of Virginia Hall Irby
Chapter 3, 1941 - 1945
First Draft Copy
& Sleep Shop
122 N. Highway B-288
Clute, Brazoria County
Lynch, Reding, Irby 3 Savanna Blue -
C. L. Reding Two Rivers Poetry -
G. M. Irby published poetry -
M. Hunter Long Shadows -
Five-year-old Virginia, 1923
We went with Helen Andrews to visit her parents at Lake Toxaway, North Carolina. The Toxaway Inn and Lake opened in 1903 and became world famous, especially for millionaires like Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Thomas Edison, R.J. Reynolds, the Vanderbilts, and the Dukes and Nunnallys of Atlanta. They came to this beautiful country to hear laughter ringing through the trees and ripples on the water. They came to get away from the pressure of fast growing industries of America.
The rooms in the Toxaway Inn and the outside cottages all had PRIVATE BATHS and other modern conveniences not normally seen in hotels at the time. Luxury rooms rented for exorbitant prices — six to ten dollars a night!! Toxaway Inn never had a dull season in the 14 years of operation.
The lake was three miles long and one mile wide with a shore line of 15 miles.
When unprecedented torrential rains came on July 16, 1916, the fifty foot earth dam broke, releasing the entire lake, and brought damage and devastation to Western North Carolina.
In 1941, twenty five years after the dam broke, Helen's parents lived in one of the cottages at Lake Toxaway. There were porches, bay windows, fireplaces, and a private bath. There was a handsome boat on the ground inside the boathouse by what used to be the lake, only now it was dry land. In the barn there was a "Surrey with a fringe on top." We rolled it out and took photographs of it. (see photograph)
A few people tried to revive the romance of this area but without the lake it was not the same. World War I was on and a kind of Industrial Revolution was taking place. American millionaires had more to do than defend Lake Toxaway and the new Industrial Revolution went off and left them.
1941, May 09
Earl Monroe Irby and I were married in Montreat, North Carolina at the Gather Hall Chapel of the Presbyterian Conference Retreat Center. I wore a long white dress and had a traditional veil. My two bridesmaids were Helen Andrews and Elvira Greenlee.
Helen Andrews was a fellow teacher in Black Mountain, North Carolina. She taught Home Economics there. Later she lived and taught Arts and Crafts in Dalton, Alabama. She was also a longtime Girl Scout Leader.
Elvira Greenlee had two sisters at the college the same time we were there. She was a good friend and also the girlfriend of Jennings Bryant who was Irby's Best Man at the wedding. Several months after we were married they got married. Jennings later became the Public Relations man for the Henredon Furniture Company and they lived in a beautiful home in Spruce Pine, North Carolina. In 1988 we visited with them at their home. Their son became a professor at the University of Houston in Texas.
Dr. Coit performed the marriage ceremony. He had retired to live in Montreat, but Irby knew him from years earlier when he had served as Vice President of Rabun Gap in Georgia.
Montreat adjoins Black Mountain. About three miles away on a nearby mountain is Ridgecrest, the Baptist Conference Center.
As an interesting side note; Two years after we were married in Gather Hall another couple our age married in the same small chapel. The bride, Ruth Bell, grew up in China as the daughter of an American Presbyterian missionary until the family moved to western North Carolina. The groom was a young student minister named William Frank Graham, known later throughout the entire world as evangelist Billy Graham and Ruth Graham.
Ruth Graham's father, Dr. Bell, was the chairman of the school board that called me to teach in Black Mountain, North Carolina on my first teaching job.
1941, May 10 - 15
Irby and I honeymooned at Chimney Rock, North Carolina. We didn't have a car so Helen Andrews drove us over to a mountain cottage in Chimney Rock that was labeled by it's owner as a "Honeymoon Cottage." It was very nice and very private. We planned to walk some trails, but I was stung on my foot with bees and laid up in bed for a day.
Helen came back for us and we started making plans to move from Black Mountain to Asheville where I was to teach in Lee Edwards High School and Irby was to work at Sears Roebuck & Co.
When I was teaching in Asheville, and believing that repetition would be helpful, I required one of my students after school to write "I have gone" one hundred times on the blackboard. Then left alone, he did his assignment, then wrote; "I have wrote ‘I have gone’ 100 times and now ‘I have went home.’ "
1941, December 07
On Sunday morning Japan attacked U.S. forces in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. We were now at WAR. We were living at the Hillside Apartments in Asheville, North Carolina. We knew immediately that everything was about to change and we thought that Irby would be inducted soon. We constantly listened to the radio for news and bulletins about the new war. We were all very afraid and concerned about what the future would bring for us and everyone we knew.
