Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Arnold on Spreading the Joy

"I grew up on a farm in Foster, Rhode Island, or 'Fostah' as we call it. I dropped out of high school at 18 to work and was drafted to be in the war that same year. I was trained as Military Police (MP) up in Augusta, Maine. They had me guarding German soldiers in Fort Devens, Massachusetts. These were guys from the Africa core who were older and pretty calm because they weren't in the desert and no one was shooting at them anymore. After that, they sent me to Fort Edwards where I was guarding the young, tough Germans who were off of Normandy Beach. These were some serious guys. They would come over to me and fold a bottle cap in half with their hands just to show off. You try that sometime. It ain't easy. 

"Next, they sent me to Germany. I was an MP in Germany, which was a really dangerous job because about 75% of us got knocked off by sniper fire. A few weeks into my service, the war ended. When I heard, it didn't register. I couldn't believe it. One of the stories that really sticks with me from Germany was when we were patrolling an area and came across a house. We hadn't had a shower, hot meal, or decent shelter in weeks, so we took over the place and sent the lady living there to sleep in the barn. This woman had the same stature as my mother and took to me for some reason. She asked if she could wash my clothes and make me something to eat, so I let her do it. As we were leaving the house the next day, she took me by the hand over to a photo of her son who was about my age and wearing a Nazi uniform. She said in German, 'The war is over, but my son is not coming home.' We hugged and cried. In 1987, I went back to Germany with my wife to find that woman and say, 'thank you.' Turns out, a year before, she was killed in a traffic accident. I will never be able to tell her thank you. That always urinates me off. 

"When I finally got out of the service, I came back to Rhode Island. I got a job digging ditches, but  figured there was something better for me. I decided to finish high school and go to college at Pacific University in Portland, Oregon to study journalism. I got a job with the Evening Star in Washington as a news photographer in 1951. I covered everything in this town during my 13 years there. I got pictures of presidents, high society, criminals, you name it. I was a bachelor at the time and took all of the evening and weekend jobs. Went to parties that never quit with plenty of liquor and I danced with all of the high society people. 

"After my service here, I decided to go to seminary and be an Episcopal priest. That took me away from Washington to southern Maryland for 22 years. My community was all pig farmers. But after growing up on a farm and taking pictures in Washington, I could talk to anyone. When I retired, I came back to D.C. because I love it here. I am an avid swing dancer and love that there is dancing every night of the week here. I used to dance for three hours straight when I was younger. I would finish dancing with some gal and before I got to the side, there would be a different gal tapping me on the shoulder for another dance. Now that I am 84, I can't dance like I used to, but still think that it is important to spread the joy with my dancing when I can."


KC said...

That face is priceless.

Smooglie said...

As one of those gals who taps Arnold on the shoulder for a dance, I can positively state that he is still spreading the joy. Here's hoping I get another dance soon.

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