Note: I am keeping in many of Arthur‘s misspellings and mistakes, though there aren’t many. “Rog” is my grandfather, Roger Garrison, and “sweet” is my grandmother, Blanche Garrison. And the comment in the third paragraph referrs to a slightly leaky pen that Arthur was using.
In the deep blue yonder.
Between Bermuda & the Azores
January 1, 1946
Happy New Year!! And what a New Year’s Eve and Day for me to remember. At the moment (7:28 AM) I’m sprawled in a bucket seat while all around me on the floor are spread out my fellow passengers, shapeless chunks under quilted cotton blankets. Under these conditions feminine hair is no crowning glory, believe me, as it straggles out from under the covers in a supine tangle on the o.d. quilt.
But let’s begin at the beginning. Just about ¾ hour after you left me, Rog, I was alerted for 8:00 PM that day (Sunday). So I hurried to get repacking completed—until 4:00, when the field called and announced flight postponement until mid-night. So I eased off and went to the Danielsons’ for my last dinner. Home at 10:00 & phoned the field to learn that continued unfavorable weather conditions necessitated further delay. “Report at six AM” were the orders.
My alarm awoke me at five and I rang the field. No further delay anticipated. (I don’t know whether it’s me, the paper or the pen at an altitude of 10,000 or so feet. Excusit please, so solly.)
Eleanor Rankin had offered to take me to the ATC Terminal, so I woke her by phone and we soon headed out into a dreary, sodden rain, stopping for cold doughnuts & coffee on the way.
The time at the Terminal until our scheduled departure hour was fully occupied with weighing in, going through Customs and listening to a briefing on what to do if we were forced to crash-land on water. On the dot of seven we were told to enplane, but after getting all set, and sitting for 20 minutes we were told that visibility had suddenly closed in & we couldn’t get started, not too disappointing, for it permitted us to wrap ourselves around a good breakfast before taking off.
We finally got off the runway at 9:45 AM. and I had a chance to take stock of my surroundings. Our plane is definitely of the cargo type, – bucket seats for about 15 lining part of the two walls, – canvas bottoms stretched on a metal frame, with lattice webbing backs. Except for one pile of cargo, 6’x6’x4’, and one personal baggage, the balance of the floor space is clear, allowing generous opportunity to circulate and sleep the entire passenger complements (quilts courtesy ATC). The bucket seats are far from uncomfortable, particularly with a quilt folded on them, and we have unanimously decided that we prefer the cargo plane to the plush job, despite the complete lack of interior decoration. The walls are well insulated to keep down sound & the cabin is comfortably air-conditioned. The only fly in the ointment is that the captain won’t let us smoke—we’re carrying too much gasoline in the compartment just forward of the cabin. And just about now we are all in dire need of the lift to be obtained from a smoke.
Now for my fellow passengers. There are 13 of us, – 8 girls & 5 men. All of the gals & three of the men are headed for OMGUS, all civilian but Lt. Engle, Med. who is going to Frankfort to set up a nutritional section to try to get better food to Germans & DPs (displaced persons).
For an odd assortment we get along delightfully, and stick together in the air or on the ground. The other two passengers, an Army sgt & Navy hospital corpsman, don’t mix with the rest of us. Our girls are all in slacks, o.d. shirts & g.i. WAC blouses.
The trip to Bermuda was mainly through broken overcast and against a strong quartering wind, reasonably smooth except for about 15 minutes when our C-54 was kicked around like a Piper Cub – everything loose was thrown around the cabin and our seat belts were sorely tested. I have never seen its equal. The only one whose stomach rebelled was one M.D. and he has had his share of twitting as a result.
We came down at Kindler Field, Bermuda, at 3:10 Bermuda time (2:10 PM E.S.T) & were immediately assigned guest billets. The temperature was 76° and my long woolies, wool shirt & heavy blouse were painfully uncomfortable. But it was dress for Berlin & Paris and suffer Bermuda & the Azores – or vice versa. After visiting Billets the 11 of us gathered in the officer’s mess hall for a huge & starchy lunch. We wanted to see something of the islands & have a New Year’s Eve celebration, so, as soon as fed we got passes off the reservation and climbed into the bus (g.i truck) for Hamilton, 18 miles away, with a full load of g.i’s aboard. It was the start of one of the most enjoyable N.Y’s.E. parties I’ve ever been on – and one of the cheapest. We three men shared the expenses for the 11, including dinner & drinks & were stood up a total of $8.80 apiece. Everyone was in a happy mood and one table in the patio of the New Windsor Hotel; under the crystal cut stars and bathed by the kindly breeze, was the focal point of all the g.is who passed by. And a swell bunch of kids they were, – effervescent, witty, a bit high, respectful but not in any degree retiring – and not a suggestion all evening of anything rough or vulgar. Our party was finally persuaded to take the 9:30 “bus” to the Post and go to the big enlisted man’s dance in the Gym. Gradually, bit by bit, members of the party cut loose & headed for bed, but several of the gals didn’t even see bed. I was in at 11:45 but got no sleep prior to being alerted at 1:15 for a 3:08 AM start.
We showered, dressed and put away a huge breakfast before bussing to the Terminal. A bunch of the more irrepressible of the g.i. lupines were there to see the gals off. As usual, the start was delayed and we had time for a lot more coffee before our wheels left the runway before 4:10 AM.
As soon as we started we men spread the quilts — and this is where you came in.
It is now 3:35 PM Azores time (12:35 Bermuda time) and we are still an hour or so from the Azores, where I plan to mail this. The trip from Bermuda has been on a billiard table, but we are warned that it will probably be a bit rough near the islands.
They plan to spend a couple of hours here, then head for Paris, arriving about 6:30 AM Paris time (5.30 Azores) tomorrow.
From all of which you may deduce that I’m doin’ very well, thank you, and only hope that the balance of the trip will live up to that which is already memory.
I hope your plans went smoothly, Rog, from the moment you left Alex. until your overheated tea kettle drew up in front of 17 Norwood. And I certainly hope & pray, sweet, that your subsequent affairs are going smoothly and satisfactorily. And I hope that there will be no hitch in the line of communications when the news breaks.
The crowd is loafing around, some dozing on bucket seat or floor and others are perusing the current magazines (over seas editions). I think I’ll join the former for a few winks before we land.
Love to you all,