John D. Bridgers M.D.

Memoirs and personal remembrances

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Edie's Family

Chapter 1, In the Beginning

As has been told before, my wife Edie -- Edith Holland Hamrick -- and I ran into each other while we were both serving in the Navy toward the end of World War II.

Edie was a Lieutenant, junior grade, in the WAVES assigned as the Assistant Communications Officer at Cecil Field, Florida -- an outlying facility to the Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida.

She was a school teacher in rural North Carolina before joining the Navy. She received her basic training in New England -- I believe at Mount Holyoke College or some other such finishing school in Ivy League country. Cecil Field was her sole tour of active duty.

In the early winter of 1945, I too was sent to Cecil Field following my second tour of duty flying dive-bombers from carriers in the Pacific.

There I would become Chief Flight Instructor for the scout-bombing training squadron.

Cecil Field at that time was like a small village, off to itself in the yucca-infested countryside of northeast Florida.

Most of us at the base came to know one another.

The WAVE Barracks with the officers living on the upper deck was next door to the Bachelor Officers' Quarters, or the B.O.Q.

The WAVE officers shared our B.O.Q. mess.

One day in the B.O.Q. mess, Edie and I learned of our mutual North Carolina roots and were so drawn together.

In short order we were regularly sharing meals with each other, then spending the evenings together and, soon after, courting heavily.

Each evening there was a movie shown in the base auditorium.

When we weren't going into town we would attend with Edie frequently having to pay my way for I seldom carried small change -- admission being all of a "nickel."

After a brief courtship, we were married on August 25, 1945 in the Protestant Chapel at N.A.S., Jacksonville.

It was a gala occasion attended by many of the officers and WAVES from Cecil Field.

Since there was no Officers' Club at Cecil Field, a small bar off the B.O.Q. lobby served that purpose.

The WAVES and we officers usually enjoyed "happy hour" together just before dinner each evening.

Edie typically drank "Coke."

I was, at that time in my life, an ample imbiber.

Mess stopped serving dinner at 7:30 p.m. so those of us who were heavy users would stay in the bar until the very last minute before rushing to dinner.

We became known as "The 7:29 Club."

I can't remember whether it was at one such a "7:29" gathering that I first asked Edie to marry me or maybe it was while we were sparking in my blue Ford convertible parked in the WAVE Barrack's parking lot.

Which ever, I do remember that Edie turned me down with the comment, "What, me marry a drunk!"

Not to be discouraged, we made a pact that if I could hold my drinking down to a single "Old Fashioned" each evening, she would -- after a month's time -- reconsider her decision.

I felt trepidation over the future implications of surrendering entirely to Edie's wishes so soon in our relationship but it wasn't long before she had changed her mind, easing my concerns.

A small group of other officers from Air Group 15 had been assigned along with me to Cecil Field.

There was Sumner "Ippy" Roulon-Miller, a ground officer who had served as my assistant engineering officer in the squadron.

At Cecil Field, he became assistant to Cdr. Ralph Weymouth, the Training Officer for our instructional squadron and also our skipper.

The Training Squadron was just switching over from Douglas SBD "Dauntless" dive-bombers to Curtiss SB2C "Helldivers."

Our squadron had flown the SB2C off the U.S.S. ESSEX in the Central Pacific.

It was often said that the Helldiver had three fewer engines and one less hydraulic fitting than the B-17 heavy bomber.

Lecturing on the hydraulics of the SB2C had been a prior forte of mine as the Squadron Engineering Officer for Air Group 15.

One day, the Skipper mentioned to Roulon that he wished there was someone who could explain to his pilots the complicated hydraulic system in this new plane.

Roulon told him he could arrange that in five minutes.

It was raining that day so we weren't flying and in short order Cdr. Weymouth had the pilots congregated in the ground school auditorium listening to me give a "chalk talk" on the Helldiver's hydraulics.

My being able to make this presentation on such short notice must have impressed the Skipper for the next day I was named Chief Flight Instructor, a position the Skipper had been seeking to fill.

As an aside, Harold L. Buell, a prior acquaintance from flight school and the post-war author of Dauntless Helldivers, was also assigned to Cecil Field.

According to Cdr. Weymouth, Hal had coveted this assignment but the Skipper -- for reasons that will remain unsaid -- choose not to offer Hal the position.

I believe that hard feelings over my receiving the assignment lead to Hal's less than kind words about me in his later book.

On the other hand, Roulon Miller and I were good friends, afloat and ashore.

The following summer Roulon would stand with me as "best man" at my wedding.

This all was happening right before and just after the Atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki bringing World War II to an abrupt end.

With the war over, Edie resigned from the Navy while I stayed on, promoted to Lieutenant Commander.

Our flight instructor in Air Group 15 aboard the ESSEX was Lieut. Cdr. Paul Maness. He too had been assigned to the Training Command as had his brother, Charles -- also an aviator.

Charles had been given the job of Flight Familiarization Officer for the recently graduated Naval Academy Class, and he enlisted me to lecture his group on carrier flying.

Thus Edie and I started our married life in Jacksonville in the year after the War.

Before our marriage when we learned that I would not be going back to the Pacific, Edie and I agreed that I should apply for admittance to medical school.

I wrote several letters but, in the end, applied only to Duke University where, thankfully, I was accepted.

I resigned from the Navy in October of 1946 and we moved to Durham, North Carolina where I entered Duke.

By attending school the year round -- summer plus the usual fall, winter and spring quarters -- I was able to finish at Duke in December of 1949.

These early years of our marriage were a period of familiarization where we not only learned about each other but also of each other's families and the difference in the places we were raised.

Edie's family was from the western end of North Carolina while mine was from the opposite. Durham, where we were living, was somewhere in between the two.

Neither of us knew much about North Carolina's hinterlands much less each other's homelands.

Edie's home of Boiling Springs was hard up against the Blue Ridge Mountains far removed from mine to the east in the middle of the Coastal Plain.

Edie's father was a Hamrick, her mother was a Moore and her mother's maternal family were Holland's.

Obviously, there were many other branches but these were the ones with whom Edie most strongly identified and therefore so will I.

Our real introduction to their stories came one cold, wintry afternoon some twenty years after we were married.

Edie and I were visiting Boiling Springs and sitting in the home of Kate and Ollie Moore -- cherished aunts who knew much about Edie's family.

This had been the home of their father and Edie's maternal grandfather, John Franklin Moore.

On that afternoon they began -- and I say "began" because from my standpoint the story turned out to be much more complicated than even Kate and Ollie had reason to know -- to teach us their family story.

Our story starts with "The Little Ice Age" that befell Northern Europe over two hundred years ago.

As with so many "shaggy dog" tales connected with this event it's hard to know where to start so I've decided to begin with Benjamin Franklin.

Next chapter    Chapter 2, 'tis a Small Connected World

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John D. Bridgers M.D. by Carl Bridgers is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Copyright ©