In honor of D Day, I’m re-running this post about a WWII vet who met his sweetheart in an Arkansas diner. – RDK
I sat in the “family section” at my great-uncle Charlie’s funeral listening to the minister narrate his life story. Long-time members and family friends filled the pews to extend their regards and say their last goodbyes. Uncle Charlie’s history about his veteran status in World War II, his commendations and a letter from his commanding officer were detailed. He had served on several islands, and was on Midway when the Japanese attempted a takeover. Evidently, two islands made up “Midway,” and Charles was on the Sand Island portion when some pretty heavy action took place. He was also stationed on Russell Island which was bombed so frequently Charles got conditioned to the warning sirens and sometimes slept right through all the noise and chaos.
I hadn’t known about the honor, valor and courage my Uncle had shown during WWII. I quietly listened while trying to soak in the details, but some of the language of the various battles and specific missions were foreign to me. I was mentally making a note on “books covering WWII to read when I finished school,” when a love story began to unfold from the pulpit. My ears perked up as the minister began sharing anecdotes about how Uncle Charlie and my Aunt Audry met. I grinned…my Uncle was a schemer! A few weeks after I returned home, I wrote his daughter and ask for permission to share the story of how they met. My cousin not only granted permission, she sent me a few photos. Cue a small-town Fayetteville, Arkansas scene. The year was 1950….
Charles was home after the war and had traveled to several places between 1945 and 1950 before landing his present job as a fry cook in a bus station. Knowing his personality, he probably took his job seriously but evidently had a chance to look up one day…and notice someone. A young lady had come into the cafe with her friend, both wearing beauty operator uniforms. Later to his friends and family, he described the tall, dark-headed customer as “the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.” He couldn’t take his eyes off her, and began to search for clues as to who she might be. I’m certain he figured out a few ways to peek out of the kitchen and check on the intriguing customer. He noticed she was wearing a beautician’s uniform, and confirmed this information with the waitress once the object of his affection and her friend left the bus station.
All day long Charles certainly thought about his vision, and on into the night as well because he eventually arrived at a plan. He decided he must look for her, and recalled that his Uncle Curtis was running for a local political office. He proposed to Curtis that he become a volunteer for the campaign, then spent the next few weeks visiting every beauty parlor in Fayetteville with campaign fliers in his hands.
He found her, he asked her out, and they were married on August 26, 1950. Three months after she walked into the bus station cafe.
Note – thanks to his daughter, Marcia, for providing me with some of the details of this story. If you are privy to information of another “Love Story With Oklahoma Roots,” please visit our “Contact Us” tab. We’d love to share it with our readers.
For more on the Coward family of midwestern Oklahoma, visit these stories: http://www.reddirtchronicles.com/category/grandmothers-memoirs/