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More Stories - The Way We Were

Good things sometimes come out of terrible ones.  Let me assure you very young ones that WWII was truly terrible, as were many other wars before and after.   Unimaginable to those who weren't there.  Compared, the Gulf War and Afghanistan were pieces of cake.  Hilda has just celebrated her 58th wedding anniversary, and has a very interesting story to tell about her courtship and wedding. Take the important things to heart, gals (and guys) before you blow thousands on a "perfect" wedding, agonize over every little imperfection, and/or alienate a bunch of friends and family in the process.   Will you still be happily married after 58 years like Hilda?

From Hilda Graham: "I am a bit late sending this, but better late than never."

Our Wedding Day - October 17th, 1944

Well as you can see from the above date today is our 58th Anniversary.  As I lay thinking about it last night, our wedding I realized was rather unusual.

Soon after we decided to get married Eddie was transferred from Deenethorpe Air Base in the Midlands to Beccles Norfolk on the east coast of England which is about 300 miles by train.  After Eddie got there he applied for permission to get married.  We had only known each other about three months so it was very hard on us being separated this way and we kept our romance alive by writing letters.  Eddie only had three passes so we only got to see each other for a very short time.  During this separation I had some doubt about getting married and leaving my family to go to America, but then when I did see Eddie I realized that I loved him and all my doubts vanished.

I was working for ARP headquarters (Air Raid Precautions).  My job consisted of plotting enemy planes over England and notifying towns they were approaching to warn people in time to get in their air raid shelters.  We were also responsible for knowing the location of our local fire engines, ambulances etc.  Also all the American Air Bases in our area had to report to us.  This was good, for it made me available to a phone (unauthorized of course); this made it possible for Eddie to call me on Thursday October 12th telling me that he had received permission for us to get married and had a 24 hour pass starting October 17th.  And he was going to be sent back to the States soon; he thought it would be better for me to get to the States if I was his wife.

Now this all sounds well and good but first I had to get permission from my parents since I was only 18, and as most of you know you had to be 21 to get married at that time.  Then there was the Church and getting permission from them, for I was Catholic and Eddie was not.  Also we were going to have to get married in Beccles because Eddie was unable to leave the area since his group was on standby alert for transfer back to the States.

My parents gave permission and we decided I would leave on Friday 13th to go to Beccles to see if it was possible for the priest to marry us in the church there.  I had an older friend who went with me as my chaperone, for my parents would not allow me to travel all that way by myself.  My father could not get away from work with such short notice and my mother could not go because of my two younger brothers.  This sounds so simple but those of you who can recall traveling in those days it was not the easiest thing to do.  The trains were always full because of troop movements and never on time and also I had never been to that part of England.  First we had to go to London and from there to Beccles, having to go from one station to another in London and then change again in Ipswich; still sounds simple, doesn't it.  Somehow we managed to find our way across London; now I can not even remember which stations we had to leave from.  Then lo and behold we made a mistake and got off the train in Norwich instead Ipswich.  We had to wait till the next morning to get a train from there to go on to Beccles.  In the meantime I had to get word to Eddie about our situation and I was able to get through to his base as I had the number to it.  I had a lot of explaining to do but they said they would notify him, which they did.

Oh, what an experience that was spending a night in a small railway station with very few seats and very many people.  There was one very inebriated soldier who insisted on playing his bagpipes; we were all so tired and the wailing of bagpipes which was not soothing to our ears ( I know now why they used them a lot in wartime for they bring out the fighting spirits in the meekest of us all).  Finally our piper had to go to the rest room - oh what a reprieve from the noise.  When he returned to his friend he seemed and looked distraught and was heard him say, putting this in as delicate terms as possible "I lost me bl--dy teeth down the toilet (only he did not use the word toilet, I will leave this to your imagination and most of you have good ones).  We thought at last we would have some peace but this was not to be.  Remember this was wartime and this was Norwich.  Soon we heard the eerie sounds of the sirens and before long the air raid wardens came along and insisted on taking us to air raid shelters.  Unfortunately I was wearing a new light coloured coat which had taken 14 of my precious clothing coupons and everyone was pushing and shoving.  I was more concerned about getting my coat dirty than about the bombing (oh sweet youth; guess I thought I was immortal).

After surviving the night in the shelter singing all the favorite war songs we finally got on the train to Beccles.  By this time I looked so bedraggled after all our experiences I thought Eddie might change his mind when he saw me but he was true blue, bless his heart.  My chaperone was absolutely worn out and I was busy taking care of her.

We first went to the church and in a very short time found out that it would be impossible to get married without permission of the bishop which would take too long due to the time constraints we were under.  Eddie suggested getting married by a justice of the peace, which to me was almost unheard of, and then there was my parents to consider.  But this seemed to be the only plausible thing to do.  Wouldn't it have been so simple to get married this way?  But no, I had to have written parental consent or a parent had to be there.  Knowing my parents like I did I felt that I could convince them, so we went to the justice of the peace in the village and made arrangements to be married the following Tuesday, October 17th.

We went out and had a bite to eat and then back to the train station where we were able to get a train back home, no mistakes this time.  My father and mother did consent with the understanding that we get married in church after I got to America.

On Monday the 16th my father accompanied me back to Beccles where Eddie met us.  He had made arrangements for overnight accommodations for my father and I.  The next morning we had breakfast and then on to the justice of peace office where we met two of Eddies friends who acted as witnesses.  It was all over in about five minutes; oh, what a wedding.  I will never forget.  We then took my father to catch his train where we said our goodbyes to him.  We went to the house where Eddie had rented a room for us, and the lady had fixed some sandwiches, cake and a little glass of wine, after that we went for a walk along the river.  And this, ladies and gentlemen, is our wedding day as we remember it 58 years later!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sincerely, Hilda Graham 

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