1941 - 1942
Irby was working at Sears and I was teaching at Lee H. Edwards. Every week he would bring me flowers from the street market; roses, daisies, jonquils, lilies of the valley, and many other of the sweetest things. He held them behind him for his first kiss, then he thrust out the "burst of glory" when each flower shows its smiling face. He still brings me flowers — the first cut pansies, or daylilies, or roses from our yard. We nearly always have flowers for the table.
At Sears & Roebuck Irby worked in the plumbing department until he was inducted into the Air Force in May of 1942. The plumbing department was then switched over to nothing but essential war time production.
1942, January 02
As part of the war information and anti-espionage efforts of the country, all employed people (in war-sensitive industries) had to fill out a "National Defense Questionnaire" stating there residences and affiliations over the previous fifteen years.
They had to also "list four persons, not relatives, employees, or supervisors, who have knowledge of your character."
My father, Emless, filled out one of these questionnaires because he worked in construction at Dow Chemical.
He listed the following names as those that know his character:
Golman Green, a farmer from Greens Creek, North Carolina.
A.J.Davidson, a postmaster from Biltmore, North Carolina.
Bill McMurry, the sheriff in Henderson, Texas.
Rev. Herschel Smith, Baptist minister from Henderson, Texas.
1942, May 20
Irby was inducted into the Third Air Force. He left Asheville on a bus with about fifty guys. They went to Columbia, South Carolina, then to Biloxi, Mississippi for boot training. He wasn't told where they were being shipped.
I was then left alone while teaching at Lee H. Edwards High School and living at the Scott Apartments, owned by Edna and Jim Scott.
Irby was in the Air Force from June 1942 until November 1945.
1942, June 15 - 30
Helen Andrews and I took a trip to Clute, Texas on a bus to visit my mother, father, and brother during the second week of June, 1942. My father was here to work construction on the new Dow Chemical plant being built in the marshes near Freeport, Texas.
Helen and I came from Houston in a bus. We got off at the corner of Main Street and Shanks Street. Another person got off the same bus and asked a passerby if there was a place around here named "Clute," of "Kloot." Helen and I walked down Shanks Street to my parents house. Mother was sweeping the yard.
While in Texas we went to Surfside beach by crossing over a low draw bridge across the Intercoastal Waterway. I got so sun blistered that water would run under the skin when I moved from side to side. We saw the Gulf of Mexico, Dow Chemical, and mosquitoes galore! Clute was a rural community. There was no water system, no sewer system, no fire department, no police department. There were very few telephones and even they were party lines. Out-door toilets were plentiful.
LOOK HOMEWARD ANGEL:
When I was teaching at Lee H. Edwards in Asheville, one of the other English teachers, Mary Louise Wolfe, told me that Thomas C. Wolfe (1900-1938) was her uncle. I knew that he was a writer and had written several books, the one that had brought him fame was "Look Homeward Angel," published in 1929. Teachers had said he wrote some of the most stirring prose in American literature.
He owned a furnished town house on Spruce Street in Asheville. His daughter, Mary Louise Wolfe, wanted to find two or three teachers to share the rent for the house. She wanted me to see it. The rooms were large and had high ceilings. Most of the furniture was Victorian. The chairs were placed stiffly against the wall and were upholstered in dark pink damask and velvet. Oval framed photographs of elder relatives were on the wall. If I'd known then that we would spend over fifty years in the furniture business, I would have paid more attention to the setting.
I thought that I would rather stay in Edna and Jim Scott's efficiency apartment. When my husband could break away for some time away from the Air Force we could be in the privacy of our own place! Then, too, my friend Helen Andrews could spend weekends with me.
Therefore I turned down the house offer from Louise.
1942, November - December
Helen Andrews was my best friend while Irby was away in the Air Force. She still taught in Black Mountain, sixteen miles from Asheville. She came to Asheville every Friday after school and stayed with me until Monday morning. She made plans for us to go to movies, mountain hikes, shopping, visiting friends, and other places.
