World War II was only 12 years in the past when I was born. For me, “the war” was this thing. Clearly, it was the focal point of my parents’ lives and of the lives of all their friends, but to me, it really was just “a thing.” We kids used to go to a place called Sonny’s Surplus—there were several stores around Baltimore—and get pistol belts and canteens and .50 caliber machine gun bullets (minus the primer and powder, of course.) I remember paying a nickel each for two cartridge pouches stamped, “KC 1943.” We used all this stuff to play army. It all meant so little, that I wore my dad’s sailor hat to the beach. Again, the war was just a thing and the matėriel from that war were just so many props for our games.
It was much, much later that I began to see my parents and their friends as they were 12
years before I arrived. Then, I began to see their friends whom I would never meet, those friends of theirs who never came back. And I began to feel a certain vibration in “the things” and I began to hear the songs from that time as my parents must have heard them. I already had an interest in the music and began to develop an interest in World War II reenactor camps. A visit to one in Strasburg, Virginia in 2009 was the inspiration for a story entitled, “Valley of Time,” which appears in Time Is A Pool. I felt compelled to listen to the stories the things and the songs and the places told. A trip to Bedford, Virginia, the home of the National D-Day Memorial fueled what was now more of a sacred obligation to listen. Believe me, if you read Alex Kershaw’s The Bedford Boys and then take a walk around that town, you will hear a story. And you’ll
grow quiet and reverent.
As many of you know, our former home town of Williamsport began hosting a World War II Weekend, which included a USO dance on Saturday night featuring Jump Alley. This year will mark the tenth anniversary of the event and I will be attending for the ninth time. It is through dancing to the music of the time that I add my small piece to the reenactment picture. I never felt comfortable donning a military uniform and reenacting the role of a serviceman. I never served in the military and frankly, I don’t feel I’ve earned the right to wear the uniform, even one from 70 years ago, but my mom loved to dance and I think there is something to be said for reenacting, or perhaps, more accurately recreating the joy my parents also must have felt.
Beyond dancing, I have also given voice to that time and the people who populated it by writing The Secret of Their Midnight Tears. When you read it, you’ll be reading a tribute and not just “a story” that I thought might be interesting. I dedicated it “to the boys and girls—for that’s what they were—who saved the world.” Naturally, I hope you enjoy it, but I also hope that the sensations of the World War II generation will also resonate within you and that the time will not be merely “a thing.”