Peg managed yet another thrust and another taking all of me and then the final thrust by the two of us as I released deep inside her. When it was over, she went limp on top of me and the two of us just laid there for the longest time before speaking another word.

I woke up to the sound of the alarm ringing loudly in my ear.  Startled by this, I quickly rose to a sit up position, my hand reaching out for Peggy.  It was 5:30 am and I suddenly realized that I had been dreaming this sexual fantasy about Peggy and myself.  I must have fallen asleep last night before she came out of the bathroom. I looked over and saw that she was just beginning to stir in the bed next to mine and I hurriedly got out of bed, grabbed the fresh clothes I had laid out and headed into the shower.  I was still aroused as I stepped into the tub and pulled the shower curtain closed.  I let the water run from tepid to cold to douse the thoughts of my dream but it was hardly enough to squelch the thoughts of what might have been.  I quickly washed and got out of the shower, brushed my teeth, put on my clean clothes and left the bathroom.  Peggy was still in her pajama top sitting at the edge of the bed.

“Good morning Peg, did you sleep OK?”

“Yes, I had a very restful night.  I think it was because of you being here with me.  What time is it?

“It’s quarter to six.  I’m going to load everything but your bag back into the car while you shower, ok?”

“OK, I won’t be long.”

By 6:00 am we had the car loaded, Peggy took the wheel first and were on our way.  We took route 89 north towards Salt Lake City and decided to have breakfast there.  We passed the city limit sign about 6:55 am so we were making good time.  Peggy spotted a place to eat and we pulled in.  I liked Provo much better than Salt Lake City.  There was just too much traffic here and so many people rushing around at this hour in the morning.

“Well, what looks good to you this morning?”

“I think I will have the bacon and scrambled eggs and country fried potatoes with toast and coffee.”

When the waitress arrived, I ordered two of the same. She poured us both coffee and then left with our order.

“I see this waitress didn’t have the same attraction for you as the one in Las Vegas.”

I could see by the laughter she was holding back that she would not soon forget that.

“Wasn’t that gal in Las Vegas something?  I got the impression that she wanted to show off everything she had.”

“How did you sleep last night?  You were fast asleep before I ever got out of the bathroom.”

“I slept very well…….had a dream about you actually.”

“Oh really, what was it about?”

I didn’t know whether to tell her about my dream or not but I felt that part of it would not hurt.

“Well, I was lying there almost asleep when you came out of the bathroom and you sat down on the bed along side me and started to talk.  You asked me if I found you attractive even though I had told you earlier that you were.”

“And then what happened?”

“You went on to tell me that you felt otherwise because no one at work even gave you a second glance.  That made me sit up and take notice because I know how good looking you are.”

“You’re making me blush.  Was that the end of the dream or is there more?”

“The dream went on and I’m not sure how it happened but you came up closer and we started to kiss.”

“Oh my goodness James, what do you think brought that on?”

“I’m not sure, maybe just childhood thoughts invading my dream.  One thing for sure, you are very attractive and that could have been part of it too.”

“One part of your dream is true; no one at work does give me a second look.”

“I find that so hard to believe Peg and that is not the childhood part of me speaking, it’s me right now sitting here looking at you.”

The waitress arrived with our food and for the moment we gave up on the dream and both of us stuffed ourselves on the delicious country fried potatoes.  By 7:30 am, we were back on the road again, this time headed east on US Highway 30.  I told Peggy that we would stay on route 30 all the way to Canton, Ohio.

“How far will we be able to go today?

“With a little luck we should make North Platte, Nebraska which is about 660 miles.  That was the only place I stayed overnight on the way out.”

“Oh really.  How did you manage that?”

“I just pulled into a closed gas station and slept here on the car seat.  Not the ideal situation but it saved me quite a bit of money.”

“Well, I have to have a bed and a shower.  What was the name of the place you stayed?  Was it nice?

“It was called the North Platte Inn.  It’s right off the highway.  It was like tiny houses with just a bed and bath.  I’m sure you will like it.”

It was shortly after 1pm when we pulled into Rawlins, Wyoming.  It was a small town with just the one main street.  We got gas first and looked around a bit and then headed for the Longhorn.

The Longhorn Saloon, Rawlins Wyoming

“Peggy, you have just got to taste the steak at the Longhorn.  For less than a dollar, you will have a full meal and the best tasting steak you ever ate.”

The Longhorn seemed to be the place of choice in Rawlins.  It looked a lot like some of the saloons in western movies and it was not unusual to see most of the men wearing cowboy hats and jeans.

“Wow, this place is great.  These are some of the things that I know I missed coming out on the train.  Look at those round oak tables and chairs just like in the movies and the wooden floor with wood chips strewn all about.”

We made our way to a table and sat down, the both of us taking in as much of the surroundings as we could.  The smell of food was very tempting but I told Peggy to be sure and order the small steak plate or she would not be able to eat it all.  When the waitress brought our meal, we both just sat there agape at all there was to eat.  First came the soup followed by a plate of mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, beans, jello with whipped cream, and on the side a plate for the steak and another for the four large pieces of bread.

“My Goodness, I’m glad you had me order the small plate otherwise I would not have been able to finish.  You were right about the steak too……it was absolutely delicious.”

“Sure glad you enjoyed it.  I bet we both weigh 2 pounds more now.”

She smiled at my comment.  On the way out we noticed a large bowl of mixed candy and we both grabbed a piece to munch on in the car.  It was my turn to drive now, our destination, North Platte some 300 more miles on down the road.  Peggy was amazed to see the herds of wild buffalo grazing on the open range land.  

Buffalo Grazing in Wyoming 


 Most of Wyoming was barren in my view, having lived in Ohio where things were so much more plush in the summer.  Cheyenne was the next major town along the way and it was much like Rawlins with the one main street in and out of town.  We gassed up there and I got us both a soda before heading east again.  Peggy had a liking for the Nehi Orange and I liked the Royal Crown Cola and we both drank those down on this our last leg of the journey for the day.  We came rolling into North Platte at 7pm and I went directly to the North Platte Inn and registered.  Once we got the keys to the cabin like motel, we went into town and had a very light dinner and once again we walked all the way up and down the main street window shopping. We filled the gas tank and it was almost 9pm when we arrived at the motel.

The North Platte Inn, North Platte Nebraska

As soon as I flicked the room light on, I realized that I had forgotten to get a room with two beds.

“Oh no, I forgot about the two beds.  I can sleep on the floor if you want?”

“Don’t be silly.  You can’t sleep on the floor.”

I was so embarrassed at having made such a mistake but once again, Peggy took me by surprise, once more motioning me towards her with her finger.

“Come over here James.”

She hugged me up close to her and told me everything would be fine.  I could sense her whole body up next to me and the visions of my dream quickly came flooding back into my mind.

“You made love to me in your dream last night, didn’t you?”

“Yes, how did you know?”

“Women sense these things.  Also, it’s not hard to see the way you look at me.”

I could still feel her body pressed up close to me then she leaned back and looked at me straight in the eyes.  She was so beautiful and her deep green eyes were dancing all around looking at me.  Having her near to me like this filled my senses to overflowing with desire for her.  It was not a fantasy this time as our mouths locked on one another in a deep kiss.

“Peggy, you are so lovely.”

“I have to confess something to you James; this was on my mind as far back as the El Poche Restaurant when your sister first suggested that we go back to Ohio toether.”

It had only been a few nights ago that I had walked out on Teresa but somehow this felt much different.  Peggy was my childhood sweetheart.  Thoughts of Evelyn and the six months I had lived at her place quickly flashed through my mind. I had feelings for her but we had not shared an intimacy, not even a kiss.  Everything was a bit muddled in my mind but I knew that I could not say no to Peggy.

She was still in my arms when the alarm went off at 5:30am and I knew right away that we might not make it all the way to the Illinois border before dark today.  My thoughts proved correct as it was almost 8:30 am before we got out of bed and left the small cabin and got under way.  We grabbed a bite to eat in North Platte and headed east with Peggy driving first just as we had done yesterday.

“You were incredible last night and this morning.”

“So were you cowboy.  I knew I should have bought you that hat back in Rawlins.”

I had almost forgotten trying on the cowboy hat.  Peggy thought it looked good on me and wanted to buy it for me but I wasn’t quite ready for hats just yet.  I wondered what it would be like in the Army having to wear a hat every day.  We stopped for lunch in Lincoln, Nebraska and while we were eating, Peggy caught me staring at her again.

“I’m not as good looking as you seem to think.”

“Yes you are.  I guess you noticed that I can’t keep my eyes off you.”

“It’s very flattering but still not true.”

Already I had started to think about tonight and what it would be like sleeping with Peggy again.   After lunch, we filled the car with gas and I took my turn behind the wheel.  Nebraska was just one long straight road with corn fields as far as the eye could see.  At one point, Peggy counted over 100 miles of electric poles along the road without the slightest bend.  The monotony of it all had made her sleepy and she cat napped most of the afternoon.  It was just getting dark when I pulled over to eat dinner just outside of Cedar Rapids, Iowa at a place called LuLu’s.  We still had a ways to go yet but I needed to get out and stretch as well as use the restroom.  We entered the restaurant to the sound of the juke box playing ‘After You’ve Gone’.

“Do you like music James?  I really don’t know a lot about you just yet.”

“Yes, I love music.”

“Anything special.”

As we sat there in the booth, Peggy was busy browsing through all of the songs on the jukebox.

“After last night, the only ones that come to mind are ‘ I Had the Craziest Dream Last Night’.  Or how about ‘Sentimental Journey’ or ‘Green Eyes’.

My choices brought a smile to Peg’s face.  She put a quarter in the box and chose 5 songs.  As we sat there and listened to the music and talked, we decided not to push on to Clinton, Iowa.  I was sure that we could make it from Cedar Rapids to Youngstown in a single day and both of us were getting worn out from all the driving.

“I’m just going to have a hamburger and fries tonight, how about you Peg?”

“Yes, it sounds fine to me too.  I’m so sleepy, I can’t stop yawning.”

As we sat there eating our burgers, it crossed my mind that this would be our last night together.  I asked the waitress where we might find a motel close by and she told us that there were three or four of them just down the road a ways.

We didn’t linger long at LuLu’s.  While we were driving to the motel, I posed the question again.

“One bed or two?”

“After last night, it has to be one, silly.”

“I just wanted to be sure.”

Once I had the bags in the room, I went back out and locked the car.  By the time I got back in, Peggy was already in her pajama top.  I walked over and held her in my arms while we stood there alongside the bed kissing.  I could feel myself half aroused as I slid my pants and shirt off and climbed into bed next to her.  Even though I was dead tired from driving all day, the need to make love to her was all I could think about. 

As we lay there on our sides facing each other, the kisses became endless and my hand instinctively went to her breast.  It was heaven lying with her like this.  Our trip was very quickly coming to an end and I didn’t know what to expect once we both got back home.

“I don’t know what’s ahead for me with all this war stuff going on right now.   Somehow, I feel that you understand better than me how things are for us.  I suppose that I will be in the army soon with no control over where I go or what I do.”

“All I know is that this trip has been the best time of my life and I would like it to go on but being the realist that I am, I know that it won’t.  For now, I just want you to hold me close and make love to me like you did last night.”

It was close to midnight before I set the alarm and the two of us drifted off to sleep.

 The following day was much like the rest with Peggy driving first.  Our destination was Youngstown and home now with both of us a bit saddened that our time together was growing less by the hour.  For me, it was the shortest day of our trip and we were soon approaching Canton, Ohio and territory that I was familiar with.  I headed northeast towards Alliance on up into Canfield.  When we got to Boardman, Peg told me to turn left onto Southern Ave. up to Midlothian Blvd.  Peggy lived with her Mother at 940 West Judson Ave. very close to Lake Newport.

 It was exactly 6:30 pm when I pulled into her drive.  I carried her bags on in for her and she introduced me to her Mother, telling her who I was and why it was that we arrived by car and not the train.  It was very obvious after meeting her Mother that Peggy was being controlled by her.  Her Mother did not want men in her life and that was the reason no one was asking her for dates.  It all began to make sense to me now, her actions, her need to be loved while she was on vacation…..and just like that it was over.  Peggy walked me back out to the car to say goodbye and there was no kiss, not even a hug.  The sad look on her face told the whole story.

“It’s over, isn’t it, Peg?”

“Yes, those few nights with you were the most wonderful of my life but it’s over.”

“It’s your Mom, isn’t it?


I knew there was no use to question her any further but I wanted to be sure before I left what was going on.  I had an empty feeling with it ending almost as quickly as it had begun.

“Goodbye Peg”

“So long, Cowboy”

I got into the car and waved to her as I pulled away and headed back down Midlothian to Struthers.

The McCurdy House and Store Next Door

End Chapter 10









Chapter 11

The Draft

I arrived at Evelyn's shortly after 7 pm, my head still spinning from the twelve hour day on the road. I was exhausted, but relieved to have the long trip to California behind me. It had been two weeks to the day that I set out from Ohio to visit my Mother before going into the Army. I pulled all the way to the back alongside the garage. I had been renting a room from Evelyn for 6 months now and even though it was her place, it felt like home.  I knew that Evelyn would have the back door locked with me away so I walked to the front of the house. She was listening to the radio when I walked in.

“Oh my God, Jimmy, it’s you.”

She sprang up from her seat and rushed towards me, her arms fully outstretched. I was taken aback by the brevity of her nightgown and although she was fully covered, it sent my pulse rate soaring. Her eyes were darting all about seemingly taking in every part of me as the two of us embraced.

“Yes, it’s me, how has everything been this past two weeks?”

“I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed having you here. I didn’t realize until you were gone how much I relied on you. Did you have a good time in California? It’s a good thing you got back as they have already started gas rationing on the east coast and the whole county will be on rations by the end of this month.”

“Yes, I had a wonderful time. I got to see everyone except Kathleen. She lives up in Santa Barbara and that was a bit much to try and squeeze in. I have so many stories to tell you about my trip.”

She was still holding me close to her and other than the nights we had danced together, this was the first time we had ever embraced this long. I often wondered what was going on in her mind when she held me like this. I knew there was the age difference between us but she was so beautiful. So many times I wanted to tell her how attracted I was to her but the words would never come.

“Are you hungry? Did you have supper? I have some leftovers if you like.”

I followed her into the kitchen while she got the stuff out of the refrigerator and put it on the stove. She was in her bare feet and I could not take my eyes off her. The T-shirt like gown she was wearing came only half way down her thigh and if anything, it was a size too small for her, clinging to her body like a glove. She brought us both a cup of coffee and slid into the chair across from me. It felt so good sitting at the kitchen table with her again, the two of us sipping on coffee while the food was warming. The smile on her face told me how she felt about having me back home.

“You won’t believe the garden. I swear everything is a foot taller than when you left. So tell me about your trip.”

“Well, first let me start with my sister Dorthia. She has the most beautiful house in Arcadia. It’s on a large corner lot and looks like one of those southern mansions with the large white pillars and the circular driveway in and out.”

“Oh my, your sister must really be doing well.”

“She is rich by our standards. She has a maid and a gardener full time and someone to come in and clean her swimming pool. Her convalescent hospital is triple the size and she is busting at the seams to add more beds.”
“Really, it’s hard to imagine having a maid to do all the housework and someone to take care of the garden full time. What type of garden does she have?”

“Her whole place is a garden. Off the breakfast nook, there is a large garden of beautiful roses, to the front of the house, an immaculate manicured green lawn bordered by plants and flowers of all kinds, off the den, the huge swimming pool with a rock garden waterfall that is just elaborate in every detail. You would not believe it but each of the four bedrooms has its own bath and each bath has a huge floor to ceiling window that looks out onto a private garden.”

“Oh my, it sounds incredible. I have only seen things like that in magazines. Did you stay with her long?”

“Actually it was only the one day. We went out to lunch at a beautiful Mexican Restaurant called El Poche. All the tables were outside under a covered patio. I had never been to a place like that before.”

“Not like the Wagon Wheel here in Struthers I take it. So what else did you do?”

“I made a trip out to see my cousin Georgie. He lives in a town called Encino. It was a ritzier neighborhood yet. Mickey Rooney used to live there before Georgie and his boyfriend bought it. I must tell you, cousin Georgie is queer.”

“He is? I have never met anyone that was queer. How do they act, him and this boyfriend when they are together?”

“You would never know he was any different than me to look at him. His home is even more elaborate than my sister’s.”

“Really, is he in the movies or something?”

“Kind of, he makes pornographic movies.”

“How disgusting.”

“I agree. When I was sitting in his home surveying all the wealth, I thought about how hard we’re both struggling to make ends meet and here he is getting rich off these pornographic movies.”

“Have you ever seen one of these movies?”

“I had never seen one until I went to Georgie’s but I don’t know if I can tell you about it.”

“You don’t need to be afraid to tell me, I’m a grown woman and have probably heard lots worse things.”

“It was not exactly the movie; it was the circumstance surrounding it.”

“For Christ’s sake Jimmy, just tell me.”

“Well, when I first arrived at his house there was some sort of party going on. Georgie gave me a quick tour of his home and everywhere, there were these expensive paintings of nude women in gold frames with a light over each one. This one painting caught my eye because it looked just like one of the young girls in the living room where the others were all drinking and talking.”

“And was it her, this painting?”

“Yes, it was a girl named Teresa Carney and a bit later he introduced me to her and she took me off into the den and we started talking about one thing and another. She said that she worked for Georgie and I asked her what she did and she said she made porno flicks. That’s what she called them.”

“So then what?”

“Well, she asked me if I would like to see one of her movies and I thought she meant some other time but she meant right now and she made a call and the next thing I know, this grizzly looking giant man servant of Georgie’s brings her a set of keys and told her the movie was all set up. I didn’t know it at the time but there was another house behind the main one and they had it all set up for watching movies.”

“So she’s going to sit in there with you and watch this pornographic movie?”
“Yes, there is even more but I don’t think I should tell you.”

“You have to tell me or I will wring your neck.”

“Evelyn, do I have to?”

“Yes, you have to.”

“Well, there was no plot to the movie and barely 5 minutes had passed and she started making love to this other woman. Two women kissing and fondling one another and in a few moments they were both half naked. I had never seen anything like it before and the next thing I know, Teresa asked me if I wanted to make love to her.”

“Oh My God, this is insane.”
“Yes, I know. I was so stunned that I didn’t even answer and she took my silence for a yes. Then she led me through this elegant bedroom to a sunken tub that the man servant had apparently been instructed to fill and she took all of her clothes off.”

“She was standing right there in front of you naked!?”

“Yes, she slipped down into the water and asked me if I was coming in or not. It was at that precise moment that I told her I had to go and I hurried out of there, went to the main house and said goodbye to Georgie and headed for my Uncle George’s to deliver the papers I had brought out for Georgie to sign.”

“You just walked out on her?”


“That was some story. I just can’t imagine it but I’m glad you left her. The whole thing just sounds so awful to me.”

“There is a bit more.”

“Jesus Christ, what else?”

“The following day at 7 am I got a call from her asking me to meet her. She said that she needed desperately to talk to me. I had planned to see my sister that day but agreed to meet her for coffee.”

“What did she say when she saw you again?”

“She told me that she needed my help. That she needed to get out of doing the things she was doing. I asked her if she wanted me to talk to Georgie and she seemed very frightened that I even suggested talking to him. She told me that she had to do these things; it was what she got paid for. She told me that she was a whore for Georgie. She said the whole thing was a cesspool of filth and corruption.”

“Oh, how sad, but I don’t see how you could help with such a short time before you had to come home.”

“The only thing I could have done was to talk to Georgie and she was so frightened by the thought of that. It made me wonder what all was going on there so I talked to my Dad about it and he said they were all gangsters and for me to watch my step."

“Before you knew all of this, what made you walk out on her the night before?”

“I know you won’t believe this but right at that moment, I was thinking about you and I just had to leave.”

“Oh Jimmy, I don’t know what to say. I’m just so glad you are back home safe. Morris missed you and most of all I missed having you here with me. "
I was really tired after driving the last twelve hours and told Evelyn I had to get some sleep.

The following morning I decided to go to the draft board in Youngstown. It was only two weeks before my birthday and I was anxious to find out what was going on. They had a very small office next to the court house. They had me fill out some papers and the next step was to make an appointment for me to have a physical examination. They set it up for me to see Dr. Schofield in Struthers on Monday. I asked them what would happen after that and they told me that if I passed the physical, I would be classified 1-A and in a week or so, I would get a letter in the mail telling me to report for duty.

It was only 9 am when I finished so I decided to go back to Struthers and check in with Morris. As I drove down Poland Road towards Struthers, I could see that the steel mills were all going full blast, the stacks spewing out smoke and the railroad yard was filled with cars loaded with steel. I drove up the hill and parked the car alongside the garage and walked over to the store. Morris was the first to spot me.

Stop 14, Struthers Ohio 1942

“Welcome home, how was California? How are your mom and dad?

“Hi, everything is fine out in California.”

“Good, how is your sister Dorthia doing? I used to go to high school with her. I don’t think I ever told you.

“You would not believe how well she is doing. She asked me where I worked and when I told her, she asked about you. I never knew that you two knew each other.”

“What kind of work is she in?”

“She owns a convalescent hospital.”

“Owns it? The whole thing?”
“Yes, and she is doing really well with it too.”

“I can remember way back when we were seniors in high school and she said she was going to become a nurse.”

“How have things been going here?”

“It’s been kind of hectic what with you gone and having to learn all these new OPA regulations on rationing."
"I just got back from the draft board. I have to see Dr. Schofield on Monday at 9am to get my physical. They told me if I pass the physical, I will be classified 1A and that I could get my notice to report for duty in a week or so.”

“Oh no, something tells me that in a couple of weeks you will be serving in the Army.”

“I think you’re right. I had better get my affairs in order so that I don’t have any last minute things to do. I’ll come in at 8 am on Monday and then leave for my physical at 9 am if that’s ok with you.”

“Sure, just be prepared for a lot of boxes because we are way behind in stocking the shelves.”

After talking to Morris, I went on to the back of the store and chatted with Mike a bit. He told me that Morris was having a hard time of it with me gone and that things might get worse for people in the grocery business because everyone was looking for higher paying jobs in the defense and munitions industry. He said that a huge munitions plant had just opened near Ravenna. He also told me that he thought this would be his last year working as he was thinking of retiring. He said he hated to tell Morris because it would just be one more thing for him to have to worry about.

After talking to Mike, I went back home and fixed a sandwich and then went up to see Glen’s Dad. He was retired now but still liked to mess around out in his garage a lot. He had a huge 8 stall garage and it was well equipped for working on cars. As I drove in the back, I could see that he was inside leaning over the fender of an old Model T truck.

“Hello Mr. Leavitt, how are you?”

“Oh, Hi James, I didn’t hear you drive up. That car of yours is really quiet compared to this one.”

“You should hear the new 1941 Cadillac my sister has. I swear you can’t hear it running.”

“What size engine has that got?”

“It’s a big flat head V8. I think I read somewhere that it’s 346 cubic inches.”

“Holy Toledo, they keep getting bigger all the time and more complicated too. So how was your trip to California? Did your car run out and back ok?”

“Yes, it did just fine. I never had to do anything but check the oil and it never used a drop the whole trip. It needs changing now though.”

“Well, pull it on in and we can throw a pan under it.”

It only took about 5 minutes to drain the oil, replace the filter and re-fill it. I offered to pay for it but he would have no part of it.

“You’ll be off to the war soon, just consider it my going away present.”

I kept thinking about that. It would not be long and I would have to say goodbye to Evelyn again. I decided if and when it happened that I would just leave my car there alongside the garage at her place. I helped Mr. Leavitt with the valve job he was doing on the Model T and after we were done, I thanked him for the oil change and then headed back down towards home.

I stopped in McPhee’s Drug Store and had a soda and said hello to old man McPhee. He used to be my gym teacher in high school before he bought the drug store. After that, I went on back home. It was almost time for Evelyn to be home from work and I put on a pot of coffee. I was sitting at the kitchen table reading the paper when she walked in the back door.

“Hi, what a day at work today; I’m totally exhausted. All I want to do is kick my high heels off and relax.”

“Do you want me to fix dinner? I see that we still have more food from the other night.”

“Oh, would you? That would be wonderful.”

“Sure, go into the living room and relax in your chair, I’ll call you when it’s ready.”

It only took me about fifteen minutes to set everything up and then I went and got her. As we sat down together, I got the feeling that something was bothering her. She was noticeably silent and just toying with her food and I decided to ask.

“Are you just tired Evelyn, or is something bothering you?”

“It’s just that you will be going away again soon. I know that the Army is going to take you away from me but it’s not only that…… I am so sad and so happy all at the same time. I hate myself right now. I don't know what to do. You have been so good to me. You are so young.”
Then she started to cry and stutter at the same time, the tears just flowing down her cheeks one right after the other.
“I h-h- have these f-f-feelings for you t-t-that are so wrong but I can't control them. I have never met anyone like whole life has been hell until you came along.....Jimmy, I am s-so attracted to y-y-you.”
I didn’t know what to do. She was almost incoherent with her speech mixed in with the crying. She took both of her hands and covered her face, her emotions completely out of control. I got up and pulled her to her feet and hugged her, my hand gently caressing the back of her head.

“It’s going to be OK Evelyn; everything is going to be OK.”

Her chest was still heaving heavily as I stood there with my arms around her.

“Jimmy, I’m falling in love with you.”

For a moment her words took me by surprise, but I no longer had to wonder what was going on in her mind. I held her back away from me momentarily and then looking directly at her, I drew her back into my arms and kissed her. There was the immediate taste of lipstick mixed with the salty tears and the feel of her tongue come to meet mine. I could feel the touch of her hair against my face as I held her mouth hard against mine. I don't think either of us wanted it to end.

“We can't do this, I'm much too old for's just not right."

"That may be true but we are doing this. You can’t use age as an excuse not to have feelings for someone. Holding you in my arms like this and kissing you feels so incredible. If I’m old enough for the Army, surely I’m old enough to be here with you like this.”

She had stopped crying now and I could see her eyes change from that upset look to one with a slight degree of confusion. She had the most beautiful blue eyes capable of so many expressions, happiness, sadness, and amazement; mostly she would smile with her eyes but right now she had such a concerned look.

"Jimmy, I'm in love with you for Christ's Sake, do you realize what I'm saying?"

“Yes, I have felt it for some time, all the way back to the time when we went down the hill in the home made toboggan.”

“Oh Jimmy”

We kissed again, this time with the full passion of two people in love and I knew that tonight would be the most wonderful night of my life.

The next few days passed very quickly. I saw Dr. Schofield and he said I was in excellent health so I knew it would not be long before I got my letter in the mail. Each day after work, I would check the mail box on the front porch. It arrived on the 3rd of July and the date jumped out at me.
………you will report for duty on July 10, 1942.

I only had one more week.

When Evelyn got home, I asked her if she would like to go out for dinner.
“Yes, I would love to go out to dinner. Tomorrow is a holiday and I can sleep in. Also, it’s been over a year now since I have eaten out.”
We decided to go to the Midlothian Inn. Both of us liked fish and that was their specialty. Right after we had ordered, I took the letter out of my pocket and let her read it.

“Oh Jimmy, that’s only a week from now; next Friday.”

“Yes, I know”

“I knew it was coming but I didn’t think it would be so quickly. Where will they send you, did they say?”

“I asked but they had no idea. They said they never know until the papers are forwarded to them but they did say quite a few had recently been sent to bases in Louisiana.”

“Louisiana sounds so far away and we have so little time left. None of the war news has been good. I hate the thought of you having to go overseas.”

“That’s where the war is so I guess that will be where they need me and a million others like me.”

“Yes, I know, but the last few days have been so marvelous. We are just getting to really know one another and I hate to see us being split up by this lousy war.”

We talked for about half an hour on the war before the waitress arrived with our dinner. It looked delicious. We both ordered a fish filet and a basket of French fries. The place was crowded because it was Friday night but all I could see or hear was Evelyn. This was our first night out together and we both thoroughly enjoyed each other as well as the meal.

“Do you want to go down to the Ritz and see a movie before we go home?”
“No, let’s just go home. I would much rather be alone with you than sitting in a movie.”

It was a warm summer evening and I parked the car in my usual spot alongside the garage. It was not quite dark yet as we got out of the car and headed towards the house.

“Is it ok if we take a walk before heading inside for the night? I would like to go down the hill into the park to the spot where we did the snow angels.”

“That spot has some special meaning for you, doesn’t it?

“Yes, it was there that I first knew that I was in love with you. I remember leaning over to pick you up and my foot sank into the deep snow and I fell right on top of you; it was like a magical instant. I wanted to tell you then but I didn’t have the courage to say it.”

We walked arm in arm down the stone steps to the bottom of the hill, then out into the middle of the playground. It was dark now and you could see the street light next to the store at the top of the hill from where we were standing.

“This is just about the spot where we stopped.”

“I don’t know how I ever let you talk me into coming down that steep hill on a cardboard toboggan but I’m glad now that I did.”

“I’m in love with you, Evelyn.”

“Hold me close, we have so little time I want every minute to count.”

I held her tightly in my arms while we kissed. It was so wonderful to be with her like this. The sound of music from a distant radio came drifting into the park and we suddenly found ourselves dancing all alone in the dark.

“That sounds like the Mills Brothers but I can’t remember the song. Do you know what it is Evelyn?”

“It called ‘Paper Doll’…….it’s about this guy who is tired of losing his girlfriends to other guys and decided to buy a paper doll that he could call his own.”

“Oh yes, I remember now.”

The swings were near by and we wandered over to them and sat down and talked some more.

“Did you ever come down here to play? Was the park even here when you were a little girl?”

“Yes, I can remember my Mother bringing me down here. She used to pack a lunch for us and she would sit at read right over there at one of the picnic tables while I played on the swings and merry go round.”

“How is your Mom doing?”

“Well you know of course that she is over in Massillon at the State Convalescent Hospital. She seems well enough but she has lost most of her memory and can’t recall things”

“That’s too bad; do you get to go see her much?”

“Only about twice a year”

It was totally dark by the time we got up to go. In less than 10 minutes we were back home. I locked up and then followed Evelyn on up the stairs. I went into the bathroom and brushed my teeth and by the time I was finished and walked into the bedroom, Evelyn had already folded back the covers and was standing in front of the mirror in her pajama top combing her hair. She looked absolutely beautiful as I walked up behind her and put my arms around her.

“I love you.”

She turned around quickly and we embraced.

“Jimmy, I love you with all my heart.”

She pressed up close to me and we began to kiss, our mouths hungering for one another just as we had done last night and the night before. Her hands found the buttons on my shirt and one by one she undid them and then with the front open, I felt her hands softly running over my bared chest as if to explore every part of me. We continued to kiss, the end of one becoming the beginning of another. I could feel her breasts against my chest; her thin cotton pajama top the only thing separating us. Almost instinctively my hand found its way to her breast.

“Evelyn, you know you drive me crazy, don’t you?”

“You do the same to me.”

I slipped the pajama top over her head, turned off the light and the two of us crawled under the covers.

The next few days passed much too quickly and before we knew it, Friday was upon us. I went over and said goodbye to Morris and Mike and then Evelyn drove the both of us to Youngstown. She had tears in her eyes as we kissed goodbye.

I watched as she drove away and then I walked into the Draft Board Office. It was exactly 9am, Friday, July 10, 1942 and once the door closed behind me, I officially belonged to the US Army.

End Chapter 11

US Army Recruiting Poster






Chapter 12

As I sat there clutching Georgie's letter in my hand, the sky began to darken.  The low misty grey clouds sweeping quickly through the sky were a sure sign of rain and I knew that I had to be getting inside soon.  It was wonderful that I was able to visit with Aunt Dora and Victoria, however, at this moment I felt as though everything in my life was all screwed up and it was all my own fault.  Peggy, Evelyn, and now Gillian.  My heart sank at the thought of having hurt her.  Just as I started to think about her, the hospital door opened and there she was coming towards me.  I would not have blamed her if she had just left me out in the rain.  It was very obvious that she was distraught.

The first words out of her mouth, "Well noo James, let's see if we canna get ye inside."

I could see that her eyes were swollen from crying but she got me to my feet and helped me with the crutches and in a few minutes had me back in the wicker chair next to the window.  

"Your lunch will be along shortly James", as she quickly strode off down the row of beds. 

It was so unlike her not to stay and talk for a bit but I did tell her to walk away from me and not turn back.........her words to me still ringing in my ear though, "I'll do no sooch thing, Jamie MacGregor."

Was there nothing I could do that would heal the hurt I had caused her?  As I sat there wondering what to do or say to Gillian, it was Laura who brought my tray of food to me.

"Here ye go James, some nice hot soup for ye.  Do ye mind if I sit doon and talk wi ye a bit while ye have yer lunch?"

"It's about Gillian, isn't it Nurse Murray?"

"Aye James, it is.  She was tae upset tae work so I told her tae go awa home.  Gillian is sae mixed up right noo.  I knew she had taken a fancy to ye James but it's worse than that, she's smitten.  I'm sae glad ye told her the truth aboot this woman ye have tae home."

"I'm very mixed up myself.  Everything tells me that I did the right thing by telling her about my girlfriend at home.  I know that she was hurt quite noticeably by my admission.  I have no idea how to go about setting things right or even if they can be set right.  I'm very attracted to Gillian, I can feel it whenever I so much as look at her but if I’m right in my thinking, it has to stop.  Just today, I got several letters from my girlfriend Evelyn and she misses me terribly and can't wait for me to come home." 

"Well James, I'm glad tae hear ye say these things.  It's nae easy ta fix the feelings of oother's but let me hae another talk with Gillian and see what cooms of it."

With that, Nurse Murray went on about her business of taking trays to the rest of the patients in the ward.  As soon as she left, I re-read the letters from Evelyn and I knew that I must get a reply off to her without delay. 

Just about that time I saw an army Lieutenant walking towards me.

"Hello he said, are you James MacGregor?"

"Yes  sir, I'm Macgregor"

"My name is Lieutenant Clifton from the 303rd Bomber Group, Molesworth, England.  I've come up to Hawick to make a final report on your plane.  This morning I inspected the wreckage and there is not much left but the tail section and the engines strewn all about.  The local authorities have preserved the area and gathered the remains.  I was able to collect 8 dog tags so I’m assuming the plane had a crew of 10.

This was my first contact with the army since our plane had crashed and I was quite glad to know that they were here to check it out.

"Yes sir, there were 10 crew memebers."

"First off, MacGregor, survivors.  Name and Rank if you know it."

"There was just two of us Lieutenant, myself and sergeant Bill Hetrick.  He has just come out of a coma and is here in the hospital.  I'm supposed to be able to visit with him tomorrow."

"Yes, I had a word with Hetrick.  He is a bit worse off than you and won't be able to travels for quite a while yet.  What can you tell me about the circumstances of the crash?"

"We had just dropped our load of bombs on the U-Boat Yards at Wilhelmshaven when we took several hits from anti-aircraft fire.  For a while there, I thought the plane was going down over enemy territory but  2nd Lt. Doug Mason who was the co-pilot, managed to get us back across the North Sea.  He said that he thought 2nd Lt. Mitch Cunningham and Lt. Meyers were both killed from the hits.  The weather was really bad and all of the navigation instruments had been shot up.  As a result, we were way off course and crashed here in Hawick in dense fog.  It all happened so quickly that I don't remember a thing other than waking up here in the hospital, sir."

"What position did you fill on the mission?

"I was the tail gunner, Lieutenant."

"Hmmmm, being in the tail of the plane is probably what saved you because there was not much of anything else left."

The questioning went on for the better part of an hour but there was not too much more information that I was able to furnish.  As the lieutenant was about to leave, I wanted to find out about getting some clothes and ID.

"Sir, is it part of your inspection duties to get me back to my squadron?  I don't have a stitch of clothes or even any ID."

"Yes, MacGregor, my report will go directly to Colonel Stanley W. Bray, Commanding Officer at Molesworth. From that point on, it will be up to him to get the ball rolling on getting you re-outfitted with clothing and such and get you transported back to your Bomber Group.  All of the Bomber Groups are short on men so they will want to expedite your return.  My best guess on when you will be sent back is in about two weeks. In all probability, you’ll be sent to the 2nd Evacuation Hospital in Huntingdon to make sure you are fit to return to duty."

With that, he wished me good luck and was on his way out.  Once again I was alone with my thoughts.  Dr. Buchanan had told me my healing process would take about four to six weeks so the Lieutenants estimate was right in line with that. I reached for the writing pad again.  I needed to write to Georgie but most of all to Evelyn and let her know that I'm still out of harms way for the time being.


Dear Evelyn,

So much has happened since my last letter that I hardly know where to begin.  You know of course that I broke my leg and I just found out today that I will most likely be sent back to my unit in a couple of weeks.  Of all the strange things, this hospital ended up being very close to my Aunt Dora and she paid me a visit, along with her daughter Victoria.  In addition to that, I’ve met several of my Dad's friends who live close by so I have had plenty of company the past few days.  I will be getting my cast off my leg in a few days and I’m most anxious for that to happen.

