It is really Green’s Drug Store, and not Omaha Beach that is the epicenter of the Bedford Boys story. Green’s was not just the main hang-out in town, which meant that every one of the Bedford Boys had been there often. It also housed the little telegraph office from which, on July 17, 1944, the horrible news began to arrive in town. Telegraph after telegraph announcing that the sons, husbands, fathers, and brothers of Bedford were killed or missing in action. It clacked away on Monday and for the next several days and all began with the dreaded words, The Secretary of War desires that I tender his deep sympathy . . .
The story of the boys’ death on Omaha beach, and the deep wounding of the entire town is now being told at the Bedford Boys Tribute Center, in what used to be Green’s Drugstore on the corner of Bridge and Main Streets in Bedford. Ken and Linda Parker opened the center at the end of April, and it is replete with the mementos and belongings of the boys, donated mostly by surviving brothers and sisters who are only now able to open the boxes, and touch the items stored there so long ago. Their story is as poignant as the boys’ themselves, and Ken, who also leads the tours, is a master at telling these stories.
Along one wall are the photographs of all 20 Bedford Boys who died on the morning of
June 6, 1944. There are bibles, baseballs, Purple Hearts, and wedding announcements displayed in the cases. At the end of one row sits the teletype. The teletype. The only message now is a sign on it that says, Please do not touch. Thank you. It seemed to look at me as surely as the photos on the wall did and–the Parkers will please forgive me–I lightly touched the keys. There was life in the old machine yet, and it tapped out a message: Feel that?
Yes, I do. You can feel it all over town, the grief that somehow became embedded in the bricks and the floorboards and the old teletype. It may be a sentimental fantasy, but if enough people pay their tribute, perhaps one day the grief will lift.
The Bedford Boys Tribute Center is located at 104 N. Bridge Street in Bedford. Call 540-425-5598 or email email@example.com for more information. Make it a point to visit. You won’t be sorry that you did.