As my grandfather was being shipped overseas with the Navy during World War Two his crew had a brief stay in Boston. They were able to enjoy some time in the city as long as they returned to the ship by curfew.
In Boston he and some crew mates invited some local girls to dinner. Among them was a young woman named Betty Ann Rein, and she and my grandfather found themselves paired together among the group. They laughed and danced, helping to bring some joy to young soldiers who were nervous about the uncertainty ahead of them in a foreign land.
As the evening came to an end, and having discovered that my grandfather had no special girl waiting on him back home, Betty Ann wanted to give my grandfather a memento-- something to help him remember the fun times when his days on the war ship were lonely or fearful. Having nothing else to give him, Betty Ann gave him her wooden powder box for her makeup. On the top was engraved her name and address: "Betty Ann Rein, 5 Oak Street, Hyde Park, Massachusetts". Throughout the war my grandfather kept the memento.
Following the war my grandfather returned to Mississippi, where he later met and married my grandmother. Years later at different times he reflected on the war and told me stories, including his dinner date and the kindness of a young girl in Massachusetts.
During the last few weeks of my grandfather's life in 2009, he was hospitalized. I spent time with him and listened again to the old stories, including his stay in Boston.
Not long after his passing, my grandmother gave me some personal items my grandfather had kept from his war days-- including the wooden powder box given to him by Betty Ann. I never knew he'd kept it all his life. I don't know if he ever retrieved it from his small box of keepsakes, but perhaps if he did there was a pleasant memory each time he saw it-- the memory of a young girl who was kind to him many years before.
I suppose it is likely that Betty Ann had a family of her own-- and perhaps she has made her passing as well. But I hope her kindness was repaid to her over and again during her lifetime. Thank you, Betty Ann, for your kindness to a young soldier on his his way to war!
I am a professor, author, librarian, historian, and speaker living in beautiful Cleveland, Tennessee-- but I will always call Mississippi "home." I enjoy my work at Lee University and my hobbies include traveling, being outdoors, hiking, fishing, gardening, writing, reading, and movies.