Thursday, October 15, 2015

Remembering the Great World War II

Remembering the Great World War II


I was ten years old when the greatest war of my life ended. The official date was September 2, 1945, but we first heard the news about two weeks before. I remember my mom and dad and a few close neighbors wanted to go celebrate the end of World War II in downtown Decatur, Illinois, my hometown. Red and Lil Fleming wanted my mom and dad to go downtown with them to see the big celebration that was taking place. One of my aunts watched the other kids, but Dad and Mom took me along because I was the oldest kid and had shown more interest in the war than the others. My twin sisters could have cared less about the war because they didn’t understand it. I think my Uncle Harley met us downtown near the square.

            Red Fleming, our wonderful neighbor just across the street had served in the U.S. Army Cavalry and saw active service in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. He had been discharged and came home just a few weeks prior to the ending of the war. Red never told any us any stories about his war experiences, but we knew that he had been through hell over there. We knew he suffered some minor mental problems from what he had endured on the battlefield.

Red was a truly wonderful man in every respect. He had worked at Swift Ice Cream in Decatur prior to being drafted into the army, so when he was discharged, he went back to work for Swift again. He drove a truck that delivered ice cream to stores all over our part of the state. We loved Red because he brought a box of ice cream bars to the Meredith kids about once every week. We also loved his wife Lil and his dog Poochie. Red and Lil were childless, so they more or less adopted the Meredith clan, and we adopted them as our favorite neighbors. Poochie thought he was our dog a lot of the time because anytime one of us was outside, Poochie was there to play with us.

I remember we parked and walked two or three blocks to get to a spot where we could see the celebration festivities. We stood on North Main Street somewhere between Linn & Scruggs Department Store and the Lincoln Theater. People who lived in the apartments on the second and higher floors of some of the buildings were throwing paper confetti and making all kinds a racket with horns, firing shotguns, beating pans with spoons, and yelling. It was a wild and exciting time for a ten-year-old kid like me. A stage had been set up just across from the old Transfer House on the square and several people, I think including the Mayor of Decatur, gave speeches and made announcements that caused all the people to yell and cheer like crazy.

I think we stayed downtown for about two hours. I just remember I was really tired from trying to see through all the tall adults standing in front of me. There was a big parade with lots of military people walking down Water and Main Streets. There were also bands of all kinds and just a bunch of people following along singing songs. People were really happy the war was over and our soldiers, marines and sailors would all be coming home, except for the thousands and thousands who had been lost in battle.

On the way home, Red told me, “I brought something from the war back for you, Sonny. I’ll get it for you when we get back to the house.” I wondered what it could be, but as soon as we arrived back home, Red went in to his house and brought it over to me. It was a German soldier’s helmet that he had recovered in a fight somewhere in France. It was a black helmet with a big silver spike on the top of it. I treasured that helmet for many years, and sad to say now, I have no idea what ever happened to the helmet. My guess is that someone took it from our house. I hated that it disappeared.

Paul R. Meredith - Date: Unknown

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Getting Caught in the Closet

Getting Caught in the Closet:

There had been a really bad car accident one evening up near Maroa. Several people were involved in it, and I heard one person was killed. I was called to the ER to help transport patients into and out of the wait area and in to the ER hold area. One of the women, a girl I knew pretty well, was a patient from the accident and I ultimately was called to take her to my floor to the female wing where she was placed in a traction for multiple broken bones. She was sleeping during the time I transported her after her initial surgery, so she had no idea I was helping her in any way.

The day following the accident, I went in to see her, but she was sleeping, so I didn't bother her. But the third day I went to see her, she was awake and feeling decent, so we talked for a few minutes. I explained I had brought her up to this room after her initial visit in the ER.

The girl's name was Allis. She was a senior at school just as I was. She was going steady with a friend of mine named Gene.  He had also been hurt in the accident but was taken to the other hospital in Decatur, St. Mary's Hospital. I never knew why, unless it was due to overcrowding.

While Allis was in the hospital on my floor, but down in the women's wing, I generally stayed over after I got off work at 12:30 to go visit with her for half an hour or so. After about the third or fourth day, we started kissing. I had her trapped in her tractions devices, because both her legs and one arm were broken, as well as her collar bone. She was really bruised up badly, but not so badly that she didn't enjoy the kisses. Eventually the kisses turned rather more passionate than before, so they progressed into more serious touches of her body (and mine). Of course the traction setup and her pain wouldn't allow much of anything further, but we still enjoyed the signs for the future when she would be released from the hospital, although there were never any firm promises for intimacy. She still had her boyfriend Gene to consider, as I did my girlfriend Karen. Karen and I had been going steady for a year plus, but I was growing restless with her. She wanted more freedom to move in her social circles than my six-day a week night job could offer. I knew the relationship would have to end sooner rather than later. I did not want to waste another birthday or Christmas present on her.