You need to call Glen and have him take a look at my car.  It needs to be run a bit and he said he would service it for me if you just give him a call.  He told me his father passed away a while back and that was to be expected as sick as he was.  I guess that makes the whole garage his now.  I might talk to him about going into business together when I get back because the both of us are very mechanically inclined.

I have several more letters to catch up on so I’ll say goodbye for now.

With Love,



Now I had to think about what I would write to Georgie.  I was already pissed off at him for dodging the draft.  My Mother had told me he couldn’t serve because he has a bad back and that was bullshit.  I read his letter again and one sentence really stuck in my craw. 

 'I would hate to have to let her go but unless something happens, she is not much use the way she is.'

What an asshole he is.  What did he expect to happen?  That I could write to her and tell her to keep on being a whore for him?  The more I thought about it, the more angry I got.  I took the pen and just started writing.


Dear Cousin Georgie,

I received your letter regarding Teresa and I must say that I’m very disappointed in your actions.  You’re the one who dragged her into your pornographic lifestyle.  You are using her just like you do everyone else just to further your own needs.  She wants help and all you can think of is throwing her out if she does not perform.  I talked to her for several hours on the phone the day after I was at your house and all she wants is the chance to live a normal life.  She wants real boyfriends, not sex partners of you’re choosing.  Did you ever think of having her do something else other than being a whore to satisfy your perverted so called friends?

Please Georgie, do something good for a change.  Send her to a school to learn office management or something like that.  Give her a chance.   Is it too much to ask?  

Your cousin James

After finishing the letters, I gave them to Laura to post for me and then I must have dozed off for a bit.  When I woke up, it was supper time.  The kitchen must not have been too far away from my ward because I could always smell food just about the time they were ready to serve. It was Mary Beth bringing the trays this time.

"And how are ye today James?"

"I'm fine Mary Beth. My leg is feeling much better and I’ve been able to get around much better on the crutches.

"Aye, it willna be long lad and ye will be roonin doon the road tae toon."

"I'm looking forward to that Mary Beth. The army said I will be out of here in a couple of weeks and I would sure like to walk down High Street and see all the shops and such before I have to go."

"A couple of weeks eh?  Ye'll nae be totally healed by then but good enough tae travel I suppose."

In a few minutes, Mary Beth was on her way to the others.  The evening meal was fish and chips and unusually good for a change.  The way they had the fish breaded reminded me of my mother's way of fixing fish.  I was also in a more relaxed mood having gotten the letters off to Evelyn and Georgie.  In the morning I knew I would have to talk to Gillian but not quite sure in my mind what I would say to her.  I wanted very much to see Hetrick so I could begin with that or perhaps I could ask her when the cast was coming off.

After finishing with my supper, I decided to write another letter home before turning in for the night.


Dear Mom and Dad,

Your package arrived today and I thoroughly enjoyed the raisin cookies and the candy bars.  I wanted to get a short note off to you to let you know that I will only be here for about two more weeks.  Aunt Dora and Victoria were both here to visit with me. I was so shocked when I saw Aunt Dora as she looks so much like you, Mom.  They wanted me to go up and stay with them for a few days but it's not likely that will happen because I will be going back to my unit sooner than I expected.  My leg cast will be coming off soon and I should be able to get around much better once that is gone.  Billy Burnet's daughter Annaliese invited me over for dinner as soon as I’m able to get about so that will make for a nice evening out. 

 Everyone here has been really nice to me.  I met JR.  He was telling me about the letters from you Dad, that cross his desk quite often.  He’s going to write a story about me being here.  I doubt very much if you will be able to get a letter back to me before I leave here. I bet you are quite anxious to know more about why and how I got here but unfortunately I cannot put that information in my letters because all of our mail is censored for such things as that.  I will be going down to the mill to look around and see if I can find any of your old friends there.  Also over to the "News".

Even though the army moves us about the way they do, my address will still remain the same.  I’ll write to you again once I am back with my unit.

Your Son,


I was getting pretty good with the crutches by now and was able to get from the wicker chair over to the bed without incident.  I feel asleep very quickly and woke to the sound of Dr. Buchanan's voice.

"How are ye doin lad?  Are ye ready tae hae the cast coom off?  I've set it oop for ye after the noon hour and nurse MacKenzie will see to it that ye find room 109."

I could see Gillian standing at the foot of the bed and our eyes met for a brief moment and then she looked away.

"Oh yes, Dr. Buchanan, I'm ready to get rid of it."

It was a cumbersome thing and my leg itched terribly under the cast so the noon hour could not come too quickly for me.

"Aye then.  Lieutenant Clifton spoke tae me about having ye transported tae the train station here in Hawick in aboot 2 weeks.  I'm fairly certain ye will be well enough by then tae make the journey".

They were both headed down the row of beds before I got the opportunity to speak to Gillian but she was designated as the one to take me to get the cast off so I figured we could talk then.  My departure from Hawick seemed pretty well fixed and Gillian had heard the doctor say two weeks.

I got out of bed, got the crutches under my arms and headed for the latrine.  Then I made my way to my favorite wicker chair and waited for breakfast to be served.  As I was sitting there looking out the window, I glanced around to see Billy Burnet headed my way with a shopping bag.

"Good Morn tae ye James.  I'm back wi soom clothes for ye".

"Good Morning Mr. Burnet.  If you only knew how anxious I am to get into something other than these hospital gowns".

"Well, it isna much.  Some underclothes, troosers, two shirts, and some socks and shoes but enough sae ye can go aboot wi out someone seeing yer backside, eh?"

"Oh yes.  I will make good use of these, Mr. Burnet.  They’re going to remove my cast today so the timing is wonderful.  I just got word yesterday that I’ll be going back to my Bomber Group in two weeks so the clothing will allow me to come over and have dinner with you one evening before I have to leave Hawick."

"That Army of yours does na waste any time in getting ye back.  I thought ye might be here several months afore they cam for ye".  

"Yes, they need every man they can get I'm told.  These daylight bombing missions over Germany are very costly in planes as well as lives. I would say that about twenty percent of the men don't come back so there is a constant flow of new crews coming over from the United States.  I had only been on three or four missions before I found out very quickly that you don't want to develop any close relationships".

"Well lad, let’s hope ye have a bit o luck and remain one o' the 80% that do get back.  War is a terrible thing but we hae to defeat the Nazi Regime or become their slaves.  I'm proud of ye.  It takes a good strong man tae fly those bombers and get shot at each time ye go oop".

"This last mission was the worst I had seen.  Others told me about heavy flak but you have to see it to know the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach knowing that any second you might get hit. When my plane did get hit, I thought that we might have to bail out over enemy territory.  I get the jitters every time we go up.  I'm beginning to think its normal."

"Aye lad, it's normal.  I experienced the same thing in World War 1 bogged down in trenches with the Germans nae mare than 500 feet away.  I moost be gettin tae the school now.  I'll have Anna coom over tae see ye aboot the dinner."  

"OK Mr. Burnet, thanks again for the clothes.  I can't wait to try them on."

As soon as he left, Laura Murray was there with my breakfast.

"Good morning tae ye James.  I had a few words with Gillian and she is nae willing tae listen to me give advice.  Best ye hear froom her yerself rather than second hand froom me."

She was quick to move on and I had no idea what she meant by her remarks. After breakfast, I got my crutches and decided to see what I could find out about Hetrick.  I had not been around the corner at the end of my ward and as soon as I turned the bend, I could see Gillian at the nurse's station.  As I worked my way towards her, she glanced up and looked at me.

"Good Morning Gillian."

"Good Morning Jamie, aren't ye the brave one now walking all the way doon here alone on yer crutches."

"I've gotten much better at moving around.  I was trying to find out if I can see Hetrick now that he has come out of his coma."

"That ye can.  He has joost finished his breakfast and I'm sure he will be sae excited tae see ye.  I was aboot tae coom down and tak ye ootside.  I need tae talk tae ye but it can wait until ye've been tae see Mr. Hetrick".

Once again I got that funny feeling just looking at Gillian.  She had that same wonderful smile with her eyes darting all about and her lip curling up.  Whether I wanted to be or not......I was still very attracted to her.  I followed along behind her all the way to the other end of the hospital.  Hetrick was in a room by himself and as soon as Gillian opened the door, I could see him laying there on the bed.  I hurried to his side and blurted out.......

"Jesus Christ, Cowboy, how are you?"


Hetrick, Molesworth, England 1943

With that, Gillian said, "I'll leave ye twa tae talk a while".

Hetrick reached out and we shook hands for the longest time.

"MacGregor, I'm doing fine, how the hell are you?"

"I'm ok Cowboy but I've got to ask you how you managed to be in the tail section when we crashed?  It's been bugging me for over a month now".

"Well, my radio quit working and according to my watch, we should have seen dogtown.  You were the closest one to us so I worked my way on back to the tail to see if I could find out what was going on.  I never made it all the way back before I heard this awful exploding sound and then everything went blank until I woke up here in the hospital."

"Ah, so that was it.  Good thing you were in the tail because Lieutenant Clifton said that was the only part that was still all in one piece.  He also told me I'm going back to Molesworth in two weeks.  Man, I hope you get well enough to get out of that bed before I go.  Maybe we can go to town and hoist a few".

"Gillian tells me this is your father’s home town.  That has got to be the damndest thing I have ever heard of."

"Yeah it is.  I even got to see my Aunt Dora and her daughter Victoria, neither of whom I have ever met before.  Not only that, I met my Dad's grade school teacher.  His daughter Anna came over to visit with me the other day. Now there's a babe for you  Hetrick.  Man is she ever a looker".

"Still got your eyes on the good ones eh, Macgregor?"

We both laughed over that.  We talked for the better part of an hour, mostly about going back to Molesworth.  We both had the same feeling that we needed to get back and get the war over with.  About that time, Gillian was back.

"Did ye twa have a guid talk?  I think ye better be headed back now Jamie and let Mr. Hetrick get some rest."

He looked better than I expected and I knew right off he was going to get well again.  Unlike my broken bones, he got a bad knock on the head and that was going to take more time to heal.  I told him I would be back tomorrow, grabbed my crutches, and headed out the door with Gillian.  As we walked down the corridor Gillian started to speak.

"I have need tae speak tae ye.  Would it be all right if we take a few minutes and go outside for a wi bit?"

"Yes, I need to speak to you also".

When we reached the outside door, Gillian held it open for me and we both headed for the wooden bench we had sat at previously.  I could see that Gillian was nervous and I decided to talk first.

"There was a Lieutenant from the 8th Air Force here yesterday and tentatively I'm scheduled to return to Molesworth in about two weeks.  I want you to forgive me for upsetting you the other day.  I only wanted you to know the situation as it exists.  My life is very messed up right now Gillian, and I'm still not sure what to do to fix it.  You have to give me time to sort things out.  I do have these feelings for you.  I told you I was falling in love with you but I don't want to lead you on, I don't want to hurt you anymore than I already have.  It's absolutely awful being in this situation because I don't want to hurt Evelyn either.”

"I've fallen in love wi ye as weel and I dinna want to give ye oop to the war.  I canna let ye go off wi out ye knowin my feelings. I ken ye have these same feelings for me otherwise it would nae be botherin ye so.  Ye said your love for Mrs. McCurdy was not the same thing ye felt for me.  Ye said it was more a need tae help her than it was love. I do understand how awful this situation moost be for ye and that’s why I willna turn my back on ye and go the other way".

Everything Gillian said was true.  Evelyn did need help.  I was quite surprised that Gillian still wanted me even though she knew everything about Evelyn.

“I’m glad to hear you say that Gillian. I want you to know that my feelings for you are real……that my love for you is real.

"Aye Jamie, I ken.  Ye only have another coople o' weeks here and then ye will be gone.  That will be the test of our love.  I want ye to promise to write tae me".

“I’ll write to you often……and that’s a promise.”

It was almost lunch time before we finished talking and although nothing was solved, we both felt better about the dilemma we found ourselves in.  Shortly after lunch, Gillian was back to take me to have the cast removed from my leg.

End Chapter 12   












Chapter 13

The High Street

Room 109 was nothing like I had expected. It was cluttered from one end to the other with all sorts of white bandage rolls, plaster of paris boxes, cans, bottles, and numerous assortments of wooden splints.  On the wall next to the operating table was a cabinet filled with cutting tools of all sizes and shapes.  I suppose this was the room where my cast was made but of course I had no recollection of it.  As soon as Gillian and I moved into the room, we could see a young man behind another row of boxes.

"Ah, there you are Mr. MacGregor.  My name is Martin Fletcher.  Dr. Buchanan told me to expect you after the noon hour.  You can leave Mr. McGregor in my care if you like, Gillian".

"Aye Martin, ye take guid care of Jamie now.  He is my favorite patient and I wouldna want anything tae happen tae him.  I'll be back in a bit tae see how ye are doing."

With that, Gillian left the two of us alone.  I shook hands with Martin and was very surprised to see that he was an Englishman and not Scots.  He was quick to have me get up on the operating table so that he could begin.

"Just boost yourself up on the table MacGregor and lay your head back on the cushioned end.  I need your leg straight out on the table to work on your cast.  Everyone in town has heard about your bomber crashing here in Hawick.  It must have been dreadful for you to lose most of the crew".

"Yes, it's hard to believe that they are all gone except for Hetrick and myself."

"Let's see if I can't get this cast off you now.  It's a bit thick there at the top.  Some of the plaster must have oozed out there.  I may have to use a saw blade to get down through that part."

He then began to start cutting.  He told me that it required two cuts, one on each side.  I could not see too well what he was doing but there was no pain so I just lay there and let him do his job.  I hadn't realized how difficult it would be and he was half an hour getting down both sides.

"There, all the cutting is done.  Now for the spreader."

He grabbed a tool that looked like pliers in reverse and began spreading the cast open.  He must not have cut all the way through in some spots because i could hear it cracking as he went down the open slot.

"There we go, the cast is off.  I bet you wanted to hear those words for a long time now."

"You're so right about that.  How did you get into this kind of business anyway?"

He continued with the scissors now removing the underlying wrap.

"My father used to do this and I just followed in his footsteps. He's gone now, God rest his soul".

I could feel the cold scissors running against my skin as he kept cutting away.  My leg began to feel incredibly lighter.  By 2pm, he had everything removed and my leg washed.  Then he put some sort of lotion on it.  He said the skin underneath tends to dry out when it’s covered for long periods of time.

"Ok , you can sit up now."

He put his hand under my back and helped me to the upright position.

"Thank you so much.  Are you Dr. Martin?"

"No, I'm just a cast setter.  I never made it to college but it pays well and I'm happy with my work."

He no sooner got done than Gillian was back to fetch me.

"Well Martin, how did mei patient do?  Did ye manage tae get that heavy cast oof him?"

"Yes, he's all yours again."

As we headed out the door and back to the ward, I thanked Martin once again for helping me. Gillian and I talked all the way back to the ward.  It felt so good to have that heavy cast off and Gillian seemed to be so excited for me.

"Yer movin along sae well wi' yer crutches now.  The next step is tae get rid o those as weel.  I think by weeks end ye will hae need for the clothes Mr. Burnet brought over tae ye."

The thought of getting back into clothes and dumping my crutches had been on my mind for days now and that event could not come too soon for me.  Just as we were about to get to my ward, Dr. Buchanan happend by.

"James, I joost got oof the telephone with a sargeant froom the 8th Air Force in Molesworth.  Arrangements hae been made tae pick ye oop the morn o' August 2nd.   I see ye hae yer cast oof noo, how do ye feel aboot that lad?"

"It's great Dr. Buchanan.  I hope you don't think I'm being too personal but there is something on my mind.  You look an awful lot like my father and I was wondering if perhaps you are related to him somehow? His name is Arthur C. MacGregor."

"I dinna think sae.  I was the only child in mei family.  Mei Faither's name was George Buchanan and mei Mither's name was Mary Buchanan McNabb."

Oh My God I thought to myself, he’s my Dad's half brother.  Mary McNabb was my grandmother's maiden name.  I didn't know what to say but decided to stay silent lest I drag up something he maybe didn’t want to hear about.

"Ah, well you looked so familiar to me when I first saw you."

As the Doctor moved on down the corridor to tend other business, Gillian was quick to ask, "What's wrong?  It looks like ye ken mare than ye are saying.”

"I think he is my Dad's half brother.  My grandmother's name is Mary McNabb.  She must have been married to George Buchanan before she married my grandfather.  I didn't know whether to mention it to the doctor or not and thought best I just let it slide."

"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, is she still alive?  I never heard Dr. Buchanan mention his Mother afore."

"No, my Grandmother passed away a good number of years ago.  I was only 6 at the time.  I knew there had to be a connection because Dr. Buchanan looked so much like my Dad"

After Gillian left I settled down into my favorite wicker chair by the window, my thoughts this time taking me back to my early years in Ohio. I didn't understand much of what was going on at the time but I could never forget my Mother lifting me up to see Granny for the last time as she lay there in the casket.  It was not even a year later that Grandpa died.  I missed going to their place for visits.  It all seemed so long ago now.

My leg still felt very strange with the cast off but it felt 100% better as such.  I was able to move about on the crutches with much more agility and even stand up on both of my feet now. It was Friday and Gillian had said I should be able to start walking on my own bye the end of this week end.  I kept standing up to give it a bit of a try and just as I was a few steps away from the chair, in walked Anna.

"Hello James, its sae good to see ye up on your feet. Da told me ye were looking a lot better and he was right."

"Hi Anna, it's good to see you again.  I was just practicing to see if I could move about on my own without the crutches."

Anna looked absolutely beautiful.  She was wearing a dark green knit dress that hugged her body like a glove and another one of those bright colored wide brimmed hats with her golden locks flowing down about her shoulders.  She always seemed to be smiling and I couldn't help but stare at her whenever she talked to me.

"It looks like ye will soon be able to be up and aboot on yer own.  Are we able to set a date for ye to come over tae dinner yet?  Maybe Gillian can come wi' ye if ye feel the need for some help along the way. I took the liberty of speaking with her and she seemed delighted with the idea and said that ye will be oop and running around by the middle of next week.  I got the feeling that ye two hae become very good friends this past month."

Wow I thought to really travels fast in the town of Hawick.

"It all sounds fine to me. Are we speaking of Wednesday evening then?"

"Aye, Wednesday.  I'll get the leg o' lamb this weekend and I already hae the rest o' the fixings tae home.  Da is quite anxious tae spend some time with ye afore ye have to go back and Gillian and I hae a lot o' catchin oop tae do so it should make for a fine evening. Da is the only one who has a car sae I'll have him fetch ye and Gillian on Wednesday aboot 6pm."

I was really looking forward to this.  Anything to get away from the hospital for a while and get back to some sort of normalcy.  She no sooner left than I could hear the clatter of trays headed my way.  One thing I really missed here was the radio.  I couldn't remember the last time I had heard any news or music.  I would have to ask Gillian about what was going on with the War.  My main thought now though was being able to walk on my own again.   It was two days ago that Sinclair in the bed next to me had been discharged from the hospital and the bed lay empty until just this moment.  Gillian and Mary Beth both came along pushing a bed with an older man in it.

"We've got soom company for ye Jamie.  This is Mr. Lewis.  He's a local man froom Hawick.  He's had an appendix operation and he's still sedated.  He told me he worked at Wilson and Glenny and ken yer faither so maybe ye can talk wi' him when he wakes oop."

I watched as they slid him from the one bed to the other, almost effortlessly, then set up all the paraphernalia that they had him hooked to.

"Oh really,what a stroke of luck.  I have been anxious to find out if anyone was still there that knew my father."

Gillian and Mary Beth had only been gone a short while before the supper trays came along, the same young girl I had seen about a week ago pushing the tray cart.  I said hello to her and she returned the welcome but continued on her way without further comment.  I looked under the cover to find a small salad, jello, a slice of bread, a baked potato, corn, and what appeared to be a piece of baked fish.  I was really hungry and made quick work of getting it all down.  Once supper was over, I got the writing pad and started a letter to my sister.


Dear Dorthia,

I doubt if you have had time to hear from Mom and Dad where I am.  I broke my leg and ended up in a hospital in Dad's hometown.  It's been the strangest experience to meet up with Aunt Dora and her daughter Victoria plus a number of Dad's friends from 25 years ago.  I met Billy Burnet and JR and Mr. Burnet's daughter Anna.  They just put a man in my ward who knew Dad.  He had his appendix removed and is still sedated but I will be able to talk to him as soon as he wakes up.

Things have been happening so fast.  One minute I was there in California with you and then the trip back to Ohio with Peggy, and then a short stay with my girlfriend in Struthers and then off to the army, 5 months of training, and they sent me here to Great Britain.  I'm with the 8th Air Force, a tail gunner on one of the bombers.

I have met a nurse here at the hospital, her name is Gillian MacKenzie and I am very attracted to her but my time here is very short now as I am about to be sent back to my unit in two weeks.  Say hi to Kathleen for me.  I don't have her address up in Santa Barbara so if you can send it to me, I will drop her a note now and then.

Your brother,



After finishing the letter, I got my crutches and moved over to my bed.  Just as I got settled in, I heard Mr. Lewis stir in the bed next to me.  He was a bit slow waking up but I saw his eyes open and he looked over in my direction.

"Hello Mr. Lewis, my name is James MacGregor.  The nurse told me that you know my Dad, Arthur MacGregor."

He seemed a bit confused at first but then the words started rolling off his tongue

"Sae yer Arthur's boy.  I remember him well lad.  We worked side by side for quite a few years here in the mill afore he joined the Royal Air Force in 1917.  He wanted me tae join too but I didna like the idea of going oof tae war.  Tae bad I didn't heed his advice because I ended oop in the trenches in France aloong wi' a bunch o' oothers froom aroond toon.  It's been mare than twenty years nae since he left Scotland.  The two little ones must be yer sisters then eh?"

"Yes, Dorthia and Kathleen.  The whole family lives in California now.  My sisters are both quite a bit older than me and both married."

"Och, it's sae hard tae believe they are both grawn women.  How is Arthur?  What does he do in California?"

"My Dad works for my Uncle George who owns a termite company.  Uncle George was married to my Mom's sister Lillian.  Do you know her?

"Aye, so Lilly is yer Aunt then.  I met her a few times afore they all oop and left for Canada.  She was a wee bit mare ootspoken than your mither."

"The whole toon has been talkin aboot ye James.  I was oot  tae see the wreckage and there's no much left o' yer bomber.  I couldna believe anyone survived."

"From what I have heard, Hetrick and myself are lucky to be alive."

We talked for several hours about Hawick, California, Ohio, Canada, and the war in general.  Mr. Lewis spent only a few days in the hospital before they sent him on home to finish his recovery.  He told me to come over and visit him at Wilson and Glenny when I was able to get about. 

Several more days went by and with each passing day, I became more adept at walking again.  By the time Wednesday rolled around, I was almost ready to walk without the aid of my crutches but decided it would be best to take them with me to Billy Burnet's house.  Gillian had been by several times today to check on me and she seemed just as excited as I was to be going to dinner at the Burnet's.

It was exactly 1800 hours when Mr. Burnet arrived at the hospital to pick us up.  Gillian had apparently brought a change of clothes and she looked absolutely beautiful.  She was wearing the same white long knitted stockings that came up to her knees, a dark blue plaid skirt, a white blouse and very trim looking jacket with a white scarf.  This was the first time I had been in clothes in about 7 weeks and everything Mr. Burnet had given me seemed to fit just fine.

"Well noo James, don't ye look joost fine in the clothes Mr. Burnet brought ye", 

"You look so nice tonight yourself.  It's not often that I get to see you in anything but your blue and white uniform."

Mr. Burnet walked over to the two of us standing there and said, "It looks as though the both of ye are ready tae go.  Mei automobile is joost outside."

Billy Burnet's 1935 Morris

Mr. Burnet held the hospital door open while Gillian made her way first and then me with my crutches.  Once we got to the car we decided that I should ride up front with Mr. Burnet and Gillian in the back.  It was a 4 door sedan and I had never seen one just quite like it.  It had suicide doors on the front and the regular doors on the rear.  As we all got settled in our seats and I got my crutches tucked aside, I began to question Mr. Burnet about the car.

"What make of car is this, Mr. Burnet."

"Tis' a 1935 Morris.  I bought it joost afore the war started.  Not many people in Hawick have cars.  Mostly doctors and a few oothers."

"I've never seen one like this before.  It reminds me of our 1935 Plymouth only the front doors on it open from the rear and not the front."

Mr. Burnet started the car and headed down the hill from the hospital towards Hawick.  This would be my first glimpse of Hawick.  It seemed so strange to me to be sitting in the driver’s seat and the steering wheel on the other side. 

As we made our way towards town, Mr. Burnet pointed out that we were on Buccleuch Road and the tall building on the right was Drumlanrig's Tower.  In a few minutes we were on the High Street.  It was much more narrow than I had imagined.  We went on past the town hall and at the north end of High Street we passed the 1514 Memorial Statue of a Callant on his horse with the flag.  As we moved past the statue High Street became Weensland Road then a quick left turn on Oliver Park and we were there.

"Now ye can see James it's no far froom the hoouse tae the hospital, aye?"

"That's for sure.  It only took us about five minutes to get here.  Where in town do you live Gillian?"

"I'm joost tae the bottom o' the hill and a few minutes up Buccleuch at Sandbed.  It's a short walk froom home tae the hospital."

We were greeted at the door by Anna.  It was a small cottage type house made of stone and bricks.  On the way I had noticed that all of the buildings were made of similar materials quite unlike the houses back home in Struthers that were all made of wood.

"Good evening Gillian, James, welcome tae ye.  Look at ye James all dressed oop with clothes.  I bet ye willna be wearing the awful hospital gowns nae mare and ye Gillian, it's nice tae see ye without the uniform.  Come in the both of ye and sit doon."

Gillian MacKenzie

Gillian found a seat on the sofa and I decided to sit next to her.  It was a very warm comfortable house inside and the den appeared to be an extension of the living room.  I could see that Billy Burnet enjoyed books as there was a whole library along the one wall.  Both Billy and Anna sit down facing Gillian and I.  Billy was the first to speak.

“Tell me James, because I canna fathom it, what does it feel like to be sitting oop there in the sky wi’ people doon below wi’ those big goons shootin at ye?”

“Well, I’m back in the tail of the plane in a very tight gun turret and my view is a bit to each side and to the rear of the plane.  When we go on a bombing run, the flak usually starts off slow and then gets much worse as we approach the target area.  I can see them bursting all about and every once in a while we take some hits.  There is really nothing you can do but sit there and pray that the anti-aircraft gunners don’t get lucky and take the plane down.  The only thing we have some control over is enemy fighter planes but you have to imagine that they are traveling in excess of 300 miles per hour and the forts are moving along at about 170.  I have been on 15 missions and in all that time, only got lucky enough to take down 2 enemy aircraft”

“Aye, will ye go back tae the same unit then when ye return?”

“Yes, the lieutenant that was here said they would put me in the hospital for a bit just to evaluate my condition and then it’s back to the bomber group”

“Well enough aboot the war, tell me what it’s like in California.  Does the soon really shine all day loong like they say?”

“That’s true to a point.  In the summer time, oh say from April to October, there is hardly ever any rain and the sun does shine all day long.  It’s not like it is here at all.”

“What keeps the plants alive wi’ no rain all that time.”

“Everything is irrigated.  My mother turns on the sprinklers at our house in Hollywood every day otherwise, things would dry out and die.”

“And the water for this, where does it coom from?”

“Well, there are very large reservoirs in the higher elevations of California and the water flows in from there.”

As we were talking, Anna and Gillian made their way to the kitchen to make some tea and had just brought it in.

“Here’s some tea for ye Da, and James.”

“Thank you Anna.  I wonder why it is that the English are such big tea drinkers and the Americans seem to like coffee.?  I was living away from home before I got into the Army Air Force and coffee is much more widely accepted there.  Of course my Mother and Dad still drink tea so it must be engrained in them.”

“Da and I have always drank tea.  It’s sae plentiful and the cost is not sae high.  As far back as I can remember our family has had tea.”

Gillian sat down alongside me again and I felt her hand touch mine.  I looked over at her and gave her hand a gentle squeeze.  I sat there trying to think of a way that we could be alone for a while but I was afraid that was going to be impossible.  Anna and Gillian got into a conversation about the college in Edinburgh while Mr. Burnet and I talked more about California.  I got the feeling that he would like to go there one day.

I told him about the several trips that I had made across the country from California to Ohio.  He could not get over me traveling in the same direction for four days and I told him that once while crossing Texas, it took more than a full day of driving just to go across that state.

“Well James, are ye ready for soom Yorkshire Pudding and Leg o Lamb?  The table’s all set in the oother room.”

“Yes, I’m definitely ready.  It’s been over two years since I have had Yorkshire Pudding.”

We all gathered around the table while Anna said the blessing and then we sat down to eat.  I was glad that Gillian was seated across from me so that I could look at her.  Anna was to my right and Mr. Burnet to my left.  It was a wonderful meal and everything was cooked to perfection.

“You outdid my Mother with the Yorkshire Pudding.  It was done perfectly and the gravy was delicious.”

“Jamie is right Anna, living alone, I dinna get mooch chance tae prepare a meal sooch as this.  It was sae good.”

“We still have dessert.  I made Da’s favorite.  Bread Puddin.”

I had all but forgotten what bread pudding tasted like but the minute Anna brought it out; I could remember my Mother serving it.  Anna told us that it was made with goat’s milk.  It had a whitish colored glazed topping and the bread was filled with currants and raisins. It had been a long while since I had currants and raisins and the whole thing was absolutely delicious.  By the time dinner was over, I was as full as I had been in a long time.

After dinner, we all sat round the table and played cards.  I didn’t do any card playing on the base.  It was mostly poker and money was involved and I could not afford to lose so I stayed clear of it.  The card games Anna chose were very similar to those I had played in the states so I was able to meld in very quickly.

It was 2200 hours when we finished playing and Mr. Burnet was set to take Gillian and I back.  We thanked Anna for the fine dinner and then headed out the door to the car.  As soon as we were in, Mr. Burnet asked if we were both going back to the hospital.

“Aye, that we are Mr. Burnet.  I have soom things to look after before gwan hoom.”

We were back in short order and I got out, carrying both of my crutches in my right hand, my walking now much improved over the previous few days.  I thanked Mr. Burnet for having us over and told him I would write whenever I could.  We waved goodbye and I watched as his tail light disappeared down the hill.  It was the first time Gillian and I had been totally alone at night since the first day I met her.

“Jamie, I really don’t hae anything to look after.  I wanted to be alone wi ye for a bit, I hope ye don’t mind.  It’s no far tae my place doon the hill sae I can walk hoom when we say goodnight.”

We were standing there facing each other and she looked beautiful even in the darkness of the night.  It was a chilly night compared to July in Ohio and I was anxious to hear what Gillian wanted to say.

“I need ye tae ken before ye go that I love ye.”

Hearing that, I drew her into my arms and held her close to me.  I could feel the warmth of her body next to mine and as if by instinct, we both found ourselves kissing each other.  It felt wonderful having her in my arms like this and although I had not come to terms with my problem, I could not control the need I had for her.

“I have to tell you before I go that I love you too.  These crazy sensations just fill my body whenever I’m near you like this.”

We were only outside a few minutes but I knew that I would carry the memory of this moment with me for a very long time.

“I want sae mooch for ye tae coom back tae me Jamie.”

With that, we said goodnight and I walked into the hospital and made my way down the ward and prepared for bed. 


End Chapter 13













Chapter 14
The Return to Molesworth


My last few days at the Cottage Hospital in Hawick went by very quickly.   I was walking around fairly well by the time my orders arrived.  I had no idea how the Army Air Force handled such things until a package arrived for me.  The orders were attached to the outside of the package and inside was one complete uniform from the ground up along with train tickets on the Waverly Line and a voucher for £10, and a temporary ID Card.  I was to board the train in Hawick on Friday, August 2, 1943 at 0900 hours and get off at Huntingdon, England that same day at 1500 hours.

The Town Hall, Hawick Scotland

They still had not brought Hetrick into the main ward with the rest of us so I walked down to the other end of the hospital and went in to say goodbye.

“Well, Hetrick, I’m on my way buddy.  You take good care of things here, ok?”

“Man I wish I was going with you MacGregor.  Say Hi to the whole gang when you get back.”

I shook his hand, wished him luck and went back to get all my gear.

 Dr. Buchanan had made arrangements to take me to the station in Hawick.   I thanked him for taking such good care of me.  It was almost time to go and one by one the nurses came in and said goodbye to me.  I put my arms around each of them, Laura, Mary Beth, and of course Gillian.  Gillian was the last to say goodbye to me and I held her very close knowing I had to go now.

“Goodbye Gillian, thank you so much for being here for me.  I’ll write to you.”

“Goodbye Jamie, please take care o’ yerself, I’ll look forward tae yer letters.  I hope one day ye can coom back tae Hawick.”

I held her back away from me to have one last look at her.  She managed a smile but there was a sadness in her eyes that had not been there just minutes ago.  I had the urge to tell her that I loved her but with everyone looking on, I gave her one last hug, grabbed the duffle bag that she had given to me and was out the door and into the car.

 I was surprised at the amount of stuff that I had collected while in the hospital.  Martin drove me on over to the Waverly Station.  It was a very short ride and he wished me luck, we shook hands, and I felt my time in Hawick coming to a close.  The train was only a couple of minutes late and by 0910 hours, we were pulling out of the station.  It was a nice day in Great Britain for a change and I was able to find a seat on the train without much trouble, sitting near the middle of the car away from the noise of the wheels.  There was something different about the English Trains as compared to the American Trains but I could not put my finger on it.  Maybe it was the way it swayed from side to side a bit more.

The Waverly Line

I was sitting next to the window and I was surprised at the number of sheep grazing in pastures along the way.  It was no wonder we had mutton so often at Molesworth.  Apparently sheep to the English was like beef cattle was to us in America.  Gillian had written a note and told me not to open it until I was on the train.  I hurriedly took it out of my pocket and began reading.

“Dear Jamie, I ken how ye moost feel wi’ havin tae leave.  I want ye tae go knowin that I love ye and need ye tae coom back tae me.  I will pray every day that ye are gone for the Lord tae keep ye safe from the harm of the war.  Early on, I mentioned tae ye that I could never leave Hawick but I ken now that I was wrong aboot that.  I would go anywhere tae be with ye Jamie.  Please write tae me as often as ye can.   Gillian”

I folded the letter up and placed it in the envelope and put it back in my pocket.  I didn’t know how this would all turn out but the fact was, I had very deep feelings for two women.  At this point and time, I was thankful that the Army was once again taking over my life.  The day of the big blizzard in Ohio kept coming back to haunt me and my thoughts turned once again to Evelyn.  I was sure that once the war was over, we would all be sent back home.  If that happened, I could not imagine myself leaving Evelyn and returning to Scotland.  What a mess I was in and still no clear path for me to follow.

We had just passed through Carlisle as the conductor came by and punched my ticket.  I began to wonder how my re-assignment would go.  If they were desperate for men, I could be in a plane as early as tomorrow.  I wasn’t sure how I would handle going up again in light of the crash.  I tried to read for a bit but my mind just was not on anything other than Molesworth and so I just let my head rest between the seat and the window and watched the scenery as the train continued southward.  We made it to Leeds in just under 3 hours.  All the buildings in Leeds looked very old to me and mostly everything was made of stone or brick.  It was so much different than Los Angeles with everything seeming so much more modern.  I looked at the railroad map on the back of my packet and we had Retford, Grantham, and Peterborough yet to go.  It was just after noon and I bought a sandwich from a young lady who passed through the train.  The rest of the trip went by quickly and we were soon arriving in Huntingdon.  I put my book back in the duffle bag and headed for the exit.  As soon as I got out of the station, I saw an Army Jeep and decided to ask if he was from Molesworth.

“Hello, you wouldn’t by any chance be going to Molesworth would you?”

“Yes, but I’m here to pick up a guy named MacGregor.”

“I’m MacGregor”

“Swell, climb in and we can get on our way”

In about ten minutes we were pulling into the 8th Air Force Base at Molesworth.  The private dropped me off at headquarters.  I grabbed my bag and thanked him for the lift and headed inside.

I walked over to the main desk and told the sergeant who I was and handed him my orders.

“Oh yes MacGregor, we’ve been expecting you.  You’re the guy that crashed in Scotland, right?”

“Yes, that’s correct.”

“I heard some of the details about it and from what all was said, your ass is lucky to be alive.”

“Yes, the Lieutenant that came up to investigate the accident described it to me and there was not much left of the plane.”

“Well, here’s the deal MacGregor.  You are being assigned to the Hospital in Huntingdon until such time as the doctors say you are ready for combat.  You can bed down here for the night.  Tomorrow, you can go over to the quartermaster Quonset and pick up new flight clothes and then to the paymaster to pick up your back pay.  After that, check back in here with us and we can have the motor pool take you to Huntingdon.”

