I wrote a bit about art and the really simple things a few people taught me about it that shaped and influenced me to seem to gravitate to art museums around the world to look, study and learn.
Today I will talk about a few people who came into my life that were kind enough to share some of their time with what it was like during the second world war. Many of the people I write of, have passed on, but their stories are remembered and touched my life. Maybe you will take a moment, slow down in our instant gratification society of tweets and they can touch you as well. Hopefully there will be rhyme and reason to how I fire out each’s story.
Harold’s Great adventure of war and love?
I met Harold in the early 90’s when we started a video conferencing company. At 6pm east coast time, two elderly men would come into one of the reflectors and chat to each other. One was in London, the other in Chicago. Seeing the two elderly men was almost as cool as when my grandmother sent me her first email. One evening, I noticed the one gentleman was frustrated so I typed, “You ok?” He replied, “Yes, but I can’t get this *$)@)$T%# computer to work right!”
That was the first night I spoke with Harold. He lived in London and his friend in Chicago was a lifelong friend whose wife had recently passed and that was how he checked up on him each evening to see how he was doing. I got Harold's camera to work by telling him which buttons to click. Over time, I would actually log in at 6pm just to watch the two men that reminded me Statler and Waldorf, the old men in the balcony of Muppet’s fame.
One day, I logged in and got a message from Harold, “ how far are you from the Grand Hyatt in Reston?”
“About a mile. Why?”
“Come pick me up in 30 minutes, we are going to dinner.”
I called my wife and asked here if it was OK for me to go to dinner with an old guy I had never met in my life from England. Thankfully, she had met some of my friends and realized this is not abnormal at all. What was abnormal was me trying to fit into “normal.”
I got to the hotel, picked him up and we ended up meeting his one daughter and a bunch of people that fit all too well into the Washington, DC yuppie lifestyle. I was lost, but trying my best to fit in and was seated across from Harold’s wife, who, based on her mannerisms and classy refinement, had me wonder, “What is this charming cultured woman doing with rough and gruff, John Waynish Harold?”
So the two of them told me his story – I will do my best to paraphrase
“Mark, when the war broke out, I ended up going into the marines, and after basic training, we got orders that I my unit was going to be shipped out to the pacific theatre. I went AWOL for a night to hear Louis Armstrong play. My entire trip to the pacific I was in the brig.
The island fighting and what I saw and experienced is nothing I wished on anyone. If someone says they were not scared going into battle, they probably had mental issues. It was hard trying to get used to seeing death each day.
We fought through islands in the pacific, and then after the Japanese surrendered, we were sent to liberate camps in china.”
Harold was a strapping man, with a powerful voice, and sitting next to him was his demure and cultured wife. I had to ask, “What did you do in the war?”
She replied, in a distinct and flowing British accent, “I was in china during the war. Inside and internment camp. The Japanese were ok with the other British nationals, but my father was a pilot with the RAF, so as little English girls, our family had to stay inside the camp for the duration of the war.”
“Is that where you and Harold met?”
Harold chimed in, “no, we met near times square in new York. The war was over and I was walking down the street and saw the most beautiful woman in the world and was determined to meet her. So I went up and started talking to her and did my best to impress her.”
The story went along with Harold and his wife telling each’s interpretation of that fateful day when the British woman met the gruff American and they started to talk and discuss where each was during the war and what they wanted to with their lives now that the war was over.
The irony of the story is that Harold’s wife spent the war in a Japanese internment camp in china. IT was the same camp that Harold’s unit liberated after the war, yet, the two never met there.
They met near Times Square, in New York City surrounded by throngs of people.
That is what I learned from Harold and his wife. Despite the horrors of war, when peace does come, love will find a way to flourish and try to build a better world