We dashed from our berths in the bowels of the boat to the main deck. My mother held my brother in one arm while I grabbed onto her dress. All dependents were told to get on deck near their assigned life boats. Lots of words were spoken over the PA system. One of those words was “hurricane.”

We were supposed to sit down on the deck and hang on to any part of the ship that was immovable. We did.

It was 1947, and we were returning from Germany, where my father had been assigned during the occupation.

The force of the rain and wind stung our faces. The ship pitched and rolled. Waves washed over the deck and everybody on it. Very different from that pleasant cruise-like crossing we’d enjoyed just a year ago on our way to Schweinfurt, Germany. I remember asking my mother if the boat could tip over. Crew members were sliding from port to starboard and back, hitting the rails hard. Mama reminded me it was a ship, not a boat and “No,” it could not tip over. Her words made everything okay.

My father, as well as other returning servicemen, were on the ship too. But they were kept somewhere else. We didn’t see Daddy until the ship docked in Brooklyn. Years later, I wondered if that was his choice. I never asked. My mother said he was probably playing poker with “the boys.”

We made our way by train from New York City to Boston to visit my father’s relatives. Laughter and tears and lots of food and conversation later, it was time for some of us to shop. We were staying at the Essex Hotel, tantalizingly close to Filene’s. We ditched my father and baby Bobby and became giddy consumers. It had been more than a year since we’d had anything new to wear.


Schweinfurt had been completely bombed due to its ball bearing factories. The bombings halted production of all engines built for war equipment. There was nothing open for business while we were in Schweinfurt in 1946-47. The American Occupation was the biggest business of all.

When my mother told me we were going stateside, I wasn’t sad or glad. It was just time to move – again.

Now, when I think of my life in Germany, it’s mostly about my best friend, Shirley Rogers and our adventures together.

Shirley was Air Corps, from Lawrence, Mass. She and I were almost completely unsupervised. We hitchhiked all around Schweinfurt. Never turned down for a ride, all we had to say to passing Jeep drivers was, “We’re dependents!” They always stopped and took us wherever we wanted to go.

There I was in Boston. I had on a poodle skirt and new saddle shoes; new everything.

My mother had written to her family in Portland to let them know we were on our way home. For the first time in my life, it began to matter to me just where I was going to live. What town? What would the kids there be like?

Going home. What did that even mean?

Meetinghouse is a community storytelling project hosted by the Maine Sunday Telegram.

Read more stories from Maine at www.pressherald.com/meetinghouse

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