Are you ready for another human interest story? When I first came to the home of the E. family - and, by the way, let's give them a name - even if it is fictitious. Let's give them a nice Indiana County name: "Elder," (Erb - MEY) When I first came to Elder home, and did my first morning's dusting in the living room, I came across a beautiful Mother's Day card, laid like a choice book or a timeless motto on the mahogany table, between two handsome photographs. Since it was nearly two months past Mother's Day, it must be a prized possession, to lie so long in the immaculate living room. A woman's curiosity made me look inside - although I fully expected to find from one to four masculine signatures. But no. It was signed, "With love, Leona" And who was Leona? This must be she - in one of the large photographs. A girl in her late twenties - in an army nurse's uniform - bright-eyed, purposeful, who looked as if she were steadfast in her loyalties. In the beautifully-appointed dining room, stands a hand-carved nut or fruit dish in the center of the dining table, its base a music box. A little white car, a bit dingy with time, says, "Merry Christmas from Switzerland. Leona". Who is Leona? She must be an important person in the lives of the Elders. Reticent little Mrs. E. had not mentioned her. At breakfast the next morning Mr. Elder told me the beginning of her story - a story that is heart-breaking evidence of the curse of liquor. Leona's people are Bohemian. Thirteen years ago, when Leona was seventeen, her father came home one night light of purse, but heavy with liquor. There was an argument about money matters. In a drunken rage, in the presence of Leona, the father clubbed the mother to death. The father, of course, went to prison, and the three children - Leona and two younger boys - were taken care of by the Catholic Charities. Their pitiful story reached the ears of Mrs. Elder, who is Catholic. Her husband is not. She wanted to give Leona a home. Mr. Elder believes it is the most worthwhile thing they ever did. "That girl has everything. Finest girl I ever knew," says Mr. Elder. Leona is devoted to her foster parents and brothers, but she looks after her own brothers just like a mother. One of them is a shiftless rat, just like the father, but Leona never lets go. She wanted to be a nurse, so the Elders sent her to the School of Nursing. They had the money to do it, but she insisted on making her own way. As soon as she was a registered nurse and making good money, her father (who must have had a brief prison term) began to come around here, pestering the Elders, and accusing them of trying to take his daughter away from him. Leona despised him, and begged Mr. Elder to get rid of him. The wretch was so obnoxiously persistent that Mr. Elder called the Euclid police, and suggesting that they give him a ducking in the lake. They did. He was so badly scared that he hasn't been around these parts since. When the war broke out, Leona enlisted, and was sent overseas early in the war. She spent 29 months in Plymouth, taking care of the evacuation casualties. She was sent on the planes that brought the boys back from the fighting zone. Sometimes she made as high as 20 trips a day. Twice a certain young captain came back, wounded. She nursed him back to at least fighting strength. She lost her heart to him. Her letters home were full of him - the only man she ever cared for. They were to be married when the war was over. And then one week-end he and some of his buddies got a pass up to London. There they went on a drunken spree. When the captain "woke up," he found he had married some London girl. Leona was, of course, well rid of him. But that was the finishing touch - to sour her on men. Why is it that such a splendid girl is marked for tragedy? A handsome young man, whom I met just after I came here, has been desperately in love with her. He told me he was trying to buy a car, so he could drive down to El Paso to see her. She is stationed in an army hospital there. But because he borrowed a matched set of golf clubs from the Elders, and sub-loaned them to a friend, who smashed one, she denounced him utterly in a letter to her foster parents, and will have nothing to do with him. One morning, before Mrs. Elder was up, a strapping big fellow came to the front door, and asked for Mrs. P. "No, I'm sorry. You must have the wrong number." He was friendly - and persistent. "When I was in an army hospital in England, my nurse gave me this address, and told me to look up her people when I came back to Cleveland." Of course Mrs. Elder came down at once, and had a long talk with him. He told of his own serious wounds - the whole left side of his body full of shrapnel - and what marvelous nursing he received at the hands of Leona. "All the fellas wanted her for a nurse," he declared.
She responds to every call - even from her foster brothers. Bob wrote and asked her to try and get him a Mexican belt. Back came a package for Bob, containing a handsome tooled leather belt, reinforced with silver and gold. The Elders know that the biggest thing they ever did - with the richest dividends - was making a home for a motherless girl; who, out of her own tragic life, has learned how to mother hundreds of suffering and homesick soldier boys.
This seems to be vacation week. Mr. and Mrs. Elder and Gene have gone to the Summit Hotel, at Uniontown, Pa., for a week's vacation. Bill, the 16-year-old, has gone to his uncle's farm near Lima, Ohio. Virgil Sr. and Charlie have driven to Washington D.C. And now, as I write, a letter awaits me at the Plainfield address - from Ina - saying that Knox and his family drove Ina and Marjorie all the way up to Seattle, Wash., from their home in Glendale. They drove up there to visit our boy, Virgil, who is stationed at Geiger Field, Spokane. They were to visit him the day the letter was written. And now, if schedules worked out, Ina and Marjorie are back at Point Pleasant again - after a marvelous trip and vacation.
I wish there were time and space to tell you all about Skippy's party last night. After nearly a week of being on excellent behavior, without his mamma, he was allowed to have a party - in the rumpus room downstairs. Girls are much more considerate than boys. When those adorable girls found that I had been baking the cookies and cup cakes for the party, they came upstairs en masse, and dried the dishes in my belated dishwashing. Sweet, wholesome youngsters, still so shy that the girls dance with the girls, and the boys play ping-pong and dispense the "cokes" at the soda fountain. The juke box was going all evening. Skippy is a delightful host - and an altogether delightful boy. Taking care of him and Bob has been a genuine pleasure. Until next week,
Florence B. Taylor.
Next - 8/24/46 -Virgil Jr.'s on furlough, No column
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