Thursday, July 28, 2005

Watches 5 Me 0

I was away at college when I got my draft notice for WWII. I quickly went home to take home all my clothing and other belongings. As a farewell gift my folks presented me with a very nice, but tough watch. On my first night at Cumberland Gap Reception Center I asked the stranger in the next bunk to keep an eye on my new watch. When I got back from the latrine and a hot shower, my bunkmate and my watch were gone. He had been shipped out in that 30 minutes – and took the watch with him. I got neither sympathy nor assistance from the camp personnel so I did what a young, innocent kid would do. I wrote my mother and complained to her.

So my parents mailed me another watch. Nice people.

Later our outfit in Europe was changing positions and we were asleep in a train car (a simple boxcar with straw on the floor). We were close to Aachen. Suddenly we were awakened by whistles and shouts of, “Grab your packs and rifles and get off the train. Take Cover! Air Raid!” With adrenalin fighting sleepiness, I hurriedly threw on my back pack and in the process, tore the watch off my wrist. It landed in the straw. I desperately pawed for it, but got almost thrown to the ground by the guys behind me. No watch again.

Just as the war ended, we came back from Austria to Heidelberg. One day the Company Commander told me that Special Services had two watches that could be bought if someone could go to Frankfurt to get them He would let me have one if I would go to Frankfurt and bring him the other. I conned another guy to go with me. We borrowed a jeep off a street in Heidelberg and set out up the autobahn. It turned out to be frigid driving. We found a field jacket in the back of the jeep. Problem was there was only one and it had captain’s bars sewn on the shoulders. We agreed to trade off when the one without the jacket got cold. I was driving when, Damn! a check point. It was manned by a single sergeant and I told him the almost truth. We were going to Frankfurt to get two watches, one for the captain and one for me. We smugly drove away saying disparaging things about the incompetent sergeant.

We spent the night at Special Services and started back toward Heidelberg in the morning. It was still cold and we resumed the scheme of the passenger wearing the captain’s jacket. Unfortunately that was me when we came to the checkpoint again. AND the same jerk we had fooled the previous day had crossed the road and was waiting for us. He noticed that yesterday’s driver was today’s Captain. I’m not sure what cock and bull story or stories we threw at him, but he finally let us go. We put the jeep back where we found it. Never heard anything more about it.

Higher beings decided that the special training our outfit had was necessary in the Pacific so within a week we were on a ship headed for New York. There we were individually given train tickets home, and tickets to go from home to Oklahoma. Some how a newspaper photographer in New York took pictures and caught me wearing my beautiful Omega watch.

At home there was much gleeful celebrating. A day or two later, in a quiet moment, my father told me they were surprised to see me wearing a watch in the newspaper picture. They had bought me another replacement watch they planned to give me. I responded that the watch I was wearing was too delicate for combat and I had really bought it for him. He accepted that and I had another new watch while he seemed delighted with the Omega.

Years later when my father passed on, I asked my mother if I could have Pop’s Omega. She denied any knowledge of it. I guess I’ll pass on myself someday without knowing whether dementia had taken hold, or whether she was just getting even with me. If so, I wonder which cousin is wearing the pretty Omega today.

1 comment:

Marilyn said...

Such a great story...but I wanted it to have a happy ending. Who knows, maybe the Omega will still show up. :)