On my birthday, December 21, 1942, she gave me a beautifully wrapped present and told me it was for my birthday and for Christmas as well. She was leaving that day to go to her family at Lake Toxaway, North Carolina. I opened the box and found it was a beautiful gold Bulova wrist watch — FROM IRBY. He had chosen the style he wanted and had sent Helen the money to buy it locally for me. It came as a complete surprise!! I cried with joy.
Large scale production of penicillin begins. It was incredible how many lives it saved during the war. Dr. Stewart once told me that the first time he ever saw the effects of the drug he was certain it was the only miracle drug he had ever seen.
* * *
The jitterbug was the most popular dance.
I joined Irby in June of 1943 at the Dalhart, Texas Air Base. It was a small town and bristled with thousands of men and women in the Air Force. Far too many people were trying to find places to live in this small rural town. It was difficult to find a place to live in Dalhart. Mr. and Mrs. Redden (or Redding), a lady that worked at the U.S.O. had a room to rent for two months. It was promised to someone else on 15 August 1943. An officer and his wife rented their garage as "BR & KITCHEN." She rented two bedrooms in the house and hanging quilts from the ceiling, sectioned off two areas to be used as bedrooms in the basement. She had a private bath to be used only by her family, herself, her husband, her twenty year old son and a fourteen year old daughter. All of the others used the one other bathroom.
All rooms were rented with kitchen privileges. There were ten people when we were there. One couple was Earl and Florence Painter (who we remain in touch with even today; they live in Plumville, Pennsylvania.) We ate breakfast and lunch independently. Two couples fixed supper for a week. Two other couples cleaned up for a week. We divided the work and the grocery bills. Some days were a little messed up. Most of us were newly weds and we found it challenging. We had colored rings to mark bottles of milk. It was before microwaves, frozen food, chips and dip, Cheerios, pizza, McDonalds, and instant coffee.
We first lived in the house but we later move to the basement when the officer pulled his rank on us.
After moving from the Redden house where we had to live in the basement and share a kitchen with nine other people, we were able to move to the home of John and Faye Howell.
We took care of their eight year old boy, Jerry, until his mother came home at 11:00pm from a job at the phone company.
John Howell got on a drunken bender sometimes. This was the first and last time I ever lived in a house with an alcoholic. When this would happen Jerry and I would met Irby at the bus stop and I was often crying.
One of the Air Force weather forecasters in Dalhart got a three day pass and was on his way to Amarillo, Texas.
The Air Force weather forecaster caught a ride from Dalhart to Amarillo with a cattleman. The cattleman told him that it was going to snow. The weather forecaster didn't believe it because the Air Force staff had predicted a pretty good weekend. The cattleman said he knew it was going to snow because the cattle had all bunched together and that was an indication the cold, wet weather was on it's way.
Before they arrived in Amarillo it was snowing. By nightfall it was a blizzard. The forecaster couldn't get back to the base for three days.
1943 - 1946
When Irby first went into the Air Force as a PFC (Private First Class) he earned $38 a month. He had $12 taken out for a family allowance that he sent to his mother and another $12 taken out to send to me, leaving $14 a month for him.
The Air Force furnished everything for him. They provided food, clothing, barracks, insurance, transportation, ... everything. He made more as he was promoted to Corporal, Buck Sargent, Staff Sargent. He was a Staff Sargent making $96 a month and planning to go to the Officer Candidate Training School when they let him go. It was enough for us to live on and then we saved most of what I made.
1944, April 20
Quoted excerpts from a letter to my parents:
“Irby has been on Easter furlough and we are together 'pleased as a couple of bunnies.' During his time off he painted three pictures. One is sort of a shore picture with big rocks and waves and splashes and a little corner of land showing with palm trees. Another is a mountain scene with a rugged Colorado-looking mountain in the background with close-up trees and a stream in the foreground.
“It is his prettiest one so far and has such good coloring in it. The other one was an experiment and isn't as good as the other two. It is also of a mountain and a stream.
“Did you know that I have been with Irby ten months now? I sure am glad that I decided to stay with him this year [instead of staying in North Carolina]. We were talking to the minister here the other night. He is such a fine man and does all he can to help the soldiers and their wives ... One fellow had received an anonymous letter from his home town about his wife stepping out on him.
