Author Karen White
Karen White is the author of several successful novels, including The House on Tradd Street and The Girl on Legare Street. She’s also got an upcoming WWII novel, On Folly Beach, due out in May 2010. I stumbled upon a guest post from her a while back and realized she had a WWII story to tell. Is it coincidence that her grandmother dreamed about the bombing of Pearl Harbor or was it a premonition? You decide.
Please give Karen a warm welcome.
I come from a long line of Southerners which means, I suppose, that I come from a long line of story tellers and people who believe in things that go bump in the night. Not that such a thing is a proprietary Southern trait, but in my travels amongst my relatives in Mississippi and Florida, I’d be tempted to say that it might be.
My bedtime stories as a child were ‘stranger than fiction’ stories read to me by my father or told to me from memory. These were stories about ghosts, and werewolves, and aliens, and all sorts of things that give children nightmares. I was probably an adolescent before I slept alone in my own bed! And as a mother of two, I can’t help but wonder now what was he thinking??
My dad was born in 1932 in McComb, Mississippi, during the height of the Great Depression. Looking for work, my grandfather moved the family to DeFuniak Springs, in Florida’s panhandle when my father was still a small boy and where he experienced poverty and hunger straight out of a John Steinbeck novel. It was his difficult childhood that spawned the stories he’d tell me of growing up in the Deep South, of how his dog wouldn’t enter a room in the old house his family lived in, and how his mother would talk to relatives long since passed.
One of the stories I remember most clearly was how a few days before December 7, 1941, my father woke up in the middle of the night because his mother was screaming, “They’re bombing us! They’re bombing us! There are planes covering the sky and they’re dropping bombs all over us!”
He remembers his father calming her down, and remarking that she must have heard one of the planes from nearby Eglin Air Force Base. It wasn’t until a few days later that a clearer interpretation of her dream hit them with startling clarity.
He doesn’t remember much about the war years except that his father found a job in a lumber mill and he wasn’t as hungry anymore. He had one pair of shoes to his name and one sweater–a garment that he gave to another boy in his class because my dad figured that boy was worse off than my dad and his brother because he didn’t even have shoes.
His favorite–and only–toy was a metal WWII Army set, with a tank and soldiers given to him by the doctor who put him back together after being run over by a mule and milk cart. He only has one soldier left and he still treasures it mostly, I suppose, because they inspired in him an imagination and an interest in the world outside his own. He became an avid history buff, a Winston Churchill expert, and a collector of Army memorabilia. I believe that the small gift given to him by that kind doctor fueled within my father the tenacity and determination he needed to succeed in life and to eventually become an executive with a major oil corporation and travel the globe.
I suppose that it’s natural, then, that his only daughter would grow up to be a storyteller, penning books about ghosts and history. In THE HOUSE ON TRADD STREET and THE GIRL ON LEGARE STREET, I write about Charleston, South Carolina, past and present, delving into Prohibition, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the earthquake of 1886, and the discovery of the Hunley submarine. And, of course, its ghosts. My father is very proud.
In my next book, ON FOLLY BEACH (out in May 2010), I tell two parallel stories set in 1942 and 2009 which probes into the little-known history of “Operation Drumroll” and the 12 German U-boats that terrorized the southeastern seaboard of the United States during the first 6 months of 1942. I loved doing the research for this book about two war widows more than sixty years apart, and know that I owe thanks to my dad for all of my inspiration.
I hope that I have time to jot down as many of my father’s stories as I can as an inspiration and story of survival for future generations. But I promise, right now, that I will never read an ‘amazing but true’ story to any grandchildren I might have in future!
Thanks Karen for a wonderful post. Readers please do check out her Website for more information on her books.
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