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July 29, 2014

“In the Mood”

Roy Meachum

Sunday afternoons I went to the movie theater. This day was special. Mother wasn’t napping; she met me at the door. I don’t remember Daddy doing anything, which was his usual role. Whatever the film was that day was quickly forgotten.


Mother’s news about Japan attacking Pearl Harbor wiped the memory of anything else. We were at war. By V-J-Day we had lost my father to a switch engine in Louisiana. She had married someone else. Alfred Hague Andersen, who was a steward aboard the ship that was registered to Norway, was born in Tonsberg. He went to sea as soon as he was able, upholding a tradition of that town; it was located far south, below Oslo. Hague found a job with a supplier of ships; he knew several.


My memories are entangled; they allowed me home from Holy Cross College. I was a day scholar to the school, faculty and other students. Still, I remember being a boarder, during the year. The ships from Italy and Germany were sacrificed to President Roosevelt’s neutrality policy. We had boys from Central and South America. They played soccer. The interned boats offered the crews, which were prone to that sport.


One day short of the war, arrangements were made for the Holy Cross boys to play the sailors. There was a certain excitement in the college. I watched the match until something happened: Some Italian man with the ball came up on a fellow student. I almost missed the event; the member of the crew was going to make a big kick. The boy held a shoe, intending to frustrate. The Italian came through and the student’s foot never wavered.


The last time I looked the interned man was holding his shin and the boy didn’t know what to do. The foot, swaddled in the soccer shoe, was loose, hanging onto skin that prevented the human part from completely detaching. The student didn’t know what to do; he had never snapped a body part before. The excitement died down instantly; I walked away.


The boys and men who enforced the Neutrality Patrol flowed through New Orleans’ saloons. I returned to Holy Cross at the end of the year. Daddy joined the Army to do the work he had done before – in a railway operating battalion. He was on the Missouri Pacific payroll in peacetime. The railroad recruited the battalion; my father was right to ship overseas.


For that school year, I operated in the known shortages: paper, tin and whatever, managing to get the stripes – matched in the real world by Roy Neal Meachum, Sr. I painfully recall when daddy came to school. In his uniform, I couldn’t be prouder.


Through it all was the Glenn Miller orchestra; whatever they played it was okay to me. He allowed the Army Air Force to take over the band; such things as “Chattanooga Choo Choo” and above all else “In the Mood” helped thousands of young men to settle the months of World War II.


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