The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Alabama Gal

By Dora P. Maine © 1991

Issue: June, 1991

Editor's Note... As June is also the month for weddings, the following story is about a World War II bride and how "the best laid plans of mice and men" often go astray.

My name is Gladys Tarr. I was born in November, 1915, in Jackson County, Alabama, near the edge of Lookout Mountain. We lived thirty miles from Chattanooga, Tennessee.

My parents were Scotch-Irish. I had two older brothers, James and Ray. They were typical brothers who took care of me, but they teased me constantly chasing me with ugly frogs and snakes and inventing scary tales about mad dogs.

My sister was five years younger than I. She was Mother's pet. I have to admit to sibling jealousy. My mother was tiny and full of vim. She was a neat housekeeper, her sewing was fantastic. She was powerful for a small person. She had a will of iron and she ruled the roost.

My father was a circuit Methodist minister. He preached on alternate Sundays for those good country people. He was also involved in lumber and cotton gins. Tenants did the farming and we had wonderful vegetables and fruit trees.

We had the usual animals; cows, horses, pigs, chickens, dogs and cats. I had the sweetest black lamb as my pet. I wrapped him in a blanket like a baby when he was small. He was a rare breed, his grandfather came from Australia. He used to meet me a mile from home as I returned from school. How I loved Blackie! We wondered how he knew what time and place to meet me.

I graduated from High School when I was seventeen. I was class valedictorian and I excelled in math. My father was extremely proud of me. I was able to take care of all his records and bookkeeping while I was still in school.

Of course I was in love with the tallest football player on the team. I still have memories of that first love.

After I finished high school I worked in a dress shop in Chattanooga till my father became ill. He suffered many months before his death.

Home was not the same without my father. I longed to leave and live my own life. An old school friend, Nita, invited me to join her in New York City. Her husband, Paul, was a successful lawyer who would be able to find employment for me.

So I packed and joined Nita and her husband. Because of my experience in math and bookkeeping I was able to help out in Paul's office.

I saw all the wonderful sights that the city offered. The dress shops thrilled me. I loved riding the double-decker buses.

I attended the church where Norman Vincent Peale preached. I spoke to him and he gave me a booklet that I shall treasure always.

The year was 1941. War was pending! I went with a girl friend to Bridgeport, Connecticut to work in an ammunition factory. There I met my future husband, John, in September. We went to a dance on New Year's Eve. That night I received my diamond engagement ring.

Next I took my handsome fiancé and my diamond ring back to Alabama to show off and to make my friend envious. He was Polish with a slight accent. He was a city person and I was curious to know how he would react to life on the farm and meeting my numerous relatives.

He went over big! My mother liked him from the beginning even though he was Polish and Catholic. All the relatives were happy for me since he agreed that I did not need to become a Catholic. Also we would not have to raise our children in the Catholic religion.

John loved my family. He liked southern food red-eye gravy and grits and fried chicken. He sat on the steps with my grandfather and listened to his stories of the past. He went coon hunting with my brothers. Our visit home was highly successful.

John and I planned our wedding date for the day before Easter. Our honeymoon was to be in a hotel in the Catskill Mountains. We made arrangements for a week's absence from our jobs. His work was highly technical which had required much training. His company did not expect him to be drafted into service. His work was high priority.

My best friends went to the city with me to shop for my wedding trousseau. We went to luncheons and floor shows where they modeled wedding gowns. I was so excited looking forward to my wedding. My beautiful gown, all lace at the top, had yards and yards of chiffon in the skirt with a long train. That gown was what I had dreamed about for years. We were in the last week before the wedding. My mother and sister had arrived. The three bridesmaids and maid of honor, my sister, had their gowns ready. My mother's gown was blue to match the dresses of the bridesmaids.

There were three bridal showers that week and rumors were that the bachelor party would never be forgotten. The rehearsal was smooth we were ready!

Then came the earth-shattering news!!! At seven o'clock on Saturday morning the phone rang! My John was crying and hysterical! With no warning he was being shipped on a troop train going south for Army boot training. He was allowed one phone call before the train left. He told me to stay in my apartment till I heard from him.

I was numb with shock! I repeated what he had told me and then I was speechless. I was lying on the floor face down. I felt stiff as a board, wondering if I would ever unwind. My mother groaned then she moaned then she screamed. My sister quieted her with a cup of tea and two nerve pills.

Two hundred people must be contacted before they appeared expecting a wedding. My sister dialed the phone time after time. At last that was done. I packed my wedding dress in a special box. The wedding gifts were carefully stored. My mother was ready to go back to Alabama with a broken heart.

Three days later John called from Miami Beach where he had been sent for boot training. His head was shaved and his skin was full of needle holes. His boots were two sizes too large and the drill sergeant called him dirty names. The good news was that after training six weeks we could be married and he would send for me. John thought that I should be with my mother till the time came, because he might be sent elsewhere later.

I went to Alabama but I could not join John in six weeks. It was impossible to find a place to live. Friends tried to find any sort of living quarters for us. We would have been grateful for anything short of an igloo. It was almost seven months before we were married in Dade County courthouse. No frills! Strangers were our witnesses. But what a longed for occasion!

John was stationed at the Raleigh Hotel on Miami Beach. He was mess sergeant at the officer's club for six years.

He met many famous persons while serving there. Clark Gable trained there for a few weeks. Jimmy Stewart also trained there.

By that time we were in love with Florida. We bought a home in 1948 at 1500 NW Street in Miami Beach. One son and one daughter was born there.