“The preacher said the boy didn't have sense enough to keep his mouth shut about it and mentioned it in a letter to his wife. She immediately wrote back for him to get divorce papers. The poor boy was shocked and broken over it. It seems that his wife claimed that he could not trust her — that he would believe just anybody's reports, etc. He said there are stories like this every week. He said it wasn't right for these boys and girls to be separated. The boys are away from home and in an entirely different environment to what they have always been used to. The girls are at home taking defense jobs and associating with groups of people that she is naturally thrown with and naturally they both absorb different habits as a result of all this. By the time they get back together they are so different in the things they are interested in that they just don't match. Many of them were brought up in the same town and enjoyed the same things until the government started pulling them out and making them channel their interests into foreign topics and societies. It is hard, I'll admit. It makes a big difference ...
“A wife that has been working in a defense plant and doing without the affection of her husband over a few months period thinks she is entitled to a lot of sympathy and humoring, so the whole thing turns out to be a bad situation ...
“They need to be together to pull together, to comfort each other, and to stay in sight of each other ...
“So, adding it all up, I am delighted over my 10 months here with Irby. It has been worth it if I never see him again until after the war [anticipating him being shipped out] ... I have kept up with him in the army life and can claim experience enough to be able to understand, sympathize, and talk intelligently with him about army doings.
“And I will know what he is talking about when he talks about the USO or the Service Club. I will not burn with jealousy at what good looking girls they might have had, whether or not he was thrown with a rough party, etc. Because now I have been to USO and Service Club parties and have seen for myself that they are well organized, well chaperoned, and so over-crowded with boys that even Irby wouldn't have a chance, that they are usually made up of soldiers and their wives with usually not more than two or three single girls present; that the fellows away from home that go to the clubs usually don't go to find a girl, but just to escape their loneliness to indulge in a little music, game, and refreshments.
“Of course I never thought for a moment that Irby would step out on me, but I did wonder what the parties were like. He never did go to any of them, but he would write so many of his letters from the USO and I would wonder what it was like. But now I have seen the fellows come in there, sit down and write a letter home, grab a cup of coffee and a donut, and take off to the barracks ...
“Now I know that they have a nickelodeon about ten feet from the phone booth that is played constantly as they sit around and wish they were back home. But I had mental pictures that night of a big orchestra, pretty girls, dancing, laughter, and hot stuff!! But even when they do have a dance, there are about 100 fellows, 15 wives, and 5 High School girls that are giggly and silly ...
“But as I said, I didn't worry about Irby. But I did wonder just what kind of a place it was — just interested you know. That's one thing I don't think I will ever have to worry about. I think Irby is the best man right beside daddy. I really think he is equally as good as daddy. He is so good to me and thoughtful in every way ...
“Mother, you were speaking in you last letter about having your eyes opened to some of the "carryings-on" of Clute localities. It really is alarming to know just what people do these days. You know our land lady is the night telephone operator and she gets in on a lot of good gossip and you should hear some of the horrible tales she tells about supposedly upright citizens of this town. It is a drinking party here; a fight there; a man stepping out on his wife in another place; a wife entertaining men while her husband is overseas in another place; another drinking party; and on it goes all the time. It is terrible! ...
“In my office none of the enlisted men smoke nor drink. But the WAC that we have does both. All of the officers do both too. Say, these officers stink! And what I mean is STINK! They all think they are so smart and I'd be willing to take an intelligence test against any one of them, and with a little brushing up against all of them together in one group! They have no brains, no manners, no heart, and no conscience! They drink, drink, drink, and have their brawls every week, and then they come laughing and talking about what a big time they had. They never admit a wrong and try to tell everybody how to do their work, whether they know anything about it or not ...
“Irby and I are both glad that we have stood above the more foolish choices and credit 90% of our happiness to that. (The other 10% to our strong attraction to each other. — Maybe that should be called 'glamour!') ...
“We credit our better judgment 90% to our parents' guidance and 10% to the paddle!! As a matter of fact, I think I could credit 15% to the paddle!! ...
“Mother, I don't think you have to worry about Earl Richard. He is going to hold our standards up very high. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if he even raises our standards about 20% or more ... if you use the same thumb to bring him up under as you did to bring me up under ...
“I forgot to mention the fact that God has made me healthy and strong and able to have a flock of little "Irby's." We are not going to overlook that fact and want to have about 6 or 8 little ones if they can all be like Irby. As a matter of fact, I am now 25 years old and it is getting to be about time we are getting started because it is hard for a girl to do her starting after she is 28. ISN'T THIS OLD WAR A MESS!! ...