“You mean I am not being assigned to flight status?  I thought I was already well enough to fly.”

“Well, you should know by now how the Army works, they will want to observe you for a while to see if you are ok.  Besides, don’t be so anxious to go up and get shot at.  That time will come soon enough.”

“I suppose you’re right sarge.”

I took the two chits he had given me for clothes and pay and headed for the Administration Personnel Quonset.  I found and empty bunk and tossed my stuff in the locker then I walked over to my bomber group to see if I could find out what was happening as far as the war was concerned.  I no sooner got there and I spotted Freddie Baker.

“Jesus Christ, if it isn’t MacGregor, how the hell are ya?”

“I’m doing great Freddie, how is everything going?”

“We got word that your plane had crashed up in Scotland.  How the hell did you manage to get way the fuck up there?”

“We got shot up really bad.  The pilot got killed in the initial direct hit and I guess it took out all the navigation stuff as well.  Man I can tell you I did some heavy praying that day.”

Just then another guy I knew named Bob Lindsey walked in.

“Look who’s back Lindsey, our buddy MacGregor.”

“Well I’ll be damned MacGregor, we never expected to see you back here again.  We heard about your plane but we thought they might send you home.”

“No such luck guys.  Right now they have me slated for the hospital in Huntingdon.  I’m ok though so I don’t know why they want to send me there.”

“I tell ya what MacGregor, after that last flight I was on, I would play dead for a few months if they sent me over to Huntingdon.  Three guys got killed on that mission and four others shot up pretty bad.  I never saw so much flak in my life.”

We talked for quite a while and I found out that the size of the force had almost doubled in just the past two months with more and more groups coming in on a regular basis.  We decided to go over to the enlisted men’s club and have a few beers later on.  I was kind of disappointed that I had to go to Huntingdon but there was not much I could do about it.  I walked over to the barracks and put my duffle bag in my locker and then headed for the mess hall. I chuckled to myself because mutton was on the menu once again.

The following morning after breakfast, I made my way over to the quartermaster Quonset and ran into another friend Kenny Armstrong.

“Hi Ken, I got a chit for a whole new flight wardrobe.”

“MacGregor, how the hell are you?  Welcome back to Molesworth.  I think everyone here has heard about your plane crash up in Scotland.”

“Yeah, I spent over two months in the hospital up there.  Hetrick is still there.”

“He must have been hurt pretty bad then, eh?”

“Yes, he had some bad head injuries.  We were both unconscious for a while, him longer than me.  My injuries were mostly broken rib bones and my leg was broken.”

“Well I sure glad you made it MacGregor, here’s your new flight stuff.  Take care now.”

“Thanks Ken, see ya around.”

I bundled the bulky flight clothes in my arms and headed back to my locker.  Once that was taken care of, I set out for the pay office.   When I got there, I found out that the £10 that they had already given me brought me up to date as far as pay was concerned so I went back to the barracks and packed the things I thought I might need at Huntingdon.  My next stop was administration where I picked up the paperwork that I needed to be admitted to the hospital in Huntingdon.

My last stop was the motor pool where I ran into Master Sergeant Billings.  He was in charge of the motor pool and we had become good friends.  He was constantly after me to try and transfer to the motor pool knowing that I had some really good background with automobiles. 

“Hi Sarge, how’s everything going over here at the motor pool.”

“MacGregor…… it’s good to see you back.  News travels pretty fast here and I had heard from the driver yesterday that you were back on the base.”

“It’s good to be back but it’s not for long.  That’s why I’m here; they are sending me to the hospital at Huntingdon.”

“What for?  You look well enough.”

“It’s the Army’s way I guess.  The guy over at administration said they needed to observe me for a while before they returned me to combat duty.”

“You sure you don’t want to come over here to the motor pool and work?  I really have my hands full right now what with all the extra forces arriving and could sure use you.   I got enough pull to move it along MacGregor.”

“Maybe I’ll take you up on that after I see what happens over at Huntingdon.  You got someone who can drive me over there?”

“Yeah, give me a few minutes and I’ll round up a vehicle.  Oh wait a minute, I just remembered, Johnson just finished the Colonel’s jeep and we need to test drive that.  Go throw your stuff in that and I’ll have him take you.”

“Holy cow, I can just see everyone saluting us as we go out the gate.”

I put my bag in the back of the jeep and in a few minutes Johnson came along and we headed out.  We introduced ourselves and I asked him how he liked working in the motor pool.

“It’s great MacGreogor.  Every third week we get a pass and head for town.  Not only that, Billings is swell to work for.  I wish there were more like him around.”

“He’s been after me to work for him.  He said he thought he could swing it if I have a mind to.”

“I bet he can too.  Were you a mechanic before you came into the Army Air Force?”

“I started when I was 14.  My best buddy’s Father was a Mechanic, had his own 8 stall garage and he taught me quite a bit.  He had all kinds of equipment there and taught me to arc and acetylene weld as well as auto mechanics.  He even got me going on the lathe and milling machines he had.”

“I can see why Billings wants you then.  Most of the guys in the pool are new at it so he gets frustrated some times.”

“Uh oh, this damned thing is missing again.  I put in new plugs and points too but it still has that jerky  miss.”

“Pull over and lets have a look at it Johnson”

He slowed down and pulled to the side of the road and we both got out and had a look under the hood.

“Well , what do you think, MacGregor?”

“Let me pull the distributor cap off and see what that looks like.  You sure you got the points set correctly?”

“I’m pretty sure about that.  I checked them twice.”

When I pulled the cap and looked at it, you could see the streaks inside where it had been mis-firing and grounding out.

“I’m afraid it needs a new cap.”

“How can you tell about the cap?”

“You see those fine grey streaks inside where it looks like carbon has formed up, well those are the beginning of cracks.  The wires feel hard and brittle too so you might replace those as well.”

“Damn, I would never have seen that.  Good thing you came along when you did.”

We turned around and headed back to the base.  Billings was surprised to see us back but we explained the problem to him and he had Johnson put on a new cap, rotor and wires.  After doing that, we headed back on down the road.  This time we made it all the way to the hospital without any problems.

“Thanks again MacGregor, you sure nailed that one.”

He dropped me off in front of the hospital in Huntingdon and I took my papers and headed into admitting.  It wasn’t long before they had me down to one of those funny hospital night gowns again sitting on a table waiting for the doctor to show up.

“Hello MacGregor, I’m Dr. Harden.  Let’s see, let me have a look at your chart.  It says here you had seven broken ribs, a broken leg, miscellaneous cuts and bruises as well as a concussion.  All of this as the result of a plane crash about two months ago.  Can you tell me if you are having any ill affects from all of this?”

“Nothing that I know of Sir.  My walking is just about back to normal now and nothing else seems to be bothering me.  My leg was the worst part of the whole deal.”

“Well, what we are going to do is a basic examination, make a few tests and after that we will just kind of monitor you to see how you are doing.”

“Will I be able to go into town after these tests?”

“For the time being, no.   We will want you to remain in the hospital for several days.”

“Will I be able to get back into my street clothes?  I hate running around in these gowns.”

“Yes, I see no reason why you cannot dress after the exam.”

Having said all that, he started the examination, poking, prodding, and looking at every part of my body.   He took my blood pressure, drew some blood, took a urine sample, hit my knees with his rubber mallet, looked in my ears, my nose, my mouth, checked out my neck glands, checked me for rupture.  I don’t think there was a single part of me he didn’t check out.  He also asked me a lot of questions, was I dizzy, did I have fainting spells, did I have any vision problems, did I ever get weak feelings and on and on.  When he was all done, he told me to get dressed and come to his office.

Once the examination was over, I put my clothes back on and went down the hall until I saw Lt. Harden on the door and I rapped.

“Come in, is that you MacGregor?”

“Yes sir”

He motioned me to have a seat and then he took my chart in his hand.

“Everything looks good so far MacGregor.  Your blood pressure is ok, your pulse is normal, no fever.  In a day or so we will have the blood and urine tests back and we can go over it with you at that time.  For the time being we need you to spend a little time here so that we can evaluate you further.   During this time, we need you to remain in the immediate area of the hospital.   In order for you to return to combat, we have to be certain that you are not having any dizzy spells or fainting spells.  These are common things that happen to a person who has experienced the trauma that you have.  Do you have any questions?”

“How long do you think this evaluation period will be, sir?”

“In about a week, we should know if you are still having any after affects.  I’ll have the nurse show you your ward and where you will bed down.”

I followed the nurse down the long corridor to the patient area of the hospital.  She showed me my bed and also a sitting room where I could read or have company if I liked.  She said since I was ambulatory, that I could take my meals in the mess hall with the hospital staff.  She also mentioned an outside area with tables that gets used quite a bit when the weather is nice.

I wasn’t too happy with the need to be hospitalized for another week but there was not much I could do except follow orders.

The next few days left me with plenty of time on my hands and I decided to get some letters written.  It meant writing to both Gillian and Evelyn and I found out right away that I still could not bring myself to grips with my problem. 


Dear Gillian,

I have arrived safely in Huntingdon and have been transferred to the hospital there for about a week so that the Army Doctors can evaluate my condition.  I feel well enough and they didn’t find anything wrong with me on the initial examination so hopefully I will be back over at the base in a week.

I wanted so badly to spend more time alone with you before having to come back to the base but it just did not work out that way.  Hopefully I will be able to make another trip to Hawick and perhaps our next time together will be under conditions that are more favorable.  I read your note on the train and I will write to you as often as time allows. 




Dear Evelyn,

I was finally released from the civilian hospital that I was in and returned to my base only to be hospitalized again by the Army.  The just want to check me out for a week to make sure I am ready to go back to combat duty.  The initial examination they did on me showed that nothing was wrong with me but they still want to keep their eye on me for a week.

I have been giving some thought to going into the motor pool at the base.  There is a Master Sergeant there that says he has enough pull to get me transferred to his unit so we will have to wait and see how this hospital stay goes first.

I miss you terribly Evelyn.  I would give anything to be sitting in the kitchen with you right now.  Struthers is a long ways off though.   I hope everything is well with you.




Dear Mom and Dad,

Well, they finally sent me back to my base from the ‘Grey Old Toon’.   It was over two months up there and I am feeling pretty good by this time.  The only problem is, the army decided that I needed to be evaluated by their doctors so I am in a small hospital near the base for a week.

Billy Burnet had me over not too long before I left.  We had dinner there with his daughter Anna and the nurse Gillian from the hospital.  I have a feeling that one day I will go back there.

There is not much else to report at this time but I will keep in touch.

Your son,



It was Tuesday, the 5th of August before I saw the doctor again.  He told me that my blood test and urine tests were both normal and maybe in a few more days I could get back to Molesworth.  I began to think more seriously about sergeant Billings offer to try and get me transferred into the motor pool.  Maybe he could pull it off.

It was a week to the day that Dr. Harden called me into his office and told me that I would be transferred back to combat duty.  I was so happy with the thought of getting out of the hospital.  He said he had signed the papers and that I could pick them up at the front desk.  I thanked him for looking out for me and went back to my ward and put all of my gear together and headed for the front desk.  The transfer papers were ready and I went outside to wait for the motor pool vehicle to show up.  I had become familiar with their schedule having nothing better to do than poke around the hospital seeing what all was going on. 

It was 1130 hours when the motor pool vehicle pulled away from the hospital, we got back to the base just in time for me to get to the mess hall.  I was really hungry and filled my tray.  I never thought I would ever say this about Molesworth but it really felt good to be back.  

After lunch, I decided to go see Sergeant Billings before heading over to Administration.

“I see they didn’t keep you too long.”

“Hi sarge, I guess they found out that nothing was wrong with me.  Anyway, the reason I came over was to talk to you about the motor pool.   I thought I might take you up on that offer to try and get me transferred from tail gunner to grease monkey.”

“Oh man, am I ever glad to hear you say that.  Have you checked in yet?”

“No, I came here first”

From Combat

To the Motor Pool

“Good, let me make a few phone calls and see what I can do.”

I looked around the shop area while he was on the phone and could see that it was fairly well equipped.  They were even set up to do valve grinding and seat facing.  I wasn’t sure just how deep they went into engine rebuilding but after working with Glen’s dad all those years, I felt qualified to do most anything.

It wasn’t long before sergeant Billings was back.

“OK, when you get over to administration ask for Sergeant Baker.  Just give him your hospital release and he will do the rest.”

“That’s it?  It’s all set up already?”

“Yep, I told ya I could pull it off”

“Holy smokes sarge, thanks.  I’ll be back as soon as I get everything squared away.”

I really didn’t think it could happen that fast but they ran me through re-assignment in less than an hour and by 1400 hours I was now attached to the Molesworth Motor Pool.  I was somewhat relieved about the way it turned out because I was having second thoughts about going back up so soon. 

When I returned to the Motor Pool, sergeant Billings called me into the office.

“MacGregor, we’re in real trouble here.  Most of the guys working out there in the garage mean well but they don’t have a clue about troubleshooting.  They got drafted just like you did but none of them have any mechanical background.  I don’t know how you came to know so much about fixing vehicles but you have a knack for it.  That distributor cap last week was a sample of what I’m talking about.   Johnson didn’t have a clue what was wrong with the Colonel’s Jeep but you took one look at it and spotted the cap right off.  I need these guys to be able to recognize stuff like that.  It’s my job to keep these vehicles in good repair and on the move but I’m all bogged down with paper work.  That’s where you come in.  What I want you to do is set up a training program of sorts so that we can teach these guys.  Maybe one or two days a week, you can get them all together for a couple hours and cover electrical, carburetors, brakes, etc;  Do you think you can do that?

“Well, I’ve never done anything like that but I’m sure willing to give it a try.  Do you want to set this up right here in the shop?”

“Yeah, I can get us about a dozen of those school chairs like they have in the training rooms to cover that part of it and anything else you need like maybe a blackboard or and easel with those large 36x36 sheets of paper they use for diagrams and such.  I want it here in the shop so that we can use actual vehicles that need repairs.”

“How much time do you want me to devote to this?  Will I be working on vehicles part of the time?”

“In the beginning I want you to devote full time to this.  Maybe later on when things get rolling, you can give us a hand with the vehicles.  It’s a big project and I know it’s going to take time for you to set it up.  When I was back in the States, that was my job and I know how time consuming it can be.  Most of the stuff we do here is tune up and brakes so I want you to concentrate on that first.  Anything you need, you just let me know.  I have a lot of manuals here for everything we work on so feel free to dig those out and use them as teaching aids if you like.”

“OK, I think what I will do first is grab a pencil and one of your tablets and start making some sort of outline of the things we need to get the ball rolling”

“Great, you can use that empty desk over there.  Let me know if you need anything”

This was certainly going to be something new for me.  I had no idea where to begin.  I thought back about how Glen’s Dad had taught me.  Most of it was hands on stuff and not any kind of book work so the more we could do that the better.  In any event, I knew I had to make some kind of outline of the things Billings wanted me to teach.  The first thing on my list was ‘Ignition Tune Up’. My final outline looked something like this:

Ignition Tune Up


Basic Ignition Circuit

Coil  Function and Operation

Points Function and Operation

The Distributor, Cap, and Rotor

The High Voltage Wiring

Spark Plugs

This was more than enough subject material to last for a month.  I began to think back to the time when I was 14 years old and Mr. Leavitt started teaching me about cars.  My Dad had bought an old Model T Ford Truck that had a bad transmission and I went up to ask him how to go about fixing it.  I was big for my age even back then and people often mistook me for being 17 or 18 and I would often drive my Dad’s car up and down Wilson Street.  Mr. Leavitt was quick to latch onto my quest for knowledge about cars.  He told me to get a bunch of kids from the neighborhood and push it up to his garage and he would have a look at it.  From that moment on, the learning process about cars began for me.  He always hammered home about ‘compression’ telling me that it was the most important and first thing to check when dealing with a car that wasn’t running right.  He said if you didn’t have compression, replacing every part of the ignition or carburetion system would not cure the problem so I decided to make that my first topic.  Once I started thinking about the learning process he had put me through, all the things he had taught me started coming back to mind and one by one, I added them to my notes under the respective topics.

By the time 1630 rolled around, I had quite a list of things that would be good for discussions.  I asked Sergeant Billings where in the shop he thought we could set up and we both walked out into the shop to have a look.  After we surveyed the area, we both decided that the conference table would be better than the desks, one because it was already there and two, because it was just the right size to hold all the mechanics.  It was somewhat like a picnic table only it was about 3 times as long.  He said we could set up a blackboard at one end and I could work the end of the table using what room there was for visual aids etc;

It took me about a week to get everything lined up and when it came time for the first instruction class to begin, I was very apprehensive about how it would be accepted.  About 5 of the guys were about my age and the remainder in their mid 20’s and I had the feeling they might reject a younger guy like myself telling them how to repair cars so I decided to deal with that issue right from the start.

“Hi guys, for those of you who don’t already know my name is MacGregor.  Some of you may have seen me around earlier this year because I was a tail gunner on the ‘Darla Mae’ before it got shot down.  I was in the hospital the last couple of months and now that I’m out, Sergeant Billings had me transferred here to see what I can do to give you some training on such things as tune up and brakes etc; I know that you are probably scratching your head wondering what the hell does a young kid like me know about repairing vehicles so I thought I would give you some background history.  Prior to the war when I was about 14 years old, all I could think about was cars.  It was a passion with me, not so much for dating girls but fixing these old cars and making them run again.  I was fortunate enough to have been taught by an old man who was a pro.  He had an 8 stall garage only a few blocks from my house and I can tell you for sure that this guy was pure magic when it came to fixing cars.  He was very quick to take me under his wing and teach me all that he knew.   For 4 years, I spent every night learning everything that I could from him.  Welding, Tune Up, Brakes, Engine Overhaul, Transmissions, and Electrical.  Many nights we stayed up till way past midnight with the two of us working feverishly to get something done.  With that in mind, I want you to think of these sessions as coming from him.  He passed on just recently and I know he would like it if he knew that his knowledge was being passed on to others.”

After telling them a bit of my background, I took the chalk and walked over to the blackboard and wrote down the word ‘COMPRESSION’.

“One of the very first things this guy ever taught me about tune up’s was that you’ve got to have compression so I want to hammer that word home.  If you have a vehicle that is missing, the first thing you want to do is CHECK THE COMPRESSION.  After compression, comes ignition and then carburetion.  That’s the logical order to follow with all tune ups.  Also, when you pull the plugs to check the compression, be sure you lay the plugs out in order, 1 through 4, 1 through 6, or 1 through 8.  That way, if you have low compression on a cylinder, you can go right to that plug and see what it looks like.  If the compression is normal on all cylinders, we can begin to look to the electrical part of the ignition system, once again looking at all the plugs to see how they are firing.  If any of the plugs look fouled, replace the lot of them because the others won’t be far behind.”

I spent the next hour on the troubleshooting process that needed to be followed in order to run down the problem of engine miss-fire.  After that, we took an actual 6x6 truck that had come in for a tune up and ran through the process that I had outlined.  The compression was ok and we moved on to the plugs.  They were really not that bad looking so we moved onto the next step which called for spraying the distributor cap and plug wires lightly with water.  That really made the vehicle start missing badly so Johnson who was doing all the work, pulled the cap and the wires so we could have a look.  Sure enough, the cap was cracked and the water allowed the high voltage circuit to short out to ground resulting in no fire to the plugs.  We replaced the cap and the wires and the problem was over.

By the time we had finished, I thought everyone had a good understanding of the steps to take in trouble shooting and engine miss-fire.  Just to be sure, I had taken one of my handwritten sheets over to the main office and had one of the guys over there type it up for me and then he ran a dozen copies off on the mimeograph.

“That was a good session MacGregor”

“Thanks sarge, do you think they got something out of it?”

“Yeah, I’m positive they did.  You did it exactly the way I wanted it done.  I know that some of the things you mentioned they never heard about before.  Just keep up the good work.”

I liked what I was doing and the time started to pass very quickly.  After about two months had passed, the guys in the pool looked forward to the sessions with some of them telling me that they would like to open a small shop after they got out of the Army.  I had similar dreams of going into business with Glen.  I could never figure out why he just let the garage sit there empty while he worked 14 and 16 hour days at Republic Steel but the answer to that would have to wait until the war was over.  They major motor companies stopped making cars in any number in 1942 and turned all their efforts into making jeeps and trucks so I imagined that cars would become a premium if the war went on for some time.

By the end of September, we had covered most of the subjects that Master Sergeant Billings had talked about. Also by this time, I was spending half of my time working on vehicles and the other half on the sessions.  It was obvious from just walking around the base that the size of the bomber force had grown considerably and along with that came 4 new guys in the motor pool.  It was the beginning of September that I got promoted to sergeant so it meant a little more pay.  We also had a staff sergeant that came into the pool and he was very savvy with trucks, having worked for six years in a motor pool in the States.

By mid October the rain and bad weather started to invade England once again.  Mail call was few and far between but I will never forget that morning as the letters were being passed out in the drizzling rain, the name MacGregor rang out three times.  When mail call was over, I walked back to the motor pool with my 3 letters and sat down to read them.  One was from my Mother, one from Gillian, and one from Evelyn.  I opened the one from Evelyn first.


Dear Jimmy,

This is going to be a very difficult letter for me and I would never have believed this would happen to me but it did.  About a month ago I volunteered to help with planning a USO event in Youngstown and I met a man there…….Oh My God Jimmy I hate myself for this but I have fallen in love with him.   I’m so sorry Jimmy.  I don’t know what else to say.  I took your car up to Glen’s.  I just know that you will never understand how I could do this to you but I need you to know that it was not something I planned, it just happened Jimmy.  Please forgive me.




Evelyn’s letter came as quite a shock to me.   I knew that she desperately needed someone close to her and I was looking forward to the day I would go home and be with her again.  I was prepared to do that but with one quick blow, that thought suddenly came to an end.  The snow angels……… dancing in the park after dark to the sound of the Mills Brothers singing Paper Doll…… lying in bed with her all those nights before going into the Army.  The thoughts just kept coming one after the other.  I was sure that she loved me and I was just not prepared for this.  I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I got up and walked into Sergeant Billings office and let him read the letter.

“Oh shit, a Dear John letter.  Sounds like you really liked this gal.” 

“Yeah, I don’t know what to do.  I guess there isn’t much I can do. I have to get back home and the only quick one way pass out of here is for me to get my ass back in the tail of one of those bombers again.   With a bit of luck, I could get 15 more missions in within a month and be on my way to the States.  Would you be pissed if I put in for a transfer?  You’ve got staff sergeant Smith now that’s really savvy and could do my job in a minute.”

“No one is gonna do that job like you can but I won’t try and hold you back from doing what you have to do.”

“Thanks  Sarge,  I’m going to run over to administration and see what they say.


End Chapter 14







Chapter 15


By this time, I had made some friends in Administration and as soon as I entered, I spotted Sergeant Baker.  I went over to his desk and told him that I would like to get transferred back to my old unit and wondered what I had to do.

“Well, the first thing you have to do MacGregor is fill out a transfer request form.  These usually don’t go anywhere unless there is some kind of urgency.  Most of the transfer requests we get are just the opposite of yours with guys trying to get transferred to something other than combat.  All transfer requests have to be approved by Colonel Bray so about the best I can do for you is mark it urgent and see what happens.”

“That would be great Baker.”

He gave me the form and I filled it out and took it back to him.  After doing that, I went back to the motor pool and read the other two letters that I got.

The first one I read was from Gillian.


Dear Jamie,

I thought ye might like tae ken your friend Hetrick is still doing well.  He is still having a few dizzy spells but he is oop and aboot and wi’ a wee bit of luck he should be oot of here in no time.

I’m sae glad tae hear that ye managed tae get a billet with the motor pool as ye call it. I’ve tried so hard tae keep busy wi’ ye gone but my days at the hospital are nae the same.  

Winter is almost upon us once again and the weather has been sae nasty the last few days.  I keep thinkin o the night we sat on the sofa taegether at Billy Burnet’s and I can still feel yer hand touching mine.  I need ye tae coom back Jamie.  Please keep writing tae me.  I love getting yer letters even if it is joost a short note.

I still pray every night for the Lord tae keep ye safe.




It was good news to hear that Hetrick was doing ok.  He must have had some crack on the head for them to keep him this long though.  Every time I got a letter from Gillian, I remembered waking up in Hawick and her being the first person I saw.  I also remembered holding her hand while we were at Billy Burnet’s place.  I wanted to be alone with her so bad that night but we were only able to manage that one brief moment before I went into the hospital.   I would have to get a letter off to her after I got back to the barracks.

I opened the letter from my Mother last.

Dear James,

The mail from overseas is dreadfully slow but we did receive the letter about Hawick and the Cottage Hospital.  It’s almost a miracle that your plane came down there and you got to meet my sister Dora and her daughter Victoria.

Your Father was so thrilled to hear that you talked to Billy Burnet.  He was such a nice man and we both liked him.  Neither of us had met his daughter Anna.

As for Dr. Buchanan, you were right in assuming that Grandma Lizzy was married twice.  It must have shocked you to find that out.  It must have been quite an experience for you to wake up and find someone there who looked so much like your father.

You will have to write and tell us more about this girl Gillian that you met there.  It’s still so hard for me to believe that you are all grown up.

I have to go now as it’s about time for your Father to come home from work.




Wow, so I was right.  Dr. Buchanan was my dad’s half brother.  I would have to tell Gillian the news.  I wonder why my Mother never told me this before.  Maybe she thought I was too young to understand such things.

I put both of the letters in my pocket along with the one from Evelyn and headed back to the 6x6 that I was working on.  When Sergeant Billings returned I told him that I had put in for the transfer.  He wished me luck and told me that he would be sorry to see me go if it got approved.

About a week had passed by and there was not a word about the transfer.  I had all but given up on getting it with this much time going by but just after we had all returned from the noon mess,  Sergeant Billings came out and told me that Baker had called and Colonel Brey wanted to see me.

I went over to Administration and talked to Sergeant Baker and he told me to have a seat while he checked with the Colonel.  In a few minutes he was back and told me the Colonel would see me now.

I walked down the hallway to the end where I had seen Baker go and the Colonel’s name was on the door.  I knocked and from within, a master sergeant that I didn’t know opened the door.  

“Come in MacGregor”

Once I had entered, the master sergeant went back to his desk and sat down.  I stood at attention there facing the Colonel’s desk.  He looked up at me and gestured for me to sit.

“At ease MacGregor, have a seat.  I have your request here for transfer from the motor pool back to your old bomber group.  It’s not often we get men wanting to transfer from non-combat duty to combat duty and I am interested in knowing why.”

“Well sir, I had 15 missions before being shot down and after I got out of the hospital, I have to admit that I was a bit apprehensive about going back up again.  Right at that time, Master Sergeant Billings had a real need for someone who could teach his men some of the theory about troubleshooting mechanical problems and he felt that I was the one who could do it.  I guess he pulled some strings so to speak and got me assigned to the motor pool.  It took several months to bring the men over there up to speed.  In the meantime, a new man named Smith arrived from the states who had spent years back there doing just what I was doing over at the motor pool.  So right now, I feel like an extra man over there and I would like to get back to the job I was trained for, which is a combat tail gunner.  Right now, I feel as though I somewhat shirked my duty by taking that job at the motor pool and I don’t want to end up going home with that feeling.”

“MacGregor, let me tell you something.  Anyone who has served 15 missions during those early stages of the war without fighter cover has not shirked his duty.  I can also fully understand someone who has lost almost the entire crew as the result of a crash being a little hesitant about going back up again.  You are always going to have that feeling, each time, each flight.  Just the fact that you are here and wanting to do it is a powerful statement about your character.  Do you feel that you are ready now to go back up again?”

“Yes sir, I’m ready.”

“We need all the combat personnel we can get right now so I’m going to approve your transfer MacGregor.  You can check with Sergeant Baker as to the exact date it will become effective.  Good luck.”

“Thank you sir”

It was drizzling rain as I walked out of Administration and back over to the motor pool.  It was almost 1400 hours when I walked in and told Sergeant Billings what had happened.

“Well, the Colonel approved my transfer.  I don’t know exactly what day it will take effect but not too many days left here in the motor pool now.”

“Good, I’ll miss you around here.  In the meantime, I would like you to get with Sergeant Smith and show him where you are with the sessions so that he can pick up from where you left off.”

“Ok Sarge”

It was October 20 before I got the word to move my gear over to the bomber squadron.   It was pouring down rain so I had Johnson run me and my stuff over there.  I was assigned to the 359th and even though I had been working in the motor pool, I already had all of my clothing and equipment that I needed.  After I had checked in and got my barracks assignment, I joined the others in training classes on plane identification.  Due to bad weather, it was almost two weeks before anything flew out of Molesworth so I was pretty well up to speed by November 3, 1943, the date of my 16th mission.  

Our target area was the Dock Yards at Wilhelmshaven, Germany and the Colonel was right, I did have the lump in my throat as we roared up into the morning sky.  Our group arrived at the target area shortly after 1300 hours and although there was some flak, it was nothing compared to some that I had seen on previous missions.  There were some enemy fighters out there but not many of them challenged the formation.  This was due in part to the excellent P-38 Fighter coverage.  We released our load of 500 pounders and then shortly after, the squadron returned to the base.  It was a 6 hour mission and ended with no losses of planes or men.  This was the first mission flown by the 8th Air Force that had over 500 planes and I for one, noticed the large build-up in our forces compared to just 6 months ago.

Our next mission was only 2 days later, this time it was the marshalling yards and oil plants at Gelsenkirchen, Germany.  We lost a plane on this mission but chutes were reported.  Once we got back to Molesworth, the weather took another turn for the worse keeping us in-active for about 10 days.  

By the middle of December, I had completed 25 of the 30 missions required and I knew there would be no way that I was going to get home this year.  My 26th mission proved to be very costly for our group with two crews being lost and quite a few killed in action.  It was always a bad feeling to return without the entire group.

The weather turned bad again and I took the opportunity to get a letter off to Gillian.  It was hard knowing what to say at times but I did the best I could.


Dear Gillian,

Just a short note to let you know that all is well with me.  I have transferred back to my old unit and flying combat missions once again.  I’m not sure if that was a good idea or not but one way or another, I have to do my part to finish this ugly war.  

I can’t stop thinking about the night we went to Billy Burnet’s and how wonderful it felt to kiss you that night.  I still remember your words and something tells me I will return to Hawick and we can spend more time with each other.  America seems so far away right now and Hawick so close but both of them out of reach for the moment.

I will write again as time permits.




For some reason I could not bring myself to tell Gillian about the letter I had received from Evelyn.  With all this bad weather, my hopes for getting back the States seemed to be quite a ways off yet.  Damn, I was still so mixed up about this but every time I re-read Evelyn’s letter, it became more obvious that our relationship was over and done with.  I could not bring myself to write any more letters and decided to head over to the motor pool and see how things were going over there.  It was Friday, the 17th of December and most of the motor pool guys had taken off to London on a weekend pass but Sergeant Billings was there and I went into his office.

“Hi Sarge, just thought I would come over and see how things on your side of the base are going.”

“MacGregor,  how the hell are you?   You’re just the guy I wanted to see.

“What’s up?”

“We got a truck that has a broken transmission case and I looked in all the training material you prepared to see if there was anything on fixing it and sure enough you had a couple of pages on how to weld it.  One of the things you said in there was that it had to cool really slow and you suggested putting it in vermiculite.  What the hell is vermiculite?”

“Vermiculite is and insulator.  It’s made from mica I think and it’s the best thing for doing a slow cool on a hot transmission box.  If you don’t have any of that, the next best thing is to cool it in sand. Just fill a trash can about half full of sand and put the hot box in there right after you are done welding and then cover it over with sand.”

“That’s it, sand?”

“Yeah, let it cool for about 3 days.”

“I’ll be damned.   Is this another thing you got from the old man back home?”

“Yep, he was the best welder I ever saw.  I don’t know where he learned all the stuff he did but I’m sure glad he passed it on to me.”

“So what’s going on over at the Bomber Squadron.  This bad weather got you guys shut down for a few days?”

“Yeah, this lousy weather is what’s holding up the completion of my missions.  I only have 5 more to go and I’ll be heading home.  I was hoping to be home for Christmas but I guess that’s out.”

“That’s got to be pretty scary shit up there getting shot at for half an hour or so and hoping you don’t get a hit that takes you down”

“It is scary.  When I was talking to the Colonel he told me I would get this sick feeling in my gut every time I went up and he was right.  We’ve lost 6 planes in the short time that I’ve been back.  I’m close to the end now though so I am very anxious to get it over with”

“You thought any more about that gal of yours back home?”

“Yeah, I’ve read that dear john letter a hundred times and it still says the same thing……’s over.”

“Yep, you might as well face it MacGregor, she’s found someone else and that’s just the way things are.”

We talked on for several hours and then I headed back to the barracks, the rain just a drizzle now but dark clouds continued to fill the Molesworth skies.  All I could think now was getting my missions completed.

End Chapter 15









Chapter 16
Pas de Calais

It was the day before Christmas, Friday, December 24, 1943.  I woke up to the sound of a dog yapping and the voice of Sergeant Hartsacker as he made his way down the row of beds rousting us out.  I dressed quickly amidst the yawns and groans and headed for the door.  It was another cold wet morning at Molesworth. There was no rain but a mist hung over the base like a dark grey curtain. I hated the weather here in England and we never knew until the last minute if we were going to fly a mission or not.

Another Cold Wet Morning At Molesworth

It was 0300 hours when I entered the mess hall.  I could hear the normal clatter of knives and forks and the muffled sounds of the others talking as those of us in line shuffled our way past the trays of food.  I filled my coffee cup, scooped up some scrambled eggs, a couple pieces of fried spam, two pieces of toast, and made my way to the table.  I spotted Riechter, one of the other gunners from our crew and sat down alongside him.

“Getting close eh Macgregor, what is it, 3 or 4 left now?”

“It’s 3 Riechter, 2 after we get back.”

“Man, I got 20 more to go yet; plenty of time for me to load up on those fucking powdered eggs and spam.”

“You know where we’re going today?”

“Who gives a shit, Macgregor?  We go up, get shot at and come back…… if we’re lucky!  We’ll find out soon enough once we get to the briefing room.”

“Ah, I was just curious.  We got the USO on the base tonight and the odds of getting back are better if we don’t go deep into Germany.”

Something was bugging me about this mission but I couldn’t put my finger on it.  It was my 28th and I was on a really close count down.  Two more after this one and I would be going back to the States.  After mess, we all headed over to the briefing hut.  The place was buzzing with chatter as usual but it came to an abrupt halt as Colonel Bray entered.  Someone shouted out ATTENTION and we all jumped to our feet. 

Riechter leaned over towards me, his hand concealing his lips and whispered, “What the fuck is he doing here.”

“Beats the shit out of me, Riechter.”

Colonel Bray quickly took control of the briefing showing us where we were going and why.  As Lieutenant Bradley uncovered the flight plan, Colonel Bray began to speak.

“Men your mission today will be the V-Weapons Rocket sites in the Pas de Calais area of France.  This is a very vital mission.  According to our intelligence, these rocket sites are being set up along the French coast and could soon be targeting London and surrounding areas with flying aerial bombs.  This is a new weapon being developed by the Germans and if allowed to continue un-interrupted, it could wield devastating results.  These flying bombs are like a small aircraft with an engine and they fly at speeds of 300 miles per hour.  They have a metered amount of fuel and the 1700 pound warhead they carry falls indiscriminately out of the sky when the fuel is exhausted.  We must destroy as many of these launch facilities as we can. This will be the largest number of aircraft carrying out attacks of any 8th Air Force Mission to date and the first against these missile sites. In all there will be 526 B-17's and 196 B-24's from the 8th air force escorted by 459 P-47's, 40 P-38's, and 42 P-51's  from the 9th Air Force.” 

He talked more about the importance of the mission, the affects these rockets could have on the civilian population, and how every effort should be made to see that our bombs found their intended target.  After the Colonel had finished, the room buzzed with chatter and Lieutenant Bradley took over outlining all the details of the mission; the flight plan, the formation, our bomb load, alternate targets, altitude and weather. He went on to explain that this mission would take approximately 4 hours.

“Well, there ya go MacGregor, just a short hop across the channel, drop the load, and we’re back.”

“Oh yeah, can’t you just see the Germans laying back and waving to us?  I got a feeling this is going to be a rough one.”

As the 6x6 pulled up to our plane, there was a faint glimmer of sunlight barely visible on the horizon.  I could just make out the words 'Delta Darlin' above the front gun turret. I was sitting at the rear of the truck and as we got closer, I could see the huge tail and my turret at the very end of the fuselage.  The truck pulled to a stop and we all climbed out, each man struggling with his own thoughts about the upcoming flight. 

Loading the Bombs

 The ground crew was having some sort of problem with the bombs or the bomb doors but they seemed to have it under control as one by one the bombs were ratcheted up into place and locked. It always seemed to take forever for the crews to finish their work and it was several more hours before they were done.  Even though this was my 28th mission, I still had that same lump in my throat at the thought of going up and all I could do was pray that my luck would hold out.  This feeling of being scared shitless went with me on each of my previous missions and this one was no different.

