Chapter 22

Wed to Betty Cayen

Since I was not yet married, my great aunt had various girls invited for dinner. One of these was named Carolyn Standoff, daughter of the greatest pistol shot in the United States. Her father, however, had been recently shot and killed by a jealous husband. It seems ironic that he was killed by a tool with which he was probably more familiar than anyone else. Another girl I remember was named Beverly Hamilton, who came from a very wealthy family.

Although I enjoyed the company of these girls, I was very much in love with the girl back home. All others paled by comparison. It was amusing at the time, however, when you consider that there were more than thirty thousand soldiers in the area who desperately wanted to meet any kind of girl, and I had met quite a few very nice ones with no effort on my part.

A group of fellows in my company went to a dance in Sulpher Springs one night and coaxed me into going with them. Sulpher Springs was a small suburb of Tampa dominated by retirees from the north, and they put these dances on for the soldiers. I was too shy to ask any girl to dance, so I sat them all out. A girl seated beside me struck up a conversation with me. During the conversation she mentioned that her parents thought little of soldiers. During peacetime, the Army was a haven for all the misfits and did not have a very good reputation. I explained to her that the present army consisted of boys from all walks of life, and it was no longer possible to judge a man because he wore a uniform.

Apparently she brought my argument home to her parents.  A couple of weeks later I met her at another dance, and she told me that her parents would like to meet me. She suggested that the following Sunday I wait outside the church they attended. I was not particularly anxious to so because, as I said, I was quite shy. But I felt that this was a challenge not only to me, but to every decent boy in the Army, so I agreed.  I was determined that my courtesy and deportment would be such as to change their conviction forever. The girl's name was Lessie Lee Harris, and her father's name was George. I met them after church, and they invited me home for dinner. Apparently my determination to present the Army in a good light paid off, since I was invited to their home every week, and they came to trust me to such an extent that they encouraged me to take their daughter everywhere, even though she was only sixteen and an only child. You can be sure that I never violated that trust. I felt that the reputation of the entire Army depended upon me.

 The Nuptials

Sometime in October Mrs. Cayen wrote me that Betty was pregnant. She was very worried, but I was delighted. At last Betty would be my wife, and I need never again fear losing her.

I explained the situation to my commanding officer and got an emergency leave to go home. When Betty and I went to St. John's Church, Rev. Kennedy said, before we had a chance to open our mouths, "I know you two want to be married. Since Betty was not talking to her father, and he had little use for me, he was not informed of our intentions. I stayed with my sister Elizabeth and her roommate in a small apartment they had downtown while our blood tests were being processed. The wedding was held at St. John's Church. My brother Pete, his wife, and our mother arrived in time to attend. Just as I was best man at Frem and Fanny's wedding, he was the best man at mine. This was sometime in November of 1942. I was never able to remember our wedding date.

We later went to McConville's Hotel for our wedding supper with members of both families. Betty and I took a room for the night. I had little time to spend with my new wife. She took the train to Utica where we stayed the night with my Aunt Leona, with my father and mother also present. My father never told me, but by his actions I could tell he was very proud of me. Both he and my aunt were totally engrossed with Betty. We slept for a few hours and the old folks woke us up at five o'clock to catch the train to Union Station. I boarded immediately, after saying good-bye to all.  Betty took another train shortly after to return to Ogdensburg.

 Turning Down Gold Bars

I do not like to dwell too much on my Army service since I contributed very little to victory in either theater of the war. Our outfit was a permanent cadre, which means that we had little chance of shipping out, but were permanently assigned to this particular base. The only way one could increase in rank was if someone above you died. Since we were all young, that was highly unlikely. A friend and I went to the provost marshal's office and asked if we could join his outfit. He told us that the paperwork would be too much, and also warned us that we could be in serious trouble if word got out that we had seen him without our Company Commander's permission.

I was greatly surprised when I was called over to the Company H.Q. and the 1st Lieutenant told me that I had scored highest in the company on an IQ test. He asked me if I wanted to go to Officer's Candidate School. Badly as I wanted to leave the outfit, I declined. I was still so shy that I doubted that I could handle a company of men. I was afraid that I would stutter, and I was not gung-ho enough to have much dedication to military discipline. Also, it was said that if one were an officer you automatically became a member of the reserve and could be called back at any time.  Also, I did not like the Army that much.

Dick was born while I was in the Army. Being the first, my wife had a very hard time with him. I was able to get a furlough for a few weeks after he was born. I did not tell Betty I was coming home, but walked up the stairs and into the bathroom where she was bathing the baby. When I grabbed her from behind she almost had a heart attack, but she was as overjoyed to see me as I was to see her. My brother Pete, who had just recently entered the Navy, as well as my sister Elizabeth, who was going with a Navy buddy of Pete's showed up in town. We amused ourselves by trying on each other's uniforms. I still have pictures of this.

 A Lifelong Enemy

Although the officers of our outfit were great, the same could not be said for our non-coms. One corporal, in particular, whose last name was Gott, tried to get a rise out of me. He hated me quite as much as I hated him. As his hazing intensified, I managed to convey my impression of him as a first class moron without actually saying or doing anything which could be considered insubordination. There was never the slightest doubt in my mind that I could render this man limb from limb, but if I had invited him to take off his stripes to have it out, he might have declined and turned me in. Under the articles of war I could have been severely punished for suggesting it.

I used to dream of meeting this man after the war, and would fantasize on different methods I would use to prolong his life while inflicting the maximum punishment on him. I was quite serious about this at the time, and had I chanced to meet him outside the Army, he might not have been alive today. At this late date he is not likely to be alive anyway.

It is an odd fact that though one may forget the many very nice people one meets in life, you remember only those whom you have disliked. The Army then was composed mostly of very nice fellows, and all of them realized the need for discipline. But it seemed that most outfits had at least one man like Gott who used his authority to degrade rather than discipline. I would imagine that most of those who disliked the services obtained this dislike from one or two men like Gott, out of all the thousands they met.