“We made a triple recipe of cookies last week and took them down to the church's soldiers service club. We took about 5 dozen and the fellows seemed to enjoy them so much. I made butterscotch cookies, spice cookies, and mincemeat hermits, — all from Good Housekeeping Cook Book. ...
“P.S., Forgot to tell you about my new hair-do. I've gone suddenly lazy and am doing up in a sassy knot on the back of my head. But strangely enough, a lot of people like it. As a matter of fact, even Irby and I are getting sort of attached to it. ”
We shipped out on a cadre to the Gulfport Army Air Base in Mississippi. We stayed there until were we discharged.
In Gulport, Mississippi we rented a three-room unfurnished apartment in Hardy Court, the government housing for married military people. I worked with the Director ’s of Flying and Training. The Colonels were Colonel Reed, Major Tetiva, and Colonel Huges. They asked me to train enlisted men "How to Teach."
As people shipped out to other air bases or overseas they were given a THREE DAY notice of their departure. That doesn ’t give them much time to prepare and sell their furniture! We bought part of our furniture from a nurse who was shipping overseas. She told us we could buy all that she was leaving for $65. She pointed out what it was and it was generous enough. She included:
- A double bed, mattress, coil spring and a plain metal bed.
- A nice large chest made of birdseye maple.
- A nice big club chair for $5. When we turned it upside down, a good pair
of scissors and $2.50 fell out from under the cushions.
- A quilted floral bedspread and a homemade vanity covered with the same fabric.
- 30" round mirror to go over the vanity.
- Two sheets, four pillowcases, one blanket.
- Dishes, glassware, silverware for four.
- Pots and pans.
We bought from Sears, Roebuck and Co. an unfinished dropleaf dinette table and two dining chairs and two wooden folding chairs. The two wooden chairs were real cool with handmade white looper mats in the seats.
For our living room we bought from the government an army cot with a mattress. A neighbor in Hardy Court stitched up a blue cotton flounce for it. We put hand embroydered pillows at the back and we had a sofa. Three paper plates with pictures out of the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC made a winner out of the sofa wall.
Two nail kegs and an apple box served as tables for the living room. We used unbleached domestic with ball fringe for draperies. It was HOME!
We were without a car until u til just before we left the Air Force when we bought a clean, black 1935 four-door Chevrolet for $450.
* * *
Throughout the nation during World War II, city night lighting was cut down to keep enemy ships from knowing all about the coastline. Blackout shades were used at all the seaside windows. Lighted outdoor signs were turned off. The upper side of automobile headlights were blacked out.
We experienced blackouts in Gulfport and Biloxi, Mississippi, and Freeport, Texas.
War time rationing covered the following: gasoline, tires, shoes, meat, coffee, sugar. All these were needed for the war effort. Nylon was not available for civilian comforts. It was used for parachutes and war clothing.
1945, August 14
The Second World War ends with victory in the Pacific over Japan. The two atomic bombs were dropped last week over Japan, first in Hiroshima and then in Nagasaki, and the immediate tension of World War II was now over.
The war was over. I was four and a half months pregnant when we were discharged from the Gulfport Air Force Base. We went to Irby's mother's house in Greenville, South Carolina to help her get rid of some tenants that were claiming rates for OPA (Office of Price Administration) They were freezing prices as of a certain date, which was $25 for rent, which even then was far too low.
Irby's mother, Belle Irby-Reid, was crippled with arthritis. Irby worked for Hospital Benefits Insurance Company. Keith was born while we were there. We remodeled her house, which was adjacent to the old campus of Furman University, so she could rent out one bedroom plus a two room apartment. We bought mahogany furniture made by the Dixie Furniture Company (later named Lexington Furniture.) We made her home and apartments very nice and comfortable. It took part of Granny Reid ’s savings and part of our savings but we made her home and rentals more comfortable.
1945, October 17
Irby was released from the Air Force while we were living in Gulfport, Mississippi.
Irby and I
at our wedding in Montreat, 1941.
“He would bring flowers from the street market; roses, daisies, jonquils, lilies of the valley, and many other of the sweetest things.”
& Sleep Shop
122 N. Highway B-288
Clute, Brazoria County
Lynch, Reding, Irby 3 Savanna Blue -
C. L. Reding Two Rivers Poetry -
G. M. Irby published poetry -
M. Hunter Long Shadows -
are together, ‘pleased as