Submitted by: Dorothy Harris
While a war that wasn't called a war raged in Korea, segregation, which existed in the South, presented problems on James Connally, a fully integrated Air Force base.
My story had its inception in the mid-'50s, when I wrote a novel about my life in the Air Force. That novel was packed away until three years ago. After reading the original story, I decided it was worth revising. It is fictionalized-fact and written in a journal format. Rather than using description or narrative to introduce my characters, I used dialogue which allows the reader to know my characters by the way they talk, think and react.
To tell my story about life as a WAF stationed at James Connally Air Force Base in Waco, Texas, during the Korean War, I created Airman Lucy Leigh Simms. I've tried to be as factual as my memory would allow me to be. The story includes a little history of the early '50s, a little geography of the base and Waco, and, as might be expected, a little romance. With few exceptions, everything that happened to Lucy happened to me, although not exactly as written. The three Air Force doctor stories and the panty raid at Lowry actually did happen as written.
Not only were we at war in the '50s, but segregation also existed in Waco and caused several disturbing and upsetting incidents for Lucy, a young woman born in Pennsylvania and not accustomed to segregation. Back in the days of segregation, black people were either properly called Negroes or improperly called 'n.....s'. In the North that word had a hard 'er' ending sound. Due to the Southern drawl it had a much softer 'ah' sound in the south. Purposely, I avoided using the 'n' word when I revised the story. In the original story I used the 'n' word because I had been called a 'n' lover by those airmen who favored segregation and didn't approve of an integrated Air Force, which it was in 1951.
My story takes the reader back to the days of wooden barracks, not brick; no air conditioning just fans; no phones, just a pay phone in our dayroom; no computers just typewriters; no copiers just carbon paper; and no TVs in our barracks, just radios and the newspaper. It depicts a laid-back lifestyle that is very different from the frenzied lifestyle of today. Come, take a leisurely stroll with me down memory lane.
About the author:
I was born in Verona, Pa., in 1931, a Depression baby. Until I was school age, I lived with my maternal grandparents. Those years were happy years because my grandparents showered me with love. Life became very different when I no longer lived with them. Although my mother was caring and loving, my father wasn't. He was quick to anger and quick to punish. He believed that a child should be seen but not heard. Even though I used a make-believe family in my story, many of the events that I wrote about actually happened when I was home on leave. After graduating from high school in 1950, I lived with my grandparents until I enlisted in the Air Force. Enlisting proved to be a wise decision for me. I learned so much about life while in the military. Being on my own taught me to be confident, self-reliant and self-efficient. My first marriage in 1952 resulted in the birth of our four children, two daughters and two sons. I was a stay at home mom until September 1963 when I enrolled in college, graduated in August 1966, and began my teaching career. Daughter number three, who was 4, became a part of our life in 1971. Our marriage ended in divorce in 1976. I left teaching in 1978 for employment with IBM. I remarried in 1980 and became a stepmother to three of his seven children. Shortly after our 25th wedding anniversary, he died. Both of my husbands were Korean War veterans and had served in the Army in Korea. Currently I make my home in Texas with my second daughter. Since my health is good, I'm able to help with household chores and cooking. Most of my free time is spent at the computer. I love putting words on paper, and have several stories that I could tell.