Everything seemed to be in order for me, my chute pack was right there to my side, my guns were fixed and checked out, and my turret was functioning properly.  It was always a tight fit for me back in the tail gunner position and once airborne my only access to the others in the plane was to crawl around the rear wheel apparatus and then on up through the main fuselage.

Everything was ready to go except for some last minute trouble they were having with Riechter’s belly turret.  They monkeyed around with it for about ten more minutes before we began to rumble down the runway.  I could hear the tail wheel below me making a rough gravely noise on the uneven surface, followed by the thunderous roar of the engines as they were pushed to full throttle for take off.  It wasn't long before we cleared the runway and climbed up through the clouds into the morning sky. It was daylight now and I had a bird’s eye view of the planes behind me, one by one taking off and leaving Molesworth behind.  It seemed to take longer than usual to get into formation.  I guessed because of the large number of planes involved in the raid. Once the formation was set, we began our climb and started across the channel to France.  I kept checking my oxygen to make sure it was working and then the heater connections on my flight suit.

In Formation on the Way to Pas de Calais

 The crossing was uneventful and we reached our cruising altitude ok but as we proceeded inland over Calais, we started to get hit hard by enemy fire from German fighter planes.  They seemed to be swarming everywhere.  I could see three of them heading in from the rear with flames bursting from their guns and up above them, two P-47's almost upside down swinging around to come in behind them.  I began blasting away on my twin 50’s and almost immediately, I hit one of the yellow nose German fighters right on and smoke started billowing out of his engine.  I was trembling as he caught on fire and exploded right there in front of me.  He just seemed to disintegrate as he veered off to the right and started to spin out of control.

We approached the target area at 1030 hours and at this point, the flak from the anti-aircraft guns was really heavy.  The Germans seemed to be going all out to keep us at bay but we were in a tight formation as always and the engines just droned on moving us closer and closer to the target area.  This was the most dangerous part and the guns below seemed to be aimed right on us. I could see black puffs of smoke from the flak everywhere; then I was startled by a few bursts that blasted a couple of small holes right through the tail. 

  At 1045, it was bombs away.  About 3 minutes later we began our turn to go back.  We had no sooner leveled out and we took a direct hit to the outboard starboard engine and there was no doubt in my mind that we were going down.  I was terrified as the plane dipped hard to the right almost 90 degrees and I watched in horror as another direct hit tore one of the wings off and it went fluttering down like a leaf in the wind.  I immediately grabbed for my chest pack and started to squeeze by the landing gear but as I started to work my way forward to put on my chute and bail out, there was a massive explosion followed by an enormous ball of fire that came rolling down the fuselage towards me.  I thought for sure I would be killed but just as the billowing orange flames were about to reach me, the tail section of the plane ripped away from the main fuselage.  I felt the enormous heat as well as the acrid smell of burning fuel and then the sounds of metal stretching and creaking and breaking apart.  In a matter of seconds, the tail section had torn completely away from the fully engulfed main fuselage of the plane and began spinning earthward with me in it.  

No Place to go but Down

Because of the blast and the fire, I felt certain that everyone else on the plane was dead. We were at 18,000 feet when we took the hit and I tried desperately to get out of the tail as it continued downward. It kept spinning in circles hurling me from side to side and my chute was caught on something.  I remembered tying my shoes to my chute and this was what was giving me trouble.  Nothing seemed to be going in my favor and it took me forever before I managed to work myself loose and get it on.  My only way out was to jump from the large opening where the tail separated from the plane but the way it was twirling about I was not sure if I could make it.  I could feel the cold air gushing by as I struggled forward on my hands and knees towards the opening.  There was a little more space to move about now but I felt very dizzy. I knew that I had to concentrate and not pass out.  As I approached the edge of the opening, I could see the ground below spinning round and round in circles.

We had just had some training on bailing out and some of the figures were going through my head like a buzz saw.  I knew that I only had about 3 minutes to get my ass out of this tail section of the plane before it became a heap of useless rubble on the ground below.  I was unable to stand up and decided to just roll out of the opening.  I grabbed for the rip cord as I went over the edge.

 The next thing I felt was the chute plump open above me and the tug against my body as my descent slowed down very abruptly.  The chute was spinning erratically at first but I was able to bring it under control fairly quickly. For a brief moment, I felt some relief to be out in the open. I could see a wooded area directly below me and was surprised that I was so close to the ground.  I estimated it to be about 800 feet or less and the ground was coming up to meet me fast. 

 I never saw the tail or any other part of the plane again but I had a good chance to look around before hitting the ground and saw a dirt road and several farm houses to the right of the woods.  There was not much wind and I landed without event in an open spot in the heavily wooded area.  The jolt of landing sent me tumbling into the damp furrowed ground but I recovered quickly and got my chute off and untied the laces that had been holding my shoes.  I sat there in the middle of the field somewhat dazed from the events that had unfolded so quickly.  Sure as hell, Riechter and all the others were dead, why not me?  Jesus, here I was all alone in German Occupied France.  I knew that I was not far from the Rocket Sites so there had to be Germans close by.  What next?  I better get my ass into those woods and hide, then what? No time to think about it now, just get the friggin chute covered and hide somewhere.

 I took my boots off and put the shoes on and commenced to cover the chute as well as my heated flying boots.  I found some large rocks and put those on it along with some sod and weeds.  When I had finished, my hands were covered with mud and I noticed that my left hand was cut and bleeding quite badly.  I moved several of the rocks to get back to the chute and I took out my pocket knife and cut off enough material to make a bandage for my hand. I clumsily wrapped my hand and once the chute was covered again, I headed through the dense brush towards the area where I had seen the farm houses.

It was almost 1300 hours when I reached the clearing at the edge of the woods.  From here, I could see one of the houses.  There was a dirt road at this point but absolutely no sounds or activity of any kind and I hoped that my low altitude parachute drop escaped the eyes of the German soldiers. I decided to wait until it was almost dark before heading out into the open.  As I sat there in the dense brush, every dream about getting back to the US now shattered.

At 1630 hours, it was almost dusk and I came out of the brush and headed for the farm house.  While hiding there in the woods, I decided that I had to place my trust in whoever lived at the farm with the hope that they would take me in and somehow help me get back to England.  The worst case scenario was that they would kill me or turn me in to the Germans and I would sit out the rest of the war in a prison camp.  As I got closer to the house, I saw an older man about my size walking from an outhouse toward the main house.  He spotted me and stopped, probably wondering who the hell I was.  I had no idea what to say but thought he would surely understand the word American.

"Hello, my name is James MacGregor.  I am an American.  My plane was shot down."

He stood motionless just looking at me and then he came closer.  He obviously could see my flight suit.

"La hâte, viennent à l'intérieur. Il peut y avoir des Allemands"

[Quickly, come inside, there can be Germans]

I had taken French for two years in high school but even so it was difficult for me to understand what he said.  I thought it might have been "go inside" as he was motioning for me to enter the house.  I did exactly as he had directed and as soon as we were in he started to talk very rapidly to an older woman.   

"Claudine, Claudine...... ceci est un Américain et il a besoin de sa main prise en compte. Il doit être de l'avion que nous avons vu pour descendre aujourd'hui."

[Claudine, Claudine...... this is an American and he needs his hand taken care of. He must be from the plane which we saw to descend today]

They led me into the kitchen and commenced to take the bandage off my hand.  Both of my hands were covered with mud but she soon had them cleaned up and I was able to see the cut.  It was fairly deep but for the life of me, I could not remember it happening.  Once my hand was cleaned up, she put some kind of antiseptic on it and then she made some bandage strips from what appeared to be an old cut up parachute and wrapped them around my hand.

The Frenchman motioned me to sit down and we tried as best we could to communicate with one another.  Even though we understood only portions of what each of us was saying, it was obvious that he was anti-German and wanted to help me.  From our sign language and common sounding words, I was able to gather that tomorrow they would contact their friend Jacques-Adrian Royer.  Apparently he spoke fluent English and it could be decided what we could do to get me back to England.  It was too risky for me to be here in the house because they would be shot if caught harboring me so he led me out to his barn.  He showed me some horse blankets that I could use to cover myself.  This was Christmas Eve and they shared what little food they had with me and I found some fairly deep straw to lay on and settled in for the night.  It was a far cry from the evening I had been looking forward to with the USO.

Christmas Day, Saturday, December 25, 1943  

The following morning at 0700 hours I woke up to the sound of a horse being bridled.  It was the Frenchman getting his horse hooked up to a small buggy.  He mentioned the name Jacques-Adrian Royer again so I assumed he was on his way to talk to him. Soon after he had gone, his wife brought out a small bowl of fried potatoes for me to eat and over her arm she had some pants, a shirt, a jacket and a cap for me to wear. I could see that they were anxious to change my appearance so I quickly donned the clothes that she brought me.  The woman took my flight clothes and burned them in the wood stove.  

At about 0945 hours, the Frenchman was back with a younger man, probably in his early thirties.  Jacques-Adrian Royer was quick to introduce himself to me.  He told me that Hervé-Jacques Larocque and Claudine Larocque were his aunt and uncle and that he lived about 5 kilometers away.  He said it was not safe for me to stay here so close to the crash site.

"James, we need to get you to Abbeville.  I have some friends there that will be able to get you some French identification and then from there, we need to connect you to others in the underground and move you out of the country as quickly as possible.  Most of those who have made it have gone south to Spain.  They’re a neutral country and will arrest you for a while but then you will be deported and taken to Gibraltar and hopefully back to England."

"I'm ready to do as you say Jacques.  How will we get to Abbeville?"

"Right now, we’re south of Hesdin and it’s about 35 Kilometers to Abbeville. From here, we’ll go directly to my place where we’ll stay overnight.  In the morning, we will set out for Abbeville.  My friend Jean-Louis Ménard lives just north of Abbeville so I can leave you in his care.  Once you have some ID, you’ll be able to travel freely on the train.  Hervé  said that you know some French but not much.  Since you don’t speak fluent French, they’ll probably send someone with you and perhaps have you pose as a deaf mute just in case you get into a situation where you might otherwise have to speak."

Jacques seemed to know the area quite well.  In a few minutes, I said goodbye to Mr. and Mrs. Laroucque and we immediately set off for Jacques place. We had no sooner reached the edge of the woods when we heard the sound of vehicles off in the distance down the road.  We crept down into the brush and watched as two German Army vehicles approached the house.  There were four soldiers, two went into the house and the other two went into the barn.  We were not close enough to hear what they were saying but by the tone of their voices we both knew that they were looking for downed flyers.  From our viewpoint, we continued to watch as the Germans spent some time searching the house and the barn.  In a short while they returned to the vehicle, turned around, and headed back down the dirt road.   

"Come James, we have to move on now.  The Germans found no sign of anyone at the house but they’ll move on down the road checking each house in the area.  My house is much further back and I don't think they will go there.  When we arrive, I want you to remain in the woods while I check out the barn and the house first just to make sure it’s safe to go in."   

He told me the German patrols stayed mostly on the road.  During our time together in the woods, I found out that he had gone to college in the United States, thus accounting for his excellent command of the English language.  He had studied to be a construction engineer but his love for the French Countryside brought him back to France.

We arrived at Jacques place at about 1300 hours.  It was a farm house much the same as the Larocque's except it was larger and much further back off the dirt road.  I stayed in the thick brush while Jaques made his way towards the house.  There were no vehicles or sounds and I watched until he disappeared inside.  In about 5 minutes he was back and told me all was ok.

We walked quickly down to the house and as soon as we were inside, Jacques called out.

"Brigitte, I'm back."

He had no sooner spoken than a young woman entered the room.

"Yes Jacques, so this is the American then?"

I was surprised to see that she spoke English as well as Jaques.  She walked over towards me and Jacques introduced us.   

"Brigitte, this is James MacGregor, the American who's bomber was shot down near Hesdin yesterday, James, my sister Brigitte."

She appeared to be just about my age, deep blue eyes and dark black hair and quite pretty.  We all sat around the kitchen table as Brigitte served some hot coffee made from almond and apple leaves and a biscuit which she said was left over from the Christmas Eve dinner the night before.  She went on to tell me that food had been very scarce this winter and that they had not had real coffee since 1941. The biscuit was delicious but the almond-apple leaf coffee was much stronger than I was used to, however, I was thankful to have it and drank it all down.  With all the events of the past two days, I had totally forgotten about this being Christmas Day.  She went on to say that the Germans had been to the house and searched about two hours ago.

Jaques broke into her conversation to say, "I didn't think they would come back this far James.  As I told you earlier, it’s very dangerous for you to remain in this area.  If we hear any signs of vehicles at all, I want you to head straight for the woods that we just came out of and hide out there.  We have to make sure that there is no sign of your presence in the house or they will take us in for questioning and we might never return."

Brigitte wanted to know more about the bombing we had done yesterday.  She had heard that the Germans were building a vast underground facility all along the coast to the west of us.

"What was your mission......this bombing mission your air force carried out yesterday?  We could see hundreds of planes in the sky first heading south and then they made a turn to the west and disappeared on the horizon."

"It was the V-Rocket sites that we were after Brigitte.  The Germans are massing hundreds of rocket bombs to launch over London and other British targets.  We had over 1000 planes in the air including fighters.  The Germans came after us with everything they had and I'm sure more planes besides mine were shot down by enemy fire."

"I had a feeling that area along the coast just to the west of us was your target.   We are not permitted to travel anywhere near there so Jaques and I both felt that the Germans were up to something.  I have never heard the term V-Rocket, what is that James?"

“The best way I can describe it to you is a long slender bomb with a small engine and wings and they travel at speeds over 300 miles per hour.  They only have a certain amount of fuel and they drop out of the sky when the engine quits.”

“Oh my, now I can see why you had so many bombers to destroy this awful type of weapon.  These bombs with wings could drop anywhere killing civilians, children, old helpless people with no regard for who they are.”

Later than afternoon, I helped Jacques with some chores out in the barn.  He had some pigs out there and a cow he said was for milk and cheese.  I could see that he was very busy tending a work horse that was also in one of the stalls. He said in the spring, he would use the horse to plow the fields for planting.  It was hard for me to believe that I had come down in a world so different than my own.  We also discussed the war in general and I could tell that he was very bitter towards the Germans for having invaded his country and he assured me that he would do everything in his power to help me get back to England where I could take up the task of ridding their county of the invaders. Once again he told me that the Germans mainly patrolled the main roads but now that they had come back this far, they might do it again.  

"We’ll leave at 6 in the morning James. It will be dark in about an hour and it's not likely the Germans will be out looking for downed airmen at night.   It will take us about two hours to get to the river Authie and then about three more hours to Abbeville. For the most part, the countryside will be much the same as we had this morning.  I’ll have Brigitte make us a sandwich to take with us and we can rest up a bit and eat at the halfway point.   In Abbeville, you’ll be able to stay at the home of Jean-Louis.  He is the one who will be able to get you your identification papers".

I didn't realize until it was almost dark outside that Jaques and his sister lived in their house without electricity.  There were several kerosene lanterns burning when Jaques and I went into the house for the night.  It was very hard for me to imagine life without electricity but I guess they managed to get along without it.  We gathered around the kitchen table in the dim light and we all three held hands while Brigitte said a blessing.  She had prepared some leftover rabbit from their meal the night before.  After dinner, the three of us sat there and talked more about the war. Brigitte was the first to speak.

"So, what can you tell us about how the war is going?  We hear so little here."

"I arrived in England in February of 1943 Brigitte.  Since that time, there has been an enormous build up of Allied Forces, especially within the 8th Air Force.  My first few missions we had only about 87 bombers in the air and this last mission, over 675 bombers, with new units coming in every week.  I was pretty much out of things for about 3 months when my bomber crashed over Scotland while we were returning from my 15th mission.  Once I returned to my bomber group, the buildup was very noticeable.  If things keep going the same, by mid 1944, we will surely have complete air superiority over all of Europe."

Jaques replied, "You didn't tell me you had crashed before James.  Did everyone survive?"

"Unfortunately Jaques, there were only two survivors, me and my friend Hetrick.  The last I saw him he was doing well in a small hospital in Hawick, Scotland.  Our B-17 had been shot up very badly with the pilot and navigator both killed.  The weather was very bad and we ended up way off course to the north of our base. This was a very unusual event for me as Hawick is my father's home town and I was able to meet some of my relatives as well as many of my father's friends.   

Brigitte was quick to reply, "That certainly was strange.  Were you hurt badly?"

"I had quite a few broken ribs and a broken leg.  It took me about 2 months to heal and then they sent me back to my squadron."

"You must have an angel on your shoulder”.

As the evening wore on, we talked more about life in America and how many women there were working in the aircraft factories, steel mills and such and holding down jobs that in peacetime, only men would do.   I told them about my trip to California in my car just before I was drafted into the army, my visit with my parents and my sister and how different everything in America was compared to England and France.  Brigitte was tickled to hear the account of my surprise meeting with an old girlfriend Peggy who was on vacation visiting my sister at the time and how the two of us traveled together in my car back to Ohio. I went into some detail describing the various states that we passed through on the way back.  Both of them were amazed that there was enough gasoline in America for me to make such a trip and even more astounded that someone as young as me owned a car.

Jaques went off to find me a blanket telling me he had a cot he would lay out for me to sleep on meanwhile Brigitte made some more almond coffee and gave me another biscuit.  She said it was very difficult for them living here under the Germans.  Everything about these two people who were helping me filled my heart with appreciation for what they were doing.

It was about 2000 hours when I crawled under the blanket.  For a few brief minutes, I let my mind drift off to Evelyn.  It was hard to accept that I had missed being with her again by two lousy missions. I was very tired and fell asleep quickly.  It seemed as though I had just laid down when I was awakened by the sound of Brigitte's voice.

Sunday, December 26, 1943

"Wake up James, it's almost time for you to go."

It was 0530 hours.  I was right off the kitchen and could feel the warmth coming from the wood stove.  In a few minutes I was up and ready to go.  Brigitte had baked a loaf of bread after I had gone to bed last night and we had more of the almond-apple leaf coffee and a piece of bread and jam.  Jaques was already out in the barn as Brigitte and I stood next to the stove drinking down the last of our coffee.  As soon as I had finished my bread and jam, I hugged her and thanked her for helping me and then headed for the barn.

"Ah, there you are James.  I was just about to come in and look for you."

Jaques had already taken care of the chores and we were ready to go.  We headed off towards the south.  It was a cold, wet and misty morning and I was glad to have the warm jacket that Claudine Larocque had given to me.  

Jaques took the lead with me following closely behind. The first part of our journey was mostly through wooded areas mixed with open farmland.  It didn't take long for the bottom of my pants to get wet from the tall grass and bushes that seemed to edge each of the farms.  At 0700 hours it started to rain as we continued to move on towards the south.  It was very overcast and I would not have known which direction we were going were it not for Jaques.  We had been underway for about an hour when he cautioned me about a road we had to cross.

"We’re approaching a very small place called Regnauville.  We have to cross a main road here.  The wooded area extends all the way up to the road but I want you to lay back and let me see if it is clear before we cross."

"Ok Jaques"

I stopped and crept down as Jaques moved out of sight in the trees.  He was back in a few minutes and said it was all clear.  We quickly approached the main road and made our crossing, once again ducking back into the trees on the other side.  I didn’t see any vehicles in either direction as we crossed.  I could see two houses up ahead and we veered off to the east to avoid them.  The rain continued to come down and both of us were quite wet but neither of us cold because of the forced walking.  We reached the river Authie at 0800 hours and Jaques told me this would be the most dangerous spot along our trail as we had to go up onto the bridge to get across.  He said there was a very small town here called Labroye.  We were east of the bridge making our way along the north bank of the river when all of a sudden we heard the noise of vehicles.  We both dashed behind some bushes and hugged the ground in the drizzling rain and watched as about a couple dozen German vehicles were crossing over the bridge heading north.  They stopped as they reached our side of the bridge and one of the German soldiers got out.

“Was ist es Hans,Sie sieht etwas niederwirft dort?” 

[What is it Hans, do you see something down there?] 

“Ich dachte, daß ich etwas sah, dort entlang den Fluß unten zu bewegen, Sie wünschen mich unten gehen und ihn aus Sergeant überprüfen?” 

[I thought I saw something move down there along the river, do you want me to go down and check it out Sergeant?] 

"es ist ganz schlammiger und nasser Abstieg dort Hans. Niemand in ihrem rechten Verstand würden gehen entlang den Fluß in diesem nieselnden Regen." 

[It’s all muddy and wet down there Hans.  No one in their right mind would be walking along the river in this drizzling rain.] 

"ich war sicher, daß ich etwas sah, aber möglicherweise es ein Tier gerecht war" 

[I was sure I saw something down there but maybe it was just an animal.] 

"ja, läßt gehen. Sie wissen, daß der Oberst auf unserem Esel ist, wenn wir gelangen diese Versorgungsmaterialien nicht an die Unterseite."

[Yes, lets go.  You know the Colonel will be on our ass if we don't get these supplies to the base.] 

It was still very overcast and misty as we laid there in the mud and wet grass for well over 5 minutes until all of the vehicles had passed.  

"I’ll go over the bridge first James and then down the bank on the other side and duck under the bridge.  You will be able to see me from here and I’ll wave my hands in the air for you to cross the bridge.  Run as quickly as you can across the bridge.  We are fortunate to have this bad weather as none of the townspeople will be out and about."

I watched as Jaques climbed up the bank and then onto the bridge.  It did not take him long to reach the other side and give me the signal.  I followed his path up the bank and ran across the bridge and down the other side and ducked under the bridge where he was sitting.  He allowed me to catch my breath a minute and then we followed the river bank east for about a kilometer before we headed towards the south again.   

"We can rest easier now that we have passed this point.  The remainder of the trip is through farmland and trees. My friend Ménard lives just north of Abbeville in an area much like my place."

We trudged on for about another half hour and then stopped to eat and rest.  We found a spot that was somewhat sheltered from the rain that continued to fall. Jacques removed the sandwiches from the knapsack he was carrying and handed one to me.  They were wrapped in an old news paper and when I opened mine, a hand written note fell out.  It was from Brigitte.  It said, "Good Luck on your journey James.  I will pray for you every step of the way.  I know you will make it back to England.  A man does not crash one bomber and jump out of another with a parachute unless it is God's will that he live."

I was quite touched that she had taken the time to write this note to me.  Jaques was curious about what it was and I told him what she had written.

"Brigitte is very religious James.  She has placed herself in the hands of the Lord Jesus.  I am not the same.  I just believe what will be, will be."

"When we get to your friends house Jaques, I want to borrow a pencil so that I can answer her.  You two are my salvation and I want you both to know how grateful I am for endangering yourself just to help me."

"Ok, I'm sure you can write your note when we get to Ménard's and I’ll carry it back to Brigitte for you."

After we finished our sandwich, Jaques gathered up the papers the sandwiches had been wrapped in and put them back into his knapsack.  I was beginning to see a pattern that nothing should be left behind that would show someone had passed through this area. The rain continued to drizzle for the next two hours and we were both drenched as we arrived near the outskirts of Abbeville.  The farm houses were set closer together in this area and Jaques pointed out the home of Jean-Louis.  He was not expecting us of course and once again Jaques had specific instructions for me.

"Jean-Louis knows nothing about us being here at this point so it's best if I go up to the house alone.  One thing you’ll find out on your journey is that each new person you meet like Ménard will only know the names of two people, me and the next person along the line that he’ll take you to.  This way, if he gets caught, only two people in the underground will be exposed.  You can see the house from here.  Watch for me to come back out and give you the signal that it’s ok."

There was an old broken log from a tree that had fallen and I sat there and watched as Jaques made his way to the farm house.  He disappeared inside the house for a few minutes and then he came back out and gave me the signal to come down to the house.  It felt wonderful to feel the heat of the stove inside Ménard's home and Jaques and I stood in front of the stove as he introduced me to Ménard.

"Jean-Louis, this is James MacGregor, the American I was telling you about."

Ménard took my hand into both of his and shook it with great enthusiasm.  By his smile and demeanor I knew right off that I had another friend I could count on to help me along the way.  He was a short man, slightly balding, grayish-black moustache.  He spoke broken English but good enough for me to understand what he was talking about.  Jaques told him that I would need papers and money to get to the next stop along the way.  As the two of them were talking, Ménard poured us each a small glass of wine.

"Jean-Louis, dès que je dessécherai je doivent obtenir de nouveau à Hesdin."

[Jean-Louise, As soon as I dry out a little I have to get back to Hesdin]

"Jaques, j'ai pensé que vous pourriez passer la nuit ici. Elle est étée un long moment puisque je vous ai parlé. Sûrement vous ne devez pas retourner tellement rapidement?"

[Jaques, I thought you could spend the night here.  It's been a long while since I have talked to you.  Surely you don't have to return so quickly?]

"Je dois récupérer Jean-Louis, ma soeur est tout seule là maintenant et je n'aime pas cela particulièrement avec les Allemands regardant tout autour de la manière qu'ils sont. Si vous seriez si aimable, MacGregor voudrait écrire une note à ma soeur et a besoin d'un crayon et d'un papier."

[I must return Jean-Louis, my sister is all alone there now and I particularly do not like that with the Germans looking all around in the manner that they are. If you would be so kind, MacGregor would like to write a note to my sister and needs a pencil and a paper]

"Je comprends Jaques, vous dois prendre du potage chaud d'oignon avant que vous alliez. Laissez-moi obtenir le papier et le crayon."

[I understand Jaques, you must have some hot onion soup before you go.  Let me get the paper and pencil]

Jaques translated for me telling me that he was going to stay only long enough to have a bowl of soup and then he would be heading back to Hesdin.  He was afraid with Brigitte being there all alone.  Also, that he would carry my message to Brigitte.  Ménard brought me a pencil and paper and I sat there at the table with Jaques as he ate his soup and I wrote my note to Brigitte.

Dear Brigitte,

Thank you so much for your words of encouragement.  I am truly blessed to have met you and Jaques and perhaps one day I can return when France is liberated.  I know with your help and prayers, that I’ll survive this war.  Keep your eyes on the sky because one of these days, I’ll be back in one of those bombers up there and wave down to you.   God Bless you.

James MacGregor

As soon as I was finished, Jaques was ready to go.  We shook hands and that was not enough so we hugged each other.

"Goodbye Jaques, take good care of your sister.  There is no way that I can ever thank you enough for helping me."

"Yes, you can James.   When you get back to England, keep bombing the hell out of the Germans."

I handed Jaques the note and he and Ménard walked outside and the two said goodbye.  In a matter of minutes, he disappeared off into the woods.

Jean-Louis Ménard

End chapter 16











Chapter 17
The French Underground

Sunday, December 26, 1943

Once Jaques had gone, Ménard offered me some soup and another small glass of wine.  The two of us sat at the kitchen table, complete strangers other than the fact that we both had the same goal and that was getting me out of France and back to England.  He too, said that food was very scarce in France right now but he was one of the fortunate ones that lived on a farm close to town and could grow some of his own food as well as sell it to make money. 

"When the Germans first came in June of 1940 James, most Frenchmen rushed to the south of France or to Vichy France to escape being in occupied France.  Abbeville was heavily bombed with many homes and buildings destroyed. There was no food, no shops, no cars; not much of anything was left.  Since that time, many have come back, especially this year we are seeing more and more old faces as the tides of war seem to be changing.  We have some common things like potatoes, onions, and cheese; things we can grow on the farm but even now in Abbeville, many things can only be obtained through the black market.  Coffee and cigarettes come at a very high price.  Most Frenchmen right now cannot afford cigarettes so they have been rolling their own made from the dried leaves of fruit trees, corn silk, peppermint leaves, almost anything they can get their hands on."

"Things are bad in England too Jean-Louis, everything is rationed.  The military fares the best I think, providing us with three meals a day.  I don't smoke so never gave any thought to what it might be like without cigarettes.  Many of the men in my squadron do smoke though and cigarettes on the base seem to be plentiful enough.  In letters I have received from back home in America, there is also rationing but nothing so severe as you’ve described to me here in France."

We talked for several hours about the War.  He told me I would find many Frenchmen who would be anxious to help me but there would be others who are collaborating with the Germans. It was his feeling that the ones who were collaborating were merely trying to exist in a very hostile environment.  He said they were very bitter towards the Germans, first for invading their country and second for causing so much hardship with regard to obtaining food, gasoline, and other things necessary for normal living.

He wanted to know about the American Air Force.  He felt certain that it would be air power that would drive the Germans out of his country forever.  I told him about the massive build up since early in the year, with more and more planes coming from the United States every day.

"I think you are right Jean-Louis.  There has been such a change just in the last 6 months with the number of bombers and fighters that leave on missions deep into Germany.  The new P51 fighters can cover the bombers the entire way now and as a result, we are not losing as many planes as we did early on in the war.  The Allies have taken Sicily and have also landed in Italy.  I think by summer of 1944, the US 8th Air Force along with the RAF will have achieved air superiority throughout Europe and we will see the liberation of France."

"I sure hope you are right.  I live for the day France will once again belong to the French.  For now though, we have to get busy and create some French identification documents for you. Tell me about yourself, your age, height, weight, eyes, and hair.  I have to match you with someone similar in France"

"I am 19 years old, 6 foot two, 160 pounds, blue eyes, black hair."

"You appear to be much older but nevertheless, I will have to make you some conscription deferment papers as well as some job papers.  "

With just that small bit of information, he motioned me to follow him.  We climbed up a ladder to a loft that was above the main room.  This loft appeared to be where he slept.  It had a slanted ceiling but I soon found out that this ceiling opened up into a smaller room concealed behind it.  It was in here that he had all of his papers, books, documents and the like.  He began searching through his vast collection of information to see if he could match me up with some other person in France.  As he was searching, I noticed that he had photographic equipment here as well and the means to develop pictures.  Developing pictures had been a hobby of my father's so I was a bit familiar with the darkroom process.

"Aha, here we are.  I have found someone just like you.  Your new name is going to be Gerald Baudet, 400 Rue Gambon - 18101 Vierzon, France "

Once he had found a likeness, he had me pose for a photograph.  A few clicks of the shutter and he was ready to develop the film.  It was amazing to watch him work so quickly and with so little effort.  He had another little cubby hole set up for a dark room.  It was only big enough for one person. He was not in there very long before he came out with a nice looking picture of me.  He then sat down at a small desk where he had a fairly large collection of blank ID's and other official looking documents that had some sort of official stamp pressed into the paper.  

"The process now is to place the name Gerald Baudet, 400 Rue Gambon - 18101 Vierzon, France and add your age, height, weight, eyes, and hair onto this new identification".

For this, he used a small hand set printer to set up exactly the same kind of letters and numbers to match those already on the blank ID papers.  He was very meticulous with this part of the process and he made quite a few test prints on blank paper before he was satisfied with the results.  With the name finished, he then added my photograph and my main ID was finished.  Next came the job papers and the conscription deferment.  When he was all done, everything looked very official looking to me and I was now Gerald Baudet.  The whole thing took less than two hours.

"Did I tell you that before the war I wanted to be a printer?  I worked for 3 years at the local newspaper in Abbeville.  It was totally demolished during the bombing."

Once we were done, he closed the ceiling back up and even on close inspection, I was unable to detect that anything was on the other side of it.  This small secret room must have been enclosed in a gable on the roof towards the back of the house that was not noticeable to anyone approaching the house from the front. We went back down the ladder and both of us sat down at the kitchen table again.

"We are both much safer now that you have papers to show who you are.  From this point on, I will call you Gerald so that you will begin to get used to the sound of it.  What we will do next is layout a plan to get you from Abbeville to Vierzon. Vierzon is about 398km from here.  You will go by train the entire way.  You will have to change trains in Paris and later tonight we can go over the layout of the train station so that you know where you are going.  It is important for you to always look like you know what you are doing and where you are going and not confused wondering what to do next.  In Vierzon, you will meet up with a woman named Hélène Renaud.  She runs a small shop not far from the train station.  You will be north of the Loire River when you arrive in Vierzon and this is a very sensitive area for you to get by the German check points."

"What if someone speaks to me?"

"We have thought of that.  Before you leave here, we will wrap a bandage around your neck that will give the appearance of a person who has had recent throat surgery.  It will have a breathing tube protruding and some blood so all you will have to do is inhale through your throat and make sounds as though you are trying to speak.  If they are German soldiers, you can pull your shirt open so they can see your problem."

"Where does the money come from to do this Mr. Ménard?"

"Please, just call me Jean.  I have no idea about the money.  I have heard rumors that much of it comes from England but my job is to forge papers and I leave the money up to others.   Every so often, my contact in Abbeville meets me and provides money.  It's best not to know these things but I feel certain that there are also many wealthy people in France who hate the Germans for invading our country.  There is not sufficient money to buy your train ticket to Vierzon right now and that is all I know."

The Route from Abbeville to Vierzon

I could see right away that I was going to have to learn ways to deceive the Germans if I was ever to get out of France.  Jean and I talked well into the night discussing various aspects of my journey.  He told me that many attempts had been made along the west coast of France to return downed airmen but German patrols in that area were much too heavy.  He said that although the route through Spain was the longest, it was also the safest and the one they have had the most luck with. He told me that south of Vierzon, I would have to cross over into unoccupied Vichy France and that this portion of my journey might be on foot and at night to avoid Germans. 

"On Wednesday, we will go into Abbeville together.  I have some supplies to pick up and it will give you a chance to look around and get used to the feeling of being close to some of the German soldiers.  We can also pass by the train station and I can point out some things to you to watch out for.  I will also be able to see my contact and find out if there is money to buy you a ticket to Vierzon."

"OK, I know that I will feel very conspicuous but dressed in these clothes, I should not look any different that other young Frenchmen, eh?"

"Thats right.  You have to give the appearance of belonging here and don't be afraid to look straight at the German soldiers if the occasion arises."

The next two days Jean spent hours with me teaching me short French phrases so that I would feel more comfortable around others along the route to Spain.  Until now, I hadn’t realized how important the little German, French and Italian phrase books were that had been passed out to us when I first got to Molesworth.

Good Morning.............Bonjour

Good night.................Bonne nuit

How are you..............Comment allez vous

Thank you...................Merci 

yes sir........................oui monsieur

no sir......................... aucun monsieur

The train is early.............le train est tôt

The train is late..............le train est en retard

Do you have the correct time.........Vous avez le temps correct

How many francs is that?............Combien de francs est celui ?

The list went on and on but slowly I was becoming more and more used to the pronunciation.  He said that others who help me along the way might be more comfortable with me speaking than wearing the fake throat bandage.  The lessons went on all during the time that I helped Jean with his chores, Jean asking the questions and me answering him in French.

Wednesday, December 29, 1943

On Wednesday we set out for Abbeville.  It was an overcast day but no rain. Jean said that it was less than an hour’s walk and we would be there.  When we were about halfway to town we left the dirt road for one that was paved.  There were more houses now and as we continued on our way, we began to see leaflets on the ground.  Jean told me not to pick them up as it was forbidden for the French to look at them.  Even though the rain had soaked many of the leaflets, we could see the Face of Adolph Hitler on them.  He was standing in a field of dead German Soldiers.  Jean said the American bombers sometimes go over and drop these in an attempt to discourage the German soldiers.  He said the message was always the same, German Soldiers; you will die here in France for Der Fuhrer.  

I was unaware of any missions from our base who's purpose was to drop leaflets but the 8th Air Force had bases located all over England, even as far north as Outlan. It was entirely possible that certain non combat forces that flew photo reconnaissance missions could also drop leaflets.

As we approached the center of town, there were no cars.  Bicycles seemed to be the main mode of transportation.  Jean said that we would first go to the train station so that he could point out where the train would arrive.  He told me that he would be with me that day and that he would buy the ticket and then we would sit and wait for the train to arrive.  We were on a road called Rue Saint-Vulfran and we walked across a bridge over the Somme River and the train station was dead ahead.  I could see that much of the old building still lay in ruins.  There were two German soldiers on the other side of the bridge.  They had on long grey winter coats and both were leaning with their forearms on the bridge and talking.  The one was smoking a cigarette and looked up at us for just a moment as we passed by.  This was my first test at having to confront German soldiers but they seemed more concerned with whatever it was they were talking about than us.  Jean commented as soon as we had passed them by.

"You see , they do not know you from a Frenchman and he patted me on the back."

We went into the train station and it looked much like the Baltimore and Ohio in Youngstown.  Jean pointed out the ticket booths and further along there were doors leading out onto the platform where the trains would arrive.

"This is going to be a long ride for you..  The Germans are using the railroad mostly to haul needed supplies for their soldiers to the north and west of us.  The schedules are not like they used to be so you cannot rely on times too much.   Once you get on the train Gerald, it will take you first to Aimens and then to Paris.  You will most likely be asked for your papers at Amiens and again at Paris.  They will only look to see if the picture matches you so just hand them the papers and look right at them when they do this.  When you get to Paris, you will have to change trains to go south to Vierzon.  The train stations in Paris are close together but not all in one place and they will be much larger than this one.  We can go over the layout of the Paris stations again when we get back to my home.  You will take a short ride from one station to the other on the Metro train.  It’s important that you are perfectly clear on where you have to go there to board the train to Vierzon."

