​My mom’s older brother Earl lived in Memphis, after he grew up and left home. He worked in the gasoline business and knew all kinds of people, which made it easy for him to find jobs for his little sister. He would go home to visit the folks, then tell my mom he’d found her a job, if she wanted it. She always did. 

Over the years of her life that spanned the time from when she was old enough to work, until she married my daddy, she would go to live with Uncle Earl and his family and work in Memphis. She worked at Sears, filling orders for the catalog department. Another stint saw her at Western Union, slotting telegrams to be delivered. Sometimes she stayed and held her job for quite some time. Other times one of her parents would become sick and she’d quit to go home to take care of them. If she stayed very long, she might simply become homesick and decide it was time to go back to be with and help her aging parents in general. She was a good and kind person, selfless and loyal.

In the early 1940s, she waitressed at a restaurant at the Memphis Airport. Her job included taking meals onto planes and readying them for in flight dining. Passengers went to the restaurant to grab a quick meal or snack, before the next leg of their journey. One of her most memorable experiences was serving a Coca Cola to Bob Hope. Not one to get starry eyed, she just said he was very nice to her and she  treated him like everyone else. Another time her cousin Hera Jane, who lived in California, recognized her cousin unexpectedly as her waitress. They chatted and caught up, as Hera waited to continue her flight.

Her most memorable experience during her time as a waitress at the airport was far more profound than serving movie stars and a chance encounter with a long unseen relative. One day the people in the restaurant heard a terrible roaring from the sky. They rushed outside to try to see what could cause such a thing. As they stood gazing upward, a veritable cloud of airplanes passed overhead. They stared, awestruck and not a little afraid, as many bombers came in to refuel. They knew something awful must have happened. Soon enough word spread. The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, all but obliterated our Pacific fleet, and killed many of “the boys”.

It was December 7, 1941. A day that FDR would soon indelibly embed in the collective world mind. “A day that will live in infamy.”

Those who lived through that day, that time, remember where they were, when they heard the news of the horrific attack on Pearl Harbor. Back home, farmers, housewives, store clerks, and, yes, waitresses were going about their daily lives . They heard about it eventually on the radio. Or someone who heard told them. Back then people gathered around their radios, for the news of their lives. It was their internet, before the internet even was. People would stand shocked and grieving around parked cars, listening together to their world falling apart.

My mom, with her adventurous spirit and deep love for her country, stood many miles from the place she loved most, among new friends and fleeting strangers, face turned with fear and courage toward the waves of bombers that ushered in a new and difficult time for the American people. Instead of being informed by a distant, crackling voice on the radio, my mom was a bystander to history.