Far From Home: The Remembrance of a Love Story

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Title

Far From Home: The Remembrance of a Love Story

Description

Veteran’s Day (Remembrance Day in Canada and Great Britain) is upon us once again, and my mind goes back to my own military service. I trust you will indulge me in this reminiscence.

Many Madison Countians went to the Army in 1951. I was one of them. I held a newly presented ROTC second lieutenant’s commission and with the Korean War heating up, I was called to active duty in August of 1951. Theodore Dunn, a friend from Cal East,was called up at the same time. Through an unusual turn of events, we two Madison County boys served together in the same battalion for our entire two years of service.

We were fortunate in that our field artillery battalion was sent to Germany for occupation duty (V Corp, 7th Army) rather than to Korea. We were assigned to fill out an 8-inch self-propelled field artillery battalion, and part of a reserve unit from Pittsburgh (lots of polkas and steel industry people) that had been called to active duty. Theodore and I were in Germany for 17 months. We were very lucky young men; the Russians never came west, and we never heard a shot fired in anger.

In August of 1952, I took a leave and went for a tour of the British Isles. Across the English Channel by ferry, I enjoyed England and then went by train to Edinburgh, Scotland. The first day there, I was persuaded by an Australian naval commander to go out on the town. I met this beautiful girl with long red hair. My tour effectively ended then and there, and I never did get on to Ireland or the northern isles of Scotland. Instead, I waited every afternoon at the bottom of the Mound in Edinburgh.

Down the hill would eventually appear a tram (streetcar) and off it would come the most beautiful girl in the world, Mary Jean Gladstone Purves. She is still the most beautiful girl in the world to me some 58 years later. She worked at the Royal Infirmary in the old town. Our time together often was spent in front of a coal-burning grated fire at number 80 Bonaly Road, Edinburgh. Although World War II had been over for six years, food and material rationing was still the law in Britain, and austerity never was far away.

I had to have the Army’s permission to marry a non-U.S. citizen. After what seemed forever, forms were filled out, inquiries were made, permission was granted and I headed for Britain from my post in Germany in my 1951 Chevrolet (purchased brand new for $1,890 in northern Kentucky before my posting). At this point, I had two major problems related to driving an American car in Britain (the left side of the road). First, the driver cannot see around the car he is trying to pass on narrow, winding, two-lane roads. Second, at night, U.S. cars don’t really dim their lights; they flip the beams off to the side, down and to the right. This shines them right into oncoming British cars.

On May 25, 1953, we were married in the Central Hall Methodist Church in Edinburgh, with the Rev. Levi Dawson officiating. There were two ladies on my side of the church — my landladies at the Randolph Crescent Hotel where I stayed. My parents, being good Kentucky Southern Baptists, were not sure if all this Methodist ceremony was legal. Apparently it was, and it has lasted over 58 years so far.

On our honeymoon, I took Mary to London and Paris — you cannot beat that. It just happened these cities were on the way back to my base in Germany.

Back at our post, an old, traditional field artillery ceremony took place. We were driven around the base riding on the back of a caisson (as in the old song “the caissons keep rolling along”) with a procession of cars and jeeps behind with horns blowing. What an introduction to American life!

We were told by the Army that we were stationed in Germany to keep the Russians out of Western Europe. They never came, so I guess we accomplished our mission. It is probably a good thing they did not come as the battle hardened units all ended up in Korea.

So this Veterans Day reminiscence may be a history lesson or a love story — you decide. Either way, I still think I am married to the most beautiful girl in Madison County.

Creator

Dr. Fred Engle

Date

11/9/2010

Rights

Content may be freely copied for personal and educational purposes with appropriate citation. Permission is required to reprint.

Collection

Citation

Dr. Fred Engle, “Far From Home: The Remembrance of a Love Story,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed May 28, 2022, https://madisonsheritage.eku.edu/items/show/1802.