After we left the train station, we went back over the bridge to the main part of town.  The German soldiers were no where to be seen as we made our way back.  We turned right onto a narrow street and Jean stopped in what appeared to be a drug store. He talked for a moment to the man there and then disappeared into a back room.  I had a feeling that he was talking to his contact about the train fare for me to get to Vierzon. I walked down the aisle and looked around while Jean was gone and I could see that there were a few things on the shelves such as soap, tooth powder, toilet paper, mostly necessary things; nothing like the well stocked shelves of the People's Drug Store back home in Youngstown.  When I saw the tooth powder, it reminded me that I had not brushed my teeth in almost 5 days now and they felt grimy when I ran my tongue over them.   In a few minutes Jean was back and we were on our way.

"Well Gerald, you are in luck.  The money for the train fare will be here on Friday.  I will be sorry to see you go as we are just getting to know one another."

"I had a feeling that was what you were doing in the back room.  I will never be able to repay you for all the assistance you are giving me.  Just as I told Jaques and his sister Brigitte, maybe one day I can come back after the war is over."

His reply was the same as Jaques.   "You were probably only about 16 at the time but I was here in Abbeville on June 10th, the day the German planes all but destroyed the city.  I have worked my farm ever since giving most of my harvest to the Germans, knowing in my heart that the day will arrive when we drive them out of our country.  Get back to England and finish the job.  That is all the repayment I need. " 

Our next stop was a shoe shop where Jean had dropped off some shoes to have soles put on.  He told me that shoes were also very scarce in France and the pair he was wearing had been repaired 3 times now.  He told me that new shoes were made out of some sort of hard cardboard or even wood and he was happy to know his friend Marcellin Véron who ran the shoe shop and had a good supply of leather soles.  After picking up the shoes, we stopped at another shop where Jean bought a bottle of wine and then we headed back to Jean's home.  On the way back, Jean had me practice more on my French making sure I had the pronunciation correct.

That night, Jean cooked some more potatoes, this time slicing them up with onions and he mixed in two eggs he had been saving.  He told me he had only 3 chickens now and only one of them was laying eggs.  It was nice to sit near the woodstove on this cold winter night, the two of us eating, talking and drinking a glass of wine. I had been in France for 5 days and there had been no sun whatsoever.   We went over the layout of the train station in Paris at length with Jean pointing out every detail of what I would find there.  He spent quite a bit of time telling me about the French currency and that I would have about 100 francs when I got onto the train in Abbeville.  He said it would not buy very much but enough for me to get something to eat on the way.

Friday, December 31, 1943

The next two days went by very quickly.  Jean and I spent most of our time on the language and by this time, I had become very familiar with many of the phrases that I may have to use in the days and weeks to come.  At 0700 hours, we had breakfast and much to my surprise, Jean gave me a tooth brush and some tooth powder.  He must have been reading my mind.  He also gave me a small canvas traveling bag filled with some old clothes he could no longer fit into then the two of us set out for Abbeville to the train station.  

"You will need the traveling bag so that you look like you are returning to Vierzon from Abbeville.  Keep your papers in your jacket inside pocket and not in the bag so that you don't have to go looking for them when they ask."

When we got to town, we went directly to the drug store where Jean picked up the money for the tickets.  On our way to the train station he gave me 100 francs and told me that I should go and sit down on one of the bench seats and he would go and buy the tickets.  He said after buying the tickets he would come over and sit on the same bench and leave the ticket by my side.  When we arrived at the train station, there were four German soldiers.  I went and sat down just as Jean had told me to do and watched as he went over to buy the tickets.  He was immediately confronted by the German soldiers and I could see that they were questioning him about where he was going.  It was a very tense moment for me as they continued to talk for a while and then they asked Jean for his papers.  They looked at the papers and then again at Jean and just as quickly as it had started, they gave him back his papers and walked on.  In a few minutes he came back and sat down beside me, first looking in one direction and then the other making sure no one was near enough to hear us.

"When I get up and leave Gerald, the tickets will be here on the bench beside you. Just slide your hand out and pick them up.  I won't see you again so good luck.  I know you will make it."

"Thank you Jean.......thank you for everything!" 

As Jean got up and left, I slid my hand over and took the tickets.  I watched as he left the train station and suddenly I felt very alone in a foreign place with the enemy all around me.  I sat there for the longest time staring at a book that Jean had given to me.  It was 0955 hours before they announced the train arrival.  ‘Le train vers Amiens-Paris arrive maintenant sur la voie deux’.  Almost word for word just as Jean had told me.  I got up and picked up my small bag and headed towards the doors leading to the train area.

As I stood there on the platform, I could see the train heading directly towards me, the smoke puffing out the large stack on the front and the clicking noise of the wheels as it came down the track.  The engine and coal car went on by, the steam hissing from the cylinders that drove the black iron wheels.  In a few minutes the train came to a complete stop and the conductor stepped off the train.  Directly behind him, two armed German soldiers.

The conductor announced for us to board the train; ‘tous à bord’.  I had my tickets and my papers in my hand and was directly behind two other Frenchmen who appeared to be traveling together.  The conductor punched their tickets, then the soldiers looked at their papers.  I was quite nervous as I handed my tickets to the conductor.  He punched mine just as he had done the others and I moved towards the soldiers and handed them my papers.  I forced myself to look right at them as they looked at the papers and my picture.  Then, without incident, they handed the papers back to me and I climbed up the steps and made my way into the passenger compartment.  I continued on down the aisle until I found a vacant seat next to an old man and as I sat down, he spoke to me.  

"jeune homme bonjour" (young man, hello)

Rather than risk speaking back and have him start a conversation which I probably would not understand, I pulled my shirt open so that he could see the bandages around my neck and just moved my lips "Je ne peux pas parler". (I cannot speak)

"C'est aussi bien jeune homme, je tends à dire des choses que je ne devrais pas et pendant un jour les Allemands me puniront" (It is just as well young man, I tend to say things I should not and one day the Germans will punish me)

I recognized enough of what he said to know that our conversation was over and I took out my book and began to look at it again. It was in French and I was only able to pick up parts here and there as to what it was all about.  In a few minutes I felt a slight jerking and the train was underway towards Amiens.  So far everything seemed to be working out for me but I knew that Spain was a long ways off and decided to take it one day at a time.  It was only 48km to Amiens and we arrived there at 1050 hours.  It was exactly 1100 hours as the train got underway again, this time headed for Paris.  Jean had told me I would be much safer in Paris because there were so many more people there.....too many for the Germans to check out everyone thoroughly.  The train seemed to be traveling much faster now so we must have been on a straighter route.  I settled back once again staring into the book.  

About an hour had passed and we appeared to be on the outskirts of Paris when all of a sudden there was the familiar drone of bombers overhead followed by the ear shattering noise of anti-aircraft guns going off.  About a half mile off to the right there were billowing clouds of smoke as bombs began exploding one after the other moving in the same direction as we were going.  I knew right off that it was our planes bombing the railroad yards and little did I know that I would one day be on the ground and feel the bombs coming down on me.  I could see buildings very close by on fire and still the deafening noise of anti-aircraft guns.  It was total chaos and even the ground under us was shaking from the violent explosions of the bombs.  The train continued on in the same direction undeterred by the earth shattering noise of the enormous explosions so close to us.  I looked at my watch and it was 1209 hours and everyone on the train was as terrified as I was.  At 1211 hours, the bombs appeared to be moving to the right and away from us and I breathed a little sigh of relief.  It was 1227 hours as the train pulled into the station at Paris and everyone, including myself, was very anxious to get off.

Once inside the station,Gare du Nord, I began to form a mental image of the layout Jean had showed me.  I noticed quite a few German soldiers as I made my way through the station but just as Jean had said, they seemed to just mill about with no real intent to question anyone.  It was a huge building with very high ceilings and down towards the center, the big board with Departures.  It was not long until I came upon the sign I was looking for, Metro.  Here I had to buy a ticket that would take me to Gare d'Austerlitz.  I had to wait in line for about ten minutes and when I got up to the window, I said, "Un billet au d'Austerlitz de Gare".  He said, "dix francs" and I handed him 10 francs.  There were many others heading for the same place so I just followed along.  The pace of things seemed much quicker here in Paris and in a few minutes, I was on the metro headed for Gare d'Austerlitz where I would board my train for Vierzon.  This proved to be a very short ride and once outside the train, I walked up the stairway to the terminal.  Jean had told me to turn left at the top of the stairs and I would see the train area at the far end and I was very happy to see the sign that said Orleans-Vierzon-Limoges.  

It was 1320 hours when I looked at the departure schedule.  If the train was on time, it would be 1400 hours and I would be on my way.  I sat down in the waiting room and began to read more of the book Jean had given to me, one eye on the book and the other on my watch.  The train was a bit late and we didn't board until 1440 hours.  The procedure was much the same as in Abbeville with the conductor punching the tickets and the German soldiers checking the papers.  I was really amazed at the ease with which I was able to pass myself off as Gerald Baudet and once again I was on the train, this time headed south out of Paris.

The trip from Paris to Vierzon was about 200 Kilometers and with any luck at all, we would be there in about 2-1/2 to 3 hours.  Sitting next to me was a woman who appeared to be in her sixties.  She was wearing all dark clothing with a black scarf wrapped around her head.  She made no attempt to talk to me so as soon as I was settled in my seat, I took my book out of the bag Jean had given me and began to read. I must have been very tired because I did not remember dozing off.  It was 1630 hours when I awoke to the sound of the conductor announcing Orleans.  When we pulled into the station there, two German soldiers boarded the train.  They were looking for someone and as they approached, I was horrified to see them drag the old lady sitting next to me out of her seat and off the train.  She was screaming loudly at them and saying something in a language other than French.  There was a lot of chatter going on after she was gone with everyone wondering what that was all about.  I thought to myself that she might have been Jewish but no matter who she was, it was awful to see the way the soldiers had just forcefully grabbed her and dragged her off the train.

As the train lurched forward, my thoughts were still of this old woman and I wondered what on earth they could possibly do with her that would serve them any benefit.  We reached Vierzon at 1750 hours and I headed straight for the La Galerie de Parfum Shop run by Hélène Renaud. 

The La Galerie de  Parfum, Vierzon France

 It was closer than I had thought and in about ten minutes, I was standing in front of her door.  I was worried that she might be closed but later found out that she lived in the back of the perfume shop.  I put my hand on the latch and eased the door open to the sound of a tinkling bell. 

 As soon as I was inside, a woman pushed a curtain aside and said, "peux je vous aide jeune homme".

 [can I help you young man]

"Je recherche Hélène Renaud"

 [I am looking for Hélène Renaud]

"Je suis Hélène Renaud" 

[I am Hélène Renaud]

"Jean-Louis Ménard m'a donné votre nom et adresse. Je suis un aviateur américain abattu par les Allemands"

[Jean-Louis Ménard gave me your name and address.  I am an American airman shot down by the Germans.]


Hélène Renaud

As soon as she heard the name Jean-Louis, she quickly took me by the arm and led me to the back thru the curtain.  We passed through what appeared to be a dressing room of sorts with two full length mirrors in booths and on into a sitting room with  two overstuffed chairs and some book cases, .  Then in perfect English, she told me that this was her living quarters and for me to sit down and wait back here until she finished in the shop for the night.  It was totally dark outside when she returned and she closed the blind and the curtains before turning on the light.

"So Jean-Louis sent you.  What is your name?"

"My real name or the one Jean has given to me?"

"Your real name", she said with a slight laugh.

"My real name is James MacGregor Mrs. Renaud."

"Please call me Hélène........and I am Miss.  I only wear the rings to keep the Germans from getting too friendly.  This whole perfume shop is a front for the Underground Resistance.  I came here at the very beginning of the war in 1940.  I needed to do something to pay the Germans back for killing my Mother and my Father and my younger brother in an air raid on Abbeville.  That's where I met Jean-Louis and together we set out to join the resistance and free our country from the Nazis.  Tell me about yourself."

I had seen the ring on her left finger and assumed that she was a married woman and felt it only right that I should call her Mrs.  She was very good looking and I guessed her to be about 35 years old.  She reminded me a lot of Evelyn with her dark hair and deep blue eyes.

"I am so sorry to hear about your parents and your brother.  So many bad things are happening in this war.  Just north of here in Orleans, the Germans dragged a screaming helpless old lady off the train and who knows what they will do with her. 

 As for me, I was born in a small town in Ohio called Struthers.  The main industry there is the making of steel.  I have two sisters and along with my parents, they all live in California now.  I am single and got drafted into the service in July of 1942.  I was sent to several different camps for basic training and in early 1943, I was assigned to the Army Air Force.  It was not long before I found myself in a bomber group in England.  I flew on 15 missions and then we got shot up very badly and we crash landed in Scotland.  I spent almost two months in the hospital there before being sent back to my bomber group.  I completed a total of 27 successful missions and then on December 24th of this year, we were shot down over Hesdin.  The plane broke up and exploded.   I was the only one who was able to get out and parachute to safety.  I came down in a farming area and some very friendly people helped me get to the home of Jean-Louise.  I left Jean at the railway station early this morning.  It was hard having to leave him there but I know he will go on helping others just as he helped me."

"Did he look well?  Was he in good spirits?"

"Yes, he looked very well but I think the only thing that will really make him feel whole again is when the Germans are finally driven out of France."

Hélène got us both a glass of wine and we talked for several hours about the war.  She told me it would be dangerous getting me over the le Cher River because the Germans were not letting anyone move south since they began the conscription. 

“The le Cher River runs into the Loire River to the west of Veirzon James and it is a dividing point between Vichy France and Occupied France.  Right now, the Germans are not allowing anyone to move south across the river.”

I was not sure what she meant about the conscription and she told me that all young men in France were being forced to go to Germany to work in the war plants and many were trying to avoid this by going into the forests in southern France to join the resistance.  She told me of the plan to get me across the river.

"I have this German officer who thinks I am in love with him.  He comes here every Saturday night and we go dancing in a place called Le Queen.  Little does he know that it is in his vehicle that we will get you to the other side of the river.   It is a very dangerous move for both of us but there is no other way to get you across as every bridge is heavily guarded.  She laid out every detail of the plan from the moment the German officer would arrive, where they would park, and who I was to meet on the other side after I left the vehicle.

"There is not much to offer you for supper but I can fry up some potatoes and I have some corn bread left over from last night."

"Anything will be good to me Hélène."

Once again, I found myself in the company of someone who was willing to risk their life to get me back to England and I knew that one day I would have to come back to France to thank each and every one of them.  Hélène took me into a very small kitchen just big enough for a table and two chairs.  Here she poured us another glass of wine and she wanted me to tell her more about the war while she prepared the potatoes. 

"The war is going in our favor more each day.  This last mission I was on, the 8th Air Force had 675 bombers in the air over France and almost as many fighter planes.  The RAF flies by night doing carpet bombing and the 8th Air Force flies by day doing precision bombing so the Germans are under constant attack.  Most of the missions have been deep into Germany with major attacks on railroads, munitions factories, and ball bearing factories.  On the way here earlier today, I came under fire from my own Air Force just north of the railway station in Paris so now I know the feeling of being on the ground and having the bombs dropped on me as well as being up there in a plane being shot at."

After finishing our meal, we went back into the sitting room and talked for several more hours.  Hélène told me that her German Officer would be here tomorrow night about 1900 hours.  She described the vehicle he would be driving and I got the impression that it was some sort of small canvas covered army jeep vehicle.   She had a piece of tent like material and after I got into the back, I was to just cover myself over and lay quiet until we got to the Le Queen dance hall.  She would then get out of the vehicle and go with the officer into the club and after a period of time, I was to sneak out of the vehicle making sure to take the cover with me tucked under my right arm and go past the entrance to the Le Queen and on to the next corner where I would see a dress shop.  I was to wait there for a man named Pierre Quentin.  He would take me to a contact in Châteauroux which was just a short distance south of Vierzon.

"This is New Years Eve tonight so we will have one more glass of wine and then we will have to get some rest."

"I have lost all track of time and dates.  When this week started, we were to have the USO perform for us at the base and now, here I am deep inside France trying to avoid the Germans and make it back to England.”

She brought the wine and handed a glass to me.

"A toast James, to your safe journey to England and for us here in France, the Liberation."

"Also to you Hélène.  I know how you are risking everything to help me."

We were standing directly in front of each other and I watched her eye well up with tears and I knew she was thinking of her Mother and Father and brother.  I took her into my arms and hugged her close.

"God Bless you Hélène Renaud".

"Come now, we have to get some rest.  We can sleep in my bedroom".

She turned off the light and took me by the hand and led me into another room. The room was filled with darkness but my eyes soon adjusted to the dim light.  It was just big enough for the small bed and dresser that was in there.  I looked around to see if there was a cot or something.

"There is only one bed in here Hélène?"

"It's the only bed I have so we will just have to sleep next to each other."

The French must have been much more liberal in this regard for she was quick to undress and crawl under the covers.  I sat on the edge of the bed and took my shoes off, then my pants and shirt and I slid in beside her.

"James, it's so cold in here.  I forgot to put a log on the fire.  Can you go and do it for me?"

The wood stove was still very warm and I put another log in and it caught fire within a few minutes.  It seemed so strange to me for this woman to not only welcome me into her home at high risk but to share her bed with me.  When I got back into bed, she was fast asleep.  There was only the one pillow so I moved closer to her, my arm draping over her much the same as I used to do with Evelyn.  I lay there for the longest time thinking about Struthers and whether or not I would ever get back home again.  Tomorrow it would be a new year, January 1944 and I wanted desperately to get back to England.

End Chapter 17   


During World War Two many peoples were astonished at the mass genocide committed by the Nazis. Due to the horrors taking place many formed resistance groups. These groups were composed of Jews and non-Jews alike. Members came from all classes of society and walks of life with one goal in common, to at any cost hurt the Nazi effort. The men and women of this lattice organization realized that they could not stop the Nazis, however their goal was to slow them down in order to help many escape.

A Hillside of People being Slaughtered by German Soldiers







Chapter 18
Marjolaine Meyet

Saturday, January 1, 1944

It was 0700 hours when I woke up.  Hélène had left me a note that she had gone to look for something special for breakfast and for me to remain in the back sitting room until she got back.  I dressed and then went into the kitchen sink, very anxious to brush my teeth with the brush Jean had given to me.  While I was standing there in front of the sink giving my teeth a good cleaning, I pushed the curtain aside to peek out and see what I could see.  It was a very dismal day with just a light rain coming down.  There was not much to see other than that because the window looked out onto the brick wall of the building next door.  There appeared to be an alley between the two buildings with trash cans along the wall. 

The Alley Behind the Perfume Shop

I went back into the sitting room and stoked the wood stove.  I decided to get the bag Jean had given to me and check the clothing to see if I could use any of it.  I laid the clothes out over the chair and thought that perhaps the shirts might fit me.  The pants were made of wool and fit me around the waist but the legs were too short for me.  They had double cuffs on the bottom so I would have to ask Hélène if she could undo the seam and let them down.  

At about 900 hours, Hélène was back.  She motioned for me to come and sit in the kitchen while she fixed us something to eat.  She told me that food was one of the major problems and she had heard that it was like this all over France.

“You have to wait in line for almost everything, and sometimes you wait and wait only to get to the front of the line and find that they are all out.  Almost everything is rationed and you need to save up food stamps to get things like cigarettes.  Real coffee is almost non existent in France so I hope you like the almond coffee that I am making.  I did manage to get some eggs and goat’s milk so we will have some fried potatoes and an omelet.”

“I am just grateful to be here Hélène, and anything you fix will be like a banquet to me.”

It was very hard for me to comprehend people lacking for food and while I was sitting there, I thought about the big Mexican omelet Panchita had made for me at my sister’s place in Arcadia.  It made me realize that the people back home are really not aware of what was going on over here in Europe.  

As soon as she sat down to eat, I looked across the table directly into her eyes and today, there was a smile on her face.

“What is it? What has brought a smile to your face?”

“It’s you.  There is something about you that breathes new life into my hopes for a Liberated France.  When I listen to you talk about the war, there is not the slightest doubt in your mind that the Germans will lose.”

“Of Course they will lose.  The reason I am certain of this is that the United States cannot be bombed or invaded or tread upon by the Germans and our ability to mass produce planes and tanks and guns is not hampered by any action Germany might take.  They cannot even get across the English Channel to invade England now that so many bomber squadrons and fighter squadrons are set to destroy them if they try.”

“You see, that’s what I mean and that’s why I have to get you back so that you can finish the job.  So many in the Vichy Government think that we should collaborate with the Germans.  

Now I have a small surprise for you.  Hurry and finish your potatoes.”

As soon as I was done with my potatoes, Hélène brought me some French pastry.  I had not had anything like it ever.

“Oh my God, this is delicious.”

There was only one piece so we sat there with it in between us and we both drank almond coffee and ate the pastry.  It was wonderful for me to see the change that had come over Hélène in just one day.

“I have to go and open the shop now.  It’s almost 10am.  You will have to remain in the back rooms until I close.  It will be almost dark then and we can go outside and I will show you how to come up the alleyway to the vehicle.  I will come back every once in a while during the day to see how you are doing.”

“Do you have anything to read that is in English?  Jean gave me this book entitled ‘Un Testament Agricole’ and although I have had it in front of my face on the train, it’s in French and not something that I can actually read.”

“The only English book I have is the Bible.  It belonged to my Mother and I have no idea where she got it”

“That will be fine.  Maybe it will be good for me to read the bible.”

She went to the bookshelf and got it for me and then went up front to open the shop.  I had never attempted to read the bible before so I sat down in the chair and opened the book to Genesis….’In the Beginning, God created the heaven and the earth’.  It was 1200 hours when Hélène came back and I was well into the Book of Joshua.  She said that she had closed the shop for an hour.

“Tell me more about your life in America.  We have so little time left before you go and I would like to know more about you. Oh, and before I forget, write you address in the bible, right there in the Book of Joshua.  What did you do before you were drafted?”

“I’m not so sure I should tell you all of this but maybe if I do, you can offer me some advice.  While I was still going to high school, I worked in a grocery store.  During that time a woman named Mrs. McCurdy would come in every once in a while.  She lived alone in the house next door to the store and we became friends.  I found out that her husband was an alcoholic and had abused her badly.  She could not take it any longer and divorced him.

“Then what?”

“I was talking to Morris one day.  He was the owner of the store and he told me that she was having a real tough time making ends meet.  Then one day when I was delivering groceries, I noticed that she had a sign in the window ‘Room for Rent’ so I asked her about it.”

“Did you rent the room?”

“Yes, she said she would be glad to have me but that I would have to do some chores around the house to help out.  It turned out to be a good deal for me because it was so close to work plus it was less than what I was paying where I was.”

“Go on.”

“Over a period of time I started to repair things in the house, the stove, the faucets, the car, things like that and I really don’t know how it all happened but one day Mrs. McCurdy hugged me and started crying.”

“How old was this Mrs. McCurdy?”

“She was 35 years old and the next thing I know, we were in each others arms kissing.”

“Oh my God James, did you become involved with her?”

“Yes.  Even though I was only about 18 years old at the time, I was very attracted to her.  She was quite beautiful and the reason she was crying was because she said she had fallen in love with me. This situation went on for about six months and then I got drafted into the Army Air Force.  I was shipped to England, started flying bombing missions over Occupied France, and on the 15th mission, we got shot up really bad and crash landed in Hawick, Scotland.  Then to make a long story short, I met a nurse in the hospital named Gillian MacKenzie and I fell in love with her.

“So now you have two women?”

“Not quite.  Shortly before I left on this mission to bomb the V-Rocket sites near Pas de Calais, I got a letter from Mrs. McCurdy telling me that she had fallen in love with someone else, so what I want you opinion about………”

Hélène interrupted with, “You want to know if this same thing might happen with Gillian, right?

“Not exactly.  I want to know if you think I should go back to Mrs. McCurdy and see what’s going on or just forget about her.”

“Are you in a relationship with Gillian?”

“So far we have not been involved sexually if that’s what you mean.  It’s hard for me to explain because I am so attracted to her.  Just being near her and looking at her……..well it’s so different than it was with Mrs. McCurdy.”

“Does she write to you James?  Does she tell you she is in love with you?”

“Yes, she writes to me about twice a week and in each letter she tells me that she loves me.  We have written back and forth for almost 4 months but now that I am here in France, there is no way to contact her and let her know what has happened to me.”  

“Did you tell her about this other woman in your life?”

“Yes, when I felt that we were starting to fall in love with each other, I felt compelled to tell her that I had a girlfriend back home.  I told her that the feelings I had for Mrs. McCurdy were very real but quite different.”

“All I can do is give you my opinion.  I think this Mrs. McCurdy was much too old for you.  You need a younger woman like this Gillian who can bear children and live a normal life.  You just never know how things will turn out though.  Four years ago, I was with Jean-Louis.  We were very happy together and we were going to get married.  Then the war came along and my whole family was killed and here I am in Vierzon working in a perfume shop in the French Underground.  You will get back to Great Britain and when you do, go see her.  You will know right off if she is still in love with you.  I have to get back up front now.  At 5pm, I will close the shop and we will have about two hours to get everything lined up for my date with the German Officer.  We can go outside after dark and I will show you exactly where he will park his vehichle.”

“Ok, thanks for listening to all of my problems.  It should be me listening to you and the horrific ordeal that the French people are going through under the occupation.  I will never forget you Hélène; you, Ménard, Jaques, and others who have risked everything to help me.”

Hélène walked back towards me and we hugged each other for a long time, neither of us saying anything.

It was exactly 1700 hours when Hélène closed the shop and came to the back room.

“We have to eat now.  I have 2 more eggs left and some bread and goats milk so I will make some French toast.  Then we will go out the side door in the alley and I will show you the way to the vehicle.  You will have to get into the vehicle and covered very quickly because the German officer will only be in the shop for a short while.”

I knew this would be the last I would see Hélène for a very long time, perhaps even forever.  We both knew our time together was coming to an end and we sat there in almost dead silence as we ate the French toast and washed it down with almond coffee.  

“How much longer do you think it will be before the Allies are once again back on French soil?”

“I think it will be sooner than you think.  With the build up I have seen, it will happen this year.  The weather is always a factor too so I look for it to happen in the summer.”

“Really, that soon?  I thought maybe it would be another full year.”

“When it happens, it will be massive.  There will be thousands of bombers involved and I will be part of that.”

We talked on for a bit and then Hélène said she had to get ready for the dance.  I spent the time getting all of my things into my bag.  When she had finished, we went out the side door into the alley.  She pointed out the trash cans to me and told me to be careful and not walk into those as it would make quite a bit of noise.  It was a straight shot up to the front of the building.

“Right here is where he will park his vehicle.  It is open in the back so you will be able to climb right in and cover yourself with the tarpaulin.  We will get stopped at the bridge but they should let us go on through without incident.”

“OK, I don’t see any problem with the plan.”

We went back down the alley and into the shop.  We sat down and waited.  I glanced at my watch and it was 1855 hours and then came the loud rap on the shop door.

“It’s time now James, go quickly, be safe.”

I hugged her one last time. “Goodbye Hélène, thank you for helping me.”

As Hélène headed to the front of the shop, I headed out into the alley.  The vehicle was exactly where she said it would be.  I lifted the canvas flap and climbed into the back.  I got right up close to the cab and pulled the tarpaulin over me.  It was only a few minutes before I heard them coming.  The German was talking to her.

“Sie schauen schöne diese Nacht Hélène. Ich bin so froh, mit Ihnen zu sein wieder, dieses bin gewesen ein schlechter Tag für mich.”

[You look beautiful tonight Hélène.  I'm so glad to be with you again, this has been a bad day for me.]

“Vous devez vous rappeler de parler Kurt français. Vous savez combien d'ennui j'ai l'arrangement quand vous parlez allemand.”

[You must remember to speak French Kurt.  You know how much trouble I have understanding when you speak German.]

I heard the footsteps as they both climbed into the vehicle and shut the doors.  There was a moment of silence and all I could sense was some slight motion.  I thought perhaps they were kissing one another just as Hélène had told me she would do.  It was not long before I heard the starter grinding and we were soon on our way towards the river and the bridge.   I had no idea what to expect at the bridge but could well imagine what might take place if we were caught.

Sir des gutenabends. Sie müssen hinausgehen, während wir den Träger suchen.

[Good evening sir.  You will have to get out while we search the vehicle.]

Was ist mit Ihnen falsch? Sind Sie ein Idiot. Nicht wissen Sie, wem ich bin?

[What's wrong with you corporal?  Are you an idiot.  Don't you know who I am?]

Wir haben die Aufträge zum Suchen allen Trägersir

[We have orders to search all vehicles sir.]

Brunnen kann nicht Sie dann sehen, daß es ich und Fräulein Renaud hier sitzend gerecht gibt. Was denken Sie, ich sind Schmuggeln Franzosen über der Brücke Sie Idiot?

[Well can't you see then that there is just me and Miss Renaud sitting here.  What do you think, I am smuggling Frenchmen over the bridge you idiot?]

It sounded to me as though there was some kind of problem but all I could do was to lay still and pray that we would soon be on our way over the bridge.  I heard a door slam shut outside the car and then footsteps.

Was ' falsches Obergefreites........Oh es Sie Oberst Jürgen ist, guter Abend Sir.

[What' wrong Corporal........Oh it's you Colonel Jürgen, good evening Sir.]

Wille erklären Sie diesem Idioten ließen uns durch. Ich bin rüber diese Brücke mit gekommen --- jede Sonntag Nacht jetzt für die letzten sechs Monate und jetzt die ganze plötzliches muß er den Träger suchen. 

[Will you tell this stupid corporal to let us through.  I have come over this bridge with Miss Renaud  every saturday night now for the past six months and now all of a sudden he has to search the vehicle.]

Something was wrong, I knew it, but there was nothing I could do but lay here in the back of the vehicle.  My heart was pounding with fear that we might be caught.

Traurig für verzögert Oberst Jürgen überschreiten Sie bitte an durch. Ich habe ein Gespräch mit dem Obergefreiten.

[Sorry for the delay Colonel Jürgen  please pass on through.  I will have a talk with the Corporal.]


Colonel Kurt Jürgen

Je suis ainsi Hélène désolé, je vous ai dit que c'avait été une mauvaise semaine pour moi. Même mes propres soldats ne m'identifient pas.

[I'm so sorry Hélène, I told you this had been a bad day for me.  Even my own soldiers do not recognize me.]

C'est Kurt correct, hâte à la danse maintenant. Je veux sentir vos bras autour de moi.

[It's ok Kurt, hurry to the dance now.  I want to feel your arms around me.]

Just as I heard Hélène’s voice, the vehicle lurched forward and we were on our way over the bridge.  I understood enough of the French to know that we were on our way to the dance and I breathed a heavy sign of relief.  We were there in about 10 minutes and I could hear them getting out laughing and joking with one another.  I stayed put for another 5 minutes and then I crawled out of the back of the vehicle, taking with me the bag and the tarp.  I walked past the Le Queen and I could hear the music inside and I thought to myself how quickly my time with Hélène had come and gone.  About a block on down the street there on the corner was the dress shop where someone was supposed to meet me.  I stepped in front of the doorway and waited.  I saw a man on the other side of the street looking over at me but he made no effort to come over.  He continued to stand there and I started to become a bit nervous, however, in a few minutes, he walked across the street.

“I am Pierre Quentin, and you?”

“I’m James MacGregor, Pierre.”

“Follow me MacGregor.”

We walked for about half and hour talking back and forth until we came to a row of small buildings about the size of garages back home.  He spoke broken English but we were able to understand one another without any problems.   Pierre had a key to the one and he opened the door and inside there seemed to be a horde of things stored. 

“I have two bicycles in here.  Tomorrow we will ride on them to a small town outside of Châteauroux.  There is a cot and blanket over there for you to sleep on and if you have to go during the night, there is pot over there in the corner you can pee in.  There is no other way in here but the door we came in and I will lock it on my way out.”

He showed me the single dim bulb that was hanging from the ceiling and then he was gone.  I got adjusted to the surroundings of the small storage room and then clicked off the light and laid down on the cot.  The transition from staying with Hélène and now with Pierre Quentin all happened so quickly.  I thought about Hélène and how she must feel over there at the dance right now pretending to be in love with the German Colonel.  I must have been tired because I didn’t remember falling asleep, only waking to the sound of Pierre opening the door.  It was 0600 hours when he came in.   

Sunday, January 2, 1944

“Good morning, MacGregor, did you sleep ok?”

“Yes, I slept fine.”

“Good, we have a fairly long ride to make today.  We are heading for the small town of Ardentes which is just outside of Châteauroux . Châteauroux is about 70 kilometers to the south of Vierzon.  We are going to the estate of Marjolaine Meyet.  She is my aunt and is fairly wealthy by French standards so you may end up eating well for a while.  We will be going mostly on back roads to avoid German Patrols.”

I tied my bag onto the bicycle and at 0615 hours we were on our way.  It was a chilly morning but there was no rain so we were both thankful for that.

“How long do you think it will take us to get there Pierre?”

“I figure it will take us about 5 hours.”

We rode for about 2 hours and then pulled over to rest for a bit.  Pierre had a couple of biscuits and we ate those and then we got back on the road again.  The trip was tiring for me as I was not used to riding a bicycle and I was glad when Pierre told me we were finally less than a kilometer from his Aunt’s estate.  The home set far back off the hard road, maybe half a mile back from what I could see.  The last bit was uphill and at 1320 hours, we got off our bicycles and Pierre and I walked up to the front door.  When the door swung open, there stood Marjolaine Meyet.

Marjolaine Meyet

“Hello Aunt Marjolaine.”

“Well for goodness sakes, it’s you Pierre and who is this you’ve brought to me this time? Come in you two.  From the way you both look, you must be tired from your ride.  

“Aunt Marjolaine, this is James MacGregor.  He is an American who was shot down near Abbeville.  

“Oh my , I just can’t fathom being shot at while up in an airplane.  I was frightened enough flying to America just before the war.  Where do you live in America?”

“I come from a small town in Ohio called Struthers, Mrs. Meyet.”

Marjolaine led us into the kitchen area of the house and asked if we were hungry.  From her initial comments it appeared as though I was not the first downed airman that she had taken in.  

“I was hoping you would mention food Aunt Marjolaine, MacGregor and I are both starved.”

“What would you like?  I have some bacon and eggs or I can make some crêpes.  Joseph just slaughtered a pig last week so we will be eating pork for some time now.

It had been forever since I had bacon and eggs and it sounded wonderful to me.

“Bacon and eggs sound great to me Auntie, how about you James?”

“Yes, it sounds great to me too.  I have not had any real bacon since I was drafted into the Army Air Force.  Where in America did you fly to Mrs. Meyet?”

“I have a sister who lives in Los Angeles.   I spent the summer with her in 1938.”

“Oh really, my parents live in the greater Los Angeles area in Hollywood.  I paid them a visit just before going into the service.  Where in Los Angeles does you sister live?”

“It’s in a place called Palos Verdes Estates. It’s right on the ocean.  It’s beautiful there. Have you heard of it?”

“Yes, it’s not far from Long Beach.  I drove over there once with my parents to see what it looked like and you are right, it’s very nice there.”

We talked for quite a while about America and how different things were there compared to France.  I told her about driving out to California just before being drafted and about my sister’s house and the convalescent hospital that she owned in Pasadena .  It always amazed me how well my sister had done in such a short period of time. 

Marjolaine brought us the bacon and eggs and some toast and it was a feast for Pierre and myself.  She had melted some cheese on the toast as well and I had never had that on home baked bread before.  

“What kind of cheese is this Mrs. Meyet, it’s absolutely delicious?”

“It’s Saint-Nectaire.  We make it here from my own cows”

“Well Pierre, when will you be going back to Vierzon?”

“I would like to go back tomorrow if you can arrange it.”

“Yes, I’m sure that we can arrange for you to go back in the morning.  I will have Joseph get the car ready today.  You will need to help him tie the bicycles on the top.  Maybe you and James can do that.”

“Yes, we can do that Auntie”.

Once again, just as with Ménard and Hélène, it sounded to me like Pierre and Marjolaine had done this more than once.  So far I had managed to make my way from the north of France through the occupied territory all the way down here to Ardentes and the home of Marjolaine Meyet and I was curious to know more about her.

“Is Joseph your husband, Mrs. Meyet?”

“Please call me ‘Jolaine’, I am not used to being called Mrs. anymore and Joseph Chrétien is my handyman.  I don’t know what I would do without him.  He came here looking for work before the war and has been here ever since.  He lives in the small cottage house out back with his wife, Anne-Joséphine.  She does most of the cooking here in the house as well as housekeeping.  My husband passed away many years ago.  Pierre, why don’t you take James out to meet Joseph?”

“OK, we can get the bicycles and take them back to the garage.”

