Bob Harrison Pt.7 180-01P

I was well into my Senior year of high school, 16 years of age, supremely confident that I had mastered all of the world’s knowledge, and hoping to get a job when I graduated which would pay at least 75 cents an hour. With that amount of money, I felt doubly assured that a new car was almost in sight and what else could a fellow ask for?

So, there we were, me and Jack, Hook Mallory, and another kid whose name I have forgotten but I’ll call him Chuck for this narration. The four of us had wandered down to Bray’s for a Coke and to play a few songs on the jukebox.

Bray’s was a hole-in-the-wall hangout for kids who had some loose pocket change and a burning desire to get rid of it. There was also a small dance floor for those who felt rich enough to bring a girl along. None of us felt that affluent but we had a hope that Marilyn, Harry Bray’s daughter, would be available to dance with us.

Marilyn was a young, buxom lass who, unfortunately, had a boy friend in the Army and she was hell-bent on being “true” to him. However this cursed faithfulness did not preclude her from dancing with us when she was present. On this particular day she was not, having gone to church, she being a faithful Catholic. Harry and his wife were not quite so faithful, preferring to keep the establishment open on Sunday morning to pickup a few more nickels from truants such as we. I might add here that when Marilyn’s boyfriend returned from the war in 1945, he proceeded to carouse just as he had for four years of his military career and he also continued to practice his hand-to-hand martial arts on his faithful sweetheart who had awaited his return. Such is the reward for faithfulness.

We drank a few cokes, played a few tunes on the juke box, Glenn Miller, Sammy Kaye, Kay Kaiser, Duke Ellington, etc. then, bored, we wandered out and headed for Chuck’s house which was just a block or two from Bray’s Place.

Arriving there, we all took turns in the bathroom then found places to lounge in the small living room. Chuck turned on the radio and we listened to the same tunes we had just heard at Bray’s. Suddenly the station cut to its network and announced that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. We were filled with rage and indignation, reassuring each other that we would teach those dirty cowards a lesson they would long remember and the war would be over in about six months.

Two weeks later, my brother, Bill, and our cousin, Norman, enlisted and I wouldn’t see them again for over three years.

The following year, November, 1942, my other cousin, Jack, brother of Norman, and I enlisted together. Soon after we reached Great Lakes, Jack was ordered to the hospital for a tonsillectomy and I never saw him again until December, 1945.

To say that we live many different lives during a lifetime goes without saying. My first life ended with Pearl Harbor or perhaps with the day I boarded the train for Great Lakes. Another life began the day I walked through the gates of Camp Green Bay. Still another began on the day of my discharge, in December, 1945. And so it has gone throughout my entire life. 

But the biggest change was the day the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor. 

It was the day that will live in infamy.

Bob Harrison - December 6, 2000