Chapter 20

Standby,     Mark!
by Lynn Forshee

The classes were becoming more difficult as time went by.  The celestial navigation classes were asking us to come up with a location within one mile on the chart using a three star fix and that’s a lot of math.  Then too, the physical education classes were getting tougher.  The dreaded obstacle course which left you retching and glad you hadn’t eaten recently seemed to be getting longer, crawling, jumping, climbing, leaping and any other devious method of torture they could think of.

 

Then as from the very beginning we had classes in recognition with them showing silhouettes on a screen in a darkened room with a projector, starting with one-fourth of a second and graduating on up to one 2,000th of a second.  We had to be able to identify a ship as to type, class and country such as, destroyer, Benson class or 1917 class, American or enemy, German or Japanese.  The same was required of aircraft and after identifying you would have to give the wingspan and any other pertinent data.  When you came out of that darkened room your eyeballs would be spinning for a while.

 

The food wasn’t too bad but as always we were marched to the mess hall in formation and fed in order of platoons, no individuality would be accepted.  We often thought of other classes who had gone elsewhere and probably right now were walking around individually in their dress blues or dungarees instead of these V5 uniforms.

 

We were also used in a reforestation project and taken out in a truck to some clearings a short way out of Athens and given large buckets of seedling pine trees which we planted mostly along hill sides, probably to cut down on soil erosion.  I wondered what would grow in this red soil and thought someday I would like to return and look at the forest we had created.

 

I was called from class one day and told that I should contact the Red Cross as they had been informed that my mother was quite ill.

 

I contacted the local office by phone and was told they would arrange for emergency leave.  As it was close to payday I was short and was able to borrow a few bucks from them for the bus trip back to Britt.  My dad and Jennie met me at Ames and at some time on that trip home from Ames I had asked Jennie to marry me.  Well, at least she didn’t say no but I do know that she was feeling some responsibility to her mother as a bread-winner at the time.  I returned to find that my mother was already improving and we started making plans for a wedding.

 

The wedding was held in my folks home with family gathered around.  Rev. B. A. Rust performed the ceremony and Jennie’s sister Eileen and my brother Don stood up with us.  When the preacher came to the part, “with all my worldly goods I thee endow”, I thought, Oh boy, there goes my fountain pen and sea bag.  Didn’t realize until then that I really didn’t own anything and what a way to start out a marriage.

 

It blew up a blizzard that night and we had to stay in town with my folks.  We did manage to get uptown to the photograph studio for pictures however.

 

We decided that Jennie would accompany me back to Athens and we would look for an apartment.  The wedding was on Feb. 10, 1944 and by valentines day we were on a train out of Ames bound for Athens.  We made one change at Terre Haute, Indiana and by the time we arrived in Athens we had all the train riding we wanted.

 

We got in late in the evening and took a cab to the hotel which was on the same street  the college fronted on but some distance away as the college was farther out on the edge of town.  The next day a one room apartment was found just down the street from the hotel and the only thing that went with the room was refrigerator privileges.  This was not the last time we were to be in this situation.  There were two others from my class who had upstairs rooms with their wives.  Jennie met Mrs. Gilardi and they became rather good friends after discovering that he and I were in class together.  One of her other close friends was Lillian Thrifily who worked across the street in the laundry.

 

There was no let up in the classes, I would have to get out of bed at 2 or 3 AM to go out to the college for star class hoping that Jennie could get back to sleep again.  Then the hand to hand or martial arts training was quite strenuous.

 

We had to learn all the ways of disarming an attacker and various ways of killing with the bare hands.  I had a black belt instructor and the gym was laid out with a corner for us to practice, mats hung from the walls and on the floor.  One day while working with my instructor we somehow got off the mat and he did a body throw on me and tossed me up against the brick wall.  I slid off the wall and laid there unable to move.  They hauled me off to the hospital, examined me and tied a weight to my right foot with a rope over a pulley and called my wife to come down and look at me.

 

I was in constant pain and told the doctor that it was my back, not my leg.  I had a nurse that believed me though and when leaving at night she would put the weight up on a chair so that I could get some sleep.

 

One day Jennie didn’t come to see me and I learned that she was in bed with neuritis.  Guess what, she ended up with the same doctor I had, a Doctor Rice and he had us both on codeine.  By now she was in more misery than I was.  I finally got notice that they were going to release me, but I could still hardly walk.  The doctor examined me again and said “you were right, it was your back (they had finally taken x-rays).  I was excused from push ups and some of the more rigorous exercises for a short while but walking back to the apartment was probably doing me some good.  I had two broken vertebrae in my lower back.

 

Jennie was if anything getting worse, by now I couldn’t touch the bed or walk heavily on the floor.  It would soon be time to go to the next base at Memphis, Tennessee and how would I get Jennie home.  When the time came we knew we would have to come up with something and I had a friend who had a convertible which would be a bit easier to enter.  We got Jennie into the car as carefully as we could and took her to the chiropractor for diathermy treatment.  It seemed to help but we only had one more day.  The next day she made the trip again and the day after we were offered a ride to Mason City, Iowa with another couple.

 

It was a difficult ride for Jennie as it was non stop and few chances to get out and stretch.  Britt never looked so good as it did this time.  Jennie started doctoring locally for the neuritis and would do so for years to come and my back problems would never quite leave.

 

Copyright ©2004-2007 Lynn R. Forshee.  All rights reserved.
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