In a few minutes Pierre and I were back outside pushing the bicycles around to the back.  We no sooner got around the house than we spotted Joseph.

“Joseph, this is James MacGregor.  He is an American that was shot down near Abbeville just about a week ago.”

We shook hands as he said, “accueillir Macgregor, vous être le premier un ce année rester avec nous.”

[Welcome Macgregor, you are the first one this year to stay with us.]

Pierre told him that he would be going back to Vierzon tomorrow and we were going to tie the bicycles onto the top of the car.  I had never seen a car like this one Marjolaine owned.  Pierre explained to me that it burned wood because of the gasoline shortage in all of France.  He called it Voiture á gazogéne.  He said they don’t travel very fast but it beat riding a bicycle for long distances.  

Joseph did speak some broken English and I asked him to show me how it worked.

“It has like wood stove James back over here. Then when wood burns and gets hot, it makes gas.  Gas enters this big steel tank, goes through filter to engine; engine runs.”

“So to make it work, you have to come out and build a fire in the stove, wait till it gets hot, and then you can go?”

“Yes, drives like normal car then”, he replied.  

Pierre had a smile on his face as he said, “Not like America, eh James.”

“You got that right”

After we got the bicycles tied on, Pierre and I went back into the house.  Jolaine called us into the sitting room to discuss what would happen next.

“Sit down you two.  You will be here for at least Three months James.  I know it sounds like a long time to you but it is much too cold to attempt to walk the trail over the  Pyrenees at this time of the year.  A friend of mine has a remote farm at Pau which is just north of the border between Spain and France.  We will be able to put you on a bus to go down there at the end of March.  I have quite a bit of work for you to do here until then but in the meantime we will have to get you new papers.  Joseph can drive Pierre back to Vierzon in the morning. 

“Pierre, you know the routine for late February. We will need at least a dozen female workers for planting.”

When Joseph gets back from Vierzon, he can show you some of the jobs you can help him with around the estate James.  Do you have any questions about all this?”

“Is this part of France still in the occupied zone?

“Acutally the river crossing at Vierzon is somewhat the border that separates the occupied zone from Vichy France.  I have not seen any German patrols out here in Ardentes, however, they are in Châteauroux from time to time.  When Joseph gets back from Vierzon tomorrow, we can give him your papers and he can drive into Châteauroux to our contact there and he will make new papers for you that show you as a native of this area.  Once we have done that, I can send you into Châteauroux from time to time to pick up various supplies.  Joseph will show you how to use the car.  Surprisingly it will make it all they way in to town and back without adding wood.  It must sound awfully primitive to you but there is no gasoline to be had anywhere so we make do with what we have.”

“So I understand.  Actually I am quite interested in finding out more about your wood burning car.  I have done quite a bit of mechanical work on cars and other things back home but never have I seen anything like it.”

“You will have to get together with Joseph tomorrow then.  We have a variety of mechanical things that need worked on, our windmils for one.  It’s important for us to have them both working in the summer for irrigation.  There is also a need for us to build some incubators for hatching chicken eggs.  Chickens bring a good price in Châteauroux.  We also make and sell cheese and there is some machinery involved in that as well.”

It did not take long for me to find out that Marjolaine Meyet was the boss around here and that she was also the reason for the accumulation of wealth amidst all the havoc in France. We talked for another hour or so about all that needed done.  During that time, Joseph’s wife, Anne-Joséphine brought the three of us a glass of wine and told Jolaine that supper would be ready in about 15 minutes.

“How far is it to Pau, Jolaine?”

“It’s a long trip, about 600 kilometers.  Most of it will be by bus and since you will have papers it should go rather smoothly”

I was not to happy with the thought of having to stay three months before being able to move on but having visited the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California in the winter, I knew the snow could get deep enough to make travel by foot impossible.  I also had the feeling that Jolaine would keep me very busy and this would probably make the time go by fairly quickly.  At supper, the subject of incubators came up again and I was the first to speak.

“When I was about 15 years old Jolaine, I made an incubator that would hatch 50 eggs.  My first experience with it resulted in 35 out of the 50 hatching.”

“Oh really.  What are the basic materials for a project like that?”

“Basically it’s a box that is heated and has vent holes.  It also has to have a water pan for moisture and you have to turn the eggs 3 or 4 times a day.  Once the chickens hatch, you can keep them in the incubator for a couple of days and then you have to move them into a brooder.  This is another heated box but a bit larger with feeders for the food, water etc;”

“What did you use for heat?”

“I used two light bulbs.  They have to be in series with a rheostat so that you can control the temperature.”

“So, if I have 3 dozen chickens right now, and we have these incubators that you can make, how would I go about getting fertile eggs to put in them?”

“First of all, you would need to separate the chickens so that each rooster has 10 hens so roughly you would need 3 roosters for your three dozen chickens.   Each day you would collect the eggs and candle them to see if they have been fertilized.  You can keep the eggs up to about 10 days before putting them in the incubator so lets suppose you were getting 20 fertile eggs a day from your 36 chickens, in 10 days time you would have 200 eggs ready to be incubated.”

“Can we do this now in the winter time?”

“Yes, the chicks are in these incubator and brooder boxes that have a regulated temperature so the only change might be the addition of a third light bulb to get enough heat in the winter.”

“As soon as Joseph brings back your papers, I want you to take me to town in the car and we will shop for everything you need to do this.”

“OK.  Much of the top part of this box enclosure can be made of cardboard so if there is somewhere in town you can get that, all the better.”

“Make a list of everything.  I have been thinking of doing this for some time now and since you have the knowledge, we can get it going very quickly.”

After dinner, we sat in the living room and talked more about the many things that needed done.  High on her list was the windmills so I told her that I was familiar with them and would look at them the first thing in the morning.

Both Pierre and myself were very tired from our long bicycle ride and we decided to call it a day.  Jolaine took us to the bedroom that we would sleep in and I was fast asleep the minute my head hit the pillow.

End Chapter 18

Sunday, January 3, 1944













Chapter 19
Ardentes to Gibraltar

January 4, 1944

It was 0600 hours when Anne-Joséphine rapped on the bedroom door and told Pierre and myself that breakfast would be ready in about ten minutes.  It was a cold morning and I hated to get out from under the comfort of the wool blanket but I knew there would be many chores to do today so I rolled out and got dressed very quickly.  Pierre was right behind me as we walked into the main part of the house.

Jolaine had the table set up in the dining room so that we could all sit down and have breakfast together.  Pierre sat next to me on one side of the table and Anne-Joséphine and Joseph sat opposite us.  Jolaine was at the head of the table and said a quick prayer.  Anne-Joséphine had prepared the meal of eggs, potatoes, onions, and bread and it was delicious.  It was the first time since I entered France that I was able to feel full after eating.  

“Pierre, I want you and Joseph to head out right after breakfast.  Also, don’t forget that I need a dozen girls for late February. 

 “I won’t forget.”

James has told me he is familiar with windmills and he is going to look into that right after we finish eating.  He is also interested in the car Joseph so maybe you can show him how to start it.” 

It was still very overcast and cold and I went back into the bedroom to get my jacket.  Pierre, Joseph and I headed out to the garage leaving the women to tend the breakfast dishes.  

“Well MacGregor, I told you my aunt would feed you well but along with it comes her bossy way.  She has always been like that so Joseph and I are used to it.”

“She reminds me very much of my sister.  They both seem to have a head for making money.”

Joseph proceeded to show me how to start the car.  He explained to me that last night he had filled the wood hopper so that they would be ready to go today.

“The first thing you have to do James is to close this throttle valve .  This will block anything from going to the engine until we are ready, then open the blower exhaust port and then start the blower.  You just have to click this switch to the on position to start the blower.  Next, we have to open the ignition port and take some paper and light the wood and then close the ignition port.  Pretty soon smoke will start coming out the blower exhaust like you see now.  The next thing is to carefully light the gas coming out the blower exhaust port with a match.  Once it is burning OK, you can turn off the blower and close the blower exhaust port.  When the gas is burning OK coming out of the blower, it means you are ready to go.  So now, you just open the throttle valve, press down on the accelerator and crank the engine until it starts up.  It’s best to let it warm up for about 5 mintues.”

The whole thing seemed so basically simplistic to me and in less than 30 minutes from the time we walked out there, the car was ready to go.  I said goodbye to Pierre and thanked him for his help.  We shook hands and I told him to be sure and not forget the girls at the end of February.  That brought a smile to his face.  In a few minutes they were on their way to Vierzon.

As soon as they were gone, I looked around and could see both of the windmills from where I was standing, one to the north and the other to the east. I headed out into the pasture on the north side of the estate to have a look at the windmill there first.  There were three wells on the property, one driven by an electric pump and the other two were wind operated.  Jolaine had told me that the L`Indre River divided the estate in two equal halves and the only way across was at la Forge.  

The Wind Mill On the Meyet Estate

As I approached the windmill, there was a slight breeze and the mill was turning, however, it was making a high pitched squealing noise which was not a good sign.  The morning mist had not yet burned off the metal tower and it was a bit slippery as I made my way up the ladder.  When I reached the top, I could see quite a ways off in all directions.  The squealing noise was very apparent up close and it appeared to be coming from the gear box.  I put my hand close to the output shaft and it was quite warm and it was my guess that the bushings on the gear box shaft had not been serviced in quite some time.  The design was somewhat different than the Aeromotor gear boxes that I had seen back home in that the shaft had oilers on both sides even though it had an enclosed gear box so I climbed back down from my perch atop the 40 foot tower and headed to the garage to see if I could find and oil can.

Once back at the garage, I decided to have a look around to see what tools were available.  There were plenty of hand tools, wrenches, pliers, cutters, and the like.  Also some hand saws, screwdrivers, a wood square, and way off in the back, a large machinist’s pulley driven lathe just like the one that Glen had there in Struthers.  I also noticed a drill press and right there on the stand, an oil can.  I grabbed the oil can and it felt heavy enough to be more than half full.  I looked around more until I found a small crescent wrench and then I headed back out to the mill.   The windmill was not turning when I got back but only because of lack of wind.  I filled both the cups to thoroughly saturate the felt that oiled the bushings and then waited a while.  It wasn’t too long before the breeze started the blade turning again, and this time there was absolutely no noise.  I took the crescent wrench and pulled the oil level plug for the gearbox itself and the level there was ok.  Having satisfied myself that everything was now OK at the top of the tower, I put the wrench in my pocket and climbed back down.  Once back on the ground, I made my way over to the other windmill and performed a similar service.  There was a small hill not too far away and I decided to walk up there and have a look around.  The sunshine had just started to break through the clouds when I arrived atop the hill.  I could see sheep grazing as well as a small herd of goats and in the other direction, there were dairy cows all of which I assumed belonged to Jolaine Meyet.

I decided to return to the garage and become more familiar with what all they had down there.  From my vantage point, I could see that there was an outhouse just to the back of the garage, and not too far from that, the small house where Anne-Joséphine and Joseph lived.  Once back inside the garage, I looked at the tools much more closely.  Almost everything needed sharpened or dressed and I began to search for a grinding stone.  Much to my surprise, there was a very large grinding wheel that ran off one of the belts on the lathe.  I spent the next several hours sharpening everything in sight.  By this time it was 1200 hours and I went back into the house.

“Ah, there you are James.  What did you find with the windmills?”

“The one in the north pasture was squealing like a pig.  Both of the mills are lubricated with oilers so they should be tended to monthly.  I checked both of the gear boxes and they were OK.  Before the warm weather comes we will have to pull the sucker rods and replace the leathers.”

“Hmmmm, you seem to know quite a bit about windmills.  Did they have them where you came from there in Struthers?”

“Yes, they had them on all the farms around our place.  We were city folk though and I became familiar with them because there was a farm directly adjacent to our house with two mills.  Old Man Majosic lived there and he had a peg leg and could not climb the tower so every so often I would go up and check them out for him.”

“Did he pay you to do that?”

“No, but he was kind enough to let us use the corner of one of his fields to make a baseball diamond so that was payment enough.”

“It sounds much like France is right now where people barter for food, clothing, wine………just about everything the people need is either traded or sold locally.  I have no way to get my livestock shipped so I have to take it in small loads to Cháteauroux in the little trailers we have outside.  That reminds me, I want you to look at both of those trailers.  There was a rubbing noise the last time we took some stock to town.”

“OK Jolaine”

“Sit down here at the table, Anne-Joséphine is just about to bring out the lunch.”

“Do you have a pencil and paper?  I thought I could make out the list of materials we need for the incubators and brooders.”

“Yes, of course, let me go get it.  I hope this works out because I know that I can sell chickens as fast as we can grow them.”

“It will work out.”

“You seem very confident for such a young man.”

I had just finished with the list when Anne-Joséphine came in with our lunch.  She had made a large pot of vegetable soup and a sandwich.  They made their own bread and Jolaine had told me that flour was also hard to come by but she had found a good source where she could trade her cheese for flour.

After lunch I went back out to the garage to have a look at the trailers.  It was almost 1300 hours and Joseph was just pulling into the driveway.

“How did everything go?”

“Everything was fine except car started mis-firing on the way back.  I think it might be the spark plugs or something like that.”

We talked for a while and I told him that I had sharpened all the tools while he was gone.  He said he was not much good at mechanical things.

“Each of us has some kind of inner skill.  Mine is with such things as making cheese, planting fields, growing things, and taking care of stock.  I am always happy when someone comes along that can catch us up on our machinery because I need it to do my job.”

“So it’s ok with you then if I look at the car engine?”

“Yes, by all means.”

Joseph started the car up and I lifted the hood and made a few quick checks.  The spark seemed very erratic and weak and the engine was missing badly so I had him shut it down so that I could look at the points.  Just as I thought, the points had almost closed up.  I didn’t have a feeler gauge but Glen’s Dad had told me to take a piece of paper and fold it 5 times and it would be about 20 thousandths so I took the incubator list out of my pocket and folded it to make the setting.  Joseph was amazed at the results as the car was once again running smoothly.

“That was incredible MacGregor.”

“It was something an old time mechanic had taught me.  He was great with cars but his son told me not too long ago by mail that he had passed on.”

Joseph showed me where I could find some of the shop supplies like grease and oil and rags and I set out to have a look at the trailers.  One was a dual axle trailer and the other a single axle.  I jacked up the one side and felt the wheels to see if either of them was loose.  This side appeared to be ok but since I already had it jacked up, I pulled both of the wheels off their spindles and packed the bearings.  The other side was a different story.  The front wheel had lost a bearing and was causing all of the noise that Jolaine had talked about.  Both the bearings and the races needed to be replaced so I went looking for Joseph to see if they had any parts.

“Ah, there you are, I found a problem with the dual axle trailer.  It needs new bearings on the front left and I was wondering if you might have some spare parts around.”

“Yes, I think we do.  Come over here and I’lll show you”

He led me to another small room that I had missed on my look around the garage.  In there were all kinds of boxes filled with parts of one kind or another, some for the car, some for the machinery.  I even noticed the leather cups for the windmill sucker rods.  We poked around for a bit and sure enough we were able to find bearings and races for the trailer.  I hand packed the new bearings, drove out the old races and installed new ones.  So far, the repairs I had done could all have been avoided with some regular maintenance but it was very obvious that very little, if any maintenance was being done.  I packed the bearings on the smaller single axle trailer and then cleaned up.

It was about an hour before supper would be ready and I took the time to become more familiar with everything in the garage.   I looked in all of the drawers and cabinets to see what all was available.  A smile came to my face when off in the corner almost covered from view was a huge welder.  It was on wheels and I rolled it out and cleaned it off.  The paint had all but come off the manufacturer but I could see soudeuse d'arc de 250 ampères and  knew right away it was sufficient for anything that might come up.  Glen’s Dad had spent considerable time teaching me how to weld and the thought of going into business with Glen was still running around in my mind.  I went scurrying off to find Joseph again because I was sure there must be some cutting and brazing equipment around.

“Joseph, I was looking around the garage and found the big arc welder but I didn’t notice any gas welding equipment.”

“Ah yes, the big tanks.  I put them in the shed out back along with some other things because I am using the cart they were on to haul the milk cans.”

“Can you show me where they are?”

“Yes, follow me.”

I followed him out to a shed that was some 50 feet from the garage and once in inside the shed, there was another treasure trove of hardware.  Everything from nails to barbed wire, hinges, hooks, brackets, screws, bolts, nuts.  I could see right off that I would have no trouble finding what I needed to assemble the incubators and brooders once we had the construction material.

“Here are the tanks, and I put the hoses and the other things in this box.”

“Yes, everything looks complete and both of the tanks still have gas in them.  Let’s have a look at the cart and what you are using it for and maybe we can make you something better for that purpose.”

We both walked down the hill towards another building that was adjacent to the barn.  When we got there, I could see that this is where they made the cheese.  There were two huge vats with blades inside them for stirring the mixture.  Joseph had been using the cart to bring the milk cans from the barn to this cheese facility.  He could only bring two at a time on the welding cart so I told him that I would talk to Jolaine about building a wagon that could haul at least four cans.

It was time to clean up for dinner and I was glad that the garage had a wash basin so that all the grimy mess from the mechanical work was not tracked into the house.  It was a beautiful spacious house and I was fortunate to end up here.  At dinner Jolaine spoke to me about the days work.

“Did you find out what was wrong with the big trailer?”

“Yes, the bearings went out on one of the wheels.  Joseph showed me where some new bearings were and I installed them.”

Just then, Joseph spoke.

“Not only did he fix the bearings but the car was miss firing very badly and MacGregor fixed that too with just a piece of paper.”

Jolaine was not quite sure of the meaning so she directed her words to me.

“What’s that all about James?

“The car was miss firing badly because the point gap had closed up and I used a piece of paper folded five times as a gauge to set the points.  It’s an old mechanics trick when you don’t have a gauge handy to set them.”

“Where did you learn all these things?

“I have this friend back home in Ohio whose father was a mechanic; a very good mechanic and he taught me everything about cars and about welding.  Speaking of welding, Joseph is using the welding cart to haul milk cans from the barn to the cheese building and I was wondering if I could build him something more suitable for hauling the cans.  I was thinking along the lines of a hand pulled wagon that would haul at least 4 cans at a time.  That would free up the welding cart for the tanks as I am certain that something will come up where we need to use the acetylene welder.”

“Do you know how to use the acetylene welder?”

“Yes, I am familiar with arc welding and acetylene welding.”

“Good, because we have several things that are broken and need welded on the implements we drag with the tractor.”

It was obvious that there would be plenty of work to do in the next couple of months.  Jolaine had a chalk board set up in the sitting room just off the kitchen and she would always leave a list of things for me to do.  Joseph got a similar list.  After Joseph had taken my papers to Ardentes, I was now able to make trips to town for supplies and such.  The start up of the wood burning car became easier each time I had started it.  When it came time to plow the fields, I found out that they had a tractor that had also been converted to wood burning.  I had no idea how bad the fuel situation was back home but I had a feeling that it was better there than here.

By the end of January, I had accomplished quite a bit.  Joseph had a new wagon to haul the milk cans, 4 egg incubators and 4 brooders built, the sucker rod cups were replaced on both windmills, the plow and the disc harrow were repaired, and  the chickens had been separated into 3 groups of a dozen hens and one rooster per group.  We had already started collecting fertile eggs and in a few more days, the first batch would go into the incubators.

It was like being in another world stuck here in France and working for Jolaine.  Even though there were few Germans in the area, a person was not free to come and go as they pleased and you never knew from one day to the next what might happen.  There was no radio, no news, no mail, and many nights I feel asleep thinking of what it would be like to be home again.  

The next couple of months went by rather quickly as there was always plenty to do.  Our first load of chickens had just been taken to town and Jolaine was surprised to find out that more people wanted the hens than the roosters, not so much for eating but they wanted to get the eggs from them.  The day I got back from delivering the third batch, Jolaine asked me to come into the house.

“As much as I hate to say this, it’s time for you to go to Pau.  I am going to miss you around here terribly and I must tell you that of all the men who have passed through here, you have been the most helpful.  I will never be able to pay you for all that you have done for us.  I will pray that you get back to England safely. We are still struggling with oppression here in France but one day, we will be liberated and we have men like you to thank for that.”

“The only payment I need is to get back to England.  How and when will I get to Pau.?”

“The underground has arranged for you to be transported to Pau.  You will leave here in two days and will travel by bus.  I will arrange to have Joseph take you to Châteauroux.  The bus leaves at 6am so we will have to make sure you get underway early.  From  Châteauroux, you will go to Limoges, then to Toulouse and finally on to the small town of Pau.  In a farm south of Pau, you will meet up with other downed airmen and there will be a man to guide you over the border into Spain.”

“Well, tonight then I had better get my gear in order.  I will leave you and Joseph some notes as to the things I had planned on doing next.  Will there be a person for me to contact when I get to Pau?”

“It’s a long trip by bus so I will have Anne-Joséphine make some sandwiches.  It will take the whole day for you to get there.  Once you arrive in Pau, you will be met by a man named Jean Coquard.  You will be able to recognize him as he has a full black beard.  From Pau, you will go by bicycle to the farm.  Within one or two days, there will be other downed airmen arrive that will join you.”

I had a hard time falling asleep knowing that I would soon be on my way.  This would be the last leg of my journey and I was very apprehensive of what may lie ahead for me when I got to Spain.  I woke up knowing that this would be my last day with Jolaine Meyet.  I found it almost useless to try and get into any of the projects I had going.  I went and talked to Joseph to see if there was any last information he might need about the things we had been doing.

“Hi Joseph, did Jolaine tell you that I will be leaving soon?”

“Yes, she told me and we are both sad to see you go.  Especially me because now who will fix stuff?  It will be like before and I am sad to see that happen.”

“Maybe the next guy you have come through will be able to fix things too.”

“I’m afraid not.  It’s almost summer time now and with the pass open over the mountain, the men are not here long enough like you.”

“I wanted to ask you if there was anything you might need done before I go?”

“The only thing I can think of is that big pulley on the cheese maker.  It has that crack and we have kept putting it off.”

“Oh yes, I almost forgot about that.  I’ll see to it today for sure.

I went over to the barn where the cheese was made and had a look to see what I needed to get that pulley off.  I was going to need a puller, maybe a hammer, and a small crescent to loosen the lock bolt.  I had the pulley off in less than ten minutes and took it over into the shop where I could have a closer look at it. The crack had progressed some from the last time I had looked at it so it was good that Joseph reminded me of it.  I had not done a lot of brazing of cast iron but the main thing was getting the surfaces prepared and making sure everything was cleaned properly.  I can remember Mr. Leavitt telling me to make sure I didn’t get my fingers on the area to be welded as the oil in my skin was enough to spoil the adhesion between the cast iron and the bronze rod.  I spent considerable time grooving the break and filing it clean.  Next I pre-heated the area to be welded and then proceeded to lay a thin layer of bronze ahead of the main fill.   Once the weld was completed, I put it in a bucket of sand that I had taken out of the river.  It was not exactly the kind of sand that I wanted but it was good enough to let it cool down slowly.  

I went back later in the day and put the pulley back on.  Then I went over all of the notes I had promised to leave with Jolaine.  After supper, I went over my stuff again to make sure I had everything that was to go with me.

I was still using the bag that Menard had given me and even though it was small, it was enough to handle what things I had.  The main thing was my tooth brush.  I didn’t ever want to be without that again.  As I lay there in bed that night, my thoughts turned back to all those who had offered help to get me back to England.  I was almost positive I would make it now because the German forces seemed to have all moved somewhat to the north and I did not anticipate any ID checks like those from Abbeville to Paris and Paris to Vierzon.

I awoke to a light rap on the door from  Anne-Joséphine.  It was 5am, just enough time she said for some bread and jam.  Jolaine was awake as well and we all sat around the table.  It was sad to be leaving but also a new day for me.

“Are you sure you have everything?”

“I’m fairly sure I didn’t leave anything behind Jolaine.  The main thing is my bus ticket and I have that right here in my pocket”

“Well, Joseph is out starting the car so it’s time to say goodbye.  Be safe.”

Just as I was about to get up and leave, Jolaine came over and hugged me.   It was the first time I had seen her display any type of affection.

“Goodbye, maybe I will get back to see you one day.”

When I backed away from her, I saw a tear trickle down her cheek.  Just as I grabbed my bag, Anne-Joséphine handed me my sandwiches and I walked out the door to the garage.

The Route From Ardentes to Gibraltar

Joseph already had the car running and we headed for Châteauroux.  It was not a long drive into town and I told Joseph just to let me out in front of the Bus Depot.  I shook hands with him and got out of the car.

“Goodbye Joseph, you have been a good friend all these months.”

“Goodbye MacGregor.  I am so sad to see you go.”

I watched as he drove off, the darkness of the sky giving way to daylight, as he disappeared from view.  Once again I was alone in France, but this time not near so fearful of being captured.  I walked inside and sat down to wait for the bus.  When it arrived, I could see that it was a rickety old thing and I wondered if it was capable of the 375 miles we had to do today.  I handed the bus driver my ticket and he tore part of it off and gave it back, then I climbed aboard and found a seat.

The Bus to Pau

After we got going, the ride on the bus felt more like sitting in the back of a 6x6 going down a bumpy road.  I think top speed was about 40 miles per hour but at least it was not a woodburner.  By noon, we had managed to make over 200 miles, the only thing slowing us down being the need to put water in the radiator every so often and to stop for gasoline.  They must have had regular places to stop to get the gas because I didn’t see any places to fill up from the view I had out my window.   We were in a place called Cahors and while we were stopped, I ate one of the sandwiches Anne-Joséphine had made for me.  We were soon underway again heading to the south of France towards the border with Spain.  We were making better time than I had thought and we arrived at our destination in Pau at 1630 hours.  It was a very small place at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains. 

When I got out of the small bus, I looked around and could see only one man with a black beard.  I looked at him and he looked back at me.  Then I walked over to him.

“Êtes-vous Jean Coquard?”

[Are you Jean Coquard?]

“Oui, vous devez être MacGregor, suivez avec moi.”

[Yes, you must be MacGregor, follow along with me.]

I had no idea how they passed this kind of information down the line about who I was but I was glad to see that it was working.  He had a bicycle and had me hop on the back while he pedaled down the street.  We went for about 5 miles to the south and then onto a dirt road.  He had me get off and the two of us walked up over a small rise.  Once we had reached the top, I got back on and we continued down into the valley below.  I could see a house down there and figured that was the farm house Jolaine had talked about. 

He took me inside and introduced me to his wife Marie Coquard.  There were two other Americans that had already arrived, Sergeant Greg Allen who was a waist gunner and Staff Sergeant Lee Abrams who was a radioman.  I was thrilled to see the Americans and we all shook hands and busied ourselves with talk about how we ended up in France and made our way down to Pau.

It was not a large house and Jean Coquard showed me where I would bed down for the night.  There were two bedrooms, each with 4 cots in them and this would be home for us until the others arrived.  Food was not as plentiful as it had been with Jolaine but for now, I was happy to know that I would soon be headed to Spain.

Five more American guys arrived in the next two days and plans were made for a guide to walk us over the Pyrenees Mountains. It was April 1 when the guide arrived at the farm.  His name was Laurent Ouvrard and he spent several hours with us telling us about the trip that we were about to make.  He said we would spend about 3 days on the trail and it required sleeping out in the open and that the nights would be very cold.  He told us to bundle up as well as we could, wearing two pair of pants if we had them and any other warm clothing that we could get into. As for food, you will each have one C ration of food each day so eat it sparingly.  These C rations he told us were dropped by parachute every so often to aid the French Underground in its activities. He went on to tell us that we would leave at 6am tomorrow morning.

The 5 new Americans that joined us consisted of 2 Lieutenants, 2 staff sergeants, and 1 sergeant.  Lt. Brisstol was the senior officer and assumed command of our group. 

The first day was the hardest and the worst as we ran into a German Ski Patrol shortly after we got onto the mountain slope.  I could hear shots ring out and just in front of me, Sergeant Allen dropped to the ground.  When I got to him, he had been hit in the leg and the snow was covered with red blood there where he was laying.   I grabbed for him to get him up on his feet and I could sense the pain her was in…..he kept saying “leave me, leave me” but I knew he would be killed if he was left behind.  Just then Ouvrard  got to us and was down on his knees shooting back at the Germans.  He told us to keep moving and he would try to hold them off.  I draped Seargent Allen’s arm over my shoulder and we began trudging up the slope.  We had moved about a quarter mile and I could still hear the shooting then all of a sudden everything went quiet.  In a few minutes, Ouvrard was behind me again and came up on the other side of Allen and gave me a hand.  He said he had shot one of the Germans and they had stopped the pursuit to take care of him.  We took turns carrying Allen piggy back and it was fairly difficult as the trail was mostly up hill but we all managed to get through it ok.  Once we got to the spot where we would stop for the day, Ouvrard had me look around for something to wrap his wound with.  From what I could see, it was just a bad flesh wound and I tore up one of the shirts Menard had given me.   That first night, we all slept in a semi-protected cave but by morning, all of us felt the effects of the cold.  I could tell that Allen was having a hard time of it and stayed with him throughout the day. We went a longer distance the 2nd day, with the trail winding up and down, however, some spots seemed quite level and I was thankful for that. None of us were used to all this walking and everyone had sore legs by the end of the day.   On the third day, we could see where we were headed off in the distance as we had an incredible panoramic view of the valley below. Ouvrard pointed out to us exactly where we had to head and at this point, he turned around and headed back to Pau.  We all thanked him for his help.  Lt. Brisstol took the lead at this point and the 8 of us continued on.  We stopped at about 1200 hours as we had the two previous days to eat our meager C rations.  That was the end of our food supply so everything now depended on how we would be treated by the Spanish when we got to Jaca. 

The Spanish authorities took us into custody at Jaca and put all of us in a confinement cell.  They told us they had notified the American Consulate in Madrid of our presence in Spain.

 The next day we were transported to Pamplona where we were promptly locked up, 4 of us in one cell and 4 in another.  The jail reeked of urine and feces and the single toilet had no seat and was about as filthy as I had ever seen.  The beds were also filthy and bug ridden.  We were all fairly hungry as our last meal had been the C rations at noon the day before.  When they finally did decide to bring us some food, it was just a bowl of swill not fit for pigs but it was eat it or starve.

The Dirty Jail Cell at Pamplona, Spain

By the 3rd day, we were all sick, with most of us having spells of vomiting and diarrhea.   There was nothing we could do but lay on the beds and suffer through it.  Lieutenant Brisstol tried to get the guard to do something to help us but his efforts were in vain as the guard seemed to care less about us.  Language was also a barrier as no one in our group spoke any Spanish.

The days went from one to the other and after about a week, I was not sure what day it was.  From all the markings on the wall inside the cell, many others before us had gone through the same experience,  Lt. Brisstol was in the same cell as I was and I asked him about the date.

“Lieutenant, do you know what day this is?

“It’s Sunday, April 9th  MacGregor.”

“I sure hope something happens soon Sir to get us out of here.”

“All of us want that.  I’m sure the American Consulate in Madrid is working on getting us out as we speak.  I imagine there is some sort of ‘payoff ‘that has to be made to Spain for taking such good care of us.”

“I had heard when I was in France that the Spanish Government was teetering on the fence line and at one point Franco thought very seriously about throwing in with the Germans”

“Yes, I heard the same thing.  Let’s just hope that we can get moved to the south of Spain and then on to Gibraltar.  The Brits have an airfield there and will in all probability fly us to England once we get there.”

“It can’t happen too soon to suit me.”

I seemed to be getting over the diarrhea but the stench of the jail cell was almost intolerable.  The toilet would back up and overflow and there was no way to clean anything up.  We tried to talk to the guard to at least give us some rags but he just laughed at us and called us American Pigs.  I think it was the only English he knew.  I started to keep track of the days by marking my own scratches on the jail wall.  It was Thursday, the 13th when we heard a lot of commotion out towards the front of the jail and it was the arrival at last of the American Consulate to get us out.  We were all herded into the back of truck and taken cross town to the train station in Pamplona.  We were a pretty unsightly bunch with all of us needing shaved and cleaned up but it was a good feeling to finally be on our way.  The consulate saw to it that we got some food before we boarded the train and it was the first time in over a week that my stomach was not growling.

The trip to Gibraltar was 700 miles and took us the better part of two days.  We found out when we got to the very south of Spain that the train did not go into Gibraltar and we had to get off in La Linea which was just to the north of Gibraltar.  There was a neutral zone there and we were picked up by British Forces and taken to the British base that had been set up near the airfield in Gibraltar. The best thing for most of us was being able to shower and shed some of the stench from the Spanish Jail in Pamplona.  

The British Air Base at Gibraltar

It was wonderful to sit down at mess with the Brits that night as most of us still had hunger pangs from our ordeal. The following morning we were briefed by a Captain from the RAF who told us what to expect as far as our return to England.  He said that this was a rather fortunate time for us because they were ferrying quite a few B-17 bombers from the Mediterranean to bases in England and that it would not take a very long period of time before we were able to get transportation back.

The lucky day arrived for me on April 16th.  It was a Sunday and I was told to report to the RAF Headquarters for briefing.  Once I got there, I was told that a B-17 Bomber flight was leaving for Molesworth, England at 0200 hours on April 17th and for me to be there on April 16th at 2400 hours to check in.  I went back to the barracks and got my things ready.  I was still carrying the bag that Menard had given me.  It had brought me luck and I didn’t want to part with it.  After throwing everything into the bag, I went to the mess hall and had dinner and after that back to the barracks.  It was a long 6 hours from the time I finished eating until 2400 hours.  I was so anxious to get going that I didn’t know what to do with myself.  At 1130 hours, I could not wait any longer and grabbed my bag and made my way over to the air strip.  When I arrived, I could make out the shape of the B-17 sitting there in the shadows of a hangar being readied for the flight.  There was quite a bit of activity in that it was not a bombing mission but I knew that many things had to be checked out even so.

I was met by the navigator of the flight.  His name was Roy Boggs and he told me I could go inside and get comfortable if I wanted.  He said I was the only hitchhiker going to Molesworth and that there were some chutes just forward of the waist position. I climbed aboard and made my way to the waist position and found the chutes.  Once I had that taken care of, I went forward so that I could see what was going on.  I found out that it was about 1100 miles to Molesworth and our ETA was roughly 0900 hours.  It was going to be about the same as flying from the base to Berlin and back in distance but this flight would all be out over the ocean except for that portion along the south of England.

The Flight Path from Gibraltar to Molesworth

We left Gibraltar right on time and for once I didn’t have a lump in my throat at the thought of going up.  Once we reached altitude and leveled off, there was just the steady drone of the engines as made our way towards England. The navigator had set a course west, then due north, and then northeast to our destination. It was 0500 hours before we saw the first sign of morning light to the east.  We sighted land at 0700 hours with our plane passing directly over Plymouth, England.  It was less than two hours and it felt really good to once again be over England.  I had no idea how good until we came on around for our final approach and felt the wheels touchdown at Molesworth.

The Final Approach at Molesworth

End Chapter 19                                      









Chapter 20

The 7 day Pass

April 17, 1944

It was the most wonderful day of my life when the plane came to a stop in Molesworth. It was 0900 hours and I went immediately to Headquarters for re-assignment. They didn’t know what to do with me because I had been reported killed in action and I guess it was going to take a bundle of paper work to make me a real live person again. I had been there several hours filling out papers and forms when a master sergeant came over to me and told me that the commanding officer wanted to see me. I followed him all the way down the long hallway to the end where he tapped on the same door that I had gone through about 6 months earlier.

“Sergeant MacGregor is here sir.”

“Come in MacGregor.”

I walked in and stood at attention until he told me to stand at ease. The last time I had seen Colonel Stanley W. Bray was when I was here to get my transfer back to combat duty but I doubted he would remember me. The master sergeant also stood at ease behind me.

“MacGregor, have a seat, I’ll be with you in just a minute.”

He was on the phone again and just finishing his conversation. As soon as he was done, he told the master sergeant to fix some coffee.

“I thought the name sounded familiar. You’re the young man who was shot down and ended up in Scotland. I remember you coming in here and asking to be transferred back to combat duty. It says here that this was your 28th Mission, is that correct?”

“Yes, sir, that’s correct”

“It’s not often I get to talk to someone who has been shot down twice, in fact it’s a first for me. We seem to have a mix up with your records. You were officially shown as killed in action on Friday, December 24, 1943. Your personal belongings were packaged and sent to your home. There were several accounts stating that your plane went up in flames and there were no chute sightings and no survivors. Tell me what happened on that day.”

“Well sir, our mission that day was the V-Weapons sites in the Pas de Calais area of France. We got underway at about 1030 hours and over the target at 1330 hours and at that point, the flak was really heavy. We dropped our bombs and started our turn to come back when we got hit with two large bursts of enemy fire. The plane almost tumbled sideways and the starboard wing came off. There was a violent explosion and it was so bad it tore the tail right off the fuselage. There was a large ball of fire rushing down the fuselage just before that happened. The tail was the only part of the plane that was not totally engulfed in flames so I feel certain that everyone else on the plane died that day. We were at 18000 feet when we got hit and the tail was spinning like crazy towards the ground with me in it. I managed to get my chute on and bail out at about 1000 feet.”

