Every So often I receive an e-mail from a reader worth reprinting. This one from Jack Fournier of North Port, Fla. fell into that category. It’s better than anything I could write.
As a U.S. Navy World War II vet I am a constant reader of your column. I was taken by a recent column concerning soldiers’ and sailors’ moms. The story you wrote brought to mind an incident concerning moms and my own experiences during the war.
When I was in the service my mom displayed the blue star flag in our living room window.
When I graduated from Signal School I was assigned to the Armed Guards. I was sent aboard the Josiah J. Holland, a liberty ship converted to an oil tanker. It was designed to refuel destroyers, destroyer escorts and Canadian corvettes on the North Atlantic convoy run.
After service in the Atlantic and Mediterranean War Zones I was put on a troop train headed for the Pacific Coast along with about a dozen other guys. It had to be the smallest troop train ever leaving New York. I ended up on the USS LSM-ll (Landing Ship Medium) in the Amphibious Forces.
Here’s where the mom’s story comes in.
On the third or fourth night out on the troop train we were shunted aside for a real troop train with troops headed for the Pacific. Our train had about fifteen or twenty cars. The train that passed had at least 50.
The hoots of signals from the engineer woke us up. It was 2 a.m. when we looked out our windows and saw we were in Moscow. We had a lot of fun with that. We started out from New York so how did we get to Moscow?
Of course it was Moscow, Idaho. There were about a dozen ladies standing on the platform carrying food baskets. A couple toots and the conductor guided them aboard. This led to some panic among us since we were in skivvies, standard issue Navy white undershirts and white boxer shorts.
Too late they were aboard and setting us at ease.
“Look sailors, we’re mothers and grandmothers. We’ve seen everything before. Calm down,” they said. We did calm down.
We moved to a sitting car where we spent our daylight hours mostly playing cards. One of our visitors picked me out and we sat down across from each other.
“We ladies are from the B’nai B’rith. All the church ladies in town formed a circle and each group takes its turn meeting troop trains that are shunted into town,” she said.
She opened her hamper and handed me a ham sandwich.
“Now tell me about yourself. Where are you from?” she inquired.
That opened our discussion as we went on I learned that she had a grandson in the Navy. If I ever ran into Leon I was to tell him to write more often.
After we talked about a half hour there was a couple more toots from the train whistle warning the ladies they should begin to leave.
Grandma Rose, as she insisted I call her, stood up and handed me a couple of more ham sandwiches. Then she reached into her handbag and pulled out a Moscow, Idaho post card.
“Here, write your mother a note,” she said.
I took the card and tucked it in the waist band of my shorts. Rose looked at me and said sternly, “I mean now! I’ll mail it.”
She handed me a fountain pen. I scribbled something like, “We arrived in Moscow, Idaho. I am doing fine. Should be on my next ship by the end of the week.”
Grandma Rose took the card, read it and then added a note: “He does look fine.” She signed it, “Rose Libeberman” and put it in her purse after I addressed it.
“I’ll mail it in the morning,” she said.
She was the last to leave the train. She blew me a kiss.
We pulled out of the station with a lot of memories that were the subject of discussion. One of the subjects was about the B’nai B’rith ladies handing out ham sandwiches. I found out later that the ham sandwiches were corned beef.
Recently I Googled and found the name of the managing editor of the Moscow Idaho newspaper. I e-mailed him to find out if they had any archives about the ladies of Moscow meeting troop trains during World War II. I’m still waiting to hear from him.
Seaman Jack Fournier’s commendations include: American Theatre Medal, European Theatre Medal, Asiatic Pacific Theatre Medal and World War II Victory Medal.
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on March 4, 2010 and is republished with permission.
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2 April 1927 – 30 Oct. 2010
John H. “Jack” Fournier, 83, of North Port, Fla. died Oct. 30, 2010, at home.
Inurnment with military honors will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Sarasota National Cemetery. James A. McKee Funeral Home, North Port, is in charge of arrangements.
Survivors include his wife of 61 years, Dorothy; a son, Jonathan of Sykesville, Md.; a daughter, Jacqueline Clift of North Port; a brother, Robert of Lanoka Harbor, N.J.; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
He was born April 2, 1927, in Newark, N.J. Jack served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He graduated from Rider University with a journalism degree. He owned an advertising agency in Maryland before retiring to Florida. Jack was an award-winning playwright and author. He was a life member of the Dramatists Guild and The Authors League. He was past chairman of the North Port Zoning Appeals Board; and member of C.H.A.T. working to bring a hospital, S.C.A.T., and an E.R. to North Port.
He was awarded the Citizen Service Award for North Port in 2006. He was past president and vice president of Sable Trace I H.O.A. and chairman of the Sable Trace Alliance. In lieu of flowers, a memorial donation to TideWell Hospice Philanthropy Dept., 5955 Rand Blvd., Sarasota, FL 34238. –
*Published in the Sarasota Herald Tribune November 7, 2010.