On the last evening I went after my shift to visit with Allis, we were really busy smooching up a storm, when what to my sensitive ears did I hear but the clomp-clomp of what I knew beyond any doubt was Mrs. Draggert's hard-heeled shoes. They were coming down the hall towards Allis' room. I quickly covered her up and jumped into the stand-up closet that was in her room. I barely could fit in the narrow closet, but I managed to squeeze inside just as Mrs. Draggert entered the room. She saw Phyllis was wide awake, so she went to her bedside and said, "Good evening, my dear. How are you feeling now?"
                Allis muttered something incoherently in response. I could not make it out clearly, but I could see through the narrow crack of the slightly opened door that she was sweating bullets. I think she might have said, "I am good," or something like that.
                Mrs. Draggert smiled at her and said, "That's good to hear. Now, I was really looking for my orderly, Paul. Have you seen him this evening?"
                "Whhooo?" Phyllis said.
                "My evening-shift orderly, Paul. You do know him, don't you?"
                "Uh, yes, we go to school together. He is in one of my classes at school."
                "So have you seen him this evening?" Mrs. Draggert asked again.
                "No, but I think he's off work by now, isn't he?"
                Mrs. Draggert said nothing more to Allis, but she turned on her heel and marched right over and jerked the closet door open and told me, "Step down out of there, Paul."
                I did, and she grabbed me by my ear and walked me straight down past the three nurses at their station as they stared in awe at me wincing in pain. We went straight to Mrs. Draggert's office where she tossed me in the chair facing her desk. "Now, I am going to give you exactly three minutes to explain to me why you were in that girl's room, what you were doing with her, and why I should not fire you this very minute."
                I was rubbing my ear as I tried to explain. "She is a good friend of mine from school. I was just seeing if there was anything I could do to help her."
                "Yes, and I could tell that you were attempting to do just that about the time you heard me coming, right?"
                "Uh, well, it wasn't exactly what you might think. We're just friends."
                "Very close friends I must assume, because I definitely could tell there was something sexual about to happen."
                "No, that would not be possible. She is in traction," I insisted.
                "Yes, and I must say it was skillfully manipulated so that you could crawl in bed with her. Did you realize we were about to bring a new patient into that empty bed beside her in a few minutes? The new patient was being prepped to go into that room with your friend. Do you realize what would have happened if they had brought her in while you were busy doing whatever you were about to do? You would have shamed the hospital, plus probably have cost several of us our jobs."
                "I'm sorry, but I really wasn't doing all that much wrong."
                "Oh but you were. So now tell me why I should not fire you on the spot, Paul."
                I sat there as I tried to think of an answer. "I won't do it again," I told her.
                "Oh, believe me, I can guarantee you that I know that," she said. "Now, again I ask, why should I not fire you right now?"
                I was very nervous, realizing it was about to be curtains for me and my job. "Because I am the best orderly here at this hospital and I have not missed one day in more than two years of employment. And besides that, my patients and my nurses all get along really well with me." I sat in silence while she gave me that special Draggert stare that sliced right through me.
                Then she spoke. "Paul, I am very, very angry at you right now. I am also very angry with Brenda and those other nurses for allowing you to stay with that girl like that. Don't you dare try to tell me they didn't know, because I know they did. I will not ever tolerate that kind of behavior from you or from any of them again. I intend to go speak directly with them tomorrow as soon as they come to work." Then she just sat there. Finally she told me, "Get out of here."
                I stood to leave, but I had to ask, "So, am I fired?"
                She stared at me again in that special way. "Did I say you are fired?"
                "I don't know for sure, but I don't think you said it directly."
                "If I didn't say it, it must not have happened. I will see you tomorrow.
                Man, I could not wait to get out of her office. She was a really mean woman. That is why I feared for what she would say to the nurses the next day. Everyone was petrified of her.
Allis and I never got together after that--not at the hospital or even later when she was released. I continued dating, but not with Karen. I had moved past her and found a new girl by then. Allis and Gene continued to date through high school and eventually they were married.

This continued my record of never having been fired from any job I ever had in my life. I came close a couple of times, but I always managed to salvage the situations somehow. This trend continued for the remainder of my life until now, and since I am retired, I assume it will be a lifetime of never being fired. Not too many people can say that.

Paul R. Meredith