Just then the master sergeant was back with the coffee. Colonel Bray had him pour us both a cup. This was my first real cup of coffee since that morning we got under way for Pas de Calais.

“Tell me the whole story MacGregor, from the time you were on the ground in France until you arrived in Gibraltar.”

“It’s quite a long story sir but I will do my best. I came down in a wooded area near Hesdin. There was a farm nearby and I waited till dark and went there. An old man and his wife took me in and gave me some clothes and burned my uniform. The next day he contacted his nephew. The nephew and I walked about 35 kilometers to Abbeville where I was put in touch with a man in the underground named Jean-Louis Ménard. He forged papers for me, grilled me on how to speak some common phrases in French and then got me on a train to a town south of Paris called Vierzon. Just north of Paris, we were caught up in an 8th Air Force bombing mission but managed to escape without damage to the train. In Vierzon, I met another person in the underground called Hélène Renaud. She ran a perfume shop as a cover for her operation and got me over the le Cher River. This was a critical point because the Germans had the bridges well guarded in an attempt to stop anyone from going to the South of France. Apparently they were taking all the Frenchmen and shipping them to Germany to work in the factories. Hélène Renaud had this German officer who was in love with her and he would take her dancing at a place on the other side of the river. It was in his vehicle that she smuggled me over the bridge past the German soldiers. Once on the other side of the river, I was told to walk several blocks to a dress shop and wait there. Soon another man named Pierre Quentin showed up and he took me about 65 kilometers to a place called Ardentes just outside of Châteauroux. Here I met a woman called Marjolaine Meyet. She was a wealthy woman by French standards and I stayed and worked on her estate for 3 months waiting for warmer weather to go over the pyrenees mountains. When the time was right, I was transported by bus to a small town called Pau just north of Spain. Once there, I met a man named Jean Coquard who took me by bicycle to a location on a very remote farm very close to the border. At this house I met up with seven other downed men from various squadrons. Once over the mountains and into Spain, we were picked up and thrown into jail for about two weeks and then put on a train to Gibraltar.”

“Well, that was an incredible tour of France and Spain to say the least. I will put all of this into my report and see if we can’t get the paperwork mess straightened out. In the meantime, we will issue you some temporary identification, a temporary money allotment, and a 7 day pass. For the time being, you can billet with the headquarters staff personnel. You will need to report back here to headquarters on April 24. Hopefully by that time, we will have all of your papers in order and you will be re-assigned. Do you have any questions?”

“Yes Sir. Since you have me listed at killed in action, I suppose that my parents were notified of this and if so, is there any way to get word to them that I am ok?”

“I’ll see what I can do, anything else?”

“With my 7 day pass, will I be allowed to visit relatives that I have in Edinburgh.”

“Yes, with your blue pass, you will be able to travel by rail anywhere in Great Britain. Is that it MacGregor?”

“Yes Sir.”

It was close to 1200 hours when I left the Colonel’s office and I was told to come back after lunch to pick up my ID. I was really excited about the pass and the fact that I could go to Edinburgh and visit with Aunt Dora and then south to Hawick to see Gillian. I could not remember a time when I was so anxious to go to the mess hall. I had lost about 8 pounds during the time I was in France and it was going to be good to eat normal meals again. While I was in line with my tray, I heard several of the men grumbling about the same old crappy food but I was happy to load my tray full and I ate every bit of it. After lunch, I went back to the Headquarters building and sat down waiting to be called. There was a rack there with magazines and I noticed the base news dailies and picked that up and started to read it.

02 March 1944
303rd BG (H) Combat Mission No. 115
Target: V.K.F. Ball Bearing Works, Frankfurt, Germany
and Messerschmidt Aircraft Factory, Hochstenbach, Germany
Crews Dispatched: 31
Crews Lost: Lt. Elder - 2 KIA, 8 POW
Crew Members Lost or Wounded: 3 men had frostbite
Length of Mission: 7 hours, 15 minutes
Bomb Load: 500 lb G.P. bombs
Bombing Altitudes: Group - 26,000 ft; Squadron - 20,300 ft
Ammo Fired: 995 rounds

04 March 1944
303rd BG (H) Combat Mission No. 117
Target: Bonn and K?ln, Germany
Crews Dispatched: 27
Crew Members Lost or Wounded: 6 crewmen were frostbitten
Length of Mission: 5 hours, 40 minutes
Bomb Load: "A" - 10 x 500 G.P.; "B" - M47A1 Incendiaries
Bombing Altitudes: "A" - 26,700 ft; "B" - 24,800 ft
Ammo Fired: 1,070 rounds

06 March 1944
303rd BG (H) Combat Mission No. 118
Target: City Area, Berlin, Germany (PFF)
Crews Dispatched: 27
Crew Members Lost or Wounded: 2 crewmen wounded
Length of Mission: 8 hours, 40 minutes
Bomb Load: 10 x 500 lb G.P.; 42 M47A1 Incendiary bombs
Bombing Altitudes: 20,800 ft; 22,000 ft
Ammo Fired: 10,645 rounds

08 March 1944
303rd BG (H) Combat Mission No. 119
Target: V.K.F. Ball Bearing Works, Berlin (Erkner) Germany
Crews Dispatched: 22
Crews Lost: Lt. L.B. McGrath, 10 POWs
Length of Mission: 8 hours, 50 minutes
Bomb Load: 8 x 500 lb Incendiaries (M17) / 12 x 100 G.P. bombs
Bombing Altitude: 26,800 ft
Ammo Fired: 1,895 rounds

All the missions seemed to be concentrated in Germany and I knew that in a week or so I would be sitting in the tail of another B-17 at 26,000 feet right along with them. For now, all I could think of was getting back into uniform again and getting rid of these clothes that I had been wearing for months. I’m sure that I must have looked a mess and the thought of another shower and clean clothes was very high on my priority list. It was about 1345 hours when they called me in.

The man behind the desk was familiar to me but I had never met him. He was about 45 years old with black hair that was graying at the temples. He had a big grin on his face as he shook my hand and welcomed me back to Molesworth. He told me everyone in the office was buzzing about my being reported killed in action and then turning up alive and well. I asked him about Baker and he told me that he had been transferred.

“We need you to sign your temporary ID card right there above your name. Next, here is a pay office chit for £50, a blue pass, and a Quartermaster chit for a full compliment of clothing. You will berth in the headquarters staff Quonset. There are several bunks in there near the back that are not being used. It’s not often Colonel Bray issues a 7 day pass, especially to an enlisted man but if ever there was a time for it, this is it. Where do you plan on going?”

“I have relatives in Edinburgh, Scotland so later this afternoon maybe I can hop a ride over to Huntingdon and check out the train schedule.”

“Sure, just head over to the motor pool. I know they go into Huntingdon on a fairly regular schedule. Good luck MacGregor. Everyone here is proud of you and I’m sure you will be in line for some medals when you get back.”

My next stop was at the Quartermaster Quonset where I ran into Ken Armstrong again.

“Damn MacGregor, you here again for more clothes? What happened this time.?”

“Yep, but this time I need the works. The Army shipped all my stuff home thinking I was killed in action.”

I told him of my entire ordeal in France while he measured and outfitted me with new clothing. I also asked him about Hetrick but he had not heard anything. When we were all done, I left with a bag full of new clothes slung over my right shoulder and my bedding over my left arm. I headed straight for the headquarters staff Quonset, found an empty bed and outfitted it with sheet, blanket and pillow and then put my new clothes in the locker next to it. In with my new clothes was a small shaving kit, tooth paste, tooth brush, and soap. It was the first time I had seen soap in several months and I immediately headed for the shower room with my soap and towel in hand. After shaving and taking a shower, I had the feeling of being totally clean again, so much different than sleeping in my clothes in that filthy jail bed in Spain.

The new uniform fit me perfectly so I would have to tell Kenny he did a good job. The new shoes were a bit tight so I decided to wear my old ones. It was quite something to get all new clothing at one time. I tried on my shirts, hats, pants, jacket, and once I had finished, I headed for the paymasters office. I needed to turn in my pay chit for English Pounds. 50£ was more money than I had ever had at one time since I had been in the service but as soon as I got it, I realized I needed a wallet, not only for the money but my ID and pass as well. I walked on over to the px and found one that had a zipper just like my old one.

My last stop was the motor pool to find out about a ride to Huntingdon. Huntingdon was a very small town about 11 miles east of Molesworth and a north-south rail system ran through it.

“Hi Sarge, how are things going over here at the motor pool? Got anything going to Huntingdon?

“MacGregor, Jesus Christ, we all thought you were killed in action”

He jumped up from his desk and came around to shake my hand, the two of us rejoicing over my return.

“I was shot down over France last year and just got back to Molesworth today.”

“Jesus, tell me about it? What was it like over there?”

“It’s really bad. I got shot down the day before Christmas. There are practically no cars and no gasoline much worse than you see here and the only way you can get around is on bicycles, walking or the train. There is not enough food over there and I about starved. The French are walking around hungry most of the time. Just before I got out of there, the Nazi’s were gathering all the Frenchmen up and sending them to work in war factories in Germany”

“Wow, some Christmas present huh? How did you manage to get out?”

“I met up with some people who were in the French Underground and with their help I was able to make my way south to Spain, then to Gibraltar, and late last night I got on a flight from Gibraltar to Molesworth. I heard while I was in Gibraltar that they are bringing quite a few bombers back to England from the Med.”

“Man, I bet you’re glad to be back. I noticed that quite a few planes have been coming back too. We keep hearing rumors that something big is up.”

“Colonel Bray has given me a 7 day pass so I’m going into Huntingdon to check out the train schedules to Edinburgh. I have some relatives up there and it’s going to be so good to just have a week off away from all of this.”

“Well good luck. Here’s Stinson now. I’ll have him make a special run to Huntingdon with the jeep. I’ll talk to you again when you get back.”

“Thanks Sarge.”

It was 1600 hours when we shoved off for Huntingdon. Stinson told me he had only arrived in Molesworth from the US about two months ago. He was from Pittsburgh which was about 52 miles from my hometown. It was a short ride and I was glad to get there because it was a very cold afternoon. He took me straight to the train station in Huntingdon. He told me he would be back at 1800 hours and again at 2000 hours.

This was my second time in the railroad station at Huntingdon but when I was coming back from Hawick, I failed to notices how very old everything looked. There was a huge round clock up over the doors that led to the train platform and it showed 1620 hours. The benches in the waiting area appeared to be made from a hardwood similar to oak with a highly polished finish but everything else in the station seemed so dingy. It was like stepping into the 1800’s. There was only the one ticket window open. No one was about so I rang the bell. In a few seconds, an old man appeared from the office and I told him that I would like to know the schedule for trains heading north to Edinburgh. He told me that because of the war, only one train ran north to Edinburgh daily now. He said the next train would leave London at 7:00am and arrive in Huntingdon at 9:10am tomorrow morning. I asked him how much the fare was and he told me £8 2/- 4d. I gave him 9£. He gave me my ticket and my change and offered me a schedule.

He said, “Have a good trip lad.”

“I will sir, I replied.”

I had about an hour and a half before the motor pool jeep would be back, so I walked on into town. It was just a short walk from the train station on Brampton Road. Like many other towns in England and Scotland, there was a High Street with most of the shops along the full length. I knew I would be too late for mess call when I got back and I wanted to go to this fish and chips shop just down the way a bit. Just the smell of food as I walked in made me hungry. It was much warmer inside and the place had a very cozy feel about it. I had been in here before and it was much more crowded then than it was today, probably because this was a Monday. I ordered and sat down, then picked up the newspaper lying on the table. It was a daily paper from Petersborough. I was surprised to see that all the news was local with nothing about the war. My order was ready and I went over and paid for it and came back to my table with my meal. The meal was served in a basket lined with newspaper rather than on a plate. This place reminded me of the Midlothian Inn back in Struthers. My parents would often stop there for a meal and most of the time ended up ordering fish and chips. They both liked ‘kippers’ which was way too salty and bony for me. Thinking of the Midlothian Inn also brought back bitter sweet memories of the night Evelyn and I had dinner there. It’s was the night we had danced in the park after dark. I guess by this time she was in the arms of another. When I had finished with my meal, I jarred myself back into reality and headed back to the station.

On my way back to the train station, I passed by a book store and decided to go in and see if I could find something to read on the train. They had some used books on a table by themselves and I began looking through them. One caught my eye entitled ‘War is a Racket’ by Smedley Darlington Butler, Major General - United States Marine Corps [Retired].

I glanced through it and it was about who profited from the war and at who expense. After paying for the book, I walked back to the train station to wait for the motor pool jeep and just as I got there, it began to drizzle.

Stinson was there at exactly 1800 hours and I was the only person heading back to the base. He wanted to know how long I had been in England and I was surprised myself when I told him 14 months. I told him about my ordeal in France and asked him about the food supply in the US and he told me things were rationed like sugar and gasoline but meat and other foods were plentiful and no one was going hungry.

I was very tired when I got back to the Quonset and I fell asleep the minute I hit the sack.

April 18, 1944

Reveille was at 0600 hours. I had a quick shower, brushed my teeth and then I was off to the mess hall for breakfast. We had scrambled eggs, hashed potatoes, and toast and tea. After breakfast I went back to the Quonset and packed the gear that I would take with me to Scotland. I was anxious to get underway now and threw the duffle bag over my shoulder and headed once again for the motor pool.

It was 0800 hours when the Jeep pulled out for Huntingdon. I went into the station and sat down to wait for the train and it brought back memories of that day in Abbeville when Ménard bought the ticket for me and said goodbye. I began to doubt if I would ever see him again. My thoughts also trailed off to Hélène and wondered if she would go back to Abbeville to be with Ménard after the war was over.

Heading North to Edinburgh


The train was right on time, pulling into Huntingdon at 0910 hours. This time there was no worry for me with ID papers and such. I boarded the train and made my way down the aisle looking for an empty seat. I stuffed my bag in the compartment overhead and prepared to sit down next to a young woman who appeared to be close to my age.

I ventured a “Hello miss, is this seat vacant?” to which she replied, “Hello, yes it is, please sit down.”
“My name is MacGregor miss, how far are you going?”

“I’m bound for Leeds, came the reply

“I’m headed for Edingburgh.”

“Oh really, do you have family there, MacGregor?”

“Yes, my Aunt and my cousin live there. I’ve never been to Edinburgh before.”

“Where are you from?”

“I’m from a very small town in Ohio called Struthers, Miss.”

“My name is Julia and yours?”

“James MacGregor with no middle name.”

“Are you stationed nearby, James?”

“Yes, just about 15 minutes from Huddingdon there is an Air Force Base.”

The conversation went on for several more hours and before I knew it, the train was approaching Leeds.

Leeds England

 As soon as we came to a stop, I helped Julia get her bag down and thanked her for the company. It was 1230 hours when the train pulled out of Leeds. The seat next to me remained empty and I decided to read my book for a while. It was a very easy read explaining who profited by war and one thing for certain, it was not me. Bethlehem Steel, one of the major employers in Youngstown, was mentioned in the book as making huge profits on the war.

I must still have been tired from the long flight from Gibraltar to Molesworth because I dozed off. It was 1530 hours when I woke up and the train had already passed Newcastle on Tyne. With any luck at all we would be in Edinburgh by 1630 hours. I had to go to the latrine and headed forward in the train, not having seen one the way I had entered. It was in the next car and although it was very cramped quarters in there, I managed to get the job done and headed back to my seat. Every time I had to go now, it made me think of the filthy rotten smell in the jail in Spain. I was looking forward to the day this war would be over and I could get back home to a more normal life.

We began slowing down and the conductor was making his way through the train announcing that we were about to arrive in Edinburgh. I got my bag down from the overhead and put it on the empty seat next to me, undid the ties and put my book away. Slowly the train came to a halt and most of the passengers were also busy with their things getting ready to depart the train.

As soon as I got into the station I headed for a phone booth. The phone number I had for Aunt Dora was in with my personal belongings that had been sent back home so my best bet was to dial for information.

“Hello, Operator, I would like the phone number for Dora Munroe, please.”

“I have two listings for Dora Munroe, one is on Albert Terrace and the other is on Salisbury Road.”

“It’s the one on Albert Terrace operator.”

“The number is 4071390.”

“Thank you, operator.”

As soon as she told me the number, I remembered Dora writing it down for me the day she visited me in the hospital in Hawick. I put the coins in the box and dialed. It rang three times and then someone picked up.


“Hello, Aunt Dora, is this you?”

“Who is this?”

I recognized her voice and replied, “This is James, your nephew.”

“Oh My God, is it really you James? Where are you? Your mother wrote to me telling me you had been killed in action over France. Oh my, Thank God you are alive.”

“Well that’s a long story Aunt Dora. Anyway, I am here at the train station in Edinburgh. Can you give me directions to your place and I will get a cab?”
“Nonsense, we are very close to the station and Victoria is right here and she will come and fetch you. Just stand out in front of the station by the news stand and she will be by in about 10 minutes.”

“All right, I’m wearing my Air Force uniform so I will not be hard to miss. See you in a bit then.”

I walked out to the front of the Station and browsed through the magazines and papers there for a bit. Edinburgh was very busy at this hour with a few more cars running about compared to what I had seen in Paris but mostly taxis. In a few minutes Victoria was there, beeping the horn as she pulled up. She was driving a small red-maroon colored car. I tossed my bag in the back door and sat up front next to her.

My Cousin Victoria

“James, it’s really you. You gave us such a start. Mother was so excited when she told me the news.”

“Yes, it’s me alright. I am beginning to think that I have an angel on my shoulder watching over me because I was the only one to make it out of the plane that day.”

“You look so well. You will have to tell us the whole story when I get you home. Mother will want to hear it as well.”

“What kind of car is this?”

“It’s an Austin Lichfield. It’s very small but it gets Mother and I around just fine. Gasoline is very hard to come by so we find ourselves walking more than driving.”

“It’s really neat. I used to have a 1932 Chevrolet that was something like this. I must tell you that I feel very funny though sitting over here with no steering wheel in front of me and you driving on the other side of the road from what we do in America. Gasoline is almost non existent in Paris. I didn’t even see any taxis like there are here.”

I could still detect the slight brogue in Victoria’s speech. It had only been slightly over a year since I had seen her there in Hawick but she still had the same sense of excitement in her voice, the same pleasant smile and the deep dimples. It did not take us long to reach her Mother’s place and it reminded me a lot of Aunt Lil’s apartment in Youngstown with the 4 units attached to one another.

“Grab your things and follow me.”

Aunt Dora must have been looking out the window for us because the door was open when we got there.

“Come in, Come in, James. Oh how good it is to see you again. Your Mother will be ecstatic when she hears the news.”

She put her arms around me and hugged me.

“I still can’t believe it. Come into the living room and sit down. Victoria can fix us a pot of tea and then you have to tell us how this mix up with you being reported killed in action over France came about.”

“Doesn’t he look well Mother? I already had the water hot before I left so let me fix the tea before James begins.”

I settled down into an overstuffed chair and started to survey my surroundings.

“How long have you lived here, it’s quite nice.”

“We’ve been here almost 7 years now. When Jeffery passed away, we sold the flat that we had near Chubb Park and moved here. We are much closer to the dress shop here so that was part of the reason for the change.”

Victoria was back with the tea and she poured for her Mother and me, then she sat alongside her mother on the sofa. Aunt Dora was the first to speak.
“Well, first thing in the morning, I am going to get a telegram off to your Mother telling her that you are alive and well. Right now we are both anxious to hear how this all came about. Tell us from the time you left the hospital in Hawick.”

I was sure that this would not be the last time I was asked this same question. I’m certain Billy Burnet and Gillian would want to know the same things.

“As much as I had wanted to get up and see you when I was in Hawick, the Air Force had different plans for me. I was moved out of the Cottage Hospital in August and sent to a base hospital in Huntingdon. I was not totally healed so they kept me there about two more weeks and then I was sent back to Molesworth for re-assignment. I had flown 27 missions before the fatal one, then on the day before Christmas, 1943 we were over France and our plane got shot down. There were two direct hits, one hit the starboard inboard engine and started a fire and the other tore the wing completely off. There must have been fuel everywhere because there was a massive explosion that engulfed the entire fuselage. I was in the tail section and the force of the explosion must have ripped the tail completely off the plane and it went spinning to the ground with me in it. I was certain that no one could have lived in the rest of the plane and that is why the reports from the remainder of the squadron did not see any chutes open.”

“How utterly horrible this must have been for you to see all this. What happened next?”

“Well as I said, the tail was spinning towards the ground with me in it and I worked desperately to get my chute on and bail out. I was very close to the ground before I did get out, just soon enough for the chute to deploy. Once on the ground in France the Germans were quick to come looking for me but with the aid of some friendly French Farmers, I was taken to the French Underground in Abbeville. They forged identification for me and work papers and got me on a train headed to the south of France. Slowly they got me from place to place and eventually over the border into Spain and then Gibraltar.”

“So you were from the day before Christmas until just recently then getting back to England?

“Yes, that’s right; I flew back to England from Gibraltar yesterday. We arrived at 0900 hours. The reason I got a pass to leave the base was because they had me listed as killed in action and the commanding officer said they would need at least a week to get my papers all back in order. They could not re-assign me until all the previous paper work had been corrected. In the meantime, they got me outfitted with all new clothes, made some temporary ID for me, and gave me a 7 Day Pass.”

“All I can say is praise the Lord for looking out for you and bringing you home safe. Will you be with us the whole week? What are your plans?”

“If it’s ok with you, I’ll stay here 2 days and then head south to Hawick and from there back to Molesworth.”

“Certainly it’s all right to stay here. We have a fold down bed in the very next room that you can use. The bath is upstairs and I want you to feel free to do whatever you want here just as you would at home.”

“What is the mood of the people in France James?” asked Victoria.

“That’s a tough question. For those in the resistance there is a determination to rid their country of the Germans, drive them out and defeat them. The big problem is that they do not have the means to do that so they are relying on the British and the Americans. For many others over there who are associated with the Vichy Government, they want to collaborate with the Germans and defeat us. There is a big movement over there now by the Vichy Government to round up all the Jews and send them to the prisons in Germany. There is also a movement underway right now to send as many Frenchmen as they can to work in the war plants in Germany so there is a lot of unrest over there. There is also very little food to go around and I was hungry almost all the time I was there.”

“We hear so many conflicting stories that it’s hard to know what to believe.”

We talked for about an hour and then Aunt Dora made us a Yorkshire pudding with mashed potatoes and gravy. She apologized for not having any meat but by this time, I was getting pretty used to meals without meat. After supper, the three of us played cards for several hours and I taught the both of them how to play poker. I told Aunt Dora how much her sister Lillian loved that game and was very good at it too.

Aunt Dora laid out a sheet and blanket for me and she was the first to head off to bed.

“Good night you two. I have to get some sleep……. and James, it’s wonderful having you back with the living again."
Victoria and I went back into the living room and sat down. I had a feeling that she was itching to ask me something but I had no idea what it was.

“The day we visited you in Hawick, the nurse, what was her name? oh yes, I remember now, it was Gillian. She was crying when we arrived and you never did tell me what that was all about.”

I hadn’t planned on talking about Gillian but now that Victoria brought it out, I thought I might as well let her know what was going on.

“It’s all very complicated but the bottom line is that Gillian and I…….well we both found ourselves very attracted to one another. Actually, I fell in love with her and she fell in love with me. She was crying because I had told her about the relationship I was in back home.”

“Oh my goodness, I didn’t mean to pry. I was just curious is all”

“That’s ok.”

“So this Gillian……..she is the reason you are going to Hawick then?”

“Yes, that is the main reason, also, I never did get to walk through the town and see everything. The air force moved me out of the Cottage Hospital and sent me to the base hospital in Huntingdon before I could have a look around Hawick.”

“You mentioned a relationship with someone back in America. Is that serious or someone you were just dating?”

“It was very serious but I have the feeling that it’s over now. I got a letter from her telling me that she had fallen in love with someone else. I thought maybe if I returned to the States I might be able to change her mind. I am going to Hawick to see Gillian again………I don’t know what to expect there either. We were writing fairly regularly but I have been out of touch with her since before Christmas. Sometimes, I feel that I am better off when I’m going on one mission after another over Germany and no time to think about the women in my life.”

“I’m afraid I can’t help you with this. I know what you must be going through but you are the only one that can resolve this.”

“Yes, I’m afraid you are right.”

“Tomorrow, I’ll show you all around Edinburgh. We can make a day of it. Mother can run the shop and then on Wednesday, I will run the shop and you can spend some time with my mother.”

“Sounds great to me. Are you about ready to go to bed now?”

“Yes, it’s getting late. Do you have everything you need?”

“Yes, I’m fine, your mom put a sheet and blanket out for me. Good night Victoria.”

As soon as Victoria went upstairs, I folded the bed down and tucked in the sheet. The first day of my pass was about to come to a close and in a few minutes, I was fast asleep.

End Chapter 20





Chapter 21
The Return to Hawick

April 20, 1944

The two days with Aunt Dora and Cousin Victoria passed very quickly and I saw quite a bit of Edinburgh, most of it on foot.  It was a large city and Victoria showed me all of the sights.  She said that she would like to drive me down to Hawick because she was able to get some really nice woolen products on the previous trip and had the need to buy a few more things for the shop.

We left at about 0830 hours and dropped Aunt Dora off at the fabric shop and then headed south for Hawick.  Victoria was a very good driver and I felt comfortable with her at the wheel.  

“It’s not a long drive from here to Hawick, about 50 miles and just a bit over an hour.  We will be on A7 the whole way and I can take to the spot where your plane crashed last year James.  It’s just across the river from the hospital.”

“Really, is it ok we stop and have a look around there?  The Lieutenant from the base described the scene to me but I would really like to see it for myself.” 

“Yes, we can do that.  It was quite a mess when we went past last year but I imagine they have most of it cleaned up now.”

It was not long before we left the signs of the large city and entered the countryside passing by small towns, none of which were familiar to me…..Gorebridge, North Middleton, Fountainhall…….all very small places.  Victoria was quite the talker and we chatted the whole way down.

“So, tell me more about Gillian.  I take it she is not expecting you.”

“The last word she had from me was over 4 months ago.  I wrote her a letter back then telling her that I was transferring back to combat duty.  She knows nothing about me getting shot down over France.”

“It’s very possible she thinks you were killed in action much the same as Mother and I did.  Do you still have these strong feelings for her?”

“Yes, I’m still very attracted to her.  Some of those nights when I was in prison in Spain, it was the thought of her that kept me going.”

“I hope it all works out for you.  Where will you stay the next 3 days in Hawick?  Mr. Burnet’s?”

“I never even gave that a thought.  I suppose I could stay there.  I’ll just have to see how things work out.”

“We’re coming up to the spot of the crash now James.  It’s just over there on the right.  I’ll pull off the road and we can walk over there.”

Victoria led me over to the exact spot and the only signs left were some deep ruts in the ground that the plane must have plowed up. I walked around the site for quite a while and wondered about the crash.  It was only a slight slope on the hillside but enough I thought to stop a plane coming down out of heavy overcast.  From this vantage point, I could see the Cottage Hospital on the other side of the Teviot River.  The center of Hawick was off to the left with hills sloping down towards the river on both sides.  We must have just cleared the hilltops to the east of town.   If we had only been another 50 feet higher we might have made it.   Lieutenant Mason said we were on a very slow descent and just as I was trying to think it out in my mind, I noticed a spot of metal just barely sticking up through the dirt.  I leaned over and picked it up and it was a shell casing from a 50mm gun.

“What is it, what did you find?”

“It’s a shell casing Victoria…’s an empty casing from one of the 50mm guns.”

I put the casing in my pocket and then we headed back to the car.  In less than 5 minutes we were across the Teviot river bridge into Hawick driving up the hill in front of the Cottage Hospital.  I thanked Victoria for the wonderful two days I had spent with her and her Mother, leaned over and kissed her goodbye, and then got out of the car and waved as she drove away.  I didn’t know what to expect as I walked towards the hospital door but as I got closer, there was the wooden bench that Gillian and I had sat on.

The Wooden Bench Outside the Cottage Hospital

It was just over year ago that she sat there and told me that she had fallen in love with me.   It was exactly 1030 hours as I pushed the door open and headed for the main desk.  Laura Murray was the first person to see me.

“Oh Dear God James, yer alive! Everyone thought ye hae been killed in France“

She put her arms around me, still talking and very emotional as she did so.  She was extremely excited and I could feel her shaking all over.

“Yes, it’s me Nurse Murray.  It’s a long story but I’m the lucky one to have made it back.”

“I moost go tae fetch Gillian.  I canna believe mei eyes.  Joost ye stand put Lad.”

She scurried off down the hallway.  I stood there anxiously waiting and in less than a minute, I saw the two of them headed my way.  My heart was pounding when our eyes first met.  She stopped for a brief second and then came running towards me.

“Jamie…….Jesus, Mary and Joseph, it’s ye Jamie.”

I held her tightly in my arms not caring who saw us and the minute we broke away, we kissed for the longest time.  I knew right away that I was in love with her.

“I canna believe it’s ye, Jamie; we all thought ye had been killed in France.  Billy Burnet came  oop and told us joost a few weeks ago”.

Laura jumped in and said, “Gillian, ye need tae take the rest o’ the day off Lass.  I’ll hae Mary Beth coom in and fill yer spot.”

Neither of us needed much coaching to take Laura up on her offer.  Gillian went to get her jacket and I thanked Laura for being so kind and as soon as Gillian returned we headed out the front door hand in hand.

“I prayed every day that ye would be back.  Even when Mr. Burnet told me that ye were killed, I wouldna let myself believe it.  I can’t get oer how well ye look.  I’m sae excited right now. We can walk doon the hill tae my place and talk.  How long can ye stay Jamie?” 

“Three days.  Three whole days.”

I put my arm around her and we made our way down the hill.  It was still very cold in Scotland and the skies looked like rain was on the way.  Gillian had a small flat at Sandbed about half a mile up Buccleuch.  We no sooner got in and the rain started to come down.  Gillian took both of our jackets and hung them up, then she took her white cap off and shook her hair loose and came over to me.

“Kiss me like that again Jamie, the way ye did oop in the hospital.”

She looked so beautiful with her long auburn hair and her eyes sparkled so.  I swept her into my arms again and as we kissed, I could feel the warmth of her body against me.  It was absolute heaven being here with her and kissing like this.

“You are so incredible Gillian.”

“It’s ye Jamie.”

“What can you tell me about Hetrick?”

“Aye, Hetrick.  Well, about 2 months after ye left tae go back tae yer base, Dr. Buchanan sent a letter tae the base at Molesworth advising them that Mr. Hetrick should not be returned tae duty.  Later on, Mr. Hetrick was visited by an Army Doctor who concurred with Dr. Buchanan and Hetrick was sent back tae America.”

“What kind of problems was he having?”

“He was having dizzy spells.  Dr. Buchanan said they may go away in time.”

“So that’s why no one at Molesworth knew what happened to him.  I was asking around about him and no one knew anything.”

“Do ye still hae these feelings for me, Jamie?”

“Yes and they are even stronger now than before.”

“Oh, ye dinna ken how guid it is tae hear ye say that.  Kiss me again, I need ye tae hold me close tae ye one mare time.”

I looked directly into her eyes and drew her into my arms again.  Every dream that I had the last few months now being fulfilled as our mouths hungered for one another.  It had been over a year now since I had seen Gillian and if anything, she was more beautiful than before.  She told me to sit down while she fixed some tea but I paid no heed and followed her into the kitchen and wrapped my arms around her from behind while she got the water for the tea kettle.  As soon as she got the stove lit, she turned around and kissed me again.

“I’ll nae be letting ye go this time wi’ out ye making love tae me.  I need ye Jamie MacGregor just as I need the water I drink and air I breathe.”

I felt the warmth of her mouth on mine again, my hands roaming down her back to her waist, the ecstasy of her kisses, the way she looked at me, every move, every touch, my hands now on the sides of her hips pulling her up close to me as we kissed endlessly.  

“I need you too Gillian.”

“I canna wait fer the tea, Jamie.”

She turned around quickly and turned the gas nob off, then she took my hand and led me directly to the bedroom.  The curtain was pulled and the room was quite dim but enough light for us to see one another.  We stood in each other’s arms again, this time my hand finding the fullness of her breast.  The both of us were breathing heavier than normal as we started to undress.  It was less than a minute before my shirt and t-shirt found their way to the floor along with Gillian’s nurses uniform. I wrapped my arms around her again pulling her up very tightly to me, the both of us trembling slightly with the sensation of our new found intimacy.  I could feel myself becoming aroused as my hands explored the naked skin down her shoulders and back.  As we were kissing, I began to fumble with her bra strap, the tiny clips much too small for my hands but I managed to get them undone and could feel her breasts fall free as the bra joined the growing pile of clothing on the floor.

“You are so beautiful Gillian.”

“I love ye Jamie, I have right froom the first day they brought ye into the hospital.”

We soon found ourselves in bed wrapped in each other’s arms, my hands exploring every part of her lovely body.   Hélène had told me that I would know right away if Gillian was still in love with me and she was right.    

“I dreamed of ye cooming back tae me and lovin me like this, the two o’ us joined as one.”

“During the time I was in jail in Spain, it was the thought of having you like this that kept me going.  All I could think of was getting back to England and to you.”

It was well after 1400 hours before we got out of bed.  Gillian fixed some tea and made us both a sandwich and we sat there and talked.  I could see that she was alive with excitement over my having come back to Hawick.  She wanted to know all about my ordeal in France and how it was that I had been reported killed in action.  We talked for another hour and then decided to walk to town.  It was still overcast but the rain was not coming down.

“How far is it from your place to High Street?”

“Oh, it’s nae far, we can make it in aboot two minutes.  Where would ye like ta go?”

“First, I would like to go to the Hawick News.”

“Aye, we can do that, it’s joost a short walk.”

We walked hand in hand and in a few minutes we were on the High Street.  I remembered Billy Burnet taking us past this exact spot just about a year ago when we went over to his house for a visit.

“Maybe tomorrow we can go over and visit Billy Burnet and Anna.”

“Aye, we can do that too.  I’m joost so glad tae have ye here wi’ me.  I love ye Jamie MacGregor.”

We came to a stop on the sidewalk, the both of us facing one another and I could see the love in her eyes.   I took her into my arms and hugged her right there on the High Street.

We had soon arrived at the Hawick News and the minute we went in, JR spotted me.  He was sitting there at his desk typing and he was genuinely shocked when he saw me.

“Glory be Jesus, it’s MacGregor”

He quickly got up from his perch at the desk and came over and vigorously shook my hand.

“Isn’t it joost wonderful news JR.  He wasna killed oer there in France.  Ye need tae print a retraction o’ the story ye did aboot Jamie nae long ago.”

“Aye, Gillian, my fingers are itching tae write aboot it but first,  ye and MacGregor need tae sit doon and tell me all aboot it.  Let me get Mr. Douglas.  I’m sure he will be very interested in this too.”

In a few minutes, JR was back with the editor of the Hawick News.

“Mr. Douglas, this is James MacGregor, the son of yer friend Arthur MacGregor.   He wasna killed in action in France as we reported a while back noo.”

“MacGregor, so yer Arthur’s boy.  One nice thing aboot running a newpaper, ye get tae see miracles every sae often and this is surely one of them.  Tell us about it lad.”

We shook hands and everyone gathered around while I related the story to them of my ordeal in France.  When I was all done, he told JR to get it all down so that it would make the Hawick News for the weekend.  After that, Mr. Douglas took us on a tour of the news and we got to see the way a newspaper was made from start to end.  While we were making the rounds, he asked me endless questions about my father.  He told me that my Dad wrote to him quite often and many of the things he had to say were printed in the News Editorial Page.  Gillian and I had been holding hands the whole time and Mr. Douglas was quick to notice.

“James, I see ye and Gillian seem tae be very close.  Is it a wedding I see nae too far oof?”

I could see that his comment made Gillian blush and I squeezed her hand.  We looked at each other, neither of us knowing what to say.

“We have not discussed marriage Mr. Douglas.  What with the war going on and all, the Army has pretty much got control over where I go and what I do.”

“Aye, I ken how ye moost feel when it’s nae possible tae do the things ye want.”

We left the Hawick News shortly after the tour that Mr, Douglas had given us and continued on down the High Street.

“Jamie, I didna expect Mr. Douglas tae speak aboot marriage.  I was a bit embarrassed.”

“I had a feeling you were, your face turned red there for a bit.  I hope what I said was ok”

“Aye, it was.  I had no idea how to respond to him.  Where shall we go now Jamie?”

“Oh, I have no place in particular to go.  I just wanted to walk up and down the High Street as it was something I wanted to do when I was in Hawick before and missed out on doing it.”

As we walked along, I noticed that some of the flats above the shops had these strange glasses on the outside of the windows.

