About this blog

As the author of this blog, Karen L Garner Martin Messick, I am the daughter of an American soldier, Wilbur (Bill) C. Garner, Sr. and Women's Royal English Navy service woman (British Wren) Gwendoline Rosa Wilkins, who met and married during World War II. They lived and loved for over 50 years before Mother passed in 2000. When she did I helped Dad with every day chores when I could. One day I was helping him clear things out and I lifted a plastic bag out of the seat of Mom's piano stool, asking Dad, "Whats in this bag?" to which he replied, "Just some of Mary's old letters." Mary, his older sister, was still alive at the time, residing in an assisted living facility, suffering from Alzheimer's disease. I put the letters back in the piano seat thinking he did not want me to open the letters.
When Dad passed two years later, I inherited Mary's letters.
When I began to read them, I found they were mostly letters from Dad to Mary while he was in World War II ("The War"). I could not put them down. I wished I had opened them the day I first saw them so that Dad and I could have had conversations about them, but that was not to be...so as I read through these "Letters to Mary" I began to get a glimpse into Dad's young years when he met Mom and his time as a soldier. I have researched events during World War II to enhance my understanding of what was happening in the war as each letter came to broaden my understanding of what he might have been experiencing. I knew he landed on the beaches of Normandy, France D-Day plus 1 as he recounted his memory of that day to me when he was dying from Leukemia. It was horrifying. There were also letters from a companion Mary had met while in Minneapolis, he had been deployed overseas. I have entwined them chronologically with Dad's letters as it gives a greater dimension to the war itself. I intend to editorialize as necessary to explain personal relationships and situations as the story unfolds through the "Letters to Mary." I welcome any questions, comments and feedback. As the "Greatest Generation" fades away, I felt compelled to share these letters and story in hopes of continuing the legacy they left for the world. Let us never forget the untold years and lives that were sacrificed for freedom!
If you have stumbled upon this blog I have added a blog archive at the bottom of the blog page. Continue to scroll down to access the Blog Archive. The posts are chronologically listed and to follow the story it is best to start with the first post in December 2013.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Back Story......Mary Willis Garner

The next letter to Mary is dated in 1943, leaving a void in the "letter" story for 13 years, so I thought I would share a few blogs to fill in the details of earlier life up until 1943, when the letters to Mary resume.

About Mary: 
Written by Mary before suffering from Alzheimer's Disease. Dated October 1, 1976

 Mary wrote:
"The first big event I remember was finding a new baby in the house. My younger brother, Joseph Randolph Garner. He was a roly-poly and I remember pinching the fat rings of his wrists!
My first three years of school were spent at Public School No. 78, at Harlem Avenue and Monroe Street, Baltimore. This was several blocks from where we lived in the 1000 block of Appleton Street. My brother, Souil, and I always went home at noon and back to school at 1:00 p.m. No lateness either!

These three years also saw the country involved in World War I. 
During this time I learned to knit socks for the soldiers and watched train loads of soldiers passing through Baltimore on their way to New York, the port of embarkation to Europe.
After World War I, my father bought a house in Walbrook, which, at that time, was a suburban area of Baltimore. In the fall of 1919, I entered Public School No. 63 at Westwood Avenue and Rosedale Street, where I stayed for the next three years- through the 4th, 5th and 6th grades. In September 1921, I transferred to Public School No. 49, Robert E Lee, on Cathedral Street near Preston Street. This was the first Junior High School in the city, and at that time students at No. 49 completed three years school work in two years. These students were considered "The cream of the crop" in the public school system and came from all locations of the city. I finished the 9th grade and graduated in June 1923, in spite of entering the second term a month late, due to having scarlet fever.

However, I lost the advantage of this "year gained" when I enrolled at Forest Park High School in the fall. My father felt that I should enroll in the Business Course, not the Academic Course, so I could not go into 10th grade Commercial. I had to repeat the 9th grade in order to take the Commercial Course. The next year my schooling was interrupted because of the critical illness of my two younger brothers.

A big change occurred in my life in September 1925. I got my first job! Montgomery Ward and Company hired me as a file clerk in the Adjustment Department for the handsome salary of $10.50 a week. The hours were 7:25 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and until 1:00p.m. on Saturdays. What a beginning! It lasted one year and three months.

In November 1926, I went to work for the Maryland Casualty Company where my older brother, Souil, worked. He had interceded for me with their personnel director. My big gain here was the shorter working hours and the pleasant working conditions. Also, I gained wider business experience. Not much money though!

One thing I learned very well. If you are going to get anywhere - keep moving. So I did just that. The next four years I acquired all kinds of business experience. I spent six years at L. Grief and Brothers, a wholesale men's clothing company. I worked in the Accounting Department and learned bookkeeping and cost accounting. Also, I learned how to operate the various office machines.

Then, I went to work for the Safe Deposit and Trust Company for three years. here I learned the basics of the IBM system of punch cards, sorters, tabulators, etc.

Suddenly, I felt there had to be a better way to progress and let an employment agency sell me a bill of goods....the only time I ever got a job through an employment agency. I went to work for Sherwood Oil Company, but only for six months. Always considered it to be the mistake of my business life.

After a lapse of three months, during which I had sufficient time (and no income!) to ponder the folly of  my ways, I got a job at Sears, Roebuck and Company where I stayed for five years until August 1942.

In August 1942, I became a civil servant for Uncle Sam at Edgewood Chemical Warfare Center  - but only for six months. The Navy Department had opened enlistments for women and I enlisted in January 1943 for "the duration" of World War II. I was sent to Iowa State Teacher's College for boot training and then on to the University of Indiana for Storekeeper School."

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