Volunteer For Cheer
I promise you an inspiring experience—if you will do what I did. I mean entertaining returned war veterans from our convalescent hospitals. First I phoned the Special Service Officer at Birmingham Hospital and asked if I might have some boys for lunch and the afternoon. It’s good to have a minimum of two, preferably three or four. I got their names and their ranks to avoid awkward moments of exchanging identities. Then I drove to the hospital for them. The boys in the car with me are Pvt. David Dimmick (in front seat), Pvt. Roger Jett and Sgt. Bill Willard. Sgt. Lloyd Taylor was with us, too, but you can’t see him in this picture.
Lunch was the important thing and we had it as soon as we arrived at the house. No fancy food. It might be against their diet rules. No dress-up linen and dishes. These boys are from simple homes too and we knew they’d be more at ease with regular family fare. But what a boner we pulled! We served lunch at 12:30, when they were used to having it at 11:30. No wonder the boys were so quiet at first. They were hungry! However, they made up for lost time when we sat down to eat. The food and the informality of the meal loosened them up and the boys began talking back and forth. That’s the advantage of having several boys.
I tried not to let them overdo, because they weren’t well yet and needed to take it easy. We played a little Ping-pong in the patio. It doesn’t have to be a strenuous game and it’s fun. Lloyd (he’s the one on the right) is from Minnesota and he loved the California sunshine. So we stayed outside for a while and let him enjoy the sun. Lloyd has leg and chest wounds but hopes it won’t be many months before he can go home. The other boys are native Californians.
Afterward, they wandered around the house looking at pictures and kidding me about the soft furniture. Then we gathered around the piano and you should have heard the boys give! But don’t think you have to have a piano. They’ll enjoy a dart game just as much. I also learned it’s a good idea to get several little box games—the kind you tilt until the small halls roll into the right spot—to have for the boys to occupy their hands when they can’t think of anything to say.
I told Roger’s fortune while David looked on. David, with the Infantry in the African campaign, was wounded at Anzio—a leg wound. They both got a kick out of my fortunetelling. So did I, because I knew nothing about it—I just bought a pack of fortunetelling cards and whaled away. I didn’t ask them what battles they’d fought in or how they got their wounds. These are things they’ll talk about themselves, if they want to. Leave it up to them.
Afterward the boys were glad to relax, even though they wouldn’t admit it, so we decided to listen to some music from my record collection. They all picked their favorites and we had a strictly-by-request program. Roger Jett is picking his record here. His own record includes the Purple Heart. He was with the U.S. Rangers all through the African campaign and saw some rugged action at Anzio, where he was wounded.
We danced—not too much. But it was fun. In fact, the whole afternoon was wonderful—for me, and, I think, for them. You can have this same fun. Our convalescent hospitals are in every sector of the country. call them and they’ll send the best guests you ever had. Don’t be discouraged if no one is available at the moment you call. Try again tomorrow. For you’ll have a grand time—I promise you!
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE FEBRUARY 1945