“What are those mirror looking things I see on the windows up there above the shops?”

“Those are keeking glasses.  It allows the tenants in the flats tae see oop and doon the street while sitting in their chair in the room.”

“Very interesting.  So it’s a way for them to see up and down the street without poking their head out the window.”

“Aye, have ye no got them in America?”

“I’ve never seen anything like it.”

When we got to the Memorial Horse, we stopped for a bit.  We were standing there holding hands and looking up at the statue and I knew that this was part of Gillian’s life here in Hawick.  I didn’t know for sure if she would ever leave the ‘grey old toon’.

The Horse War Memorial, Hawick Scotland

“Gillian, in one of your letters you told me about how you thought you could never leave Hawick but had since then changed your mind.  After my next two missions are over, I will be sent back to America and I was wondering if you would ever think of living there?”

“I want tae be with ye nae matter where ye are Jamie but I would like it to be here in Hawick.  I ken it’s a toochy subject but hae ye made oop yer mind aboot this other woman?”

“Evelyn McCurdy sent me a Dear John letter just about a month before I got shot down in France.  She told me she had found another man and that she had fallen in love with him.  I wanted to write and tell you about it before Christmas but somehow the words would just not come to me.  It was something that bothered me badly at first but the longer I was in France, the more I wanted to get back to England and be with you.  When I first looked at you this morning in the hospital, I could feel the magic again, I could see the love in your eyes.”

“Och Jamie, you dinna ken how long I’ve wanted tae hear ye say those words.”

The clouds turned the Hawick sky to a dark grey as we made our way back down the High Street to Sandbed.  We no sooner got inside and the rain started coming down in torrents.

End Chapter 21  











Chapter 22

Heading Home

The three days with Gillian came to and end much too quickly and once again I found myself back at Molesworth.  It was Monday, the 24th of April when I walked into the Administration Office and after spending a few minutes at the main desk, they had all of my paperwork back in order.  They gave me a permanent ID and orders to report back to the 359th.  The crews were on a mission to Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany and I spent most of my day getting things organazied again.  When they returned, I found out that one plane had been shot down and two had gone to Switzerland where the planes and the men were taken into custody.

The following day, I flew on my 29th Mission.  The target was Metz/Frescaty Airdrome, France.  It was ironic that this mission took us right over the Pas de Calais/Hesdin area and just as I had told Brigitte Royer, I would look down and wave at her one day.  I knew of course that she could not see me but I’m sure the sight of the planes going over could not escape the eye of anyone below.  We had a very successful mission with no casualties and no planes lost.

My last mission was to Sottevast, France to bomb more of the V-Rocket Installations.  It was a short mission lasting just over 4 hours and I was the happiest guy alive after we set down in Molesworth. 

MacGregor's Final Mission

The following day just after lunch, I was given word to report to Colonel Bray’s Office.  I thought perhaps it might have something to do with going home.  This was my third trip to his office so I was pretty familiar with the procedure by now.  Once again I found myself standing at attention while the Colonel was on the phone.  He had me stand at ease as soon as he got off.

“MacGregor, it seems every time I see you, it’s because of an unusual event and this time is no different.  It seems that a Doctor Buchanan from Hawick, Scotland has sent us a letter and a package that was intended for you.  In the package was a piece of shrapnel that he said he pulled out of your leg.  He said he forgot to give it to you and thought you might like to have it.  Do you recall getting hit with shrapnel?” 

“Yes sir, I can remember us getting hit and there was this big gaping hole the size of a watermelon right behind my head and right at that time my leg was stinging very badly.  I pulled my glove off and reached down and drew back a handful of blood.  Several hours later the plane crashed of course and you know all about that.  I completely forgot all about that because it was a minor incident compared to breaking my leg and ribs during the crash.”

“Well MacGregor, this makes you eligible for the purple heart.  I’m surprised that Lieutenant Clifton didn’t find this out when he talked to you but in any event you need to report back over here at 1500 hours.  General Beasley from the 8th  Air Force Headquarters is scheduled to be here to present medals to several others and we can just add you to the program.  Do you have any questions, MacGregor?”

“No Sir”

Jesus, the purple heart.  It was just a small cut on my leg.  I went back over to the barracks and dug out my dress uniform.  General Beasley arrived promptly at 1500 hours and there were 14 of us lined up to get the medal.  The General’s Dress Jacket was all but covered with medals and I doubted very much with the situation the way it was with me about to go back to the States, whether or not I would get any more.  Once the presentation was over, I stopped by the motor pool and talked with Billings for a while.

“Look at this Sarge, the Purple Heart.  I got a small piece of shrapnel in my leg during that Scotland crash and they gave me this.”

“How come it took them so long?  That was over a year ago wasn’t it?”

“Yeah, I guess it just slipped by.  I never even gave it a thought but Dr. Buchanan from Hawick sent this piece of metal down here and that’s what triggered the whole thing.  I guess he dug it out of my leg the day of the crash.  That was something how one minute I was sitting there in the tail aware of everything and then boom, nothing till I woke up and saw this angel like face looking down at me.”

“You going back up to see that gal before you get sent back home?”

“I don’t know Sarge, they never told me yet when I will be heading for the States.  You got any idea on how long it takes?”

“You should know the Army by now, it could be tomorrow or it could be a month from now.”

“Yeah, all I can do is wait and see what happens.  Hey, did I ever tell you about those wood burning cars in France?”

“No, what the hell are you talking about?”

“Well when I was staying with this gal named Marjolaine Meyet, she had one of these wood burners.  Damndest thing I ever saw Sarge.  They could not get gasoline so they developed this wood burning set up.  It’s like a round wood stove and you put wood in there and as it starts to burn, it creates a gas.  This gas runs through a filter and then to the engine.  It’s a really simple set up, the only problem is distance.  It can’t go too far before you need more wood.”

“You’re shitting me.”

“No, really Sarge, I got fairly used to driving her wood burner into Châteauroux, France for supplies.  I could make it in and back from Châteauroux because it was not too far.  I was as surprised as you when I first saw it.  It didn’t have a lot of power but it sure beat walking or on the bicycle.  I got to thinking what would happen if say a blower was added to the system and it would somehow pressurize the manifold.  I bet that sucker would go then.”

“Where do you come up with all these ideas?”

“Don’t know, they just go whirling around in my head.  Well, I better head on over to my barracks and see if I can find out more about how to get my ass back to the States now that my missions are completed.”

“OK, take it easy.”

The following day, the 359th was headed for Berlin.  It was April 29th, 1944 and it seemed strange for them to be going and me still here at the base.  About an hour after they had gone, I was told to report to administration.  When I got there, I found out that I was to leave Molesworth on May 3rd for Bamber Bridge, England near Liverpool.  It happened much quicker than I thought.  I spent the next couple of days cleaning out my locker, saying goodbye to everyone, and writing a letter to Gillian.   I had to let her know that I was being sent back to the States. 


Dear Gillian,

I finally completed my 30 missions and will be sent back to the USA very soon. There is some talk about extending the missions to 35 but I don’t think it will affect me.  Completing the missions does not mean that I will be getting out of the Army, only that I will be re-assigned to duty in America.

At this point and time, I have no idea how all of this will play out.  There are so many uncertainties when we are in a War such as this.   I will be getting a 30 day furlough after I get home and I’m sure that I will go to California to see my Mother.

My address will be a bit different when I get to the states because I will no longer be assigned to an APO so we will be out of contact for a while. 



Two weeks later, I was aboard the HMS Franconia headed towards the good old USA. 


 It took us almost two weeks to make the crossing, pulling into New York Harbor on the night of the 17th of May, 1944.  We got off the ship the following day and then we were transported to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.  From there, we were taken by train to Ft. McPherson in Atlanta, Georgia where I was given a 30 day furlough.

It was the 23rd of May when I walked into the station in Atlanta and purchased my ticket to Youngstown.  For the first time since I had gone overseas, I felt totally safe being in a train station.  There were no armed guards, no requests to see my ID, no fear of being grabbed and hauled off to prison…..It was sure good to be back in the USA.  It was exactly 1300 hours when the train pulled out from the station.  My ETA in Youngstown was 1100 hours on the 24th and I had brought some reading material in anticipation of the long trip.  I also picked up a newspaper just before boarding the train and as soon as I got my bag stowed and sat down, I had a look at the news.  Most of it was about the Allied advance up the boot of Italy.  The 3rd Division had 950 dead, wounded, and missing in the Anzio area alone.  It appeared to be a very bitter battle but there was a steady move to the north of Italy and I felt by the end of June the Allies would be in Rome.

There were quite a few military on the train, one car with nothing but Army personnel.  I also noticed several MP’s but there mostly to keep the men in line as fights tended to break out every once in a while in such situations.  I read most of the afternoon and evening, sometimes stopping to view the towns as we passed through.  I had never been in Chattanooga before but it looked much like other American towns from what I could see of it.  I had to change trains in Lexington, Kentucky.  We reached there at 2300 hours, a brief layover and I was back on another train, this time headed for Cincinnati.  Once I settled in, I laid my seat back and fell asleep.  It was early morning when I woke up and we were just south of Columbus, Ohio.  I went to the dining car and had some coffee and toast, quite anxious now for my trip to end.  We pulled into the B&O station in Youngstown at 1115 hours.  After having done so much walking in France, it seemed like such a short walk from the B&O Station on Mahoning Ave. over the bridge to Federal Street.

The Palace Theater with Square in Background

I walked down to the square and waited for a bus to Struthers.  My immediate goal was to go to Glen’s and pick up my car.  Once I had done that, I would call my Aunt Lillian and see if she could put me up for a few days.  I also had to go and see Evelyn.  I had no idea how that would work out but I had to pick up my stuff.

Boarding the Bus to Struthers

 Also, I had applied for a gas ration sticker and it was sent to her address at 120 Poland Ave.  The bus trip to Struthers took about 20 minutes and I decided to get off at Sexton and Poland Ave. and go in and see Morris first and then walk up to Glen’s after that.   I did a quick glance over to Evelyn’s house and then entered the store.   The minute I walked in, Morris spotted me.  He came over to me immediately shaking my hand vigorously.

“We heard that you had been killed in action.  It was in the Vindicator a short while back.  Man, it’s so good to see that they were wrong.  What was the deal with all of that?”

“Hi Morris, it was a goof up by the 8th Air Force.  They thought I had been killed near the end of last year in a mission over France but I managed to get out of the plane just before it crashed.  I spent 4 months working my way back from there to England.”

“Did you have to jump out in a parachute?”

“Yeah, I was the only one on the plane that was not killed that day.”

“Well thank goodness you made it.  What was it like over there in France?  I keep hearing on the radio of all the bombing we are doing over there.”

“It’s really bad.  While I was attempting to escape to the south of France, I was on a train heading for Paris and got bombed by our own the 8th Air Force.  I was scared shitless that day.  Also, everything is rationed over there and people are going hungry most of the time because even with the stamps, they can’t get supplies.  There is just not enough food to go around after the Germans take what they want.”

“We never hear about that part of it, mostly about what was bombed and how many were killed.  I just can’t imagine being there and having those bombs rain down on me.”

“It’s just as bad the other way too, being in the air and having the anti-aircraft guns shooting up at you.  There were not too many missions went by when the planes didn’t take some hits.  That B-17 is a good bomber though, it can take a real beating and still get you back to the base.”

“So how many of these missions did you have to fly on?”

“We had to do 30 missions before we were eligible to come back to the states.  I completed my 30th mission near the end of April.  That was my only ticket home.”

“Oh man, so 30 times you had to put your butt on the line hoping you would make it.  I just can’t fathom doing that.  I’m sure glad you made it back safe.  Any plans for your furlough time?”

“Not anything specific.  I’m going to probably stay with my Aunt up in Youngstown and just kick back and enjoy myself for a month.  I thought I would go up and see old lady Patterson.  She’s the one that lived next door to us when we were up on Wilson Street.  Also want to see Glen and see how he is doing.”

“I’m afraid you’re too late to see Mrs. Patterson.  She passed away this past winter.”

“Oh no, what a shame.  She was a nice old lady.  Well Morris, I better get on my way.  I’ll stop in and see you again before I leave.”

“OK, hope you have a good time on your furlough.”

I left the store and started up the hill towards Glen’s place.  As I passed Evelyn’s, I could see that she was not home yet and there were no cars in the driveway.  It was only a 5 minute walk to Glen’s and when I got there, he had just gotten up to go to work.  He was as equally excited to see me as I was to see him.

“Jesus, it’s good to see you back all in one piece Jim, I read in the paper that you had been killed, come on in and tell me about it.  This is incredible”

I related the same story to Glen that I had just told Morris and he found it hard to believe that the Air Force could screw up so bad.

I’m just getting ready to go to work.  I’m working a double shift today so I start at 4pm and get off at 8am tomorrow.  When did you get in?”

“I got into Youngstown shortly after 11 today.  I thought I would come by and see if I can’t get my car so that I can get around while I’m on furlough.  Mrs. McCurdy said that she brought it up here.”

“Yeah, she brought it up last September I think it was.  I just parked it in the garage and it’s been there ever since.  Let me go out and open the garage and we can see if it will crank over.”

We both headed to the garage and Glen pulled the big sliding door open and there was the old ford just sitting there.  I got in and tried to turn it over but it gave one grunt and that was it.

“The charger is right over there in the corner.  I need to get back in and pack a double lunch because I have to leave soon.  Just put the charger on it for a bit and I’ll be back out in a bit to see how you’re doing.”

“Ok, thanks.”

I wheeled the charger over and plugged it in and hooked it up.  I put it on fast charge and after doing that, I looked around the old garage that I had spent so many hours working with Glen’s dad.  Things looked much the same except for one thing; Mr. Leavitt was no longer with us.  He loved this place and I was hoping after the war to be able to talk Glen into going into business together.  After about 20 minutes on charge, I turned the key to the on position and hit the starter button and it fired right off.  By the time Glen got back outside, I had the car out of the garage and everything shut back up.

“I see you got it going.  Tomorrow is my day off so if you want, stop over and we can talk more.  I gotta get going now or I’ll be late for work.  I’m sure glad the Air Force got it wrong.”

“Me too, I drop in on you tomorrow.”

I was first to pull out of the drive way with Glen right behind me in the cherry 38 Ford Coupe that used to be his dad’s.  It still had that brand new look so Glen must have been taking good care of it.  I crossed over to Morrison Street and headed up towards the high school and noticed that Mrs. Dickerson’s store was all boarded up.  We all used to stop there and buy candy when we were kids.  Struthers High looked exactly the same as I drove on by.  Once on 5th Street, I stopped in the Elmton to make a call to Aunt Lillian.  I put a nickel in the slot and dialed her number.


“Hello, Aunt Lil, this is James.”

“Well for Christ’s Sakes James, where are you?  I just got word less than a week ago from your mother that you were not killed in action over there in France”

“Yeah, that’s a long story.  I’m in Struthers right at the moment and I’ll be up to see you once I get all my car stuff straightened out.  I’m on a 30 day furlough and I wanted to see if I can stay with you for a while.  I thought I could get my car all ready and then go out and see mom.  I might have to take the train due to the gas rationing though.”

“Certainly you can stay here.  Will you be here for supper?”

“That’s only a couple hours away so I doubt if I can make it.  I was boarding there next to the store as you know and I have to see what happened to my gas rationing sticker as it was set up to be mailed there so I should be along later in the evening.” 

“OK James, your Uncle Phil should be home by then and I know he will be anxious to talk to you.”

“Thanks Aunt Lil, I’ll see the both of you later tonight then. Bye now.”

It was still a bit early to head down to Evelyn’s so I went over to the bar and ordered a Royal Crown.  The steel mills had let out and quite a few had already made their way in for a drink before going home.  As I sat there drinking my soda my thoughts turned to Evelyn and what it would be like seeing here again knowing that she was living there with another man.  I had to go there.  I needed to get my belongings, especially my gas ration book that I had applied for so long ago. It was 1700 hours and close to the time Evelyn would get home from work so I left the Elmton and drove down Sexton Street to her house.  She had just pulled into the driveway as I got there and I drove right in behind her and got out of the car.  She must have seen me in her mirror because she got out of her car before going into the garage.

“Jimmy, Oh My God, Jimmy.  I can’t believe my eyes.”

She came towards me very quickly with outstretched arms and before I knew it, she had me in her grasp.  She was very emotional with happiness and tears at the same time.  She was trembling much the same as she had done the night she first told me she was falling in love with me.  I was taken totally by surprise as this was not at all what I had anticipated given the fact that she had written me a Dear John letter.  She was trying to speak but the excitement of the moment brought only incoherent words.  I held her close for a little bit hoping to calm her down and finally she blurted it out……

“Jimmy, You’re Alive.”

By this time, she had broken into full blown tears and I was not sure why she was crying.

“Yes, I’m alive.  There were days when I didn’t think I would make it back here but I did.”

Evelyn was still excited but as she began to calm down, the words started to flow more freely.

“I’m just so grateful that you are still alive Jimmy. I wrote you that awful letter and I have regretted it ever since.  It was only a few weeks back that I read where you had been killed in action in France.    I have not been the same since sending you that letter.  It has been on my mind night and day for months now and I can’t tell you how relieved I am to know that you are alive.  I still have all your things Jimmy.  They are right in your room where you left them the day I drove you to the draft board almost two years ago now.”

“I don’t understand Evelyn, the other guy, what about him?”

“There is no other guy Jimmy.

 “There is no other guy?”

“No Jimmy, there is no other guy”

For a minute I was dumbfounded and didn’t know what to say.    

“I was not expecting our seeing each other again to be like this Evelyn.  All I could envision was another man here with you.”

“Yes, I know.  Come in and talk to me.  I can fix us some coffee if you like.  I feel like I’m going to cry again if I stand here any longer with you holding me like this.”

I followed her up the steps to the back porch and held the screen while she unlocked the door.  The kitchen was exactly the same as I had remembered it.  My mind turned quickly to memory of that day in the plane just before the crash in Hawick.  I had prayed really hard during that mission that I would one day be right here in this kitchen again.  Evelyn kicked off her heels as she always did and took them and her purse and set them on the stairway. Then she went to the cupboard and put on an apron and started to make the coffee.  It was almost like a step back in time seeing all these things that I had longed for all those many nights in England.  She came over to the table and sat down across from me, her beautiful blue eyes fixed on mine.

“Jimmy, I’ve never stopped loving you.  Even after you were reported killed, I would sit here alone at the table drinking coffee and think about you.  That wonderful night that we danced alone down in the park late at night, the toboggan and the snow angels, that awful blizzard and how nice it was to come home to you that night, the heartache of you having to go off to war and most of all the nights alone in bed with you.”

“Then why did you write the letter?”

“I think it was in August or September of last year....... I hadn’t received a letter from you in over a month so I decided to call your Aunt in Youngstown to see if she had heard from you.  She had not had any word either but she gave me your Mother’s phone number so that I could call and see if she had anything recent.  I called your mother out in California and she had just recently heard from you which was a relief to me but she wanted to know more about who I was of course and when she found out that I had gone to school with your sister Dorthia, she was very critical of our relationship because of my age.  As you well know, this age difference was of concern to me at first as well but even so, I fell in love with you.  

After talking to your Mom, I about went crazy….she said you were only a young boy……much too young for me.  I knew she was right and I went through hell thinking about it.  I agonized over it for two weeks and then decided to write you the letter telling you I had found someone else.  I know now that I made a mistake by writing you that letter and I would take it back in a heartbeat if I could.”


“I don’t know what to say Evelyn.  I must have read that letter at least 100 times not wanting it to be true.  I carried it all through France with me but the words ‘another man’ always jumped out at me.  When I was in the hospital in Scotland, I met a nurse there.  We became friends and at first I thought it was just a flirtation that would go away when I got back to the base but she wanted me to make a commitment to her.  I couldn’t do it because of you but later on that year in October, I got the Dear John letter from you.  Even then my only thought was to get back home to you.  I just could not believe that you had taken up with another man so I put in a request for transfer back to Combat Duty so that I could complete my missions and come home.  With any luck at all it would only have taken me about a month to do 15 more missions but luck was not on my side and I got shot down over France.  As time wore on, my hopes of getting back home became less and less.  When I finally got back to England, they gave me a 7 day pass so that they could get the paper work straightened out because they had me listed as killed in action.  I went back to Scotland to see her.  I stayed with her for 3 days Evelyn.”

“I’m so sorry for messing things up Jimmy.”

Her eyes started to well up and I watched as a single tear trickled down her cheek, then another.  She brought her hand to her face letting the tips of her fingers wipe the tears away before starting to speak again.

“Is there still a chance for us?”

“When my 7 day pass was over and I got back to Molesworth, Master Sergeant Billings told me there wasn’t a chance in hell that I would ever get you back.  Even so, I flew my last two missions and came home to see for myself.  It’s the first time I ever knew him to be so wrong.”

Hearing me say that, she was up from her chair and into my arms in a matter of seconds.   We stood there in each others arms and for the first time in over two years, I knew I was finally home.

It took us both a while for it to sink in but as we stood there kissing each other, I knew more than anything else in the world, that I needed her just as much as she needed me.

 “Evelyn, I’ve got to run over to McPhee’s for a minute, I’ll be right back, ok?”


“Yes, I need to call my Aunt Lillian and tell her I won’t be coming up to her place to stay tonight but to expect the both of us tomorrow night for supper.”


The End



















After the war, the steel mills in Youngstown and Struthers began to disappear one by one. Everything began to change and as more and more cars came along, the busses that used to go everywhere also disappeared from the scene. There was a fire at Idora Park and it was never rebuilt and many of the steel bridges over the Mahoning River also found their way to the scrap pile.

The End of the Line for Idora Park

 The population of Youngstown dropped drastically and the downtown area soon became a ghost town. About the only thing that didn’t change much was the park behind the store in Struthers. They added a couple of tennis courts but other than that, it looked pretty much the same as it did in 1942 when I held Evelyn in my arms and danced down there in the dark.

I’m not sure exactly when I made up my mind to go back and retrace my steps during the war. Evelyn had passed away in 1980 from breast cancer at the age of 72 and Glen and I sold the garage in 1989. I got my first computer in 1995 so I guess it was sometime shortly after that I decided to go. I was in my 70’s by this time and had been surfing the net and found a good deal on a round trip to Paris. It had been over 50 years since I had said goodbye to Gillian at the train station in Hawick. I had no idea if she was still alive or not but something was tugging at me to go back.

It was Monday, June 16th 1997 when I took off from the Canton-Akron airport for Chicago. There was a several hour layover there and then we boarded a huge 747 Airbus for a direct flight to Paris. It was about a thirteen hour overnight non-stop flight arriving in Paris just before the noon hour. I knew I would be too tired to drive that day so I just decided to stay in a hotel for the one night in Paris. The following day I took a cab to the train station. Gare du Nord was not much different than what I had pictured it in my mind with the exception of the absence of Germans with rifles lashed over their shoulders. My plan was to go south to Châteauroux first. I took the Metro to Gare d'Austerlitz, made my way to the ticket counter and purchased a ticket to Châteauroux. I had no idea what Ardentes would look like after so many years. I was very disappointed to find that the estate where Marjolaine Meyet had lived was empty, run down and in total need of some tender loving care. I managed to find out from some of the local people that Jolaine had moved to the United States in 1945.

My next thought was to see if I could find Jean Ménard. I stayed the night in Châteauroux and left for Abbeville the next day. I retraced my steps back to Paris and then boarded a train to Abbeville. It was just after 12:00 pm when the train arrived at the Abbeville station. I was hungry and decided to have lunch before leaving the terminal. They had coffee in France now but even so, it was much too strong for my liking so I had the waiter thin it down with some hot water.

I rented a car right there at the terminal and headed north on Rue Saint-Vulfran over the same bridge where I had seen the two German soldiers so many years ago. There were many more automobiles in Abbeville now but still a few bicycles here and there. I followed the same path Ménard had taken me and although it was an hours walk to town from his place, it took me only 15 minutes by car. The road was paved the whole way now but I recognized the house the minute I saw it. I pulled up in front of the house and as I did so, I could see an old man working alongside the house in a garden. I got out of the car and walked towards him. He looked around to see who was coming and as I got closer, he leaned on his hoe.

“Is it you, Ménard?”

“Yes, I’m Ménard, who are you?”

“James MacGregor”

With that, his eyes lit up. He dropped the hoe and walked towards me with his arms exteneded. I could still make out his features, much older like myself of course but he still had the moustache and that warm feeling of making me feel welcome.

“James, is it really you? I never expected to see you again. Come into the house, we have so much catching up to do.”

“Yes, it’s really me Jean. I decided to retrace my steps during the war.”

We had no sooner entered the house and Ménard began to shout.

“Hélène……. Hélène, where are you? We have company.”

I heard her voice coming from the other room before I saw her.

“Who is it Jean?”

“You will never guess in a million years”, he replied.

By this time she had walked into the room. We stood there looking at each other, our eyes both searching the memories. Her hair was totally gray, her face wrinkled but there was no doubt in my mind that it was Hélène Renaud. I could see that she was having a hard time trying to figure out who I was so I spoke first.

“I’m James MacGregor, Hélène.”

She stood motionless for a few seconds before a smile made it’s way to her face.

“James MacGregor, the American who’s plane was shot down in 1943? I can’t believe it’s you James.”

Jean chimed in with “It’s MacGregor all right. Come into the living room and sit down. Let me get us all a glass of wine.”

We had a grand re-union, the three of us re-living some very old memories. I was saddened to hear that both Adrian Royer and his sister Brigitte were shot by the Germans for harboring another American Flyer in 1944. I stayed the night and the following day I headed back to Paris and then on to England.

From London, my next stop was Molesworth. I don’t know why I wanted to see the place again but I did. I was able to make my way to Huntingdon by rail. The station there was a bit more modern now and I was even able to have a taxi run me out to Molesworth. Many of the old buildings were gone now but there were enough left to bring back the memory of what had once been.


A Quonset Hidden in the Brush

Portions of the runway and what was once the Control Tower were still there. Most of the buildings were gone but a few walls were still left standing.

 I walked around for a couple of hours making sure I had seen everything. Standing there looking out at Molesworth, I could almost smell the fuel…….. hear the roar of the engines…….oh so many years ago it all seemed now. I had told the cab driver to come back and get me in a couple of hours and he was right on time. I climbed into the cab, took one last look and then we headed back to Huntingdon.

My last stop was Hawick. Aunt Dora had passed on and Victoria was now living in Australia so there was no need to go to Edinburgh. Aunt Dora’s son Albert had been killed in North Africa. There was no longer any rail service to Hawick with the Waverly Line being dis-continued in 1969 so I took a bus from New Castle over to Hawick. I had made a reservation at the Kirkland’s Hotel in Hawick so I checked in there for the night. The following morning, I rented a car and drove to downtown Hawick. I was surprised to see very little change had taken place; the storefronts were a bit brighter but it was still the same ‘Grey Old Toon’. The Hawick News was still there so I parked the car and walked over.
The last time I had walked through this door was April 20, 1944, some 53 years earlier. As I entered, a young lady at the desk asked if she could help me.

“Yes, I’m James MacGregor and I was in the Cottage Hospital here in Hawick many years ago during World War Two. I’ve more or less come back to see if any of the people I knew here in town are still with us. I knew a JR Robertson that worked here at the News. Ian Douglas was the editor of the paper at the time. Do you know if they are still around?"

“I’m afraid both of those gentlemen have passed on Mr. MacGregor. Their pictures are ore there on the wall”

“I was afraid of that. They were both quite a bit older than me at the time. Have you heard of a Gillian MacKenzie or Anna Burnet?”

“Aye, Anna Burnet held a post on the Hawick City Council aboot five or six years back noo. She lives out in Denholm. I dinna ken a Gillian MacKenzie. There is a nurse at the hospital named Allyson MacKenzie, she is aboot 50 years old though so she would only hae been a baby when ye were here. I can look oop Anna’s address if ye like.”

“Yes, please do Miss.”

She handed me a sheet from her notepad with Anna’s Address; I thanked her and went back to the car. Since I was already in town, I decided to go over to the hospital and enquire about Allyson MacKenzie. It was a longshot that she might know Gillian but surely worth a try.

As I pulled up the hill to the hospital, my heart was pumping at a faster rate. I parked the car and headed for the front door. The bench that Gillian and I had sat on so long ago was still there but it had been replaced with one made of steel, with wooden seats. Everything else outside looked much the same to me. I went to the front desk and spoke to the nurse on duty.

“Hello, my name’s James MacGregor and I was a patient here in the hospital during World War Two. A nurse named Gillian MacKenzie worked here back then and I was wondering if you know anything about her. The young woman at the News said that an Allyson MacKenzie works here and I thought perhaps they might somehow be related.”

“I believe Gillian is Allyson MacKenzie’s mother. Allyson is here, would ye like me to have her come and talk wi’ ye?”

“Yes, I would appreciate it.”

The minute she told me, my heart skipped a beat. I was a bit confused with Allyson MacKenzie having the same last name as her mother, if in fact it was true that Gillian was her mother.

The nurse had me sit down in the waiting room. My hopes of seeing Gillian were soaring now. I couldn’t sit down and began to pace the floor. In a few minutes, a woman walked in and the minute I laid eyes on her, I knew it was Gillian’s daughter. She had the same eyes, the same smile, the same curl to her lip when she smiled and even though her hair was filled with wisps of gray, there was no doubt in my mind that she was Gillian’s daughter.

“Hello, Mr. MacGregor, I’m Allyson MacKenzie. The Nurse Kirk said soomthing aboot ye knowin my mother way back during World War Two.”

“Hello, Allyson. I was a patient of hers here in this hospital back in 1943. I was in the US 8th Air Force at the time and our bomber crashed here in Hawick just across the river from the hospital. We became very good friends and I would sure like to see her. Is she still alive and well?”

“Aye, mother and I live in Jedburgh. She’s well enough except that she forgets sae many things. The doctor tells us she’s in the beginning stages of Alzheimers. I dinna recall her ever mentioning the name MacGregor. Our place is straight oot Weensland Road. Would ye like me tae give ye the address?”

“You’ll have to forgive me for staring at you Allyson but you’re the perfect likeness of your Mother. By all means, give me the address. I’ve come a long ways to see her and I must confess that I’m a bit nervous right at the moment at the prospect of seeing her again.”

“It’s 14 Foothill Terrace, Jedburgh. Here, let me draw ye a wee map sae ye can find it right off. It’s nae far froom here, aboot eleven miles.”

She quickly drew a map and then told me to go right back through town, then out Weensland Road through Denholm and then make a right onto A68 in the small town of Bonjedward then a short ways down A68 to Jedburgh and then near the center of town, left onto Foothill Terrace.

“Thank you so much Allyson. Don’t be surprised if I’m still there when you get home as your Mother and I have a lot of catching up to do.”

“Aye, Mr. MacGregor. I joost hope she can recall who ye are.”

I walked back out to the car and headed down the hill to town. I thought I might be able to stop in and see Anna on the way back to Hawick as the short trip to Jedburgh passed right through Denholm.

It was a short drive to Jedburgh and I soon found myself pulling up in front of 14 Foothill Terrace. I parked the car and walked up to the front door and knocked. Once again my old heart was pounding as a young boy about 15 years old opened the door.

“Hello, my name is James MacGregor and I’m looking for Gillian MacKenzie. I’m an old friend of hers from World War Two.”

“That’s my Grandmum sir, coom in and let me get her for ye.”

I stood just inside the front door and in a few minutes the two of them were back.

“Grandmum, this is Mr. MacGregor, he says that he kent ye during the war.”

There was not the slightest doubt in my mind that it was Gillian. Her hair was totally gray and she had the wrinkled lines in her face but her beautiful blue-green eyes and the slight curl in her lip as she smiled told me it was her.

“Hello Gillian……do you recognize me? I’m Jamie MacGregor.”

She looked a bit puzzled so I continued on with more information.

“It’s been over 50 years since I last saw you. You were only 24 at the time and working as a nurse at the Cottage Hospital.”

“Jamie MacGregor? The young lad whose bomber crashed in Hawick?”

“Yes, but the young lad is now an old man. I’m not sure exactly why I came back after all these years. I suppose my conscience would not let me go on without knowing what happened to you. ”

“Jesus, Mary and Josheph, and all these years I thought ye had somehow been killed in the war. Coom in and sit doon Jamie, I’ll have Allan fix some tea. How did ye find me?”

“Well, I went to the Hawick News and they told me that a woman named Allyson MacKenzie worked at the hospital so I went over there and asked. I was surprised to find that it was your daughter.”

“Aye, ye may be a wi’ bit mair surprised when I till ye Allyson is yer daughter as well and young Allan yer grandson. Why did ye no coom back tae Hawick after the war, Jamie?”

I was totally shocked by this revelation, almost to the point of being speechless. I didn’t know what to tell her. At that moment, Allen had brought us tea and went off to his room to work with his computer while Gillian and I continued to talk.

“Oh My God Gillian. I had no idea. It’s even hard to believe now that you’ve told me. I wondered why Allyson had the same last name as you and now I know. If I had known that you got pregnant and had a baby, I would surely have come back. I feel so awful about this. Obviously Allyson knows nothing of this otherwise she would have known who I was, right?”

“Aye, she doesna ken. Ye still didna say why ye never came back tae Hawick.”

“After I had completed my missions, they sent me back to the United States. When I got home, I went up to my buddy Glen’s to pick up my car. Then I went down to Evelyn’s to get all my belongings. I had left everything I owned in her care when I got drafted. While I was there talking to her, she broke down and I found out there was no other man in her life. She had sent me that Dear John letter because she had not heard from me in a long time and called my Mother to see what she knew.  During the conversation, my Mom found out that she was much older than me and more or less scolded her telling her that I was just a young boy.  Evelyn had those same thoughts early on herself and decided to write me the Dear John letter. She was very mixed up and depressed but she still loved me and needed me Gillian, and that’s why I stayed. I had no idea that you were pregnant or things would surely have gone very differently. My buddy Glen and I re-opened his Dad’s old garage after I got out of the army and I more or less settled into my life there in Ohio. My whole life I had wanted to have a child but Evelyn was unable to have children due to the beating she suffered at the hands of her husband.…….it’s just so odd that all these years I had a child and didn’t know it.”

“Jamie, the Lord works in strange ways. He wanted ye tae ken sae he sent ye back tae me. Maybe now it’s time tae tell Allyson aboot us.”

“Yes Gillian, the years left are not many for you and me, we need to let her know who her father is. It’s time she knows.”

I had planned on going to see Anna Burnet on my way back to town but there was no hurry now. I had a feeling I would remain in Hawick for a long time to come. There was no one left in Ohio, no real need to go back……..and here in Hawick, a new found daughter and grandson…….and Gillian MacKenzie.

The End

Many of the events depicted in this book are a matter of public record relating to World War Two. Many of the scenes were created around historical incidents of the 8th Air Force, Molesworth, England during the time period of 1943 to 1945. There may be persons still alive who took part in events similar to those in this book, however, all the characters in this book are fictional with the exception of public figures such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Churchill, Hitler, Eisenhower and the like who are all a part of history during this time period.

James MacGregor is also a fictional character as well as the many personal events that took place in his life before and during the war. The book was my attempt to show how so many typical young boys just out of High School were hurled into the War, with some who lived to tell about it and others who did not.

Much of the research for this book was gathered from the 8th Air Force Chronological records found on the internet as well as from discussion groups such as the 303rd Bomb Group Association. Most of the men who served during this period are now in their 80’s with many of their experiences a matter of record on their web page.

The conditions in France during this period were as depicted in a novel “Marianne in Chains” by Robert Gildea. This novel covered all aspects of daily life in France during the German Occupation.

The 8th AF was activated as part of the U.S. Army Air Forces January, 28, 1942, at Hunter Field in Savannah, Georgia. Brig. Gen. Ira C Eaker took the headquarters to England the next month to prepare for its mission to conduct aerial bombardment mission against Nazi-occupied Europe during World War 2, under the leadership of such generals as Eaker and Jimmy Doolittle.
The 8th AF became the greatest air armada in history. By mid-1944, the 8th Air Force had reached a total strength of more than 200,000 people (it is estimated that more than 350,000 Americans served in 8th AF during the war in Europe). At its peak, the 8th Air Force could dispatch more than 2,000 four-engine bombers and 1,000 fighters on a single mission. For these reasons, the 8th Air Force became known as the "Mighty Eighth".
The Mighty Eighth compiled an impressive record in the war. This achievement, however, carried a high price. The Eighth Air Force suffered half of the U.S Army Air Forces' casualties in World War 2 (47,000-plus casualties with more than 26,000 dead). The Eighth's personnel also earned 17 Medals of Honor, 220 Distinguished Service Crosses, 850 Silver Stars, 7,000 Purple Hearts and 46,000 Air Medals. Many more uncounted awards were presented to the 8th Air Force veterans after the war. There were 261 fighter aces and 305 gunner aces in the Eighth in World War 2, and 31 fighter aces had more than 15 or more aircraft kills.





MacGregor’s War © 2006

GK “Scotty” Walker