One of my favorite love stories…told to me often by both my mom and dad. I wrote this for The Harris County Journal in 2005.
In 1942 Curtis Avery and the other young men in the University of Georgia senior class who had taken Advanced ROTC, were commissioned and graduated early. The bombing of Pearl Harbor had pushed America into a World War. These college students suddenly became soldiers.
“I came home to Jones Crossroads and had been here for about two days when I got my orders. I went to Fort Benning for a physical and then directly to Fort Riley. I was in the army before I knew what had happened. “
Blanche Freeman graduated from the University in 1943 and returned to Unadilla. With a major in Business Administration, she was planning to enter the work force like so many of her contemporaries did during the war.
Fate, however, saw things differently. Her father, a pharmacist in the small South Georgia town, had just lost the only employee he had. Flora had gotten married, so he asked his middle daughter to fill in on a temporary basis.
“Temporary turned into over three years,” Blanche said, smiling the bright smile that has always been her signature. “But it was a good three years. After Curtis wrote me, I corresponded with him, as I did with others. Letters meant a lot to those boys.
“It was so sad when young men didn’t make it home though. I remember one afternoon when I came into the drug store through the side door. There was a man from Pinehurst, standing there with his hat in his hands. He had tears in his eyes. The minute I saw him I knew what had happened. He came to tell me he had lost his son. He came to thank me for being such a good friend to his boy. I thought my heart would break completely in two.”
Blanche and Curtis corresponded about once a month during the war. My father still has the letters, filed in chronological order in a box next to his favorite chair.
Curtis returned to Jones Crossroads in November of 1945. On Thanksgiving Day, he borrowed his father’s car and started on a tour across the state to visit some college friends. “I went through Chipley first to see Alf Mullins. Then I headed toward Unadilla to speak to Blanche. There were no telephones out here. I didn’t call anybody. I was just going where I could go.”
“I stopped at a store in Unadilla to use the phone. I called Blanche’s house and spoke to her. I told her where I was and she gave me directions to her house. When I got there, her younger sister, Irene, answered the door.”
“Yes, I remember that day,” said my mother. “Irene and I had been putting pictures in an album when you called. She told me to get myself upstairs and put on that new dress that Mrs. Pattersaul had just made for me. I was so excited I didn’t know what to do.”
As Curtis sat in the parlor of the Freeman’s two-story home talking with Irene and Mrs. Freeman, he heard someone coming down the stairs. “I looked up and saw Blanche – I can see her now – in that green dress with her little bitty waist. I looked at her, she looked at me, and I said to myself…’Brother, this is as far as you’re going.’”
My father attributes the success of their marriage to the fact that he always tried to meet the expectations my mother had of him. My mother says it’s because they shared and maintained the same religious convictions.
In addition to those reasons, I think their sense of humor had something to do with it. As I was getting ready to leave, my father said, “Blanche, I guess that on that Thanksgiving afternoon in 1945, the minute we saw each other that was it.”
My mother looked at him with a mischievous grin on her face: ”So go outside, come back in, and let’s see what happens.”